July seemed to be a month of revisiting the fundamentals of the faith. With contributions from old theologians and new, these books were a valuable read and likely to be oft-referenced resources in the future.
Allen writes with a love that comes from his head as well as his heart about how the Christian life extends into every area of our existence. Containing chapters about the gospel and marriage, money, work, rest, the church, and more, Being a Christian is equal parts convicting and encouraging.
With a very secure position on my ‘Top 10 Books Every Christian Should Read’ list, I was amazed at how much of this book was already familiar to me. Familiar because—as one who has grown up in church my whole life—I’ve heard many of these sentences and illustrations used in sermons and pastoral conversations many times over (with great effect) without knowing their source. With the content divided into super-short readable chapters, Lewis speaks with an economy of words that communicates complex concepts in powerful, practical chunks that I can take away and mull over later. Mere Christianity will make you think about God, and yourself in relation to God, and that’s exactly where we should all begin.
You could be wondering why so much needs to be written on the doctrine of justification and why it matters. Enter Schreiner who writes a compelling and informative tour of the development and discussion around Sola Fide. Because this is such a huge topic, Schreiner had to focus on breadth and not depth; meaning that every page is packed with pointers to additional content for those who want to go deeper. My favourite chapters were discussions around Justification as defined at the Council of Trent, the Catholic/Protestant differences, and two chapters on the New Perspective on Paul with a focus on the work of N. T. Wright, because that’s how I roll.
Searcy’s book is full of strategies to turn visitors to your church into fully engaged members. These include frequent free gifts for visitors, gathering information repeatedly through connection cards, regular contact through handwritten letters, and intentional follow-ups. I know this model is highly acclaimed and has worked well in many places, but I would caution that it runs the risk of over-commercialising the church and attracting people for the wrong reasons. This book should be read with a Bible in the other hand to ensure a good balance is maintained.
In our Fifty-Shades-of-Orange-is-the-New-Kardashian world, Mo Isom (New York Times bestselling author) writes with clarity, conviction, and brutal honesty about her struggles with a distorted picture of sex, and the damage it wrought on her body, mind, and soul. But sex is God’s idea; and through powerful testimony of her encounter with an even more powerful truth in the person of Jesus Christ the Redeemer, Mo calls on the church to not simply declare the “do not’s” of sex but to articulate a full, beautiful picture of the intimate and Christ-exalting image that sex is. It’s time to invite Jesus back into the bedroom.
Gregg R. Allison (PhD, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) is professor of Christian theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Perhaps not since Packer’s Knowing God has there been a book that I have been so grateful for in terms of taking multiple systematic theology textbooks and distilling them down into short, powerful, understandable chapters on the core doctrines of Christianity. This book should be read by every Christian, but it is also designed to be used as a launch-pad for studies (each of the 50 truths include a section on how to enact that doctrine, as well as how to teach it). This is a fantastic resource for any shelf, especially to quickly capture key truths in a few short pages for those who don’t have a desire to dig deep into larger systematic theology texts. (Unless that’s your jam…then go for it.) Allison’s book is well written, well sized, well delivered. Five stars.
See what else I read in 2018: