I’m always on the lookout for helpful primers on the subjects I study. Often, introductory texts can be so daunting it is hard to know where to start. Thankfully, new books continued to be published. Even if there is overlap at times, that just means there are more options for just the right audience. In that light, here are three primers I’ve come across recently that I really enjoyed.

First off, J.A. Medders and Brandon Smith have published Rooted: Theology for Growing Christians. Russell Moore thinks its legit and you should too. I corresponded with Brandon a bit about it and then the publisher, relatively new Rainer Publishing, graciously sent me a review copy. In a relatively brief 120 pages, Medders and Smith introduce readers for the need to study theology, and then cover four key topics: God, His Word, Redemption and The Gospel, The Church and The Future. Experienced readers will notice this is the basic contours of a systematic theology. However, this is written for someone who doesn’t know that and so it is jargon free. Though not necessarily in narrative form, the topics are expounded in relation to the general story line of Scripture. This gives the book a good connection to biblical theology and makes the entry point easier for someone who hasn’t study the topics in detail.

Because of its style, length, and focus, I decided to make it a required book for my 9th grade Bible class. Traditionally, this class is an Old Testament survey, but since I teach Systematic Theology for 11th grade, I thought it might be a good introduction earlier in high school to prepare them for a more detailed study a couple of years later (if you’re curious, I use Bible Doctrine for that class). I suppose I’ll have more to say after putting it to use in class this next year, but I’m excited to see it help open up a window into studying theology for many students.


While we’re discussing books I’ve liked and decided to use in class, let’s talk about Jared Wilson’s Unparalleled: How Christianity’s Uniqueness Makes It Compelling. Thanks to Baker Books, I snagged a copy and devoured it pretty quick, as is my custom with many of Wilson’s book. I was reading as I was finishing up my last spring with a senior class I had taught since they were freshmen. Many of the topics in Wilson’s book had come up in class throughout the year, either directly or through Ask Anything Friday. Looking ahead to the next graduating class, I thought they’d benefit from reading a solid book in a conversational tone to supplement our class discussions.

Topics that Wilson tackles include subjects like how the Trinity is practical/relevant, the difference between the Christian God and other gods, how the Christian view of humanity is both the most realistic and optimistic, how Jesus claimed to be God, and how he triumphed over evil and injustice. You know, pretty basic stuff right? Actually, several of these are potentially thorny issues. There are full length apologetics books on each of the topics Wilson addresses, but he introduces readers to the core issues in an understandable way. In other words, I think he presents his case for Christianity in a way that a high schooler could pick up on and (hopefully) not get too confused. Even if you’re not using this book in a class like I am, it seems like it would be a great book to read with a friend who has legitimate questions and wants to explore what makes Christianity so unique and compelling (to borrow from the subtitle). As with the previous book, I’ll try to remember to let you know how it works out in class.


Lastly, and not for a class (unfortunately), IVP sent along Douglas Groothuis’ Philosophy in Seven Sentences: A Small Introduction to A Vast Topic. The history of Western philosophy, while a footnote to Plato, is not an easy topic to master. The best way to march through the history is with Coppleston’s volumes (11 I think). But, most of us don’t have time for that. What you do have time for is Groothuis’ book. You also have no excuse to not know something about philosophy since it shapes just about everything in our culture whether you like it or not.

Because you’re hopefully curious at this point, these are the seven sentences that Groothuis uses to introduce us to the history of philosophy:

  • Man is the measure of all things (Protagoras)
  • The unexamined life is not worth living (Socrates)
  • All men by nature desire to know (Aristotle)
  • You have made use for yourself, and restless is our heart until it comes to rest in you (Augustine)
  • I think, therefore I am (Descartes)
  • The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing (Pascal)
  • The greatest hazard of all, losing one’s self, can occur very quietly in the world, as if it were nothing at all (Kierkegaard)

Certainly other key sentences could be chosen. However, I think this is a good balance of ancient and modern, and covers a broad range of topics within philosophy. It is hard to imagine two more influential sentences than those listed by Socrates (found in Plato’s writings, just FYI) and Descartes. Likewise, the sentence from Augustine is from his Confessions, which is a must read for anyone really, regardless of your interest in philosophy. It is both an introduction into Christian life and conversion, and the first autobiography of sorts.

The sentence from Protagoras gives you an idea of the foundations of Western philosophy, a tradition that sought knowledge without recourse to revelation. Likewise, the sentence from Aristotle shows just how relevant philosophy is to any context, ancient or modern. The last two sentences show that philosophy can easily cross over into psychology and that for me, was my initial draw to the subject. I was blown away by my intro to philosophy class early in my studies at Liberty. Since then, I’ve come back to it again and again, and this little primer by Groothuis is a great introduction to the topic.


As of last month, we’ve been in Orlando 5 years since moving from Dallas. Well technically, Ali was here most of her life. After we got married in 2009, she made the move out west for my last two years at Dallas Seminary and got enough Texas to last a lifetime.

We came from The Village Church, and before moving, looked up local Acts 29 churches. I believe at the time there was only one, CrossPointe, but it had multiple sites. Actually come to find out, it had multiple plants that were somewhat autonomous but still umbilically linked. After meeting with Ryan Walker, the connections pastor at the main campus (and now lead pastor at CrossPointe Downtown), we ended up at CrossPointe Waterford Lakes.

Initially, we wanted to keep a low profile. There were 3 or so small group options in this church of about 70 that met in a gym. We ended up in the one led by the Josiah and Jordan Potter. Josiah was the worship pastor at the time (now family pastor at Lake Nona, via planting Peachtree City) who happened to also be from Tennessee. At that point, it was predominantly young couples, and as providence would have it, one of them included another Dallas grad named Kenny Mauger.

It was also around this time that Ali and I started helping lead worship. When we first came to the church, worship was a primarily acoustic affair with a djembe for good measure. I had a drumset and starting drumming regularly before a better drummer took over and I moved to electric guitar. Eventually, band practices would be in our house during the week.

Later in the fall, some college students started coming to our small group. They gradually started inviting people, and then Passion 2012 happened. The next thing we know, our group has divided to accommodate growth and Ali and I are leading a predominantly college age group that would average about 25-30 through the spring. There are now several young couples in our church that got to know each other in that group and eventually fell in love and married.

I had also during the spring started a ministry internship and ended up teaching a class on systematic theology, among other things. We briefly headed up the youth group, after a commissioning service you can see pictured above. For theological and interpersonal reasons, two of the families left the church right after we started, and all of sudden the youth group was just one family. I began leading a Bible study instead for the oldest boy and a couple of his friends.

This all carried on until the summer, and then we ended up moving to a small house a bit farther from church. We continued leading a group in the fall, and I also started a separate Old Testament Bible study. At this point I had also started teaching Bible at International Community School after a brief (yearlong) stint as the science teacher. Because of our involvement at church though, I was hoping to move into some kind of staff position of at least part time value to supplement and flesh out what teaching paid.

In my mind, this should have been an easy transition, but God had other plans. In spring of 2013, I had a meeting with our pastors to talk about doing a more permanent internship starting that summer. Instead, I was rebuked for failing to provide and for failing to lead well at home. Even though I think in retrospect they would concede they went about this the wrong way, and were actually a bit under informed on the matter, they were right in a Spirit led sort of way. By that I mean that it was something God used to get my attention even though the criticism was not delivered in the context of pastoral care and not based on much information from Ali.

I realized I needed to step up my leadership within my marriage before focusing on doing more ministry. I also needed to do what it took to work more, even if that meant not working at a church. So, toward the end of the spring I began working with Docent Research Group, teaching private music lessons (something I did in Dallas for my main job), and by the summer, working at Starbucks again. I didn’t think I’d be back at the school that fall and was actively interviewing for other jobs, including a youth pastor position at a church in South Carolina.

But again, God had other plans…


Few things are more American than working when you’re supposed to rest. So, here I am writing this book review on the Fourth of July. But, I guess it’s ok because it’s for Bruce Ashford and Chris Pappalardo’s One Nation Under God: A Christian Hope for American Politics. At least I can be patriotic, especially since I’ve already unlocked the “get a sunburn by large body of water” achievement for the day. By the time you read this, I’ll be unlocking “eat too many calories in one sitting” via some all you can eat wings.

Now, as far as the book goes, it’s a great little resource, and I do mean litte. Just recently, I have learned that you should pay attention to book dimensions on Amazon. I tend to assume most books are 6×9, which I consider “normal.” This one is 5×7, which means it’s a smaller book, that thankfully has smaller font. And I say that not sarcastically because that means even though it is small and might seem like a Saturday afternoon read (it is, for me at least), it still has substantial content (side note: when are books going to start including word counts so we can gauge the length better?).

That content is divided roughly into two parts. The first 6 chapters lay a theoretical foundation for how to understand politics within a Christian worldview. Niebuhr’s Christ and Culture paradigm comes in handy in chapter 2. The following chapter tackles how the gospel functions as a “public truth.” The relationship between church and state is mapped out in the following chapter. The final two in this part move toward the practical, with chapter 5 dealing with our post-Christian country and chapter 6 with what wisdom looks like in public discourse in that space.

It is fitting them that after a brief interlude, Ashford and Pappalardo take up key topics in each of the next 7 chapters. You could probably guess what those topics are, or I can just tell you:

  • Life and death
  • Marriage and sexuality
  • Economics and wealth
  • The environment and ecological stewardship
  • Racial diversity and race relations
  • Immigrants and immigration reform
  • War and peace

Hopefully no surprises in that list. It is hard to imagine a hot button topic (as opposed to a hot pocket) that doesn’t fit one of those categories. Because this is a brief introduction, the chapters can’t be exhaustive. What they can be is helpfully orienting, and then conclude with recommended further readings on the topics, which is what they are and do. The book is closed with a brief example of what we can learn from Augustine when it comes to this sort of thing (spoiler: more than you even know).

This is not the last or final word on how to politic as a Christian American, or even as an American Christian. It is not intended to be. What it is though, is a good first word that you can read for yourself and then give to your friend interested in politics (or tell him to buy it on Amazon). Then you all can have a meaningful discussion on the issues after a solid orientation to the theory and practice of politics. You can avoid the usual clucking of opinions that are merely conjectures masquerading as arguments (hopefully).

While that may sound harsh, I assure you it is intended that way. Politics and religion are two topics that many uninformed people gravitate toward in order to promote their ideas. Thankfully, that doesn’t characterize either author of this book from what I can tell. They are judicious and clear, building sound arguments and contributing to intelligent discourse. They would never do what I do a few sentences ago, which I did as illustration purposes I guess now that I think about it. Anyway, if you’re intrigued by political theater and want to think Christianly about it, go get this little primer and have at it.

Bruce Ashford and Chris Pappalardo, One Nation Under God: A Christian Hope for American PoliticsNashville: B&H Academic, December 2015. 176 pp. Hardcover, $14.99.

Buy itAmazon

Visit the publisher’s page

Thanks to B&H Academic for the review copy!


I mentioned last month that May was a mess. June didn’t get too much better in terms of local events that became national events. However, as you can see below, I did a lot of reading. I’ve intentionally tried to read more books outside of my normal patterns (biblical and theological studies) and it has been quite rewarding. As I continue to make progress on Tim Challies Reading Challenge, I’m recapturing the joy of reading one book at a time (corny, right?). Also, if you missed it, check out my theological add-on to Challies Challenge.

Here’s what I read in June:

Lastly, if you’re keeping score at home, I’m up to 58 books in the lists below, but I’ve read 79 new books total this year.

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





(image via challies)


Apologetics is becoming more and more about finesse. Maybe it always has been. Straightforward presentations of facts and figures don’t usually cut it. There’s gotta be an angle.

I think some of this comes down to the audience. If you’re writing apologetics for other Christians, you don’t have to pay as much attention to persuasion. They’re already persuaded, but want to know the underlying foundations of Christianity. On the other hand, if you’re writing for people other than Christians, you have to pay attention to persuasion.

Along these lines, I’d recommend True Paradox: How Christianity Makes Sense of Our Complex World by David Skeel. Thanks to IVP, I was able to read a copy at the beginning of summer. Skeel is S. Samuel Arsht Professor of Corporate Law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. He’s also an elder at Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. In his book, he takes five key topics, ideas, beauty, suffering and sensation, justice, life and the afterlife, and explains how Christianity offers a better explanation of these given phenomena than materialism does. As he puts it, “My claim is a very simple one: Christianity tells us more about each of these paradoxes than you may think” (15)

While the ideal reader will be fairly intellectual, the tone and style are highly accessible. Perhaps because Skeel is a professor of law by trade, his writing is particularly clear in the midst of sophisticated discussion. It’s a short book but I’d imagine it making for many good pub discussions with an atheist friend or two. Skeel also writes as someone who didn’t grow up in a religious environment. After his curiosity was aroused in college lit classes and he read the Bible for himself that his journey toward Christianity began. Again, as he says, “The sheer beauty of the Bible is what first drew me in, and it’s still what I go back to when I’m asked over a beer late at night why I believe Christianity is true” (86).

All this to say, if you’re looking for a concise, yet compelling presentation of Christianity’s explanatory power, this is your book. I’m tempted to make it a late addition to one of my Bible classes, but I might just save it for book club.


In a similar vein, and also at the beginning of the summer, I read through John Dickson’s A Doubter’s Guide to The Ten Commandments thanks to BookLook Bloggers. It is a follow up to A Doubter’s Guide to The Bible, and from what I can now tell, part of an on-going series (next book is a A Doubter’s Guide to Church). Dickson seems to be primarily writing for a secular audience and tackles the idea that our ideas of ethics come from Moses and Jesus.

The opening chapter illustrate how pervasive the Ten Commandments are in the world (past and present). Next, Dickson raises the question of why we aspire to be good in the first place. He then offers three keys for understanding the Ten Commandments. These have to do with how Jesus “transposed” the commandments, that they can be divided into two tables (related to God and man), and that they are a “charter of freedom.” From here, Dickson goes command by command to finish out the book. He spends more time on the first five, and notes on the 6th that the remainder are fairly self explanatory (119). This is probably fair, and I’m sure there were certain constraints that kept the page count under 200.

All in all, I think this is great book to pass along to someone interested in ethics, law, justice, and perhaps politics. It is written with skeptics in mind (hence the title), but I would imagine many Christians would benefit from reading it as well. As a side note, I wish it had an index, but I appreciated that in the absence of footnotes, we were given parenthetical citations with publication info rather than endnotes. Combine this with the previous book I talked about and you’ve got a book skeptics book club reading list going.


Lastly, thanks to Moody I was able to get a copy of Mark Sayers’ Disappearing Church: From Cultural Relevance to Gospel Resilience. The subtitle gives you the two parts of the book. In the first, Sayers analyzes our current post-Christian culture and our craving for relevance. He then connects this analysis to an ancient heresy. In this case, it’s gnosticism, which he sees as a “gospel of the self.” In a perceptive chart, he compares ancient and modern versions of gnosticism to what the true gospel actually teaches. To give you an idea what he sees as contemporary gnosticism, here’s that column (65):

  • Your world is inferior [to mine]
  • The mundane is the problem
  • Turn your body into a perfect-looking body
  • Look inward to find the real you
  • Escape the mundane to the amazing life
  • Move toward the perfect life through tips, tweaks, hacks, and the secrets of success
  • You are a seeker, pursuing fulfillment through incredible experiences and pleasure
  • Move past organized religion and find spirituality
  • Move toward fulfillment by breaking past the barriers set by tradition, religion, and others
  • It’s all about you

If you ask me, that’s a pretty good snapshot of contemporary culture. This underlying philosophy gives rise to all kinds of movements and trends. With this description and critique in place, Sayers spends the second half of the book sketching the path of gospel resilience. He deals with rejecting the implicit prosperity gospel, how churches can stop catering to public opinion, and the need to deliver truth among other topics. As is often the case, the solution is only as good as the diagnosis is accurate. I think if Sayers is right about his cultural analysis (and I think he’s on to something), then what he offers in the second half of this book is probably something many church leaders need to interact with. I’ll probably need to ruminate a bit more on it, but I’m also probably gonna pass the book on to my pastor and see what he thinks.

map of us 50 percent

You may remember seeing this picture. It comes from a Business Insider post from 2013. The counties in blue contain roughly one half of the American population. You’ll notice as well that there are three clusters. Well, four if you separate Northern and Southern California. The other ones are first, the one connecting D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, and Boston. Then, there is the Florida cluster. We live in the county that is just inland from the east coast.

More technically, we live on the county line of Orange and Seminole Counties. Orange County is the 5th largest county in that Florida (34th nationally). Within the suburb we live (University), we are surrounded by the three most populated zip codes (32825, 32828, 32765), which have a total population of over 175,000. The first two are part of Alafaya, the largest suburb of Orlando (82,000). To add to that, we have the largest university in the country by undergrad enrollment literally next door (well, not literally, but within a mile). Because of the student population, roughly 1 out of every 3 people in our neck of the woods are college students.

Given all that, it is perhaps interesting that on the Cru at UCF website, there are only 7 churches listed that have connections to Cru. These are churches that Cru feels comfortable referring students to because they trust the teaching of the church and/or someone on staff goes there or has a relationships with someone in leadership at the church. Our church, One Hope, is one of these churches, and I have connections with a couple more. I know of several more than are listed on the website, but they are mostly smaller church plants in the area (or extension sites of other churches).

We often joke that Florida is the only place you have to go north to get to the South. Though it could see it being a reasonable assumption, Florida is not really part of the Bible belt. According to the most recent census data, “Nones” are the most predominant religious category at 57.9%. Evangelical protestants are less than half that at 18.9%. However, non-denoms and Southern Baptists combined have less adherents than the Catholic Church which is the largest single denomination in Orlando (but still only 12.7%). Couple this with the data from Barna’s most Bible-minded cities. I grew up in the epicenter, which is to say the agreed upon Bible belt. On the other hand, Orlando ranks #72 in the list of 100 (3 spots ahead of Seattle). We’re almost in the bottom fourth of the list that includes all those pagan Northeast cities.

What is also over-looked, or just unnoticed, is that Orlando is fairly progressive in terms of ideology. This is especially true of its relationship to the LGBT community. Gay pride was a thing in Orlando back in the 90’s when Disney and Universal still hosted Gay Days. Pride parades are a frequent activity in our downtown area. For the most part, Orlando is a fairly safe place to be openly gay and even celebrated.

Orlando is actually a fairly sexual city all things considered. A few years back, when Men’s Health crowned a city the porn capital (based on consumption), you’d assume Las Vegas would win. Instead, Vegas came in second to Orlando. Florida as a whole came out as the most pornified state based on number of DVD’s purchased, streamed, or rented, adult entertainment stores per city, rate of porn searches, and percentage of households subscribed to cable channels that show softcore porn.

Given all that, you can see how ridiculous it would be to suggest Christians are somehow complicit in the Orlando Pulse Shooting. When almost 2/3 of your population is religiously unaffiliated, it means you live in a fairly secular city. There is nothing about the Christian influence here that would create a culture conducive to hostility toward the LGBT community. It is for the most part, quite the opposite case. Outside commentators simultaneously underestimate how mainstream and accepted the LGBT movement is in Orlando, and overestimate how strong the Christian presence is (The Holy Land Experience notwithstanding).

As a result, we have quite the mission field here in central Florida. We live in a diverse and mostly un-Christian culture. There are thousands upon thousands of young people right in our backyard (not literally). There are questions and hurts in wake of the shooting a couple of weeks back. There are churches reaching out to care and to help. But in the city as a whole, and in our part of east Orlando, we are in the minority. We are striving to be a faithful presence as we hope to reach our city by reaching this generation. To do this, we need your help, and you can read my post from Monday for more about that.


At this point, the year is almost halfway over, and I’m more than halfway through Tim Challies Reading Challenge. You can see how far I’ve come on Friday. As I’ve been reading, I’ve enjoyed getting out of my usual patterns. But, those patterns were well developed and it took a while for me to master the lay of the land in Christian publishing (that’s right, I said it). There are many great books, authors, and series out there that I imagine the average interested reader might not know about.

So, I thought it might help to create three more add-ons to Challies challenge. 3 because Trinity. Also, beginner, intermediate, advanced. The distinctions are partially related to content, but also length. As an example, Frame’s writings are not that hard to digest, but the books in his series listed are lengthy, to say the least. Also, you’ll notice a certain slant in the named authors. I guess you’ll have to live with my bias in choices. Or, you could make an alternative list and share it with me.

This could be an additional 33, or more realistically, it could be a way to overlap the available biblical and theological books already in Challies list. For instance, I list a few commentaries in here, and one of the items in Challies original list is a commentary on a book of the Bible. This gives you a more specific commentary series to choose from. Make sense?

Here’s the list:


  • ☐ A book with hermeneutics in the title
  • ☐ A commentary in the TNTC series
  • ☐ A survey of historical theology
  • ☐ A commentary in The Bible Speaks Today series
  • ☐ A book in the Theologians on The Christian Life series
  • ☐ A New Testament introduction
  • ☐ A book by Eugene Peterson
  • ☐ A commentary in the TOTC series
  • ☐ A book in Zondervan’s Counterpoints series
  • ☐ A book by Tim Keller
  • ☐ An Old Testament introduction


  • ☐ A book by Kevin Vanhoozer
  • ☐ A volume in New Studies in Biblical Theology
  • ☐ A book in IVP’s Contours of Christian Theology
  • ☐ A book on covenant theology
  • ☐ A book on dispensational theology
  • ☐ A book on progressive covenantalism
  • ☐ A whole Bible biblical theology
  • ☐ A book by James K. A. Smith
  • ☐ A book in Baker’s Engaging Culture series
  • ☐ A book by Peter Leithart
  • ☐ A book by a Reformer not named Calvin or Luther


  • ☐ A book by John Owen
  • ☐ A book in John Frame’s Theology of Lordship series
  • ☐ A systematic theology
  • ☐ A book by N. T. Wright
  • ☐ A book on Old Testament background
  • ☐ A book on New Testament background
  • ☐ A book by Bruce Waltke
  • ☐ A book by or about Karl Barth
  • ☐ A book using analytic theology
  • ☐ A book by a Dutch guy
  • ☐ An Oxford handbook on a theological topic


Ever since Ali and I moved to Orlando, we’ve been involved with the college students at our church. Since this past September, we have lived within reasonable walking distance of UCF, the largest university in the country by undergrad enrollment.

For scale, I grew up in Knoxville, home of the University of Tennessee. UCF is twice as large by undergrad enrollment. While UCF couldn’t fill Neyland Stadium to capacity, they could easily do so for any Major League Baseball stadium. In other words, we’re talking about a big school.

While there are several existing ministries on campus, they are all relatively small compared to the total size of the student body. It is a very fertile mission field with plenty of room for more evangelism and discipleship to be done.
In our five years here, we’ve seen students come to Christ, grow in Christ, and transition to adults with full time jobs living for Christ. It has been a joy to watch,and we hope to see it happen more and more.

Back in the fall, I reached out to our leadership at One Hope Church about developing the college ministry. With their encouragement and endorsement of our elders, I am seeking to formalize and further establish our ministry to college, as well as high school students in East Orlando.

So far this summer, I’ve been working on several projects. First, I am putting together a team within our church to offer mentoring and discipleship to UCF students within our church and that come as classes begin (summer B began today). This will eventually be a way of offering mentors to all of the students we are connected with, not just those that come to our church.

Second, we’ve been leading a summer community group and opening our home in various ways to the students we are seeking to reach and mentor. We’ve had movie nights for recently graduated students I taught and are seeking to figure out how we can use the space we’ve been blessed with more effectively.

Third, we’re in the planning stages for discipleship and Christian education at our church. Given the size and age of our church (and that we’ve recently become independent from a larger church movement), we are in need of a systematic approach to discipleship and mentoring church-wide. As I’m responsible for developing a plan for the 18-25 year olds, it will also mean being involved in initiatives that effect the rest of the church.

Lastly, Ali and I are developing a plan for continued ministry to alumni from the high school that I teach at part time. We want to maintain the relationships we can with those staying here in Florida, especially those students going to UCF and UNF. Right now, we are planning to establish regular gatherings for alumni staying in Orlando and at least a trip once a semester to meet up with those students in Jacksonville (UNF) as well as possibly Gainesville (UF). I was the Bible teacher for this current class of 2016 all four years they were in high school, and I’d like to continue to shepherd well in this important time.

In order for me to have more time for student outreach and for Ali to be more involved than she already has been, we have felt God’s call to step out in faith, pursue full-time ministry, and begin the support raising process. You may notice that many of the things I listed above involve mainly myself. That is because Ali works full-time, and is involved as much as she can be, but has always had a desire to do more. We are seeking to create some flexibility so that she doesn’t have to work full-time and can begin more aggressively discipling and mentoring many of these students God has placed in her life.

While we are looking for people to partner with us in ministry using their time, talents, and treasures, we are mainly in need of the latter at the moment. I opted to not get a summer job so that I could focus on planning for the fall semester and beginning to raise support. This Friday will be the second payday that I miss a check, so we are starting to feel the need in this area.

I am planning to write here more regularly on some of the vision for what we’re doing. In the next few weeks or so, we’ll launch a separate website for the ministry itself. If you would like to be added to our mailing list, you can do that below, either using the form, or by commenting. I am looking forward to sharing more about what God is doing and ask that you pray for us as we pursue what we feel God is leading to do!


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):



  • ☐ 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



(image via challies)


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!