1/03/2006

The Top 10 Books I Read in 2005


2005 was another very wonderful year of reading for me. There were so many incredible books that had an impact on me that it was hard to narrow them down to five (like I did the year before). So, instead of feeling completely stressed out about it, I’ve expanded the list to 10. This helped some, but there are still books left off that I feel bad about…

Drum roll please…

10. Engaging God's World: A Christian Vision of Faith, Learning, and Living by Cornelius Plantinga Jr.
While having thought I had become “Reformed” in my theology in recent years, I have found that there are different kinds of “Reformed” out there. While I had gravitated to the Baptist Reformed ideas of people like John Piper in previous years, I now think that the Dutch Reformed ideas match more closely what I read in the Bible. In this book, Plantinga (President of Calvin Theological Seminary) offers his students a basic introduction to a Christian Worldview that sees all that we do in life defined as the redemption of God’s creative work—within the metanarrative of “Creation-Fall-Redemption.”

9. Truth Is Stranger Than It Used to Be: Biblical Faith in a Postmodern Age by J. Richard Middleton and Brian J. Walsh
In 2005, one subject in which I deeply immersed myself was postmodernity. And Brian Walsh became one of my heroes. In this book (which they had originally meant to be a re-write of their outstanding book on developing a Christian Worldview, The Transforming Vision), Walsh and Middleton demonstrate a profound understanding of both the Christian Worldview and the postmodern incredulity of the metanarrative, and have offered an intriguing way to navigate the waters that connect the two.

8. Embracing Grace: A Gospel for All of Us by Scot McKnight
Back in May, 2005, Scot’s previous book, The Jesus Creed, won Christianity Today’s 2005 Book of the Year in the category of “Christian Living.” While I enjoyed that book a lot, I was much more intimately acquainted with Embracing Grace. Scot honored me to be one of his readers of the manuscript--to offer suggestions and personal reflections. As a result, I feel a part ownership in this book. Some of my suggestions and ideas appear on the pages. Scot offers a gospel for the emerging church, one that is relational in focus and transformational in purpose.

7. Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America by Michael O. Emerson and Christian Smith
Published in 2001, I just discovered this book this past year. Until I read it, I did not recognize how, as a white evangelical, I actually contribute to the racialization in our society. This is an uncomfortable book for white evangelicals to read, but I feel it should be required reading. Historically accurate, sociologically exact, and theologically prophetic.

6. God's Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It by Jim Wallis
In the 2004 presidential election, many evangelicals woke up to the fact that there needs to be an evangelical alternative to the Religious Right in this country. Lo and Behold, it was right there the whole time. Jim Wallis of Sojourners has been proclaiming his truly compassionate Christian political engagement for 30 years. 2004 and 2005 were the years that many heard his voice for the first time.

5. Renovation of the Heart: Putting on the Character of Christ by Dallas Willard
Willard’s insights into how to change ourselves from the inside-out need to be foundational to a Christian understanding of spiritual formation. I have been trying to lead churches and ministries in developing tools for spiritual formation for nearly two decades now, and this book BY FAR deals with the subject better than any I’ve read.

4. Heaven is not My Home: Living in the NOW of God's Creation by Paul A. Marshall
My “number one” book of 2004 was Mike Whitmer’s Heaven is a Place on Earth. Marshall’s book (1999) pre-dates Whitmer’s book (2004) and deals with the same subject of what we are supposed to be doing in our present bodily existence here on earth. Marshall’s book is more practical (but has enough biblical theology to ground its points); Whitmer’s book is more theological (but has plenty of practical insights to make it a shear joy to read). These two books are a great companion set—highly recommended for those who want to develop a Christian worldview as to why and how we live a Christian life.

3. Christianity and the Postmodern Turn: Six Views edited by Myron B. Penner
Anyone who wants to really understand postmodernity from a Christian perspective, but have only found books that outright demonizes it, needs to read the balanced essays in this essential book. The book features essays by R. Douglas Geivatt and R. Scott Smith (who are more pessimistic toward Postmodernity), James K.A. Smith, John R. Franke and Merold Westphal (who are more favorable), and Kevin J. Vanhoozer (who takes a mediating position). The second part of the book has each author interacting with the others' essays. Fascinating and insightful.

2. Colossians Remixed: Subverting the Empire by Brian J. Walsh and Sylvia C. Keesmaat
Perhaps the most important biblical commentary of the emerging postmodern age. This seminal work will set the standard on how scholars will need to interact with the biblical text in a postmodern context. Secular postmodernists will have us believe that the Bible is irrelevant, just a collection of narratives that have no bearing on any other community other than that obscure group called “Christians.” Walsh and Keesmaat prove that the Bible is relevant, intriguing, and life-changing—especially in a postmodern culture.

1. Out of the Question...Into the Mystery: Getting Lost in the GodLife Relationship by Leonard Sweet
Simply a delightful read. Not only are Sweet’s prose in this book stunning (and not quite so esoteric as has been his style in previous books), his insights into creating a Relational Theology are fresh, biblical, and life-changing (all except the chapter on Abraham, which I still am not convinced about…)

(Now, even though I included Amazon links above, you should seriously think about buying these books from Hearts & Minds instead. Byron Borger owns this independent bookstore in Pennsylvania and has these books in stock. Support this Christian brother who is doing an incredible work for the glory of God!)

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5 comments:

Matt Robinson said...

Interesting that you did not like the chapter on Abraham in Sweet's book. That chapter had the biggest impact on me personally (although I don't know if I buy that things really happened that way either.)

Bob Robinson said...

Yes, Matt, it was a paradoxical chapter for me. I understand what he was driving at (especially after having read the entire book) about importance of relationship being honest and even confrontational. I just don't know if I buy the interpretation he offers of that particular text. But then, I've been wrong before about my interpretations of texts!!

ScottB said...

Colossians Remixed - oh, yeah, that one will shake up how a person reads a text. I read it over the summer, and then had it assigned as a text at seminary, so I got through it twice. It was easily the most controversial book we've read as a cohort at school.

Divided by Faith also made it to my list this year, and I had a similar reaction to yours. Really challenging on many levels.

Phil Groom said...

Brother, you're scaring me. I spend so much time reading, then come acrooss a blog like this and discover so many things I haven't read that I really need to...

Bob Robinson said...

Phil,
That's funny. If you want even more, check out my "Books I'm Reading" page, which has the top 5 books I read in 2004 as well!