This month has been rather productive when it comes to books. It could be that I work in a book store now, or that the end of the semester allowed me to read for pleasure, or something else altogether. I wanted to list and give a snapshot of the books I have read this month, and my hope is that one of these will be intriguing to you, that you will pursue it, read it, and grow.
The Pastor as Scholar and The Scholar as Pastor by John Piper and D.A. Carson. I have written a review of this little book, so I will not say much about it. It is a refreshing look at the office of pastor and scholar from two perspectives: the pastor from the perspective of John Piper, and the scholar from the perspective of D.A. Carson. If you are not familiar with these two names, I would highly suggest you find any of their books, used or new, and devour them. These two giants have been a great, enlightening resource for my faith.
Calvinism in the Las Vegas Airport by Richard J. Mouw. This slim, hardcover book is a pastoral approach to sharing the hard saying of Calvinism. Generally, Mouw writes with ease and clarity, though I found in this book, I wanted more. Mouw would leave his thoughts and begin anew without covering important information. For example, “God ordains/permits everything that comes to pass, but we don’t simply have to accept that fact” (italics original, 51). There are a couple things wrong with that sentence, first he equates “ordains” and “permits” and theologically they are two separate categories. Ordain is in the realm of sovereignty, things come to pass because God makes them. Permit is in the realm of omniscience, God knows all things that will come to pass and He merely lets them. The second complaint I have, is that Mouw says this is a pastoral thing to say and ends the paragraph jumping to a new topic. I don’t know about you, but if my pastor told me that, I would not be comforted. All in all, it is a decent book and covers the acronym TULIP rather well.
Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself by Joe Thorn. Thorn wrote this book with primary audience being pastors, though reading through it, I realized any Christian can enjoy and learn from the pages. Thorn approaches this “preaching to yourself” as if you are writing notes to yourself. Each note is about two pages long and begins, “Dear Self,”. There are 48 notes, and reading one a day is not a problem because they are only two pages. The notes range from, Love, Endurance, Seeking God, Loving Wife/Husband, Honoring Parents, Evangelizing, Repentance, Work, and so on. Thorn remains true to the biblical text and begins each note with a passage from Scripture, I highly recommend buying this book, it is a resource that can stretch many years.
The End of Words: The Language of Reconciliation in a Culture of Violence by Richard Lischer. Lischer is the professor of preaching at Duke Divinity school, and he writes like it. This guy knows how to craft a sentence to drive a point home. If you are looking for a challenging book that engages the mind, this is a go to. Lischer’s concern is for the preacher who sends a message with the spoken word, and his goal is to show that that is still the best way to communicate to God’s people in the digital, violent age. I will share a great sentence with you, and if you want more, go buy the book. “Preaching bears the impossible weight of its own message, which is God’s willingness to be pushed out of the world and onto a cross” (8).
Letters to a Young Calvinist by James K. A. Smith. Written in letter format from a mentor to a new Christian Calvinist, Smith puts the doctrines of Calvinism in a new light readily available for any reader. All to often when people hear the word, “Calvinism” they think “predestination” and though that is part of the doctrine, one should begin with God’s grace, and Smith does this well. In 127 pages there is a brief history of the Reformed faith from Augustine to Jonathan Edwards, a great suggested reading list, and a pastoral approach to sharing Calvinism in this post-modern era. It is a quick read, and I recommend buying it if you are interested in an overview of Calvinism.
Desire and Deceit: The Real Cost of the New Sexual Tolerance by R. Albert Mohler Jr. This survey of contemporary culture and its abuse and overuse of sex is enlightening and frightening. Mohler runs the gamut, covering pornography, homosexuality, lust, film, and polymorphous perversity. To get a grasp on that last one, pick the book up. One chapter in this text shed some light on male friendships for me. Mohler writes that the cultural acceptance of homosexuality has killed intimate male friendships. If you know The Lord of the Rings, then you know that Frodo and Sam are extremely close, they are intimate, but not in a sexual manner. They hold one another, they cry together, and they overcome together. Mohler suggests that two men can no longer have a relationship like that because there is the cultural presence of homosexuality lurking in everyone’s mind. Abraham Lincoln and his best friend used to sleep in the same bed together, but no one thought anything of it, and rightly so because they were merely friends. Today, two men in one bed, you cannot help but think that they are homosexual. I admit that this culture presence has affected a few relationships with very close friends. We could not be close in an intimate way, because of the culture, and this truly is a shame. Read this book.
Think by John Piper. The smallest title, but the biggest punch. Piper explores Scripture showing his readers how a life of the mind and the life of the heart are a both-and, not an either-or. To glorify God in the surest way possible, one must use both the mind and the heart. Piper uses plenty of Scripture and does so in an easy to understand way. His image of head and heart is that of feeding the fire. The mind feeds the fire of the heart, and I wholeheartedly agree, after thinking about it (get it?). Piper also contends with the post-modern notion of moral relativism, which says, “morals are relative, what works for you does not necessarily work for me”. To be honest, Piper rips this to shreds, and shows how entirely unloving and untrue it really it is. This is a must have for any reader of Scripture that wishes to engage their mind to fuel their heart.
I hope to continue posting each month, the books I have read. Not to boast, but to offer to like minded people some wonderful texts they might not have been aware of. Some months will have more books, some less. I hope that you choose one of these and run with it.