God On The Quad

We are so grateful that readers stop in to visit our monthly website reviews. It is fun–if sometimes taxing–to know what might be helpful to discuss. We of course want to tell you about the books we are most excited about; you know our story, what we sense God calling us to be about here, and we hope you have fun playing a part. (You know, I hope, that we realize, every day, actually, that without you there would be no Hearts & Minds. Can’t sell books without buyers; can’t promote books to those who don’t care.) So we are grateful and serious about inviting you into our work. And serving you with helpful information, book reviews and promotions that you can use.

Well, as I’ve said on our blog, recently, there are many new serious books that we are impressed by. This month I had a long blog review of Radical Orthodoxy and the Reformed Tradition (edited by James K.A. Smith and James Olthuis) just published by Baker, for instance, and, several posts about Deepening the American Dream (edited by Mark Nepo) recently released by Jossey-Bass. And what a joy to promptly tell folks about Marva Dawn’s new book, Talking the Walk: Letting Christian Language Live Again (Baker) when it came out earlier this month. (I hope you saw that posting!) We are happy about the mini-reviews at the blog and hope you search the archives from time to time. (You can subscribe to them, you know, and my occasional BookNotes will come right to your in-box.) Maybe you can be part of our promo team and tell others about our efforts to talk about these kinds of titles.

As you may know, part of our great joy is to recommend books to those in college, or, more often, to those who do campus ministry. From the nation-wide Ivy Jungle network to the Pittsburgh-based Coalition for Christian Outreach, from good friends in graduate student ministry with IVCF to friends at specific colleges, we often have the great privilege of helping think through books for students as they work to relate their faith to their collegiate experiences.

Writing about the college experience is of interest these days, too, not just to those of us with a campus ministry background. For instance, My Freshman Year: What a Professor Learned by Becoming a Student by Rebekah Nathan (Cornell University Press; $24.00) is getting great reviews not only for its insightful portrayal of contemporary campus culture (this brave and seasoned prof actually moved into a dorm) but for the memoiristic intrigue of its styling. More straightly researched-based, but still a very good read, is the acclaimed God on the Quad: How Religious Colleges and the Missionary Generation Are Changing America Naomi Schaeffer Riley (St. Martin’s Press; $24.95.) Here again, an author who is not a Christian brings unusual care to explain the significance of religious renewal movements current on campus and the various ways differing faiths and faith traditions–and the millennial generation kids that make up the current cohort of students–are impacting higher education. It, too, is getting significant reviews and we highly recommend it. Binge: Campus Life In An Age of Disconnection and Excess by Barrett Seaman (Jossey-Bass/Wiley; $25.95) is another recent overview of collegiate life. It is subtitled “What Your College Student Won’t Tell You” and comes out of extensive interviews he conducted on 12 different schools. I don’t know if the sudden release of these kind of books are merely exploiting the popularity of Tom Wolfe’s much-discussed and highly sexualized I Am Charlotte Simmons: A Novel (now out in paperback) but there certainly is much attention being given to American campuses these days. My favorite review of Mr. Wolfe’s book, by the way, was in The Christian Century by William Willimon, who hosted Wolfe at Duke (his daughter was a student there.) Willimon’s story of walking Wolfe through the chapel was riveting, and Willimon makes some solid observations.

Relating one’s deepest convictions to public life, mediated largely by a sense of calling and vocation, is a hot, hot topic right now, across the entire culture. Much of this purpose driven interest has been simmering in campus groups for years; Beth and I have long been involved in the CCO’s Jubilee conference, for instance, which has as its main theme helping students develop a Christian perspective in their academics. You may know that we often refer people to our “Books By Vocation” section of the website, where we offer annotated descriptions of books arranged by academic discipline. From special education to film studies, from art to politics, business to environmental science, we’ve got suggestions for seeking a deeply Christian vision and healing, helpful practices in those arenas. We hope you have an opportunity to browse that section from time to time”¦

Recently, some good friends of our shop have asked me to help with a conference they are calling YADA, YADA, YADA which, popularized by Seinfeld, is Yiddish for “you know.” Yada is the Hebrew word for knowing and, interestingly, and richly, is the same work as sexual intercourse. To know, in the Bible, is not just obtaining intellectual facts. To know, to know deeply in a yada kind of way, is to engage, to care, to be responsible for, and to do. They name their gathering YADA, YADA, YADA because they want college students to know what they know deeply; to, as Steve Garber puts it in the title of his magisterial book on the subject, “weave together belief and behavior in the university years.” I will speak at this conference and Steve is the main presenter. Together, we will guide students into questions that we hope will resonate for the rest of their lives; how to honor the Lordship of Jesus in their respective fields? How do we allow a Biblically informed vision of life (a worldview) to serve as a basis for discernment about the issues they face in their classroom work? How does a Hebrew view of knowing–yada–influence how we pursue education?

Parker Palmer has written about this wisely, I think, in his book To Know as We Are Known: Education as a Spiritual Journey published by HarperCollins ($14.00.) It was from this book that he eventually developed his more practical methodologies which have been so very influential-thanks be to God!–in educational theory classes in recent year, Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher’s Life (Jossey-Bass; $24.95.) It is a book that has helped those in education (including those who are teaching in specifically faith-based settings) to create communities of learning that take “meaning” seriously. It is a yada kind of book for teachers. And its popularity illustrates some of what is going on these days in higher education. The renaissance of thinking about Christian higher education, especially, is encouraging. If you happen to be a college teacher or work at faith-based institution of higher learning, do give us a call and we can talk about recent releases of great import for your field. To cite, for instance, one very new title that may be hard to find (but we happily stock) consider Teaching As Believing: Faith in the University by Chris Anderson (Baylor University Press; $24.95.) It has garnered some very great reviews from the likes of Parker Palmer and Mark Noll, affirm not only this great teacher, but his faithful and thoughtful journey to think of his work in uniquely Christian ways. That he is a Catholic, published by a Baptist press is rather cool, too. Anderson teaches English at Oregon State University and offers, here, the second in Baylor’s “Studies in Religion and Higher Education” series. We are happy to play a small role in getting these kinds of books known and helping educators grapple with the implications of the gospel for their work.

Well, when my friends asked me to speak at the YADA YADA YADA event, they also asked, of course, for us to bring a big “Ëœol book display. We’ll lug boxes and boxes in our spacious, sturdy van (keep praying for it, please) and do up a nice room full of books that, I will predict, the students will insist they’ve never seen before. Look, here’s one on a Christian view of math one will say to her math major friend; Christian approaches to engineering! another will exclaim, with a mix of enthusiasm and befuddlement. Do you have anything on what the Bible says about economics? a young business major will wonder. I had no idea there were so many religious books about being an artist a few will whisper. Is this book for nurses also good if I am a physical therapy major? What do you suggest for my thesis on pacifism in World War II? For mine on freedom of speech and internet porn? Has anyone written on relating faith to chemistry? Can I be faithful in science if I don’t quite buy the intelligent design stuff? Can I be in advertising and still be an honest Christian of integrity?

From initial surprise at the buffet of books to an uncommon embrace, the conversations around the book table will, we pray, deepen and keep us on our toes. Students begin to “get it.” They ask tough questions. They shell out their gas money for the ride home for a book on Christian views of literature, or Biblical perspectives on foreign policy or faith-based answers to the quandaries of Freudianism. They realize that there are Biblical truths and theological implications for everything in life, including the stuff they are studying. What to make of postmodern literary theory, of quantum physics, of free market economies? My, my, what a day we will have. And sooner or later, somebody will say, perhaps to no one in particular: Why haven’t I seen these kind of books before? The question speaks volumes with what is wrong with church life, with pastors who don’t talk about this stuff, with Christian bookstores, with college ministry programs and with theological education. But that is another topic”¦

If you have friends in college, if you are or know or support those in campus ministry, if you yourself long for this whole-life discipleship that equips you to “think Christianly” about your vocation, passion, career or calling, please allow us to serve you further. It may not be as upbeat and urgent as the book display at YADA YADA YADA but you can call us anytime, or send us an email with your professional question. May we help you integrate your faith and some aspect of your life, work or callings?

For now, though, let me offer a bibliography we put together for the flyer to be passed out at the YADA YADA event. It is not comprehensive, but I haven’t expanded it for this edition. It was supposed to be the top ten books for students that they should read to understand the vision for the day. We assumed they had some basic, working knowledge of their faith, so we didn’t put in any very simple books, nothing on apologetics or introductions to the gospel. They were brought to the event by CCO staff workers so were in good relationships, talking and sharing on these basics. We should all be so fortunate to have conversation partners and friends to walk into this deeper journey of maturing in “working out your salvation in fear and trembling” as the apostle Paul commends.

The Fabric of Faithfulness: Weaving Together Belief and Behavior In The University Years by Steve Garber, of course, should be on the top of the list, since Steve is speaking and leading and it really is the most significant book (nearly the only book) of its kind. (And it talks very powerfully about the need for friends and mentors and community in this journey of living out truth across the whole spectrum of life.) But it not the easiest book for a first year student and some may have more foundational needs. So we put together the list around three categories. As you might guess, it was hard to keep it succinct. Hope you enjoy looking through it, pondering if they would be helpful to anybody you know, and, considering ordering some from us. We are glad for your interests and trust that this list, offered this month, will be a resource you may refer to often. There are other books along these lines, of course, but these are the ones we, this month at least, feel are the very best, the most useful, the ones that go a long way to help students really get a Christian worldview, lean into their academic work with robust Christian conviction, and end up seeing, as Parker put it, “education as a spiritual journey.” Enjoy.

On Developing a Christian Worldview

Creation Regained: Biblical Basics for a Reformational Worldview Al Wolters (Eerdmans) $12.00 This little book is the best basic study of a “creation-fall-remption-consumation” Biblical vision and how it shapes our worldview. Nothing spicey, just mature, insightful and clear-headed teaching that has profound implications.

Heaven Is A Place on Earth: Why Everything You Do Matters To God Michael Wittmer (Zondervan) $16.99 Careful and practical Biblical study on God’s restoration project, on the intentions God has for ordinary life and His faithfulness to us in every area of life. A very nice exploration of the implications of a Biblical way of seeing daily life and our God-given mandates to care for the “stuff of Earth.”

Transforming Vision: Shaping a Christian Worldview Brian Walsh & Richard Middleton (IVP) $14.00 Still the most important book in this field, in many ways the one that has motivated us to explore radical Christian discipleship in the university setting. Very, very useful. A must-read for faithful students.

Total Truth: Freeing the Church From Its Cultural Captivity Nancy Pearcy (Crossway) $25.00 A thick hardback that one will come back to repeatedly. A semi-scholarly but accessable work showing how a false seperation of personal values and scientific truth leads to a wimpy faith and a secularized culture. Influenced by Francis Schaeffer, her stories are powerful and her critique essential to understand.

Naming the Elephant: Worldview as a Concept James Sire (IVP) $14.00 Although it is wise to read anything Sire writes, this is his reflection on just what we mean by worldview, how different thinkers use the term and how clarifying this key notion can be so very helpful.

On Deepening Discipleship and Kingdom Vision

EPIC: The Story God Is Telling and The Role That Is Yours To Play John Eldridge (Word) $9.99 A very brief and passionate invitation to allow God to transform your heart in such a way as you desire to join Him in an epic adventure to rescue the good but fallen planet. Inspiring.

The Call: Finding and Your Deepest Meaning Os Guinness (Word) $17.99 Erudite and brilliant, this is a pivotol book that is one of our all time favorites. Essential.

Don’t Waste Your Life John Piper (Crossway) $15.99 w/CD This is it! An exceedingly passionate call to find great joy by allowing God to be glorified in all you do. A very good chapter on work, along other good ones. A book to savor and ponder.

Renewing Your Mind in a Mindless Age: Preparing to Think and Act Biblically James M. Boice (Kregal) $10.99 A great study of Romans 12:1-2 as this renowned Bible expositor walks you through these two amazing verses. Very helpful.

Following Jesus: Biblical Reflections on Dicipleship N.T. Wright (Eerdmans) $14.00 Everyone should know of this insightful, influential and solid Biblical scholar. These essays read like inspiring sermons, inviting us to whole life discipleship. Then read any of this other good works.

Heaven Is Not My Home: Living in the Now of God’s Creation Paul Marshall (Lighting Press) $15.99 A worldviewish, delightfully-written illustration of how to “think Christianly” about various sides of life. Nothing like it in print, it shows the beginnings of a Christian perspective on art, science, education, play, work, worship, etc. An amazing resource for anyone wanting to honor the Lordship of Christ across the whole of life and especailly for college students who many need a practical, yet thoughtful introduction to different academic disciplines.

Community of the King Howard Snyder (IVP) $17.00 It is vital to understand our role in the local congregation, and equally important to see the relationship of the Kingdom of God and the local church. This is a remarkable guide.

On Being a Christian Student

A Heart for Truth: Taking Your Faith Into College Greg Spencer (Baker) $16.00 A wise and helpful guide to developing a mature perspective on all sides of college life–from getting along with roommates, knowing your self, staying true to your faith and an excellent couple of chapters on serving God in the classroom by integrating faith and academics. Very nicely done.

Loving God With All Your Mind: Thinking as a Christian in a Postmodern World Gene Veith (Crossway) $14.99 An exciting call to take education seriously, to be discerning about conflicting intellectual ideologies and to serve God faithfully in the academic culture. Helpful and clear.

Engaging God’s World: A Christian Vision of Faith, Learning and Living Cornelius Plantinga (Eerdmans) $15.00 A splendidly written, rich reflection on yearnings and vocation and how studying well can help us take up our place in God’s redemptive plan. Excellent.

The Fabric of Faithfulness: Weaving Together Belief and Behavior in the University Years Steve Garber (IVP) $14.00 You know of our admiration for Steve; you should know of how highly regarded he is in his field and how this book is considered one of the most astute guides to university life ever written. This is deep and rich and interesting and life-changing. A must-have, read-more-than-once goldmine.

The Outrageous Idea of Christian Scholarship George Marsden (Oxford University Press) $16.00 A slim volume for serious scholars, inviting people of faith to allow their convictions to profoundly shape their academic research. There is a whole genre these days of books on higher education from a Christian perspective and this is an essential starting place, written by a world-renowned historian.