I haven't been posting much on this blog lately, mostly because I've been doing a lot of reading. I've had plenty of thoughts and ideas though, so I'll get caught up on some of those over the coming days and weeks, but below is a list of some of the books I've read lately. Most of them are theological, some are practical and others are fiction.
Earlier this year, around late summer/early fall, I felt a strong desire to get back into reading more, and so that's what I've done. Several authors and leaders that I respect have come out recommending that pastors read more fiction in order to excite the immagination and stir up God-given emotions which find their fulfilment in the salvation which Jesus gives, e.g. redemption, love without ceasing, heroism, sacrificial love, etc. The idea being, that everything we love in stories is deeply engrained within us because the story of the Gospel is written on our hearts, therefore these truths resonate within us and move us deeply whenever we encounter them. This was one of the convictions of CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien and the reasons why they wrote fiction as vehicles for communicating and celebrating the spiritual truths of the Gospel.
Here's that list:
Center Church, Timothy Keller – This is Tim Keller's treatise on pretty much everything he's ever thought about culture, the Gospel and church. I wish everyone could and would read this book. It's a bit laborious but you come away with basic instruction in many areas which are incredibly helpful in not only being a disciple of Christ but also a person who helps share the good news and make disciples. Absolutely great book.
Christ and Culture, Richard Nieburh – This is considered a classic on the subject of how Christians are to relate to culture. Rather than giving many (any?) answers to the question, in this book Nieburh helps to categorize different responses and explain the underly beliefs behind how Christians relate to culture, and showing how it has worked out throughout history. He gives 5 different approaches of Christians to culture, from rejection of culture to complete embracing of culture and the views in between. It's a very informative and helpful book; many consider it the seminal work on the subject.
Christ and Culture Revisited, D.A. Carson – As the title suggests, Carson revisits Nieburh's classic book, pointing out some areas (rightly) where Nieburh did not take as strong of a stand as he could (should) have, such as his claim that the Gnostics were simply Christians trying to embrace their culture. Carson claims that while Nieburh did good work, he should have been quicker to condemn certain approaches to culture and the Gospel which are actually heretical. There's more to this book, but unless you're really interested in the topic, I would suggest read Nieburh's book and spit out the seeds.
Egri Csillagok, Gárdonyi Géza – A classic Hungarian work of historical fiction which has as its setting the siege of the city of Eger by the Turkish army in the 15th century. Eger is the town my family lived in in Hungary, before moving to Colorado, so this book has long been on my list of things to read.
Ministering to Problem People in Your Church: What to do with Well-Intentioned Dragons, Marshall Shelly – An easy read, mostly of stories shared by pastors and help for understanding and ministering well to people who can be problematic in church, whether intentionally or not.
Tertullian, First Theologian of the West, Eric Osborn – I felt that Eric Osborn went out of his way to dispell any negative criticism of Tertullian. Perhaps that approach is justified, but I'm not sure it is in every case.
1984, George Orwell – I'd been meaning to read this for a while. It wasn't as good as I'd hoped, but I'm glad I can check it off the list. The thing about the TVs that watch you and you can only turn them down, but never off, was pretty interesting. I felt that the love story, although not totally unnecessary to the story, was given too much attention.
Issues in Missiology, Dwight Pentecost – A great overview of the theology of missions and the issues related to sharing a timeless message in changing and varied cultural settings. Definitely a good read for anyone interested in sharing the Gospel cross-culturally, both here and abroad, as many of us live in areas where other cultures are present and represented.
That's it for now. I've still got a stack of books on my desk waiting to be read…
Next up: The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
I'd love to hear your thoughts about what you've been reading, or if you've read any of these books. Leave me a comment below.