Life-Long Learners 22.0
Twenty-second in an expert series on must-read books.
Comment remains one of my favourite journals, publishing thoughtful pieces on a wide variety of subjects, often asking how best to think as Christians and what practices emerge from our reflections about God's redemptive work in the world. Readers care about a lot of stuff, and want to learn how to live in these times fruitfully and faithfully.
Of course, as a bookseller, it is a joy to talk about books that might be of interest to this exact sort of engaged, open-minded, and discerning reader. Here are a few choice titles that Comment readers might enjoy.
Making All Things New: God's Dream for Global Justice by R. York Moore (IVP Books, 2012)
It is truly rare to read a book with as many interesting, heart-wrenching stories (many about global slavery and sexual trafficking) that is also so seriously engaged in Scripture and such a joy to read. This new book is grave, inspiring and hopeful. York Moore himself embodies God's transforming power—he was raised in oppressive poverty in Inkster, MI, a rough neighbourhood outside of Detroit, in an atheist family that literally burned Bibles in their yard. His journey from confused and suicidal philosophy major to evangelism trainer for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship to becoming an evangelical global crusader against modern slavery is itself a story worth telling. The parts of his narrative that Moore tells are striking, even thrilling—a good reminder of how the gospel can change individuals, even the most rebellious and broken.
This story of Moore's own journey is only a small part of this book, though, as it is basically a readable, insightful, invigorating look at eschatology as seen in the book of Revelation. End-times studies have become a bit of a "carnival sideshow" he admits, and his desire to leverage this important part of God's Word to fund faithful living in an unjust world is rich. While not a serious academic commentary, Moore studies apocalyptic texts which he allusively calls "God's dream." The contrast between the nightmare this world has become for so many and the hope of a renewal of creation is vividly portrayed.
Readers of Comment do not need to be informed that our best theological traditions remind us that God is indeed rescuing and restoring His beloved if cursed and distorted world. But we may benefit from rumination on key texts from the book of Revelation (even if some who are knowledgeable may disagree with Moore's interpretation here and there). Surely we can all stand to have our passion deepened and our hope secured by reminding ourselves of the profound promises of God, of Christ's coming Jubilee, of the (healing) judgment poured out against injustice, about the banishment of evil, about the newness that is coming, perhaps even breaking in to history even now. Dare we live between two dreams? Can we wake up to God's great hope, living now in the in-between time of the already-but-not-yet? And might that affect how we spend our energies and resources now, caring for the least of these and the oppressed of the Earth? All Things New is a truly great book full of stories and Bible study, full of exegesis and energy, full of protest and proclamation. I am glad, and you will be too, to see an evangelist so clear about the restoration of creation and to see a study of end times so clear that these Biblical themes can be generative for our life in society. Kudos to Moore for his holistic vision and kudos to IVP for publishing such fruitful, useful resources for those who want to dream of the Kingdom.
Kingdoms Apart: Engaging the Two Kingdoms Perspective edited by Ryan C. McIlhenny (P&R Publishing, 2012)
Not all Comment readers follow the rather in-house debates within our specific theological tradition, but those who do are surely aware of conversations about what has come to be called the "two kingdom" view, promoted by some conservative Reformed writers and organizations, including popular scholars from the seminary in California, Westminster West. From the significant books of David Van Drunan (published by Crossway) on the ways God's faithful people should live in the world (informed by a conviction that there are, indeed, "sacred and secular" realms) to the more philosophical question about the role of natural law, this debate has been provocative and interesting, and at times fierce. Those who are in the line of Dutch neo-Calvinism who disagree with Van Drunan's view naturally cite Abraham Kuyper and the likes of Hermans Bavinck and Dooyeweerd to critique Van Drunan's position. Some, though, suggest that Kuyper's own work can be used to bolster the "two kingdom" view. Who is right?
This book is an extraordinary collection of ten detailed chapters by young reformational scholars attending to different aspects of the two kingdoms debate. A thoughtful forward is by James Skillen, the former Director of the US Center for Public Justice, and a Bible scholar in his own right. Rave endorsements come from Cardus friends such as Gideon Strauss, Al Wolters, and Michael Goheen, as well as from U.S. Reformed theologians such as Michael Milton (RTS), Russell Moore (Southern Baptist Theological Seminary), and Charles Dunahoo (who is on the board of Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia).
As Gideon Strauss writes, "This is not only an academic debate. Its outcome will have broad implications for Christian schools, colleges, seminaries, and churches and for Christian in the academy, politics, business, the arts, and other realms of cultural activity." Reviewer Carl Zylstra, President of Dordt College, is stronger, saying that the two kingdom movement's spokespersons may be suggesting that those who call for distinctively Christian social organizations for reformational activism are becoming "the new idols of the age." This, he says, is "proving to be a matter of life and death." Kingdoms Apart is a fair-minded, far-reaching collection of contemporary essays. As an extra contribution, there are two newly translated essays about the relationship of church and state from beloved author of Promise and Deliverance, S. G. de Graaf.
The books listed above are all available from Byron Borger's bookstore—Hearts & Minds Books.Subscribe