What I Read in 2008

This past year I decided to keep track of the books that I read this past year.  Now that I’m out of seminary, I’ve been able to choose what books I read, so this was a fun year of reading.  And reading was made a lot easier when I bought a fancy little book light.  No longer did I need to read with concern that the light by my bed was keeping my wife or child awake.  I also continued a bad habit of starting a book and not finishing it.  I guess if the book was good enough, I would finish it, but there is still a sense of incompletion if I read and quit.

Along with other things, I got through 22 books this year.  The list is useful for multiple reasons.  One, it gives me a good idea of what I’m not reading.  I can see that I read too many Christian living books.  I need more theology, more puritans.  Also, it gives me a goal for the future.  Next year my goal is to top this year’s number.

  1. “Praying Backwards”   Brian Chappel
  2. “Culture Shift”    Al Mohler- I think I plowed through this in a couple sittings.  Very interesting read!
  3. “Why We’re Not Emergent”   Keven DeYoung & Ted Kluck
  4. “Perlandra”    C.S. Lewis- I had started the series a couple years ago and was encouraged to read the second one.  I haven’t gotten the courage for “That Hideous Strength”, though.
  5. “In Our Place”    J.I. Packer & Merk Dever- I read one page about five times while sitting next to John Piper on the plane.
  6. “Cross Centered Life”    C.J. Mahaney- was a small group book for our High Schoolers
  7. “Signs of the Spirit”    Sam Storms- A modern translation of Jonathan Edward’s “Religious Affections”.  We went through this in our college Bible study.
  8. “One Thing”    Sam Storms- Became somewhat a basis for our High School Winter Camp
  9. “Do Hard Things”    Brett and Alex Harris- The book we went through in our Coffee Talks with the high schoolers this past summer.
  10. “Hound of the Baskervilles”  Sir Arthur Conan Doyle- I hadn’t previously read any Sherlocke Holmes books, but this was great!  I started reading short stories, too, but those shouldn’t count in a total.
  11. “Book 1- Paradise Lost”   John Milton- We went through this in our college Bible study this summer.
  12. “Red Sox Rule”   Michael Holley- about the Red Sox building the teams, starting with Epstien and Francona’s hirings.
  13. “Summer of ’49”    David Halberstam- The Sox vs. Yankee rivalry with some great stories.
  14. “Evil Under the Sun”    Agatha Christie- classic mystery by my favorite mystery author.
  15. “Respectable Sins”   Jerry Bridges
  16. “Jonathan Edwards and Hell”    Chris Morgan- probably one of my more disappointing reads.
  17. “Dawkins Delusion”   Alister McGrath- taking on Dawkin’s “The God Delusion”
  18. “War of Words”   Paul David Tripp
  19. “When God Writes Your Love Story”    Eric & Leslie Ludy- read this for our high schoolers and can reccommend it for those that want to have a Biblical perspective of their relationships.
  20. “Worldliness”  edited by CJ Mahaney
  21. “Young, Restless, Reformed”  Collin Hansen- tracing a growth in Calvinism from a journalistic perspective.
  22. “Growing Up Christian” Karl Graustein- about kids who have grown up in Christian home and dealing with issues that normally exist.  The main point is not to take the grace extended to them for granted.
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“Young, Restless, Reformed” by Collin Hansen

One of the books that I asked for this Christmas was “Young, Restless, Reformed” by Collin Hansen.  I first saw the book at the Together For the Gospel conference last April, but had told myself I wasn’t going to buy any books there.  So I was patient and asked for it for Christmas, and my family obliged.

Hansen is the youngest editor for Christianity Today and approaches the Reformed/Calvinistic culture from a journalistic perspective.  He investigates the various schools/churches/conferences that have aided a substantial growth in Calvinism.  He sees how much of the growth has been among the younger evangelical circles, a group of individuals that have grown tired of the subjective truth that the postmodern culture has been forcing down their throats.

Some of this growth has come from predictable places, like John Piper.  Piper has inspired an entire evangelical generation through passionate, biblical preaching, unabashedly promoting Calvinism.  But there have been less likely sources, such as C.J. Mahaney (the rare Charasmatic/Calvinist combo) and Mark Driscoll (who finds his roots in emergent circles).  The point is that this explosion cannot be contained by one specific circle or institution, but has really spanned previously unbridged waters.

Another enlightening point that Hansen raises is the heated opposition there is out there to Calvinism.  Some of the criticism is primarily intended towards hyper-Calvinists, but some lump the whole reformed movement into the same group.  The traditional criticisms, such as a distaste for evangelism, have been disproved by each of these individuals or movements.  They have shown themselves to be completely different beasts than the hyper-Calvinist community.  And leaders such as Mahaney and Josh Harris have preached a humble approach to theological discussions, tending to avoid a militaristic mentality that has accompanied many Calvinists.

But the opposition is real and many see Calvinists as real opponents to the Gospel itself.  They are seen as what is wrong with evangelical Christianity, and that feeling is pretty wide.  I’ve realized that I have been fairly insulated from these attacks, as I have mostly stayed in my Master’s circle, attending the College and Seminary, working at a church that would be Calvinistic, and attending conferences referenced in this book as wellsprings of Calvinism.

I did see it in a young woman who had been coming to our high school group for about two years.  She had been told by her former pastor that Master’s wasn’t a good school because they were Calvinistic.  When she raised this objection to me, I had to explain to her that I was guilty of that charge, as well as the youth staff and pastors at our church.  She had just been told that Calvinism was bad, but never really knew what it was.

I ran into it again this summer at our High School Summer Camp at Hume Lake, when the main speaker casually blasted Calvinism and mischaracterized it during a boys only session.  He accused all Calvinists of believing in double predestination, meaning that believers are predestined to Heaven and unbelievers are predestined to Hell.  The boys from my church saw that I was literally squirming in my seat, wanting to reply.  But I knew if I did, I would just been seen as the crazy leader who dared question the speaker.  It wasn’t a debate the students would have understood.  The sad part was that 90% of the boys there didn’t know anything about Calvinism.  But now all they knew was a misrepresentation of something that they didn’t even know.  If they hear of Calvinism again, they will just think its ridiculous.

One of the most interesting parts of the book was the background stories of many of the men and movements that I have grown to admire.  I enjoyed the backgrounds of Piper, Mahaney, Al Mohler and Southern Seminary, Harris, Mark Driscoll, Steve Lawson, and conferences such as Passion, New Attitude, Together for the Gospel, Resolved, Shepherd’s Conference, and the Gospel Coalition.  I have had the privilege of attending quite a few of those, and remembered many of the messages and moments Hansen wrote of while he was attending them.

If you have an interest in this movement and the personalities behind it, I would fully reccommend Hansen’s piece of journalism.  While he appears to be supportive of the movement, he doesn’t hold back from criticism of personalities.  And he also interviewed critics and presented their complaints and concerns.  While he is clearly sympathetic, he doesn’t necessarily wear kid gloves.  Its an interesting read, and one that I would recommend!

A Repentant Explanation For the Lack of Blog Attention

For those of you who still poke around here, you have noticed that there haven’t been any posts for the last few weeks.  This isn’t for normal reasons of laziness, but lack of time.  Many of you have heard of how sick Leah has been with her second pregancy.  It has been quite a trial for us, but God has been faithful to bring us through, providing a lot of support through our church family.  We were slowly counting down the days until we were able to go to NH for our early Christmas trip.  The intention was to post some more once I was home.  Funny how the best intentions become impossible.

I had been looking forward to the moment when we would get home and I would hand Leah and Micah over to her family and then go and collapse in a bed and sleep for a week.  Between waking up to get Leah something to eat at 2am and waking up to take Micah outside for a walk to loosen up his cough at some point in the night, I hadn’t gotten much sleep.  I was eagerly looking forward to putting ear plugs in, sleeping forever, and working off the fat I had stored up for hibernation.

Well, about two minutes after walking into the in-law’s house in NH, while we were still hugging each other, the power went out.  On top of that, they had just got a new wood pellet stove that needed electricity to run.  So we bundled up and waited for the power to come back on.  We waited… and waited… and waited.  Then we found out that we’d be out at least a week and we all moved to Leah’s grandparents whose house was unused and had gotten power back.  I don’t feel too bad, considering almost a million customers were out and thousands aren’t going to get power back while its still 2008.

Just in time for us to take off for my sister’s house (she never lost power as she lives so far north), their power came back on.  So even on vacation, I haven’t been able to post much.   Not that I think anyone cares.