My favorite books of 2017
Most of my reading in 2017 included academic books in history, theology, and missiology, and some practical devotional works. For some books, I wrote formal reviews for journals; for others, I simply read for my own enjoyment and edification. Some were published in 2017, while others were just new to me. So here goes:
The Mission of the Church (Craig Ott, ed.). A timely book on an often-debated issue, Ott invited an excellent team of diverse scholars (Catholic, Orthodox, Mainline Protestant, Evangelical) to weigh in on the meaning of Christian mission. This book is a wonderful mix of agreement and diverging views on this important question. My full review HERE.
Created and Creating: A Biblical Theology of Culture (William Edgar). Making a case for Christian cultural engagement, Edgar argues that “the cultural mandate, declared at the dawn of human history, and reiterated throughout the different episodes of redemptive history, culminating in Jesus’ Great Commission, is the central calling for humanity” (p. 233). This biblical theology of culture ought to shape how we think about work, government, the arts, and loving our neighbors. See my full review HERE.
Scripture as Real Presence: Sacramental Exegesis in the Early Church (Hans Boersma). Continuing the legacy of twentieth century scholars Henri de Lubac and Jean Daniélou, Boersma’s stated aim is one of ressourcement (p. 273)—to present and evaluate the sacramental reading of Scripture celebrated by the church fathers. Pushing back against modern historical approaches in biblical studies, Boersma defends this spiritual, theological interpretation of Scripture, which he defines as “simply a reading of Scripture as Scripture, that is to say, as the book of the church that is meant as a sacramental guide on the journey of salvation” (p. xii). My review is forthcoming in JETS.
Crossing Cultural Frontiers: Studies in the History of World Christianity (Andrew Walls). This is Walls' third "best of" compilation from previously published articles and chapters on world Christianity. Grouped into sections on theology of mission, Africa, and mission from the West, Walls’ continues to develop his lifelong exploration of indigenous Christianity—the gospel at home in every culture. My reviewing is forthcoming in Themelios.
Abraham Kuyper: A Short Personal Introduction (Richard Mouw). In this short book, Mouw helps the reader meet Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920), the Dutch minister, newspaper editor, theology professor, university founder, and political party founder, who went on to become prime minister of the Netherlands. Believing that every aspect of our lives should be lived coram Deo (before God's face), Kuyper asserted that God should be glorified in business, the arts, politics, and education. Kuyper’s theology of work flowed from the “cultural mandate” of Gen 1:28 (“be fruitful and fill the earth”), which implied that humans labored to cultivate or make culture and to flourish in the process.
Every Waking Hour (Benjamin Quinn and Walter Strickland). Defining work as “what creatures do with God’s creation,” the authors argue that since creation is inherently good, then work is good (p. 6). They define vocation or calling as “the way we make ourselves useful to others” (p. 8). Building on Jesus’ Great Commandment to love God and love others (Matt 22:37-39), they add that the purpose of vocation is to glorify God and serve others. Through pursuing vocation, humans act as image bearers doing God’s work. I've adopted this for a first year course on calling and vocation at CIU.
Saved by Faith and Hospitality (Joshua Jipp). Jipp's work is a thorough study of hospitality in the New Testament, especially in Luke-Acts, John's Gospel, and in Paul's writings. Jipp summarizes, "If this work makes one point it is simply that hospitality to strangers--both understood as extending hospitality as host and receiving it as guest--is indeed at the heart of the Christian faith" (p. xii). Beyond his scholarship, Jipp shares practical suggestions for what that looks like in our communities while illustrating it from his own personal ministry.
The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in its Proper Place (Andy Crouch). As parents of kids with screens, my wife and I read this for practical help. More than advice on security settings or policing screen time, this book reminds us that the family is a community for cultivating wisdom and virtue. One of the best practical take aways (that we are still working on) is making the central living space in our home an increasingly tech free zone where we create (i.e. playing music and games, reading) instead of consume.
Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life (Tish Harrison Warren). For me this was a purposefully slow read after morning devotions in summer, including a few days on a cabin porch in the Tennessee mountains. As the title suggests, following the church calendar of ordinary time, it is a call to orient our daily rhythms (even the mundane) along the sacred tracks of worship. This is well written, funny, and honest.
The Songs of Jesus: A year of Daily Devotions in the Psalms (Tim and Kathy Keller). For most of the year, my wife and I read and prayed through this as part of our morning devotions. While this time has become oxygen for my soul, reading the Psalms and gaining insights on them from the Kellers helped shape our daily rhythms. In 2018, we're going to give God's Wisdom for Navigating Life (on Proverbs) a shot.
You are what you read and this is what I am becoming. Merry Christmas.