Sunday, January 4, 2015

Top 5 Books of 2014

I love reading. Good books feed my soul, so to speak. You'd have to read Body, Soul and Human Life by Joel Green to understand why I say "so to speak."

As a student much of what I read is dictated by course selection. Often there isn't much time left over to simply read the many books I come across that take my fancy for some reason, or the many that are recommended to me by others. At times this can be annoying but it also ensures I read pretty widely. It's also a blessing in that quite often books I wouldn't otherwise be inclined to read, turn out to be game changes. That's always fun.

In no particular order here are my top 5 recommended reads from last year - well, I made it 6.

The Source of Life - Jurgen Moltmann; Beginning with his experiences as a prisoner of war, Moltmann anchors his reflections in a theology of life - and the Spirit as elemental renewer of life - which links biblical manifestations to contemporary ones, hope to holiness, creation to community, and politics to prayer. In the Spirit we embrace the presence of God, but we also embrace community with people and all living things. 

Accompany Them with Singing - Thomas G. Long; Long reflects on the Christian funeral, what it has become and what it should be. He looks at the muddled theology we often hear at funerals and argues that the proper Christian funeral should be constructed around the metaphor of the deceased as a saint traveling on a baptismal journey toward God, accompanied by the community of faith on "the last mile of the way." 

Life After Death - Graham H. TwelftreeFew of us can remain indifferent to our personal fate. Is death the end? If there is an after-life, what is it going to be like? "We may never know the answers to these questions with the certainty some crave," observes Graham Twelftree. However, through this book Twelftree hopes readers will become clearer about the possibilities and also understand the Christian expectation that death is not the end. "If the Bible is important in forming your views you will probably assume that this book will confirm your views." Says Twelftree. "I cannot promise such a comfortable journey. Thinking clearly with the Bible open can turn up some challenging conclusions."

Eating Heaven - Simon Carey HoltSitting down at a table to eat is an activity so grounded in the ordinary, so basic to the daily routines of life, we rarely ponder it beyond the simple inquiry, ‘What’s for dinner?’ However, scratch a little deeper and you discover in eating one of the most meaning-laden activities of our lives, one so immersed in human longing and relationship it’s a practice of sacred dimensions. In this age of culinary infatuations, global food crises, celebrity chefs and Biggest Losers, the need to reflect more seriously upon eating is pressing. A trained chef, teacher, social researcher, minister of religion and homemaker, Simon Carey Holt draws on experience and research to explore the role of eating in our search for meaning and community. To do so, he invites us to sit at the tables of daily life – from kitchen tables to backyard barbecues, from cafe tables to the beautifully set tables of our city's finest restaurants – and consider how our life at these tables interacts with our deepest values and commitments.

The Bible Tells Me So - Peter Enns; Christians have been defending scripture from attack for two centuries. In fact, argues Bible scholar Peter Enns, we have become so busy protecting the Bible that we are now unable to read it. In The Bible Tells Me So, he provides a revolutionary new perspective: "What if God is actually fine with the Bible just as it is? Not the well-behaved version we create, but the messy, troubling, weird, and ancient Bible has something to show us about our own sacred journey of faith. Sweating bullets to line up the Bible with our exhausting expectations, to make the Bible something it's not meant to be, isn't a pious act of faith, even if it looks that way on the surface. It's actually a thinly masked fear of losing control and certainty, a mirror of our inner disquiet, a warning signal of a deep distrust in God. A Bible like that isn't a sure foundation of faith; it's a barrier to true faith. Creating a Bible that behaves itself doesn't support the spiritual journey; it cripples it. The Bible's raw messiness isn't a problem to be solved. It's an invitation to a deeper faith."

Jesus of Nazareth - Joseph RatzingerIn this bold, momentous work, the pope—in his first book written as Benedict XVI—seeks to salvage the person of Jesus from recent “popular” depictions and to restore Jesus’ true identity as discovered in the Gospels. Through his brilliance as a theologian and his personal conviction as a believer, the pope shares a rich, compelling, flesh-and-blood portrait of Jesus and incites us to encounter, face-to-face, the central figure of the Christian faith. 

Here are my other reads from 2014...

Thinking on the Run - Soo-Inn Tan
The Active Life - Parker J. Palmer 
Spirituality at Work - Gregory F.A. Pierce
The Source of Life - Jurgen Moltmann
Exploring Celtic Spirituality - Ray Simpson
Sport and Spirituality - Gordon Preece and Rob Hess
The Shape of Living - David F. Ford 
A Meal with Jesus - Tim Chester 
The Mystery of the Ordinary - Charles Cummings
Earth Crammed with Heaven - Elizabeth A. Dreyer 
God Next Door - Simon Carey Holt
The Spiritual Life - Evelyn Underhill
God Hides in Plain Sight - Dean Nelson
Spirituality in an Age of Change - Alister McGrath
Eating Heaven - Simon Carey Holt
Seven Days of Faith - Paul R. Stevens
The Elements of New Testament Greek
Accompany Them with Singing - Thomas G. Long
The Honour Key - Russell Evans
The Perfect Smoke - Fred Hanna
The Christian Gentleman's Guide to Smoking - Zach Bartels & Ted Kluck
The God's of Mars - Edgar Rice Burroughs 
Pipe Smoking Guide - Chuck Reitoth
God the Worker - Robert Banks
History of New Zealand - Michael King
The Eye of the World - Robert Jordan
Life After Death - Graham H. Twelftree
The Slavery of Death - Richard Beck
Jesus of Nazareth - Joseph Ratzinger
The Gospel of John - J. Ramsey Michaels
Gone - Michael Grant
Divergent - Veronica Roth 
The End of Religon - Bruxy Cavey
Shrink - Tim Shuttle 
Slow Church - C. Christopher Smith and John Pattison 
Reveal; Where are You? - Greg L. Hawkins and Cally Parkinson
Follow Me - Greg L. Hawkins and Cally Parkinson
Sticky Faith - Dr Kara. E. Powell 
The Bible Tells Me So - Peter Enns
Johannine Theology - Paul Rainbow
A Kingdom Besieged - Raymond E Feist 
A Crown Emperiled - Raymond E Feist