A collection of books I read the summer of 2012.
1)Missio Dei (This is actually a series of small booklets that are published by: Mennonite Mission Network) In Total: 112 pages
Review: Tongue Screws and Testimony By: Alan Krieder (25 pages) – Krieder is one of our professors at AMBS and also an elder at the church I attend in Indiana. This book was a refreshing glance at Mennonites in mission and looking at evangelism (a topic that is rarely talked about at least in Canadian Mennonite settings). I found Kreider’s point to be very interesting and refreshing. Margaret Roberts might also appreciate the fact that he and his wife were once missionaries in England.
Understanding Islam By: Calvin E. Shenk (17 pages) – This is a very compact yet surprisingly comprehensive guide to Islam including witnessing to Muslims and the similarities and differences between Islam and Christianity. It’s a good book if you’re just looking for a very general overview.
What I Learned From The African Church: 22 Students Reflect On A Life Changing Experience By: James R. Krabill (24 pages) – 22 university students from Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisburg, Virginia went to Benin for 7 weeks and share their experience of their prior prejudices and new found respect in the Mennonite church that thrives there. It was interesting to read short reflections from all the students and it was especially cool because my small group leader from Mennonite World Conference in Paraguay was featured in it as one of the students.
Digging For Treasures In Your Own Backyard: Reflections on Missional Experiences in the Netherlands By: Jackie Wyse (21 pages) – The description of this book sounded much better than it actually was. I mean there were parts of it that were certainly interesting such as the communal cookbook project, but other than that, nothing really stood out for me in it. I suppose it might be because I don’t particularly have an interest in the Netherlands and the names were all very hard to read and pronounce.
New Anabaptist Voices By: Matthew Krabill and David Stutzman (25 pages) – A look at the “true” ethnic Mennonites – meaning those from different countries as opposed to the white European “Ethnic” Mennonites. How they came to be Mennonites and their journey into this faith tradition.
2) That Holy Anarchist By: Mark Van Steenwyk (71 pages)
Review: This book was… interesting… it was an interesting read about the connection between anarchy and Christianity, but after I read it, I’m not really sure what to think. I think it probably would have meant more to me if I had a better grasp of anarchy. But still, it was a great book that “got me out of my own head” an thinking of other types of concepts.
PEACE AND SOCIAL JUSTICE
1)What About Hitler? Wrestling with Jesus’s call to Nonviolence in an Evil Wold By: Robert W. Brimlow (190)
I promise that on read this on January 13th, but didn’t post until the 14th since I was away. It’s a hard read, but makes much more sense the second time around. It’s a good balance between a devotional and an academic read and I appreciate his honesty.
2) A Muslim and a Christian in Dialogue By: Badru D. Kateregga and David W. Shenk (191 pages)
Review: As some of you will know, I have a heart for countries that are primarily Muslim based and so I loved this book! What I liked about this book was that it wasn’t about a Muslim telling the Christians what was wrong with them or vice versa (which is so often the case). Instead, it was an honest dialogue. The chapters were set up so that the first 12 chapters shared the basic beliefs of the Muslim faith followed by a Christian explanation of what we agree with/don’t agree with and why. Then the next 12 chapters were written from a Christian viewpoint followed by a Muslim explanation of what they would agree with/not agree with and why. It was a very eye opening book about what Muslims believe and how they interpret what we believe. It was done very respectful and helps to encourage a dialogue between the two faiths. I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in Muslim beliefs or who has a heart/mission to evangelize to the Muslim people.
** For more: read Tea-Time in Mogadishu (Ahmed Ali Haile and David Shenk)**
3) Why Pro-Life? Caring for the Unborn and Their Mothers By: Randy Alcorn (107 pages)
Review: An honest and sometimes disturbing look at some of the myths behind abortion. This book shows readers all about the flawed logic that many pro-choice people use to argue their point. Alcorn is a Christian, but what I like about him is that his arguments are scientifically proven rather than just religious. As someone who loves midwiffery and all things relating to birth, I thought this book was a nice addition to my growing collection. It brought many many of the things I learned at the pregnancy centre two years ago. I would recommend this book to those who want to learn how to be persuasive about the pro-life stance or to people who are wavering between pro-life and pro-choice.
4) Sanctity of Life: The Inescapable Issue By: Charles R. Swindoll (105 pages)
Review: A very good yet very brief overview about the sanctity of human life. HOWEVER this book was actually very different than a lot of other pro-life books I’ve read which is a lot because of my work at the pregnancy centre and my advocacy of midwifery. Unlike most books which just give a bunch of statistics or explain the gruesome effects of an abortion, this book was actually more of a guide about morality. The books itself is divided into 4 sections. Section 1 deals with why to be prolife (the same as most other books do), section 2 deals with forgiveness that can take place after an abortion and is written with women who have had this experience in mind, section 3 deals with moral purity especially as relates to marriage and when temptation comes upon married people who think their marriage is “dry”, section 4 deals with morality in general and a need for Christians to stand out in the world. The book was written in the 1990s so it is a bit past-dated and not accurate in terms of the statistics, however, the message remains clear. I like this book because it doesn’t pressure you to change your views, it just simply lays them out.
DISABILITIES STUDIES IN A CHRISTIAN PERSPECTIVE
1)In The Name of Jesus ~ Reflections on Christian Leadership By: Henri J.M. Nouwen (81 pages)
Review: Have you ever struggled with the need to be a relevant Christian leader? Have you ever struggled with the fact that you think as a leader you shouldn’t let other in on your personal struggles? Have you ever felt that positions and status are everything? So did Henri Nouwen before he joined the L’Arche community for mentally disabled people. There he learned that all the education in the world cannot prepare one to be the type of leader they need to become. I read this book as I am hoping to get a job at L’Arche Daybreak and it seemed like this would be a good introduction. Although there is not much said about L’Arche in particular, he does draw from his experiences there and has very many good lessons for all of us to learn. I would recommend anyone studying for the ministry read this book.
2) The Road to Daybreak: A Spiritual Journey By: Henri J.M. Nouwen (228 pages)
Review: I read this book while staying at the New House at L’Arche Daybreak. This is Henri Nouwen’s journal recounting his move from L’Arche in Trosly, France to Richmond Hill. I really enjoyed his writing as it spoke about him on a more personal level, but also had profound theological implications. I was honoured to stay at the house he stayed at (which he mentioned in his book) and also to meet John, a man who was there when he was and still lives in the New House. I found in Nouwen’s writing, a man who is very similar to myself in terms of what we struggle with. I think L’Arche was good for him and if I get the job that it will be good for me as well.
GENERAL CHRISTIAN BOOKS
1) Sex God By: Rob Bell (171 pages)
Review: I loved this book which talked about the integration of sex and Christianity and how sex is way more than just physical. Bell did not say anything I disagreed with, but I think it meant more to me because of my experience working at the pregnancy centre. I also loved how Bell talked about how when sex is only done for the physical it can really hurt the person doing it. We need to find our identity in Christ first before we can find it in a partner.
2) Hemorrhaging Faith By: JAMES PENNER, RACHAEL HARDER, ERIKA ANDERSON, BRUNO DÉSORCY, AND RICK HIEMSTRA (130 Pages)
Review: An informative look at why youth and young adults are leaving the church and not coming back with research from the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada. I found some of what the youth and young adults to say to be profound, but at other times it reminded me just how far gone our society is. I found myself questioning why the youth are leaving the mainline churches even though the mainline churches seem to provide them with answers to their complaints about homosexuality and believing whatever you want to believe. All in all it was very eye opening and well put together as well as helpful in terms of locating statistics and charts.
3) It’s Not About Me By: Max Lucado (165 pages)
Review: This was a good book, though geared more towards newer Christians. Still it was refreshing after doing so much academic Biblical studying and I get the impression that Lucado would make a good pastor as he uses a lot of great examples from his own life or from well known stories or from the news to make his point.
4) The Life and Death of Mr. Badman By: John Bunyan (171 pages)
Review: The Life and Death of Mr. Badman is a great Puritian writing which was also the very first English novel. The story is a dialogue between two neighbours – Wiseman and Attentive over the life and death of Mr. Badman, a notorious town sinner. The play takes the same format as the play “Everyman” (another great Puritian play). The other cool thing about this play is that it is actually a sequel to the allegory “Pilgrim’s Progress”. Pilgrim’s Progress, perhaps Bunyan’s best known work, is a story which recounts the life of a Christian man and his journey towards heaven. In The Life and Death of Mr. Badman, Bunyan writes about the exact opposite. A man’s journey into hell. While this play is not one of his better known works, it’s a good one to read nonetheless and is short and fairly easy to read. Not only will you learn a lot about Bunyan by reading it, but I think it will also prove good for the Christian soul and for devotional material.
5) When Religion Becomes Evil By: Charles Kimball (213 Pages)
Review: This is a book that highlights potential red warning flags in religions and the difference “pure” forms of religion and corrupted religion. The author specifically focuses on 5 areas:
1) Absolute Truth Claims
2) Blind Obedience
3) Establishing the “Ideal” Time
4) The End Justifies Any Means
5) Declaring Holy War
While the book was informative and interesting and while the author did have some good points, I did not particularly agree with his viewpoints. I do agree that when religions (including Christianity) are taken to the extreme it can be dangerous, however, the author seemed to be embracing a viewpoint that was very Unitarian. He essentially said that there was no one true religion and that all religions are the same and who are we to say we have the right religion. That is concerning to me because he comes from the Baptist faith tradition. I just found his writing to be very liberal and not founded upon very much other than his personal preference. However, if you ever did read this book, you would find that there are a few good points scattered throughout it and if nothing else, it makes you stop and think.
6) Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners By: John Bunyan (127 pages)
Review: This was a good book, though I feel it would have been slightly easier if I were to read it all in one shot instead of trying to read it over a longer amount of time (as there are only three chapters in this book so it’s kind of hard to find a place to put the book down). I did enjoy Bunyan’s writings and was inspired to read this book because of my Christian history class where the prof said to read Puritan devotional books and autobiographies. Bunyan gives a clear explanation of his faith struggles and how he came to trust God completely. Even so, I did find it was a bit tedious and that he basically explained the same thing over and over. But a good read nonetheless.
7) Reluctant Pilgrim: A Moody, Somewhat, Self-Indulgent Introvert’s Search For Spiritual Community By: Enuma Okoro (151 Pages)
Review: Enuma is a girl who loves God, but hates the church. Throughout her life she’s been trying to find community, but regardless of the church she attends, she still finds God in other places more easily. Journey with Enuma through her painful past to her coming to a place where she truly feels at home in the Anglican church. The book is honest, thoughtful, and profound. Enuma is a clear writing and hits home on a lot of issues. The book, however, is somewhat hard to follow as she does skip around a lot. It’s essentially like reading her journal. She never stays on one subject long enough, however, the message she wants to portray is very clear. I would also say though, if you’re going to read this book, you can’t be easily offended. She does swear and also says some pretty liberal things such as that God is a woman.
8) Hey, Who Is That Man? The Introduction That Will Change Your Life By: Barry St. Clair (144 pages)
Review: I have been a Christian for the majority of my life, however, I found this book to be very refreshing. I love St. Clair’s casual style and he wrote to a young audience. I would recommend this book to kids in youth group. He said a bunch of things that those of us well seasoned Christians know, but in such a new and creative way. I enjoyed it very much 🙂
9) Light on the Heavy – A Simple Guide to Understanding Bible Doctrines By: Jerry Jenkins (119 pages)
Review: A quick, flip through description of several of the most common Bible doctrines. It kind of reminded me of Christian Theology but much easier, straight-forward, and written for youth. It would be a cool book for my church to use for our discipleship (baptism) class I think. I didn’t agree with everything he said in the book – for those of you who have read Jenkins you know that he is a bit of a controversial figure. But a stimulating read nonetheless.
10) Anna, Mister God, and the Black Knight By: Fynn (150 pages, actually 176 pages but quite a few of them had pictures)
Review: This book is a sequel to the book Mister God, This is Anna. In the first book, Anna,a runaway Orphan shows up at the doorsteps of a man named Fynn who adopts her as his daughter. Now, in Anna, Mister God, and the Black Knight, Anna is10 years old and full of energy as always. THE GOOD – Anna really demonstrates for us childlike faith and reminds us of what is really most important. The book is fun and lighthearted. THE BAD – I didn’t read the first book before hand and Fynn makes frequent references to the first book. Thus, there were a lot of unexplained mysteries to me. Also, the plot was hard to follow and jumped around a lot. Like I said, it’s probably because I hadn’t read the first book. All in all, it was a quick and easy read. It is a bit more geared to children though. Or perhaps I have just been spending too much time in the academy.