Nurturing the Heart & Mind of the Christian (Lawyer): Books Old and New. A handout from a workshop at Christian Legal Society, October 2012.


At a recent workshop I did for a group of Christian lawyers and spouses, one participantbyron portrait.jpg quipped that they sure got their money's worth---I preached for an hour about why reading is important so we can think and live Christianly, and I went over a massive bibliography.  I thought I'd share that biblio with you here. I wish I could somehow tell you all about each of these books; my brief annotations don't do them justice, and some are very, very special books. 


This short essay and long bibliography hopefully will be of interest even now, for any readers who enjoy seeing some of the resources we promote when we are out on the road.  Granted, we custom designed this for the interests and dispositions ocls booklet.jpg that particular gathering (especially the books at the end of law and lawyering) but we trust you will like looking over it.  Sorry we didn't list the prices. Email us at read@heartsandmindsbooks or use the website inquiry page if you have any questions.


You may order any of these at 20% off. Use the order form link at the end.




                                                                                                                   The CLS conference proceedings book with a quote by Abraham Kuyper




Nurturing the Heart & Mind of the Christian Lawyer:

Helpful Books, Old and New

Christian Legal Society

Colorado Springs, CO

October 2012


Being Sons & Daughters of Issachar (I Chronicles 12:32)


We must consider what many observe as an ongoing weakness, if not a crisis, of the faithful relevance of evangelical discipleship in twenty-first century culture.  There are pressures from the culture--change, choice, speed, technology--and weaknesses from within, even for those who sincerely affirm the Lordship of Christ and count "the cost of discipleship."   Still, too often, as Richard Foster writes in his classic Celebration of Discipline, our age is defined by the "curse of superficiality."

 

Cultural critics have reminded us of the secularizing forces of modernity For a fancifully-written but trenchant analysis see Os Guinness' novel, The Last Christian On Earth:  Uncovering the Enemy's Plot to Undermine the Church (Regal.) Neil Postman prophetically exposed our trivializing tendencies in Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in an Age of Show Business (Penguin.)  Perhaps the most important book along these lines in recent years has been The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brain by Nicholas Carr (Norton & Company. )  A more positive view is offered by Leonard Sweet in his recent Viral: How Social Networking is Poised to Ignite Revival (Waterbrook.) These studies alert us to the cultural context where it is easy to not think as deeply or live as wisely as we might.  Attention to this will help us be "in the world but not of it" knowing how to wisely proclaim that Christ is Lord of "every square inch" of His creation.

 

THREE PROBLEMS

 

1.     Crisis of compartmentalization (dualism)

2.     Crisis of erosion of the Christian mind (anti-intellectualism)

3.     Crisis of cultural captivity (accommodation/ideology) 

 

These problems contribute to a crisis of vocational distinctiveness and innovative faithfulness in public life generally, and the work-world specifically.  Some may describe this as a failure to robustly embody uniquely Christian ways of practicing one's career, related to a thin view of integrating faith and thinking. 

 

THREE (PARTIAL) SOLUTIONS

 

1.     Reading widely:        God cares about all of life.

2.     Reading seriously:    God wants us to learn much.

3.     Reading attentively:  God calls us to be discerning.

 

Such wide reading helps us realize that all of life is being redeemed in Christ, that we can witness to His grace and point towards His Kingdom most fruitfully as we live out a uniquely Christian perspective in our callings and careers.  An integrated Christian way of working and living requires a framework, a foundation, a coherent narrative, which some call an intentionally Christian worldview.  Reading faithfully is one tool for developing a Christian worldview, way of life, and normative way of working.  In order to grow in such faithfulness, we must see ourselves as life-long learners.

 

WORLDVIEW


Heaven is a Place on Earth: Why Everything You Do Matters to God  Michael Wittmer (Zondervan)  One of the most accessible, practical and enjoyable books on a Christian worldview.  A great book for those new to this approach.

 

Creation Regained: Towards a Reformational Worldview (Eerdmans) Nearly a classic, very influential; very Biblical, showing how a Christian way of seeing life must recall the goodness of creation, the seriousness of the fall, and the broad scope of Christ's redemption.

 

The Transforming Vision: Developing a Christian Worldview Brian J. Walsh & Richard Middleton (IVP) The history of dualism, the rise of secularization, the idols of the age, and a feisty, wholistic Christian agenda... follow this up with their provocative Truth is Stranger Than It Used to Be: Biblical Faith in a Postmodern Age (IVP.)

 

(Re)Thinking Worldview: Learning to Think, Live and Speak in This World J. Mark Bertrand (Crossway)  Bertrand is a close pal of CLS emcee Michael Schutt---and he's written three gritty detective novels!  A wonderful contribution to the field of worldview studies...

 

Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity  Nancy Pearcey (Crossway)  Magisterial, perhaps a bit more philosophical than some, tracing the rise of the dichotomy between facts and values, and how our dualisms erode Christian conviction as public truth.  Are secular gatekeepers using this as a strategy to banish Biblical truth? Are Christians themselves guilty of hold a merely subjective faith?  Some say Pearcey is the Francis Schaeffer of our time.

 

Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview and Cultural Formation  James K.A. Smith (Baker)  One of the most talked-about worldview books in years, this is the first of what will be a three part series. (The much-anticipated sequel, Imagining the Kingdom: How Worship Works will release in February 2013.)  This is a fabulously rich rumination on how worldviews are not merely constellations of intellectual notions, but are imagined and lived out, largely informed by our deepest desires, which are shaped by our rituals/habits.  Perhaps our ubiquitous secularizing rituals have formed us more than our rather thin and inconsequential worship liturgies...

 

Many Colors: Cultural Intelligence for a Changing Church Soong-Chan Rah (Moody) There is little doubt that our ethnic background and relationships with those of other races has a profound and often unconscious influence of how we see the world.  This explores cross cultural concerns and is a helpful survey of this complex and interesting matter.  Read his excellent first book The Next Evangelicalism: Freeing the Church from Western Cultural Captivity (IVP)

 

Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Blinders to Better Understand the Bible E. Randolph Richards & Brandon J. O'Brien (IVP) Brand new, this provocative study--drawing on the insight of Rah's first book about "Western Cultural Captivity" perhaps--this shows how we too often read into the Bible our own (Western) cultural bias.  This is a worldview expanding experiment, helping us not only see our own "cultural blinders" but allowing us to read the Bible more honestly and fruitfully. Wow.

 

VOCATION AND CALLING


The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose in Your Life

Os Guinness (W Publishing Group)  One of my all time favorite books, this is richly written, thoughtful, and very inspiring. Christ calls us so decisively that it effects all that we are and all that we do.  A must-read.

 

A Journey Worth Taking: Finding Your Purpose in This World Charles Drew (Presbyterian & Reformed) Informed by the same vision as Guinness about the need for a thoughtful doctrine of vocation and calling, this is more systematically developed following the unfolding Biblical themes of creation, fall and redemption. Excellent.

 

Your Work Matters to God Doug Sherman & William Hendrickson (NavPress)  For years, this has been my go-to book, inviting Christians to a profound approach to our callings in the marketplace. Very well done.

 

Work Matters: Connecting Sunday Worship to Monday Work Tom Nelson (Crossway) Written by a pastor who expertly equips his congregation to serve God in their various occupations and professions.  Since it was published just one year ago it has become one of the most popular and esteemed books on the subject.  Sidebars tell of several workers in different careers at his church (including a lawyer) explaining how they related worship and work.  Very highly recommended.

 

How Then Shall We Work? Rediscovering the Biblical Doctrine of Work Hugh Whelchel (Westbow Press)  Whelchel has served for decades in the business world and then became director of the Washington DC branch of Reformed Theological Seminary.  This is a theologically robust example of a worldviewish sort of Calvinism that is well-rooted in the Biblical narrative that anticipates the restoration of all creation and affirms the essential dignity of work. Short, no-nonsense, and remarkably clear.   Love it.

 

Work Matters: Lessons from Scripture Paul R. Stevens (Eerdmans) Stevens is a master of this topic, having published many books on the interface of faith and the marketplace, Christianity and work, the role of the laity, etc.  In his insightful hands, these "jobs in the Bible" come alive, profound, insightful, useful.  Very, very good.  Read any of his many books!

 

Kingdom Calling: Vocational Stewardship for the Common Good  Amy L. Sherman (IVP) No book explores the ways in which a serious approach to vocation can equip us to make a difference in the world as thoroughly and thoughtfully as this.  Sherman explores four "avenues" or levels of how to serve God in one's career, making sure that our best efforts are, indeed, serving others and being a blessing.  A moving afterward by Steve Garber.  Highly recommended for those who mean business!

 

Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God's Work Timothy Keller with Katherine Leary Alsdorf (Dutton) Not yet released, due November 2012  This soon to be released book is already gathering quite a lot of anticipation.  Keller makes a good case explaining God's intention for people to work, on His behalf,  serving and sustaining the common good.  He will give solid Biblical and theological foundations for marketplace mission and, in the practical second half, offer helpful observations and guidance for keeping faith in the work-world.  I've seen most of this already and very highly recommend it. 

 

CHRISTIAN MIND


The Mind of God James Emory White (IVP)  I love this wonderful little book, and re-read it often.  Inspiring, handsome, full of insight and encouragement.

 

Your Mind's Mission  Greg Jao (IVP) This not yet released inexpensive booklet -- due out in December 2012 -- is a beautifully written invitation to the life of the mind, teaching us to use our thinking and scholarship in missional ways for God's glory and the world's good.  Our bookstore is mentioned, so we're particularly pleased to tell you about it.  Short, insightful, and very useful for students or anyone wanting an overview of the call to use our mind in Christian ways.

 

Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God  John Piper (Crossway)  A very thoughtful, passionate call to think well for the glory of God, to avoid the temptations of the life of the mind, and to redouble our efforts to think well and faithfully.

 

Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind  Mark Noll (Eerdmans) The long-awaited  serious follow-up to the seminal Scandal of the Evangelical Mind.  Beautiful and stimulating, asking precisely what our theology about Jesus has to say to the project of nurturing the Christian mind.

 

Philosophy: A Student's Guide David Naugle (Crossway) This is the best brief overview of the need for a Christ-honoring strategy of integrating faith and learning, essential for learners of all sorts.  Very wise and truly enlightening.

 

Life, God and Other Small Topics: Conversations from Socrates in the City  Eric Metaxas (Plume)  Just out in paperback, this wonderful anthology (previously released as Socrates in the City) brings together some of the finest Christian intellectuals of our time, offering insightful pieces about the coherence of Christian conviction. Authors include Alister McGrath, N.T. Wright, Sir John Polkinghorne, Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, Os Guinness, Jean Bethke Elshtain, and others... (Guess who has a blurb on the back?)

 

Wisdom and Wonder: Common Grace in Science and Art Abraham Kuyper (Christian Library Press)  Newly translated from the Dutch, these essays were written by the famous Dutch pastor, journalist and statesman about how the doctrine of common grace offers a unique way to approach both the arts and the sciences.  Important stuff!  A great introduction by Wheaton College's  Vincent Bacote. Kuyper, as you know by now, spoke the "every square inch" line on your conference proceedings book.

 

CULTURAL ENGAGEMENT


The Next Christians: Seven Ways You Can Live the Gospel and Restore the World Gabe Lyons (Multnomah)  The first half of this upbeat book explains the ways a more wholistic and nonpartisan vision of the Kingdom can help us avoid the distractions of the culture wars and the second half makes a case for seven key shifts that younger evangelicals seem to care deeply about.  This book is important for the bell-weather shifts it helpfully explains, and, I believe, because it is truly Biblically faithful.  We indeed need to hear these concerns and embrace this vision of being God's agents for cultural restoration.

 

You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church...and Rethinking Faith David Kinnaman (Baker) After the research done for his important book Unchristian, this fine author, head of the Barna Group, offers conclusions drawn about how to keep young adults involved in church and faith.  Really interesting and exceptionally important for most churches, wishing to keep our 20-something engaged and faithful. 

 

A Public Faith: How Followers of Christ Should Serve the Common Good Miroslov  Volf (Baker) Volf is one of the more popular theologians working today and these lectures wonderfully capture the need to be involved in faithful Christian witness even as we recognize the quandaries of pluralism.  Highly recommended. For a lovely and profound collection of short essays by Volf, see his Against the Tide: Love in a Time of Petty Dreams and Persisting Enmities (Eerdmans.)

 

Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling Andy Crouch (IVP) If you haven't read this yet, you owe it to yourself to consider his call to honor the joys of taking up the cultural mandate and reflecting more intentionally the image of our creative God.  The section evaluating various postures towards culture (just critiquing? merely copying?) is worth the price of the book.

 

The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement David Brooks (Random House) Brooks, as you surely know, is one of our best and most balanced pundits and he here offers a novel--with tons of excursions into social research---pondering what causes human happiness.  One of the most interesting and insightful books of recent years.  What a fun and compelling way to learn!

 

Abraham Kuyper: A Short and Personal Introduction  Richard Mouw (Eerdmans)  Mouw is a gracious and clear writer and here he tells why discovering this Dutch theologian of the ninteenth century, a social critic (and Prime Minister) was a life-saver for him.  The best simple explanation of Kuyperianism --- very highly recommended!   This is the guy, you know, who preached that Christ claims "every square inch" of his creation.  I love this little book, and am grateful for Mouw's contribution.

 

Unfashionable: Making a Difference in the World by Being Different Tullian Tchividjian (Multnomah) What a wonderful, wonderful study, challenging and yet hopeful.  Perhaps we ought not too quickly attempt to be relevant; maybe the best thing we can do is be unfashionable.  A powerful critique of cultural accommodation and less than principled ways of engaging the world. 

 

To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christian Faith in the Late Modern World Davidson Hunter (Oxford University Press)  Again, this is a much-discussed and often-debated book about how best to embody a "faithful presence" in the workplace as a way to slowly and effectively bring God's hope to a hurting culture.  Erudite, significant.

 

Incarnational Humanism: A Philosophy of Culture for the Church in the World Jens Zimmerman  (IVP Academic) One of the most rigorous, thoughtful, interesting, and helpful studies of this sort.  What a fabulous example of mature Christian considerations, invoking "Christian humanism" as a helpful way to appreciate a redemptive sort of attention to God's world.

 

Unspeakable: Facing Up to the Challenge of Evil  Os Guinness (HarperOne)  One can hardly talk about witnessing in the real world or engaging culture without giving some coherent account of suffering and evil, how to understand it, and what to do about it.  One of the best studies about this, eloquent and honest, deep and yet very engaging. 

 

Evil and the Justice of God  N.T. Wright (IVP)  Again, any effective and faithful approach to living out the social implications of the gospel simply must relate to the problem of evil and embrace the brokenness of our times.  Wright is a solid scholar and faithful preacher of the resurrection.  Few have so helpfully related Christ's death and resurrection to this question.

 

The Space Between: A Christian Engagement with the Built Environment Eric O. Jacobsen (Baker Academic)  What a splendid, interesting, helpful, inspiring call to care about our world, the culture we inhabit, and how to "see" things anew.  Does God care about "sidewalks of the Kingdom"?  Should we?  What a tremendous study, teaching us so much about culture, society, lifestyles, worldviews, and Christ's invitation to live in ways that enhance true community.  Very highly recommended.  Part of a series of books called "Cultural Exegesis."

 

SPIRITUAL FORMATION


Reordered Love Reordered Lives: Learning the Deep Meaning of Happiness  David Naugle (Eerdmans)  What does it mean to love the right things, in the right way?  Can we be happy as we allow God to change our desires and give us the right priorities.  I think this is one of the great books of recent years, one that should be better known among us. Naugle writes out of a very intentional, distinctively Christian worldview, with a keen awareness of the importance of our interior lives.  Wonderful.

 

Fabric of Faithfulness: Weaving Together Belief and Behavior Steven Garber (IVP) Garber did advanced scholarship researching how young adults apply what they know, how we take advantage of our college experiences, and how new-found faith can be lasting into mid-life and beyond.  With great theological and literary depth he identifies three things that allow learning to last, faith to grow, and belief to be woven together in the whole of life.  A long-time friend of CLS, Garber is the extraordinary director of the Washington Institute for Faith, Vocation, and Culture.

 

A Traveler's Guide to the Kingdom: Journeying Through the Christian Life James Emery White (IVP) White takes us on a virtual journey around the world, teaching an essential Christian truth at each place.  Go with him to the Eagle and the Child,  Billy Graham's NC home, the Ten Boom House in Holland, Chartres Cathedral, Iona Abbey,  Luther's Wittenberg, Dachau, to  and more.  A wonderful way to learn so much, about Christian history, about the world, and about our daily discipleship.

 

Renovation of the Heart: Putting on the Character of Christ Dallas Willard (NavPress) This newly  re-issued paperback is a gem, perhaps his most accessible and useful book.  What does it mean to become transformed into the ways of Christ?

 

Satisfy Your Soul: Restoring the Heart of Christian Spirituality Bruce Demarest (NavPress)  This is another under-appreciated gem, a treasure-chest helping anyone seriously interested in spiritual formation.

 

Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places, Eat This Book, The Jesus Way, Tell It Slant, Practice Resurrection, Eugene Peterson (Eerdmans) All five of these meaty "conversations on spiritual theology" are well worth working through - each illustrates Peterson's profound and mature ways of relating Bible, theology, spirituality and daily discipleship with great insight and a no-nonsense style.  In years to come this set will be considered as among the most important  enduring Christian books of the last decade. If you've never read Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society (IVP) is still his most popular.  Where Your Treasure Is: Psalms That Summon Us From Self to Community (Eerdmans) is a personal favorite.

 

Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation Ruth Haley Barton (IVP) I highly recommend any and everything this wonderful writer does, but this may be my favorite.  One of the best studies of the classic spiritual disciplines, inviting and vital.  See also the companion volume Invitation to Solitude and Silence: Experiencing God's Transforming Presence (IVP.) 

 

Celebration of Discipline and Prayer: Finding the Heart's True Home Richard Foster (HarperOne)  I suppose you know his many books, but these two are the most true and enduring classics.  Read any and all of his, regularly.

 

A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World Paul Miller (NavPress)  I do not list this one just because he is speaking here with us this year---this is our biggest selling book on prayer this year, and certainly in my top three or four books about prayer, ever.  Nicely written, very helpful, mature. Wow.

 

25 Books Every Christian Should Read: A Guide to Essential Spiritual Classics edited and compiled by Richard Foster, Dallas Willard, Phyllis Tickle, and Richard Rohr et al (HarperOne) Foster's Renovare team compiled this very useful resource book helping us all more greatly appreciate some of the best spiritual books of the last 2000 years.  Other contemporary writers chime in with sidebars, interviews and their own eccentric lists making this a book-lovers delight and a reliable guide to years of fruitful devotional reading. Kudos to our friends at this years CLS bookstore for stocking all these books! 

 

JUSTICE


The Little Book of Biblical Justice Chris Marshall (Good Books)  This is as succinct and basic as it gets, with solid, Biblical teaching, quite detailed, full of the nuance of the Bible itself, yet  inexpensive and brief. (75 pages.)  Makes an excellent small group study...

 

Generous Justice: How God's Grace Makes Us Just Timothy Keller (Dutton) Clearly rejecting the tradition which sees evangelical faith concerns about personal salvation and the "social gospel" concerned with only societal reform, Keller insists that the classic doctrine of justification should give us great passion for social justice.  We dare not bifurcate doctrine and action, and true evangelical piety should lead to commitments to care about justice.  Very, very helpful.

 

The Good News About Injustice and Just Courage Gary Haugen (IVP) The International Justice Mission may be one of the most exciting and fruitful international Christian legal organizations of our time. These are foundational, evangelical studies of God's heart for justice and how we can be involved as agents of His healing and reconciliation. Powerful, basic, vital.

 

Compassion, Justice and the Christian Life: Rethinking Ministry to the Poor Robert Lupton (Gospel Light) This thin paperback packs a wallop as it instructs us on how to meaningful engage in advocacy for the poor, standing for justice amidst great need.  She his very moving classic Theirs is the Kingdom: Celebrating the Gospel in Urban America and the important Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help (And How to Reverse It) recently published by HarperOne.

 

The Just Church: Becoming a Risk-taking, Justice-Seeking, Disciple-Making Congregation Jim Martin (Tyndale) Co-published with IJM this is a guidebook moving us "from apathy to action." Passionate and Biblical, this is loaded with helpful examples, ways to take "next steps" and things congregations can do.  Foreword by Gary Haugen.

 

When Helping Hurts: How To Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor  Steve Corbett & Brian Fikkert (Crossway) Seasoned activists explain the ins and outs of serving the poor, reforming social policy, and working in sustainable ways for the good of all.  Very popular, because it is very impressive.

 

Go + Do: Daring to Change the World One Story at a Time  Jay Millbrandt (Tyndale)   Active in CLS activities, this vibrant young leader directs the wonderful Global Justice Program at Pepperdine School of Law.  Great, great stories, helpful motivation and helpful insight.  This is more than just interesting and inspiring, it is remarkable.  As his friend and mentor Bob Goff writes, "Jay is equal parts guts and grit. Go and Do reminds us that we all have an important role to play in transforming the world.  Jay illustrates how you might be surprised what you will accomplish when you take you passions out for a lap around the world."

 

Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion & Truth in the Immigration Debate Matthew Soerens & Jenny Hwang (IVP)  There are only a few Biblically-based and socially relevant books on a Christian view of this vexing issue, and this is my favorite. The authors work with World Relief, the relief and development agency of the National Association of Evangelicals and their work is highly respected. Kudos.

 

Justice: Rights & Wrongs Nicholas Woltersdorff (Princeton University Press) Recently reviewed in the CLS Christian Lawyer journal, this is serious, philosophical stuff, by an eminent Christian philosopher. Anyone called to legal work in any capacity needs to reflect long and hard on the nature of justice, and this scholarly work will help. Important and weighty.  See the vital continuation, deep ruminations called Justice and Love (Eerdmans.)

 

CITIZENSHIP & POLITICS


Uncommon Decency: Christian Civility in an Uncivil World  Richard Mouw (IVP)  I continue to say this is one of my all time favorite (and so very necessary) books, delightfully and reasonably calling for public etiquette, charitable but vibrant public witness, offered with principled civility. If only...

 

The Case for Civility: And Why Our Future Depends On It  Os Guinness (HarperOne) This thoughtful and passionate work goes beyond the obvious call for public manners, but offers a framework and structure, based on the strengths of the American Bill of Rights, for freedom from and freedom for expression of our deepest convictions.  This is an urgent and necessary contribution, an important, balanced perspective.  One need not agree with every detail to recognize the genius of this pluralistic approach.

 

A Free People's Suicide: Sustainable Freedom and the American Future  Os Guinness (IVP) Here, Guinness has finally written out further work on a topic for which he is known, offering a brilliant assessment of the genius of the American framers and the brilliance of the American experiment.  Yet, as he painstakingly shows, to sustain freedom requires certain habits of the heart, civic virtues, including freedom of religion, and the subsequent virtue that emerges from a freely religious people.  This is a civic education essential for freedom to flourish, offered by a Brit who has deep gratitude for, and fears about, the American ideals.

 

Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?  John Fea (Westminster/John Knox) Nominated for the prestigious Washington Prize, it is good to see such balanced, thoughtful scholarship that takes into account the diverse religious convictions of our founders and framers.  Wonderfully written and quite helpful.

 

God and the Constitution: Christianity and American Politics Paul Marshall (Rowman & Littlefield) This great hardback is somewhat mis-titled as it is not really about the Constitution as such.  It is the best overview of a distinctively Christian view of government yet done, relating properly explore Christian principles to contemporary political philosophy in a very balanced way. Very helpful for anyone pondering the role of government and a Biblically-informed view of politics.

 

Political Thought: A Students Guide  Hunter Baker (Crossway) This is another volume in the brief but potent "Reclaiming the Christian Intellectual Tradition" series edited by David Dockery.  Baker, who holds a PhD from Baylor and a JD from the University of Houston, is a dean at Union University.  Here, he succinctly defines the important terms,  explains the basics of political philosophy, offering conservative Christian insight into the classic questions, the vital debates, and the ongoing quandaries.  Nicely done.

 

Church, State and Public Justice: Five Views edited by P. C. Kemeny (IVP) Five scholars offer their take on uniquely Christian politics, and then the other four respond. Excellently presented views include a Catholic perspective, a classical "separationist" view, a moderate Anabaptist approach, a "principled-pluralist" neo-Calvinist view and a mainline Protestant social justice emphasis. Wow.

Political Visions and Illusions: A Survey & Christian Critique of Contemporary Ideologies David Koyzis (IVP) No one volume is a profound and readable in its study of the roots of Western thought and the history of the development of political theory. Koyzis astutely exposes the Enlightenment roots of both liberals and conservatives, and helps us understand the dynamics of ideological conflict in the modern world. Very significant.

Just Politics: A Guide for Christian Engagement Ronald J. Sider (Brazos Press) If I were to pick one book on politics for educated lay readers, this would be it.  Sider offers a faithful methodology, starting with the Biblical narrative as it shapes our worldview and public philosophy, to a coherent view of the state, to an examination of the pertinent Biblical texts, to a judicious study of various sides of the contemporary issues. Biblical, gracious, balanced, this is a fine example of the way evangelical thoughtfulness can make a contribution to our civic lives.   An early friend of CLS, James Skillen, says "Ron Sider builds on years of experience and conversations with Christian across a very wide spectrum. His balance is better than that of most who want to influence politics for the better.  And biblical faith is the solid platform on which he builds and balances. Listen to Ron carefully before taking your next step." 

Left, Right and Christ: Evangelical Faith in Politics Lisa Sharon Harper & D.C. Innes (Russell Media) There are two forwards to this fun, feisty back-and-forth conversation --- Jim Wallis of Sojourners and Marvin Olasky of World magazine.  That should get you interested!   These two evangelical leaders are friendly and fair as they offer points and counterpoints, offering Christ-honoring insights based on serious Bible study and faithful action in the world of political activism.  Harper is a former IVCF evangelist who now works at Sojourners.  Innes is an Orthodox Presbyterian pastor and esteemed professor at the King's College in NYC.  Very interesting!

Body Broken: Can Republicans and Democrats Sit in the Same Pew? Charles Drew (New Growth Press)  This revised version of the very moderate and thoughtful A Public Faith comes with wise endorsements from the like of J.I. Packer and Timothy Keller.  As William Brewbaker (professor of law at the University of Alabama) writes, "This book is a needed antidote to the worldliness of much Christian political involvement whether of the conservative or liberal variety. It should be required reading in our churches!"  It is low-key and gentle, allowing that we have great freedom (indeed, obligation) to be involved in civic life, but that we must put "first things first" and honor one another within the unity of the Body of Christ.  This is not only sensible, it is essential. 

 

CRIME, LAW & LEGAL THEORY


Crime and Its Victims Dan Van Ness (IVP) When Chuck Colson moved from only prison evangelism and ministry to include work for more structural reforms, he commissioned Van Ness to do a foundational Biblical study of crime and punishment. This is the best volume on the topic.

Changing Lenses: A New Focus for Crime & Justice Howard Zehr (Herald Press) With Van Ness' contribution to evangelical discourse around "restorative justice" as a basis, other (Mennonite) activist-scholars have developed the idea into greater clarity around reforms, values and proposals for more Christ-like approaches in criminology. A very important contribution, which should be considered.

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness  Michelle Alexander (The New Press)  Few current events books have been as discussed as the author meticulously shows the horrific imbalance of African American incarcerations for drug charges in relative comparison to the relative number of Caucasians.  Whether you concur with all her serious conclusions, you should be familiar with this book.

Law and Revolution: The Formation of the Western Legal Tradition Harold J. Berman (Harvard University Press)  A true classic, this, like other books of the esteemed Dr. Berman, is essential.  See also his Law and Revolution Part II:  The Impact of the Protestant Reformations on the Western Legal Traditions (Harvard University Press.)

Christian Perspectives on Legal Thought  edited by Michael McConnell, Robert Cochran and Angela Carmelia  (Oxford University Press) Quite simply magisterial, a fabulous anthology of some of the best serious thinkers on various aspects of Christian legal theory.  Very useful, although is it mostly quite serious.

God's Joust, God's Justice: Law and Religion in the Western Tradition John Witte, Jr (Eerdmans) I would be remiss not to note something of the prolific, substantive scholar, Dr. Witte. He is one of the leading scholars in this field, now the director of the Center for the Study of Law and Religion at Emory University. This "traces the historic struggles that generated the constitutional separation of church and state..."

Silenced: How Apostasy and Blasphemy Codes Are Choking Freedom Worldwide   Paul Marshall & Nina Shea (Oxford University Press) One of the urgent concerns in the world today (and a fascinating one for those interested in law, justice, and religious freedom) is this movement to restrict religious speech and conscience in many Islamic lands.  This is a passionate, well-documented, and important overview of this growing crisis.  The forward is by the late President of the world's largest Muslim organization, and the former Prime Minister of Indonesia.

Natural Law for Lawyers J. Budziszewski (ACW Press) This is as slim and basic as it gets, the theology of natural law explained succinctly for students or those needing a quick refresher.  Happily, this applies the theory to and for lawyers.

The Believers Guide to Legal Issues Stephen Bloom (Living Ink) What a joy to see a simple, clear-headed, spiritually-based introduction to legal issues. Most Christian attorneys would know all this, but it is an ideal tool to share with others in your church or practice, framed by simple gospel insight. Nice.

The Lawyers Calling: Christian Faith and Legal Practice Joseph Allegretti (Paulist Press) One of the best overviews of the ways in which faith shapes legal practice, the metaphors that are used to imagine what lawyers are and do, and how to be a responsible, ethical, attorney. Semi-scholarly, readable, insightful, from a Roman Catholic lawyer drawing on many Protestant sources. Very helpful.

Can a Good Lawyer Be a Good Lawyer? edited Thomas Baker (University of Notre Dame Press) An ecumenical collection of essays, sermons, meditations, and reflective pieces, including some written by active CLS leaders. You may not love each and every entry, but most are good, and a few are great.

Redeeming Law: Christian Calling and the Legal Profession Michael Schutt (IVP) I believe that every career and profession should be so fortunate as to have such a winsome, readable, and yet profound and scholarly treatment of nearly every aspect of the foundations of the field. Not necessarily the most simple or practical, but it is the most essential book for every Christian lawyer's library. Highly, highly recommended. Great footnotes lead in many good directions for further study, and the discussion questions make it ideal for personal growth or small group conversation. Get several and pass 'em out!

First Be Reconciled: Challenging Christians in the Courts Richard Church (Herald Press) Many attorneys struggle with the Biblical verse about not going to court, and this Mennonite lawyer take is most seriously. Provocative and important, attempting to be serious about Biblical obedience in the reformation of legal attitudes and practices.

TOP 12 MISCELLANEOUS FAVORITE BOOKS OF 2012 (SO FAR.)

 

How God Became King: The Forgotten Story of the Gospels N.T. Wright (HarperOne) I love reading books about Jesus and I love reading books about the centrality of His Kingdom coming.  Here, in clear but thoughtful prose, one of our most important evangelical New Testament scholars offers large concerns about how we have come to miss the core themes of Jesus' own teaching, and have consequently misunderstood the heart of the gospel.  It garnered rave reviews from J.I. Packer and Dallas Willard.  We are grateful for two Wright books about the gospels this year -- Simply Jesus: A New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did, and Why He Matters (HarperOne) which is also a great gift to God's people.  Very helpful, balanced, thoughtful.

 

Crossed Lives -- Crossed Purposes: Why Thomas Jefferson Failed & William Wilberforce Persisted in Leading an End to Slavery Ray Blunt  (Resources Publications) A truly unique historical study, this wonderfully-told story compares and contrasts the two famous leaders, both who started out resolved to fight slavery.  One kept his commitments and deepened them over a lifetime of struggle; the other, of course, ended up not only reneging on his youthful convictions, but compromised in the worst of ways.  Why?  Not only does Blunt discover fundamental worldview differences between the two great men, but shows that while WIlberforce had accountability and support (in his famous Clapham sect) Jefferson has no truly intimate friends.  Besides this excellent overview--he unveils so much in such an informative manner--Blunt draws helpful leadership lessons for any contemporary leader making this a doubly useful resource.  Blunt has taught this material at the Naval Academy, in churches, and in the setting of a classically-oriented Christian prep school.  Very, very impressive.

 

Charity and Its Fruits  Jonathan Edwards (Crossway) Newly edited by Kyle Strobel, this is a wonderful new edition of an under-appreciated classic.  Many know the formidable mind and deep passions of the Puritan scholar, pastor, and college President, but too few know his hefty study of 1 Corinthians 13 (and more, besides.)  This new version will hopefully make this treasure into a standard.  The greatest of these, after all...

 

Love Does: Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World  Bob Goff (Nelson) One of the most exciting, audacious, hilarious, inspiring collection of life stories we've ever read.  You may know Goff, either as a former CLS Conference Keynote Speaker, as global justice advocate who has fought sexual trafficking and worked for the rule of law in Uganda, or as the crazy mentor of Donald Miller in A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: How I Learned to Live a Better Story (Nelson.)  Read even a few of these wild episodes and you, too, will want to have more "skin in the game" and find ways to "get to the do part" of faith. 

 

Run Home and Take a Bow: Stories of Life, Faith, and a Season with the Kansas City Royals  Ethan D. Bryan (Samzidat Creative) Ethan is an energetic youth worker, worship pastor, singer-songwriter, social justice activist, husband, dad, and neighborhood friend.  But he's also a very serious baseball fan and this memoir tells of a summer going to all the home games of his beloved Kansas City Royals  -- and what a season it was!  Baseball fan or not, you will enjoy reading about his weekly discoveries, what happens along the way to, during, or after the games.  This well written book will thrill baseball fans, of course (George Will called it "outstanding") but, better, will help you see God in the ordinary, realize how to be more faithful as a Christian parent or friend, and will deepen your own resolve to discern God's hand in the ups and downs of your daily life.

 

The Exact Place: A Memoir Margie Haack (Dulous Press) Haack was mentored by Edith and Francis Schaeffer and she and her husband, Denis, run "Ransom Fellowship" and edit Critique, a journal helping Christians develop skills of cultural discernment.  Margie is a spectacular writer, funny and poignant, and this memoir tells of her growing up rural and poor in Northern Minnesota.  God had her at the "exact place" as her life unfolded, she comes to believe, in order to have her open to Christ's amazing grace.  This is a story you will not forget.

 

Flunking Sainthood: A Year of Breaking the Sabbath, Forgetting to Pray, and Still Loving My Neighbor Jana Riess (Paraclete)  I have read a number of great books on spirituality this year, but this, well, I'm almost embarrassed to admit, was my personal fav.  Each month this snarky, witty writer tackles a great devotional classic (and a spiritual discipline to go with it) and, well, shall we say, it doesn't go well.  Yep.

 

A Hobbit Journey: Discovering the Enchantment of J.R. R. Tolkien's Middle-Earth Matthew Dickerson (Brazos Press) There are plenty of books about Tolkien, and many seem very interesting and rewarding.  This is extraordinary, though, bringing the deepest questions of Middle Earth to contemporary ethical issues. As Jeffrey Overstreet writes of this, "Tolkien's stories are countries full of treasure that will go undiscovered and unappreciated unless we learn how to be attentive treasure hunters. Matthew Dickerson writes as one who has spent his summers in the Shire, hiked every trail in Mirkwood Forest, taken counsel from Gandalf, and argued with Gollum and Smaug. It's as though he sharpened the tools of his intellect in deep conversation with Tolkien himself."   Thomas Shippey, Tolkien's biographer, says "If anyone should still doubt Tolkien's applicability and relevance to the twenty-first century, this is the book to put in their hands."

 

Emergence Christianity: What It Is, Where It Is Going, and Why It Matters Phyllis Tickle (Baker) Like it or not (understand it or not) this is a great writer's observant ruminations on the shifts in Western culture, the trends in Christianity, with special attention to the emergent conversation within what some call post-evangelicalism.  Fun, breezy, but very important, this is a great overview, up to date and well-informed.  For a somewhat parallel, but more theologically serious (and global) anthology, see the brand new The Gospel After Christendom: New Voices, New Cultures, New Expressions edited by Ryan Bolger (Baker Academic.)

 

The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God Timothy and Kathy Keller (Dutton)  Keller is known as an astute, Reformed preacher, a sophisticated urban church planter, a top-notch, urbane apologist, and a passionate advocate for the cultural transformation that happens when people of faith apply their convictions to their work.  Who knew he was such a kindly pastoral counselor and that, along with his wife, could speak so tenderly about the deepest purposes of sexuality, relationships, and marriage.  Of course, he does some theologizing along the way, as well as placing the Biblical perspective within the changing contexts of the late modern world, but, still, this is Keller doing a self-help type marriage book.  One that is also very good for those not married.  Three cheers for his candor, for his wife's good voice throughout, and for their honesty about their own lives together.

 

Art as Spiritual Perception edited by James Romaine (Crossway)  We stock a large selection of books about the arts and (as we do with CLS) try to encourage organizations like IAM or CIVA with book lists and affirmation of their best authors.  This is a collection put together to honor the recently retired art history professor of Wheaton College, Dr. John Walford.  A dozen of his students, colleagues and friends write amazing chapters about how to see to the root of the religious orientation of various artists.  From Calvin Seerveld to William Dryness to Marleen Hengelaar-Rookmaaker, this is an anthology that will impress anyone seriously interested in the arts or anyone that wants to learn more about the art of Christian cultural analysis.  Full-color art reproductions on heavy stock glossy paper makes this a wonderful, beautiful volume.  Kudos.

 

A Place in Time: Twenty Stories of the Port William Membership Wendell Berry (CounterPoint)  Berry may be the most often cited contemporary novelist among serious Christian literary buffs and his essays, poems, novels and stories have been acclaimed by lovers of words from across the cultural and political spectrum. I hope you know his wondrous novels such as Jayber Crow and Hannah Coulter or The Memory of Old Jack.  This brand new collection of short stories is sure to please, taking its place beside the previous Port William collection, That Distant Land.  A new book by him is truly a publishing event, and this collection of stories just arrived!  I hope you have read at least some of his elegant, thoughtful essays (about farming, sustainable communities, agrarian values, God's care for the Earth, the erosion of social life brought on by fast-paced modern culture, the dangers of  pesticides, the trouble with consumer capitalism, etc.)  And, oh, by the way, his prestigious Jefferson Lectures of the Spring of 2012 were just released: It All Turns on Affection: The Jefferson Lectures and Other Essays (CounterPoint.)  Thanks be to God for prophets and writers such as this.

 

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