Previous | Next

Spring 2013 · Vol. 42 No. 1 · pp. 92–100 

Recommended Reading

Faculty Recommendations

Vic Froese

Without a theme to guide the selection of books and articles for this bibliography, we decided it might be interesting for readers to see what the faculty of the institutions that sponsor this journal have read recently. So we asked them to contribute one title, along with a brief description, of a book or article they had read in the last year or so and which they would recommend to Direction readers. There was no requirement that the book (or article) deal with a theological or biblical topic. It could be in a different field altogether, even a work of fiction. Below you’ll find what some of them came up with. Interestingly, no two faculty suggested the same book. Most of the books do fall into the “Bible and Theology” category. Even so, readers will find a good variety here, and are bound to discover some titles they will want to add to their “books to read” lists.

Barton, Ruth Haley. Pursuing God’s Will Together: A Discernment Practice for Leadership Groups. Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2012.

Barton insightfully provides an alternative to contemporary decision-making practices that are either marred by excessive individualism or paralyzed by endless politicking. In their place, Barton outlines a prayerful process of corporate “listening” that will profoundly mold the way Christian groups of all shapes and sizes plan and carry out their work.—Terry Brensinger, PhD, Professor of Pastoral Theology, Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary

Borg, Marcus J. Reading the Bible Again for the First Time. San Francisco, CA: HarperSanFrancisco, 2001.

Although clearly not conservative in his approach to biblical interpretation, Borg inspires a passion for a community hermeneutic and provides intelligent considerations in understanding our sacred scriptures.—Jerry Letkeman, MA, Service Learning Director, Bethany College

Bowen, John P. Evangelism for “Normal” People: Good News for Those Looking for a Fresh Approach. Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg, 2002.

Bowen, a Canadian Anglican and the Director of Wycliffe College’s Institute for Evangelism, outlines important {93} theological topics (gospel, atonement, other religions, etc.) in order to offer practical guidance for helping every follower of Christ be naturally or “organically” evangelistic in their ordinary Canadian contexts. Biblical teaching, personal stories, and the insights of people such as Paul Hiebert, N. T. Wright, Lesslie Newbigin, George Hunter III, and C. S. Lewis are featured.—Andrew Dyck, PhD (cand.), Assistant Professor of Ministry Studies, Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary Canada

Boyle, Gregory. Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion. New York: Free Press, 2010.

Author and activist Father Gregory Boyle of Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles lets his love, pain, and insight into the realities of gang culture seep through every page of this honest, hopeful, soul-searing, and visionary book. Drawing on more than thirty years of stories, Boyle puts us in touch with what makes us human, examines the characteristics that unite disparate classes and cultures, and makes us laugh and cry, often on the same page. Above all, he inspires a desire to do something other than dream up intellectual systems in isolation, to be entrepreneurial, and provides a provocative case study in practical theology.—Randy White, DMin, Director of Center for Community Transformation, Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary

Burge Gary M. Whose Land? Whose Promise? What Christians Are Not Being Told About Israel and the Palestinians. Cleveland, OH: Pilgrim, 2003.

I read this book in preparation for travel to Israel/Palestine, and it helped me understand the regional conflict in a new way.—Bruce Heyen, PhD, Chemistry, Tabor College

Camp, Lee C. Who Is My Enemy? Questions American Christians Must Face about Islam—and Themselves. Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos, 2011.

Camp models a Christ-like way of learning to know the enemy. In the process, he helps North Americans understand both Islam and themselves much better. He explores in particular the approach to violence taken by the early and later Muhammad, and holds up a light to the Bible as well as to Christian practice and self-understanding on the same issue. Ironies abound. Interestingly written, accessible, and challenging.—Doug Miller, PhD, Bible, Religion & Philosophy, Tabor College

Campbell, Will. Writings on Reconciliation and Resistance. Edited by Richard Goode. Eugene, OR: Cascade, 2010.

Campbell’s autobiographical Brother to a Dragonfly stopped me in my tracks {94} in 1983 and pointed me in a direction that led to me becoming a Mennonite. Writings has challenged me anew. A passionate Anabaptist, Campbell is also a Baptist from the South and thus writes from outside normal Anabaptist circles. God’s grace is central in his works, and he presses radical discipleship beyond the comfortable and conventional. Themes include the criminal justice system and prison ministry, racial reconciliation, Christians and the state, and a call to resist ideologies of the left or the right.—Mark Baker, PhD, Associate Professor of Mission and Theology, Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary

Charry, Ellen. By the Renewing of Your Minds: The Pastoral Function of Christian Doctrine. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.

Charry, a practical theologian at Princeton Theological Seminary, argues that a (if not the) primary purpose of theology is making disciples. Beginning with the New Testament and then moving through patristic, medieval, and Reformation writings, she demonstrates that theologians wrote many of their theological texts to help Christians live faithful lives.—David Bruce Rose, PhD, Associate Professor MFCC, Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary

Childs, James M., Jr., ed. Faithful Conversation: Christian Perspectives on Homosexuality. Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 2003.

A useful book showing how a denomination (Evangelical Lutheran Church of America), congregations, and individuals can be faithful to the mission of the church, the Scriptures, and the Christian tradition, as they engage in faithful dialogue with each other.—Delores Friesen, PhD, Professor Emeritus, Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary

Crouch, Andy. Culture Making: Recovering our Creative Calling. Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2008.

“It is not enough to condemn culture. Nor is it sufficient merely to critique culture or to copy culture. Most of the time, we just consume culture. But the only way to change culture is to create culture.” This book is not new but I keep going back to it as a reference. It is accessible, written in a popular style but displays some careful theological and communication analysis. A very helpful resource for communication practitioners.—David Balzer, MA, Lecturer in Communications & Media, Canadian Mennonite University

Dean, Kenda Creasy. Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers is Telling the American Church. New York: Oxford {95} University Press, 2010.

Dean analyzes a study of religion among American teens and concludes that they have reduced Christianity to a Very Nice Religion of Moralistic Therapeutic Deism which (and this is what is most shocking!) they have inherited from their church-going parents.—Lynn Jost, PhD, Vice President and Dean, Professor of Old Testament, Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary

Dueck, Dora. Under the Still Standing Sun. Winnipeg, MB: Kindred, 1989.

This fictional work reflects the socio-historical experiences of the early Russian Mennonite settlers in Paraguay’s Chaco region through the life of its heroine, Anna. The reader follows Anna from her childhood in Russia, her flight through Europe and beyond, her struggles to adjust to life in the Chaco wilderness, and finally to her reflections as an old woman. At times bleak, the story is also filled with the optimism that comes when one’s foundation is built on God’s promise to provide for his people.—Dita Leininger, MLIS, Library Services Director, Bethany College

Giberson, Karl, and Francis Collins. The Language of Science and Faith: Straight Answers to Genuine Questions. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2011.

This book is required reading for science students at Tabor College because it addresses common evangelical concerns about the intersection of science and faith in an easily accessible style. What does it mean to accept God as loving creator and still acknowledge the process of organic evolution? The authors present a convincing case that Christians must not abandon the intellectual processes of modern science.—Andrew Sensenig, PhD, Assistant Professor of Biology, Tabor College

Grant, Jessica. Come, Thou Tortoise. Toronto: A. A. Knopf Canada, 2009.

This is possibly the most life-affirming novel I have ever read: profound and ridiculous, charming and heartbreaking. It’s about family, grief, and being very, very different. The strange and loveable protagonist is Audrey (sometimes Oddly) Flowers, although parts of the story are told from the viewpoint of her tortoise Winnifred. It sounds like it’s for kids, but it’s not: only adults will get the poignancy and beauty of Audrey’s life.—Sue Sorensen, PhD, Associate Professor of English, Canadian Mennonite University

Gregory, Brad. The Unintended Reformation: How a Religious Revolution Secularized Society. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2012.

This book is a tour de force, {96} breathtaking in scope, impressive in erudition, and provocative in the forcefulness of its polemical tone. Like the book or not, I think it will set at least some of the terms of the secularization debate for the next while.—Paul Doerksen, PhD, Assistant Professor of Theology, Canadian Mennonite University

Hands, Donald, and Wayne Fehr. Spiritual Wholeness for Clergy: A New Psychology of Intimacy with God, Self, and Others. Washington, D.C.: The Alban Institute, 1993.

I found this book very helpful during a time of exhaustion. These gentlemen summarize insights gained from dealing with clergy who are at extreme points in their lives.—Ron Voth, MTS, Instructor in Biblical/Theological Studies, Columbia Bible College

Holeman, Virginia Todd. Theology for Better Counseling: Trinitarian Reflections for Healing and Formation. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2012.

Holeman shows how deep and clear theological reflection makes a major difference in counseling practice. Of the various practical tools Holeman offers to integrate faith and counseling, the five theological worldviews she describes (foreigner, faint, fighter, fugitive, and flattened) could be tied to clusters of mental health symptoms, and they proved helpful in spotting variations between my clients’ worldviews and my own.—Autumn Lindberg, MA, MFCC Program Director (Visalia), Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary

Hunt, Dave. Cosmos, Creator and Human Destiny: Answering Darwin, Dawkins and the New Atheists. Bend, OR: The Berean Call, 2010.

An informative critique of postmodernism and its influence on science with special concern for evolutionary theory. Hunt challenges advocates of evolutionism with well-documented arguments rooted in the fundamentals of the scientific method and a conservative theological perspective.—P. Steven Ledesma, MA, Instructor in Christian Ministries, Tabor College (Wichita campus)

Kingsolver, Barbara. The Bean Trees: A Novel. New York: Harper & Row, 1988.

Real, funny, joyful, poignant, sad, and ultimately redemptive, this novel mildly subverts superficial and commercialized religiosity and uncovers living faith and trust in unlikely places and people.—Jonathan Sears, PhD, Assistant Professor of International Development Studies, Canadian Mennonite University {97}

Kinnamon, David, and Aly Hawkins. You Lost Me. Why Young Christians are Leaving Church . . . and Rethinking Faith. Grand Rapids, MI: BakerBooks, 2011.

As pastors and educators we need to understand the critical issues for teens and younger adults. Kinnamon highlights three key cultural factors that need to be taken into consideration when training and discipling young adults: access to new technologies, relational alienation, and skepticism of all types of authority.—Bryan Born, ThD, President, Columbia Bible College

Krabill, James R., and Stuart Murray. Forming Christian Habits in a Post-Christendom World: The Legacy of Alan and Eleanor Kreider. Harrisonburg, VA: Herald, 2011.

Accessible for general congregation use, this book offers important insights for the missional direction many churches are currently exploring, and woos readers by its depth and integrity to an Anabaptist alternative to much of contemporary church life.—Randy Klassen, PhD (cand.), Instructor in Biblical & Theological Studies, Bethany College

Lupton, Robert D. Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help (And How to Reverse It). New York: HarperOne, 2012.

Do our attempts to help the poor sometimes actually lead to harm? What are the alternatives? Lupton draws on his years of experience of urban ministry to the poor in tackling subjects such as dependency and dignity. I have found this book very helpful for planning short-term congregational trips to poorer countries as well as in thinking through how best to help the poor on our own home turf.—Allan Friesen, MA, Instructor in Biblical & Theological Studies, Bethany College

Mancini, Will. Church Unique: How Missional Leaders Cast Vision, Capture Culture, and Create Movement. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2008.

Mancini outlines a process for helping church leaders discern the DNA of their church and to facilitate change that honors the past while following God’s lead into the future.—Randy Wollf, PhD, Assistant Professor of Practical Theology and Leadership Studies and Chair of the Master of Divinity Program, Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary Canada

McMinn, Mark R. Sin and Grace in Christian Counseling: An Integrative Paradigm. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2008.

Moving toward unifying the great and often contentious divide between traditional nouthetic counselors and integrationists, McMinn provides {98} an insightful bridge of understanding in this must-read work. He skillfully weighs evidence from both theological and psychological perspectives in support of his underlying premise that sin and grace are intrinsically interconnected in the therapy room. Clinical examples are offered throughout of how sin and grace manifest in the therapeutic experience for client and clinician alike.—Cynthia McGrady, PhD, Assistant Professor of Marriage and Family Therapy, Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary

Peterson, David. The Acts of the Apostles. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2009.

Because Joel Green still has not completed his long-awaited commentary on Acts, I asked him to recommend a commentary to me. He recommended Peterson, and I have found it exceptional (despite the issues on which I disagree with him, and he with Joel Green!).—Tim Geddert, PhD, Professor of New Testament, Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary

Preston, Andrew. Sword of the Spirit, Shield of Faith: Religion in American War and Diplomacy. New York: Knopf, 2012.

Preston offers a substantial analysis of American foreign policy and its connection with American religion from colonial times to the present. Wide-ranging, this is an important contribution to the creation of a grand analysis of the interaction between American Christianity and American wars in particular. Preston’s specialization in the history of foreign relations as it intersects with culture results in a judicious engagement with the meaning of national sovereignty.—Robin Deich Ottoson, MA, Associate Professor and Library Director, Tabor College

Sawatsky, Jarem. Justpeace Ethics: A Guide to Restorative Justice and Peacebuilding. Eugene, OR: Cascade, 2008.

With wisdom and sensitivity, Justpeace Ethics explores how justice and peace become one. In such an ethic, life is sacred, relationships are central, and justice is beautiful.—John Derksen, PhD, Associate Professor of Conflict Resolution Studies, Canadian Mennonite University

Shillington, V. George. Jesus and Paul before Christianity: Their World and Work in Retrospect. Eugene, OR: Cascade, 2011.

Aimed at the “reasonable and responsible reader,” this book summarizes the results of decades of scholarly investigation into the worlds of Jesus and Paul. A rigorous historian, Shillington brackets out much of what a later Christianity ascribed to these figures. Even so, he keeps his eyes fixed on the spiritual vision that {99} inspired the primary sources, giving us a more complete picture of the historical Jesus and Paul than a secular historian could ever offer.—Vic Froese, PhD, Library Director, Canadian Mennonite University

Smith, James K.A. Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2009.

Both this work and Smith’s more recent Imagining the Kingdom: How Worship Works try to develop a “liturgical anthropology” which emphasizes the role of human desire (and ultimately worship) in human becoming. These works are significant for Christian educators because they force us to admit how much of our “knowing” is precognitive as well as how our educational practices are often as instructive as the content of what we teach.—Gil Dueck, PhD (cand.), Academic Dean, Bethany College

Stone, Bryan.  Evangelism After Christendom: The Theology and Practice of Christian Witness. Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos, 2007.

Stone argues convincingly that we are in need of a re-imagination of Christian witness and suggests that by perceiving evangelism as an essential practice of the church, much like worship, we may be challenged communally to develop a more integral and sustained approach to evangelistic practice.—Luke Heidebrecht, Associate Missions Director, Bethany College

Stone, Larry. The Story of the Bible: The Fascinating History of Its Writing, Translation & Effect on Civilization. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2010.

Stone chronicles the centuries-long process of Bible translation and reproduction. Libraries of sources have been condensed and referenced to document the story of the important and passionate passage of the Bible from oral to written text. Bible, art, church history, and missionary history can be found blended in these pages through illustrations and reproduced life-size pages from ancient Bibles.—Susan J. Schmidt Goerz, Interim Ministry Arts Director, Bethany College

Vanier, Jean. Drawn into the Mystery of Jesus through the Gospel of John. Ottawa, ON: Novalis, 2004.

The founder of the L’Arche communities shares a lifetime of wisdom and ministry as he reflects on John’s Gospel.—Rick Schellenberg, STM, Instructor in Bible and the Christian Journey, Bethany College {100}

Walsh, Brian J. Kicking at the Darkness: Bruce Cockburn and the Christian Imagination. Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos, 2011.

Aside from appealing to Cockburn fans, this book is an engaging and insightful study of Christ and culture that points us to God’s redemptive action in the world.—Gareth Brandt, STM, Instructor in Biblical/Theological Studies, Columbia Bible College

Wiebe, Paul D. Heirs and Joint Heirs: Mission to Church Among the Mennonite Brethren of Andhra Pradesh. Winnipeg, MB: Kindred, 2010.

This is an engaging account of the establishment and growth of the Mennonite Brethren church in India that explores the complexity of cross-cultural encounters and the challenge of contextualizing Christian faith.—Valerie Rempel, PhD, Associate Professor of History and Theology, Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary

Previous | Next