2011 Reviews

Book reviews in descending order from the most current:

26 – Junia Is Not Alone by Scot McKnight – I admit my struggle in this area. Scot would not approve of my agnosticism here. Was Junia a woman? Sure, I buy that. Was she an apostle? Yah, I accept that too. But I also struggle with other Biblical passages that weigh in (heavily in my opinion) on the “egalitarian/complimentarian” debate.

25 – The Kingdom New Testament by N.T. Wright – The Kingdom New Testament is a treat for me. I do bring it to church. I will use it in small groups. I will quote from it on my blog from time to time. I will source it when I preach, and it has already become a part of my devotional routine. I think that Wright’s translation captures the gospel – the Kingdom message – beautifully.

24 – Simply Jesus by N.T. Wright – A book with virtually no footnotes – is the sum of N.T. Wright’s mind on Jesus, who he was, what he did and why it matters, written with a broad evangelical audience in mind.

23 – The King Jesus Gospel by Scot McKnight – When it comes to answering the big question, “What Is The Gospel?”, Scot pitches his tent in 1 Corinthians 15 as the clearest summary of the gospel in the scriptures. The gospel, then, is the Story of Jesus as the fulfillment of Israel’s Story. If that Story is not proclaimed, than the gospel has not been proclaimed. Also, read Wright and Scot’s views compared and contrasted.

22 – What About Those Who Never Heard: Three Views – In my journey to reconcile within myself how inclusive the Gospel is I came across this book (published 1995) which examines three views: inclusivism (John Sanders), restricivism (Ronald Nash), and divine perseverance (Gabriel Fackre). If someone asked me to reference a good multi-view book on the destiny of those who have never heard, I would not recommend this one.

21 – God and Time: Four Views –  “God and Time: Four Views” is very helpful in working out this subject by reading back-and-forth essays by professional Christian philosophers. What made this book exceptional – and why I gave it four stars – was the discussion that followed each essay. Not only were each other allowed to respond and critique each essay, but the essayist was allowed an opportunity to respond to their critique and clarify themselves. This back-and-forth made the book indispensable.

20 – Christ Alone: An Evangelical Response to Rob Bell’s Love Wins by Michael Wittmer – Overall, I highly recommend Christ Alone. His arguments against Bell are very well reasoned – mostly in terms of engaging the biblical text and in showing that we cannot allow Bell’s excellent communication skills cloud the issues. If you’re like me you won’t agree with everything Wittmer has to say, and if you like Bell and are looking for a responsible and gracious response to his book, this is it.

19 – Hell is Real (But I Hate To Admit It) by Brian Jones – Hell Is Real is filled with humorous anecdotes that had me laughing often (usually when he’s telling a story from his fundamentalists days, because I could usually related with them). Brian is a practical, conservative guy who is always brutally honest. This book would not stand up to strong critical examination, but it’s not designed to. It assumes its position and then tells us that if we truly shared that view, we would quickly develop an apocalyptic urgency.

18 – Did Adam and Eve Really Exist? by John Collins – John Collins lists many issues at stake in this discussion, but three take dominance for me: 1)the meta-narrative of Creation-Fall-Redemption-Restoration falls into jeopardy. 2) A crucial element of the atonement is lost. 3) Sooner or later we are faced with what stance we will take toward biblical authority (since Jesus and Paul among other biblical writers believed that Adam and Eve were real historical figures). Great book.

17 – Jesus and Empire by Richard Horsley – This is another great book on the historical context of Jesus which takes a great look at his prophetic message in light of his actions, and not just his words. But it’s important to keep in mind that Horsely is a liberal in his theological outlook, so while recommending this book, I do so with caution.

16 – Counterfeit Gospels by Trevin Wax – This is a great book exploring the holistic gospel which – according to Trevin – is like a three legged stool: 1. The gospel story, 2. the gospel announcement and 3. the gospel community. From these three comes several counterfeits. (Read the full review, and then read the book.)

15 – Young, Restless, Reformed by Collin Hansen – The Young, Restless and Reformed movement is unequivocally led by John Piper, bred at the Passion Conferences, educated by Al Mohler at Southern, given on voice through blogs online and are on a mission to convert the Church. If your interested in the history and influence of this movement, read Collin’s book.

14 – Freedom and Necessity by Gerald Bonner – In a book written for the purpose of examining Augustine’s theology of Freedom and Necessity, it is impossible to do so without contrasting his views with that of Pelagius. In so do, and through close scholarship not biased toward the Augustinian view, Bonner shines a more accurate light on the teachings, motives and lives of both Christian bishops, Augustine and Pelagius.

13 – Love Wins by Rob Bell – The message of Love Wins is not to deny a Heaven or Hell in the hereafter, but to remind us that there is a Heaven and Hell in the here and now too. That is why at each step along the way Bell begins with speculation about the afterlife – to show that there usually are more uncritical speculation then most people recognize – then he draws us back into the reality we can speak of with unambiguous certainty. There is a Hell on earth too, what are God’s people going to do about it? (See also: Love Wins Revisited)

12 – Jesus Before Christianity by Albert Nolan – Nolan’s Jesus brings to light some very neglected aspects of the Gospel, what the president of World Vision recently referred to as “The Hole in Our Gospel” – social activism. But what is missing in Nolan’s presentation is more damaging because without the climax of the Gospel being what it is, God’s answer to the problem of creation, there is no Gospel at all.

11 – Thinking in Tongues: A Pentecostal Contribution to Christian Philosophy by James K.A. Smith – I believe Pentecostalism has much offer the rest of the Church, and that’s just the point. Pentecostalism should contribute to the ecumenical Church by reminding us of the activity of the Spirit in the world. But Pentecostalism – in my view – by its very nature is too narrow in it’s theology, and while contributing to the rest of the Church traditions it should incorporate from them as well.

10 – Jesus, Paul and the People of God: A Theological Dialogue With N.T. Wright (Part 1 and Part 2) – Both part one and part two conclude with fantastic essays by Wright on Jesus and Paul – the second being a sneak peek at his forth coming opus magnum. If you are debating whether or not to get this book, these essays make the book worth it’s dime!

9 – Captive to the Word of God by Miroslav Volf – This is my first read by Mirsolav Volf who came highly recommended by a friend. I admit my struggle though, for this little book took me what felt like forever to get through. But three chapters – the introduction, chapter 2 and chapter 5 – are easily worth the price of the book.

8 – The Bishop or the King by Ron Corcoran – Those involved in the Anglican Communion worldwide need to read this book. Those in the Anglican Network in Canada should read and widely disperse this book not just among the clergy, but also among the laity. And those in the Anglican Church of Canada must read this book if for no other reason, to at least understand the perspective of those who have left their communion table. It’s not a bad idea for the rest of us to read this book as well.

7 – Wrestling the Word by Carolyn Sharp – It is mostly because of Sharp’s high view of Scripture, sensitivity towards the faith of her readers, and her uncompromising conviction that “God is real” with her reliance upon the “Holy Spirit” that this book stands out uniquely among others of its kind. If you liked Peter Enns’ “Incarnation and Inspiration“, you’ll want this book as a compliment.

6 – Engaging the Word by Jamie Clark-Soles – “…Now I’ve presented you “the theory” and “the aim” of this book. So why only one star? Because in reality my perception is that this book is a liberal manifesto thinly wrapped in a shroud of false humility, where clearly the author is under frustration and duress with bafflement as to why the Christian community would continue to by and large not look to such great scholars as John Dominic Crossan and Marcus Borg.”

5 – The Orthodox Church by Timothy Ware – This is a good book for granting the curious an introduction into the Orthodox history, beliefs and practices. In fact, many Orthodox I connect with would do good to review it (I have discovered that the Orthodox view of hell is not quite what one Orthodox blogger said it was).

4 – Outlive Your Life by Max Lucado – What makes this book different from the many others which have been following this trend is that it is done “Lucado style”. Max is great at taking familiar biblical stories and breathing new life into them. For Lucado fans, this will be another great book.

3 – Heresy by Alister McGrath – McGrath argues that Christians have always wrestled with how to articulate the Christian faith and then how to communicate the articulation of that faith to the current cultural context. Often times this leads to a fuller expression of orthodoxy, sometimes it leads to heresy. But always the goal is the same. Heresies only fault “is it’s unwillingness to accept that it failed”.

2 – The Messianic Hope by Michael Rydelnik – In this book Rydelnik sets about to prove that it is possible to interpret the Hebrew Bible as a messianic text while maintaining academic credibility, and he does so without appealing to sensus plenior (that there are supposedly two meanings, a surface meaning and a deeper meaning), and even seeking to debunk the sensus plenior approach along the way.

1 – Getting the Reformation Wrong by James Payton – Payton asks some difficult questions such as was the reformation a success or a failure. While doing so this book informs the reader one what terms like “sola fide” and “sola scriptura” actually meant to the Reformers.

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