Top 5 Books (Read) in 2011

I haven’t read too many full books this year (though I have worked my way through numerous chapters and articles) so the books listed here weren’t selected out of dozens of potential candidates. Nevertheless, here are my top five favorite reads for 2011 (not in any particular order):

What is the Mission of the Church? –DeYoung and Gilbert. In recent, and immediately controversial, work was released only a few short months ago and has the evangelical interwebs abuzz. Kevin DeYoung (co-author of Why We Love the Church) and Greg Gilbert (author of What is the Gospel?) argues that the mission of the church is primarily that of verbal gospel proclamation and making disciples. In response to the increasing popular views of man like Christopher J. H. Wright (see his The Mission of God and The Mission of God’s People) that argues “if everything is mission, then everything is mission,” DeYoung and Gilbert argue, quoting Stephen Neill, “If everything is mission, nothing is mission.” The book makes many great and important points, and other times feels either to miss the point or oversimplified. But, that said, it’s a mixed bag that is most certainly worth reading.

The King Jesus GospelMcKnight. Scot McKnight’s chief contention is that our evangelical culture has largely substituted a gospel culture for a salvation culture. This is especially ironic since the term evangelical is derived from the Greek word euangelion, or gospel. According to McKnight, based on where we tend to place our greatest emphases, we’re more soterist (from the Greek word soterea, salvation) than evangelicals. Not that salvation isn’t related, and intimately related to the gospel. It is….but. The problem is our presentations of the Plan of Salvation miss the very thing that makes the gospel the gospel. McKnight distinguishes between the story of Israel and the story of Jesus. In a nutshell, the gospel is the story of Jesus as the climax of the story of Israel. To be sure, it is a story that saves, but the gospel, isn’t primarily about our response and how we can be forgiven. There is much food for thought in this book. I tend to think that McKnight over-corrects in his limiting the gospel to the proclamation of the messianic identity of Jesus (though in itself, it is a very important point). I think its best to say that the gospel includes the message of Jesus as Israel’s messiah, the world’s true Lord, and the message of how a rebel can be reconciled and included into his kingdom.

An Introduction to Christian Apologetics– Carnell. Considered by many a classic. Apologetics is my first love and I read this in order to familiarize myself with one of the most influential apologetics textbooks of the last century. it was surely worthy it. Sure, there were times were my Van Tillian hackles went up, but over all I can see the clear stamp of Van Tillian influence on Carnell’s thought. Generally speaking, I tend to think that apologetics as a distinct field of study was better 45-50 years ago. That is to say (with notable recent exceptions) that your standard apologetics textbook 50 yrs ago was more creatively constructed and comprehensive than many of the cookie-cutter works released these days.

The Bible and the Future-Hoekema. Buy this book!! I read about half of BAF back in seminary and decided to reread it and finish it off this year. Honestly I can say that I agreed with nearly every sentence of the work (“nearly” being the operative word). Hoekema is so clear, so to the point, so balanced. He defends a covenantal amillenialism that sees our ultimate hope not in a disembodiment heavenly state, but one full of glory, reigning with Christ in the transformed New Heavens and New Earth.

New Testament and the People of God-Wright. NTPG in vol. 1 of Wright’s projected 6 volume Christian Origins and the Question of God series that will blend both New Testament history and theology. Essentially this volume lays the groundwork on which the following volumes will build. The book is divided into 3 main sections: first, Wright addresses methodological and epistemological issues, arguing in favor of a critical realist approach that denies purely objective historiography or a “neutral” epistemology, yet affirms the possibility of real historical knowledge. In the second unit of the book Wright sketches the worldview of Second Temple Judaism. This worldview is discovered both in terms of a common symbolic universe (focusing specifically on Torah, Temple, The Land, and Jewish Ethnic Identity) and theology (unpacked in terms of the doctrine of monotheism, creation, election, covenant, and eschatology). The bulk of the book is spent on this section. Lastly, the third and final section of the book addresses the worldview of early Christianity, again through an examination of its praxis, symbols, theology, and stories. Wright has filled this work with much insight and skillfully pokes holes in many of the sacred cows of higher biblical criticism. One need not agree with every statement or  argument put forward by Wright in order to greatly benefit from this stimulating book.

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Posted on December 28, 2011, in Book Reviews/Recommendations and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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