Reflections on Books I Read This Summer

As many of you will know, this summer I had the opportunity to do ministry work on North Uist, an small island just off the coast of Scotland that is part of the Outer Hebrides. The location was gorgeous, the people were friendly, and the church at which I ministered had a wonderful spirit. All in all, my time there was encouraging and rejuvenating.

While I was there, I was able to spend a lot of time reading. Specifically, I was able to focus on books that had been on my wish list for a long time.

Here is a list of interesting books from this summer that I am happy to commend to you. I by no means offer serious book reviews here; I simply supply brief personal reflections about each work. Do feel free to leave comments or make suggestions in the comments box below.

Baptist Theology by Stephen R. Holmes

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One part survey of Baptist history and one part examination of Baptist ecclesiology, this is an excellent introduction to Baptist life. I am grateful that Steve is my supervisor here at St. Andrews.

Baptists in America by Thomas S. Kidd and Barry Hankins

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I had the opportunity to meet Tommy Kidd and his family while there were here in St. Andrews this past spring. He is a wonderful Christian gentleman and an excellent historian. This work tells the story of Baptists in America, a story that sees the denomination transition from a small group of political and social outsiders to a large and influential religious body—and all of the tension that that this dramatic change brought.

Contesting Catholicity: Theology for Other Baptists by Curtis W. Freeman

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There is a lot of material here, and I doubt one or two sentences will do this book justice.  Suffice it to say that this work should be read; it is fascinating. Though I disagree with Freeman on several points, the overall aim of his project is commendable. He desires to move contemporary Baptists—particularly Baptists in the United States—away from their sectarian leanings and into conversation with the church catholic.

City of Man: Religion and Politics in a New Era by Michael Gerson and Peter Wehner

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I have always enjoyed Michael Gerson’s articles in the Washington Post. Here he and Peter Wehner offer an outline of what they believe contemporary Christian political engagement should look like. I suspect this book will benefit both culture warriors and naive do-godders. Gerson’s use of Augustine—hence the book’s title—reminds us that no political system is perfect and that political work alone cannot bring permanent change. This fact does not mean that political involvement is unimportant, but it does help us to preserve an attitude of realism as we involve ourselves in political pursuits.

A Little Book for New Theologians by Kelly M. Kapic

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Here are challenging meditations not just for new theologians but also for those of us who have tried to study theology for some time. I still feel as though I am just beginning.

Richard John Neuhaus: A Life in the Public Square by Randy Boyagoda

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Neuhaus lived a life of dramatic contrasts—he went from being a liberal Lutheran minister and opponent of the Vietnam War to a conservative Roman Catholic who supported the Bush administration to the point that many labeled him a neo-conservative and even a theo-conservative. Boyagoda provides an interesting presentation of the life of this ambitious and talented and never boring man.

God and the Atlantic: America, Europe, and the Religious Divide by Thomas Albert Howard

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To be honest, I do grow tired of the anti-Americanism that I often encounter here. My country is not above criticism, and there are certain things about it that do indeed trouble me, but I believe that much of the anti-Americanism I hear is both unfair and too extreme. This book simply reminds us that there is nothing new under the sun. Europe has a long history of looking down its nose at Uncle Sam, and Howard argues that the differences between the US and Europe that give rise to this attitude are in part theological, not just cultural. (Of course, to be fair to the Europeans, America has for its part displayed plenty of arrogance toward the Old World during its young lifetime.)

The Pastor Theologian: Resurrecting an Ancient Vision by Gerald Hiestand and Todd Wilson

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I am a big fan of the renewed interest in the pastor-theologian model, and I know of no better contemporary exponents of this model than the good people at CPT. May their tribe increase!

The System Has a Soul: Essays on Christianity, Liberty, and Political Life by Hunter Baker

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A collection of interesting essays on politics, economics, and spirituality that make for good light reading before bed.

Every Square Inch: An Introduction to Cultural Engagement for Christians by Bruce Riley Ashford

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The title of this book, taken from Kuyper’s well-known statement about Christ ruling over every square inch of the creation, also makes for good light reading before bed. Bruce Ashford, the provost of the seminary I attended before I came to St. Andrews, is a good thinker and has much to say. As an aside, he named his child Kuyper. He loves him some Father Abraham. 😉

Exploring Ecclesiology: An Evangelical and Ecumenical Introduction by Brad Harper and Paul Louis Metzger

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This is an introduction to ecclesiology written primarily for an American audience; it addresses many concerns present in contemporary American evangelicalism. There are some interesting points here, and it deserves some attention.

About David Rathel

Husband to April; Baptist Minister; Student at St. Mary's Divinity School at the University of St. Andrews
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