I was going to write separate reviews for two or three of these books but decided to combine them into one post and also throw in a few extra (but shorter) reviews that I might not have included otherwise.
Encounters with Jesus by Tim Keller (4 stars)
Keller has become a warm, familiar voice to me over the past few years as I’ve read many of his books and listened to a good number of his sermons. One of his more recent offerings, “Encounters with Jesus” is to the heart what “The Reason for God” is for the mind. For those familiar with Navigator terminology, it’s like sitting down across the table from Keller and him leading an Investigative Bible Discussion with you. The book focuses on encounters Jesus has in the Gospels with several individuals and teases out theological principles, questions, and answers from these encounters, all the while revealing more and more of the character of this Jesus.
The first five chapters focus on the book of John and the last five on events from the other Gospels. Keller’s conversational prose is very easy to read and his gentle but firm counsel proves a reliable guide for the reader who is honestly skeptical (that is, actually interested in addressing doubts and not just looking to dismiss them).
Highly recommended whether you’re meeting looking to meet Jesus for the first time or perhaps looking to be reintroduced in one way or another.
The Hole in our Holiness by Kevin DeYoung (4 stars)
I read this book mainly because of a lot that I’d been hearing about various leaders and pastors having some conflict about the role and purpose of sanctification in believers’ lives. Tullian Tchividjian represents the “Grace, grace, and more grace!” side of the spectrum and I read his book One Way Love recently (which I reviewed here). While not denying or downplaying the role of grace, Kevin DeYoung is on the other end of the spectrum in the “debate.”
It’s unavoidable that I ended up comparing this book to One Way Love from start to finish. The verdict? This is the better book. Now, that’s not to say that Tullian’s book is bad. This is just a superior book. DeYoung is both humorous and humble throughout the book, showing in page after page that is dripping with Scripture what it looks like to pursue holiness not in order to somehow earn salvation but as a result of union with Christ.
In one sentence, he sums up New Testament ethics as: “Be who you are.” That is, you are holy positionally because of Christ’s imputed righteousness. Now pursue that holiness each and every day.
An enjoyable and yet convicting/exhorting read.
The Kneeling Christian (2 stars)
I had this book recommended to me by a few folks and was available as a free pdf online so I slotted it into my “to read” list. Among the many, many areas where I could grow in my Christian walk, prayer stands out as one that I feel I need the most help in. And so I eagerly dove into this book…but petered out pretty quick. I mainly finished it just to finish it. It was probably a combination of the style and approach of the book. Additionally, there were a few things that the author suggested about prayer that I wasn’t sure I agreed with that seemed to suggest that every time a prayer is unanswered it must be because of some fault within the prayer. Seemed like echoes of Job’s friends to me.
Now, to be fair, there were many more quotes that I actually liked a lot than ones I disagreed with. But there was enough about the book that I didn’t enjoy or connect with for me to only rate it “okay” (i.e. 2 stars).
Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery by Eric Metaxas (5 stars)
The only time I had heard of William Wilberforce before reading this book was hearing a story about how when he became a Christian he felt the only way to serve Christ was to become a pastor. He went to John Newton, known for composing the hymn “Amazing Grace,” for advice. But instead of affirming his perceived “call” to the pastorate, Newton challenged Wilberforce to remain where he was–an incredibly influential position in the British Parliament–and use that position to glorify God and benefit his fellow man.
And use that position and influence he did. Wilberforce was one of the main, if not THE main, drivers in the campaign to abolish the slave trade in England. Metaxas, the author of Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, argues that Wilberforce “overturned not just European civilization’s view of slavery but its view of almost everything in the human sphere…it was nothing less than a fundamental and important shift in human consciousness” (p. xv). In other words, Wilberforce is responsible for shaping the character of Western civilization! If you believe that every human being is fundamentally equal to and has the same rights as every other human being, you owe it to Wilberforce’s Christian faith and his influence on society.
That is a massive claim, especially for someone that most of us have probably never heard of. But Metaxas supports this claim and reintroduces Wilberforce to a modern-day audience. It’s a heroic story about an amazingly humble and incredibly influential individual that is masterfully told by Metaxas. I can’t recommend this book highly enough!
What are you currently reading? Any suggestions or thoughts on these books I’ve just finished?