Books I’m Reading…

July 22nd, 2010 / 6 Comments

From time to time, friends ask what I’m reading. I rarely start and finish a book in one sitting. I usually dabble, dive and resurface, and drift from one book to another. I read many books simultaneously.

With the summer slipping by, I thought I’d post a few comments on books I’m currently reading.  These aren’t thorough reviews, nor are they endorsements for “the best books I’ve ever read.” Instead, they are books that pique my interest and continue to keep it for one reason or another.             

So, here goes…

1.                Freedom of the Self: Kenosis, Cultural Identity, and Mission at the Crossroads (Pickwick) is written by Jeffrey Keuss, professor at Seattle Pacific University. It’s a fascinating and eclectic read. I actually finished it earlier this summer and wrote an endorsement for the back cover. Here’s what I wrote:

“Take insights from the emergent church, add a strong dose of continental philosophy’s focus on the other, sprinkle in insights from virtue ethics, include open theology’s view of a loving God whom Christians should imitate, add missional theology’s concern for engaging culture, and then place at the center a persuasive Christology of kenosis. Cook elements slowly; let ingredients intermingle and flavors mix. What emerges is this provocative book — a theological feast that nourishes and inspires!”

2.            Everything You Know about Evangelicals is Wrong (Well, Almost Everything): An Insider’s Look at the Myths and Realities (Bakerbooks) is co-written by Steve Wilkins and Don Thorsen. This book is a delightful read.  It succinctly makes the kind of arguments I find myself making when people look puzzled after telling them I’m an Evangelical. The chapter titles give you a good idea of the book’s content:

“Evangelicals are not all mean, stupid, and dogmatic;  Evangelicals are not all waiting for the rapture; Evangelicals are not all anti-evolutionists; Evangelicals are not all inerrantists; Evangelicals are not all rich Americans; Evangelicals are not all Calvinists; Evangelicals are not all Republicans; Evangelicals are not all racist, sexist, and homophobic; Conclusion: People of the Great Commission.”

3.            The God Biographers: Our Changing Image of God from Job to the Present (Lexington Books), by Larry Witham, is a trade book summarizing various views of God, especially as they relate to the big questions on human freedom, evil, and God’s knowledge. At the heart of the narrative is recent work in openness and process philosophies. Here’s a blurb from the back of the book:

“In the twenty-first century, our image of God is being shaped by new human experiences and the findings of science. Today, the debate between the old biographers and the new is playing out in the forums of modern theology, courtrooms, and social movements. Larry Witham tells that panoramic story in an engaging narrative for specialists and general readers alike.”

4.            A Theology of Love (T&T Clark), by Werner G. Jeanrond, was recommended to me by a friend. With my own two books on love coming out in recent months, I thought it would be good to see what this book provides. I’m finding Jeanrond’s approach is different from mine. Of course, I prefer my own approach when we differ.  But I’m finding much on which we agree. I hope to dialogue with Jeanrond in person some day to hash out the details.

5.            Crucified with Christ: The Life and Ministry of William Marvin Greathouse (Trevecca) is co-written by William J. Strickland and H. Ray Dunning.  Greathouse has immense influence in my denomination, and his insights have been formative in my own life. This biography tells his life story in an engaging way. I consider him a fellow love theologian in the Wesleyan tradition.

6.            Imitating Jesus: An Inclusive Approach to New Testament Ethics (Eerdmans), by Richard A. Burridge, offers an approach to biblical ethics that takes seriously and regards principally the place of love. I discovered it while looking for alternatives to Richard Hays’s influential book, The Moral Vision of the New Testament. I agree much more with Burridge than Hays!  (I wrote a blog on reasons I don’t like Hays’s approach.)

7.            Transforming Christian Theology – for Church and Society (Fortress), by Philip Clayton (with Tripp Fuller), has really inspired me this summer!  I’ve been pondering for some time issues about theological education and dialogue among academics and laity. But this book pushed me to think in new ways and offered new insights. I plan to require my students to read this book in the fall. (I wrote a couple of blogs on this book.)

8.            Why There Almost Certainly Is a God: Doubting Dawkins (Lion), by Keith Ward, takes on atheism. Keith’s specific target is Richard Dawkins, probably the most well known and most aggressive atheist writing today. Keith both draws upon classic arguments for God’s existence and offers some contemporary reasons for affirming belief in God.  The style is largely philosophical, but it is an easier read than most books offering philosophical arguments.

9.            The Groaning of Creation: God, Evolution, and the Problem of Evil (Westminster John Knox), by Christopher Southgate, addresses issues that I think about often.  I like the way he sets up the arguments. Like me, he argues for a multi-faceted answer to the problem of evil. But he and I disagree on how to think of God’s power. The last two chapters of my two recent books provide my alternative view of God’s power that, I argue, could help Southgate’s project. Of course, I’m biased! : )

10.         Spiritual Bankruptcy: A Prophetic Call to Action (Abingdon), by John B. Cobb, Jr., is a unique book.  I’ve long admired John for his heart of concern and his theological intelligence.  He’s also brave enough to propose ideas that may go against the grain. In this book, John proposes what he calls “Secularizing Christianity.” Christians can make a transformative difference in education, economics, and culture if they focus on their ministry and mission in this world rather than on otherworldly issues or inwardly. The book moves through issues of religion and secularity in history and philosophy to argue that Christians must be engaged in contemporary concerns for the sake of Christ and the world.

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Steve Carroll

thank you for sharing. the list is helpful for future reading

Greg Crofford

Hey Tom, the response to Dawkins sounds interesting. I’m not sure how much “ice” traditional arguments for God’s existence will cut with the skeptic/agnostic/atheist.
In fact, the whole apologetic exercise to me seems futile for those on the outside looking in. It may have some value for those on the inside already.

Stan Rodes

Thanks for the listing. I’m intrigued with the topics . . . and looking forward to the day when my PhD work will not have so much of a monopoly on what I’m reading!

Todd Holden

How would you compare Cobb’s book with those by Walter Brueggemann in the same subject area? Brueggemann is very passionate on this same issue.

Thomas Jay Oord

Todd—Cobb is as passionate or more on this issue.  But his is a philosophical-historical-theological argument.  Brueggemann is more biblically oriented, although I wouldn’t say Cobb’s view is opposed to scripture.  It’s just that the form the arguments take differ.

Brint Montgomery

You cite, “Evangelicals are not all mean, stupid, and dogmatic;  Evangelicals are not all waiting for the rapture; Evangelicals are not all anti-evolutionists; Evangelicals are not all inerrantists; Evangelicals are not all rich Americans; Evangelicals are not all Calvinists; Evangelicals are not all Republicans; Evangelicals are not all racist, sexist, and homophobic.”

Well, I’d certainly like to know the left-over percentage of Evangelicals that aren’t any of these things. I’m willing to bet it’s tiny indeed.

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