Friday, July 13, 2018

Book Recommendations for Deep Reading

Hands of one of our church kids

I am currently reading or have recently read...

Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business, and Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology, by former New York University communications professor Neil Postman. These are well-known books. I finally got them this summer, and could not put them down. Anyone interested in the Romans 12:2 idea of not being shaped by world culture should read Postman, learn much from it, and shudder.

At the Existentialist Cafe: Freedom, Being, and Apricot Cocktails with Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Albert Camus, Martin Heidegger, Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Others, by Sarah Bakewell. Finally, I've been able to sit down with this book! An excellent, deeply contextual telling of the story of how Husserl's phenomenology led to the existentialism of Sartre and Heidegger, which helps us better understand Postmodernism and Deconstruction.

The Case for Miracles: A Journalist Investigates Evidence for the Supernatural, by Lee Strobel. Linda and I could not put this book down. Includes (another) through debunking of Hume's argument against miracles; several credible, moving testimonies of miracles; and a hard, beautiful interview with theistic philosopher Doug Groothuis.

Even in Our Darkness: A Story of Beauty in a Broken Life, by Jack Deere. We could not put this book down either.

Understanding Sexual Identity: A Resource for Youth Ministry, and Understanding Gender Dysphoria: Navigating Transgender Issues in a Changing Culture, by Robert Yarhouse. Yarhouse is perhaps the best resource for understanding and responding out of a Christian framework. Our staff is read the first book together and discussing. For a taste, see Scot McKnight's recent interview with Yarhouse. 

The Meaning of Life: A Very Short Introduction, by Terry Eagelton. For those of us who collect resources on the "meaning of life" issue, this book is a must-read.

Costly Love: The Way to True Unity for All the Followers of Jesus, by John Armstrong. In John 17 Jesus prayed that his followers would be one, in unity, and like the Trinitarian being of God. John Armstrong powerfully calls us to go after this, and gives us a path to walk on. John graciously introduced himself to me, and we met up last summer at a Starbucks in the Chicago area. 

We Are Data: Algorithms and the Making of Our Digital Selves, by John Cheney-Lippold. I got a hard copy of this for Father's Day. Algorithmically, there is no enduring, Platonic-type self.
Other recommendations...

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 (again). 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.

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 over-focus 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.

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

Cross Vision: How the Crucifixion of Jesus Makes Sense of Old Testament Violence, by Greg Boyd. My suggestion: Read this before you read Greg's two-volume The Crucifixion of the Warrior God.

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." 

Advancing Your Photography: Secrets to Amazing Photos from the Masters, and The Secrets to Creating Amazing Photos: 83 Composition Tools from the Masters, both by Marc Silber. The best book on photography may be The Art of Photography: An Approach to Personal Expression, by Bruce Barnbaum. I've got a hard copy of this amazing, deep book, and peridodically read brief sections. My go-to website is photographer Ken Rockwell.

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.  

Two more....