Reading for the Common Good


Recently I began reading the newest release of Christopher Smith, Reading for the Common Good: How Books Help our Neighborhoods and Churches Flourish. Thanks to IVP for a review copy! Smith is also the co-author of Slow Church.

The book, and its somewhat unique thesis, flows from the practice of Smith’s own church in Indianapolis. What’s the main premise? Continue reading

Books To Read For 2010

A few days ago, I listed ten top books that I read in 2009. But in this post, I wanted to list some top books that I would like to read in the year 2010. They are in no particular order.

1. Jesus and the Victory of God by N.T. Wright (This is volume 2 of Wright’s series Christian Origins and the Question of God. Of course, I would like to read the two other volumes – The New Testament and the People of God and The Resurrection of the Son of God, but I am not sure if they will make 2010, since they are each massive works. I’d like to get into them all, but I’m just not sure. I believe there will be a total of six volumes in this series when it is completed.)

2. The Future of Justification: A Response to N.T. Wright by John Piper (I’ve read N.T. Wright’s book, Justification: God’s Plan and Paul’s Vision. Now I want to go back and read Piper’s book, which was written prior to Wright’s book, though Wright has been speaking and writing on this for decades. I’ve blogged about the debate on the ‘new perspective’ here.)

3. Desiring God by John Piper (I’ve dipped into the first couple of chapters before, but I’d like to read it fully very soon.)

4. The Story of Christianity by Justo Gonzalez (I originally read this two-volume work about seven years ago when I took two semesters of church history. But I am interested in reading and studying more on church history, so I want to go back and start with this work.)

5. The Passion of the Western Mind: Understanding the Ideas That Have Shaped Our World View by Richard Tarnas (I originally read this in university in a philosophy class, but I want to go back and re-read it to refresh my memory in regards to the development of western thought, at least from a non-Christian’s perspective. I don’t think I paid too much attention to the book when I had to read it some ten years ago.)

6. The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama (In 2009, I read Dreams From My Father, and blogged about it here. Now I want to follow up that book with his more recent title.)

7. Perelandra and That Hideous Strength by C.S. Lewis (I started The Space Triology a couple of weeks back and posted some thoughts here. I plan to spend the early days of 2010 finishing out the series.)

8. The Fourth Book of The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini (I read the third book, Brisingr, in 2009. I am now awaiting the fourth and final book to hopefully be released in 2010. I truly enjoy fantasy fiction!)

I’m sure there are others that will come up over the year, but that is a start for now. Should be some good and interesting reading.

Fiction Reading

I have decided to put my series about cessationism and continuationism on a hold for now on my blog. I will probably pick up the topic in the near future, but for now I would like to take another direction theologically. We will see where that turns next week, but, for today at least, I wanted to simply share about something I truly enjoy.

For those who know me, they are aware that I love to read and study theology. And, that is possibly an understatement. I really enjoy cracking open the Scriptures, all the while diving into theological volumes or commentaries or a treatises on a particular theological topic. But, what many might not be aware of is that I love to read fiction books as well. Matter of fact, there is hardly a day that goes by that I am not reading a fiction novel.

What usually happens is that I find myself reading 2 (or more) books at the same time, almost as if there is a theological book in one hand and a novel in the other. What types do I enjoy the most? Well, more than any other genres, I enjoy fantasy fiction (something like The Lord of the Rings) and suspense (something like John Grisham). These are my favorite, no doubt.

There is something about the beauty of a story, one that is not actually true, yet it draws you in to another world. Every story has a purpose, and that story is generally centered around the ultimate battle between good and evil, with good usually coming through as the victor. In his own books, John Eldredge has done quite well in assessing the main plot lines of stories in both novels and movies. He relates it to the main story line of redemptive history found in Scripture – creation, fall, redemption and consummation.

Have you ever noticed how stories generally follow that outline? It’s embedded in almost every fiction book we pick up or movie we watch. It’s beautiful! And, thus, when you pick up a book like The Fellowship of the Ring, you find yourself drawn into the story, sometimes in wonderment at the details so carefully crafted by the author. We even find ourselves relating to a particular character like a Frodo or Aragorn or Arwen. And all of these stories are generally littered with the reality that there is more to life than ‘meets the eye’. There is a bigger drama to consider in the midst of our own little drama. We get this sense that we are not the main character. Someone else is.

Thus, I love fiction and I love novels. Yes, it is mainly fantasy (though not too science fictiony) and suspense. But I might be willing to pick up another style. One series I am presently reading is Inheritance authored by Christopher Paolini. Though the movie, Eragon, pales in comparison, the books are quite good. It started out as a triology, but, as the author has progressed in the series, he realized he needed a fourth book to fully complete it all. So, the first three have been released and I, now, await the fourth. But, here is a series, somewhat like The Lord of the Rings or The Chronicles of Narnia, in which there is a battle of good versus evil, a valiant warrior leading the way along with other wise counselors, his heart beats for his one true love, and I can only imagine that the story will with the ‘good side’ as the final victors.

I share this all to encourage us to consider dipping into a fiction book here or there. Sure, we need to be consistently in the Scriptures, and even considering the works of other wise believers out there. And by no means must you read from the fantasy or suspense genre. It could even be things like poetry to draw you in. But I do recommend you find stories that you like and enter those stories. There is no promise that you will enjoy it as much as I or the next person. Yet, by picking up such books, you might just come to understand life’s the bigger picture a little more. And, this might just be a little taste of heaven and the heart of God. Try it.