Saturday, December 29, 2018

More Good Books from 2018

Yesterday, I named seven of my "top books of 2018." Today, I want to share several of the other good nonfiction books that I had the privilege of reading in the last twelve months.

These eight books may not have affected me as deeply or tripped as significant change as yesterday's list, but they are all books that I highly appreciated and highly recommend, filling an important hole in the literature and meeting specific needs of the church.

I haven't gotten to write a formal review of this one, but it is definitely one of the best books on this topic in print (and I've read a good number of them).

The subtitle says so much, "The Surprising Plausibility of the Celibate Life." 

Shaw speaks from personal experience and biblical conviction. He examines nine common missteps and myths with clarity, compassion, and persuasiveness and then also lays out a positive case for the biblical position.

Several times as I read I said out loud, "Aha." and "Right. That's the way to say that."

I will be giving it away to many others.

He Who Gives Life by Graham Cole

Last Spring, our Stay Sharp district theology conference was about the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. To prepare my mind, I read Graham Cole's book on the subject in the Foundations of Evangelical Theology series.

In my review, I emphasized how it is a model of theological methodology:
I learned not only from what he wrote but how he wrote it. It’s careful, learned, and cheerful. He does an excellent job of providing balancing perspectives on the many controversial questions about the Holy Spirit. At times, I wished he was more decisive and less tentative about his exegetical and theological decisions, but that just shows how difficult some of the judgment calls are to make in this arena. Wherever a strong conclusion was required by the either the importance of the question or the preponderance of the biblical evidence, Cole did not hesitate to reach it or state it. If I could write a book on this level, I would want to do it on this model.

Even though it was Jesus' favorite thing to teach on, there is surprisingly too little written by evangelicals about the kingdom of God. Schreiner not only does a fine job of doing biblical theology on the subject, showing how the kingdom doctrine develops throughout  unfolding redemptive history.

I especially appreciated how he connected the dots between parts of the Bible that often get overlooked when talking about the kingdom.

But the best part for me was how he tied the doctrine of the kingdom to the doctrine of the atonement. I said it this way in my review:
At first I thought that Schreiner had forgotten his subtitle. The cross is hardly mentioned in the introduction and isn’t mentioned by name in the first chapter. But it’s always there, just being progressively revealed. I think Schreiner was intentionally building towards the cross to mirror the way the Bible itself reveals it. So in the first chapter, he shows in the Law how “sacrifice is at the center of the kingdom plan,” in the second chapter in the Prophets he talks about the suffering servant, in the third chapter on the Writings, he talks about righteous suffering.
And then in the New Testament section, the cross comes more clearly into focus.
The book concludes with a reflective chapter bringing the twin foci of kingdom and cross together. “The kingdom is not a higher or more important theme than the cross. These two realities are forever joined; separating them is an act of violence. If the kingdom is the goal, then the cross is the means. But this does not mean that the cross simply falls between the ages. Rather, it is the wheel that shifts one age into another; it is the great transition place, the turn of the ages for the people of God seeking their place” (pg.136-137).

Not Yet Married by Marshall Segal

I have four teenagers, ages 14-18. I want to prepare them for being Christian adults and give them a biblical worldview out of which to operate in the whole sphere of singleness, dating, courtship, and preparing for marriage.

This is the book for that.

It's been a while since I read very much for young adults focused on relationships. What I really appreciated about Segal's book (which you can download for FREE at DesiringGod!) is that it isn't focused on dos-and-donts (even though they are in there) but more about walking with the Lord in that season of life (however long) in which you are single and walking with the Lord in that season of your life (if it comes) in which you are moving towards marriage with someone. 

This is a book about wisdom.

None Like Him by Jen Wilkin

Wilkin surprised me by writing a book about how I am not God.

(I'm afraid I definitely needed the reminder.)

I thought she was writing a book about the incommunicable attributes of God. And she was. She writes about how "God is self-existent, self-sufficient, eternal, immutable, omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent, sovereign, infinite, and incomprehensible."

But then I thought she would explain how those attributes affect us today. And she was. But they way she did it was to develop how much you and I are not self-existent, self-sufficient, eternal, immutable, omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent, sovereign, infinite, and incomprehensible and what a difference that makes for us.

That was a unique take on the application of this theology, and it was very challenging and encouraging to my faith.

Grief: Walking with Jesus by Bob Kelleman

I expected a book about comfort but found a book that was first and foremost about Jesus. (Which was comforting but also challenging!)

This was the first book I got to read in the new 31 Day Devotional for Life series from P&R. I'm slowly working through the rest of them (the one on pursuing restoration after an affair is particularly good, as well.) I was thankful that my friend Bob sent me an advanced copy of this one to read before they came out [read the first chapter on his website].

Because it was focused on Jesus's whole life story with a specific focus on the Man of Sorrow's experience of grief, Kelleman's book was full of surprises, especially how much it emphasized loving others while experiencing loss and also "holy disappointment"--an idea we don't normally think much about.

I will be giving this one away regularly because, sadly, until Jesus returns the experience of loss will be universal.

The Problem of God by Mark Clark

I thoroughly enjoyed this new apologetics book by Pastor Mark Clark. Clark tackles some of the toughest challenges thrown at Christianity with reasonable, thoughtful, and readable(!) answers. It's definitely written for skeptics, not for the already-convinced (though we can profit from reading it, too). And there is a good dose of self-deprecating humor.

The thing I liked the best about The Problem of God was how up-to-date and relevant it is. Some of the skeptical arguments were ones that I've never seen addressed in a book-length treatment before. (ex. theories about the "Christ myth"). But I hear young people asking these very questions. It doesn't feel like "your father's apologetics book." 

I also appreciated that Clark didn't just deal with evidential or philosophical objections--but also personal roadblocks to belief like hypocrisy among Christians. One of the longest and best chapters is the one on Christianity and sex.

The Imperfect Disciple by Jared C. Wilson

Wilson's book is a different angle on discipleship--the angle of grace. 

He says, “I want to, by God’s grace, give you the freedom to own up to your not having your act together. I wrote this book for all who are tired of being tired. I wrote this book for all who read the typical discipleship manuals and wonder who they could possibly be written for, the ones that make us feel overly burdened and overly tasked and, because of all that, overly shamed” (pg. 230)

As I said in my review, "It’s not that he doesn’t encourage people to do Bible study, prayer, fellowship, confession, etc. He does. But he also shows how we do those things by grace and to access grace and how we aren’t measured at all by our performance of them. It’s not a practical how-to book but instead a very mind-orienting one."

Our small group read and discussed this book together over a few months and came away encouraged.

Tolle lege!