Updated: Nov 17, 2019
In April, I want to draw your attention to some hot-button topics in the world and open you up to some less popular (although thoroughly Christian) responses to the issues that are dominating our water cooler conversation and social media engagement. Don't take the recommendation this month as a necessary endorsement of the authors' positions full-stop, but I do believe that each of them have something valuable to teach us if we are willing to listen.
A Farewell to Mars - Brian Zahnd
This book caught me off-guard about 3 years ago. I had heard of Brian Zahnd through some people that I follow on twitter, and knew him as another megachurch pastor in the states who did megachurch pastor things. But then I read an interview with him promoting this book and I was instantly captivated by the ideas he was writing about and knew that I had to read deeper. At its core, this book is about a journey of discovery toward a doctrine of Christian pacifism - something that is inherently contentious and debate-provoking itself. But in the light of the (finally!) growing movement for increased gun regulation south of the border, and the growing awareness of the idol of violence masquerading as "justice" even within our churches, this seems like a good topic to wrestle with. Agree or disagree with his conclusions, you will be challenged by his words.
Spiritual Friendship - Wesley Hill
Wesley hill is a New Testament scholar working out of the USA, he's an accomplished author and speaker, and a thoroughly orthodox conservative evangelical (well not technically, he's an Anglican, but one who doesn't shy away from the evangelical label nevertheless), and he's a single, celibate, same-sex-attracted man. Those qualifications are enough to make many evangelicals run and hide and discount his words prima-facie, but for those who take the time to actually hear him out, he has a timely and crucial message for the church to hear on the issue of sexuality, relationships, family and friends. His teaching (along with another even more inflammatory volume by another author whom you can see me personally about if you're interested) was super formative for me in my preparation for our series on Friendship last fall. I had the privilege of sitting under his tutelage in one of my courses last spring and I think that this is a book more people should read.
A Long Obedience in the Same Direction - Eugene Peterson
You usually cannot go wrong by recommending a Eugene Peterson book, and this is no exception to that rule. A Long Obedience is based on the Songs of Ascent (Psalms 120-134). Each chapter focuses on one of these psalms and an aspect of the Christian life to which it speaks. The topics are discipleship, repentance, providence, worship, service, help, security, joy, work, happiness, perseverance, hope, humility, obedience, community, and blessing. What is great about this book is that it doesn't sugar-coat the journey of discipleship in any way. It is honest about the long and difficult journey that the path toward Christian maturity will require. Allow me to leave you this quote that I think summarizes the book beautifully: "In our kind of culture anything, even news about God, can be sold if it is packaged freshly; but when it loses its novelty, it goes on the garbage heap. There is a great market for religious experience in our world; there is little enthusiasm for the patient acquisition of virtue, little inclination to sign up for a long apprenticeship in what earlier generations of Christians called holiness."
That is a message we all need to hear.