book log

A log of the books I’ve read (that are longer than Dr. Seuss books) since starting this blog:

The Peacemaker by Ken Sande (completed 10/26/08)

A very good book on the handling of conflict in a Christian manner.  This was assigned to the heads of household at our church and we are studying through it in men’s forum.  The principles provided in this book are very solid.  It has a better ecclesiology than one might expect from a book whose demographic is broadly evangelical.  It’s a bit too “para-church-happy” for my taste in some places, and has all kinds of hokey mnemonic devices (alliteration, acronyms, etc.) that one would expect from a book marketed towards evangelicals.  It also seems to be a bit egalitarian in its handling of gender issues.  The book doesn’t really directly address the differences between men and women, husbands and wives, etc.  I don’t know whether this is an intentional omission, a mistaken oversight, or something that is outside of the scope of an introductory-level book.  He does address the boss-employee relationship, so I find the male-female thing to be conspicuous by its absence.  Aside from those minor annoyances, the content is very solid and biblically-grounded.  You will not find the pop psychology that is so prevalent elsewhere in American Christianity here, and that makes it a great book to recommend to any Christian.  Grade: A-

Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch (completed sometime around 12/30/08)

This is the second of an anticipated 7 books in Scott Lynch’s Gentleman Bastard Sequence.  I really liked The Lies of Locke Lamora (the first book), so I was eager to read this installment.  [Disclaimer] The content of the book isn’t especially Christian-friendly, but it’s not as offensive as some other fantasy novels intended for an adult audience.  Imagine Oceans 11 with an R rating for language and violence.  The sexual situations of the book are not overly explicit. [End Disclaimer]  The character development is great, the plot is very well crafted, and Lynch does a fine job bringing the settings to life.  Highly recommended for any adult fan of fantasy.  Grade: A-

Angels in the Archetecture: A Protestant Vision for Middle Earth by Douglas Jones and Douglas Wilson (completed 02/19/09)

Jones and Wilson make the case against modernity and for medievalism brilliantly.  They argue against the ugly, impersonal, egalitarian, anti-Christian machine that is modernity, but without embracing its ugly kid sister “post-modernity.”  What then should modernity be replaced with?  Medievalism.  Don’t laugh.  Don’t recoil.  The medieval worldview has been slandered by our society even more than the puritans.  Jones  and Wilson argue for the pursuit of beauty, truth, and goodness, hospitality, enjoying wine and the marriage bed, storytelling, and “Poetic Knowledge.”  But wait, there’s more!  It’s also available at Google books for free if you can tolerate reading books online.   Grade: A

The Lord’s Service by Jeffrey J. Meyers (completed 05/27/09)

This is the book to get if you are curious about the concept of “Covenant Renewal” worship.  Meyers brilliantly explains and defends what I think is the most consistently Christian and biblical expression of worship.  The last part of the book is comprised of essays on several related topics, including a tremendous defense of paedocommunion that turns the traditional reformed argument against the practice from 1 Corinthians 11 on its head.  Our friends at Canon Press have also posted it online for free at Google books.  Well, what are you waiting for?  Get/read this book now!  Grade: A+

Through New Eyes by James Jordan (completed 09/14/09)

My first Christus Rex Study Center (CRSC) book.  Jordan attempts to develop a Biblical worldview based on the symbolism of the Bible.  He looks at stars, trees, rocks, animals, etc., in terms of their symbolic significance in the Bible and then looks at the different “worlds” of Noah, the Patriarchs, the Mosaic establishment, the Davidic establishment, the worlds of exile and restoration, and the New Creation showing how these symbols are transformed from glory to glory.  There is a lot to mine out of this book and could stand to be read several times.  In a sense, Jordan’s book is Van Tilianism applied at a “rhetoric” or “poetic” level.  Jordan makes and cites many of the Old Testament observations that Meredith G. Kline makes, but without falling into the trap of believing that because these things are types, symbols, and poetry they don’t apply to us today.  It also has an interesting footnote trail and a brief bibliography that I would like to have  followed if I didn’t have to get on to my next book.  You can tell that Jordan has done his homework (and then some), but the presentation of the book is quite readable and accessible to the layman.  The brilliant connections and keen observations Jordan makes left me wishing the book would never end.  Grade: A+

Mother Kirk by Douglas Wilson (completed 10/13/09)

This is a book of several essays on church life on topics ranging from the character of a minister to outreach to the sacraments.  Beyond containing several memorable quotes, the book is quite practical.  It deals directly with issues that come up again and again in the life of the church.  Wilson ably advances the reformed faith as a living and vibrant model for all churches to emulate rather than a museum piece of the frozen chosen.  Our friends at Canon Press have made this title available in its entirety here.   Grade: A

Back to Basics, David G. Hagopian, ed. (completed 11/8/09)

This is a great summary of Biblical Christianity (a.k.a. “Calvinism”).  There are four sections of this book.  “Back to Conversion” is written by Doug Wilson, an able and concise presentation of the reformed view of soteriology (the doctrine of salvation).  “Back to the Covenant” is written by Doug Jones and presents the basics of thinking covenantally and an overview of redemptive history.  Although not as detailed, it is basically in line with Jordan’s Through New Eyes.  Roger Wagner wrote “Back to the Church” which essentially presents the Presbyterian view of ecclesiology.  Wagner (I believe rightly) prefers John Murray’s distinction between the historical and eschatological church to the Westminster Confession’s distinction between the visible and invisible church.  When he treats the sacraments he defends paedobaptism and is essentially agnostic on the subject of paedocommunion.  The final section “Back to the Christian Life” is written by David Hagopian, who also edited the volume.  deals with justification, glorification,  and calling/vocation.  This book would be a great book study for a church group or a book to recommend to somebody who is curious about reformed Christianity.  Grade: A-

Protestant Biblical Interpretation by Bernard Ramm (completed 11/23/09)

Protestant Biblical Interpretation is a textbook of hermeneutics, which the author defines as the “science and art of Biblical interpretation.”  This was assigned reading as part of my “Thinking Biblically I” class at Christus Rex Study Center.  There is a lot of good material in this book, and there are only a couple of untranslated German quotations.  The book is conservative and protestant in nature.  As such, it is critical of liberalism, neo-orthodoxy, and Roman Catholicism.  There are a couple of aspects of the book that I find questionable at points.  First, while Ramm defines hermeneutics as the “science and art” of Biblical interpretation, he seems to have little value for “the art.”  Again and again Ramm extols science and scientific interpretation.  I’m not sure that modern science is the best model for biblical interpretation.  Is it truly the case that engineers in general would make better interpreters of scripture than poets or chemists than musicians?  Ramm also tends to inflate the role of “scholars” relative to the interpretation of the Bible with a bit of a modernist chronological provincialism.  Scholarship is not the pillar and ground of the truth; the Church is.  Ramm seems to imply in a number of places that scholars are the ultimate arbiters of what is true (see p. 183).  God has made no promises about scholars, and the New Testament is very critical of the prideful Scribes.  In his wisdom, God has chosen to entrust his Word to the primary care of pastors and elders.  Again, there is a lot of good stuff here.  I found a paragraph in the Epilogue particularly wise and edifying: “There is a prevailing danger to let differences in interpretation interrupt the unity of the Spirit.  When differences are sharp, feelings are apt to run high.  With foreboding storm clouds of oppression billowing on the distant horizon, it is well for conservative Protestantism to discover bases of fellowship rather than divergence.  If we stand together in the great truths of the Trinity, of Jesus Christ, and of Salvation, let us then work out our interpretive differences in the bounds of Christian love and endeavor to preserve the unity of the Spirit.  A hermeneutical victory at the expense of Christian graciousness is hardly worth winning.”  Amen to that!  Grade: B+

A Little Exercise for Young Theologians by Helmut Thielicke (completed 11/24/09)

This little 41 page booklet is essentially an adaptation of the first lecture Thielicke would give to new students.  It warns new theological students of the “spiritual sicknesses” that frequently befall theology students.  He compares the period of theological training to puberty in that there are a lot of changes going on and the maturity of the student often fails to keep pace with their (at least imagined) level of  knowledge.  Doug Wilson often talks about the “quarantine period” that people (especially young men) should undergo after becoming Calvinists.  Thielicke’s advice is practical and he knew enough of these situations to be able to validate the concerns of many a congregation that has sent a young man off to seminary and not liked the result.  I’m not sure I digested everything fully.  I imagine I’ll read this again from time to time.  Grade: A-

Thoughts for Young Men by J. C. Ryle (completed 11/25/09)

This is must reading for any young man.  Ryle’s exhortation to young men is timeless, succinct (62 pages in this edition), and wise.  The only real qualm that I have with Ryle is that he seems to have a latent gnostic streak with regards to the material world.  (The phrase “immortal soul” shows up quite frequently for such a short written work.)  This is a brief work, so I’ll know better once I start reading Holiness whether I have mischaracterized him.  Grade: A-

The Religious Life of Theological Students by B. B. Warfield (completed 11/25/09)

At fifteen pages, I anticipate this will be the shortest book I will read for CRSC.  (Many magazine articles are longer.)  Warfield packs a lot of punch into his brief address originally delivered at the Autumn Conference at Princeton Theological Seminary on October 4, 1911.  He exhorts the seminarians regarding the type of spiritual lives they should have as theological students.  Excellent.  Grade: A

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson (completed 12/23/09 [read aloud to daughter])

This was a read-aloud book to my daughter, which I hope will become a yearly tradition.  I cannot recommend this book highly enough.  The book isn’t just a story about a Christmas pageant; it’s the gospel lived out.  Jesus Christ came into this world to save sinners.   The Herdmans were the worst kids in the town: low class, disruptive, violent, thieving, destructive, disrespectful.  They were without God and without hope in the world, just like us Gentiles were.  But then they encountered Jesus.  The book is hilarious, but contains tremendous depth.   I got a little misty-eyed while reading the last chapter.  Grade: A+

Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties and Roots by J.C. Ryle (completed 01/18/10)

Ever since the the first missionaries arrived on the British Isles almost two millennia ago, I don’t know if there has ever been a period of greater spiritual decline in the history of the English-speaking world than the Victorian Era.  Ryle lived in a period that was not devoid of religious profession, but where the religious character (much like that of first-century Israel) was characterized by whitewashed sepulchers and blind guides.  We are still dealing with the weeds that sprung up during this period of history, and they have proven difficult to eradicate.  J.C. Ryle was a beacon of light during this dark time.  Like Thoughts for Young Men, this volume is written with a pastoral tone and practical in nature.  While I don’t quite agree with Ryle on every particular point, I recommend this volume without reservation to all Christians.  Ryle advances a genuine and well-developed view of holiness over against the many contemporary counterfeits that were abundant in his day and ours.  Grade: A

The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White (completed 01/25/10)

A great book on writing clearly and succinctly.  Grade: A

Easy Chairs, Hard Words by Douglas Wilson (completed 01/30/10)

Presented as a series of conversations between a seasoned pastor and a young man who is beginning to ask questions about what is popularly known as “Calvinism,” this book presents the doctrines of grace accurately and pastorally.  At only 150 pages this would be the perfect book to give to somebody who is working through the same questions in his own life without overwhelming him.  The fictional pastor, Martin Spenser, answers the anonymous young man’s questions about key doctrines in a forthright and humble manner.  Spenser (rightly) always points the young man to Scripture and encourages him to submit to the Bible.  He also provides warnings against pride and embracing caricatures that are especially pertinent to those who already embrace the doctrines of grace.  Because of its brevity and its date of publication (1991) it is largely silent on the current intramural controversies about the nature of the covenant.  Grade: A

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis (completed 02/02/10 [read aloud to daughter])

Once a king or queen in Narnia; always a king or queen in Narnia.  Grade: A+

Writing for Story by Jon Franklin (completed 02/15/10)

I have read quite a few books on writing, but I wish I had read this one five years ago.  Franklin handles structure and outlining in a way that makes everything click.  The book is particularly about dramatic nonfiction, but the tips and advice can easily be ported to fiction.    Grade: A+

On the Incarnation by St. Athanasius of Alexandria (completed 03/7/10)

I don’t believe any individual of the post-apostolic age has had as large an impact on the universal Christian church as Athanasius of Alexandria.  On the Incarnation is one of his most notable works.  I had to read this book for my Historical Theology class at Christus Rex Study Center and lecture on it for the class. (The outline of that lecture can be found here.)  The Incarnation was central to Athanasius’s thinking and his exposition of it in this book was crucial in shaping the Christian doctrine of the Incarnation.  You can read the book in its entirety at the Christian Classic Ethereal Library. Grade: A+

Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis (completed 03/16/10 [read aloud to daughter])

Reepicheep and Trumpkin for the win.  On a side note Doug Wilson mentioned Trumpkin in a lecture at our church conference a couple of weeks ago.  Janelle stayed home.  If she had been there, she would have made a scene.  “Daddy!  He’s talking about Trumpkin and Prince Cas-PI-an!”  (She always accents the second syllable for some reason.)   Grade: A

On Christian Doctrine by Augustine of Hippo (completed 4/29/10)

I had to read this book for my Historical Theology class and present on Augustine as I did on Athanasius.  (The outline of that lecture can be found here.)  Augustine’s work provides a solid basis for “plundering the Egyptians” and appropriating the best of classical learning for the cause of the gospel, including an extended discussion of rhetoric.  Augustine ably defends the Christian appropriation of the useful techniques and elements of classical rhetoric.  In addition, Augustine discusses signs and symbols and lays out a hermeneutical framework for Biblical interpretation that was tremendously influential on Western Biblical interpretation.  Grade: A

Learn to Read New Testament Greek by David Alan Black (completed 5/10/10)

Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Manners and Customs by Howard F. Vos (completed 5/15/10)

I chipped away at this big, fat green tome for the better part of the academic year.  While there is a great deal of useful information in the book and the author is a conservative, some of his inclusions, omissions, and conclusions were perplexing.  For example, Jonah is not mentioned once.  There is an entire chapter on Assyria, and not a mention of Jonah.  Vos mentions several times that the Assyrian empire was weak in the first half of the eighth century, but never considers that Jonah’s preaching to Nineveh might have had an effect on the renaissance of the Assyrian empire.  It’s not as if Vos refrains from speculating elsewhere.  The book generally gets better as it gets closer to the cross.  I think he’s more reliable on the Selucids, Ptolomies, and Romans than he is on the Babylonians, Egyptians, or Canaanites.  Vos goes through each culture explaining the government, warfare, architecture, diet, and family life.  Also my earlier critiques of Bernard Ramm’s Protestant Biblical Interpretation about the scholar being the final arbiter of truth apply equally to Vos.  It’s a useful resource to have, but left me wanting something more.  Grade: B-

Readings in the History of Christian Theology (vol. 1) edited by William C. Placher (completed 5/20/10)

Required for my Historical Theology class.  It can’t be easy to attempt to distill the primary sources of Christian writing from the generation following the apostles to the eve of the reformation into a 150 page anthology.  Given the difficulty of the task, Placher does an admirable job choosing excerpts from some of the most important works of Christian theology, organizing them and catching enough of the writers in their own words that you can get a taste of who they were and what they believed.  Grade: A-

Prayers and Meditations of St. Anselm with the Proslogion by Anselm of Canterbury (completed 5/27/10)

Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis (completed 6/3/10 [read aloud to daughter)

“There was a boy named Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.” is one of the best opening sentences of any book ever.  On my second reading through the Chronicles, Reepicheep has grown to be my favorite character.  He is aware of his limitations, but he has faith that if Aslan is on his side no enemy can overcome him.

“My own plans are made. While I can, I sail east in the Dawn Treader.  When she fails me, I paddle east in my corracle. When she sinks, I shall swim east with my four paws. And when I can swim no longer, if I have not reached Aslan’s country, or shot over the edge of the world in some vast cataract, I shall sink with my nose to the sunrise and Peepicheek will be head of the talking mice in Narnia.”  Grade: A

A House for My Name by Peter Leithart (completed 6/15/10)

Primeval Saints by James B. Jordan (completed 6/25/10)

The Unfolding Mystery by Edmund Clowney (completed 7/8/10)

Creation in Six Days by James Jordan (completed 7/22/10)

Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis (completed 7/30/10)

Misquoting Jesus by Bart D. Ehrman (completed 8/13/10)

Misquoting Truth by Timothy Paul Jones (completed 8/19/10)