I am half-way through the Christian Reading Challenge that I am working on this year. It has required quite a bit of discipline to keep going at this rate; two books a week is fairly challenging. However, it has been very much worthwhile. I have read lots of good books, and a few excellent ones. Here are my top four from the last set of books:
The Whole Christ by Sinclair B.Ferguson
I picked up this book because one of the categories on my reading list was A book by Sinclair Ferguson, and my husband had bought it because he had heard good things about it. I chose it without really knowing what it was about - but it was one of the most enriching books I have read this year.
The central hinge of the book is a subtle, and obscure, theological debate from 18th century Scotland called The Marrow Controversy. The careful explanation of the issues at stake then - issues of law and grace and what it means to live as a Christian - is crisp and clear and accessible.
Furthermore, Sinclair Ferguson demonstrates the relevance to today of these issues. In particular, he helpfully shows how a tendency towards antinomianism springs from the same fundamental misunderstanding of the gospel, and of the character of God, that a propensity towards legalism does.
Reading The Whole Christ certainly stretched my mind. However, the quality and clarity of the writing meant that I looked forward to picking it up. This is no small thing when your reading often happens late at night, or in short bursts of time found in the midst of the mayhem of a home educating household!
I also found this a deeply encouraging read, a book that pointed back to Jesus again and again, and which showed the joy of free grace and forgiveness, and the same joy of being freed to live for Christ.
Invest your Suffering by Paul Mallard
Invest your Suffering is a moving, warmly written account of the goodness and kindness and love of God in the midst of suffering. Paul Mallard writes about the pain and difficulties faced by his wife as she has endured chronic illness over a number of years, and about the lessons the Lord has taught them both as they faced these difficulties while clinging to Christ.
For a short book, it covers a lot of ground: the brokenness of the world, the gospel of hope, the lessons we learn as we suffer, our hope of the new creation. Each chapter is framed by a little more of the personal story of the author and his wife, which gives poignancy to the truths that he explains. However, the book is first and foremost about God and his character - and our reasons to put our hope in him in the midst of suffering.
The Unquenchable Flame by Michael Reeves
This is an excellent book about the reformation. It introduces the key issues at stake, some of the key figures involved, and explains how events unfolded in Europe at the time. It deals with both the historical events and the theological issues clearly and fairly succinctly, but without being simplistic. The writing is engaging and fresh, which makes it enjoyable to read.
I also found the way the material is arranged in the chapters helpful, in that each chapter is divided into short sub-sections. Again, I often get to read in short bursts throughout the day, and this makes it much easier for me to manage without losing the thread of the narrative.
A Better Story: God, Sex & Human Flourishing by Glynn Harrison
Glynn Harrison's book examines the story our current culture tells about sex and sexuality, and looks at the promises it makes (and fails to keep) in these areas. He looks at the roots this narrative sprung from, and how it appeals to our hearts. He does this with both clarity and compassion.
More importantly, the central theme of the book is how we as Christians need not to focus only on winning the intellectual arguments about issues to do with sexuality, but also to engage people's hearts as we tell a better story; a story bound up in the gospel, and a story that speaks better to our desires for fulfilment, or to our concerns about injustice, or to our search for our identity than any story that our culture tells us.