What I'm Reading These Days: Part 1

From time to time, I get requests for book recommendations. I'm happy to oblige. This summer I've already enjoyed two very different books, both of which accompanied me recently to Hawaii. The first was a book by British theologian and Anglican churchman N.T. Wright (who's fast becoming one of my favorite Christian thinkers and writers). Wright writes telephone book-sized theological tomes on Jesus, Second Temple Judaism, and the Apostolic Church. He's a New Testament scholar and one who's surprisingly readable. Hang in there. Don't let me lose you. He has this amazing knack for making theology palatable, even appetizing. He takes dense theological and biblical matter and makes them accessible for the intelligent layperson. He's a hero of mine, kind of a C.S. Lewis meets John Stott meets Dale Bruner meets Earl Palmer kind of guy.

Anyway, he writes these doorstop-sized books that are hard to lift but rewarding to read. He also writes more popular works that are slimmed down but not dumbed down. He has a great gift for summarizing his scholarship and making it practical, relevant, and inspiring. His book Simply Christian is the new Mere Christianity, in my opinion. His book The Last Word gives a sane, thoughtful, non-polemical introduction to the Bible and its authority for today. But the book I've just finished is his little Following Jesus: Biblical Reflections on Discipleship (Eerdmans, 1994). What a great read! Along with my pineapple and mango, I nibbled a chapter each day for my personal devotions. In the first half of the book, he spends a chapter each on several New Testament writings (for example, Hebrews, Mark, John, Matthew, Revelation). He gets to the heart of each book and turns it inside out in a way that not only helps you understand that book like never before, but actually inspires you to live its theme! This is really, really good stuff. I'd recommend it for anyone wanting some thoughtful, moving material for reflection, prayer, and spiritual formation. The second half of the book touches on vital biblical themes: resurrection, heaven, hell, tranformation, those kinds of things. Also, very helpful! I think these were originally sermons--giving me that much more appreciation for a scholar who can speak in the vernacular and make the Christian faith relevant to where we each live. Great stuff!

I'll keep you in suspense for the second book, which is also really good, but very different. I'll give you the title to tantalize you: Jim and Casper Go to Church! Stay tuned...

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