Category Archives: Book Review

REVELATION FOR THE REST OF US

It is wonderful that Scot McKnight is inviting others to collaborate with him on certain writing projects. Scot wrote the popular book called Tov with his daughter and he has brought folks in on a variety of projects. In this particular case, Scot teams up with Cody Matchett. Such apprenticeship, especially by an established scholar, is most encouraging.

In lieu of a typical book review, I like to depart at times from that format and list a handful of insights or implications that I appreciated most from my reading. Here we go…

*Years ago, I remember thinking if the blessing at the beginning of Revelation (1:3) is true, then the book can’t be too difficult to understand. It didn’t make sense that Revelation would be impossible to understand and at the same time say, “Blessed is the one who reads, and those who hear the words of the prophecy and keep the things which are written in it; for the time is near.” (Emphasis mine) Frankly, it would be cruel if God instructed us to obey a book that is beyond our comprehension.

The authors do a terrific job of showcasing that Revelation’s meaning is clear and that its message is indeed life-giving. I should add that Revelation being “clear” is not at odds with the need to read carefully, something the authors greatly help us with.

*I regularly call our country “speculation nation.” We live in a toxic time where many of us drink a deadly cocktail of ignorance and arrogance. We may not know much, but others better listen to us!

Revelation for the Rest of Us consistently and winsomely reminds us to steer away from speculation. And speculation is big business for the book of Revelation! Instead, McKnight and Matchett model an attractive form of attentively listening to the text and locating the gems that are hiding in plain sight.

*If one appreciates the history of the church, then one can’t help but be a bit suspicious that a certain dispensational reading of Revelation is correct. What about Catholic, Orthodox, and many Protestant denominations who disagree? What about the recency of dispensationalism? Dallas Theological Seminary is one of the seminaries I attended. Even there it was admitted that dispensational was recent.

Revelation for the Rest of Us should cause many to reconsider whether a dispensational reading is accurate.

*Speaking of history there are several terrific insights from both the ancient context and some from the more recent past. These do a good job of illuminating Revelation. For example, there is Tacitus talking about Nero and from the more recent past, Howard Thurman reflecting insightfully reflecting on Negro spirituals.

*There are helpful reflections on how to apply the book of Revelation in the most practical ways imaginable. The authors help us to understand the big picture of this book which offers great motivation to apply it to the details of our life. Lives, as the authors say so well, embodied as dissident disciples.

*What are you expecting from reading the book of Revelation? A decoder ring to tell you how various symbols point to things in our own day? If that approach has led you to a veritable cul-de-sac, then Revelation for the Rest of Us will offers much clarity and sanity.

David George Moore is that author most recently of Stuck in the Present: How History Frees and Forms Christians.

Stuck in the Present: How History Frees and Forms Christians: David George Moore, Carl Trueman: 9781684264605: Amazon.com: Books

 

 

 

AMERICA’S FIRST POLITICIAN

MADISON REALLY IS AMERICA’S FIRST POLITICIAN

This is a remarkable biography. It is lucid, well-written, and gives a very balanced portrait of Madison.

Cost conveys several of Madison’s mistakes, yet the author does a terrific job of showcasing Madison’s genius, not just in brain power which he had plenty, but in our fourth president’s ability to compromise in generally wise ways.

Some find Madison a typical flip-flopper, but Jay Cost convincingly demonstrates that this is a misread of Madison.

A wonderful read that will elevate your understanding of the early Republic. You will also learn much about key players, especially Hamilton.

AN AUSSIE WHO KNOWS AMERICA BETTER THAN MOST AMERICANS

This is the third book I’ve read by this author. All have been terrific.

Sayers has a real knack for putting things in a fresh perspective. He effectively uses history and global trends to illumine the topic at hand. In this book, it is how the church can wisely address living between eras, what Sayers describes as a “gray zone.”

There are many invaluable insights to be sure in this book, but many times I found myself launching in a direction that the author probably did not intend, but I nonetheless found fruitful.

Highly recommended!

BRILLIANT AND DEVASTATING ASSESSMENT

First, a note about the cover design. The photo does not do it justice, but this is a beautiful and provocative cover. It is truly a work of art.

Kotkin’s book only has 172 pages of text, but it is not a quick read. This is hardly due to a lack of lucid writing. Indeed, the book is written in a very lucid manner. The reason it is not a quick read, or at least should not be a quick read, is that Kotkin packs so much in for the reader to consider.

In a nutshell, this book does a brilliant job at detailing the forces that are hollowing out the middle class.

Yes, the text only is 172 pages, but Kotkin’s prodigious research into these issue yields almost 100 pages of endnotes.

Highly recommended!

WRITING TO PERSUADE

Trish Hall has the background to write a terrific book on persuasion. And indeed, she has done just that. As the former op-ed. page editor for The New York Times she knows what it takes to write in a compelling way.

Various studies are mentioned in the book. These do not impede there being ample feet on the ground wisdom that helps all writers to succeed at persuasive prose.

THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING

Reader beware! Didion is a great writer, but also a haunting one. 

Here she reflects on the death of her husband. She also writes about the brutal circumstances of her only child’s ailments which eventually kill her shortly after Didion’s husband.

Didion does not believe God is in control. As she writes, “The eye is not on the sparrow.”

So be careful if you choose to read this seductive and sad book. Discerning readers will be enriched, but one must be ready to face the utter hopelessness of one who does not believe there is anything/anyone beyond this world.

WHY JOHNNY CAN’T PREACH

Gordon has written what legitimately could be called a “thin and weighty book” on preaching.

In just over 100 pages, Gordon offers much insight with his penetrating and provocative comments about the dire state of preaching.

As one who preaches from time to time, I can say that this book protected me from some of the common gaffes that preachers make in either preparation or delivery.

Highly recommended, and I should add that all teachers, not just preachers, would derive much benefit from working through this book.

 

WHEN EVERYTHING’S ON FIRE

There is much to like about this book. It is well-written, insightful, and winsome. Zahnd demonstrates his pastor cum theologian strengths with this clarion call that those tempted towards deconversion need not do so.

The author’s view on Scripture (he is indebted to Barth and Brueggemann, among others) leaves me wondering who I can recommend this book to. I have recommended it already but will only do so to those who have more grounding to find the significant wheat among the possible chaff.

THINK AGAIN: THE POWER OF KNOWING WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW

There are several things I appreciated about Adam Grant’s terrific book, Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know. Here are few of them:

*Grant employs a wonderful selection of illustrations, graphs, and personal anecdotes. Teaser: the opening about what caused some firefighters to lose their lives while a few lived, is a strong hook to the rest of the book.

*There is a helpful discussion of why computers/AI will never replace humans. The description of the debate between Harish Natarajan and an IBM computer is entertaining as it is illumining.

*Though Grant seems more sanguine than me about the willingness of people to “think again,” I am grateful that he admitted some are not interested in “dancing.” For more on the dance metaphor, you will need to buy the book!

*I found the encouragement to see our emotions as a “rough draft” to be most helpful. At my better moments, I am more in tune with how a lack of sleep will make me more vulnerable to errant comments. At my worst moments, well…

A personal note: I have interviewed over two hundred scholars, writers, and leaders. Grant is in a small group who makes himself accessible to his readers. Kudos to him for this example!

Some questions/possible disagreements/what I would bring up if I were in Grant’s “challenge network”:

I reached out to Adam with my first question:

*Wonderful book, Adam! Truly. One question nags: How should wise decisions be made where a data-oriented/scientific approach does not illumine?

Adam’s response:

Thanks, David—honored.

I think Bob Sutton captured it well when he defined wisdom as acting on the best information you have, while doubting what you know.

Cheers,

Adam

*Adam talked about the speed of information. I wish there had also been some interaction with both the amount of information coming at us, and even more so, how information gets democratized by most media outlets. In other words, the latest gossip surrounding Britney Spears gets equal play with an update on the war in Ukraine. We are constantly being told that everything is equally urgent.

*I think it would have added to the book to address how to go about motivating the “think again” process when so many grow up in homes where robust conversation and debate are not encouraged. In my own teaching about how to address controversial matters, I have had several tell me that they grew up in such homes. Serious and substantial conversations, let alone debate, was avoided at all costs. And the cost later in life is indeed great.

*Adam recommends that we think more like scientists. I think there is much wisdom in his prescription. I would have liked to have seen some interaction with the reality that scientists are hardly dispassionate creatures…though some of us may be tempted to think so! Like all of us, scientists operate wittingly or unwittingly with a philosophy of science. The work of Michael Polanyi is seminal here.

I am glad to have read this book. It got me to think again about my own thinking!

4.5 stars/5 on Amazon which in my grading is always adjusted upwards, so 5 stars!