Accessible Theology Books of the Year: Short List – World Magazine
The Prodigal Prophet Timothy Keller
Keller skillfully exegetes the four chapters of Jonah and shows the importance of failure and suffering: “It is only when you reach the very bottom, when everything falls apart, when all your schemes and resources are broken and exhausted, that you are finally open to learning how to completely depend on God.” Jonah thought he understood God, but he initially didn’t know that God cared about Assyrians—and then he worried that God did care about Assyrians. Like Jonah, “We naturally believe that we have far more ability to direct our lives wisely than we really have.”
Idols Of A Mother’s Heart Christina Fox
Fox explores ways in which motherhood can turn from good gift to idol, from sanctifying experience to sinful one. Her opening discussion draws heavily from R.C. Sproul, Tim Keller, and John Piper, applying their insights to the particular situation of mothers. In her second section, she looks at the particular idols common to mothers, including idols of achievement, comfort, control, and approval. She helpfully lays out how to identify idols and offers wise counsel on the means of grace that train our hearts to love and worship the Lord rather than puny idols.
Disruptive Witness Alan Noble
Noble describes the problems Christians face in today’s culture, where the gospel is one of thousands of options, and buffered selves intensely adopt stances after seeing compelling viral images on Facebook. Some churches, Noble notes, push back with services “that feel more like a concert and TED Talk than a sacred event. … The pastor paces the stage with a headset mic, skillfully weaving facts, stories, and dramatic pauses. … Each element of the service alludes to bits of popular culture. … The cumulative effect is to give the impression that the Christian faith is something akin to a good motivational conference.”
Embodied Hope Kelly M. Kapic
Kapic emphasizes that our hope is in God “who made and redeemed heaven and earth, not in our own intellectual acuity.” He asks Christians to mix hope and lament in faithful suffering, rather than emphasizing hope with no lament (that’s naïve optimism), lament with no hope (“unrelenting despair”), and neither hope nor lament (“detached stoicism”). Practical application: “When contemporary churches cease to sing laments as part of their regular catalog of songs, instead only choosing happy or upbeat music, … our muscles for godly mourning atrophy.” Good news: Christ saves us from the tyranny of death, which no longer has the final word.
Owen Strachan & Douglas Allen Sweeney’s The Essential Jonathan Edwards is an excellent introduction to the great theologian who is heavy sledding for modern readers. Matthew McCullough in Remember Death: The Surprising Path to Living Hope asks, “How can you enjoy anything about life if you know that, in the end, the more you love something the more it will hurt when you lose it?” Buddhists say the answer is nonattachment to anyone and anything: McCullough shows how Christians can see that bid for support and raise it through Christ’s promise of eternal life.
Jonathan Leeman’s The Rule of Love explains why the Biblical pronouncement that “God is love” does not mean zapping moral boundaries or judgments, or unconditionally accepting everything except authority and institutions. John C. Peckham’s Theodicy of Love: Cosmic Conflict and the Problem of Evil is a deep dive into the coexistence of divine omnipotence, omniscience, and omnibenevolence with human freedom and rampaging evil.