(Note: As editor of BreakPoint.org, I get a lot of review copies. I don’t always have a lot of time to review them, but many of them deserve attention. So every other week, I will present capsule reviews of a few that I think will interest Christians who want to widen and deepen their understanding of the Christian faith and worldview. In many cases, these books will be by authors I know. In today’s list, the only author I am not acquainted with is Robert Joustra. Links to buy the books are in the titles.)
“Humble Roots: How Humility Grounds and Nourishes Your Soul” by Hannah Anderson (Moody Publishers, 2016).
Many, many people told me how good this book was. They were right. “Humble Roots” is, without exaggeration, one of the best pieces of writing on the topic of humility that I’ve ever read. Anderson, who lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, uses vivid metaphors and analogies from rural life to make her point that “peace starts with learning [God’s] humility.” The phenomena she observes in the natural world, and what she takes from them — the patience it takes to let a tomato ripen on the vine, the lessons about identity one learns when planting an heirloom apple tree, the interdependence of monarch butterflies and milkweed, and more — teach us to view God’s sovereignty and providence in ways we never have before. “Humility changes the frame of reference entirely,” Anderson writes. “Humble Roots” certainly did that for me.
“A Woman’s Place: A Christian Vision for Your Calling in the Office, the Home, and the World” by Katelyn Beaty (Howard Books, 2016). Foreword by Christine Caine.
Tackling the subject of women and work in a conservative Christian context is a tricky prospect, but Katelyn Beaty is well placed to do it. The former managing editor of Christianity Today, Beaty has firsthand experience of the clash between the church and the wider culture over women’s work, as well as the discord within the church on the topic. By and large, the Christian women she interviewed for this book liked their work, but struggled with the very idea of ambition and with the work-life balance, thanks largely to flawed teachings about women’s nature and callings. Beaty takes us back to the Bible and to God’s purposes in creating both men and women. She shows us plenty of examples of women who are taking God’s purposes and His calling seriously. And in doing so, she helpfully dismantles some of the misperceptions about women’s work that are more cultural than scriptural. (She also cites the enlightening work of Dorothy L. Sayers on the topic, thus ensuring my loyalty forever!) When Beaty’s book first came out, there was some backlash over her view of stay-at-home moms, but I think that backlash was largely based on interviews that didn’t fully capture the big picture she paints in the book itself, where she honors work both outside and inside the home. It’s worth reading “A Woman’s Place” to see that big picture, and in general to get a broader and healthier perspective on an issue that affects everyone.
“How to Survive the Apocalypse: Zombies, Cylons, Faith, and Politics at the End of the World” by Robert Joustra & Alissa Wilkinson (Eerdmans, 2016). Foreword by Andy Crouch.
In his foreword to this book, Andy Crouch explains that, number one, it instills “a far deeper appreciation for works of popular art,” and, number two, it serves as “an extended critical meditation on the work, above all, of the philosopher Charles Taylor” (author of “A Secular Age“). I am forced to confess here that the book convinced me that I am far too dense ever to read or understand Charles Taylor. Frequently, in the parts of “How to Survive the Apocalypse” that deal with his philosophy, I felt that I was in over my head. However, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. One of the best ways to learn is to read something that challenges and stretches you, and this book did that for me. At the same time, it manages to examine analyze the apocalyptic vision we find so frequently in today’s pop culture — including “The Hunger Games,” “Breaking Bad,” “The Walking Dead,” “Game of Thrones,” and more — while still conveying a sense of hope. That’s no small feat. If you’re looking for a book that fully recognizes just how bleak and polarized our cultural landscape has become, and yet still argues that there are ways for us to live and work peaceably together to make it better, try “How to Survive the Apocalypse.”
“Moments & Days: How Our Holy Celebrations Shape Our Faith” by Michelle Van Loon (NavPress, 2016).
As a Messianic Jew, Michelle Van Loon brings a wealth of experience and insight to this study of Jewish and Christian holidays, their roots, their relationship to each other, and how they celebrate and deepen our faith, enabling us to live counterculturally in a world that doesn’t understand our focus on God. For anyone who wants to explore our Judeo-Christian heritage more fully, and to be reminded that “our watches and Day-Timers and Google calendars are not the measure of our worth,” Van Loon’s book is ideal reading.
Image courtesy of fstop123 at iStock by Getty Images. Review copies obtained from the respective publishers.