Books I’ve Read (2013)

Previous years: 2012 | 2011

Apologetics

  • The Everlasting Man by G. K. Chesterton – Liked – A classic Christian apologetic that interacts with objections posed by evolution and modernism, and the book C. S. Lewis credited with moving him toward faith. Chesterton is never stronger than when he is defending Christianity in general, but he is never weaker than when he is defending Catholicism in particular.

Biographies/Memoirs

  • Roger Williams by Edwin S. Gaustad – Liked – Short, concise, scholarly biography focusing on Williams’ crusade for religious liberty. A good introduction both to Williams and his most important literary contributions. While Gaustad does not focus on Williams’ religious beliefs as much as some others do, he nevertheless does a decent job of integrating the religious aspects of Williams’ calls for liberty.
  • The Challenges of Roger Williams: Religious Liberty, Violent Persecution, and the Bible by James P. Byrd, Jr. – Loved – Excellent look at how Roger Williams’ exegesis of Scripture influenced his view of religious liberty. In addition to a chapter each on how Williams interpreted the Old Testament, the parable of the wheat and the tares, the Pauline epistles, and Revelation, the book provides a short biography, a brief review of modern historiography of Williams, and a summary of Williams’ impact on American history and thought. A great book for anyone interested in history, politics, or hermeneutics.
  • Roger Williams: The Church and the State by Edmund S. Morgan – Liked – Less a biography than an introduction to Williams’ thought in light of his historical context. Morgan seemed to have less of a grasp of biblical and theological topics than Gaustad or Byrd (see above), but this book was an very good, and fast-moving, introduction to Williams and his ideas of how government and the church relate.

History

  • The Reformers and their Stepchildren by Leonard Verduin – Liked – An excellent look at the Protestant Reformation from the perspective of the Anabaptists. Each chapter looks at a different aspect of “heresy” that was incorrectly applied to the Anabaptists by Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, and their followers (as well as those in the English Reformation). The only downside is that in defending the Anabaptists and their descendants, Verduin at times glorifies heretical groups that preceded them in order to make his point that the Anabaptists were in fact orthodox.
  • America’s God: From Jonathan Edwards to Abraham Lincoln by Mark A. Noll – Loved – A fantastic history of American religious thought in the 18th and 19th centuries that provides much needed context for how the various Christian denominations, traditions, and hermeneutics developed.

Church/Ministry

  • How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth by Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart – Liked – This book left me with mixed feelings. On the one hand, it makes biblical interpretation accessible to people who otherwise might be intimidated by the prospect. On the other hand, there are significant issues where Fee and Stuart do not fairly represent opposing viewpoints (or even mention that there are legitimate opposing views). They set out to write a book that bridge the gap between scholar and layman, but it’s difficult to recommend the book for either because the layman might be swayed by arguments that have been misleadingly portrayed as being obvious, while there are more advanced texts that go into greater detail than this one that would be more appropriate for the scholar.
  • Two Views on Women in Ministry by James R. Beck (editor) – Liked – An examination of the role of women in ministry. The four contributors are divided equally between the egalitarian and complementarian positions, but even those who generally agree disagree on specifics. This book is a good way to see how the two sides interpret various passages of Scripture and apply them to the contemporary church.
  • Addictions–A Banquet in the Grave: Finding Hope in the Power of the Gospel by Edward T. Welch – Liked – A good resource for anyone who loves or ministers to someone caught in addiction. While not completely dismissive of programs like AA, Welch consistently points the addict, as well as those whose lives the addiction impacts, back to the gospel as the only path through which true freedom can be found. The book focuses mainly on drug and alcohol addiction, but the principles are applied to pornography and other addictions as well.

Christian Living/Theology

  • Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament by Christopher J.H. Wright – Liked – The book isn’t so much about finding Jesus in the Old Testament as it is a look at how Jesus read and interpreted the Old Testament and how his ministry related to the Old Testament Scriptures. Regardless, it is an interesting and informative book about the interconnectedness of God’s mission and message throughout the Old and New Testaments. You can read my full review here.
  • I Am Not But I Know I Am: Welcome to the Story of God by Louie Giglio – Liked – A good book for seekers and new believers, and a good reminder for season believers that it’s all about God and not about us. I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group in exchange for an honest review. You can read my full review here.
  • Reckless Faith: When the Church Loses Its Will to Discern by John F. MacArthur, Jr. – Loved – A fantastic look at the disturbing trend within the church to trust in external authority structures (church hierarchy, tradition, etc.) and personal experience rather than God’s word. For a book that is almost 20 years old and out of print, it is remarkably pertinent to today’s church.
  • Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament by Peter Enns – Didn’t Like – Enns emphasizes the human side of Scripture, and in so doing calls the doctrine of inerrancy into question. While there are indeed some aspects to the book that could be corrective to the extremes of Evangelical interpretations of the Bible, overall it is not worth reading–especially since it is targeted toward laymen who do not know the legitimate alternative views.
  • Paul, the Spirit, and the People of God by Gordon D. Fee – Liked – Overall a good book that corrects the Evangelical tendency to overlook the Holy Spirit. Fee is charismatic, and this is evident in the last chapter or too, but the rest of the book makes up for whatever disagreement non-charismatics might have with that portion.
  • Christian Theology by Millard Erickson – Loved – An extremely thorough and accessible systematic theology written from a Baptist perspective.

Politics

  • Politics According to the Bible: A Comprehensive Resource for Understanding Modern Political Issues in Light of Scripture by Wayne Grudem – Liked – Great book for what it is: a broad, general introduction to political issues, especially as they relate to early-21st-century America, written with a popular audience in mind. Someone who has not given thought to a biblical view of politics or who does not follow politics will find it extremely well-thought out, informative, and practical. However, someone used to reading political treatises will probably find it elementary and somewhat limited by its 21st-century American context.

Philosophy

  • On Religious Liberty: Selections from the Works of Roger Williams by Roger Williams, James Calvin Davis (ed.) – Liked – Davis does a good job or providing a representative sampling of Williams’ writings, particularly those that touch on religious liberty, while also smoothing out Williams’ characteristic idiosyncrasies in spelling, grammar, and syntax.

Science

  • Quantum: Einstein, Bohr, and the Great Debate about the Nature of Reality by Manjit Kumar – Liked – When I start a book, I usually plow right through it and finish it quickly. This is one of the few that I put down several times, only to pick it back up several months later. The history, philosophy, and personal stories of and relationships between the scientists were fascinating, but the mathematical and scientific equations were tough to get through for a lay-person more than a decade removed from a physics or high-level math class. Overall, a good book that provides a very thorough introduction to a complex subject and its philosophical roots and implications.

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