Tim Challies used to introduce his New Books of Note posts with a brief disclaimer about receiving many books from publishers and not having time to review them all. Consider this a similar intro, and will probably appear at the beginning of each post in this series. I decided I’m going to do these in batches of 7, since that seems biblical and all. By “these” I mean those previously mentioned “books I won’t/can/t review.” As was noted, this still somewhat counts as a “review” but only in the loosest sense of “publicly writing my thoughts about books received for free from publishers.” It should also be noted that just because a book appears here, it doesn’t mean I didn’t like it. I just don’t want to write more than a few sentences about it, and from those you can actually glean quite a bit. Sound good? Ok, so here’s what we have this time:
The Unfinished Reformation: What Unites and Divides Catholics and Protestants after 500 Years (Zondervan)
The subtitle tells you exactly what this little (under 150pp) book by Gregg Allison and Chris Castaldo is about. If you want a more in-depth treatment, grab Allison’s larger one. Topics covered here include: basic divisions between Catholics and Protestants, 10 commonalities that unite us, and the 9 key areas where we differ. The book is charitable and clear, and for me at least, was an easy weekend read. If you want a concise treatment of how Catholics and Protestants relate to one another theologically, I think this is a good place to start.
Trapped: Getting Free from People, Patterns, and Problems (New Growth Press)
Andy Farmer’s book focuses on key traps that enslave people into patterns of living that inhibit Christian growth. He identifies four key traps: approval, laziness, secret escape, and addiction. He also discusses feeling trapped in a troubled marriage (chapter 9) and how we can experience true freedom and redemption from these traps. If you read many CCEF books, you won’t be surprised by much of the material here. However, it is a fairly fresh look at these key problems and is a concise treatment of them (roughly 170pp).
This book by George Yancey (prof of sociology at UNT) is likely to prove more and more timely. Yancey is not only a Christian teaching in a public university, he is also an African American, and recounts how he has not only experienced anti Christian bias, but racism as well. Here, he deals with the roots of what he calls Christianophobia (in a delightful chapter titled Haters Gonna Hate). He then notes that you can’t please everyone, and in some instances, Christian behavior leads to anti-Christian bias (though this isn’t always the case). He then helpfully unpacks how to best respond and deal with Christianophobia (hence his book’s subtitle). It won’t take you long to work through this book, but I expect it to repay your time in the coming months and years.
The Temple and The Tabernacle: A Study of God’s Dwelling Places from Genesis to Revelation (Baker Books)
A potential upside of this book by J. Daniel Hays is that is a more accessible version of G. K. Beale’s The Temple and The Church’s Mission. While Beale has his own more accessible version, this book includes pictures and such. However, that leads to a potential downside in that it is printed on glossy paper and so not conducive to note taking or marking within. But, if you’re a more visually oriented person, and perhaps never interacted with Beale’s biblical theology of God’s dwelling place, maybe start here for an introduction and then move into Beale’s more in-depth and technical treatment.
I started off strong with this one by Gary Tyra, but then ran out of steam. Not entirely sure why, because this should be a very useful book to anyone teaching practical theology or ethics. Since that’s part of what I do, it seemed like it should be a good fit. Tyra’s first section gives a lay of the moral land and explains the key approaches to ethics out there. The second part of his book is more “how-to” and explains the importance of responsibility for making good ethical decision, but also leaves space for the Spirit to guide and direct our steps. He comes from what I think is a Charismatic background, and so the interesting angle of this book is seeing how that plays into practical theology. In the coming weeks and months, I am actually hoping to revisit this one for a little more analysis.
I didn’t like this book by Os Guinness, which was a bit surprising as well as obviously disappointing. I just couldn’t get into it. Unlike Fool’s Talk, this one seemed less helpful, at least to me. These books are loosely related, and I think this is meant to be the more theoretical underpinning to that one. Maybe because of that, it ended up being less interesting, but it may have also just been the season of life in which I was reading it (which was a hard one to focus on much of anything in my reading, so do with that what you will)
Lastly, this book by Jonathan Anderson and William Dyrness is the first in a new series called Studies in Theology and the Arts. It looks like it is off to a promising start with this retelling of the recent history of modern art that is more sentence to positive religious impulses than evangelicals have typically been. The title of the book is a play on the classic by Hans Rookmaaker, Modern Art and The Death of a Culture, which as you can imagine, is not very effusive in its assessment of modern art. In this book though, Anderson and Dyrness take five chapters, each devoted to a different geographical locale, to re-examine some icons and artists associated with modern art (I may have used “icon” wrong just there). This of course is after two opening chapters establishing the critical context, both in general, and related to Rookmaaker’s work. I’m not particularly qualified to comment in-depth on art history (although I did once date an art history major), but the authors seem to give a good overview and demonstrate charitable re-readings of some important artists’ work. Overall, it is good example of astute cultural analysis that seeks to put the accent on potential commendations instead of criticisms and be in a better position to dialogue further with those outside the evangelical camp.