2011 – My year in reading

“When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left, I buy food and clothes.” ~ Erasmus

I was reflecting back on the books I read last year and thought I would list them to see just what I had posted. Some of the reviews of these books will be published here either as re-posts from my old blog, or new posts containing unpublished reviews. This is the list to the best of my knowledge. I am sure that there are countless blog posts, PDF’s, books I forgot about, and various journal publications that I read along the way, but these are ones I know for sure I read because I wrote reviews.

This list is in no particular order.

The Cost of Discipleship – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The Life and Diary of David Brainerd –  Jonathan Edwards

The Quotable Chesterton – Kevin Belmonte

Come to the Table – John Mark Hicks

Making a Meal of It: Rethinking the Theology of the Lord’s Supper – Ben Witherington III (My Review)

Fasting: The Sacred Practices Series – Scot McKnight (My Review)

Keep You Greek, Strategies for Busy People – Constantine R. Campbell (My Review)

Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream – David Platt (My Review)

Following Jesus, the Servant King: A Biblical Theology of Covenantal Discipleship – Jonathan Lunde (My Review)

The Essential Bible Companion to the Psalms – Brian L. Webster and David R. Beach (My Review)

Radical Together: Unleashing the People of God for the Purpose of God – David Platt (My Review)

Pagan Christianity?: Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices – Frank Viola (My review)

Read the Bible for Life: Your Guide to Understanding and Living God’s Word – George Guthrie (My review)

What’s With Paul and Women?: Unlocking the Cultural Background to 1 Timothy 2 – Jon Zens (My review)

Except for Fornication: The Teaching of the Lord Jesus on Divorce and Remarriage – Van Parunak (My review)

Desiring God, Meditations of a Christian Hedonist (Revised) – John Piper (My review)

Reimagining Church: Pursuing the Dream of Organic Christianity – Frank Viola (My review)

Man Alive: Transforming Your 7 Primal Needs into a Powerful Spiritual Life – Patrick Morley (My review)

As Christ Submits to the Church: A Biblical Understanding of Leadership and Mutual Submission – Alan Padgett (My review)

Well, there you have it. I think the overall theme of my reading habits was “Ecclesiology” or, the study of the Church. You can probably sprinkle a bit of Christian Living and Theology in there as well. I enjoyed most of these books and I am generally not too critical in my reviews. I like to take most books as they are, allow them to impact me for what they are worth, and incorporate the views of others into my perceptions of the world. It sure makes things interesting most of the time, and helps me keep my closed mind slightly cracked!


Desiring this, desiring that, God’s Desire for the Nations?

God’s Desire for the Nations: The Missionary Theology of John Piper, by Philip O. Hopkins, Energion Publications, 2010, 242 pages. Interest Group: Religion/Christian Theology/Missions

This book is no joke. really. If you are into reading doctoral dissertations and evaluating the precision of a students demonstration of his thesis, then this book is right up your alley. I suppose it could be said that it reads better than a dissertation, but that is because it has been adapted to be more readable in its present book format.

Coming on the heels of a forward by Tom Ascol, Philip O. Hopkins gets right down to business in this excellent entry on the Missiology of John Piper. That’s right, it’s all about John Piper folks. More specifically, John Piper, Desiring God, and Bethlehem Baptist Church. Hopkins sets out to demonstrate whether John Piper’s theology in his works through the above outlets have all been consistent these past few decades. While he is at it, he will hit you with few hundred (800+) footnotes for your personal perusal. So with the heavy lifting your brain has to do while reading the inundation of references to scripture and various other works interleaved with Hopkins commentary you will get a break at the each chapter. That is, unless you actually undertake the review of endnotes. In that case, you’ll need to set aside about six months to thoroughly read this book.

The author selects and efficiently covers some important questions:

  1. Who influenced Piper’s thought?
  2. What is Piper’s understanding of theology and is it orthodox?
  3. What is Piper’s understanding of missions?
  4. How is Piper’s understanding of Calvinism, especially election, consistent with the promotion of missions?
  5. How does Piper’s understanding of the glory of God motivate his missiology?

It is not likely that someone like myself would ever undertake the chore or answering the above questions with as much precision and thought that Hopkins has. Even though I did not know I ever wanted to be as informed of John Piper’s missiology as I am now, I am now glad for it. In some ways, Hopkins work serves as a pseudo-biography of the inner theological John Piper. With as much influence as Piper currently has on evangelicalism, I am confident this book will prove to be useful in the future.

I liked this book because it was heady and required thinking to digest it. If you do not have the patience for a book like this, I would not recommend it until you can devote time to reading it, and enjoying the wealth of information it has to offer. I am rarely certain that I can justify the time it takes to spend in a dissertation such as this one, but the time I did spend on it was worth it. And although this book might not be seminary textbook appropriate, it sure serves as a missiological primer with heavy emphasis on Piper and Calvinism.

I received this book from Energion Publications for review. No books were harmed in review of this book.



Why don’t you just go to H – E – Double Hockey Sticks?

Erasing Hell at Amazon.ComErasing Hell: What God said about eternity, and the things we made up, by Francis Chan and Preston Sprinkle, David C. Cook , 2011, 208 pages. Interest Group: Religion/Christian Life/General

Erasing Hell: What God said about eternity, and the things we made up was released last year amidst the rush of books sent to print after Rob Bell’s, Love Wins. Most of the evangelical world responded in blogs, papers, books, and video critiques of what Rob Bell was churning out in his latest authorial offering. Laughably, most of this critique came long before the book was released, and the overwhelming response was to a video promotion pre-released by the publisher. It was effective in creating curiosity and bordered sheer marketing genius. Although the book only served a specific niche in Christian subculture, I am sure it helped to sell the book well. Without access to actual publishing data, Amazon records the sale of Love Wins at #16 in “Christian Books and Bibles” and #677 overall. I’d say that is pretty good for mid-western pastor from Michigan.

This book attracted my attention because I considered it a feasible offering amidst all the clamor during all the Love Wins hubbub. I also anticipated a systematic and reasonable approach to a difficult doctrine, hell. I have never been satisfied with the medieval caricatures of a horned, goatee and mustache sporting red guy with a pitchfork. Nor have I ever been quite comfortable with accepting the idea that we all just fade to black  and become annihilated. The subtitle of this book clearly states, “what God said about eternity, and the things we made up.” So, as I judged this book by its cover, I expected it to live up to its subtitle.

The things referenced in this book regarding what God said are largely relegated to the teachings of Christ in the New Testament (NT) where reference to Gehenna, Hades, or burning, weeping, and gnashing occur. References to outer darkness also find their way into the list and provide a accentuate the survey of what the NT writers had to say concerning eternal “punishment”.

This book, written in conjunction with NT PhD Preston Sprinkle, uses Francis Chan’s authorial voice while leaning on Sprinkle’s expertise for backup. The candor and tone of this book is indeed in the voice of Chan, and reads smoothly. The style is engaging and it is simple to read very quickly. I was thoroughly impressed with pace of this book. On the other hand, being eager to get a “Jesus” perspective on the teaching of hell, I was also zealous in digging into its pages. Although this book weighs in at 208 pages, approximately one-third of those are compromised of a Q & A section, a sample chapter of Chan’s Forgotten God, and a notes section for each the references used in each chapter.

I was not impressed with what really lies beneath the guise of this book. Although it is well written, engaging, and easy to read, this book really falls into the pile of books released responding to Rob Bell’s treatise on universalism, Love Wins. Without queuing up the references in this book to Rob Bell or the teachings from his book or ministry, I will tell you that I was able to understand the gist of Bell’s book without ever picking it up. Some reviewers have noted that it just may impact the relevance of a book like this in the future when Love Wins falls off the evangelical radar. Addressing a topic like hell, what God said about it, and how we should approach it is a timeless pursuit for all those who are students of the Bible. Erasing Hell could have done much better in these efforts, but overall, it serves well as a primer on the Bible’s teaching on hell, and provides some historical nuggets of information along the way.

The back cover of this book sums up what you will find in this book pretty well,

This is not a book about who is saying what. It’s a book about what God says. It’s not a book about impersonal theological issues. It’s a book about people God loves. It’s not a book about arguments, doctrine, or being right. It’s a book about the character of God.

If you are deeply interested in knowing what God said about eternity, I would encourage you study the scriptures, ask the Holy Spirit to guide your understandings, and wait for the truth to become known. Until then, follow the advice Chan and Sprinkle offer, pause and meditate on the scriptures addressing eternity, ultimately, they are the ones God wanted you to hear.

I received this book from David C. Cook for the purpose of review. No books were harmed in the reviewing of this book.

As Christ Submits to the Church by Alan G. Padgett, a review

Hot button topics. I love them. One of my favorites concerns  leadership and authority in the contemporary Church.

As Christ Submits to the Church: A Biblical Understanding of Leadership and Mutual Submission, by Alan G. Padgett, Baker Academic, 2011, 151 pages. Interest Group: Religion/Christian Church/Theology

As Christ Submits to the Church: A Biblical Understanding of Leadership and Mutual Submission by Alan G. Padgett presses that button. Actually, he presses that button to the tune of each page in this release from Baker Academic.

The author engages in an excellent cumulative style that makes the academic data accessible for most readers. Far from an easy read, the information is systematically is made digestible  with a summary and review style at the end of each chapter. This approach to the data disseminates and repeats the information previously read. The author accomplishes his task of proving his thesis very effectively and I would enjoy reading more of his works for the fun of it.

This book was paced efficiently and remained concise while breaching a topic that is broad and expansive in arena of Christian conversation. Far from a tome owed to the topic of leadership, authority, and mutual submission, this concise volume contains satisfactory references in the footnotes and a bibliography to keep any reader busy for an entire year. The measure of the author’s resolve concerning this topic is summarized in some his closing statements at the end of this book:

“Against too many church leaders in the evangelical movement, we must resist reductionist prooftexting in our efforts to understand the full will of God. Only the whole of Scripture, read as a whole, is a firm foundation for the reform of the church and the life of daily discipleship.”

As the author embarks on a journey to survey the evangelical approach to gender roles, male dominion, mission and submission, headship, and justice for today, he keeps several topics in the common denominator. Christ’s earthly ministry, relationship with mankind, and his association with the disciples. Through these areas of concern the author illustrates the posture of submission Christ intended for his Church. Alan Padgett begs the question in each chapter by demonstrating the power of Christ’s ministry and posture toward others as a tool of understanding true submission. In the end, the books title proves its worth and earns its placement on the front cover.

I found this book helpful for my own personal study. Endeavoring to discover the required posture of submission, whether it be in my relationship with my wife or members of the Church, I am eager to replicate Christ’s behaviors and desires for mutual submission to one another. The engaging style, diligent academic study, and careful attention to detail regarding the Lord’s life and ministry in this book will provide an effective and refreshing new approach to an age-old debate. I did not agree with all points made with the author, even when he was making them well. I did appreciate this book and would recommend it to anyone interested in resolving their own view concerning submission in today’s Church.