A Short List of Great New Books

What Would Jesus De.gifBeautiful Fight.jpgSome of our BookNotes family of friends expressed gratitude that I offered some criticism of the light-weight zeitgist of the Christian Booksellers Association, the less than faithful nature of some Christian best-sellers, and the way in which the Bible’s clear call to cultural reformation, public justice and social righteousness is often ignored in the popular view of mainstream, middle-class, evangelical faith.  I’m glad folks got a kick out of my little diatribe, and also glad a few folks ordered Mark Bertrand’s new (Re)Thinking Worldview that I promoted a few days ago.  It really does illustrate some of the best sorts of thinking and writing that has graced the Christian book world these days”¦

Just to (re)make (tee hee) the point I often share here, though—there are plenty of great authors and more than enough really good books out these days and most CBA publishers are doing great work.  It isn’t just the academic publishers or the heavy theological ones that grapple with important stuff, and not all the serious books are overly deep.  Every day we are thankful to God for the good kinds of books that go beyond the trite or predictable, but are nonetheless fruitful, good and accessable for ordinary, educated readers.

For instance (hold on tight, we are going to go fast!)

The Beautiful Fight Gary Thomas (Zondervan) $14.99  This introductory price (the hardcover will be later priced at $18.99) is a great asset to what looks to be a fabulous book of orindary holiness and contemplative spirituality, by a writer we greatly admire.  Thomas is one of our favorites, and his writing is mature, wise, and yet very, very readable.  The subtitle is “Surrendering to the Transforming Presence of God Every Day of Your Life” and if it helps us explore that, it is well worth the couple of bucks it costs.  This pleasant writer draws on deep wells—how many evangelicals know Kallistos Ware, let alone Austin Farrar and place them beside John Piper or John Wesley?

Intelligent Design: William A. Dembski & Michael Ruse in Dialogue Edited by Robert B. Stewart (Fortress) $22.00  Well, maybe this isn’t as easy to read as some on this list, but it is a wonderful collection from a wide variety of folks, each weighing in pro and con and other, on the ID debate.  Dembski, of course, is a senior fellow with the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture, and Ruse is an internationally known philosopher of science and skeptic.  From Sir John Polkinghorne to Nancey Murphy, from Francis Beckwith to Alister McGrath, Wolfhart Pannenberg to several scholars from the National Center for Science Education, this is a fastinating discussion to follow.

The Late Great Evangelical Church C. Vaughn Doner (Oakdown) $27.99  Okay, this is a pricey hardcover, but it makes a powerful, powerful case against the contemporary manifestations of the age-old heresy of Gnosticism in modern, evangelical guise. Mad about dualism?  Frustrated with corny church growth stuff and sentimental piety? With blurbs from newly Orthodox thinker Frank Schaeffer and older Reformed guys like Thomas Schirrmacher and John H. Armstrong, or emergent leaders like Sweet and McLaren, this book has been widely endorsed by all kinds of folks who long for a renewing movement that would recover ancient orthodoxy and discover fresh embodiments of wholistic discipleship, rooted in mature, liturgically-rich church life.  What a book!

The Year I Got Everything I Wanted: A Spiritual Crisis Cameron Conant (NavPress) $12.99  I have mentioned before this new “Deliberate” imprint, an edgy, thoughtful and authentic line of books from this traditionally conservative, evangelical press.  I was very moved by Conant’s previous memoir, published by Relevant, about the break-up of his marriage.  This raises age-old themes from Ecclesiastes, and, while it may seem like a cliché to say that about a young writer who shares his story in ways that are both poigant and provocative, well, it is only a cliché if it is merely a marketing scam to say so.  Read this and see for yourself.  This guy is a straight-shooter, honest and a fine, young writer. 

Monk Habits for Everyday People: Benedictine Spirituality for Protestants Dennis Okholm (Brazos) $12.99  Monk-habits.  Monk habits. Get it?  Of course you do.  With a remarkable forward by Kathleen Norris (author of The Cloister Walk they say on the front, as if they need to tell you) this is one fabulous little book.  Not every day you see a blurb from Tony Jones, Mark Noll and Ms Norris on the same back cover.  Okholm is a Presbyterian, by the way, making this a truly ecumenical goldmine.  Way to go, Braz-os.

What Would Jesus Deconstruct? The Good News of Post-Modernism for the Church John Caputo (Baker Academic) $19.99  Okay, this ain’t the easiest sledding, but it is fun and funny and very, very provocative, written by an provocative, controversial Roman Catholic philospher.  It means a lot to me, and should to BookNotes friends, that this is the second in the series that our friend Jamie K.A. Smith edits (the first in the series was Smith’s brief and brilliant Whose Afraid of Post-Modernism: Taking Derrida, Lyotard and Foucalt To Church.) This new one just came today and although I’ve talked with those who’ve read the manuscript, I am not prepared to say I agree with it, despite Brian McLaren’s exceptionally nice, complimentary and generous foreward.  Perhaps he is, as one pundit quipped, “a sheep in wolf’s clothing.”  And maybe deconstruction can be the hermeneutics of the Kingdom of God, as Christ reconstructs our lives.  You will be hearing more of this, I’m sure. 

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3 thoughts on “A Short List of Great New Books

  1. Hi Byron. I cannot find your email address anywhere – so I figured I would message you here. Have you reviewed Mark Labberton’s Dangerous Act of Worship? I am reading through it and it is an incredible book. Wanted to know if I had missed the review or if you might be looking at it in the future. Can you let me know? jeffersonlisaellis@yahoo.com

  2. Jefferson:
    Thanks for the post!
    We LOVE that book. I raved about it in front of 2000 folks at Jubilee last year(it has just come out) and a few of the speakers there, like Andy Couch, know and respect the author. There have been other small books investigating the relationship between worshiping well and working for justice, but this really is the best. Thanks for the reminder! I’m taking it this next week both to the State Pastor’s Conference in Harrisburg (I’m even speaking there, with guys like Quienten Schultze) and then taking it also to Ivy Jungle in FL. Thanks.
    BY the way, sorry you couldn’t find our email–it should be right on the website. Or google me, or chech FaceBook. It’s read@heartsandmindsbooks.com

  3. and don’t forget Glen Scorgie’s A Little Guide to Christian Spirituality which i saw at your store this past Saturday. Simon Chan and others recommend it.
    so many books…

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