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Well, May was a mess and for reasons I’d rather not explain at the moment. But, school’s out and it’s finally summer. I didn’t blog quite as much in May, but I did manage to post my April Update as part of Tim Challies Reading Challenge. Reading was about the same as last month, but continues to grow more varied. Some of that is the time of year. Some of that is because theology books have started boring me. I’ve started questioning my reading a little more, and may become more ruthless about it to start reading more for enjoyment rather than rote habit (which is honestly how you make it through some books in the biblical and theological categories). If this sounds a bit cranky, you’re probably right. And I should probably explain more of my thinking in a separate post. For now, here’s what I read last month:

Also, as it my custom around this time of year, I re-read some Bill Bryson books (The Lost Continent, Neither Here nor There, A Walk in The Woods). If you’ve never discovered or read anything by him, consider this my strong recommendation.

Lastly, if you’re keeping score at home, I’m up to 45 books in the lists below, but I’ve read 57 new books total this year.

Here’s the whole list, in case you’re curious (and even if you’re not):

THE LIGHT READER (8 BOOKS)

THE AVID READER (4 BOOKS)

  • ☐ A book written by a Puritan
  • ☒ A book recommended by a family member (Batman: The Killing Joke)
  • ☐ A book by or about a missionary
  • ☐ A novel that won the Pulitzer Prize
  • ☒ A book written by an Anglican (Paul and The Trinity)
  • ☐ A book with at least 400 pages
  • ☐ A book by C.S. Lewis or J.R.R. Tolkien
  • ☒ A book that has a fruit of the Spirit in the title (Love Does: Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World)
  • ☐ A book with a great cover
  • ☐ A book on the current New York Times list of bestsellers
  • ☐ A book about church history
  • ☒ A graphic novel (Watchmen)
  • ☐ A book of poetry

THE COMMITTED READER (11 BOOKS)

THE OBSESSED READER (22 BOOKS)

(image via challies)

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As a general rule, I enjoying reading through, or at least collecting festschriften. If that’s a new word to you (and even if it’s not), I am speaking about a collection of essays presented to a scholar on some significant occasion. This might be a retirement, a special birthday, or a special conference. At any rate, they can often be a good introduction to that particular author’s interests, through the essays provided by their friends and former students.

Theological Theology is just this sort of book, and as the subtitle suggests, it is John Webster being honored (on his 60th birthday no less). Over Panera, Michael Allen called him the premier British theologian writing today (or something to that effect). This essay collection offers readers an overview of Webster’s life and work (the first two chapters), as well as essays from some of the more influential names in theology today.

In a single volume, you’ve got:

  • Stanley Hauerwas on the Holy Spirit
  • Robert Jenson offering some ‘riffs” on Aquinas
  • Matthew Levering’s adapted book chapter on the Gospel (from his book on the doctrine of revelation)
  • Lewis Ayres’ intriguing thoughts on Catholic biblical interpretation
  • Bruce McCormack reconsidering Barth’s critique of Schleiermacher
  • Kevin Vanhoozer on theological interpretation of Scripture
  • Rowan Williams on theology and the plurality of the gospel witness
  • Francis Watson questioning the existence of historical criticism

And those are just some highlights. As far as festschriften go, this one is pretty packed. If you’re into modern theology, you’ll love everything about this book. That is, everything except the price. At the moment, a hard copy of this book will run you close to $150. Had I not gotten a review copy, I certainly couldn’t have afforded to buy it.

However, it’s worth noting you don’t have to buy a book to benefit from it. If you’re currently a seminary student, you could definitely check this out and read a few essays over the weekend or as a way to procrastinate on other work. If you’re a college student really interested in theological studies, your university library will either have a copy or you can get one through inter-library loan. You can also wait it out, knowing that eventually a paperback version might be released that runs under $50.

At the end of the day, I found many of the essays enjoyable and intriguing. But, I don’t see anything in here worth $150. If you can justify spending that kind of money on a book of essays, you might have your priorities out of whack. I was fortunate enough to receive a review copy to satisfy my curiosity. But, if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t be that much worse off and my life is largely unchanged as a result of reading roughly half the essays in here. My mind was fed for a few afternoons and then life moved on.

Honestly, that’s the way it is with many books. You might spazz out about the latest and greatest new release from your favorite theologian/pastor/philosopher. But many of these books are kind of boring to read and largely inconsequential in the grand scheme of things. We largely overestimate the importance of the literary output in modern theological studies. We forget that most of what is being written and published will be forgotten before our lifetimes even end.


R. David Nelson, Darren Sarisky, and Justin Stratis, Eds., Theological Theology: Essays in Honour of John WebsterNew York: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, August 2015. 384 pp. Hardcover, $146.00.

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Thanks to Bloomsbury for the review copy!

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Have you ever wondered what it might be like to take an intro to theology class with Robert Jenson? To be honest the thought hadn’t crossed my mind before I requested a review copy of his latest book A Theology in Outline: Can These Bones Live? I was just curious about how it was as an introductory text. What it contains though are lightly edited transcripts from a class he taught at Princeton.

By “lightly edited,” I think we’re talking mainly about readability. At least that’s what I’m guessing when Jenson has a mild lapse and calls David the first king of Israel (21) and the transcript editor, Adam Eitel, left it in there. Beyond that, I didn’t pick up on any substantial issues. It is very conversational, because, well, it’s Jenson, or Jens as his friends apparently call him (19), just talking to you about theology.

Other than making my way through Scott Swain’s book, I don’t have much previous contact with Jenson (so I can’t really call him Jens). After reading this, I’m mildly curious to explore more. If that curiosity ramps up a bit, I can always use the exhaustive bibliography (117-134) to get me started. If you’re curious, this is probably a great place to start. It’s Jenson for beginners without being simplistic. He covers the nature of theology, the story of Israel and Jesus, the Trinity, creation, imago die, sin, salvation, and church. Not much in the way of eschatology, but you do get a chapter on the future of theology in a postmodern world.

This book could be comfortably read in a weekend, but you’d probably spend most of the next week pondering some of the many insights Jenson touches on. One that particularly struck me was his thoughts on Satan:

The existence of a tempter (i.e., Satan, the Devil, Lucifer, the Old Serpent, etc.) is an ongoing conviction not just of Christianity but also of Judaism. And this reflects more than anything else a common experience: there does seem to be somebody out there laughing at us. I was very skeptical about the existence of Satan until I made that observation. The disasters that happen could just be disasters, but we seem to be mocked by them. And that is the main title of Satan throughout the tradition; he is the Mocker, the one out there laughing at us. I do not imagine many of you will have run into C. S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters [note: he is talking to undergrads at Princeton. Sad right?]. That is the best satanology of the modern period (60).

Several things stick out here. One is that this has a ring of truth to it, when it comes to personal experience. The other is that it gives you an idea about Jenson’s thinking when it comes to the Old Testament (which you also get in an earlier chapter where he recounts Israel’s history). Lastly (though we could go on), here is premier theologian of the 20th/21st centuries recommending imaginative fiction as instructive for a subject in theology.

One final note, this is a smaller book than I anticipated. It also has small font, so the word count is not tremendously reduced. However, I was expecting a standard sized book. Not a huge deal, but serves a good reminder to check the product dimensions every now and then on Amazon. This is not quite “pocket size,” but it’s little. But, as you can see, it packs a punch on insights, and if you’re a student of theology, it’s worth checking out.


Robert W. Jenson, A Theology in Outline: Can These Bones Live? Transcribed, edited, and introduced by Adam Eitel. New York: Oxford University Press, April 2016. 152 pp. Hardcover, $27.95.

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Thanks to Oxford University Press for the review copy!

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Every now and then I’ll read a book that makes me laugh out loud (i.e. LOL). It’s not often given the books that I tend to read, but when I saw that Sammy Rhodes’ This Is Awkward: How Life’s Uncomfortable Moments Open The Door to Intimacy and Connection was out, I knew it would do the trick. Thanks to Thomas Nelson’s partnership with BookLook Bloggers, I was able to get a hold of a free copy. I wanted to read it because 1) I enjoyed following Rhodes on Twitter, even as the whole plagiarism thing hit the fan (which he recounts in chapter 10) and 2) I’m an awkward introvert so I knew I’d resonate with a good bit of the book.

This book ends up being part humorous memoir of sorts and part meditation on how awkwardness awakens us to grace. Rhodes has a had a far rougher life than his jokes on Twitter would have let on. He can add “authentic” to his self-description along with “awkward.” It was probably already there and known to those students that he ministers to at The University of South Carolina. But now the wider public can get more of a glimpse.

Whether you primarily knew of Rhodes before the Twitter plagiarism fiasco ignited by Patton Oswalt or because of it, you’d do well to read Rhodes thoughts on it here. He had already come clean in my mind, but this gives you more background about where he was personally during that time and then moves from that to discussion of how being online can be an escape for introverts (or just people) but that it can also come with a price. I don’t think he tries to minimize what happened, and he definitely seems to have learned from it. He presents a kind of cautionary tale for what happens when you unexpectedly get “Twitter famous.”

Especially as summer approaches, I’d recommend taking a break from whatever you normally read and pick up This Is Awkward. I guess that is unless your usual genre of reading is awkward memoirs from introverted campus pastors. If that’s the case, I think you should point me in the direction of more books like this.


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Speaking of campus ministry, I recently went through a book that unlocked several insights for me. Thanks to Zondervan, I was able to get a hold of Bobby Harrington and Alex Absalom’s Discipleship That Fits: The Five Kinds of Relationships God Uses to Help Us Grow. For me, the key takeaway is what the subtitle suggests. Deeply indebted to Joseph Myers’ book The Search to Belong, Harrington and Absalom map out 5 contexts in which discipleship happens. Conveniently, you can also correlate these with relationships Jesus had in the Gospels (58-59):

  • Public (Jesus and the crowds)
  • Social (Jesus and the 70)
  • Personal (Jesus and the 12)
  • Transparent (Jesus and the 3)
  • Divine (Jesus and the Father)

As we seek to carry out the Great Commission and make disciples, we do well to attend to these different contexts. While it may be beneficial to teach people how to have a quiet time, that’s only one context (divine). Likewise, just because someone is in a small group (either personal or transparent context), doesn’t mean they are good to go. Ideally, all of the contexts work together to help mold us into the people that Jesus would want us to be. Within any school or church, all of these contexts should be present and developed in order to be utilized in discipleship.

I mentioned several insights were unlocked, and that covered a couple (pay attention to contexts, let them work together). Another was that I had been approaching discipleship at church and at school in a way that didn’t work within the given contexts. For instance, while we had developed the small groups at school a little more, their focus was primarily on doing Bible studies. But, they all already had a Bible class and heard sermons weekly. They needed a space to process what was going on in life, thus being more personal and transparent, rather than social, which was what it drifted toward when they had a “study” to do. I realized that we should provide a structure and possibly curriculum that is aimed at moving students from the social to the personal to the transparent context in their small groups. Not entirely sure how we’ll approach that yet, but it’s a slight modification we hope to make for next year.

In a similar vein, I realized that what we were doing for small groups at church (at least the ones I was involved in either as a member or a coach) was similar. I think often because of that, I found myself less interested week to week because I already did a lot of theological reading and studying so I wasn’t necessarily eager to do more. To be fair though, I really enjoyed and benefited from the times I was there. But I think the initial expectations were off because of what the group was. Had we spent more time fostering personal connections (and we did in the week that I personally enjoyed the most), I think it would have bound our group a little tighter together, and we could have done so without abandoning discussing the Bible or theology.

All of this is to say that Harrington and Absalom’s work is worth checking out and I found it immediately applicable. It’s helped me re-think discipleship in church and school and I feel like I’m better prepared for some of the things that I’ll hopefully launch later this summer and fall!

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Last summer, John Piper spoke at the Co-Mission weekend meetings called Revive in Canterbury, England. This is a church planting movement in greater London. Those messages were expanded roughly three-fold to become Living in The Light: Money, Sex & Power. Even still, it’s a relatively small book, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth checking out.

Obviously, the subtitle of the book gives you an idea what the subject matter is. What is less obvious is how they are connected. Piper explains,

  • Power is a capacity to pursue what you value
  • Money is a cultural symbol that can be exchanged in pursuit of what you value
  • Sex is one of the pleasures that people value, and the pursuit of it

He then concludes, “Therefore power, money and sex are all God-given means of showing what you value. They are all (like other created reality in the universe) given by God as means of worship – that is, as means of magnifying what is of supreme worth to you” (20).

With this connection made, Piper then turns to Romans 1 to retrieve a diagnostic on the human heart. Since money, sex, and power show what we worship, it is only fitting to use the passage in Romans about disordered worship to shed light on the situation.

In successive chapters, Piper applies his pastoral heart and analytical mind to sex, money, and finally power. He then offers two additional chapters that walk readers through deliverance from improper worship and how to re-orient our approach to this triumvirate. The first is more about taking money, sex, or power out of the center of your universe, whereas the latter is about how to keep them in their proper orbit, to use the metaphor Piper employs.

Because of how significant these subjects are in our culture, this is a book worth checking out. It is relatively short and could be read in a weekend. However, it more than likely introduces readers to what could be a life-time of wrestling with a proper view of money, sex, and power that sees goodness in each (something pointed out in the first chapter), but doesn’t bow to worship any of them. Piper doesn’t offer the final or only word on the topic (one thinks of Paul Tripp’s similar book). But he does offer his own very Piperian take on the topic, and that alone is worth checking out.


John Piper, Living In The Light: Money, Sex & Power. Epsom, Surrey, UK: The Good Book Company, May 2016. 144 pp. Hardcover, $12.99.

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Thanks to The Good Book Company for the review copy!

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While it hasn’t shown up in my recent reviews and reading, I have a long standing interest in apologetics. Specifically, I’m partial to presuppositional apologetics. One strategy within this school of apologetics (though not necessarily limited to it), is assuming the premises of the opposing argument to then tease out how it doesn’t make sense of reality. As you might gather from the title, that’s kind of what Mitch Stokes is up to in How To Be An Atheist: Why Many Skeptics Aren’t Skeptical Enough. I particularly enjoyed his previous book, A Shot of Faith to The Head and even used it in an apologetics elective that I taught a few years back

Originally an engineer by training, Stokes then studied religion with Nicholas Wolterstorff and philosophy with Alvin Plantinga. To say that Stokes might know a thing or two about the connection between logic, science, and religion is a bit of an understatement. In this book, stokes has chosen to focus on the limits of sense, reason, and science when it comes to applying skepticism with rigorous consistency. He then shows where the atheistic assumptions in these fields lead when it comes to morality. 

The bulk of the book splits time between the nature and limits of science and the bankruptcy of naturalistic (and often-times science based) accounts of morality. What I think Stokes ultimately succeeds in showing is that if you want to take some of the basic premises of materialism (or naturalism if you prefer) seriously, it leads straight to nihilism in the moral realm. If you value consistency, you have to swallow that pill. Atheists might value skepticism, but they need to put their money where their mouth is in matters that are most important.

Stokes writes with a very conversational style, and hopefully in a mode that would make this book gift-able to your non-Christian friend. I say that because that seems to be the intended audience, making this a bit of an anomaly in the Crossway catalog. While you could try to internalize and then regurgitate Stokes’ arguments in your next apologetic discourse, it might serve your conversation partner better if you y’all read the book together and then discussed it.

I am predisposed to agree with Stokes, so I have a hard time seeing his conclusions inescapable. In my view, the path of skepticism necessitates embracing nihilism if you want to remain intellectually honest. Stokes shows that in a way that I don’t think is terribly oft putting, and I hope that it can be used to further apologetic conversations rather than simply giving the faithful more fuel for the fire. Not that those of faith don’t need affirmation that the Christian faith is more coherent in the moral realm. Rather, this particular book seems like it might be better used in outreach even as it encourages believers that might read through it first before passing it on.


Mitch Stokes, How To Be An Atheist: Why Many Skeptics Aren’t Skeptical EnoughWheaton: Crossway, February 2016. 256 pp. Paperback, $18.99.

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Thanks to Crossway for the review copy!

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Vern Poythress can’t seem to stop publishing books. Since In The Beginning Was The Word came out in 2009, he’s published 10 books, with an 11th coming out later this year (making it the third this calendar year). On the upside, he’s applying his unique triperspectivalistic vantage point to variety of topics (math, philosophy, biblical interpretation, sociology, etc.). On the downside, many of these books are fairly boring to read and often seem like Van Tillian class syllabi prepared for publication rather than individual works in their own right.

Such is the case with The Miracles of Jesus, which after a useful template for analyzing miracles in the first part of the book, proceeds to analyze each and every miracle in the gospel of Matthew in successive short chapters. It is repetitive and dull when read straight through (e.g. chapters 11, 21, 23, 34 are all called Many Healings, and chapters 27 and 29 are variants called Healing Many). It would however serve as an excellent resource to anyone preaching through Matthew who would like to consult Poythress’ analysis of the various miracles that occur. It is also useful for the template in the first part of the book discussing how to think about miracles typologically and within the history of redemption. Beyond that, it is, like several other Poythress releases, not riveting chapter by chapter reading. Nonetheless, I value the way Poythress approaches the issues and will continue to try to get my hands on each and every new book he pumps out (even if sometimes I’m doing so as a collector).

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On a different note, It is fashionable among contemporary New Testament studies to suggest that the Reformers were less than adept when it comes to reading Paul. I’ve suggested a recent monograph on the topic, but now there’s a volume of direct readings of Paul from various New Testament scholars and systematic theologians. Reformation Readings of Paul: Explorations in History and Exegesis is edited by Michael Allen and Jonathan Linebaugh. In it, they curate paired chapters in which the first examines a Reformer’s reading of a Pauline text (Galatians, Romans, Ephesians, Corinthians, and other Pauline letters are the categories) and the second compares the text of that letter and the theology of that Reformer (and they are Luther, Melanchthon, Bucer, Calvin, and Cranmer). The former comes from the pen of a theologian and the latter from a New Testament scholar. The paired essays are finished off with a concluding essay from Gerald Bray that is rather devastating to anyone suggesting the Reformers mis-read Paul.

If something like that is your cup of tea, you will most likely want to grab a copy of this book. I personally was not that drawn in, but I think it may come in handy later on. While I have a recurring interest in Paul, my local church and school context doesn’t generate a lot of buzz around this issue. There are a handful of guys that I hang out with at church that are aware of the discussion in Pauline in studies. Some have even read N. T. Wright. But, none of them are asking questions about whether the Reformers read Paul well. I realize that question has more bite/teeth in the larger online world that I participate in. And because of that, I’d recommend this book if those questions perplex you.

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In a different vein, you might be interested in checking out Christopher J. H. Wright’s How to Preach & Teach the Old Testament for All Its Worth. It is presented as a follow up to How to Read The Bible For All Its Worth (and visually looks like it, as well as How To Read The Bible Book by Book). Like the previous books, it is very user friendly, but unlike them, has a more niche audience. While I’d recommend the previous two volumes to pretty much everyone (especially older high school and college students), this volume is mainly for pastors, and others like myself who teach from the Old Testament.

The first part of the book explains why we should preach and teach from the Old Testament, while the second half explains how we can preach and teach from the Old Testament. The first part is very helpful when it comes to typology and preaching Christ from the OT. The second part is likewise helpful, as it goes genre by genre in paired chapter explaining first the nature of the genre and second, how to preach and teach from it. Wright is a seasoned OT scholar, and if you spend time preaching and teaching from the Old Testament, you’ll probably benefit from his insights. While it might not be a one-stop handbook for understanding the Old Testament better, it does collate the basics you need to know to handle the different Old Testament genres effectively.

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Lastly, let’s say you were interested in getting a better grasp on the book of Revelation. There’s many ways you could go about this, but a helpful thematic way would be to pick up J. Scott Duvall’s The Heart of Revelation. After a brief introduction and a glossary that introduces the “cast of characters,” Duval proceeds to trace 10 key themes through the book of Revelation:

  • God
  • Worship
  • The People of God
  • The Holy Spirit
  • Our Enemies
  • The Mission
  • Jesus Christ
  • Judgment
  • The New Creation
  • Perseverance

Read in tandem with a commentary to answer your further questions as they arise, I can’t think of a better way to get a big picture understanding of one of the most bewildering books of the Bible. While Vern Poythress’ The Returning King goes section by section (and provides a good companion to this volume), I think Duvall is on to something with his thematic overview. Sometimes, in a complex book like Revelation, the forest gets lost as you try to examine each and every tree. Not the case with this book. If you’ve frequently been mystified by Revelation, this book might not answer all your questions, but it will give you a better framework for making sense of the book as a whole.

I’ve actually since passed it along to a student of mine who has been interested in the book. I’ve tried tackling it in class at various times (and in vain promised a forthcoming Revelation Bible study), but to no avail. Part of this because, hey, it’s hard to teach Revelation. The other part is that it doesn’t neatly fit with the subjects I currently teach (Old Testament, Systematic, Biblical and Practical Theology). In any case, if I give it another go, I’d like to be able to utilize the thematic approach here. Maybe that’s even the basis of a good summer Bible study. Who’s to say?

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It is a feeling that still haunts me. Around this time 2 years ago, I was about to experience burnout. But I didn’t know it. Based on the trajectories I had setup, I’m not sure reading this book would have stopped it at that point, but it couldn’t have hurt.

This is a deceptively simple book. In Zeal Without Burnout, Christopher Ash offers just what the subtitle promises: seven keys to a lifelong ministry and sustainable sacrifice. They are:

  1. We need sleep
  2. We need Sabbath rests
  3. We need friends
  4. We need inward renewal
  5. Beware of being on a platform
  6. Beware of discouragement
  7. Pursue in ministry because joy motivates you

Nothing here is necessarily revolutionary. However, Ash puts them in a framework that includes many personal stories (almost one per chapter), as well as some opening material that distinguishes between sacrifice and burnout. He then offers a big neglected truth (we are creatures of dust), before offering his four practical implications of that truth (see 1-4 above) and then three motivational questions to ask yourself. After working through those, there is a postscript from a medical doctor explaining burnout and then some suggested readings.

While the first four items above should not be surprising, they are things those of us in ministry need to remember regularly. When I experienced burnout almost two summers ago I think it was primarily because of lack of sleep, lack of true Sabbath rest (I had been taking a day off, but not really resting), lack of quality friendships (or at least spending time with friends I had) and lack of regular inward renewal (wasn’t really doing a quiet time to speak of). As a result, I hit a wall at the end of the semester and basically had generalized anxiety disorder for most of the summer and didn’t really come out of it until early the following year. I survived, but I certainly don’t want to feel that way again any time soon (or ever really).

All that to say, this book is worth putting on your shelf (after you’ve read it) if you’re in ministry. As the subtitle suggests, these keys are not for ministry in general, but are kind of back-end suggestions (or principles) for how your ministry and level of service can be zealous but sustainable.  Some forms of zeal can be maintained in their intensity for a short period of time. But, eventually, like me, you might hit a wall, and spend a summer wondering how you’re ever gonna move on and get back to your normal self.


Christopher Ash, Zeal Without Burnout: Seven Keys to a Lifelong Ministry of Sustainable ServiceEpsom, Surrey, UK: The Good Book Company, March 2016. 112 pp. Hardcover, $12.99.

Buy itAmazon | Westminster

Read an excerpt

Visit the publisher’s page

Thanks to The Good Book Company for the review copy!

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Around this time last month, I posted my March Update as part of Tim Challies Reading Challenge. Reading was down slightly this past month, as was blogging (to say the least). Rather than spring training games, it was a week in California that through everything off, but boy was it worth it (still hanging in there with Mad Men too, just started season 6). I decided to not really annotated the list this month. Believe it or not, the truncated list is kind of a pain to add new reads to, so I’m back to the full list of books. The benefit is that it saves me time and now you can see what kinds of books I might read in the coming months.

Here’s the April reads:

Here’s the whole list, in case you’re curious (and even if you’re not):

THE LIGHT READER (8 BOOKS)

THE AVID READER (2 BOOKS)

  • ☐ A book written by a Puritan
  • ☐ A book recommended by a family member
  • ☐ A book by or about a missionary
  • ☐ A novel that won the Pulitzer Prize
  • ☒ A book written by an Anglican (Paul and The Trinity)
  • ☐ A book with at least 400 pages
  • ☐ A book by C.S. Lewis or J.R.R. Tolkien
  • ☐ A book that has a fruit of the Spirit in the title
  • ☐ A book with a great cover
  • ☐ A book on the current New York Times list of bestsellers
  • ☐ A book about church history
  • ☒ A graphic novel (Watchmen)
  • ☐ A book of poetry

THE COMMITTED READER (8 BOOKS)

  • ☐ A book from a theological viewpoint you disagree with
  • ☐ A book written by an author with initials in their name
  • ☐ A book that won a ECPA Christian Book Award
  • ☒ A book about worldview (The Experience of God)
  • ☐ A play by William Shakespeare
  • ☒ A humorous book (This is Awkward)
  • ☐ A book based on a true story
  • ☐ A book written by Jane Austen
  • ☐ A book by or about Martin Luther
  • ☐ A book with 100 pages or less
  • ☐ A book with a one-word title
  • ☒ A book about money or finance (The God Ask)
  • ☐ A novel set in a country that is not your own
  • ☐ A book about music
  • ☒ A memoir (The Pastor: A Memoir)
  • ☒ A book about joy or happiness (Happiness)
  • ☐ A book by a female author
  • ☒ A book whose title comes from a Bible verse (Eat This Book)
  • ☐ A book you have started but never finished
  • ☒ A self-improvement book (Nudge)
  • ☐ A book by David McCullough
  • ☒ A book you own but have never read (The Work of Christ (Contours in Christian Theology))
  • ☐ A book about abortion
  • ☐ A book targeted at the other gender
  • ☐ A book by a speaker at a conference you have attended
  • ☐ A book written by someone of a different ethnicity than you

THE OBSESSED READER (21 BOOKS)

(image via challies)

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I’ve had an interest in counseling ever since I took a class on biblical counseling at Word of Life. Then, I majored in psychology at Liberty University. Ever since then, I’ve come back frequently to think through issues of integrating psychology and theology and how counseling works in the local church. Along the latter lines, I was able to get a review copy of Paul Tautges’ Counseling One Another: A Theology of Interpersonal Discipleship. This is a slightly revised and expanded version of the 2009 book by the almost same title (and different publisher). In it, Paul Tautges argues for not just biblical counseling over against integrated models of counseling, but also for the importance of one another counseling in the local church.

Helpfully, Tautges begins each chapter with a thesis about authentic biblical counseling. In his estimation it:

  • Is nothing more, and surely nothing less, than the fulfillment of the Great Command to make disciples of Jesus Christ by the delegated authority of God and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit (23).
  • Stands in awe of the power of God’s gospel to convert thoroughly sinful men and women from thoroughly sinful thoughts, actions, motives, emotions, and desires to Spirit-generated new creations that reflect the beautiful love and holiness of Jesus Christ – the Lord we are now called to follow (41).
  • Recognizes God’s holy calling for the believer and the disciple’s personal responsibility for self-discipline, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to live in a manner worthy of his or her high position as a new creature in Christ (67).
  • Lives out God’s redeeming love through believers as we take initiative to restore brothers and sisters who are experiencing spiritual defeat in the battle with indwelling sin (99).
  • Chooses no other foundation to build its philosophy and practice upon than the Scriptures: the will of God faithfully revealed to man by the Spirit from the living Word, Jesus Christ (113).
  • Grips the wisdom of God embodied and revealed in Jesus Christ and refuses to surrender the higher ground of the Holy Spirit’s revelation of Truth in the gospel to the inferior wisdom of man (133).
  • Requires the nurturing power of stimulating relationships with other Spirit-indwelt believers in the context of a community of living faith that pursues the beauty of God’s holiness and revolves around the redeeming sacrifice of Jesus Christ (157).

On a positive note, I think this book is useful for giving an account of how discipleship can incorporate the one-anothers of the New Testament. As believers in the local church are better equipped to give wisdom counsel in the mundane moments of everyday life, crisis counseling might be less needed. The meat of the book (chapters 2-6) covers this and because of the follow up discussion questions in each chapter, might make a good small group resource.

On a negative note, I think too much is made in this book of the dangers of secular psychology. It is cited as a main motivation for the writing of the book (detailed in chapter 1) and then fleshed out in more detail later (chapter 7). The stance is rather combative and probably won’t convince anyone who is on the other side. I am generally sympathetic to biblical counseling models over against some integrationist accounts and I found some of the rhetoric kind of off-putting and unnecessary (not to mention philosophically problematic). I think the book could have lacked this material and still fulfilled the vision of the title and provided an excellent resource to help small groups disciple their members better.


Paul Tautges, Counseling One Another: A Theology of Interpersonal Discipleship. Wapwallopen, PA: Shepherd Press, February 2016. 195 pp. Paperback, $14.95.

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Thanks to Shepherd Press for the review copy!