February 2011

Stanley Fish. How to Write A Sentence (Harper 2011). A well written book on well written sentences. Though his postmodern colors show through here and there, overall Fish exults in the power of statements. He quotes liberally from the classics, including Christian classics. Writers should read this book.

John M. Frame. Salvation Belongs to the Lord (P & R 2006). An excellent mini-systematic theology. Frame is solid without being stuffy. He comes down firmly on the right issues and treads lightly on the others. Though personally I was not helped by Frame’s penchant for putting everything into groups of threes and then relating various triplets to each other, this is still a wonderful introduction to evangelical, Reformed theology.

Robert L. Plummer. Paul’s Understanding of the Church’s Mission (Wipf & Stock 2006). A brilliant defense of the surprisingly controversial proposition that Paul expected his churches to evangelize. Plummer’s attention to Scripture is commendable and makes for a convincing argument. I only wish the book weren’t so dissertationy.

D. G. Hart. The Lost Soul of American Protestantism (Rowman & Littlefield 2002). My copy is marked up with copious notes and underlines. Lots to think about. I like the passion for confessionalism. I worry for the way it is always pit against revival, pietism, and evangelicalism.

Stephen Anderson. Preparing to Build (AMI 2006). A great book for any church considering new construction. Someone in the church should read this book before undertaking a building program. It is exceedingly practical; full of good sense.

Nancy DeMott, Tim Shapiro, and Brent Bill. Holy Places: Matching Sacred Space with Mission and Message (The Alban Institute 2007). Less practical, less helpful than the previous book, with lots of fruity mainline jargon to boot. The design is sharp, but the content is a solid “meh.” Read the other one.

John Williamson Nevin. The Anxious Bench (Wipf & Stock 2000). A withering critique, circa 1844, of Finneyism and the New Measures. Nevin advocates the system of the “Catechism” over against the “Bench.” He didn’t sell me on every point, but in general I thought the criticism warranted and would be happy to see more “Catechism,” which Nevin is careful to say should not be confused with formalism or lifeless orthodoxy.

Gary Dorrien. The Making of American Liberal Theology: Imagining Progressive Religion, 1805-1900 (vol. 1) (Westminster John Knox Press 2001). I don’t know much about Dorrien except that when he began the series he was at Kalamazoo College and now he is at Union Theological Seminary. From what I’ve read (and I did not read every page of this book), he is sympathetic to liberalism (hence the position at Union), but also fair and clear. I doubt that many evangelicals need to read these volumes, but some pastors and students may want to have them as reference material on their shelves.