I like to read. I also like the concept of “mentoring from afar” which is where you learn from a proven leader through their books. Otherwise known as…reading. Here is my reading list for 2013:
Michael Spencer ran the influential blog The Internet Monk until his death in 2010, and Mere Churchianity: Finding your way back to a Jesus-shaped spirituality (WaterBrook Press, 2010) is the summation of his life’s work as an apostle to the church leavers. His focus in this book is on helping those burnt out by what he called churchianity (the “do more, be better, look good for God’s sake” (p. 5) attitude found in many churches) find a way to follow the Jesus that they aren’t willing to give up on. Spencer wrote that the “purpose in writing this book is to talk to you as someone who is willing to follow Jesus, not as someone who has decided to give up on Jesus” (p. 198). It isn’t a book for people who have decided to make up their own pick-and-choose spirituality, and Spencer isn’t necessarily anti-church. In fact, as long as a church is making disciples of Jesus who are equipped for ministry in their individual lives then he is all for it. On to the analysis:
There are five books that have influenced my thinking and acting this past year and I would like to share them with you. I could probably give you a list of 20 books, but you wouldn’t read that.
This book is an, at times, scary story about Bod who escapes the murder of his entire family to a graveyard where various fairy-tale citizens raise the young orphaned boy. It is a wonderful narrative that is compelling and invites the careful reader to think about death and, consequently, the virtue of life lived out. Good for a couple night’s reading and reflection on your own impending death 🙂
Theology and Down Syndrome: Reimagining Disability in Late Modernity (Amos Yong):
To be honest, this book took me a while to get through. Yong’s methodology is entirely academic, yet may be knew to students of theology, as he relies heavily on a social science model of writing, spending a lot of time talking about the phenomenology of disability (including many case studies). He also spends quite a bit of time discussing the history of thinking about disability in the Christian tradition. What this book offers is a new way of thinking about a truly Christian theology of dis/ability that includes all in the dialogue. A truly intriguing and important part of this work is his suggestion that St. Paul was a disabled theologian (see my post about his visit to AGTS to hear more).
Another Amos Yong book in my top 5, and that’s a good thing. In the Days of Caesar follows what appears to be a pretty Yongian methodology: give a historical background, begin each chapter with global phenomenology, go to Scripture, interact with current writing, suggest practical interventions. For those academics, you’ll be happy to know that he develops this political theology in interaction with the historical pentecostal 5-fold Gospel. What I found most helpful is the development of Yong’s Pentecostal maxim “many tongues, many practices” into a way of looking at Christian political engagement. While this leads to a very contextual practice of political engagement, I had some concern with Yong’s lack of possible limiting factors, what he would probably call “discerning the Spirit/s”, for the different tongues (practices) of Christian political engagement. Again, an academic work, but I’ll be on the lookout for his upcoming popular level work on Christian political practice.
Of the books published in 2009, I don’t know of many that has had the impact on the Christian academy in the United States as this book has. The meeting of ETS this year (2010) was focused on “Justification” and had N.T. Wright as one of its featured lecturers. That said, this book made an impact on the way that I think about justification and salvation. I appreciated Wright’s widening of the vision of salvation from a purely God – human interaction to something that God has intended for the entirety of creation. There were some parts of the book that I had to take Wright on by faith, especially his Greek work. However, his retrieval of Paul’s Jewishness is a welcome breath of fresh air for a Christianity that has by-and-large attempted to see Christian Scripture as purely Hellenistic in thought.
Integrative Psychotherapy: Toward a Comprehensive Christian Approach (Mark McMinn & Clark Campbell):
This book came out in 2007, but with grad school as it is I didn’t get around to reading it till the beginning of 2010. What this book is is a very good Christian way of thinking about the integration of the various schools of psychotherapy. What it is not, however, is an approach that is monolithic. It is not the end-all be-all of therapeutic approaches, as it excludes a large amount of the psychotherapies available in the marketplace of ideas. However, it does give a very good Christian framework for how to integrate new psychotherapies into practice in a way that avoids some of the pitfalls of using a psychotherapy built on an inherently unchristian philosophy of anthropology. Instead, McMinn & Campbell suggest that therapeutic techniques or interventions work, not because of the theoretical explanations, but because they just do. They then draw a basic theoretical framework that is based on a Christian worldview that has room for therapeutic interventions that “work”. Good reading. Opens the door for research along this path.
If you blog and you love to read, I would suggest checking out WaterBrook Multnomah’s new/revamped “Blogging for Books” website. All you have to do is sign up for a free account, let them know who you are and what kinds of books interest you. Then they give you a list of different books that you can choose to review. They’ll send you your choice of book for free, and just ask that you blog about it. For those of you who don’t blog you’re out of luck, since they require a blog address in order to set up the free account. Be on the look out for a review of “Mere Churchianity” in the next month, as that’s my first pick.