I’ve recently received two noteworthy books that I wish to introduce to readers of this blog. Chris Brauns’s Unpacking Forgiveness (Crossway, 2008) is an excellent study of biblical, Christ-centered forgiveness. It includes a huge smattering of helpful practical advice on how one actually goes about forgiving those who have sinned against us. I’m going to give this book to friends and loved ones who struggle with forgiving others, because Brauns goes deeper into the nuts-and-bolts of actionable grace than any other recent author I know of.
Many of us are familiar with the basics of Christian love, but few of us think extendedly about how difficult it can be to love others who sin against us. Brauns, pastor of the Red Brick Church in Stillman Valley, IL, has done so. His book is the rich, deep meditation of a faithful shepherd who wants to help Christians practice forgiveness of both big and small sins. If this is an area of struggle for you–and it is for many of us–buy this book. Brauns is reformed, Piperian, and gospel-centered, and he demonstrates the ability to offer really helpful practical steps by which forgiveness is achieved rather than an amorphous theological framework that does little to actualize mercy and grace.
Here’s an excerpt: “Bitterness is like mercury. It is tempting to play with it. We can stew for hours on end thinking about how we have been treated unfairly and how we hope that someday justice will be done. We slide bitterness around in our minds and slip some of it into our pockets. And we are oh so foolish because all the while it is attacking our bones (Proverbs 14:30). Fooling around with bitterness is like drinking poison and hoping that someone else will die.” (155)
The second book of note is Al Mohler’s text Atheism Remix (Crossway, 2008). Mohler, the president of Southern Seminary in Louisville, KY, presents in this text a piercing evaluation of the thought-programs of several prominent proponents of what is called the “new atheism”. The text is an edited version of a series of lectures Mohler delivered at Southwestern Seminary a year ago and thus is not as large as some might think. Mohler’s lectures did not leave room for him to develop a substantial positive response to the new atheists like Dawkins, Harris, and Dennett. With that said, his tracing of the development of the new atheism and his evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of the key authors is priceless (well, actually, it’s $15.99). Because the book is short–108 pages–I can commend it to a wide audience. You could read it in a couple of days and be far more informed about one of the dominant intellectual challenges to the Christian faith of our day.
Being a history guy, I particularly enjoyed Mohler’s breathtaking survey of the history of centuries preceding our own. Unlike almost any other Christian thinker out there, Mohler knows how to get to the heart of a thinker’s ideas and evaluate them with rigorous clarity. He seems British in that regard. Here’s an excerpt that nicely showcases his abilities:
“One way to understand what happened is to consider what kind of god was left in the wake of Enlightenment thought. For example, if you consider carefully the philosophy of Immanuel Kant, it is clear that he believed in God. But it is not clear at all that he believed in a supernatural, personal God–and certainly not in a God who intervenes in human history. What was left in the wake of the Enlightenment was no longer a fairly monolithic affirmation of theism, but rather a plethora of movements that also included skeptics and freethinkers, as well as Deists and pantheists.
In the late nineteenth century we finally arrive at the four horsemen of the modern apocalypse–Friedrich Nietzsche, Karl Marx, Charles Darwin, and Sigmund Freud. To mention those four names together is to represent a massive cultural, intellectual, and epistemological shift. Each of these men contributed to human thought in a way that changed the conditions of belief, the intellectual foundations of all thought.” (19)
The interesting thing about analyses like this, which crop up constantly in Mohler’s writings, is that he’s the lonely figure who’s actually read these writers. He doesn’t write about from the armchair, but from the scholar’s desk. That is impressive and gives his words a credibility and a certain explanatory power that other writers simply do not possess.
Buy the book today, and learn better the foundations and ideas of the new atheism. This is not so much literary production as it is service to the church, service that you and I and our churches will benefit richly from.