Two books to highlight in this installment of Books to Buy. This is not a review post, but a quick summary designed to put good books on your radar screen.
The first is Union University president David Dockery’s new Southern Baptist Identity: An Evangelical Denomination Faces the Future (Crossway, 2009). The text is an edited collection of talks from recent Baptist Identity conferences at Union. The roster of contributors is high-wattage: Dockery, Mohler, Wills, Stetzer, George, Moore, Garrett, Akin, Rainer, and the always provocative Nathan Finn among them. Together, the essays lay the groundwork for the Great Commission Resurgence, currently swelling up to a storm.
Do not make the mistake of being put off by the multi-essay nature of the book. The theme considered in the book–Southern Baptist identity, if you were sleeping earlier–manages to pull both personal and theological insight out of the authors. Several of them weave personal stories with doctrinally driven commentary (Rainer’s intro is hilarious), and the resulting style is as engaging as it is enlightening.
I highly recommend Southern Baptist Identity. I commend the stance it takes from the start, conceiving of the SBC as an “evangelical denomination.” Its contributors offer a compelling case for a new SBC, one that is flexible, generationally collaborative, theologically driven, and carried forward with the same passion and energy that have always characterized Southern Baptist efforts. It is a noteworthy text, a fun read, and an ideological foundation for the GCR, the promised success of which has many of us watching with anticipation and praying in excitement.
The second book is Greg Dutcher’s You Are the Treasure That I Seek (But There’s a Lot of Cool Stuff Out There, Lord) (Discovery House Publishers, 2009). This short, readable text, introduced by eminent theologian John Frame, attacks idolatry. Dutcher, a pastor in Fallston, Maryland, considers in the book how to keep Christ and not idols at the center of life. His Piper-like meditations reveal the foolishness of the idolatries that trap us.
The text bears out careful reading and reflection. “At the cross,” Dutcher writes, “Jesus takes our sin and idolatry and gives us His perfect standing with the Father so that we are forever beyond the reach of condemnation. The cross is literally the reversal of the idolatry syndrome.” (42) This is a pithy and moving point. We who have only treasured what is filthy and vile gain in Christ the most precious object the mind could imagine.
“I wonder,” Dutcher muses at another point, “how things might radically change in our churches if we became convinced that idolatry was our greatest problem.” (52) Sentences like this grab the reader, calling us to realize that we should not wonder when idolatry will affect us; idolatry already exists in our hearts, residing in our bodies like cancer. Our challenge is not to identify it from afar but to kill it from within by the power of Christ.
The text concludes with a number of very practical “case studies” that drive home Dutcher’s point. I commend them to you, as I do the book itself. Though the headings can get a little quirky (I didn’t always know what they meant, which works better in a less straightforward book), I found Dutcher (here’s his blog) to be a gifted and spiritually insightful writer. Pick up You Are the Treasure That I Seek, and be prepared to experience freedom from idolatry.