Category Archives: Book Review

DISRUPTIVE WITNESS: SPEAKING TRUTH IN A DISTRACTED AGE

Seven things I appreciated about Disruptive Witness by Alan Noble:

The writing is lucid and compelling

Terrific illustrations are peppered throughout

Teases out some practical implications from the writings of Charles Taylor

Focuses on major issues all Christians should agree upon

Good unpacking of how lethal distraction and the never-ending choices are in the modern era

Noble has a gracious, but candid style…not an easy combo!

Noble does not just complain, but offers some practical suggestions for us to adopt

Quote to consider: “The challenge for Christians in our time is to speak of the gospel in a way that unsettles listeners, that conveys the transcendence of God, that provokes contemplation and reflection, and that reveals the stark givenness of reality.”

REAL THINGS MATTER!

I’ve been posing a dare to some friends. I’m daring them to read the introduction to this book and seeing if they can stop. Like one potato chip (which is hardly digital!) they will find themselves devouring the rest of the bag, er book.

The Revenge of Analog: Real Things and Why They Matter is a terrific book. There is hard evidence in this book that digital is not the only game in town, but studies and statistics are augmented by engaging stories.  Stories of people making things that we thought went the way of the Dodo bird add to the book’s allure, poignancy, and persuasiveness.

Vinyl records and used bookstores are back!  They, of course, never totally went away, but their demise had an inevitability that was widely held.

So I dare you as well: Grab a copy (you will have to go to a bookstore to do this!) and read the introduction.   I think you will find yourself wanting much more.

By the way, my “Moore’s Law of Reading” held true with this book.  “Moore’s Law of Reading” takes the total number of pages of a book (242 with this book) and divides by two, so 121.  If my marginal notes exceeds half of the pages then it was a worthwhile read.  In this case, I made 166 marginal notes of various kinds, so it definitely was a great read.

IMAGINE AUGUSTINE AS YOUR PROFESSOR!

Some books are long, but relative to their length you don’t benefit much. Some books are short, but relative to their length you benefit greatly. Joseph Clair’s new book, On Education, Formation, Citizenship and the Lost Purpose of Learning fits in the latter category.  

In 120 pages Clair gives a crisp and thoughtful account of how higher education has lost its moral rudder. To make his case, Clair uses the always insightful and relevant, Bishop of Hippo: Augustine.

Instead of simply detailing the problem, Clair offers some suggestive and practical antidotes. I will mention just one as it is similar to something I’ve been thinking about. Clair mentions that teacher training ought to consider learning from “demanding vocations for inspiration and guidance—for example, Navy Seals, Jesuits, professional athletics—where a sense of identity and purpose provide a strong team spirit and where the results of a shared effort are judged on the basis of the whole community’s performance.”

There was one thing that made me reticent to recommend this book: the cost. That has now been rectified due to being out in a reasonable paperback.

 

MY FAVORITE DEAD PEOPLE…WELL THEIR BOOKS

Augustine, Confessions

Kempis, Of the Imitation of Christ

Pascal, Pensées

If you purchase this book, make sure to get the edition that is edited by A.J. Krailsheimer.  For some reason, Amazon is not allowing me to link to that edition.

Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress

Kierkegaard, Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing

Chesterton, Orthodoxy

Lewis: Loads to pick from, but I choose Surprised by Joy

 

THE GREATEST THEOLOGIANS

Image result for The Great Theologians by McDermott

Most Christians, even if they read on a regular basis, will pretty much choose books that help them live the Christian life. Books extolling “how to” live the Christian life dominate the landscape of bookstores because that is what the market wants.

There is nothing wrong per se with giving practical suggestions for how to live the Christian life. In his terrific introduction to Puritan theology, J. I. Packer underscores how Puritan preachers gave many applications in their sermons.

Applying the truths of Scripture is critical to being a Christian who is growing. James 1:22-25 makes this crystal clear:

But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.  For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.

The problem occurs when one’s reading is all about application. It is a problem, among other reasons, because we simply assume the author holds to a biblical framework. Sure the author may cite verses here and there, but are they handling Scripture responsibly? It takes biblical and theological discernment to determine whether that is the case.

What are the theological assumptions that the author holds? Those assumptions will inform how the author reads Scripture, and then makes his case for believers to apply his suggestions.

I am always on the lookout for thoughtful introductory books that help Christians think more carefully about their faith.

Gerald McDermott’s The Great Theologians: a Brief Guide is such a book. It covers eleven, perhaps the top eleven, most consequential theologians. The chapters are short, but meaty. The chapters are meaty, but accessible.

If you want to know more about the thinkers that are behind the “practical” books you are reading, McDermott’s book is recommended with gusto!

INTERVIEW WITH FLEMING RUTLEDGE

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2018/02/10/interview-fleming-rutledge/

The Amazon link to her terrific book can be found here:

https://www.amazon.com/Crucifixion-Understanding-Death-Jesus-Christ/dp/0802875343

Two caveats:

First, this book is a meaty, yet beautifully written book of 600 plus pages.  I made over 550 marginal notes in my copy.  I read and discussed it with a friend which made it a very rich experience.

Second, even though her book is rightfully heralded in “conservative” theological circles, there are some things that you might find objectionable like Rutledge giving room for the possibility of universal salvation.