“The man who does not read books has no advantage over the man that can not read them.” Mark Twain
For the past several years I have had the joy of speaking for a ministry called Student Leadership University. This is indeed a bar-raising ministry (see my book Raising the Bar for more info). One of the things students are told as part of their leadership training at SLU is this: who you are in the days to come will be shaped by the people you meet, the places you go, and the books you read. This is great advice, especially when laid on the foundation of meeting Jesus personally, going to the cross, and reading the Bible J.
Reading offers any person the opportunity to grow, learn and to be stretched. Why some who follow Christ do not take advantage of the opportunity to read good books puzzles me. So assuming you seek to grow, I wanted to suggest a little reading for the summer of 2010. These books all have some things in common. First, they are all penned by men I have taught. I should note that the fact that I taught all them would be about the 257th most important factor in their lives (i.e., mostly important to me, but it is my blog J). Second, they all deal with subjects that matter in our time, and subjects that can be controversial.
J. D. Greear, lead pastor of Summit Church in RDU, sat in the first evangelism class I taught at SEBTS. We immediately hit it off, and this January we will be teaching a PhD seminar together in our new PhD in North American Missiology. Full circle. Greear’s new book, Breaking the Islam Code: Understanding the Soul Questions of Every Muslim (Bethany House, 2010), offers the reader a comprehensive overview of what Muslims believe while giving vital information on reaching them for Christ. Having served as a missionary among Muslim peoples, Greear brings more than a cursory knowledge to the table. His gospel-centric approach makes this book a great read for individual believers or as a study tool for a group seeking to be more effective among Muslims, whether in the U.S. or abroad. Of particular note for me is the help it provides for reaching Muslims in the U.S.. I have seen Muslims come to Jesus here in the states, so I know it is possible. Greear notes 90% of Muslims in the U.S. will never set foot in the house of a typical American. If we can get to know Muslims and get them to read the Bible with us, we can see the power of the gospel work in their lives.
Ken Keathley also sat in one of my early classes at SEBTS and now he is one of my bosses. Hmmm. Keathley just released a helpful book on theology called Salvation and Sovereignty: A Molinist Approach (B&H, 2010). Keathley writes, “Molinism teaches that God exercises His sovereignty primarily through His omniscience, and that He infallibly knows what free creatures would do in any given situation.” (pg 5) Molinism offers a view of the work of God in salvation that would not affirm all the classical tenets of Calvinism, but affirms the sovereignty of God in salvation. Keathley’s work would be a helpful read to think through the various issues related to a biblical understanding of salvation. The book avoids the shrill rhetoric too often employed in discussions related to soteriology today. The reader will be encouraged to do the very thing believers should be doing with great tenacity: study the Bible consistently to see what it in fact says about God and His work in salvation. I think every believer should read at least a couple of books on theology every year, and this book is both accessible to the layman in the pew and thought provoking for the interested theologian.
In case reading a book on reaching Muslims or on the doctrine of salvation fails to satiate a hunger for the curious mind, Jonathan Merritt’s new book Green Like God: Unlocking the Divine Plan for Our Planet (FaithWords, 2010) should fit the bill. I have read and heard far too many discussions related to reaching Muslims or on soteriology that have had far more heat than light, but when it comes to evangelicals and the environment, such rhetoric goes into hyperdrive. On the one hand, many believers today have never given any serious thought to our relationship to creation. On the other, too many define their view by what they oppose (the Sierra Club, Al Gore, etc). But the recent disaster in the gulf should remind us of the need to be a little more thoughtful than the occasional asinine comment like “let’s just pave the forests and eat some endangered species,” as I have heard evangelicals quip. Surely somewhere between the tree hugger on the left and the ignoramus on the right we can find a thoughtful approach to the world created by God. Merritt helps in this endeavor. Arguing the Left has hijacked the entire subject, Merritt postulates that caring for creation is not a right-left issue, but a moral-immoral issue that the people of God have been called to address. If we remain true to God’s Word, he argues, Christians must with equanimity redeem the cause and make it our own. He simply wants to push followers of Christ to take a fresh look at what the Word says about caring for creation and then approach contemporary issues with that knowledge.
I encourage you to read this book and those noted above as opportunities to help you think, grow, and consider how you can better live out the gospel in our time.
I did want to mention one other book that you cannot get just yet, but will be released in early 2011. Some of my students have graciously come together to produce a book in my honor called a Festschrift. I am humbled to be considered for this, as I feel I have accomplished very little to this point for the Kingdom of God. But Matt Queen and Larry McDonald, each professors themselves (Matt at SWBTS, Larry at North Greenville University), have collected a notable array of leaders for this, and I wanted you to be aware of their efforts. Contributors include such notable leaders as former profs Roy Fish and Malcolm McDow; convention leaders Danny Akin, Thom Rainer, Johnny Hunt, and Ed Stetzer; friends and peers John Avant, Doug Munton, David Wheeler, and David Nelson; former students including Chris Schofield, Bobby Lewis, Matt Lawson, and Todd Stewart; and two men who have been my students and are now my colleagues at SEBTS, George Robinson and Bruce Ashford. The theme of the book is seen in its title: A Passion for the Great Commission: Essays in Honor of Alvin L. Reid. I wanted to mention this book in a post about books written by those I have taught as my way of saying thanks to those who have taken time to contribute. I am far from worthy, but immensely grateful.