Books of Note

In my ongoing, irregular series of shorter book reviews, I offer another batch of volumes I happen to be reading at the moment and wish to recommend. Since they reflect my usual interests, you will find books on theology, apologetics, ethics, current events and the like. The 13 books mentioned here are arranged roughly by subject order. All are important new volumes which should rightly grace the shelves of all discerning readers. Happy reading!

Witherington, Ben, The Indelible Image, vol. 1. IVP, 2009.
In the first of a projected two-volume set, the prolific New Testament scholar looks at “The theology and ethical thought world of the New Testament” as the book’s subtitle states. In well over 800 pages this first volume is an extensive and detailed examination of theological ethics in the New Testament. It is a masterful treatment which covers all the bases, and will be a standard in the field for years to come. Highly recommended.

Sailhamer, John, The Meaning of the Pentateuch. IVP, 2009.
Sailhamer is a leading Old Testament scholar who has extensively majored on the Pentateuch for many decades now. In this 600-plus page study he looks at all the important issues such as authorship, integrity, composition, themes and genres. A masterful interaction with all the relevant scholarship, this is a major contribution to this field from a first-rate OT expert.

Oswalt, John, The Bible Among the Myths. Zondervan, 2009.
What is the relationship between myth and history? Is the Bible to be understood mainly as historical or mythological? How reliable is the Old Testament? What do we really know about ancient Israel? These and other important questions are capably dealt with by a leading Old Testament professor. He takes head on the claims of critical scholarship, and shows that the OT is far more reliable, authoritative and historically accurate than its critics claim.

Meadors, Gary, ed., Four Views on Moving Beyond the Bible to Theology. Zondervan, 2009.
Everyone who reads the Bible does so with some cultural baggage and with some preconceived ideas. None of us come to it with a blank slate and complete objectivity. And there are plenty of difficult passages which require careful exegesis and interpretation. Here four evangelicals offer differing perspectives on how we should rightly interpret and apply Scripture. Their presentations and the ensuing debate makes for an important contribution to a vexing and complex issue.

Richter, Sandra, The Epic of Eden. IVP, 2008.
Sadly most Christians suffer from biblical illiteracy, especially when it comes to the Old Testament. This helpful volume introduces us to the OT, its themes, its storyline, and its importance. While a number of good books already exist doing similar things, this is a scholarly yet easy to read look at the OT which discusses a number of perplexing and difficult issues along the way. Well worth getting.

Moreland, J.P., The Recalcitrant Imago Dei: Human Persons and the Failure of Naturalism. SCM, 2009.
One of the finest Christian philosophers around today is J.P. Moreland. He has written extensively on numerous issues in the philosophy of religion. In this scholarly volume he looks at what it means to be human, and how philosophical naturalism cannot give us an adequate account of or rationale for the human person. An invaluable contribution to this crucial topic.

Ganssle, Gregory, A Reasonable God: Engaging the New Face of Atheism. Baylor University Press, 2009.
With the huge impact of the new atheists, a number of books written in response have appeared over the last few years. Indeed, there are around 50 of them now, with this being one of the newest. In it, the philosophy professor looks at a number of key issues: the relationship between science and faith; the role of reason and evidence; various arguments for God’s existence; the Darwinian explanation of religion; and so on. A most welcome addition to the ongoing debate.

Berlinski, David, The Deniable Darwin and Other Essays. Discovery Institute, 2009.
David Berlinski has for years been a fiercely independent thinker and analyst. He is often willing to go against the grain as he takes on the foibles and deficiencies of many modern day orthodoxies. Darwinism is one prime example of this, and Berlinski has been fearless in his criticisms of it. This volume is actually a collection of his writings extending back nearly 15 years, covering all sorts of topics, from the nature of science to the new atheism. A welcome volume from a leading thinker and writer.

Sowell, Thomas, Intellectuals and Society. Basic Books, 2009.
Thomas Sowell is one of our leading conservative thinkers and commentators who has penned many dozens of very important books on economic, social and political themes over the years. Here he looks at the role of public intellectuals and elites who have so much influence – usually negative influence – over so much of the Western world. In a wide-ranging yet detailed work, he covers all sorts of topics as he discusses the inordinate power and influence these elites have. Another first class book by a first class scholar.

Woods, Thomas, Meltdown. Regnery, 2009.
Almost everyone is aware of the global financial turndown and many have been affected by it. Why did it happen? What are its causes? Are government bailouts and more regulation the best way to remedy these problems? How should we think about the Great Depression? Woods offers a careful and detailed examination of these and related issues from a free market perspective. A good antidote to so much mainstream media commentary on all this.

Goldberg, Arthur, Light in the Closet. Red Heifer Press, 2008.
The issue of homosexuality is a major social and ethical hot potato. Here the head of JONAH (Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality) provides us with the most complete, most thorough and most informed discussion of homosexuality to date from the orthodox Jewish perspective. In nearly 600 pages all the important facets of this debate are covered: religious, medical, pastoral, sociological, political and cultural. A first class work by a leading expert and practitioner in the field.

Nolland, Lisa, Chris Sugden and Sarah Finch, eds., God, Gays and the Church. The Latimer Trust, 2008.
In this very important volume a number of top-notch essays by experts in their fields address a number of issues concerning homosexuality. Questions addressed include: Are homosexuals born that way? What does Scripture have to say about homosexuality? How does the homosexual agenda put us all at risk? The book also offers powerful testimonies of homosexuals who have been set free from their lifestyle by a life-changing encounter with Christ. A very useful and vital volume.

Sayers, Mark, The Vertical Self. Thomas Nelson, 2009.
Young Melbourne-based cultural commentator Mark Sayers is a step above many Christian youth workers. Instead of wanting to entertain and coddle young people, he wants to challenge them to go against the tide, and rise above the surrounding culture, offering something better and more Christlike. Here he contrasts the biblical view of who we are and what we are meant to be with the secular versions of self, self-esteem, self-glorification, and selfishness. A vibrant call to live a radically different sort of life than what the world expects of us.

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28 Replies to “Books of Note”

  1. Thanks for that list, Bill. The Sailhamer number is one I am keen to read. I especially like the sound of the Oswalt book also, as I keep coming across people, including Christians, who are highly critical of the scriptures from a historical perspective.

    Have you heard about or read John H. Walton’s recent publication The Lost World of Genesis One? I recommend it (at my peril, I’m sure). It is a great book, and provides a really excellent exegesis of Genesis 1, and the ramifications for society, education, science, theology and Christianity. Walton is firmly in the evangelical camp, and is a professor at Wheaton College. Davis Young, Francis Collins and Bruce Waltke are amongst the endorsers. Sam Storms listed it in his top ten books of 2009.

    Simon Kennedy, Victoria

  2. Thanks Simon

    Yes I have that volume, along with three other books by the OT prof. I tend to like his stuff, although he of course offers some innovative proposals here which not everyone will agree with. But he is usually well worth reading.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  3. Hi Bill
    Since I read your blog, I am very impressed by all the books you read… I am very far from being able to read that much and I would be so happy to increase my capacity of reading. Can you give me a few advices of how to manage a pastoral schedule and reading and how to go through a book ?

    Pascal Denault

  4. Thanks Pascal

    Ah, a good question. I am not a pastor, so perhaps I do have more time on my hands, although I do manage to keep pretty busy. There might be various tips on speed reading, or selective reading, and so on. Perhaps I can pen an article on this soon. But part of the answer is simply to make some time each day for reading. This might be possible by combining with another activity – eg., reading while walking on an exercise bike or some such thing. But stay tuned for a more proper response.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  5. Thanks Bill. Glad to hear that you have it. As you say, not everyone here will agree with what he proposes, but it seems a solid view to me. I also have just finished The Forgotten Ways by Alan Hirsch, which was quite good. Mark Sayers is a gun, by the way. I agree with what you wrote about him.

    Pascal, I could step in here with some ideas. Trevin Wax has some good tips on how to read 100 books in 2010, which may be beyond most of us.

    Also, see his tips on how to read faster and read widely.

    Hope that’s helpful. I’m going to try and implement some of his ideas this year.

    Simon Kennedy, Victoria

  6. Hi Bill,
    Thanks for that, great to have more resources to think about – and I generally need to hold the recommender in regard to have a look at the book too, so thanks.
    A couple of questions:
    With the Berlinski volume, is the author analysing from a Christian or a non-Christian perspective?

    With Witherington’s perspective on NT ethics – does it suffer for limiting itself to the NT? I was also wondering if you’ve ever read Greg L. Bahnsen’s ‘Theonomy in Christian Ethics’, and if you had, how the two relate or differ? It’s the best book i’ve ever read on a comprehensive Christian approach to ethics.

    Blessings,
    Isaac Overton, ACT

    ps. do you know of any ocupations where you are paid to read all day? lol. I spend every spare second I get ploughing through books, but wish I could devote myself to it without the inconvenience of a 9-5 office job.

  7. Thanks Isaac

    Interestingly, Berlinski refers to himself as a “secular Jew”.

    Witherington is of course a NT scholar, so his book looks at ethics as found there, although he of necessity deals with the OT time and time again in his volume.

    Yes I have the Bahnsen volume, along with a number of his other works.

    The difference between the two authors is that Bahnsen is a theonomist whereas Witherington is not. Thus Bahnsen wants to see almost all of the OT laws (many of which dealt with Israel) applied to the all of society today. This is a complex discussion, but there are some real problems with such an approach, and the theonomists would be in a very small minority amongst Christian thinkers grappling with the overall issues of law, ethics and the world and church today. But they offer much food for thought.

    If you find an answer to your last question, let me know!

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  8. Bill,
    Are you able to recommend a good commentary on the book of Job?
    Steve Davis

  9. Thanks Steve

    Yes I can. I own a dozen commentaries on Job and perhaps the best would be John Hartley, The Book of Job (NICOT) (Eerdmans, 1988). The most comprehensive would be David Cline’s 3-volume set in the WBC series. A shorter, older, yet helpful, volume would be Francis Andersen’s in the TOTC series.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  10. Thanks for your list. That book by Berlinski is a sheer delight.
    John Snowden

  11. Great list: would love to read them all – first cab off the rank especially though I’ve seen its title as ‘indelible image’.

    Thanks for all your efforts Bill.

    Martin Snigg

  12. Good on you Bill,
    For someone like myself who just wants to get a good basic understanding of what is happening in Job, which one of the books that you mentioned would be best suited to my purpose?
    Steve Davis

  13. Bill,

    Just a comment to let you know, your website is my absolute favourite, and one I certainly look forward to reading each day.
    It is great to interact with people who see through the eyes of a Christian. Certainly after a mad day at work in this crazy world, your work is refreshing and grounding and often useful in discussions I have with others about controversial issues.
    Please keep up the great work. You are in my daily prayers.

    Jane Petridge

  14. Many thanks indeed Jane.

    Always nice to get the occasional bit of praise and affirmation. Keep up the good work on your end as well.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  15. Hi Bill,

    Yes you’re quite right, it is a many faceted and complex issue. To my eyes the theonomic position is not as straight forward as what you outlined – but I appreciate that the topic can hardly be done justice here! (as you note)
    You may be aware of an annual conference held in Canberra – the ‘Dan 2:44’ conference. I believe that this years speaker will be speaking on ‘Law, Lordship & Liberty’ (from a theonomic perspective from what I can gather). You may be interested in attending – i’m sure your contribution would be both challenging and edifying.
    Details on speaker & conference @ http://www.daniel244.org/

    Two other queries:
    I was wondering if you could point me in the direction of any key works arguing against theonomy, as well as what you consider to be a good introductory text to the key historical philosophers & their ideas? (I have John Stuart Mill, Rawls & Kant specifically in mind, but a broader view would be good also) – i’m looking for an analysis from a distinctly Christian worldview.
    Thanks again.

    Blessings,
    Isaac Overton

  16. Thanks Isaac

    It is not so much that I am totally against theonomy, but there are some difficulties with it. As to books critiquing it, see these:

    Critiques
    Barker, William and Robert Godfrey, eds., Theonomy: A Reformed Critique. Zondervan, 1990.
    Barron, Bruce, Heaven on Earth? The Social and Political Agenda of Dominion Theology. Zondervan, 1992.
    House, H.Wayne and Thomas Ice., Dominion Theology: Blessing or Curse? An Analysis of Christian Reconstructionism. Multnomah, 1988.

    Various views
    Feinberg, John, ed., Continuity and Discontinuity: Perspectives on the Relationship Between the Old and New Testaments. Crossway Books, 1988.
    Kaiser, Walter, et. al., The Law, the Gospel, and the Modern Christian: Five Views. Zondervan, 1993.
    Smith, Gary Scott, ed., God and Politics: Four Views on the Reformation of Civil Government. Presbyterian & Reformed, 1989.
    Strickland, Wayne, ed., Five Views on Law and Gospel. Zondervan, 1994.

    As to good Christian intros to philosophy, see these:

    Brown, Colin, Philosophy and the Christian Faith. Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale Press, 1969.
    Clark, Kelly James, Richard Lints and James Smith, 101 Key Terms in Philosophy and their Importance for Theology. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004.
    Cowan, Steven and James Spiegel, The Love of Wisdom: A Christian Introduction to Philosophy. Nashville: B&H, 2009.
    Geisler, Norman and Paul Feinberg, Introduction to Philosophy: A Christian Perspective. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 1980.
    Moreland, J.P. and W.L. Craig, Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview. Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP, 2003.
    Nash, Ronald, Life’s Ultimate Questions: An Introduction to Philosophy. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1999.
    Yandell, Keith, Christianity and Philosophy. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1984.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  17. Bill and Steve,

    To your list I’d suggest another Job commentary.

    David John Atkinson, The Message of Job: Suffering and Grace (BST) (IVP, 1991).

    Ross McPhee

  18. Thanks Ross

    Yes that is another good one: not too long and not too expensive. Similar to Andersen’s volume in that regard.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  19. You forgot about my book 😉

    Creation, Fall, Restoration: A Biblical Theology of Creation (Mentor, 2009).

    Since Scripture alone reports the details of Divine creation, Kulikovsky directs readers back to the biblical record itself. Debates pitting science against creationism too often ignore the biblical revelation. Creationist conferences and consultations primarily explain observable phenomena that support the scientific accuracy of biblical creationism and banish biblical authority to the footnotes. Kulikovsky, however, proves that a young earth springs from a no-nonsense reading of the biblical text. Creation, Fall, Restoration dissolves the old earth fog that envelopes inadequate arguments for a young earth.
    -William D. Barrick, Th.D., Professor of Old Testament; The Master’s Seminary, Sun Valley, CA

    Andrew Kulikovsky

  20. I should add that my book does not just deal with origins issues (old earth v young earth etc) but also the consequences of the Fall and the flood and its effects, as well as discussing our relationship with creation today (including environmentalism and climate change), and how creation will be restored at the consumation of the kingdom of God.
    Andrew Kulikovsky

  21. Discussion in our home is where we are going to place a new bookshelf. Your book reviews are just tooooo good!

    Annette Nestor, Perth

  22. Hi Bill
    I’m still tuned for a proper answer to my question ; )

    It’s always a pleasure to read you.
    God bless!
    Pascal Denault

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