Friday, September 19, 2008

Book notes

I haven't had time to update my book list on the sidebar, so here's just a few quick scribblings on some books I read recently.

Spiritual Birthline - Stephen Smallman
A little book about conversion and evangelism. Smallman assumes a Reformed understanding of the entire process of new birth, although he isn't too particular about terms. He thinks this is a much more helpful way to think about conversion, which is a healing balm particularly for those never really had a "spiritual" or "crisis" moment which led to them being Christian. He then develops the idea of us being "spiritual midwives" in our evangelism. God may use us to help someone in various stages of their journey towards God. There's plenty of stories, and I found this helpful especially as I considered the many people I have met and their diverse responses to the gospel. Oh, and you don't have to be Calvinist in your beliefs to appreciate it. Hey, it's not everyday you find a book recommended by both Justin Taylor and Scot McKnight!

The Reason for God - Tim Keller
This wasn't my copy, so I read through it speedily. I have nothing to add that hasn't been said already. Great book, especially for educated urbanites. The first half of the book deals with common objections to the Christian faith in a winsome manner, but the second half of the book was what particularly stood out for me. There, Keller seeks to put forward a positive case for Christianity (as opposed to merely defending it), and it was very, very well-done. I will certainly consider getting my own copy.

Promoting the Gospel - John Dickson.
Again, not my copy, so read through it even more speedily than Keller above. I'm certainly keen to reread this one again. I was pleasantly surprised by it, as Dickson shows how we can promote the gospel not just with words, but with prayer, money, Christian living etc. and backed it up with exegesis. I'm rapidly becoming a big fan of Dickson, if only because it's not easy to find someone who writes with simplicity and depth.

Showing the Spirit - D.A Carson
I recently got a great deal and managed to pick up some books for £1-2 each, and this is one of them! Written in the late 80s; basically a commentary on 1 Corinthians 12-14 with an eye on the charismatic/non-charismatic debate. Carson is always even-handed and shows where both camps err. He's not afraid to take cessationists to task and often cites Max Turner, a charismatic scholar, approvingly, although he also warns against the excesses of the "signs-and-wonders" movement. The context being John Wimber and Vineyard, I think. This book, I suspect, did a good job of initially paving the way forward so that today, it is no longer oxymoronic to find "Reformed charismatics".

Death of a Red Heroine - Qiu Xiaolong
This is the first in a series featuring the poetry-quoting Inspector Chen and set in Shanghai, and won a prestigious crime novel award. So I thought I'll have a look, especially as I needed to scratch my crime novel itch. As it (unsurprisingly) turns out, this is much more than a murder mystery, it's a portrait of the changing face of modern China and the underlying tensions. I enjoyed it, and certainly wouldn't mind picking up another in this series.

Some books I'm looking forward to:
Don't Stop Believing - Michael Wittmer
Will be out in December, hopefully. Loved Wittmer's first book, Heaven is a Place on Earth, and this one looks promising, as he tackles the need for right belief and right practice.

Jesus wants to save Christians - Rob Bell and Don Golden
I haven't read any Bell, partly because I have limited time and money and so I need to proritise, i.e not be consumed with reading those whom I suspect I will fundamentally disagree with. (Btw, if you're looking for good reviews of his previous books, Ben Witherington has some good ones, just google them)

Still, I'm intrigued by his latest because I understand that he's popularising the "New Exodus" theme. I remember in my Bible studies in Mark being quite taken with how the New Testament alludes to the Old so often, and the Exodus in particular being quite a useful lens to read certain passages, but I don't know enough to comment on it intelligently. Nevertheless, I suspect some take this hermeneutical key too far in the way they apply it to our immediate socio-political concerns. Am not saying Bell does this, but it would be interesting to see his take on it.

There are others too, but will stop here, because I am aware that what I need with my reading habits is not more breadth but depth!

Btw, does anyone know of a good basic Christian book on work? Some that has been suggested so far to me include Tim Chester's Busy Christian's Guide to Busyness and John Beckett's Mastering Monday; Ian Coffey's Working it Out, new from IVP, could be worth a look as well. Thanks!

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Blogger pearlie said...

Wow ... where do you find the time :) that is great - I am doing poorly in this respect.

10:35 am  
Blogger BK said...

well, this is over the last 2 months, not weeks! :) Most of it was in early-mid August where I had some free time still. Plus, I read Keller and Dickson far quicker than I should have.

I'm usually too tired now to tackle most books. Qiu Xiaolong served as my bedtime reading for the last fortnight though, which was great.

8:43 pm  
Anonymous said...

If you're interested in Michael Wittmer he's been posting on his own blog and he's also been on the "Don't Stop Believing by Michael Wittmer" facebook group.

Check it out!

2:11 pm  

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