Folks – this my long overdue reading long for the month of January. I’ve spent the last two weeks in a doctorate ministry of seminary (notice the lack of posts). It kept me insanely busy … but it’s over. Here’s a rundown of the 7 books I read in January. Happy reading.
The Gospel in a Pluralist Society by Lesslie Newbigin
This was required reading for my doctorate of ministry seminar that I just completed. The seminar dealt with the theology of the church. This book was a great addition to the discussion. Newbigin’s work is now considered a modern classic (published in 1989). In fact, during our seminar we attended a lecture in which the presenter (not affiliated with our seminar) listed this book as a must read for everyone …. period.
Newbigin’s work was ahead of its time and, in fact, I believe we are still working to catch up with much of the discussion contained in these pages. He deals with the roots of pluralism and the distinction between knowing and believing. He discusses authority, autonomy and tradition. He provides great insight to revelation in history and the logic of mission. He also provides incredibly helpful thoughts on the gospel and other world religions.
This book is not an easy read. It is dense but practical. The hardest thing about the book is that is truly one elongated argument. You never feel like you have a grasp on the author’s intent until you reach the final pages. It’s worth your time.
To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World by James Davison Hunter
This was also required reading for my D Min seminar. I found this book fascinating but argued and disagreed with much of it. You should have witnessed my discussion of it during the class!
Hunter is a sociologist at heart and it shows on almost every page. The book is a primer on cultural change. He discusses ways in which culture does change and spends much time directing ways in which culture does not change. Hunter does this mainly by looking at the approaches of the Christian left, the Christian right, and Neo-Anabaptist. In the end, he critiques them all in favor of an approach he calls “faithful presence.”
In short, Hunter does not belief that grassroots efforts “to change the world” are effective. Rather, he argues that culture is changed by a social elites working within an influential structure. He believes that Christians should abandon the aim to change the world and merely look to have a faithful presence in our current sphere of influence. I resonate with Hunter premise but push back at many points. I’m unwilling to give up on the power of the local church. Through preaching and living the gospel I believe the local church can have tremendous impact – in the community, in the county, in the state, and across the world.
The Community of the Word: Toward and Evangelical Ecclesiology edited by Mark Husbands and Daniel Treier
This book was the final book I read for my D Min seminar. I should not have read this last because it was brutal. Absolutely brutal.
This volume is a collection of essays generated from a conference held at Wheaton in 2004. The genesis of the book is made apparent in the disintegrated nature of the contributions. Yet, each essay plays a part in attempting to discover whether an evangelical doctrine of the churches exists, or if an evangelical doctrine of the church is even possible.
I would argue, the term “evangelical” describes a “big tent” and defining a more detailed ecclesiology inevitable leads to a “small tent” theology and ecclesiology that is no longer evangelical but more like a denominational preference for church structure. After reading this collection my thoughts are even further placed in stone. Many of the contributors criticize evangelicalism for placing mission and evangelism above ecclesiology. I believe that this emphasis on mission and evangelism is what allows for a big tent theology in which churches with vastly different ecclesiological thought can unite.
Adjustment Team by Philip Dick
I’m a bit ashamed to classify this as a book. In reality this is a bind up of a short story. It is merely 43 pages in the edition that I purchased. Yet, 43 great pages.
Philip Dick is a legend in the world of science fiction. Many of his stories have been converted into Hollywood blockbuster movies: Total Recall, Minority Report, Blade Runner, Paycheck to name a few.
I purchased this book after rewatching the movie The Adjustment Bureau, a wonderful movie packed with theology. You must watch the movie with someone and then discuss the doctrine of God that the movie promotes. Fun times. At the end of Adjustment Bureau a small note appears stating the film was based on Dick’s short story Adjustment Team. After seeing the note I quickly went to my computer and clicked “purchase.”
This story is so short that I don’t want to ruin it for you by revealing any part of it. The title gives enough away.
Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner
I first read this book when it exploded in 2005. I was a recent business school graduate and this book was all the rage. I enjoyed it then and enjoyed it even more now.
It is filled with fun snippets told in a way that reveals quirky and interesting information and ideas. It is much like a Malcolm Gladwell book if you are familiar with his work. As a preacher, this type of book is gold. It is filled with fascinating stories that easily grab your attention. They make great conversation starters and often force you to think in new ways.
Particularly fascinating to me in this book: the discussion on guns and abortion. The authors look at the economic factors behind the purchase of guns and increases in abortion rates. I won’t spoil anything – you’ll have to read it for yourself.
Platform: Get Noticed In A Noisy World (A Step-by-step Guide for Anyone With Something to Say or Sell) by Michael Hyatt
I read this book because it was recommend to me by many people. They say would say, “Hey, I love your blog. You should read Platform.” I would nod my head as if I was considering the recommendation. I eventually gave in … knowing that I would not like the book. Guess what? I did not like the book.
The content of the book – pretty basic. Its a simple step-by-step approach to increase blog traffic, promote yourself, and create a brand. Do I want people to read my blog? Sure – but I’m not interested in creating a campaign to drive readership. Do I want to promote myself and create a brand? No – not at all.
If your looking for a book to help you launch your website, brand, or self-promotion this might be a introductory level primer of interest.
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
This book has an absolute cult following. It is raved about in many different circles … book communities, gamer communities, science fiction communities. I’ve heard the hype but knew it was not a book of great interest to me. That is until the news was released that Stephen Spielberg has been named as the director for the film adaptation of the book. I always enjoy reading a book before it is made into the film for the big screen.
This book has an interesting premise. It is the year 2044 and people spend most of their time in a virtual utopia known as OASIS. When the creator of OASIS dies he leaves his fortune to the person who is able to make it through a series of puzzles and clues within the virtual reality. A massive onslaught of gamers attempt to solves clues hidden within the creator’s obsession with 80’s culture.
The book is heavy on 80’s culture, video games, and crudeness. I enjoyed the 80’s references, put up with the video games, and despised the crudeness.