In no particular order, here are my top 5 reads of 2009:
Justification by N.T. Wright
Brian McLaren writes, “John Piper, it turns out, has done us all a wonderful favor” in writing the critique that invited this response. Rob Bell writes, “I find it stunning that a book dealing with the subject of Justification could be this compelling of a read.” Scot McKnight writes, “Tom Wright has out-reformed America’s newest religious zealots – the neo-Reformed – by taking them back to Scripture… Wright reveals that the neo-Reformed are more committed to tradition than to the sacred text.” I quote these fine reviewers because it is as though they took the words out of my mouth, had they not have said them first.
Telling the Truth by Frederick Buechner
Frederick Buechner is a masterful wordsmith! Written with the pastor-as-reader in mind, Buechner challengers a preaching of the Gospel as it is; as Comedy, Tragedy and finally as Fair Tale. This book is sensual and emotive. As you read it you will not just “learn facts” or “how-to’s”, you will instead “feel” and “be moved” by the words presented here. A special treat, I might add, is the comparisons Buechner makes between The Wizard of Oz (came out in 1900) and of what has become of the Gospel in the century it ushered in.
An Unsettling God by Walter Brueggemann
I wrote in a review of Walter Brueggemann’s book:
“An Unsettling God is both provocative and timely as Walter Brueggemann dazzles us with a portrayal of God – both unsettling and exciting – as the ancient Hebrews testified of him.” – C.A.R., Derek
I still stand by every word of that review. My understanding of God as the Old Testament testifies of him – indeed my interested in the Old Testament itself – has risen to know heights. Brueggemann is passionate about the Old Testament, and having tasted of his passion my own has been ignited.
We Become What We Worship by G.K. Beale
G.K. Beale’s book, We Become What We Worship, is both scholarly and pastoral. The theme of idolatry traced through the scriptures, as Beale goes to great lengths to show, plays a prominent part as one of the driving motifs of redemption History. Beginning with the difficult passage of Isaiah 6:9-13 and drawing comparisons between it and the Golden Calf incident at Zion [Exodus 32] helps to understand certain language employed by God throughout the scriptures.
His observation of the first man of creation as the idol of God, and the new creation which is a restoring of the image and likeness of God lost in the fall [2 Cor 3:18], is very helpful. I preached on sermon utilizing principals from this study, it was titled “Blockheads and Icons“.
Christ and Time by Oscar Cullmann
Oscar Cullmann’s Christ and Time has had a profound impact on the development of my understanding of Scripture, particularly as he develops the biblical concept of time as being linear (as opposed to circular – ANE), and in regards to Christ’ place in time. The ancient Hebrews had no concept of “end of time”, rather they thought in terms of “ages”. The first age is pre-fall, the second age is the “present evil age” and the third age is to be ushered in at the coming of the Messiah and with the resurrection of Israel.
But what the Jews had expected the Messiah to do at the end of the present evil age, Jesus did in the middle – by his own resurrection. The theological significance of this (it’s significance to the Apostle Paul on the Damascus road, the development of the doctrine of the Resurrection, and its continual significance for believers today) is difficult to exhaust, but to view the scriptures as Cullmann suggests answers many questions and shines much needed light on some very difficult passages and their cognant doctrines.
Encore: Best Movie 2009 – STAR TREK
So I realize that Star Trek does not quite keep with the feel of this post, what with not being a Christian book and all. But I simply love this movie, and when I unwrapped it Christmas morning (my wife knows me all too well), I decided to throw it in here as an encore for good measure.