Most Interesting Reading of 2016-2017

September 01, 2017
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Kevin T. Bauder

Just over a year ago I published a “best reading of the past year” list. It was my first in years. Since my reading patterns are a bit odd, I thought perhaps that no one would be interested. To my surprise, I heard from quite a number of people who enjoyed the list, so I’m going to do another.

To be clear, I’m not suggesting that you read these books. I’m not even promising that you’ll enjoy them. They are just the books that I found interesting over the past year or so. I add that “or so” because the first two books should have gone on last year’s list. They are included here by way of correcting that oversight.

Aniol, Scott. By the Waters of Babylon: Worship in a Post-Christian Culture. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2015.

Scott Aniol has become one of the principal voices for the growing conservative movement within fundamentalism. Aniol is one of two fundamentalists to merit an extended reference in Rod Dreher’s The Benedict Option. Aniol’s book started its life as his doctoral dissertation. In it, he asks what Christian worship should look like in a post-Christian civilization. Even those who disagree with his answer have to take it seriously.

De Bruyn, David. The Conservative Church. N.p.: Religious Affections Ministries, 2016.

A South African pastor, De Bruyn is another important voice in the recovery of conservative worship. He writes The Conservative Church as a pastor, asking how meaningful conservatism can be restored to churches where it has only ever partly existed. He argues that Christianity includes orthodoxy, orthopraxy, and orthopathy. He writes with restraint, wit, and good humor. This book is a delightful read.

* * *

Over the past year-plus, I have spent a good bit of time working my way through the literature on same-sex attraction, homosexuality, and same-sex marriage. The corpus of writing in this area is large and getting larger. If you’re looking to break into the field, the following books are a good place to start.

Brownson, James V. Bible Gender Sexuality: Reframing the Church’s Debate on Same-Sex Relationships. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2013.

Relying on the earlier and more extensive work of John Boswell, Brownson’s book is probably the most comprehensive defense of committed same-sex relationships from an evangelical today. Later authors like Matthew Vines simply repeat Brownson’s arguments (usually with a good bit more whining and self-absorption). If you want to read a serious treatment by an evangelical who argues that homosexuality can be right and good, then Brownson is the book to pick up.

DeYoung, James. Homosexuality: Contemporary Claims Examined. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2000.

In terms of the evangelical debate over homosexuality, this is an older book. It may even be out of print. Nevertheless, it makes a contribution to the argument from a traditionalist, prohibitionist perspective. It’s worth picking up if you can find it.

Gagnon, Robert A. J. The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics. Nashville: Abingdon, 2001.

If there is one book that compiles the entire traditionalist argument against same-sex relationships, this is it. Gagnon explores all of the biblical arguments against the traditional, prohibitionist position, producing a nearly-encyclopedic tome on the subject. Most subsequent traditionalist writing has relied upon Gagnon’s work. Non-scholars will find this work intimidating in its detail, but people who really wish to study the topic will do well to begin here.

DeYoung, Kevin. What Does the Bible Really Teach About Homosexuality? Wheaton: Crossway, 2005.

What DeYoung has produced is basically the “Readers’ Digest Condensed Version” of Gagnon’s argument. DeYoung has the advantage of being much more readable and much, much shorter. If you’re looking for a single book to hand to ordinary church members—something that will introduce the debate and give good answers without going into too much detail—then this is the book you’ll want to choose.

Yarhouse, Mark. Homosexuality and the Christian: A Guide for Parents, Pastors, Friends. Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2010.

Yarhouse approaches the topic as a psychologist rather than as a theologian or pastor, but his concerns are definitely pastoral. At the heart of his argument is the refusal to equate same-sex attraction (SSA) with homosexual identity. He notes that the world is ready with a script for people with SSA to tell them who they are. He argues that Christians need to be just as ready with a different script—a biblical one. Yarhouse is probably an Integrationist in his approach to counseling, but even nouthetic counselors will likely find value in his argument.

Butterfield, Rosaria Champagne. The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert: Expanded Edition. Pittsburgh: Crown and Covenant, 2014.

This is a gripping book. Butterfield was a professor at Cornell, a practicing lesbian whose work was tied to her sexual identity. Then she was reached with the gospel, eventually becoming a pastor’s wife in a very conservative Reformed church. The book tells her story, but in such a way as to furnish the understanding rather than simply to solicit sympathy. Butterfield is by far the best writer of the lot, and she has plenty to say.

* * *

Lewis, C. S. The Pilgrim’s Regress. 1933, 1943. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1958.

________. The Screwtape Letters. New York: Macmillan, 1961.

________. The Allegory of Love: A Study in Medieval Tradition. New York: Oxford University Press, 1936.

A year without C. S. Lewis would be a wasted year indeed. The first book of Lewis’s that I ever read was Screwtape Letters. I was in high school; this is the first time I’ve re-read it. The Pilgrim’s Regress is an allegorical account of Lewis’s early life and conversion. I suppose I must have been in seminary the first time I read it. In the Allegory of Love Lewis finds the roots of modern notions about love and romance in the poetry and tales of the Middle Ages.

That’s eleven books and it’s time to stop. Trouble is, there are a few more I’d like to mention. Maybe I’ll do that next week.

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This essay is by Kevin T. Bauder, Research Professor of Historical and Systematic Theology at Central Baptist Theological Seminary. Not every one of the professors, students, or alumni of Central Seminary necessarily agrees with every opinion that it expresses.

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Shall I for Fear of Feeble Man
John Wesley (1703–1791)

Shall I for fear of feeble man,
The Spirit’s course in me restrain?
Or undismayed in deed and word,
Be a true witness for the Lord?

My life, my blood, I here present,
If for Thy truth they may be spent,
Fulfill Thy sovereign counsel, Lord;
Thy will be done, Thy name adored.

Give of Thy strength, O God of pow’r,
Then let winds blow, or thunders roar,
Thy faithful witness will I be:
’Tis fixed, I can do all through Thee.