Books of popular theology
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Rescuing the Gospel: The Story and Significance of the Reformation
Erwin W. Lutzer
Lutzer’s passion for the Reformation and skill with the pen make this potentially dry subject riveting. He focuses on Martin Luther but also covers important figures who preceded and followed him, showing both their strengths and weaknesses. He evaluates Luther’s infamous statements about Jews and peasants, tells of Calvin’s role in the death of Servetus, and describes the excesses of some Anabaptists. This lively account also shows that the issues that divided Protestantism from Catholicism at the time of the Reformation remain pressing issues today.
The Faith of Christopher Hitchens
Larry Alex Taunton
This book tells the surprising story of the author’s relationship with atheist-provocateur Christopher Hitchens, which began shortly before Hitchens received a terminal cancer diagnosis. As their relationship blossomed into friendship, the two debating partners embarked on a speaking trip in which they explored Scripture together. Through this study, Hitchens caught glimmers of a unifying philosophy that could make sense of everything and give hope. Cancer claimed Hitchens in 2011 with no evidence that he had revoked atheism. However, Taunton’s book describes and models the kind of friendship that Christians can have even with the most formidable opponents of their faith.
Core Christianity: Finding Yourself in God’s Story
This book is a short, simple, user-friendly systematic theology. Every chapter looks at doctrine and places it within the grand story of the Bible and the drama unfolding around us. Horton points to doctrine’s implication for both doxology (praise) and discipleship. Framing doctrine in this way ensures that it never lives on its own, but always points to God’s purposes and to its necessary implications in our lives—a powerful, stirring progression. Core Christianity immediately takes its place as one of my favorite introductions to the Christian faith. It is one I will recommend often.
Discipling: How to Help Others Follow Jesus
Discipling is Pastor Mark Dever’s latest entry in the Building Healthy Churches series. He wrote it to “help you understand biblical discipling and to encourage you in your obedience to Christ.” Written for a general audience, the book begins with a definition: “Discipling is initiating a relationship in which you teach, correct, model, and love. It takes great humility.” The book discusses the central role of the local church and offers practical guidance on how, when, and where discipling happens. Be prepared: Discipling can be costly in time, preparation, prayer, and love. I commend this book to church leaders in the hope that they will first read it and then widely distribute it.
Siddhartha Mukherjee’s massive The Gene: An Intimate History (Scribner, 2016) begins with stories of his two uncles on his father’s side. Both had mental illness, leaving Mukherjee wondering about the role heredity played and whether he would one day develop manic depression or schizophrenia as they had. The reader knows from the beginning that this book is about more than abstract science: It shows how scientific advances affect real people and change the way human beings think about themselves.
Mukherjee also shows the wrong turns scientists and politicians have often taken and skillfully brings to life terrible chapters in the history of eugenics. Although Mukherjee accepts evolutionary explanations, readers don’t have to agree with them to appreciate the importance of growing scientific knowledge concerning genes. The Gene drags in spots as the science becomes more technical, but many chapters read like chapters in a detective story. —Susan Olasky
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