Sunday, November 27, 2016

Book Recommendations for Deep Reading

Hands of one of our church kids

The two best books I read in 2016.

The Faith of Christopher Hitchens: The Restless Soul of the World's Most Notorious Atheist, by Larry Taunton. Once I began this book I could not put it down. I read the entire thing while crossing Lake Michigan on The Badger. Hitchens was one of the notorious "Four Horsemen" of the new atheism (now old and fading, by the way). When Hitchens died I felt sad. After reading this book I now understand why I felt that way.

Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk In a Digital Age, by Sherry Turkle. Few people know more about the effect social media is having on culture. I learned so much from reading her book. Every Christian leader needs to read it. Her chapter on "Solitude" as the entrĂ©e to authentic communication re-confirmed what I am writing about in my phenomenology of spiritual transformation.

Other notables...

How to Survive the Apocalypse: Zombies, Cylons, Faith, and Politics at the end of the World, by Robert Joustra and Alicia Wilkinson. One of my hobbies is studying dystopian and apocalyptic art and literature. I especially like how Joustra utilizes the secularization theories of Charles Taylor and James K. A, Smith as hermeneutical tools in dissecting zombies and the meaning of their current proliferation.

Existential Reasons for Belief in God: A Defense of Desires and Emotions for Faith, by Clifford Williams. While it is true that I have taught logic at our local college for many years, it is also true that I have never believed that reality could be fully captured in the steel nets of logic. Williams's book is a needed antidote for all of us who may have over-focused on evidential reasons for belief.

The Unnecessary Pastor: Rediscovering the Call, by Eugene Peterson and Marva Dawn. Linda and I are currently reading everything by Eugene Peterson. He is a prophet for our times, to the church. The first chapter in this book will be enough to do you in.

The Apologetics of Joy: A Case for the Existence of God from C.S. Lewis's Argument from Desire, by Joe Puckett. If you want to understand what is going on behind the scenes in Lewis's writings, then this book is for you. Lewis's argument from desire for God's existence is resurrected. Years ago I read literature debunking Lewis, such as John Beversluis's book. Puckett handles all objections, and makes sense of the idea that our deepest longings and desires only make sense if there is the possibility of their fulfillment.

The Theology of Dallas Willard: Discovering Protoevangelical Faith, by Gary Black. Dallas Willard exemplifies a number of things I admire. He is a passionate lover of Jesus, embraces the spiritual disciplines as ways of abiding in Christ, is a brilliant academic philosopher, and is able to write in such a way that deep, difficult ideas achieve a clarity to the common person. This is the book to read, after reading Willard himself. The first chapter was amazing for me as it situated Willard in church history in such a way that I wrote in my journal these words - "I finally see where my theological place is."

Reviving Old Scratch: Demons and the Devil for Doubters and the Disenchanted, by Richard Beck. Beck shows how the "Scooby-Doo-ification" of culture has come to rule (yes, that's what he says), and what it looks like in this culture to believe in Satan and the reality of spiritual warfare. Note again the current influence of Canadian Roman Catholic philosopher Charles Taylor.

I am currently reading...

The Language Animal: The Full Shape of the Human Linguistic Capacity, by Charles Taylor. Currently, Taylor's writing and ideas are huge. I'm using, e.g., Taylor's views on the Sapir-Whorff hypothesis in my coming book on the Presence-Driven Church.

Spirit Hermeneutics: Reading Scripture in Light of Pentecost, by Craig Keener. This is an amazing, one-of-a-kind book on the importance of the experience of God's Spirit in interpreting Spirit-inspired Scripture. 

Mystics, by William Harmless. I've done research on Christian mysticism for decades, dating back to doctoral work I did at Northwestern University with Richard Kieckhefer (Meister Eckhart, Medieval mystical theology, et. al.). This is a very good, readable book that begins with a nice section on Thomas Merton. I'll be including material on non-discursive experience and the presence of God in my forthcoming book on church leadership. ($1.99 for your Kindle!)

The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race, by Willie James Jennings. My friend Vernon Mason teaches a course entitled "Black Lives Matter" at New York Theological Seminary. This is one of his required readings. This is a deep book that aims at nothing less than gaining understanding and awareness for the sake of transforming Christian communities.

NIV Cultural Studies Background Bible, by Craig Keener and John Walton. This is the buy of the year - only $3.99 (today) for your Kindle. Keener (New Testament) and Walton (Old Testament) are two of our greatest scholars. N. T. Wright says, "How I wish someone had put a book like this into my hands 50 years ago."

Good Night Loon, by Abe Sauer and Nathaniel Davauer. Good Night Moon was one of my favorites to read to my boys when they were little. When I saw this book in a store and read it I knew I needed to buy it, since I come from the loon country of Michigan's Upper Peninsula. A quick read, a quick re-read, just before bed time.  

One more....

Coming in 2017...

Leading the Presence-Driven Church, by John Piippo.