Most all believers know that an atheist claims to not believe in God’s existence, but beyond knowing that, few have really worked through and wrestled with their arguments. Most believers are taught the atheist is wrong – end of story. But it is fruitful to hear, and try to understand, their arguments. They are much simpler to refute by the average believer than one might think. In The Atheist’s Fatal Flaw: Exposing Conflicting Beliefs, Norman Geisler and Daniel McCoy present atheistic beliefs in the atheist’s own words. Geisler and McCoy do not spin or even do that much critique but instead quote many leading atheists extensively and expose conflicts between their, frequently contradictory claims. Those claiming to be “atheist” are on the rise, therefore the average believer needs to become more familiar with this position in an effort to defend the Word of God. Another great apologetics work I read this year was The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism by Timothy Keller. The book is an outline of Christian belief and answers the major objections that are frequently leveled against Christianity.
Cultural engagement is not an option for Christians. We are not only losing the culture war in America, but we are losing, bit by bit, our religious freedom and it will only get worse. The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention has begun publishing a series of simple, straight-forward books to address the biggest issues of the day. I read the newly published The Gospel & Religious Liberty by Russell Moore and Andrew T. Walker. We must fight for religious liberty or we will wake up one day and realize we no longer have it as the luxury we once knew. The culture is finding new, and often creative ways, to try and silence the church. The church in America is under ever increasing attack. How should we respond? Moore and Walker’s book is a great tool to help believers answer that all-important question. I also read The Gospel & Racial Reconciliation from the same series by Moore and Walker. It is insightful and helpful when it comes to understanding the problems we face in the area of race relations and offers Scripture-based solutions. Race-relations have become a big issue in recent years and Christians need to know how to address it with biblical truth and grace.
Country music fans will enjoy Country Faith: 56 Reflections from Today’s Leading Country Music Stars compiled by Deborah Evans Price. The format of this book is, singers share their favorite verse and what it means to them; particularly how it has helped and encouraged them along the way. There are many heart-felt insights that are highly applicable to every-day life. We enjoyed reading through this book during our family devotion time in the evenings.
Whether we like it or not, homosexuality is an issue that is not going anywhere. Believers have struggled to respond to a rapidly changing culture. Some are sadly compromising on the issue in ways that the Bible does not support, while others are rigid and dogmatic and even unloving toward persons struggling with this particular sin. Where is the right balance? Glenn T. Stanton’s book Loving My LGBT Neighbor: Being Friends in Grace & Truth helps us understand how we can build healthy friendships with members of the LGBT community for the purpose of winning them to Christ. The book does not compromise on biblical truth concerning issues of sexuality, but it does offer a slightly different approach than other books on the subject of homosexuality, bisexuality, and transgenderism. I believe this is a much needed book for most believers.
Over the past few years I have found commentary survey books very helpful. This year I enjoyed reading through Old Testament Commentary Survey: Fifth Edition by Tremper Longman III. I had read an earlier edition and have also read the New Testament equivalent by D. A. Carson. When you prepare to study a book of the Bible, there is no shortage of commentaries available and it is overly optimistic to assume they are all good. These summary books give a very brief critique of available commentaries on the various books of the Bible. These are must-haves for all pastor’s libraries, but laymen also may find them helpful.
In 1958 John Stott’s book Basic Christianity was first published. Since then more than 2.5 million copies have been sold. The book is a true classic. The book covers such basic topics as “Who is Christ?” “The character of Christ,” “The resurrection of Christ,” “The death of Christ,” “Salvation in Christ,” “Becoming a Christian,” “Being a Christian,” and much more. The book is simple and basic, in one sense, just as the title indicates; however it is actually quite thought provoking and challenging. It first challenges the non-Christian with the explicit reality of lostness in which they are living, then moves to the claims of Christ which are substantial and then to certain realities that should always be present in the lives of believers. It is this latter part that especially gets challenging for Christians. This is a book all believers should read. Further, it is a very good choice of a book to place in the hands of a non-Christian or to place in the hands of a new believer.
There are several short books, mainly by popular authors, that examine the Christmas story. I have read many of these through the years. One of the latest, which only came out this fall, is Hidden Christmas: The Surprising Truth Behind the Birth of Christ by Timothy Keller. Keller’s approach is a little different than most of these type books. It is actually quite pointed and challenging along the way. It certainly caused me to think deeper than I have while reading other books on this similar subject. Reading this book will likely help you to better understand Christmas. I think Keller is one of the best contemporary authors and would recommend your reading anything of his you come across.
I hope you find this year’s recommendations helpful and enjoyable! Merry Christmas to each of you! Thank you for reading my weblogs these past 9 ½ years, and for your positive feedback. You are greatly appreciated!
Dr. Allen Raynor, Pastor