This post originally appeared at the blog BookNotes in 2012. These are all STILL great books!
I want to show you a few books that you might find interesting, or that you might want to tell others about, but, as is often the case, I want to tell you about them by way of a story. It’s part of who we are, to get these sorts of books out to those who are interested and we believe you, too, are excited about this; you’d click on some faceless internet site if all you wanted was a mass marketed thing, plain and simple and cheap. If you read BookNotes, order books from us, are interested in our work, spread our reviews to friends or church members, or send me too-short notes on Twitter, you are part of our story and we know you care.
So, this week, I wanted you to join us in being glad for the way we get to talk about and sell books to college students through the Ocean City Beach Project in Ocean City NJ. I’m too busy hanging out with the students to spend much time splashing in the waves, but I do love that town, and value the ministry of OCBP.
You’ve no doubt heard me talk about OCBP before—for over two decades I have had the great privilege of hanging out and trying to befriend remarkable young collegians who have signed up for a summer of discipleship training, church involvement and intentional living in a community house led by staff of the Coalition for Christian Outreach (CCO) across the street from the First Presbyterian Church of Ocean City. Most of these students will return in the fall to campuses where CCO is doing ministry and will rise to leadership in the local fellowship, outreach, ministry or para-church group at the college or university where they study. This year I met some truly fantastic new friends and am grateful.
I get to set up a huge book display all over their summer living room (on pool tables, a big air-hockey table, windowsills, some kitchen tables we borrow and lug from the nearby church.) And I get to lecture for more than 6 hours, most years about what they term (drawing on the book by Donald Optiz and Derek Melleby by this name) “the outrageous idea of academic faithfulness.”
By the way, The Outrageous Idea of Academic Faithfulness: A Guide for Students (Brazos; $13.99) should be in a care-package sent to every Christian college student you know! It is so good and not at all difficult to read. After they read that, they should read the truly lovely, elegant and very insightful Engaging God’s World: A Christian Vision of Faith, Learning and Living by Cornelius Plantinga (Eerdmans; $16.00.)
Using these resources, I help college students deepen their vision of how doing their studies can be understood as a spiritual discipline, how learning about the world pleases God, how preparing for a career can be a holy vocation, and how they might be used by God as we point others to Christ’s ways in every sphere of life, including our work and public life. This “creation-regained” and “transforming vision” worldview-to-a-way of life is exciting stuff for idealistic, passionate young adults, and they love our books, offered as tools for the struggle of social transformation.
BUT WHAT ABOUT YOU AND ME, ORDINARY FOLKS IN ORDINARY CHURCHES?
I always come back from these sorts of events wondering why we don’t sell more of these resources to ordinary church folk, our blog readers or here in the shop. These students aren’t Harvard PhD candidates or anything, most are from fairly ordinary state colleges or private liberal arts colleges, but they want to use their minds, learn to dig deep, not only into the Bible but into life in God’s world. Drawing on I Chronicles 12:32, I called them “sons and daughters of Issachar” (who understood the times, and knew what God’s people should do.) Sometimes I called them Kuyperians, in homage to Abraham Kuyper and his famous line, preached at his famous university in Holland, that Christ claims “every square inch.” Sometimes I called them Narnians, for obvious reasons. Aslan is on the loose and Spring is a-coming, don’t ya know?
A friend of mine years ago told me to specialize in young adult work because it is “too late” for most older, established adults who have already committed themselves to cares and concerns, views and opinions, shaped less by a missional vision of the reign of God and more by the American Dream. For them, he said, faith is sincere, but private, and that’s about as far as it goes. It is heart-felt, but doesn’t connect with their intellects much, unless, perhaps, they care about doctrine and will argue about that. God can convert even old-timers to a wholistic vision of a Christian perspective, he assured me, but it doesn’t happen very often. I thought, and still think, that he was jaded and needlessly cynical, but it does interest me that even in fields where professionals are used to doing continuing education—health care providers, public school teachers, business executives, mental health professionals, real estate sales people, college teachers, engineers, for starters—few ever ask us for Christian material that might influence their thinking about their field. I know there are sharp Christian friends who read widely and study up in their respective fields, but we hardly ever sell books helping to nurture the Christian mind across the various occupational areas. We just don’t. Was my friend right, most middle age folks are too set in their ways to think like Christians in their respective careers? Or maybe they’ve mostly figured it out and don’t need books about it? Or maybe they’ve just not thought about it much.
To remedy this, we invite people—over and over and over—to see their daily lives as worship (“a living sacrifice” is how Romans 12:1 colorfully puts it.) To figure out what it looks like to worship with your body day-by-day, we must be “non-conformed” to the ways of the world (Romans 12:2). Further, we need fresh ideas and “renewed minds” — we must think about what we do in light of God’s views. To “take every theory captive” (2 Corinthians 10:5) means we must do at least some rudimentary thinking about the notion of vocation and calling and what it might mean to do our work unto the glory of God (Colossians 3:23, I Corinthians 10:31) and for the sake of the common good. We must see our work as worship, resist the typical assumptions prevalent in our field (insofar as they are distorted or wrong) and with God’s help develop new ways of thinking and new ways of approaching the craft of our tasks. How does that work itself out in your career or sphere of influence? Why don’t I hear much talk like this, except among young students?
We commend to all adults, as we did for the OCBP gang, books like Work Matters: Connecting Sunday Worship to Monday Work by Tom Nelson (Crossway; $15.99.) Nelson is a brave pastor who started asking these very questions in his church, inviting more intentional thinking about the integration of faith and work. Kingdom Calling: Vocational Stewardship for the Common Good by Amy Sherman (IVP; $16.00) is a serious, thorough study of how our jobs can become avenues of social change honoring God and loving neighbor as we steward our vocations for the sake of the common good. And, of course, there is the excellent, eloquent classic, The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life by Os Guinness (Nelson; $17.99.) A smaller Bible study guide that we often suggest is What Do I Do with My Life? Serving God Through Work by Kenneth Baker (Faith Alive; 10.99.) Smaller still is a great booklet about work, inexpensive and excellent, written by a Lancaster friend, Stephen Nichols. It is just called What Is Vocation? (Presbyterian & Reformed; $3.99.)
A few of the OCBP students were very excited to hear that an author they know and respect, Timothy Keller from New York City, has a book coming out on work later this fall. It will be called Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Plan for the World and I am sure it will be excellent. It is due in November 2012 (Dutton; $26.95.)
This broad vision that affirms our callings and careers and relates them to “God’s Plan for the World” as Keller puts it, is in many ways new to these young adults, although they intuit much of it, as most of us do, I suspect. Still, many report that they haven’t been taught much about the Christian mind, cultural engagement, work, science, art (or all that much theology or spiritual formation either, for that matter) in their home churches. Most didn’t seem to know adults that were reading these kinds of books or having these kinds of conversations. CCO does a good job mentoring these students in a gospel centered life with this wholistic Kingdom vision that teases out the implications of faith for life in the modern world, and it is great to work with them.
And they do get fired up about this project, wanting to honor God by thinking theologically about every thing in life. It is what propels them to get excited about the Jubilee conference in Pittsburgh each February.
How about you and your church? Do you know anybody reading a book about a Christian view of science, or of work, or of a Biblically-informed view of politics or economics or film? Why don’t many folks buy those sorts of books? (I’d ask why many other bookstores tend not to carry much of that kind of thoughtful Christian fuel for the fire of daily living in and for the world, but I don’t want to digress.) Still the question is important. Why don’t we do more with what we know? Why don’t we take up the “cost of discipleship” by investing in a mature Christian library? Why have some of us not ever read a single Christian book other than a devotional or inspirational guide? Why don’t we invite others into the joys and rigors of thinking Christian about our work and citizenship and entertainment and such?
Of course, being fun-loving, young adults, most OCBP kids weren’t interested in heavy theology or deep philosophy. Bob Goff’s upbeat Love Does: Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World (Nelson; $15.99) was a big seller. (And one gal called him up, but that’s another story.) We sold books about sex and dating, gender roles and relationships, basic books about coping with sadness, with sharing faith, books about how to pray. We sold some C.S. Lewis, which is nice. And of course about understanding the Bible better. Sure.
But we also sold books on being responsible in the world, caring and contributing, like Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling by Andy Couch (IVP; $26.00) which is always a fine place to start. I read excerpts of Steve Garber’s book The Fabric of Faithfulness: Weaving Together Belief and Behavior (IVP; $16.00) which you may know as a serious book designed to reflect on many of these exact themes. I pushed Colossians Remixed by Walsh & Keesmaat (IVP; $23.00.) I talked about Jamie Smith, and sold a few of his. We sold resources on faith and the marketplace. We sold books on the Christian mind, such as Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God by John Piper (Crossway; $15.99.) We sold books about making a difference in the world of poverty and oppression, about race and diversity, and general, but powerfully challenging books on discipleship like Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream by David Platt (Waterbrook; $14.99.)
Was my old advisor right when he said older adults mostly don’t care about these things as they’ve already sold out and given up to the American Dream? Part of the American Dream, of course, is that faith is private, that we can all agree on some basic civil religion for our social spaces that don’t need the gospel, much. Church life is for Sunday, and our private home-life (and maybe a balm to the needy) and we needn’t consider—we don’t even imagine—how God comes to bear on thinking about work or science or art or politics. Beth and I bank on the hope that he was wrong as we trust that our middle aged and older customers will remain on their cutting edge of growth, wanting to read and learn and study and relate faith to their careers and callings and public duties in the world. Being missional and a Kingdom thinker isn’t just for the lively and idealistic! But it sure is great to be with these young folks, who seem to have a whole lot more earnest willingness to learn about their faith than most of us middle-age folks. ¨Join us in rejoicing that we sold these books. And prove us wrong that older people in regular churches care about Christ’s grace worked out in all of life. Join this story, talk about these kinds of books, share what you know, help us do our work. Read for the Kingdom!
JUST A FEW OF THE BOOKS SOLD AT OCBP
Science and Christianity: Four Views edited by Richard Carlson (IVP) $20.00 This great book offers for serious Christians who have firm ideas of how their faith and Biblical orthodoxy relates to their work as scientists. None rehash the tired “faith vs science” debate since they all agree that faith and science must be related. But how? After each chapter, the other three reply. I recommended this to science majors not only because it introduces them to some of the major schools of thought about the integration of faith and scholarship, but allows readers to be critical thinkers and make up their own minds which method strikes them as most helpful. For what it is worth, we sold a few other books on the sciences and a few on the discussion about intelligent design and theistic evolution. We have a “three views” on that, too.Psychology and Christianity: Five Views edited by Eric Johnson (IVP) $22.00 What a remarkable book, very useful to hear the stories and learn the methodologies of five different Christians who each–again, like above–agree that there is a uniquely Christian perspective and faith and psychology must be related. But how? Each presents their take and then each reply, so you really learn a lot of views, each making their case for how best to understand the way Christian faith influences their work. How does one think theologically and Biblically about counseling? For those in this field who are followers of Jesus and thereby mandated to develop the Christian mind and serve God faithfully (“nonconformed”) to not grapple with these sorts of questions is professional malpractice. This book isn’t the final answer but it well get you part way down the road.
Church, State, and Public Justice: Five Views edited by P. C. Kemeny ((VP) $19.00 Thanks to the political science major who, despite his own rather developed opinions, was willing to pick up this book and hear five different schools of thought from five different Christian faith traditions, on what, exactly, constitutes good government and public justice and what good citizenship looks like. I love this book and, as I’ve suggested before, anybody with strong political opinions should at least know about the best thinking represented by Catholic, Baptist, Reformed, Anabaptist and mainline denominational social thinking. There are more basic views for ordinary citizens, but this is excellent for those wanting to compare and contrast the foundational thinking assumed by various folks in the public square. I hope you saw my politics-oriented post a few weeks ago where I highlighted a few other foundational resources of this nature. I can’t figure out how to explain the significance of this kind of thinking, but am confident that these kinds of books will be appreciate by those wanting to repent of fraudulent ideas and deepen their resolve to theological integrity—wherever they find themselves on the spectrum of legitimate options.
Sociology Through the Eyes of Faith David Fraser & Tony Campolo (HarperOne) $19.99 This is a series of books created as entry level Christian college texts, and one would think that if one is a sociologist who hasn’t had the opportunity to integrate faith and sociology, one would be gleeful to see such a resource. One gal at OCBP sure was and it made my day.
Mathematics Through the Eyes of Faith Russell Howell & James Bradley (HarperOne) $19.99 Uh huh. Very, very interesting. It is curious how many books about numbers and math are in the typical bookstore, but not to many that are overtly framed by solid, Christian insights. Wow.
Music Through the Eyes of Faith Harold Best (HarperOne) $19.99 We have a large selection of books about the popular arts, about rock music, and other sorts of basic books about the role of music in our lives. For serious music teachers or music majors, this is solid. Best teaches at Wheaton College. Ask us about the one by Indigo Girl Amy Saliers and her organ-playing United Methodist dad, Don. Or the excellent books about music by Jeremy Begbie.
History Through the Eyes of Faith Ronald Wells (HarperOne) $19.99 A very fine historian done good work, generally, writing about the integration of faith and scholarship, and here he offers his overview of what a Christian doing history acdtually does. Wonderful.
Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology Neil Postman (Vintage) $15.00 We have more sophisticated and updated critiques of our hot-wired world, and I suppose critics like Jacque Ellul may be more theologically profound. We stock a number of thoughtful books on technology and engineering, many a bit critical of our technological milieu. And of course we have positive books, like the excellent volume edited by Stephen Monsma, Responsible Engineering: A Christian Perspective (Eerdmans; $26.00) which is an interdisciplinary treatise on Christian views of technical design (kudos to the Calvin Center on Christian Scholarship for publishing this years ago!) Still, the passionate, clear-headed overview by the late Professor Postman is a great conversation starter and his call for us to be “loving resistance fighters” draws on our best desires to make a real difference to change things. Love it. It is increasingly hard to sell, since younger folks don’t see much wrong with reducing life to technique and find it hard to see the ideologies and idolatries in this sort of worldview. They appreciate Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death (about “public discourse in an age of entertainment”) but less so this one. I try.
Why Business Matters to God (And What Still Needs to Be Fixed) Jeffrey Van Duzer (IVP) $20.00 How many business people have thought deeply about their work lives, about the role of profits and such? This author grew up presuming that greedy corporations were the major cause of damage in the world and now he leads a Christian business school. What a transformation, but he is still passionate about ethical principles and the call for business to serve the common good.
I was glad there was an economics major there this year, too, who bought a book on two on thinking about economics from a Christian view. There are some good resources of various levels and from various perspectives…
The Crisis and the Kingdom: Economics, Scripture, and the Global Financial Crisis E. Philip Davis (Wipf & Stock) $18.00 I was glad that one young woman, an international student with an eye on high finance, immediately asked me about a book for her work beyond Wall Street. This author is a solid theologian who has worked in the banking industry in London (and has a technical book on Oxford University Press — not too shabby, eh?) This is a balanced, thoughtful, Christian critique of some of what went wrong in the financial crash and how wise leaders of faith could contribute helpful insights. Do you know any faith-based stock brokers, traders, bankers? This book would be a good gift to spark faithful thinking.
Christian Teachers in Public Schools: 13 Essentials for the Classroom Darlene Vickery Parker (Beacon Hill) $12.99 I was so happy to sell this to a few elementary ed majors who want to honor God in the classroom, being good teachers and thinking Christianly about everything from models of learning to the nature of the student to how curriculum develops to daily things like discipline, honesty, empathy and prayer. Nice.
Metaphors We Teach By: How Metaphors Shape What We Do in Classrooms edited by Ken Bradley & Harro Van Brummelen (Wipf & Stock) $19.00 This was a bit more academic, but for serious educators, thinking through how worldviewish metaphors color and shape how we think about teaching (and, particularly assessment) is remarkably insightful. If you are a thoughtful Christian teacher and have read some basic stuff about integration of faith and learning and developing a Christian perspective on teaching, this will provoke you to deeper consideration. What a great example of profound Christian scholarship, tools to resource faithful professionals serving God in the classroom.
Viral: How Social Networking is Poised to Ignite Revival Leonard Sweet (Waterbrook) $14.99 Of course most young adults are pretty wired and I was a little sad to see many listening to music privately on their ipads—-OCBP used to be loud with music, shared communally. Having said that, these guys do realize they must be self-aware of their technological choices and we had a few great conversations about facebook and the like. Naturally, I mentioned Len Sweets insightful book about TGIF culture (Twitter, Google, ipad, Facebook.) This interactive book is not the last word on our post-Gutenberg/Google world, but it is a great start for the social-media generation.
The Space Between: A Christian Engagement with the Built Environment Eric O. Jacobsen (Baker Academic) $22.99 Okay, I’ll admit, I didn’t sell this one, but I almost did. I don’t think there were any architecture majors or city planners at OCBP but one day guest heard about our “Christian worldview leading us to thinking faithfully in every academic discipline and every career area” and our unusual book selection he quipped that he bet I didn’t have anything on architecture. When I showed him this he couldn’t believe his eyes! I told him about Til We Have Built Jerusalem by Philip Bess, a thoughtful Catholic whose book is worth reading, the very heavy A Theology of the Built Environment (in the Radical Orthodoxy series) by Timothy Gorringe, and the caustic, but fun and very engaging (if rather irreligious) books by James Howard Kunstler, which I adore (The Geography of Nowhere, Home from Nowhere, City in Mind, and more.) I suggested, though, he start with Pastor Jacobsen’s primer (with the lovely forward by Eugene Peterson) called Sidewalks of the Kingdom: New Urbanism and the Christian Faith (Brazos; $22.00) I will be writing more about Jacobsen’s brand new Space Between, soon. If you know anybody working in this field, it is, I insist, a “must read.” If you know anyone who lives in a town or a village, a city or a….well, you get my point. Important for us all.
Game Day for the Glory of God: A Guide for Athletes, Fans, and Wannabes Stephen Altrogge (Crossway) $9.99 I somehow mislaid a whole box of sports books, and was embarrassed not to have this on display at OCBP—this is certainly an area many enjoy and we have spiritual books for this arena, too. Found the box at the end—under that pool table–so really want to give this a shout out, now. It’s brief, passionate, and a great starter. For a more serious study, see Good Game: Christianity and the Culture of Sports by Shirl James Hoffman (Baylor University Press; $29.99) or Kneeling in the End Zone: Spiritual Lessons from the World of Sports by Josh Tinley (Pilgrim Press; $15.00.) I hope you know the riveting read InSideOut Coaching: How Sports Can Transform Lives by former Baltimore Colt and urban kids coach, Joe Ehrmann (Simon & Schuster; $24.00.) He has been dubbed the “most important coach in America, and this tells you why. Great!
Real Love for Real Life: The Art and Work of Caring Andi Ashworth (Rabbit Room Press; $12.00) and A Christian View of Hospitality: Expecting Surprises Michele Hershberger (Herald Press; $12.99) and The Spirit of Food: 34 Writers on Feasting and Fasting Towards God edited by Leslie Leyland Fields (Wipf & Stock; $30.00) Although OCBP students were college-bound, many are setting up apartments, perhaps for the first time. There were conversations about cooking, about shopping, about home economics, and a lot on hospitality. (They had had a teaching on that earlier in the summer, with a special attention to being hospitable to international students and others in need of a home away from home.) When I told them Andi Ashworth’s book is a favorite of Beth’s and mine (and that her husband, Charlie Peacock, produced the Civil Wars fine album) they perked up. I suggested these two books, among others (like The More With Less Cookbook) for basic home-making skills. I also noted that my favorite chapter in The Spirit of Food mentions, in passing, something strangely like OCBP. Denise Frame Harlan (“And She Took Flour”) deepened her cooking chops in that very CCO community in its early years. (She tells how she first heard tell of Robert Farrar Capon’s Supper of the Lamb during CCO new staff training, too, a book that continues to haunt her sacramental imagination!) That anthology may be a bit too literary and a bit too expensive for young student’s tastes, but you should know about it. Some of us are called to the marketplace and public square, many more of us are called to make homes, cook, and care for others in our families. We are glad to have such rich resources to help us think deeply and live abundantly with God’s help.