Books I’m Reading Now

January 9th, 2014 / 5 Comments

My reading shelf has been filling up. But I’m happy to report I’ve been finding more time than usual to get some reading done!

I’m beginning a sabbatical. Thanks to funding from a grant, my major project is writing a book on randomness, purpose, love, evil, and God’s providence. Some of the books I’ve been reading lately are helping me formulate my ideas.

Here are fifteen books I’ve either read in full or am reading at the moment…

Morality, Autonomy, and God, by Keith Ward. This philosophy of ethics book takes on major voices in philosophical ethics and science. Ward weaves together a view of ethics that embraces values, ideas, and God. Those who may only know Ward’s books aimed at a popular audience will find he is quite capable of writing for the academy in convincing ways. Ward’s arguments trump atheistic and naturalistic attempts to explain or explain away goodness.

The Nature of Creation: Examining the Bible and Science, by Mark Harris. This Scottish academic explores what the Bible says about a host of issues related to creation, science, evolution, and philosophy of science. I like some of his conclusions and reject others. As I read it, I was reminded of my own writing on the Bible and evolution. Despite the segments with which I disagree, the book stimulates my thinking.

Triune Atonement: Christ’s Healing for Sinners, Victims, and the Whole Creation, by Andrew Sung Park. Known for his theology for victims, Park here takes on atonement theories. The first half of the book explores the standard theories of atonement and finds them inadequate. The second half offers an atonement theory that not only offers forgiveness for sinners but also takes into account the healing of victims and the redemption of all creation. The book is short, easy to read, and could easily be used in undergraduate classes. It’s also a nice read to prepare for the upcoming Wesleyan Theological Society meeting exploring atonement. 

The Dark Side of Destiny: Hell Re-Examined, by Gregory Crofford. In this short book, Crofford lays out reasons why many traditional notions of hell make little sense. As an alternative, he offers a vision of the afterlife and hell in the mode of conditional immortality. I like the basic arguments of the book, and it would make a good small group study. It reminded me of Rob Bell’s book on hell, which I reviewed. I’d also like to see the arguments expanded, however, and Crofford publish a second, longer book on the subject.

The Entangled God: Divine Relationality and Quantum Physics, by Kirk Wegter-McNelly.  This sophisticated read takes the relationality of the triune-God who relates with creation and the entanglement supposed by quantum physics and explores the possible fruitfulness of their relationship. The author is informed by holistic, relational categories of philosophy. He even proposes an initial theory of creation in which God creates out of relationships with others. It bears some resemblance to my own theory of initial creation.

Nazarenes Exploring Evolution, by Sherri B. Walker and Thomas Jay Oord. Although I am a co-editor of this newly published book, I’ve been rereading the more than 60 contributions. There is some really fine writing in this book, and I’m happy with the result. A conference at Point Loma Nazarene University, Exploring Origins, is coming later in January, and I think this book will be a fine addition.

Four Views of the Historical Adam, Denis Lamoureux, John Walton, C. John Collins, William D. Barrick, Gregory A. Boyd, and Philip Ryken. The first four people listed above take various views on whether Adam was or must be a historical figure. I’m partial to the arguments of Lamoureux and Walton. The final two – Boyd and Ryken – give “pastoral reflections.” This is a fine overview of the important issues.

Calvin vs. Wesley: Bringing Belief in Line with Practice, by Don Thorsen.  The author is an expert on Wesley and theologian at Azusa Pacific University. I really like the accessible way the book is written. And given that I agree with the author’s view that Wesleyan theology is preferable to Calvinist theology, I enjoyed reading this book. I’ll be recommending it to students and laity.

Missional Discipleship: Partners in God’s Redemptive Mission, by Mark A. Maddix and Jay Richard Akkerman. This is a fine collection of essays exploring various dimensions of missional discipleship. The contributors all have connections to the Church of the Nazarene, a denomination whose core values include being missional. I have an essay in the book, “God on a Mission: Missional Theology,” of which I’m particularly proud! By the way, this book was given away free to those who pre-registered for the 2014 NNU Wesley Center Conference.

God of Becoming and Relationship: The Dynamic Nature of Process Theology, by Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson. What might process theology look like from a Jewish perspective? Artson tells us in this book, all the while introducing basic ideas of process theology to readers unfamiliar with this theological tradition. This is the book I’ll give my Jewish friends who wonder about process thought in specific and the big theological questions of life in general.

Less is More than Enough, by Chris McNaught. In this self-published book, McNaught offers lessons from his life as a counselor and one who has endured physical and health struggles. I found several segments inspiring, and this is the kind of book I’d recommend those who are in the midst of life’s difficulties.

Faith and its Critics: A Conversation, by David Fergusson. This Gifford Lectures book looks at the statements made by “new” atheists, such as Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and Sam Harris. Fergusson convincingly shows that many of the atheistic critiques are either not new or, more often, not convincing given other arguments. In fact, I think the author would agree that much of the new atheism takes the form of fundamentalism. 

Phineas Bresee: Pastor to the People, by Carl O. Bangs, abridged by Stan Ingersol. This is a shortened version of Bang’s earlier book on Bresee. And the hope is that a shorter book will appeal to some who do not know Bresee’s story. By the way, Grace and Peace magazine has several videos and articles on Bresee’s influence.

A Theological Metaphor of Philosopher for Education, by Johannes A. Nortje. In this short book (50 pages), Nortje argues for what he calls, “open source theology.” As the title suggests, this approach to theology has wide-ranging implications for pedagogy. This kind of creative theology is needed today. 

God, Chance, and Purpose: Can God have it Both Ways? By David J. Bartholomew. I’ve been reading this book in hopes of gleaning insights for a book I’m writing on chance and purpose. Bartholomew writes as one who knows statistics and probabilities, and he uses various examples and theories to argue that chance is integral to God’s creating. He’s also not very fond of intelligent design!

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Chris McNaught

Thank you Tom. When I first started writing, it was not my intention to write for people “in the midst of life’s difficulties.” I was really just writing to preserve my memory. But the reactions I’ve gotten from those very people have been so positive. It’s been exciting.

God is using my difficulties as a blessing.

Ben Duarte

Interesting reading!

Hans Deventer

Tom, if you like a more thorough approach of the subject of conditionality, I would recommend Edward Fudge’s “The Fire That Consumes”. It’s been considered the key text in this area.

Mike Hunt

Wow! Sounds like you are inventing your own religion! Funny how you read stuff you already agree with to continue puffing yourself up instead of reading anything that actually challenges your preconceived notions. It’s sad that you call yourself a Christian yet simultaneously adhere to nothing Christian your religious views and make a living destroying the faith or young people. You should be kicked out of the denomination and barred from ever teaching anything from behind a lectern or pulpit and calling it Christian. Too bad the denomination doesn’t have the balls to actually stand up for what they believe in anymore (or used to believe in).

“Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.”(James 3:1)

HE Pennypacker

Wow, you are right on Mike Hunt! Imagine the audacity of someone that teaches Christianity is largely about God’s love and grace. Let’s get back to the traditional teachings of wrath and condemnation. Geez, the world must be going to hell in a handbasket. (Meant in amiable jest and good cheer.) Try I Cor. 13 after you read James 3:1.

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