My heart became hot within me. As I mused, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue: "O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!"

26 July 2007

Of making many books there is no end

I have a stack of books I wanted to write about and, coming to the realization that a full review of each one is a pipe dream, here are the mini-reviews!

Eat This Book: A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading, by Eugene Peterson - Though Peterson (author of The Message, a paraphrase version of Scripture) comes from a different theological stripe than I, this book was a good treat. He focuses on obedient reading of Scripture and what it looks like to live God's Word. His discussion of the Lectio Divina was helpful for the uninitiated like me and the chapter describing why and how he wrote the Message was clarifying, even if I don't totally agree with his translation philosophy. Peterson loves the Bible and helps his readers to do the same. [Note: this is the 2nd book in Peterson's "spiritual theology" book series]

The Fragrance of God, by Vigen Guroian - Guroian is an Eastern Orthodox theologian who teaches at Loyola College in Baltimore. I first heard of him from Ken Myers of Mars Hill Audio, who interviewed him concerning ethics in the Orthodox tradition. Fragrance is a short book of meditations surrounding gardening. Weaving together Scripture, references from the church fathers, gardening and the seasons and the path of his own life, Guroian puts together a wonderful little book. Again, the theology isn't right up my ally, but the love for God and his creation certainly is. I should garden more (if only God had chosen a different curse than weeds...).

Art for God's Sake, by Philip Ryken - Pastor Ryken's short (90 page) take on the arts is very, very good. Beginning with Bezalel and Oholiab (the men called to oversee tabernacle construction) and moving through various theological and practical considerations, Art for God's Sake ends up being a Biblical and balanced take on a subject in which the 20th century church became quite unbalanced.

On the Mortification of Sin, by John Owen - Without qualification, this is one of the best books I've read since becoming a pastor. Owen's take on the battle against sin should be read by anyone who hates sin, and especially by anyone involved in counseling or pastoral ministry. Through this short (but dense) book, Owen considers general rules of mortifying (killing) sin and how sin is ultimately killed: by faith in Jesus Christ. Though Owen's writing is a challenge, please buy this book and read it. If you ever need to come to my office for counseling, what you'll hear will hopefully be a regurgitation of this book - so cut out the middle man and read it yourself.

The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification, by Walter Marshall - If you don't read Owen, read Marshall. They address the same topic with the same point: believe in Jesus, not only for justification but also for sanctification. We so often try to fight sin and become "better" Christians through programs or checklists or accountability groups or some other means and yet we neglect God's plan for making us holy: by faith in and union to Jesus Christ, the Holy One. If this is a new thought for you, as it was for me, please read. (Thanks to David Reese for suggesting this book.)

The Substance of Style by Virginia Postrel - Because of my recent interest in Christian interaction within the arts, I've also found an interest in design and style - no skill, mind you, but interest. Postrel's book (subtitle: How the Rise of Aesthetic Value is Remaking Commerce, Culture & Consciousness) first shows that increased wealth and economic prowess have allowed us to be more picky about the style of what we consume; i.e., all things equal, I'll choose the more stylish teakettle, even if I have to pay a little more for it. Then she argues that this "aesthetic value" isn't a bad thing, only a complicated thing. So if you're interested or involved in visual art, design, fashion, etc., this is a very deep-thinking and helpful book. [Note: this is not an explicitly Christian book; but, I think, Christians should read it and consider how pursuit of fashion and style and beauty can reflect the beauty of God or, I suppose, distort it.]


Nathan said...

I like to recommend Kris Lungaard's The Enemy Within to people. This is a modernization of Owen's work on sin.

I love Owen- but he is not for your average bear.

I am also going to check out The Fragrance of God. Thanks for the recommendation.

Jared said...

I wholeheartedly agree with your note about Lundgaard's book. I found it to be a real treat. (I wrote about it a while back...don't remember when).

Karen said...

The Enemy Within is excellent...but it gave me a hunger to read the 'original'. I found that the Mortification of Sin pushed me to the Word, to prayer, and to repentance in a deeper manner - despite the fact that John Owen did not include 'discussion questions' or little fill-in-the-blanks as many newer books do these days. I have decided you just can't beat the old stuff.