Thursday, December 28, 2017

More Good Books from 2017

Yesterday, I named my "top books of 2017." Today, I want to share some of the other good books that I had the privilege of reading in the last twelve months. Like yesterday's list, most of these books pushed me in significant directions, either with new perspectives or new levels.

On Being a Theologian of the Cross by Gerhard O. Forde

In 2017, we celebrated the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. To go deeper in that vein, I re-read significant portions of Luther: Man Between God and the Devil by Heiko Oberman and Luther's own commentary on Galatians (for my sermon series). I also attended the EFCA Theology Conference which looked closer at the theology of the Reformation. One of my friends recommended that to understand Lutheran theology, I ought to read works by Gerhard Forde. I chose On Being a Theologian of the Cross because it is an explanation of and elaboration on the Heidelberg Disputation, a work of Luther's that I did not know nearly enough about. Between Forde's writing and the conference lecture from David Luy I now have a much better understanding of the antithesis that Luther was teaching.

Onward by Russell Moore

I've been wanting to read this book by Moore since it came out, but only got around to it this year. It is an excellent presentation of his theology of cultural engagement: "engaging the culture without losing the gospel." I found myself nodding in agreement and reading it out loud to Heather again and again. I'm not very good at engaging the wider culture (and feel less competent as time goes on and culture grows so wildly challenging), but Onward gives me a direction in which to point.

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance

Speaking of culture, this book was all the rage a year ago and rightly so. It tells the story of an often forgotten segment of the American populace, one that I can relate to both in my own family of origin and among the people whom I minister now.

American Evangelicals and Modern Israel: A Plea for Tough Love by Frederic Martin

Martin, an EFCA pastor, attempts to look at the story of modern Israel with a loving but critical eye. He shows a whole other side to both the history and the theology of our engagement with the current nation of Israel than gets presented by some popular Bible teachers. Frankly, I don't know what I think of some of these things, but I'm much better informed for having read this.

Death Comes for the Deconstructionist by Daniel Taylor

Taylor's book is actually a novel, but as a work of fiction it was teaching truth. In fact, it was teaching that there is truth. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, as my gushing review reveals.

Speaking of fiction that teaches, in 2017 I visited Port William, Kentucky the literary world of Wendell Berry for the first time. I read Hannah Coulter and joy-cried through the last third. As the year progressed I also read A World Lost, Andy Catlett Early Travels, and Jayber Crow. I'll be visiting Port William again and again.

Descriptions and Prescriptions by Michael Emlet

Michael Emlet, one of my wise biblical counseling professors from CCEF and WTS, wrote an excellent (yet short!) book on better understanding the role of psychiatric labels and medications from a biblical counseling perspective, trying to be neither too hot nor too cold but just right. When it came out, I got to publish an interview with Mike on his book. I draw on the framework he lays out every week in pastoral ministry.

The Wild Man Fable and Wild Mountain Tribe by Zeke Pipher

This Spring, my friend Zeke Pipher published a unique little story about a "Wild Man" to teach young men about biblical masculinity. I'm a fan. He also published a small group guide which our youth boys' class is working through on Wednesday nights at our church. Here's my interview with Zeke about these new resources.

Pass It On by Champ Thornton

Another one of my friends also had a new book out this Fall. Here's what I said in my endorsement:
In Pass it On, Champ Thornton has created another unique resource for assisting Christian parents to extract the precious wisdom from the endless goldmine of the Book of Proverbs and impart its righteous riches to their children. I will be using it with my kids and urge others to dig in, too.
I also got to interview Champ about Pass It On. I highly recommend it, especially for the short chapter on how to read the Book of Proverbs. I teach from Proverbs every Wednesday with my youth boys, and this is the kind of thing I'm always telling them!

The Storytelling God by Jared C. Wilson

While I'm telling you about books that have been directly helpful in my pastoral ministry, I've got to mention The Storytelling God. This was my first Jared Wilson book, but it won't be my last. This year at LEFC's Family Bible Week, I taught on how to read, understand, and apply the parables of Jesus. I found Wilson's book to be one of the most helpful introductions to the parables--pithy, radical, orienting, and quotable. Because of reading this one, our small group has picked up The Imperfect Disciple to read over the course of this school year. Good stuff!

Christian History Made Easy by Timothy Paul Jones

Speaking of our small group, our last big study was an overview of church history something I had never taught through in my nearly two decades of pastoral ministry. Timothy Jones' Christian History Made Easy was indispensable! He distilled two millennia of names, dates, ideas, and movements into a handy little handbook--with pictures! We used the discussion guide in the back including the weekly "quizzes" to keep things fun. I highly recommend it, especially if history is not your forte.

And to round out this list, I have to mention the excellent commentaries on the Books of Kings and the Letter to the Galatians that were my constant companions all year. I am so grateful to pastor a church that allows me to buy helpful tools like that to do my job.

Tolle lege!