Book Reviews

Reading List for January, 2020: Post Modern, Pre-Luther, Greeks, Vikings, and more…

Starting the year off strong with some good books read during the month of January.

The Gagging of God by D.A. Carson

Got this one in under the wire for 2019.

Over the past couple months I’ve shared several quotes from Carson’s “The Gagging of God” on social media. Truth be told, what I’ve shared only a fraction of what I’ve highlighted in my Kindle version.

Writing in the ’90s, Carson’s evaluation of post-modernism and pluralism has proven to be durably relevant and even prophetic.

For those wondering how we arrived at “woke” and “critical theory”, and those who are in search of a Christian roadmap for dealing with these strange fruits of the post-modern worldview, “The Gagging of God” is a must-read.

Elantris by Brandon Sanderson

Last year I asked for some good fantasy fiction, and many of you responded by recommending Brandon Sanderson’s “Mistborn” series. By years-end I had devoured all the Mistborn books written so far (six in all). So this year I began another Sanderson series with “Elantris”. I was not disappointed. Classic Sanderson, with his smart civilization-building and slow buildups to crashing finishes.

Also, alert readers of the Mistborn series will find more subtle hints to the overarching Cosmere storyline.

Why Church History Matters by Robert F. Rea

I picked up this book as part of preparation for some upcoming classes I’m going to be teaching.

It was…ok. Of course, motivation to study Church history is not something I lack, but I hoped the book would provide me with resources to motivate others. It did…to some degree.

The author has a very broad definition of what constitutes a Christian and what constitutes the Church. To some degree this is necessary in a study of Church history. However, some of his terms, like “Bible-focused Christians”, for example – as if being insistent on Scriptural authority were simply one legitimate option among many – left a bad taste in my mouth.

To summarize my impressions: many good thoughts, but the overall emphasis was a little too “kum ba ya” for me.

The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis

This is the latest in my lunch-time reading with the boys. I’m finding that as I read through it now I’m seeing much more the deeper meaning in the tale Lewis is weaving. The way the (unfortunately named) Uncle Andrew responds to Aslan and Narnia versus how the children respond is one such detail.

Long Before Luther by Nathan Busenitz

For those wondering about the existence of Gospel believers between Augustine and Luther, Nathan Busenitz has put together an outstanding resource. With carefully documented historical sources he demonstrates that Luther and the Reformers (dibs on that name for a band) were not theological innovators, but were building on a long tradition of biblical interpretation.

I read most of this book while waiting at the DETRAN (Brazilian DMV) to renew my license. That doesn’t mean it’s a particularly short book. It was just a long wait.

Ancient Greek Civilization by Professor Jeremy McInerney (The Great Courses)

One of the best features (for me) of my Audible subscription is access to the “Great Courses” lectures. This month I selected a series on Ancient Greek Civilization…and learned a lot. For example: I now understand the Peloponnesian War. Or, at least, I understand it better than I did.

If you need something to keep your mind busy while running or on long drives, I can’t think of a better resource.

II Samuel for You by Tim Chester

This is another of the commentaries I am using for my ongoing study of the life of David for our adult Sunday School class…and it has quickly become one of my favorites. The author plays close attention to textual and contextual factors, yet the reading is very accessible to the non-scholarly reader. His section on the conflict between David and Absalom was outstanding.

I was very pleased to find that II Samuel for You has been translated into Portuguese, and will be adding it to our church library.

The Vikings by Kenneth W. Harl

After the course on Ancient Greece, I decided to brush up on another segment of history that I had only a limited knowledge of – the Vikings. This course more than lived up to the standards of excellence that I’ve come to expect from the Great Courses series. From Professor Kenneth W. Harl I learned several surprising things: the Viking influence on Russia and Byzantium, the remarkable life of King Cnute, details of the Viking settlement in North America…and much much more.

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it before, but with each Great Courses lecture series, Audible makes available class notes in PDF format.

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