Some of my favorite posts to read are book reviews and recommendations. It helps broaden out my reading list and keep it fresh. Also, I enjoy seeing how themes about the human condition and experience intersect in various ways. When I read, I like to tag each book with themes for reference for illustrations in my preaching. I’ve provided some tags below if they are of some use or interest to readers.
Here are some of the books I enjoyed this month.
All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr. Even amid the acclaim of the Pulitzer Prize and other top book honors, this title escaped my reading list. I’m glad I finally read it. Alternating between Paris and Germany during World War II, Doerr weaves two stories together with the skill of a master craftsman. There’s the intrigue of a supposedly cursed diamond within the broader story of the brutality and vulnerability of the German army. Themes: suffering, providence, common grace, & morality
2034: A Novel of the Next World War, Elliot Ackerman & Admiral James Stavridis. The authors imagine how a war in 2034 might be fought. They show how technology can make a nation strong and vulnerable. During a somewhat routine day, the US finds itself embroiled in what looks like World War III. The personal stories and characters aren’t the book’s strength; they are garnishes on the plate intended to make us think, reflect, and hopefully avoid a coming disaster. Themes: sin, destruction, & suffering
The Emergence of Liberty in the Modern World: The Influence of Calvin on Five Governments from the 16th Through 18th Centuries, Douglas Kelly. Over the last year, there’s been a renewed interest in thinking about the church and state. This is a valuable resource to consult. Kelly shows how John Calvin shaped the discussion in France, Scotland, England, and the American Colonies. The book traces Calvin’s doctrine of the lesser magistrates and his philosophy of resistance. Kelly argues that it was John Calvin more than enlightenment philosopher John Locke who shaped early American political thought. Themes: Church & State, Civil Disobedience, Church History,
Justifying Revolution: The American Clergy’s Argument for Political Resistance, 1750–1176, Gary L. Seward. How did the pastors on the ground think about a revolution in the 18th Century? Fortunately, they were pretty outspoken; we can see what they thought and how they were shaped. Seward traces the sermons from the “Patriot Preachers” to show that they were not primarily influenced by the enlightenment but rather from Reformed theology and tradition. He digs in to show the limits of the king’s authority upon his subjects and how the pastors were thinking about their resistance. He argues that the American Revolution falls within the traditional Reformed framework. When we (especially pastors) are trying to untangle complicated legal and social questions from a biblical framework, Seward’s book is a valuable resource. Themes: Church & State, Civil Disobedience, Church History
Denominations or Associations?, James M. Renihan. Some churches today advocate the virtues of being independent. Still others promote the benefits of denominations. This book presents a third way: the advantage and priority of associations. It consists of six essays arguing the biblical, historical, and practical benefits of associations. The chapters are from a Baptist framework, but that shouldn’t stop non-Baptists from reading. The arguments seek to spur those who advocate church membership to be consistent and promote church partnerships. The way to do this, argue the authors, is through associations. Themes: Ecclesiology, Missions, Church History
Make Your Bed, Admiral William H. McRaven. This short little book expands a speech given by Admiral McRaven to the University of Texas. The gist is: If you want to change the world, make your bed. In addition to being an excellent line for parents who want their kids to have a clean room, it’s practical for framing up how to approach life. The book is filled with stories of Seal training and a life in the military. Preachers and Bible teachers will find a bevy of illustrations that translate well to biblical content. Themes: Discipline, Stewardship, Endurance