Book Reviews

Reading List for December 2021: Three Good Books, and One Really Great One

The Shadow Rising by Robert Jordan

Whilst I await the release of the next Brandon Sanderson Cosmere book (scheduled for November, 2022) I am slowly working my way through Robert Jordan’s “Wheel of Time” series. While I prefer Sanderson, Jordan has built a compelling world full of interesting characters and edge-of-your-seat adventure. “The Shadow Rising”, fourth in the series, continued this trend.

Without giving any spoilers, I must say that of the many story lines, I particular enjoy following the adventures of Perrin Aybarra.

Also, if any have been watching the Amazon adaptation of the series, please know that the books are WAY better.

Invitation to World Missions by Timothy C. Tennent

Timothy C. Tennent’s “Invitation to World Missions” has been sitting in my “to read” list for some time. As our field council in Brazil prepares to grapple with some significant changes that are challenging the status quo, I decided to bump this book to the top of the list.

I’m glad I did.

Tennent’s has made a valuable contribution to missiology and missions (which are not the same thing, as he points out). For starters, I have not read so theologically deep a treatise on missions since I was assigned John Piper’s “Let the Nations be Glad” in Bible College. Indeed, the subtitle of the book is “A Trinitarian Missiology for the Twenty-first Century.” His whole concept of missions is underpinned by the “missio dei”, and fixed to the doctrine of the Trinity.

What was perhaps the most useful part to me can be found in the first few chapters, where Tennent accurately describes the situation faced by 21st century missionaries and mission agencies (dwindling numbers of missionaries from the West, greater expectations and possibilities from the “majority world” and so on), and goes at great length to recount how we got where we are. The rest of the book deals with pointing a way forward, based on the aforementioned theological foundations.

I do, however, take issue with a couple of the points the author tries to make. First, almost of a necessity, books on missions theory paint the Church with a broad brush. Tennent goes further, in my estimation, bringing groups into the Christian fold that should not be there.

Second, his section on the Holy Spirit in missions almost gushes over the influence of the Charismatic movement on world missions. While their influence cannot be denied, his analysis would have rung truer had it not grouped the theological aberration of the Azuza Street “revivals” (among others) with other, more credible events. The false prophetess and charlatan Aimee Semple McPherson even gets an appreciative nod.

Don’t let these issues keep you from taking advantage of this book, however, especially if you are a pastor, a missionary, work in a missions agency…or have any vested interest in world missions whatsoever. You will come away the richer for having read this work.

Washington’s Immortals by Patrick K. O’Donnell

“Washington’s Immortals” by Patrick K. O’Donnell follows the path of a crack unit of Maryland soldiers in the American Revolution. From their brave assault on British fortifications in New York through to the surrender at Yorktown, these hardy men were in the thick of the fight, and became somewhat of an elite unit.

Readers of this book will not only gain an appreciation for the Maryland men, but will also learn many interesting details about the Revolutionary War.

The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self by Carl Trueman

How did we get to the point where the phrase “I’m a woman trapped in a man’s body” makes any kind of sense to the rank and file of society?

This is the question theologian Carl Trueman sets out to answer in his magnificent tome “The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self”. The result is a master-class in history and philosophy, tracing the seeds of our current cultural “imaginary” from the Enlightenment through to our current age.

This is my last book for 2021, and it is hands-down the best I have read so far. It needs to be in the library of every pastor, missionary, college student (be it a Christian college or secular university) and Christian worker. The truths presented therein need to filter down to the rank and file in the pew, into church youth groups, into college and career groups, into seminary classes.

Trueman has rendered the Western Church an enormous service. Scratch that – he has rendered several enormous services. Among them: 1) He has shown us how the cultural issues we are facing did not originate with the sexual revolution of the 60s, but rather have been developing for over two centuries. 2) He demonstrates how unstable the foundations of today’s dominant philosophy truly are. 3) Without resorting to straw-men or over-the-top rhetoric he points out the inherent weaknesses in the current identity culture – including an explanation of the civil war happening now between feminism and trans theory.

Christians who read this book will come away with not only a grasp of how we got here, but with effective tools to counter the dominant thinking as we encounter it in our everyday life.

Five out of five stars, a must read. Get one for yourself, find out if your pastor has a copy, and if he doesn’t, get one for him too.


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