Comment remains one of my favourite journals, publishing thoughtful pieces on a wide variety of subjects, often asking the questions of 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.
A Light to the Nations: The Missional Church and the Biblical Story by Michael Goheen (Baker)
There have been lots of discussions about, and books exploring, what it means to be a “missional church”—how do local congregations point to and live out of a vision of God’s reign coming into culture, bringing restoration to all of life? Friends of Comment have long known that the coming reign of God includes all of life, not just our churches. Yet, most of us are eager for our clergy and congregations to proclaim a “Kingdom vision,” and we resonate with these books about “the missional church.” Some titles have been very helpful; others a bit less so. Some are helpful in allowing local congregations to understand culture, and others are good for thinking about missional strategies and neighbourhood outreach, but there hasn’t been a fabulously insightful book rooting the missional vision in the drama of Scriptures.
Until now. Mike Goheen—a Comment author—here writes how, at every point in the entire Biblical narrative, we get a picture of God’s call to represent Him in the world He loves. There is a missional impulse deep within the Biblical narrative. This is an astute study serving wonderfully as a Biblical overview and as a call to missional church. It’s a well-crafted book, helpful for those wanting to do Scripture study and especially for those needing a reminder of the nature and task of the local church. Highly recommended.
Art That Tells a Story, edited by Christopher Brewer (Gospel Through Lived Experience)
This is a rare and wonderful new book that uses modern art to depict the increasingly popular shorthand of the overview of the Biblical narrative, illustrating themes of creation, fall, redemption, and restoration. It assumes that contemporary art can point to “shared experiences,” and that viewers of the coffee table-type art book will resonate with the Biblical truths in each glorious section. To clarify the allusive nature of the paintings, Biblical scholar Michael Witmer (Heaven Is a Place on Earth) narrates the journey as the art pieces walk us through the interconnecting themes of what the Scriptures say about our life in the world.
New York-based abstract artist Makoto Fujimura tells in a helpful forward how pondering excellent art led him to his own conversion to Christ. As some advance publicity puts it, “following the contours of the Biblical narrative, this book is an invitation to experience the Story with fresh eyes in the hopes that, through this art, the experience of this Story might be recreated in us.” Artists such as Julie Quinn, Ed Knippers, Alfonse Borysewicz, Bruce Herman, Stoffel Overvoorde and many others contribute to this lavish contemporary artistic introduction to the full gospel. What a book to have, to give, to share and to discuss! There is nothing like it, and we are pleased to be able to announce it here. (Due April 2011)
A Humane Economy: The Social Framework of the Free Market by Wilhelm Ropke (ISI Books)
Many thoughtful businesspeople have appreciated Michael Novak’s engaging Business as a Calling: Work and the Examined Life. Mr. Novak, speaking of his own examined life, says that A Humane Economy “is one of my favourite books, which at one point in my life altered my way of thinking, and a book to which I like to return every few years.” First published in English in 1960, it is a serious study by a renowned post-war European (Christian) intellectual who had been lauded by the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. This work is a fine example of how the best conservative thinkers advocating free markets were seriously concerned about the moral and social framework that could enable markets to work well. Many of our great current public intellectuals seeking a “humane economy” these days—Bill McKibben, Wendell Berry, Bob Goudzewaard, Herman Daly, Jim Wallis—seem to tilt to the left, in an understandable reaction to the weaknesses of neo-conservativism, in many matters. This is a very important, different, voice reflecting on the morality of economic virtues—contra all things Keynesian—which is highly regarded on the serious right.
The Language of Science and Faith: Straight Answers to Genuine Questions by Karl Giberson & Francis Collins (IVP)
The BioLogos Foundation was founded by a respected Christian academic (Karl Giberson) and a geneticist practicing at the interface of research and public policy (Francis Collins); for years, Dr. Collins was the head of the Human Genome Project and now serves in the Obama administration as the Director of the National Institute of Health. Both founders of BioLogos have a passion to articulate a centrist Christian view of the sciences for the general public, and both have written thoughtful and important books (especially for the conversation about origins and evolution.) BioLogos is attempting to position itself as a vital and effective think-tank, and has garnered early endorsements from the likes of evangelical leaders Timothy Keller, Os Guinness, N.T. Wright, and Philip Yancey.
In this first book released by the BioLogos Foundation, they offer readable and concise answers to a myriad of commonly asked questions about faith, science, the philosophy of science, and bio-ethics. Although it has garnered many raves—theologian Nancy Murphy of Fuller says it is “the best I’ve seen,” ABC News Senior Medical contributor Dr. Tim Johnson says it is “destined to become a classic,” and pastor and creation-care leader Joel Hunter says it is “at the top of my recommendations”—it seems to me to be a fine start, but not nearly enough. Its strength is the lovely way in which it offers an overview of the discussions, graciously posits a theistic evolutionary view, and over and over refutes common assumptions about the supposed incompatibility of orthodox faith, the Bible, and serious work in the sciences. Indeed, Biblical scholar Peter Enns says they are “learned and engaging” and it is “accessible distillation.”
Walking in the Way of the Word: The Collected Writings of H. Evan Runner (Paideia Press)
In the 1950s and 60s, an intellectually-robust and socially-active group of mostly Dutch immigrants to Canada started an association to relate Reformed faith and serious scholarship, then known as the Association of Reformed Scientific Studies. At Calvin College in Michigan, Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, Dordt College in Iowa, and, eventually, colleges throughout Western Pennsylvania, students devoured the books that were published, which had been talks given at the early conferences of the ARSS. Two stood out, both by the passionate speaker of the first three Unionville Conferences, H. Evan Runner: The Bible in Relation to Learning and Scriptural Religion and Political Task.
In this recently published volume, both books are collected and republished, with a studious and lengthy forward by the late Bernard Zylstra, where he explains the significance of these lectures, describes the neo-Calvinian tradition and Kuyperian philosophy that so animated Dr. Runner, and reminds us of the importance of a new generation reading this passionate work. The Grand Rapids-based Reformational Publishing Project is to be thanked for re-issuing these long out of print books; those interested in the religious roots of Cardus and Comment would do well to sit under the tutelage of Runner by way of these historic talks/books. Those who have memories of his passionate work, dense writing, and insistence on the Biblical way of life amidst the secularizing forces of North America will be glad to revisit them.
Half the Church: Recapturing God’s Global Vision for Women by Carolyn Custis James (Zondervan)
James is a fine author who has given us several books of applied theology and Biblical studies, aimed mostly at Reformed/evangelical women, but appreciated by many men and those of other religious denominations. She’s now written her most passionate, broadly appealing, and important work to date, describing the heartache and injustice faced by women throughout the globe and what can be done, helping all of God’s image-bearers—and certainly Christ’s church—to embrace all that God calls us to be and do. One quickly realizes that the title is a hat-tip to the popular book by New York Times journalists Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn (Half The Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide) and, in fact, WuDunn offers a rave endorsement. James is a master Bible teacher and naturally weaves together global analysis, gender studies, and three especially transformative Biblical themes. Excellent.
The Scent of Water: Grace for Every Kind of Broken by Naomi Zacharias (Zondervan)
It is interesting that this well-known evangelical publishing house has released two books this month about the global plight of women—and they are both excellent and complementary. If the Carolyn Custis James book, listed above, offers a solidly Biblical foundation and a passionate call to justice, Ms. Zacharias gives us a writerly view, an equally passionate rumination on the pain she sees and shares in her travels among the sexually abused, those caught in brothels in Asia, women who have been victims of violence in the Congo, or those living in the red-light districts in the Netherlands. As director of Wellspring International, based out of Oxford, England, Ms. Zacharias uses her poetic gifts as a reflective writer and memoirist to invite us in to her sense of beauty in a hurting world and the ways God’s grace has moved and sustained her. This is a book of significant hope, informative, inspiring, and, perhaps most significantly, an invitation to ponder your own journey, your own experience of brokenness, and gain a sense of God’s call to you to live a life of meaning.
The books listed above are all available from Byron Borger’s bookstore—Hearts & Minds Books.