The Pastor’s Shelf

Last year I started to keep a list of the books I read during a calendar year. My intention with this process is to be able to remember not only what I’ve read but when I read it, so that it has a context. This past year (2011) I read many books for the first time and a couple of books for a second or even third time. I’ve read some books mainly for “business” and some books mainly for pleasure.  Below is a brief article to tell you a little about a few of these books and to encourage you to read some of them for yourself.

Books on Biblical Justice

I read several books this year on the subject of Biblical justice. My desire to pursue this theme of reading came from preaching through the Gospel of Luke. Luke focuses so much of his Gospel on Jesus’ mission to “proclaim good news to the poor… liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19), that I felt the need to broaden my understanding of the Biblical concept of justice. Along those lines I read Generous Justice by Tim Keller, Radical by David Platt, and Neither Poverty Nor Riches by Craig Blomberg. 

Generous Justice and Radical are both meant for a broad public consumption but these books are not for those easily offended in their faith. Both will challenge the natural assumptions we hold about wealth and it’s proper use for the glory of God. These books call us to pursue a Gospel-driven stewardship of our riches in order to serve the poor and oppressed of our world and to bring glory to the name of Christ.

In Neither Poverty Nor Riches, Blomberg considers a broad spectrum of the Biblical texts that deal with possessions and wealth. His survey of the relevant material gives the reader a bird’s eye view of God’s concept of justice. Blomberg’s book is somewhat technical in it’s language but is a very helpful volume on this subject.

Biographies

I have a growing fascination with history, particularly with historical figures. This new interest has kindled a segment of my reading devoted to biographies. This past year I read Augustus: The Life of Rome’s First Emperor; Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy; The First Tycoon:The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt; Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor (Tom Carson);  Jonathan Edwards: A Life; The Pastor (Eugene Peterson); and John Calvin: A Pilgrim’s Life.

All of these are worth reading but I want to suggest two of them particularly to you as Christians. Bonhoeffer, by Eric Metaxes is an excellent book about the German pastor/theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who righteously stood against Hitler’s Third Reich, both during its rise to power and throughout the war. His courage is to be emulated to be certain, but there is much to be learned from Bonhoeffer’s pursuit of ways in which to experience most fully the fellowship of believers as well.

The second biography of note from my list is John Calvin, by Herman Selderhuis. Calvin was a sixteenth century French reformer who lived and ministered as an exile in Geneva, Switzerland throughout most of his adult life. He is also the lead theologian and churchman from that era who developed a Biblically-based systematic theology that is the foundation of the distinctive doctrines held today by Presbyterian and Reformed churches throughout the world. For this reason, if no other, his story has significant value for us as people of the Reformed tradition.

Fiction

“What else?” you might be wondering. Well, I do enjoy a good novel as well and I have read a few notable ones this past year on my own and with my boys. If you like fantasy fiction Stephen Lawhead’s, The Dragon King Trilogy, was a pretty interesting read. The series has been around for a while but it was my first time reading it, though I had previously read his King Raven and The Song of Albion trilogies. Lawhead is a Christian and his novels are usually pretty good. There is always a redemptive aspect to his storytelling, which I find rewarding and see as an acknowledgment of Christ’s heroic redemption of us, His people. So, if you are a bit of a fantasy geek like me check  out the Dragon King books.

Earlier this year I also discovered another Christian fantasy fiction writer by the name of N.D. Wilson. My boys and I started reading a three part series of his called 100 Cupboards. The first book, by the same title, introduces the reader to a boy named Henry who has to move in with his uncle and aunt who live in Henry, KS. The boy moves into the attic and soon discovers that behind the wall of plaster in his room there are 99 doors that lead into other worlds and behind one of those doors lies the world from which Henry came. This series is most appropriate for middle school students and up but can also be read by young accelerated readers. I must confess that we are only half-way through the second book, Dandelion Fire, but I am willing to step out on the limb and recommend the series based on what I’ve read so far. 

The List

Hopefully this sampling of some of the recent additions to my shelf (or Kindle, as the case may be) inspires you to read something that is both enjoyable and edifying in the new year. I will be passing this list on to Carol Bourdette, our church librarian, and encouraging her to add these volumes to our library in the very near future. 

Of course, no reading list would be complete for the Christian without including the Bible. Many of you joined me this past semester, during my Old Testament Survey class, in reading through the Old Testament (or most of it at least!). During the fourth quarter of Ekklesia (beginning in March) I will be teaching the New Testament portion of Bible Survey. If you want to join me for this class you may want to get a head start on reading through the New Testament. I definitely recommend that book. It is the best I’ve ever read.