Saturday, January 02, 2016

2015 Reading Highlights

Images:  Bookshelves in bookshop at Damansara RBC in Kuala Lampur, Malaysia

Time for my review of reading highlights from the past year.   I was recently talking to one of my children about having a "reading plan."  Pastors are usually generalists.  We try to read broadly to help in our preaching, teaching, administration, and ministry. Looking back on this list reminds me of what I read last year and what I want to pursue next year.

Here are ten books I read last year that stand out (in no particular order):

1.  Geoffrey Khan, A Short Introduction to the Tiberian Masoretic Bible and its Reading Tradition, Second Edition (Gorgias Press, 2013):  141 pp.

This is one of those brief books that is densely packed with great information. Khan is Regius Professor of Hebrew at Cambridge University.  He offers an enlightening and appreciative introduction to the Masoretic text of the Hebrew Bible and the Masoretic tradition.  The thing that struck me most was his emphasis on the antiquity of the Hebrew vowel points, tracing the linguistic roots of the Masoretic vocalization to the second temple era.

2.  Poh Boon Sing, Fragments from Kantung:  325 days in police custody for the Christian faith (Good News Enterprise, 1990):  262 pp.

Pastor Poh Boon Sing is an ethnically Chinese Reformed Baptist Pastor and pioneer church planter in Kuala Lampur, Malaysia who spent nearly a year in prison under charges of evangelizing ethnic Malay Muslims.  I read this gripping memoir last summer and then got to meet this godly author, his wife Goody, and two of his four sons (little boys when their father was imprisoned but mature Christian men now--one a physician and the other a chemical engineer) in person on a trip to Malaysia in September.  Inspiring and humbling.

3.  Jack B. Rogers and Donald K. McKim, The Authority and Interpretation of the Bible:  An Historical Approach (Harper & Row, 1979):  484 pp.

This book is the source for the so-called Rogers/McKim thesis that became (rightly) a center of controversy in the heated debates of the 1980s over the doctrine of inerrancy.  I also read John B. Woodbridge's Biblical Authority:  A Critique of the Rogers/McKim Proposal (Zondervan, 1982), which offers a devastating critique of this book.  Though I think Rogers and McKim widely misunderstand and misrepresent the traditional high view of Scripture, they are more on target in their description of B. B. Warfield's shift from the historic view of infallibility to the "inerrancy" of the original autographs in deference to the perceived gains of modern text criticism.

4.David Daniell, William Tyndale:  A Biography (Yale University Press, 1994):  429 pp.

I finally got the chance to read this rightly celebrated biography of Tyndale. This book puts one in awe of Tyndale's achievement and his continuing influence on the language of English Bible translations and on the English language, in general.

5.   Robert A. Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 2, Holy Scripture:  The Cognitive Foundation of Theology (Baker Books, 1993):  543 pp.

I have dipped into this book here and there over the last few years, but this year I sat down and gave it a close cover-to-cover reading. This is one of those kinds of books where you want to underline nearly every paragraph.  Muller provides a definitive overview of Bibliology in the early orthodox (1565-1640); high orthodox (1640-1700); and late orthodox (1700-1790) eras.  It holds many valuable insights for understanding how the framers of the Reformed confessions understood Scripture.

6.  David Trobisch, Paul's Letter Collection (Augsburg/Fortress, 1994; Quiet Waters, 2001):  108 pp.

Though I completely disagree with Trobisch's final reconstruction of the Pauline corpus, this brief book is rich in information on how the Pauline letter collection developed in early Christianity, as well as how the NT canon itself began to form and be acknowledged.

7.  Wendell Berry, New Collected Poems (Counterpoint, 2012):  391 pp.

Berry is the celebrated "contrarian" Kentucky farmer and writer [though I recall Joel Salatin's comment that while he is a farmer who writes on the side, Berry is a writer who farms on the side]. Though I often cringed at Berry's left of center politics and theology, I also resonated with his themes of simplicity, faithfulness, and questioning of technological "improvements."  For a taste of Berry, watch his reading of "The Contrariness of the Mad Farmer."

8.    Harry Y. Gamble, Books and Readers in the Early Church:  A History of Early Christian Texts (Yale University Press, 1995):  337 pp.

This excellent, scholarly work provides a seemingly exhaustive and detailed discussion of how books were made, published, transmitted and collected by early Christians.

9.  Frank Schaeffer, Crazy for God (Da Capo Press, 2007):  417 pp.

Schaeffer's memoir of growing up with his "Christian famous" parents Francis and Edith Schaeffer at the Christian "commune" of sorts, L'Abri Fellowship in Switzerland, in the 60s-80s and his differentiation from them has been justifiably maligned as petty and unkind to his parents.  Still, it serves as a reminder that spiritual leaders are merely human and a warning about the weaknesses of evangelicalism and how family can suffer under the strains of ministry.

10.   Ephraim Radner and George Sumner, Eds., The Rule of Faith:  Scripture, Canon, and Creed in a Critical Age (Morehouse Publishing, 1998):  159 pp.

I was glad to run across this intriguing collection of essays that came from a conference of more doctrinally conservative Anglicans trying to hold the line against the inroads of liberalism in their denomination. Three of the essays are by Brevard Childs and reflect his canonical criticism.  These essays made me think about the relationship between Scripture and orthodoxy, as well as ecclesiology and catholicity.

Here are some other notable books read in 2015:

Text and Translation:  Robert F. Hull, Jr., The Story of the New Testament Text:  Movers, Materials, Motives, Methods, and Models (SBL, 2010):  229 pp; Harry Sturz, The Byzantine Text-Type and New Testament Textual Criticism (Thomas Nelson, 1984):  305 pp.; Timothy Michael Law, When God Spoke Greek:  The Septuagint and the Making of he Christian Bible (Oxford, 2013): 216 pp.; Neil R. Lightfoot, How We Got the Bible, Third Ed. (MJF Books, 2003):  224 pp.; Stanley E. Porter, Constantine Tischendorf:  The Life and Works of a 19th Century Bible Hunter (Bloomsbury, 2015):  190 pp; Stanley E. Porter, How We Got the New Testament:  Text, Transmission, Translation (Baker Academic, 2013):  222 pp.

John Owen:  "Of the Integrity and Purity of the Hebrew and Greek Texts of the Scripture" (Works, Vol. 16):  pp. 345-421; "A Defense of Sacred Scripture Against Modern Fanaticism" Trans. by Stephen P. Westcott in Biblical Theology (Soli Deo Gloria, 1994):  pp. 769-854.

Memoirs and Biography:  Stanley Hauerwas, Hannah's Child:  A Theologian's Memoir (Eerdmans, 2010):  288 pp.; Julian Barnes, Levels of Life (Alfred A. Knopf, 2013):  128 pp.; Jack Rogers, Confessions of a Conservative Evangelical (Geneva Press, 2001):  144 pp.; S. C. Gwynne, Rebel Yell:  The Violence, Passion, and Redemption of Stonewall Jackson (Scribner, 2014):  672 pp.; Mez McConnell (Ed. Irene Howat), Is Anybody Out There?  A Journey from Despair to Hope (Christian Focus, 2006, 2011): 136 pp.   

Ministry and Devotional:  Elisabeth Elliot, The Liberty of Obedience (Vine Books, 1968):  94 pp.; Charles March, The Challenge of Islam (Scripture Union, 1980):  173 pp.; Charles Marsh, Share Your Faith With a Muslim (Moody Press, 1975):  95 pp.; Thomas Watson, The Art of Divine Contentment (1653; Soli Deo Gloria, 2001):  133 pp.

Jesus, Paul, and Biblical Study:  Ronald Youngblood, The Heart of the Old Testament:  A Survey of Key Theological Themes, Second Ed. (Baker Academic, 1971, 1998):  122 pp.; Ernest Renan, The Life of Jesus (1863; Prometheus Books, 1991):  227 pp.; Dale Ralph Davis, 2 Samuel:  Out of Every Adversity (Christian Focus, 1999):  287 pp.; Stephen J. Nichols, Jesus:  Made in America:  A Cultural History from the Puritans to the Passion of the Christ (IVP Academic, 2008):  237 pp.; Anthony C. Thiselton, The Living Paul:  An Introduction to the Apostle's Life and Thought (IVP Academic, 2009):  190 pp.

Philosophy and Classics:  Bruce S. Thornton, A Student's Guide to Classics (ISI Books, 2003):  92 pp.;  Frank Thilly, A History of Philosophy (Henry Holt, 1914, 1929):  612 pp.; Victor Davis Hanson, John Heath, and Bruce S. Thornton, Bonfire of the Humanities:  Rescuing the Classics in an Impoverished Age (ISI Books, 2001):  373 pp.; T. Z. Lavine, From Socrates to Sartre:  The Philosophic Quest (Bantam, 1984):  426 pp.

History and Politics:  William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of Adolf Hitler (Random House, Landmark Books, 1961):  185 pp.; Thomas J. DiLorenzo, The Real Lincoln:  A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War (Three Rivers Press, 2002, 2003):  361 pp.; David Mamet, The Secret Knowledge:  On the Dismantling of American Culture (Sentinel, 2011): 241 pp.; Graham Fuller, A World Without Islam (Back Bay Books, 2010):  385 pp.; Samuel P. Huntingon, The Clash of Civilizations?  The Debate (Foreign Affairs, 1990):  67 pp.; Christopher Hitchens, The Missionary Position:  Mother Theresa in Theory and Practice (Verso, 1995):  98 pp.; Thomas H. Naylor, Secession:  How Vermont and All the Other States Can Save Themselves from the Empire (Feral House, 2008): 118 pp.; 

Fiction and Literary Essays:  Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go (Vintage, 2005):  288 pp.; Ruth Greiner Rausen, Ed., Poems of Alfred Lord Tennyson (Crowell Co., 1964):  145 pp.; Russell Kirk, Old House of Fear (Eerdmans, 1961, 2007):  194 pp.; Tom Wolfe, The Painted Word (Bantam, 1975, 1976):  120 pp.; Mark Haddon, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night (Vintage, 2003-2004):  226 pp.;  Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without a Country (Seven Stories Press, 2005):  146 pp.; Philip Pullman, The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ (Canongate, 2010, 2011):  265 pp.

For reading reviews from past years look here:


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