Book Review Roundup: July 2014

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. 

17675008Encounters 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) 148972402

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-ChristianThe 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)amazing-grace

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?
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4 thoughts on “Book Review Roundup: July 2014

  1. Josh Hershey July 19, 2014 / 2:47 pm

    Encounters with Jesus looks the most interesting to me. Kevin DeYoung has come across a little too arrogant for me to want to read him (just a feeling/criticism I’ve come away with after watching some of his interviews and reading some of his online blog posts). As a suggestion, I think you might want to break away from the Calvinists authors for a bit. Not that I think they don’t have anything good to say, but it seems that much of your current reading has been coming from that vein. Here are some of my favorites theology books…

    The Jesus Driven Life by Michael Hardin
    The Fingerprints of God by Robert Capon (or The Romance of the Word)
    For The Life of The World by Alexander Schmemann (or anything by him!)
    The Work of Christ by Peter Forsyth (or The Person and Place of Jesus Christ)
    A Farewell To Mars by Brian Zahnd (or Beauty Will Save the World)
    Who Will Be Saved? by Will Wilimon
    Christian Dogmatics edited by Jenson and Braaten Volume II (section on atonement by Gerhard Forde)
    The Christlike God by John Taylor
    The Prophetic Imagination by Walter Brueggemann
    The Prophets by Abraham Heschel
    Psalms by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
    The Spiritual World of Saint Isaac the Syrian by Hilarov
    Karl Barth: Biblical and Evangelical Theologian by T. F. Torrance
    Church Dogmatics (IV.2) by Karl Barth (“The Way of the Son of God into the Far Country”)
    Holy Scripture by Donald Bloesch (or Theology of Word and Spirit)
    The Human Faces of God by Thom Starke
    Who Wrote the Bible? by Friedman (if your interested in mystery novels and/or want to get a understanding of the Documentary Hypothesis)
    Toward a Pentecostal Theology of the Lord’s Supper by Green
    Streams of Living Water by Richard Foster

    I’m currently reading the CEB Study Bible with Apocrypha edited by Joel Green. It has excellent scholar notes and commentary from men and women from the scholarly field across denominational boundary lines. I’m also reading Apocalypse and Allegiance by Kraybill (excellent read on the book of Revelation). Also anything by Brennan Manning or Richard Rohr is very edifying. I’m sure you’ve already got many books on your “to read list”. Just thought I’d suggest some stuff that I’ve really enjoyed. Lol.

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    • misterjoshuaray July 21, 2014 / 7:35 am

      I definitely think you’d enjoy “Encounters with Jesus,” Josh! And I was a bit wary of that too-DeYoung does come off as pretty prideful and/or harsh in his online persona sometimes. But I was pleasantly surprised that that sort of attitude was absent from the book. Instead, his tone was encouraging and gentle through it all. Definitely not what I was expecting! haha

      Thanks for all the recommendations, by the way! Foster and Manning (A Celebration of Discipline and Abba’s Child, respectively) were already on my to-read list, so I’ll be sure to bump them up a few slots as well as checking out some of these other authors!

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