Ben's Book List 2019
Factfulness: Ten Reasons We're Wrong About the World―and Why Things Are Better Than You Think” by Hans Rosling
If you’re a pessimist skip this one… or actually read it... twice! A well-researched accounting of how many issues in our world are getting better. You heard that right…better. Recommended to me by a friend and recommended to the masses by Bill Gates as one of his favorite books, this summary says it well:
When asked simple questions about global trends―what percentage of the world’s population live in poverty; why the world’s population is increasing; how many girls finish school―we systematically get the answers wrong. So wrong that a chimpanzee choosing answers at random will consistently outguess teachers, journalists, Nobel laureates, and investment bankers.
In Factfulness, Professor of International Health and global TED phenomenon Hans Rosling, together with his two long-time collaborators, Anna and Ola, offers a radical new explanation of why this happens. They reveal the ten instincts that distort our perspective―from our tendency to divide the world into two camps (usually some version of us and them) to the way we consume media (where fear rules) to how we perceive progress (believing that most things are getting worse).
Our problem is that we don’t know what we don’t know, and even our guesses are informed by unconscious and predictable biases.
Affirming the Apostles' Creed by J. I. Packer
This year I spent a bit of time reading about the Apostles Creed for a message series, and thought it would be good to include some of those books here. Each of them has something to offer and none of them are perfect. Other books recommended on this topic: The Apostles' Creed: Discovering Authentic Christianity in an Age of Counterfeits by R. Albert Mohler Jr. (a classic summary from a Baptist perspective) and Canon and Creed (a helpful historical summary of the Creed and its relation to the Canon) by Robert Jenson. These books were helpful additions to an important series on the core beliefs of the Christian faith and a reminder of what those who call ourselves Christian must hold in common.
Discovering Biblical Equality: Complementarity Without Hierarchy by Gordon D. Fee (Editor) Ronald W. Pierce (Editor), Rebecca Merrill Groothuis (Editor)
If you are looking for an in-depth biblical discussion from an evangelical (and egalitarian) perspective on the topic of women in ministry this one covers it all thoroughly and with fairness. There are also a number of good online resources that are helpful places to begin exploring this topic - here is one by NT Wright, another by Jim Dennison, and another by FF Bruce.
People to Be Loved by Preston Sprinkle
The subject of sexuality, identity, and Christianity is difficult and often the conversations that happen in the public square (or in private for that matter) create more heat than light. Preston Sprinkle’s “People To Be Loved: Why Homosexuality Is Not Just an Issue” is a good addition to the conversation, offering some needed direction. Another book to consider on this topic is Openness Unhindered: Further Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert on Sexual Identity and Union with Christ by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield, who is thoughtful and eloquent.
Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church by N. T. Wright
I had read parts of Surprised by Hope in past years but decided this year to fully explore this important book by NT Wright. Wright invites us to consider what the Bible really says about Heaven and our hope…and it's not what a lot of people are thinking. This book has refocused my own preaching and teaching, to more clearly explain the hope we have in Christ, what eternity really means, and how that work begins now. That vision is often surprising to people (in fact when I explain the resurrection in group settings, I invariably encounter a few incredulous looks) but it is solid, physical, and real. If you are looking to get started reading a world-leading theologian, this is a good NT Wright book to begin with.
The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery by Ian Morgan Cron
You have likely heard someone talking about the “Enneagram” (or maybe heard someone say “I am 3 with a 2 wing") and wondered what that meant - here is the answer. The Enneagram at its simplest is a personality test, but it ends up being a bit more: it can be a useful tool for understanding yourself and others (there are online examples). Like anything, it has limitations and it’s not 'Bible' but I still found its descriptions helpful. And when I found my number (8) I immediately recognized my strengths and more importantly my weaknesses. I also saw other people in their numbers and in the seeing, there is a bit of understanding (awareness is curative!). It’s a quick read and probably worth the while.
Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War by Nathaniel Philbrick
A classic that should be on everyone’s reading list in 2020 as we approach the 400th anniversary of the famous sailing of the Mayflower. Nathaniel Philbrick is a well-known and gifted storyteller of history. In Mayflower (a Pulitzer finalist) his gift for storytelling finds a worthwhile subject. The story moves well beyond the actual sailing and the ship itself and moves to the story of those immigrants, their struggles, their faith, the heroics, and their failures. You will be hearing a lot about the Mayflower as we move into 2020: this book is a good way to add to the conversation.
The Jesus Creed: Loving God, Loving Others by Scot McKnight
The Jesus Creed by Scot McKnight was the first book I have read by McKnight after having listened to him speak a few times. McKnight is thoughtful and easy to read while at the same time digging into rich theological material. In The Jesus Creed, he offers a summary of what biblical Christianity is at its core: loving God and loving Others. He offers a practical understanding, appreciation of, and application of Christian formation in grace and love toward God and neighbor. Also of note is McKnight's “Blue Parakeet” where he offers a helpful framework for reading the Bible as a complete story of God’s work in the world.