Archives For Personal Adventures

This month, I feel like I did a decent job of diversifying my reading. That trend will probably continue going into the summer, although May is gonna be a little crazy.

I added 13 books this month, which is back closer to January and February, with 12 of the 13 hitting categories in the challenge. That also means I hit 50 for the year. Most of these I read cover to cover this month, but a few (you’ll notice them) are much longer and it just happened that I finished them in April.

The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation (a book about current events)

Here’s what I already wrote on Rod Dreher’s book.

Last Adam: A Theology of the Obedient Life of Jesus in the Gospels (a book about theology)

This was another part of my pre-Easter reading. I’ve got a post in the works about how this fills in a significant lacuna in another semi-controversial book that just came out. I’ll keep it ambiguous until then.

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (a book about history)

I don’t often read brief histories of humankind. Much less do I read radical gay vegan takes on it, that go where only Nietzsche and Foucault dreamed of going. Yuval Noah Harari is probably a presuppositional apologetist’s best friend because he starts with atheism and then consistently traces out how it would apply to the human species and their cultural products and practices. I need to trace that out more, and hope to do so soon.

The Complete Beer Course: Boot Camp for Beer Geeks: From Novice to Expert in Twelve Tasting Courses (a book recommended by a friend)

You may notice an uptick in beer related reading, but I’m not quite ready to explain why. Let’s just say it is actual research, and also attempting to understand one of life’s simple pleasures.

An Anomalous Jew: Paul among Jews, Greeks, and Romans

If Michael Bird writes a book, I’ll probably read it and tell you about it. I need to do a more formal review of this one, so I’ll wait and tell you more then!

The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ (a book of your choice)

I spent the better part of Easter weekend finishing this up and it is one of the best books I’ve read this year. I would highly recommend wrestling with Fleming Rutledge’s work. While it is a theology book, it is conversational in tone and culturally saavy in references and anecdotes. In other words, this isn’t your typical 600 page theology book. I wouldn’t say I quite agree with everything she wrote, and this post from Andrew Wilson explains a good bit why.

Know Why You Believe (a book about apologetics)

I’ve got a review of this third volume in the KNOW series from Zondervan in the works. It also made for a great read during Easter weekend.

The Triunity of God (Vol. 4 in Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics) (a book you have started but never finished)

This represents finishing Richard Muller’s massive study in Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics. I can’t really summarize my thoughts here, but I can let you know that an updated version of this series is coming out soon(ish) that will include two new volumes. If you’ve thought about getting them, wait until then (because $500 on Amazon is not worth it)

Reformed Dogmatics Volume 4: Holy Spirit, Church, and New Creation (a book your pastor recommends)

When I graduated Dallas in 2011, I got Bavinck’s four volume Reformed Dogmatics. I would wish that everyone who fancies themselves a theologian would take the time to work through these volumes. Maybe not drag it out as much as I did, but if you read one multi-volume systematic, make it this one.

Paul and His Recent Interpreters (a book you own but have never read)

This was originally going to be part of N. T. Wright’s fourth volume in the Christian Origins and The Question of God series (otherwise known as PFG). But, it became its own volume and came out later. I got a review copy from Fortress, so I’m going to share more in a seperate post.

12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You (a book about Christian living)

I did a write up on this for Christ and Pop Culture, if you’re a member, you can get it for free!

This Changes Everything: How the Gospel Transforms the Teen Years (a book for teens)

Once again, I’ll have more to say on this one in a review. But for now, it has become a late addition to my textbooks for next year but it was written by an 18 year old girl and it makes good on the promise in the subtitle.

Reality Is Not What it Seems: The Journey to Quantum Gravity (a book of your choice)

I’m not sure I can actually explain where I’m at on this one. On the one hand, it is supposed to be a popular level physics book. On the other hand, I had a hard time understanding it and people tell me I’m smart. I think it might be because of how much of a paradigm shift it is (time and space don’t exist the way you think they do). But, as I’m about to embark on an Interstellar re-watch, I’ll have more thoughts down the road I imagine.

If there’s one thing I do on this blog consistently, it’s start blog series with reckless abandon and then never come back to them. However, I intend to pick back up the book reviewing one, as well as the seminary one. I don’t think there’s any more recently orphaned ones (besides an on-going story about a trip to California that now has a Part 2), and so another a new one doesn’t complicate things too much.

This one has been rummaging around in my mind since at least this time last year. When I was younger, I listened to a tape series called Adventures in Odyssey (cue nostalgia for some of you). This series is something like “adventures in ecclesiology.” Probably lamer to be honest. But, I couldn’t think of a better title.

Everything kind of started when I left for college (not surprising right?). Up to that point, I had been at the same church since 3rd grade. That I can remember, I had only been part of one other church before that. During the two years I was at Word of Life, you really couldn’t regularly attend a church. Well, you could, but it took more effort than I was willing to put in. I did enjoy two churches in Florida, and exactly zero in New York.

My first, how you might say, “awkward” experience with a church was at one of those Florida churches. It wasn’t actually even during my time at school in Florida, but on a trip back through to see friends and go to a concert in Ybor. That Sunday, I went to the one church because that’s where the guy I was staying with went. I had gone several times while I was in school because my buddy Steven and I had recorded an album for the current (at the time) worship pastor.

This particular Sunday involved me being a bystander while a pastor broke up with his church. While I don’t know the history of the church, I think the guy had planted it, and at the very least had been the pastor of the church plant for several years at that point. His message, and I’m using that word loosely, was basically, it’s not you, it’s me. He explained why he was leaving, and then from what I understood, moved to North Carolina and started working at Barnes & Noble.

Had I been a member of this church, it might have been more devastating than awkward. I think everyone had been blindsided. Luckily, that worship pastor I mentioned was able to step up and start preaching and now he’s the lead pastor (and has been for over 10 years, longer than the previous guy). While that is a good thing, I am guessing the original pastor peacing out wounded quite a few people and it took the church some time to heal. I am also guessing that he was experiencing pretty significant burnout, and so hopefully he has healed as well.

This story, while relatively minor in my own personal history, opened up a new perspective on the local church. Up to the time I left for college, I had a pretty bland Bible belt Baptist church experience. I have no complaints, because I think I went to a pretty healthy church. It probably had its issues, but I wasn’t necessarily in the know. The church is different from when I left it, but, the pastor I grew up with is still the pastor of the church. Other staff have shuffled in and out, but he’s still going strong.

This particular experience at the church in Florida was perhaps a firsthand entrance into church drama. It was the first time I saw a pastor lose pastoral credibility right in front of my eyes. Much of what happened that day might have been solved by better accountability. At the same time, I’m sure it wouldn’t have fixed everything and I’m not privy to all the underlying details. I know what he publicly presented to his church, but I don’t know the back-end workings.

In the end, it may have been what helped develop my conviction that pastors who haven’t been vetted by a really solid seminary probably shouldn’t be planting churches. A corollary to this is that pastors who couldn’t get hired by a local church didn’t need to strike off and form their own. I certainly left Dallas with those convictions, in part after seeing everything you have to go through to get a ministerial seal of approval from a serious seminary. But, as I have also seen firsthand, just because someone has a seminary degree and seal of approval, it doesn’t mean they will be a good pastor.

These things are tricky aren’t they?

All of this serves as a kind of introduction to my way of processing my personal history with the local church, which has certainly had ups and downs. I’ve witnessed church issues and no doubt caused a few myself (we’ll get to that). My sample size is admittedly small, but I’ve read widely in both the history of the church and the recent history of evangelicalism. I’ve also never been on staff at church and I’m going on staff with a parachurch ministry. That obviously skews my perspective a bit.

I’m not here to trash the church, in general or particular. I’m just trying to think through a healthy relationship with the local church in general (especially as it pertains to young adults) and in particular (as it pertains to our recent church search that was set in motion this time last year). I’m also trying to think through what activities the local church should be spending more time on, and what parachurch ministries (especially college campus ones) can and should focus on doing. I’d also like to touch on how something like the Benedict Option fits into all of this, but it might take a while to get there. But, if you’re along for the ride, we’ll get there eventually.

Unlike most months, I did a fair amount of re-reading in order to polish up my ETS paper. In light of that, I only finished 9 new books. I know right? Really slacking off here. Some of these I’ll comment on in more detail later. Also, I left off the categories this time because I think I only read more theology books so I probably didn’t any new category unless we want to get creative with some of the N. T. Wright books (like categorizing them as young adult fiction or something similarly savage).

I’m actually in California right now, draining a Trenta cold brew as quick as I can to make up for jet lag and something less than four hours of sleep. By the time you read this, I’ll be somewhere around downtown San Fransisco, helping keep track of a bunch of high school seniors. Or driving to Yosemite. Depends on when you read.

UPDATE: I added categories to the books below

Anyway, here’s the 9 books (total of 37 for the year) I’ve gotten to in the 2017 Reading Challenge:

Summa Philosophica (a book of your choice)

This is the first Peter Kreeft book I read in a while, and it was quite enjoyable. As an intro to important philosophical questions and a different style of argumentation, it’s a great book. Highly recommend!

The Paul Debate: Critical Questions for Understanding the Apostle (a book about the Bible)

SPCK sent me this for review and it was super helpful to read right before ETS. I’ll have more to say about in a formal review, but it is basically N. T. Wright saying N. T. Wright things in response to select reviews of his massive book on Paul. It also serves as a good intro to some of his main lines of thought on Paul, and might be the place to start with Wright if you haven’t wrestled with him.

Prophet, Priest, and King: The Roles of Christ in the Bible and Our Roles Today (a book about theology)

P&R sent this along for review, so I’ll save most of my comments. The threefold offices of Christ deserve more study and attention and this book by Richard Belcher is a good place to start.

Death in Adam, Life in Christ: The Doctrine of Imputation (a book of your choice)

This is the first volume in a new series by Christian Focus called Reformed Exegetical and Dogmatic Studies (R.E.D.S.). J. V. Fesko outlines the historical understanding of the doctrine of imputation before a section on exegesis from the Old and New Testaments and then a final dogmatic formulation that is sensitive to modern discussions on the historical Adam. I won’t spoil the whole thing, but he doesn’t break new ground from a traditional Reformed perspective.

Reset: Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Burnout Culture (a book with one word title)

I’ll have a write up on this for Christ and Pop Culture soonish since it is going to be a member’s offering. If you haven’t become a member yet, you should do so you can read it!

Salvation by Allegiance Alone: Rethinking Faith, Works, and the Gospel of Jesus the King (a book of your choice)

This book was interesting to read in tandem with Fesko’s. I like Matthew Bates’ writing style, and his proposal here gives me some pause on issues I’ve been reflecting on for a while. I’ll probably do some more extensive writing about it since I noticed a lacuna in his seemingly thorough presentation of the gospel (I’ll give you a hint, it rhymes with active obedience of Christ).

The Day the Revolution Began: Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus’s Crucifixion (a book over 400 pages)

I don’t think I’ll have anything to say about this that goes beyond Michael Horton’s review or Dane Ortlund’s reflections. It is in some sense a classic book by Wright. Well written and provocative, it is has a good deal of false dichotomies and writes polemically against unclear opponents. If you’re new to Wright, I wouldn’t start here.

John Frame’s Selected Shorter Writings, Volume 3 (a book of your choice)

I’ve almost reading everything John Frame has written. Almost. There are several gems in this one. Good stuff on Van Til, not being a jerk in seminary, you know typical Frame. I’ll have a more complete write-up soon for a new series I’m starting.

Reformed Dogmatics: Christology (a book more than 100 years old)

On the plane ride over here, I caught up on some of my Logos reading plans and happened to finish this one up. I’m now getting into the volume on soteriology, which I kind of wish I had tapped into during the research earlier this month. But, no matter, Vos is worth digging into, even if it is not the most riveting layout of the material (Q/A format).

It was mid morning under a gray Kentucky sky. While almost spring it looked an awful lot like winter to me. I put on Copeland’s In Motion, one of my favorite albums from my college days. Around the time it came out, I have a very distinct memory of listening to it on a very different road trip along much of the same road.

The year was 2005. It was also spring break if I remember right. I was driving back form Chicago after seeing my girlfriend at the time who went to Moody Bible Institute. I had recently been accepted as well, but didn’t quite grasp that we were going to break up in about a month while I was standing in LaGuardia waiting to board a plane to Argentina. Good thing it was over the phone. And so I moved back to Knoxville in the fall instead of Chicago, ended up completing my degree through Liberty.

That trip ended up being the first and only time I did the Knoxville-Chicago road trip. Which is probably good because Indiana is supremely boring. Back to Friday though when I was listening to Aaron Marsh exhort Amanda to pin her wings down (if you know this reference, I’m glad we’re friends). This was the first road trip to Louisville since April of 2014 when I came up for Together 4 The Gospel (T4G) and to meet with my doctoral adviser for the program in Christian Philosophy at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

We had a great talk about postmodern philosophy, aesthetics, and presuppositional apologetics. Neither he nor I knew I would withdraw from the program before the year was out, but it was good time nonetheless. Along the way, I met up with Richard Clark and he agreed to let me write for Christ and Pop Culture, which I still do (and you should check out)

This time around, I presented a paper for regional ETS and had a much overdue catch up with my friend Todd. On the drive back, my mind was processing through it all. You know, all the road trips. All the journeys, some of which seem to be dead ends.

And it made me think that I needed to start writing down about the road that lead to here. Here currently being Knoxville, but by the time you read this, if it is shortly after posting, I’ll be on another road trip back to Florida. If it is no longer March 21st when you read it, I’ll be somewhere in Orlando, probably spending the rest of my spring break reading or writing. But if it’s after March 29th, I’ll be somewhere in California, keeping track of an assortment of high school seniors.

I get around, if you hadn’t picked up on that yet.

But in all that getting around, I’ve learned some important lessons. Some about myself, some about God, and some about the world we find ourselves. I also learned how to link those things together.

I’m also entering into a new season with Ali, we were actually both going to be able to devote much our time to ministry. It’s what we’ve both wanted and what we both trained for. Ali went to Liberty as well, but never finished. She did get a job at Panera and so happened to be working there when I stopped in during a road trip. If I had gone to Moody like I planned, that road trip wouldn’t have happened. If she hadn’t gone to Liberty, withdrawn but not moved back, she wouldn’t have been in Lynchburg. And we probably would have never started talking and then it would have made getting married a little over two years later a bit difficult to say the least.

And if I hadn’t gotten into that Ph.D program at Southern, gotten a Southwest card thinking I’d be flying to Louisville a lot, we wouldn’t have had the miles saved up when the opportunity to chaperone last year’s senior trip came around. Without that re-entry into a week of student ministry, Ali might not have felt the call re-ignited, and we wouldn’t have started raising support last fall. If God hadn’t moved people to be generous, we wouldn’t have raised enough money for her to quit Panera (after almost 11 years!) back in January.

While there are several different threads in the story I want to tease out, I think this gives it all a good theme. We’re all arriving somewhere, and the journey is part of the process. Rather than trusting the process, we trust the God who providentially guides our steps. Road trips are usually when I have time to reflect on all of this, but are also a pivotal part of the journey. Most of my important decisions have happened on road trips or shortly after. And all my important relationships are nurtured by them.

With that in mind, I want to use my road trips as a means to unpack several parts of the story of how Ali and I got here. Here as in raising support for full-time ministry this fall, but not knowing exactly how we’re gonna pay our bills in June. Here as in trusting God to step into ministry opportunities that weren’t necessarily what we planned or expected when we were younger and more idealistic. But opportunities and paths that make perfect sense once you’ve been down enough dead ends. And that’s the kind of stories I want to tell.

It’s hard to believe it’s been three years since I last made it to an ETS regional. Actually, looking at the timeline, I think I go every three years because my first one was in 2011. I also have presented at each one (you can read the previous papers here), and continue that tradition this year.

I re-worked a paper from my Romans class at Dallas. It need some revision and updating, both for newer resources and evolution in thought. The result is called New Perspectives on Paul: Reconciling Wright, Schreiner, and Thielman on Justification. Here is the intro:

The purpose of this paper is to offer an epistemological framework that is suitable for harmonizing differing positions on the nature of justification. The focus here is first, on introducing the framework, and then second, on demonstrating its usefulness in some recent dialogue, namely, the plenary addresses from the 2010 annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society Rather than a rigorous exegetical defense, this is a proposal using a tool of epistemology to attempt to solve a theological difficulty. While all the different perspectives are not completely resolvable, the three presented at the 2010 annual meeting just might be.

I don’t pretend to think it solves all the problems associated with interpreting Paul’s theology. I do however think that John Frame’s triperspectivalism is a useful tool for navigating the different emphases and integrating various conclusions into a coherent whole. As to whether anyone agrees, I guess we’ll find out soon enough.

I write about a books quite a bit. Often, I link to either Amazon or Westminster Bookstore when I make my posts because I get kickbacks to do so (I’ve disclosed that elsewhere).

Well, until Friday, I can get a kickback and you can save $5 and get free shipping if you check out their new website. They explained that they’ve made five improvements they think customers will like:

  • Fully Responsive Design: In this age of smartphones, we’ve worked hard to build a site that is functional, intuitive, and useful on any size screen.
  • Streamlined Browsing: Using browsing sliders and improved search functionality, you’ll be able to discover books more easily than before.
  • Revamped Categories: We are especially hopeful that our refreshed and “re-curated” categories will go far in directly advancing our mission of equipping the church with biblically faithful content.
  • Easy Checkout Flow: We’ve consolidated our checkout page into 3 easy and intuitive steps.
  • A Work in Progress: This is the feature we’re most excited about – our new site gives us an entirely customizable foundation that we can constantly improve upon.

It’s definitely worth checking out, as the bookstore is not just a store but a ministry. I’ve benefited greatly from sales they’ve had through the years, as well as titles that were harder to find. If you haven’t really taken advantage of this online bookstore, now is the time to do so!

A couple of weeks back my father in-law Tim Kaufman published his first book, Singing Hallelujah When You Feel Like Hell. The title plays on both his gifting as a singer and his experience with clinical depression. Though the subtitle is “a true life story of how to triumph through depression,” it is not a typical self-help book. It is also not prosperity gospel nonsense that may promise that if you just believe enough or follow these steps your depression will go away. But it is the story of how Tim lived through periods of time when darkness was nearly his only companion. And it is an example of how a variety of factors work together in helping someone through the valley.

I was glad to read through the book when it was still in the editing stages. Here is the blurb that I submitted:

Singing Hallelujah When You Feel Like Hell isn’t just a book with a clever title. It is a firsthand account of someone who has been through the darkness and lived to tell about it. Tim is not just my father-in-law, he is also a wise and godly man who is willing to be vulnerable with his own story in order to reach out and minister to the many friends and loved ones we have who deal with depression. Odds are that even if you haven’t struggled with it, you love someone who has or does and they would benefit from reading this book.

While I don’t have firsthand struggles with depression, I did have a period of about 6 months of burnout where I had many of the same symptoms. In retrospect, I’m glad because I think I am able to be more sensitive now to advice people give that isn’t particularly helpful. Part of the issue with struggling through depression is that you just don’t have the will to do much of anything. Because of that, advice, while possibly true and godly, isn’t necessarily what you might need. It is true that you need to believe the gospel, pray, and search the Scriptures. But when you’re really depressed, it is hard to even get out of bed, much less focus on anything of value.

Since Tim has struggled with that, and been in ministry for decades, he is able to tell his story from between two worlds so to speak. Depression is a spiritual issue, but it is not only a spiritual issue and Tim is more than aware of that. I tend to think of things like depression triperspectivally (not a surprise if you know me well). As such it has normative dimensions which are the spiritual components. But, it also situational factors that are usually life stories that have left scars resulting in shame and perhaps internalized anger. And there is also the existential components of brain chemistry and dietary and exercise habits (or lack thereof).

To treat any of these in isolation is to miss part of what’s going on. What’s good about Tim’s book is that though he doesn’t use this terminology, he is aware of how all those issues have come into play in his story of the triumph of grace in his life. And if that is something you’d like to read more about it, you ought to make sure you pick up a copy of his book for yourself!

I know you’ve waited with baited breath for my update on what I read in February. Or maybe just regular breathing, I’m not actually clear on the difference. Either way, the day has come and here’s the rundown on what I finished up this past month. If you’re keeping score at home, I had 14 books last month, and 14 again this month. So, cheers to consistency. Also, so far everything has hit a category on the 2017 Reading Challenge, so also convenience.

Meet Generation Z (a book published in 2017)

It’s perhaps no secret I spend several days a week hanging out with Generation Z, otherwise known as high schoolers. I thought I’d see what James Emery White had to say about them, and I’ll let you know more about it when I post a longer review.

The Dynamic Heart: Connecting Christ to Human Experience (a book about Christian living)

I’ve recently felt like I needed to read more practical theology, and this from Jeremy Pierre hit the spot. It is also a book I’ll need to elaborate on in a different post. But, it’s something you should check out if you’re interested in the basics of thinking through how the gospel relates to your everyday experiences (and might want to reflect a little deeper on those as well)

Signposts to God: How Modern Physics and Astronomy Point the Way to Belief (a book about the natural world)

While technical at times, this was an enjoyable dip back into cosmology as it relates to Christian belief. It contains a nice primer on modern physics and very clear apologetic thinking on how science actually helps support belief rather than undermine it.

The Brewer’s Tale: The History of the World According to Beer (a book about history)

This is one part history, one part technology. And the technology in question is the art and science of making beer. If you enjoy craft beer (I realize being a Calvinist, I’m stereotyping myself here), you’ll definitely enjoy this. But even if not, the way that brewing interfaces with the development of civilization is fascinating.

Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior (a book with a great cover)

I think the title oversells it a bit (and that’s even with the cool graphic design that is more subtle on a physical copy). However, Mlodinow is what a good science writer should be: clear, witty, and practical. Having majored in psychology, this wasn’t particularly mind blowing, but was a good refresher nonetheless.

On Paradise Drive: How We Live Now (And Always Have) In the Future Tense (a humorous book)

This, for now, completes my trek through David Brooks books. I think I liked this one the least, but there is still enough snark and cultural commentary to keep it a 4 star rating. Come for the opening chapter surveying America’s suburban landscape. Stay for the closer that ties it altogether into a trenchant commendation and critique.

The Spirituality of Wine (a book by a female author)

I’m not the biggest fan of wine, but I am interested in spirituality. The author of this particular volume grew up on a winery in Germany and also has a Ph.D in theology. Her book is part history of wine making, part biblical theology of wine, and part theological reflections on its use (and a chapter on potential abuse). I’ll have more to say in my full review.

The Selected Shorter Writings of John Frame, Vol. 2 (a book by your favorite author)

I’m slotting this into the favorite author category, although realistically I could put about 10 different authors there. Frame has a special place though because of his lucidity and the intriguing nature of his thought. I was reminded in reading this how much I need to keep reading his stuff. I also need to RSVP to his retirement chapel and lunch. I’ve got Vol. 3 to work through as well and a post highlighting why you need to know him as a theologian. Of the three volumes, this does the most work on Van Til, and Frame, I think, is his best interpreter and critic.

Comfort Detox: Finding Freedom From Habits That Bind You (a book about Christian living)

This one from Erin Straza (full disclosure, my managing editor at Christ and Pop Culture) came just in time. My wife and I are both wrestling with our comfort idols in different ways and I think Erin’s book is just the thing we needed. I finished it over the weekend and Ali took it with her to West Palm while she’s house sitting this week.

The Theology of the Christian Life in J.I. Packer’s Thought: Theological Anthropology, Theological Method, and the Doctrine of Salvation (a book about theology)

While an interesting doctoral dissertation on the theology of the Christian life in J. I. Packer’s thought, the book is ultimately a critique of it. I’ll have more to say in my post on Packer, but the short version is that in the author’s view, Packer’s theology is quite good enough for the new postmodern condition we find ourselves in.

American Girls: Social Media and The Secret Lives of Teenagers (a book about sexuality)

As I said above, I spend a fair amount of time with teenager every week. This book caught my eye because it is about their so-called secret lives, and focuses on the experiences of girls via exhaustive interviews the author conducted. The result is a haunting look at the ways social media has changed the social and moral landscape for many teenagers in Generation Z. It is graphic and disturbing, but an important read if you have teenagers or work with them in ministry context.

Devoted to God: Blueprints for Sanctification (a book by Sinclair Ferguson)

This is Sinclair Ferguson doing what he does best: explain theology so ordinary people can understand it. The premise of the book is that several key passages provide “blueprints” for what growing in Christ (sanctification) looks like. Ferguson then works topically through the material, but draws extensively on exegesis of the passages in question. If you’re looking for a solid read on Christian growth, look no farther.

The Uncontrolling Love of God: An Open and Relational Account of Providence (a book from a theological viewpoint you disagree with)

If you like false dichotomies and appeals to emotion, you’ll probably like this book. A constant refrain is the author not “being able to see” how a loving God could do something. Love is never particularly defined in biblical categories, and so much of what follows is based on what the author thinks love is and so his account of providence is molded into that frame. He also commits the fallacy of making God’s love his master attribute that takes logical priority, a move not substantiated by Scripture or tradition. At the same time, I think you should read this book if you’re interested in the debate on sovereignty, free will, and providence, and I’ll explain why in a separate post.

Divine Foreknowledge: Four Views (a book about theology)

Not the most riveting read, but it does have the virtue of pitting Paul Helm against William Lane “Cosmological Middle Knowledge” Craig, as well as Greg Boyd and Dave Hunt. Boyd does much of what the previous author did, and Craig doesn’t make molinism any more compelling though he is pretty sophisticated when it comes to this sort of debate. In the end, I was just looking forward to Muller’s book later this spring.

It’s hard to believe we are already a month into 2017. Time flies when you’re having fun I guess.

Unlike last year, I’m not going to reproduce the entire list of the 2017 Reading Challenge each month. Instead, I’ll just offer a quick blurb on each book I read. I’ll also note whether the book came from a publisher, whether I might post a more complete review, and what category in the list it fits. Sound good? Alright, here we go…

The Righteous Mind (a book about a current issue)

This would have been one of the best books I read in 2016, but I didn’t complete it until the first week of January. Jonathan Haidt offers excellent psychological analysis of values. In doing so, he helps explain how people can disagree so sharply about politics and religion (hence the subtitle). I’ll probably need to go into more detail on this one at some point because it is definitely worth the time investment.

The 4-Hour Workweek (a book about productivity or time management)

I heard the hype of this Tim Ferriss book for a while, but finally decided to check it out. While I’m not necessarily trying to trim down to four hours of work a week so I can live anywhere and join the new rich, I do want to work smarter with my time. Ferriss’ book is good toward that end and you can implement some of the basics of his system regardless of your overall goals. See also the critique of his approach in What’s Best Next.

The Social Animal (a book about science)

David Brooks is one of my new favorite writers. I enjoyed this books which was basically a short story about a guy named Harold and his wife Erica that takes every opportunity to offer neuroscientific commentary on their unfolding lives, both together and apart. I really like Brooks writing style, and this book is basically an opportunity to gain the insights from many popular level psychology books, but with the information set in an engaging narrative frame.

A Quest for Godliness (a book about written by an author with initials in their name)

It’s J. I. Packer extolling the virtues of the Puritans. What more could you want? I’ve unfortunately not read much of Packer or the Puritans (directly) and I’m trying to remedy that here and there.

What About Free Will? Reconciling Our Choices and God’s Sovereignty (a book published by P&R)

Nothing seems to be more divisive in our junior Bible classes than discussing predestination and free will. Thankfully, this book came courtesy of P&R a while back. I finally got around to reading it before our section on election, and when I get to that post on recommended readings in this area later this week (hopefully), I’ll tell you more about this book.

None Like Him: 10 Ways God is Different Than Us (a book targeted at the other gender)

This little gem from Jen Wilkin is both well-written and enjoyable to read. You can tell from the introduction it was written for women, but you should read this regardless of your gender. I was able to read this thanks to Crossway and can see immediately why it won awards. It is an excellent primer on the attributes of God that is theologically rich and accessible, a rare feat indeed.

Bobos in Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There (a book of my choice)

More David Brooks goodness. I’m somewhat working in reverse chronological order since I read The Road to Character first, then The Social Animal, and then this. I’m working on Paradise Drive at the moment and then I’ll be caught up. In this particular volume, Brooks analyzes the sociological factors that shaped upper class America in the latter half of the 20th century in order to explain the tastes and customs of bobos (bourgeois bohemians). Would have been more interesting 10 years ago, but still relevant.

Unlimited Grace: The Heart Chemistry Frees From Sin and Fuels The Christian Life (a book about Christian living)

If you’ve had questions about how grace and law fit together in the Christian life, this book is for you. I’ve read quite a few on the subject, and this is the best introduction to the subject at a practical, lay level. I’m really glad Crossway sent me a review copy and I’ll have to tell you more soon.

Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics Vol. 3: The Divine Essence and Attributes (a book used as a seminary textbook)

I’ve been working on Richard Muller’s four volume series for a while, and finally finished volume 3. I read a good bit of this last year and am hoping to finish up volume four by the end of the semester. This is not exactly riveting reading, but it is an important resource for people who want to be sharp theologically when it comes to this particular time period.

The Accidental Anglican: The Surprising Appeal of The Liturgical Church (a memoir)

This was an interesting read thanks to IVP. We left the church we had been at for the past five years and have been doing some ecclesiological exploring. I’ll have some blog posts on that in the near future and will mention a bit more about Anglicanism then. If you’d like to read an accessible conversion story from a former Charismatic, this book is for you.

His Love Endures Forever: Reflections on the Immeasurable Love of God (a book published by Crossway)

Similar to the book above by Jen Wilkin, this one by Garry Williams goes deep with attributes of God, but in an accessible way. They made for a great tandem read. Crossway did me a solid and sent both, so we’ll see about a further post in the coming weeks.

Introduction to World Christian History (a book about church history)

Thanks to IVP, I was able to read this introduction by Derek Cooper. I had taken several church history classes in seminary, but this focused more on the margins of the normal church history narrative. It’s a relatively short read, but is especially interesting if you like geography and learning about how Christian expanded and diversified through the centuries.

Union With Christ: The Way to Know and Enjoy God (a book about theology)

I only read this because Tim Keller blurbed it. And boy, was that a good choice! This is a pretty neglected doctrine, especially at the practical level. Yet, when one thinks of “in Christ” language in Scripture (especially in Paul), there could hardly be a more important subject. If you’d like to remedy the gap in your understand about what this doctrine is and why it’s relevant to you personally, this is the book for you.

Evangelism for Non-Evangelists: Sharing the Gospel Authentically (a book about evangelism)

This was an interesting read. Helpful as an overview to evangelism (it’s designed to be a textbook), but still relevant to someone who has taken classes on the subject (me). It’s part theology of evangelism and part how to do evangelism organically. Because it is designed to be used by a wide variety of Christian traditions (and some I wouldn’t consider actually Christian), readers might quibble with some of the analysis and application. But on the whole, it’s a fairly useful book on a semi-neglected subject.

One of the most influential books I read is Susan Wise Bauer’s The Well-Educated Mind: A Guide to The Classical Education You Never Had.* It’s been about 10 years since I read the first edition, and now there’s a slightly updated and expanded version.** I decided to revisit this newer version and will post some lists from it in conjunction with the 2017 Reading Challenge.

As you might imagine, the path to a well-educated mind involves quite a bit of reading. But, it is reading in a certain mode. To explain, Bauer takes 4 introductory chapters just going over preparations one needs to make in order to succeed. It is here that she presents 4 steps to a well-educated mind. They are:

  1. Schedule regular reading and self-study time
  2. Practice the mechanics of reading
  3. Practice taking notes as you write and then summarizing
  4. Practice grammar-stage reading skills

It is worth noting that these are the same steps you need to take with reading for a Ph.D program. I’ve got the first two steps down, but habitually struggle with step 3. When it comes to step 4, I do about half of the six principles of grammar stage reading. I bet you were curious what that entailed, right? In order to read well at the grammar stage, you should (54-55):

  1. Plan on returning to each book more than once to reread sections and chapters.
  2. Underline or mark passages that you find interesting or confusing. Turn down the corners of difficult sections; jot your questions in the margin.
  3. Before you begin, read the title page, the copy on the back, and the table of contents.
  4. At the end of each chapter or section, write down a sentence or two that summarizes the content. Remember not to include details (this will come later)
  5. As you read, use your journal to jot down questions that come to your mind.
  6. Assemble your summary sentences into an informal outline, and then give the book a brief title and an extensive subtitle.

These steps could be applied to any books you seriously read. If you apply them to the books in the 2017 Reading Challenge, you’ll definitely read less books, but probably have a richer experience in your reading. It’s honestly what I would recommend, as well as keeping an eye out for my next post that will have her list of recommend novels that you can plug into the challenge.


*You owe it to yourself to check out her three volume (hopefully soon to be four!) history of the world:

**Because I hope you’re curious, the main expansion has to do with adding a list of science books. These come primarily from her other most recent book, The Story of Western Science: From the Writings of Aristotle to the Big Bang Theory. Much of the rest of the material is more or less the same. I went page by page through it for comparison and since page numbers track very closely, there is little there is new other than the science section.