A Few Good Books

A Few Good Books

A number of good books have landed on my desk over the last month. 

First, despite Paul Levy's demonstration that, when it comes to overall insight and cool, he is once again truly Presbyterianism's answer to Alan Partridge, I concur that Sam Allberry's book Is God Anti-Gay? is truly marvellous.  Paul neglected to mention that Sam writes from the perspective of a pastor who himself struggles with same sex attraction.  This makes the book more compassionate and compelling.  Sam's humanity shines through every page; his understanding of weakness undergirds the whole; his compassion for those facing that which he himself faces each day is deeply moving.   Those unconvinced by the simplistic pieties of reparative therapy and who are looking for something more biblical will find much helpful material here.  This book would make an excellent resource for pastors and elders to keep on hand, given that this is an issue which is set to become more, not less, significant and contentious.

Second, in the realm of Christology there a number of worthwhile reads.   At the basic level, Mark Jones' A Christian's Pocket Guide to Jesus Christ is an excellent and concise primer on classic Christological themes, covering both the person and work of Christ, and the inextricable connection between the two.   D. Patrick Ramsey's A Portrait of Christ is also a brief and delightful examination of Christ, rooted particularly in the gospel narratives.

On the more substantial Christological front, Jason Hood's Imitating God in Christ is a good exploration and synthesis of a theme much neglected in Protestantism.   As boradly reformed theology seems to be heading blithely towards its own version of the Lordship controversy, this is a very helpful and timely volume.   Finally, the very helpful series, New Studies in Biblical Theology, has a new volume: Graham Cole's The God who became Human, a biblical theology of the incarnation.  I have as yet only read the first thrity pages but it looks set to be full of insights for preachers who wish to enrich the manner in which they connect Christ to the Old Testament.

While we are on the subject of preachers, Reformation Heritage have put out a translation of Peter Van Mastricht's The Best Method of Preaching with an introduction by Todd Rester.  I remain convinced that preaching is neither so complicated that only the same dozen or so men in the Anglophone world can truly exemplify it for the rest of us, nor so simple that no training or preparation is necessary.  This volume seems to catch the balance nicely.

Third, it is a great season for church history.   The second volume in Baker's Foundations of Theological Exegesis and Christian Spirituality is out: Thomas Guarino's Vincent of Lerins and the Development of Christian Doctrine.   This book is a study of both Vincent and also his reception by John Henry Newman.   Most evangelical Christians probably think that Darwin raised the most important questions to  which the church needed to respond in the nineteenth century and indeed needs to respond now; I believe a good case can be made that some of Newman's questions were, and are, just as pressing.   I am reviewing this book for First Things so will make no further comment here.

D.G. Hart's long-awaited Calvinism: A History is finally here and it has proved worth the wait.  The stalwart opponent of Schwaermerei everywhere does not disappoint.  Again, I have thus far read only the first few chapters but the work is obviously well-written with the usual learning, wit and stimulating analysis one expects.   Along with Benedict's history of Reformed churches, this looks set to be a standard text.  And though it comes up to the present, no Beautiful People merit a mention. Instead, DGH tells the story as one of ordinary people and ordinary churches making a difference through their very biblical ordinariness.    'Back of the net!' as Alan Partridge would no doubt say.

Finally, Simonetta Carr does it again, with a beautifully illustrated biography of Anselm of Canterbury.  I have already given a copy to the famous discerning lady at my church.  I will let you know what she thinks.