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‘Bibliophilia’ Category

  1. Favorite Biographies?


    July 2, 2015 by Bookworm

    The following list was compiled in response to a question about good biographies for summer reading.  Additions?  Subtractions?  Other thoughts?

    Let’s hear ’em!

    C.S. Lewis – A Life by Alister McGrath.  This is one of my all-time favorite biographies, not just my favorite Lewis biography.  Mcgrath gets you into Lewis’ life, thought, and work really well in a way that is both honest and generous.

    Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas.  This man is fascinating and very much worth knowing well.  I think Metaxas has been rightly accused of making Bonhoeffer out to be an evangelical more than he really was but even so it is a great read.

    Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther by Ronald Bainton.  This is the standard work on Luther and it holds up super well.  Luther’s life and context were fascinating.

    Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery by Eric Metaxas.  You can tell Metaxas is good, right?  More socially conscious people should know and emulate Wilberforce.  This is deeply encouraging to those who want to see change without bloodshed.

    Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert by Rosario Champagne Butterfield.  Technically an autobiography, I’m finishing this up right now and couldn’t recommend it any higher. Deeply encouraging about the power of the gospel and the depth of repentance involved in walking with the Lord.

    The Inklings by Humphrey Carpenter – I find the Inklings fascinating and this is the standard work. He’s a great writer and this book is like getting bios of Tolkien, Lewis, and Charles Williams all together.

    Calvin by Bruce Gordon – Calvin is a bit of a boogeyman in some corners and this book humanizes him well.  Helps you appreciate his thought, impact, and helpfulness regardless of whatever degree you embrace or reject the system that bears his name.

    Stonewall Jackson: The Man, the Soldier, the Legend by James Robertson – If you like the civil war this is a must-read.  If not it is still well worth it.  Stonewall is presented here as the sort of man you can learn from.  He’s (obviously) quite wrong on slavery but there is still much good to be gleaned from him.

    Spurgeon: A New Biography by Arnold Dallimore – I’ve not gotten to this one yet but it comes highly recommended and I’m looking forward to reading it.

    The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill (Series) – William Manchester – if you’re filling like doing a deep dive here is a 3-volume set that, like the Spurgeon volume, I haven’t gotten around to reading but it sure seems like I need to soon.

    The Beatles: The Biography – This is one of my all-time favorite biographies.  You get the Beatles in all their glory and all their warts.  It is massive but I couldn’t put it down.

  2. Review: Shepherding God’s Flock


    April 22, 2015 by Bookworm


    Shepherding God’s Flock: Biblical Leadership in the New Testament and Beyond, edited by Benjamin L. Merkle and Thomas R. Schreiner

    Shepherding God’s Flock is an ambitious book indeed.  The work, in some sense, desires to be a one stop shop for all things polity.  In its pages you will find historical (Chapters 1, 5, and 6), New Testament (Chapters 2 and 3), polemical (Chapters 7, 8, and 9) and systematic (Chapters 10 and 11) theology, all aimed at giving the reader a robust understanding of how the church should be governed.  In that sense the title might perhaps be adjusted for accuracy by adding “How Should We Go About” before the current title.

    Perhaps the feature which most readers will find somewhat odd about Shepherding is that the title, which features chapters on Catholic, Presbyterian, and Anglican polity, is written exclusively by confessing Baptists.  However, this matter is presented in the introductory material in an upfront fashion, thus serving the reader through an honest presentation of presuppositions.

    In an attempt to put my own biases on the table as a reviewer, I too am a confessing Baptist.  Furthermore, it was with particular delight I received the notification that this book was being brought to market as (A), I am something of a polity wonk, (B) one of the editors, Tom Schreiner, is a favorite author of mine, and (C) I have a pastoral interest in Baptist ecclesiology.

    It should come as no surprise, then, that I find the arguments made in Shepherding to be entirely convincing – and even compelling.  I specifically found the chapters touching on the polity held by other Christian traditions, specifically Presbyterian (written by Nathan A. Finn) and Anglican (written by Jason Duesing), fair and irenic.

    The one point I found a bit of quibble I have with Shepherding, however, comes up in this specific section – Finn seems to argue that it is a unique feature of Presbyterian polity to differentiate between “teaching” and “ruling” elders (based on 1 Timothy 5:17), asserting that Baptists have historically rejected this distinction.  While it is true, as best I am aware1, Baptists have historically found no room for an elder who cannot teach (as Finn asserts) I also think it may be too great a reduction to say this text is merely functional or about compensation (pgs. 216-217).

    I believe Andrew Davis’ chapter (11: Leading the Church in Today’s World: What It Means Practically to Shepherd’s God’s Flock) would be useful and encouraging to any church leader, regardless of their final conviction on polity.

    I recommend Shepherding to anyone interested in broadening their understanding of how God’s word provides care for His people through human leadership.  Furthermore, anyone thinking through or examining the Baptistic perspective on ecclesiology will come away with a developed understanding of the positive assertions and nuanced disagreements the separate Baptists from other Christian traditions. This is a strong work and I believe churches will be well served when and if their leaders give Shepherding a serious read.

    1And far be it from me to challenge Finn on the subject of Baptist history.

    – – – – – – – – – –
    Disclosure of Material Connection: I solicited this book from Kregel Publications in exchange for an unbiased review.  I  disclose this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

  3. Review: Collision Low Crossers


    April 16, 2015 by Bookworm


    One of the Bookworms (guess which) recently finished Nicholas Dawidoff’s Collision Low Crossers.  Here’s a brief review.

    Collision Low Crossers by Nicholas Dawidoff is a read for the hardcore fan.

    The author, who writes for about every periodical a writer would want to write for, received access to the New York Jets during the 2011-12 season.  When I say “received access” I mean “It’s hard to imagine they ever let him in that deep and I imagine no one will ever get a chance like this again.”

    Yes, this is very much a football book, specifically an NFL book.  Despite Dawidoff salting his presentation with literary references the book never departs from the New York Jet office complex in Florham Park, NJ.  The title of the book itself is a a bit of inside-football terminology that Dawidoff found a particular affinity for and there is plenty of “press coverage” and running Dime Spike One Vegas on 3rd and long.

    What drew me in to the narrative, and why I said this book is for the hardcore fan wasn’t actually the football.  The hardcore fan who will enjoy Collision is the fan of intriguing characters.

    Antonio Cromartie, infamous publicly for his libidinous excess which resulted in his ability to remember all of his children’s names when asked on camera, is revealed to be the product of a broken home – the scars of which leave him with such deep set insecurity he cannot take full advantage of his peak human athleticism.

    Brian Smith, aka Smitty, the Quality Control coach who functions in some ways as the coaching staff’s mascot and court jester, who is compelled mid-season to take on the burden of providing long term care for his fater.

    Mike Pettine, the Defensive Coordinator nurtured at the knee of a legendary H.S. football coach father who develops the strongest unit on the team – and has to prevent his stellar defense from beginning to view the members of the weaker offensive unit as an enemy within their own team.

    Rex Ryan, the bigger than life head coach – a born leader of men whose instinctual understanding of defensive football in unrivaled yet who cannot see the autonomy he grants to his staff prevents them from accessing his prodigious knowledge.

    So who should read this?  Sports fans, for sure.  NFL fans, certainly. But most of all those who find human interest stories grounded unshakably in human interest stories compelling, the ones who gravitate to the characters that real life can produce in a way that trumps even the greatest of writers.  Those are the ones who will enjoy Collision Low Crossers the most.

  4. New Harper Lee Novel to be Published in July!


    February 3, 2015 by Bookworm

    The title, Go Set a Watchman, is actually her first novel!

    It is essentially a sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird although it was written prior to Mockingbird!

    The story centers around a grown up Scout (the main character from Mockingbird for those who don’t know)!

    Honestly, I don’t know if we have enough exclamation marks available to capture the delight this news brings.  There is also a wonderful story of found treasure associated with the release:

    “I hadn’t realized it (Go Set a Watchman) had survived, so was surprised and delighted when my dear friend and lawyer Tonja Carter discovered it. After much thought and hesitation, I shared it with a handful of people I trust and was pleased to hear that they considered it worthy of publication. I am humbled and amazed that this will now be published after all these years.” – Harper Lee from the AP report (click the link for more details).

    Where do we sign up for an advance order?


  5. On Loving Books, Particularly Old Books


    November 29, 2014 by Bookworm

    Thanks for dropping by The Diet of Bookworms!  We’re all about great books, particularly books whose greatness has been demonstrated over the course of history.

    The bookworms running this podcast (and site) are devotees of C.S. Lewis and we believe what he said about Christian books in his introduction to Athanasius’ On the Incarnation (the full text of which you can find here) really applies even more broadly.

    Naturally, since I myself am a writer, I do not wish the ordinary reader to read no modern books. But if he must read only the new or only the old, I would advise him to read the old. And I would give him this advice precisely because he is an amateur and therefore much less protected than the expert against the dangers of an exclusive contemporary diet. A new book is still on its trial and the amateur is not in a position to judge it. It has to be tested against the great body of Christian thought down the ages, and all its hidden implications (often unsuspected by the author himself) have to be brought to light. Often it cannot be fully understood without the knowledge of a good many other modern books. If you join at eleven o’clock a conversation which began at eight you will often not see the real bearing of what is said. Remarks which seem to you very ordinary will produce laughter or irritation and you will not see why—the reason, of course, being that the earlier stages of the conversation have given them a special point. In the same way sentences in a modern book which look quite ordinary may be directed at some other book; in this way you may be led to accept what you would have indignantly rejected if you knew its real significance. The only safety is to have a standard of plain, central Christianity (“mere Christianity” as Baxter called it) which puts the controversies of the moment in their proper perspective. Such a standard can be acquired only from the old books. It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones.

    So here is to good books, especially those which have stood the test of time!  We hope you’ll join us in a steady diet of those kind.