TWO PEOPLE STAND OUT

There are two men who have taught me the most about the proper ways to integrate theology and literature: Ralph Wood and Roger Lundin.  I have interviewed Ralph before, and Lord willing shall be going back to Baylor for another interview.  I corresponded with Roger.  I was planning on meeting with Roger during my lecture at Wheaton, but Roger unexpectedly died a few days prior to my talk.  Jeremy Begbie of Duke collaborated with Roger.  Here is part of Begbie’s tribute:

He cared about words – or better put, he cared for people through words: his students, colleagues and readers. That was why he labored so hard to find the right ones. That was why – with that memorable sidelong glance – he paused so often in conversation. That is why he spent hours and hours revising and re-editing his essays and books. In all the years I knew Roger I can honestly say I never remember him using words carelessly. He knew that careless words could hurt, maim and wound. In a culture deluged with half-thought out words, sloppy, hollowed-out language, he saw it as his calling to hone words full of care for others, full of the winsome generosity of God. And in the corridors of the academy, few things are needed more today. We academics revel in large words – to impress, to intimidate. He inspired us to use words with largesse. And that is a legacy beyond measure.

The rest is here: http://www.transpositions.co.uk/tribute-to-professor-roger-lundin/

COTTON MATHER WITHOUT ALL THE BLATHER

Rick Kennedy is a professor of history and a sailing enthusiast.  In the video above, he is interviewed on his terrific, new biography of Cotton Mather.  Below is my brief review of Kennedy’s book:

This short biography by Rick Kennedy is simply superb.  All the major (and some minor) things that we want to know about Mather are included.  The writing is clean and compelling. 

You learn in short compass (145 pages!) that Mather had this incredible combination of gifts: scholar, pastor, visionary, and writer. 

Mather also had a wonderful skepticism towards what we typically call false dichotomies or binary traps.  Mather’s “trust, but verify” approach to legitimate supernatural events is wise and instructive for us today.

Oh yeah, and if you have the stereotype of Mather being responsible for the Salem Witch Trials, you will definitely need to read this biography.

TRUMP INAUGURAL SPEECH

There are many things that certainly could be debated about what was said in Trump’s speech.  One is not debatable, at least among Christians.  Trump mentioned that God will protect us.  Yes, we should pray for God’s protection, but we can’t simply invoke that God will protect us.  Did God protect us on 9/11?  If the answer is yes, then what does protection mean?  If the answer is no, then how can we be confident God will protect us now?

Many Christians are in great need of a slower read through the book of Jeremiah.  We are not Israel (or Judah) to be sure which actually makes the point above. If God did not protect the only nation He ever chose to be a light to the Gentiles, how can we believe God is indebted to protect us?!

REVOLUTIONIZING MEDICINE

https://www.amazon.com/Fever-1721-Epidemic-Revolutionized-Medicine/dp/147678308X/ref=cm_rdp_product

Coss’s book is like having three good, small scale biographies surrounded by the drama of a deadly disease. We get to know a doctor, Puritan preacher, and Founding Father.

Zabdiel Boylston, Cotton Mather, and Ben Franklin are characters most of us know in the order I listed them: from obscure to well-known. Coss makes it clear and quite compelling why we ought to know Boylston and Mather better. And even though I have read several books about Franklin, there were some fresh insights in this terrific book.

One other person who is not part of the aforementioned triumvirate, but looms large is James Franklin, the older brother of Ben. Coss does a terrific job of showcasing how much Ben benefited from the prickly and mercurial James. At times, I felt the author was a bit generous towards James, especially in downplaying how cruel he could be to Ben, but Coss makes his case very well.

 

COMPLAINTS, LAMENTS, AND STILL CONTENT

As I get older (58 now) I noticed rather effortlessly that two things dominated my prayers: please come soon Lord to make everything right, and a corollary of “God, do you know how hard it is to live in this world”?  Complaints and laments, but still content in Christ.  I’m glad Scripture gives a much more expansive vocabulary than many of us American Christians have been led to believe. 

SOULFUL AND SOILFUL SPIRITUALITY

Humble Roots: How Humility Grounds and Nourishes Your Soul

https://www.amazon.com/Humble-Roots-Humility-Grounds-Nourishes/dp/0802414591/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_product_top?ie=UTF8

This is not a “how to” book, which among other things, makes it so good.

Anderson’s uses her wide-ranging experience in gardening to tease out lessons on humility.

The author is vulnerable about her own foibles and failings, but not indulgent. Throughout her beautiful and winsome book, there are many wise reflections on what matters most.

A book to savor, especially for those who are tired of the typical formulaic approach in much of popular, Christian literature.

READ (SOME) COMMENTARIES LIKE REGULAR BOOKS

https://www.amazon.com/Message-Jeremiah-Bible-Speaks-Today/dp/0830824391

Commentaries on books of the Bible are not created equally.  You have to be shrewd in what you consult.  The better ones come in all different types from the devotional to the technical. 

My favorite ones are those who combine great care with the text of Scripture, are well-written, and offer many connections to our own time and day.  Right now, I am reading one of these kinds of commentaries: Christopher Wright’s terrific work on Jeremiah.  It is part of The Bible Speaks Today series (InterVarsity Press).  Here is something I pondered today:

“The reign of King Josiah was a time of great religious fervent and national resurgence.  It was all very impressive.  But what was God’s point of view?  According to Jeremiah God sees a people who are a disappointment to God, who are being disloyal to their covenant relationship with God, who are already feeling the shock of disasters that foreshadow worse to come, and who are living in brazen denial and delusion.  It is a frightening mirror to hold up to the people of God in any generation, with stark relevance to our own.”  (Emphasis added)