2017 ECPA Book Recommendations & Give Away (3/3)
Special Note: Nick Foss, Corey McLaughlin, and Erik Reynolds are book reviewers for ECPA(Evangelical Christian Publishers Association). Each year they are sent 15-25 books in various categories that compete for the Christian Book Award (this year all three were assigned Christian Living, in addition to Faith and Culture for Corey). Bear in mind their recommendations are not based on all books published in 2017, but only the best one’s from their respective category. Note, book awards are always given for the previous year’s books.
SELECT BOOK GIVE AWAY!
Leave a comment describing why you would like one of these books and your name will automatically be entered to win it (only one book per person; include church name & address in comment section below or on Facebook). Winners will be announced in the
Part 3 - Corey’s Recommended Titles
(From good, to better, to best)
[219p.]– Finishing off his trilogy, Johnny Mac hones in on the Paul’s understanding of the Gospel, dispelling myths, attacking wrong ideas, and presenting a solidly Reformed understanding of Justification by Sola Fide, substitutionary atonement, grace and Law, grace and good works, etc. This is a no frills book. In fact, its direct approach, and plain language (not typical of Macarthur who usually has very thoughtful sentences, metaphors, and illustrations) will bore some, but help others looking to cut through the noise and lay down the biblical Gospel in a concise (134 p. is the core of it followed by 3 appendices) and clear way. Basically, a good introduction for the lay person.
[There are a few references to N.T. Wright’s view on these issues but none that are in anyway a serious critique of his New Perspective which some may see as a missed opportunity, but such a thing would distract from its overall simplicity in any case. For the few interested in beginning to understand the New Perspective start with the popular level treatment by Piper. For more academic interests start with D.A. Carson’s 3 lectures, then move to of Wright, then to Schreiner’s JETS article, review of Wright, and book, before diving into D.A. Carson et. al].
[198p.]– Viewing the Bible through the metanarrative lens has become increasingly popular (and welcomed), covered in recent years by N.T. Wright and to much greater depth, yet Koukl, the president of Stand to Reasonministry, nonetheless manages to bring a different perspective specifically aimed at new or young Christiansand possessing valuable apologetic value in sharpening their minds for a biblical worldview. Using the framework “God, Man, Jesus, Cross, Resurrection,” he walks the reader through the necessary basic elements of a Christian worldview while also making reference to Hinduism, Buddhism, New Ageism, and a slue of others throughout. Along the way he corrects various Christian misunderstandings such as evil not being the problem often envisioned, the falsity of forgiving oneself, and the centrality of the self saying, “The Story is not so much about God’s plan for your life as it is about your life for God’s plan” (44). Koukl’s work reads like a novel, and though I do think the fulsome praise of the book both online and in the endorsements is unnecessary, his writing is accessible, concise, comprehensive, and avoids nearly all the typical Christian jargon (ACs may find fault with traditional Hell of chp. 24 but if read and set in contrast to Conditional Immortality then CI looks all the more inviting after this chapter!).
Note: Youth pastors may especially benefit from taking young minds on this short journey to teach their students biblical critical thinking. Less of an introduction and more of a primerto worldview thinking, something like Keller’s The Reason For God would compliment it well, while something like Nancy Pearcey’s Total Truth or Sproul’s worldview series would build on the foundation and go much deeper.
[639p.]– He’s a mega church pastor with a knack for teaching digestible Bible lessons from each book of the Bible and he challenges everyone to read the Bible in a year with comprehension. Each chapter follows his F.L.I.G.H.T. plan outline (Facts, Landmarks, Iinerary, Gospel, History, Travel Tips). The sections are light not getting bogged down in too many details or controversies, and the summaries are helpful often containing pastoral insights and down to earth analysis the average Christian can enjoy. E.g. Describing the people of Israel during the time of the 8thcentury prophet Micah he says, “The only preaching they tolerated led them down the broad path of living only in the moment, a worldview of either everything is good so let’s party, or nothing is good so let’s get wasted”(p. 352).
In the book of Habakkuk he points out, “In times of trouble, it’s so much easier to ask, “Howcan I get out of this?”rather than “Whatcan I get out of this?”(p. 350). While he missed a golden opportunity to include graphs for visual learners (like Talk Thru The Bible has) pastors will still appreciate the “Itinerary” section as the outlines are instantly easy to preach whether in a single message or series.
Probably best used as a whole church challengeto read the Bible in a year. If so, congregations should be challenged to read the summary sections and then listen to or read the actual books of the Bible themselves otherwise this book ends up subverting Bible reading instead of supporting it (an all too familiar story in Evangelicalism). Those who like this will want the workbook and to also supplement each chapter with his online by the same name. Can be adapted easily for small groups or Sunday school groups and allows the pastor/teacher to customize their particular nuance or highlight in each book.
[224p.] Since I am so often reading technical articles and exegetical materials I do not tend to have patience for long, drawn out, pandering chapters (looking at you Lucado!) but Higgs manages to intertwine just the right amount of personal anecdote along with many exegetical insights in just 8 light chapters in this second edition to the series (her first being Women of Christmas). I first encountered her with Bad Girls of the Bible which I thought was just a fun novel approach to character studies in the Bible. She’s not a scholar which is why I appreciated all the more her diligence to study her concordance and reference the Greek. In fact, in her notes section her concordance is quoted more than any other resource and one gets the feel that she really took time to examine the words to the best of her ability, to consult various translations/commentaries, and then to craft them into an enjoyable read with some depth (still looking at you Lucado!). She rightly points out that before Jesus gathered the men and commissioned them in what we call the Great Commission he had already sent Mary Magdalene to proclaim the Gospel. “Jesus paused to speak to a woman. Not merely to speak to her but to send her” (p. 187).These are not separate biographies of three Marys, but the Easter story laid out in chronological fashion with key texts from the Gospels examined. Definitely a recommendation for any women’s groupin particular, but a great meditation for the whole church during Lent (esp. if the simple study guide in the back is utilized).
[207p.] Is there a Christian approach to dementia? Dr. Dunlop, a geriatrics doctor with nearly 40 years of experience, believes so. He situates dementia in the grand story of the Bible - creation, fall, redemption, future hope, and argues there is grace and even God’s goodness in dementia today. There is dignity in dementia but it requires a change of perspective from us. “When we buy into the myth that our intellects and abilities define our worth,” he explains, “we diminish the value of those who lack the same capacities. We demean one made in God’s image, and in that sense we desecrate God himself”(103). His book is a mixture of devotion, theology, and medical analysis on a narrow topic yet, a needed topic. It’s a fantastic example of someone integrating their “sacred” Christian convictions with their “secular” vocation demonstrating that for the passionate believer there is no divide because Christ is all-in-all even in the dark places of dementia. It also carries a personal touch since Dunlop went through this journey with his own mother as well. He ends each chapter with a prayer and the last appendix is a warm letter to his family about how to respond when he goes through it too. He speaks of “heaven” lightly throughout and certainly misses a great opportunity to apply kingdom theology though the work will remain one of my top picks for those going through this debilitating disease and also for young pastors who need to learn compassion and soul care as well (esp. chp. 5 “How Does It Feel To Have Dementia?”). Some may find his technical medical explanations a bit much. If so the may enjoy the more accessible treatment in the 2014 book Second Forgetting.
[351p.] In many ways this reminds me of Elizabeth George’s book A Women After God’s Own Heartexcept it is more directed towards older women taking the initiative to actively and zealously train younger women in the church. It is sad to continually see older Christian women step away from such a high calling given in Titus 2, some because they “have done their part, it’s others turn to step up,” and others because they say, “I just don’t think I have anything to offer.” Wolgemuth writes, “When God’s Word is learned and lived out by older and younger women together, the outcome will be stunningly beautiful. A mirror reflection of Christ”(p. 47). Written for women in a conversational tone, Wolgemuth admonishes women to step up, and thus begins them with sound doctrine as the starting point. “It is the whatthat leads to our now what,” (p. 39) she says. Complimentarians will enjoy her version of complimentarianism without traditionalism (see interview), and her list of “What Submission is Not” (p. 266f) which may help add clarification for many misguided conservative churches that wrongly appropriate this teaching, or fail to guard against the dangers of nominal beliefwhich increases domestic abuse in their midst, or simply have no plan to address domestic abusein the first place. In the end even egalitarians can appreciate her desire to be a godly woman/wife following the Titus 2 paradigm and can learn a great deal about men from her, which is amazing since she only recently got married (but see overview at Challies, and TGCfor more).
*[430p.] In typical Pipersque fashion he states the purpose of reading the Bible which he then spends the book unpacking: “Our ultimate goal in reading the Bible is that God’s infinite worth and beauty would be exalted in the everlasting, white-hot worship of the blood-bought bride of Christ from every people, language, tribe, and nation” (p. 41). This is the follow up book to Peculiar Glory (he does review the main premise of that book at the beginning of this for those that did not read it) and while being both philosophical and theological he does offer a practical method for meditating on Scripture he calls arcing. Don’t have the funds? Piper provides it free for that very purpose (which is why this one will not be offered as part of the book give away)! But see the simple TGC overview.
*[1280 p.] Most seminary grads have worked through Gonzale’s two volumework, some have moved on to Latourrette’s two volume as a nice compliment, and then where do we go from there but Schaff’s expansive 8 volume series (my favorite so far…so much heart, but I’m still working through it too!). But now, this tome is something else. Written by a scholar in the eastern tradition (McGukin is an archpriest of the Romanian Orthodox Church and professor at Oxford who has written 25 books on historical theology and taught for more than 30 years) and focused on the years so easy to breeze over, this gives extreme attention on the first thousand years of Christianity up to the Great Schism in the 11thCentury. Part 1 is a chronological journey up that point and part 2 is an unexpected and refreshing topically themed approach (e.g. women, war, healing). Chapter one alone is 113 pages so whoever dives into this should have a love for history. He says it’s meant as a textbook though most will use it as a reference work almost exclusively. Each chapter has a specific layout- historical analysis, a short reader of primary sources, and a further reading list. Chapter 7 was helpful in highlighting the international scope of Christianity in ways that are often overlooked elsewhere, aptly named, “Church of The Nations.” Church history buffs will not be able to sleep without putting this on their shelf (also available on Logos, see lengthier review) but the rest might just enjoy taking the easy to digest refresher course with Dr. Godfrey at Ligonier instead!
[190p.]I’ll admit it, after reading the subtitle, “How being embraced by the Love of Christ changes everything,”I put this in my girly section of books to read last. How surprised to open to this refreshing statement by a women author, “Studying Ephesians…is not about making people aware of their blessings for the sake of self-esteem; it’s about the glory of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” No doubt why J.I. Packer and D.A. Carson both endorse it and in the end I gave it one of my highest ratings of all the books I received this year. I’m always on the look-out for biblically solid and practical books for my people and this one will encourage many in our church. I would call it a devotional commentary on the book of Ephesians that keeps pointing the reader back to the glories of Christ and his inexhaustible love (see Gospel Coalition Review, Study guide).
[275p.]– Professor of Church history at Westminster Seminary in California, and teacher for the excellent Ligonier six-part series A Survey of Church History, this academic is uncharacteristically down to earth in his writing, pastoral in his assessment and memorable in his instructional wisdom. E.g. “As was said in the ancient church, “Always a psalm in the mouth, always Christ in the heart””(p. 4). As a Reformation Trust book this will have special appeal to those of the Reformed persuasion, but also those looking for a sort of academic devotional that is a bit meatier than its average counterparts (he employs many great quotes from Church history and often lists the Latin of various phrases). The chapters are concise, their content always maintains a Christological focus, and each ends with reflection questions to help the reader tease out their own application. In short, this book is for those who want to mine the Psalms for gold nuggets of divine wisdom. Everyone can benefit though pastors may want their worship leaders and worship team to especially take time to read this book so they, by implication, might gain a plum line to discern the modern Christian worship scene more biblically. Ligonier.org offers a CD version as well as an accompanying which helpfully covers differentPsalms than the book (with the exception of Ps. 81), in addition to a supplemental study guide for the online course. See sample chapter 1 online here.