“True piety consists in a sincere feeling which loves God as Father as much as it fears and reverences him as Lord, embraces his righteousness, and dreads offending him worse than death.”
How is piety obtained? “Piety is always built on knowledge of the true God and knowledge requires instruction.” “That which can educate a man’s piety demands sane doctrine.”
– Quoted in David B. Calhoun, Knowing God and Ourselves: Reading Calvin’s Institutes Devotionally (Banner of Truth: Edinburgh, 2016), 16-17.
When I finish a book, I add it to my list of books read. At the end of this post are the books I completed in 2017.
The year was marked by celebrations of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. Although I’ve used it as a reference and resource for lectures on the English Reformation, until now, I had never made time to read from cover to cover Diarmaid MacCulloch’s The Reformation: A History. Perhaps there’s a more comprehensive single-volume work on the Reformation, but I’m not aware of it.
Over the past several decades, a number of young and intelligent Reformed folk have left Protestantism for Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy. Their concern is the shallowness of Protestant worship and its lack of connection to the ancient patterns of Christian worship and doctrine. Ken Stewart’s In Search of Ancient Roots: The Christian Past and the Evangelical Identity Crisis demonstrates that Protestantism’s roots in Christian antiquity are deep. Evangelical Christians should take up and read.
I turned 60 this year. Sometimes I feel as young as ever; a distance runner, my stopwatch tells me otherwise. So, I’ve been paying much more attention to self-care, and, therefore am indebted to David Murray for his wise, theologically informed, and immensely practical Reset: Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Burnout Culture. Particularly helpful is his counsel on rest, recreation, and sleep. This book is now on the required reading list of my pastoral leadership course.
In 2017, the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum opened. I have written elsewhere that it “is a must-see: expertly laid out, informative, visually unforgettable, and a testimony to the many brave heroes of our state who sacrificed and laid down their lives for freedom and justice.” This year my studies of civil rights history were enriched by reading Taylor Branch’s At Canaan’s Edge: America in the King Years 1965-68 – the third and final volume of his magisterial history of the civil rights movement – and Timothy B. Tyson, The Blood of Emmett Till, a compelling account of the 1955 lynching, one of the hundreds of racially-motivated lynchings that that have taken place in Mississippi since the Civil War, and as much as any single event, propelled civil rights to the forefront of our national consciousness.
Ron Klein is among the finest Christian educators I know. For those interested in the governance of Christian schools, I highly recommend his Journey to Excellence: What Boards and Heads of Christian Schools Need to Know to Get There. In my blurb for his book I wrote: “The average Christian school board consists of volunteers who care deeply about the spiritual and educational needs of children. Unfortunately, they often lack clear understanding of their primary purpose – to hire and hold accountable heads of school to meet board established goals. I had the privilege of watching Ron Klein lead a financially struggling Christian school to stability and a renewed commitment to academic distinction. His book charts a path forward for Christian school boards seeking the wisdom of a proven leader.”
All Christians, but especially parents will find eye-opening Mary Aiken’s The Cyber Effect and Jean M. Twenge’s iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy – and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood – and What That Means for the Rest of Us.
In The Vanishing American Adult: Our Coming-of-Age Crisis–and How to Rebuild a Culture of Self-Reliance, Senator Ben Sasse offers practical advice to parents on work, reading, and study habits that will contribute to a child’s maturity.
Some books need to be read over and over again. And so I returned to J.C. Ryle’s Matthew, Sophocles’ Antigone, George Herbert’s The Temple, and Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death.
Books finished in 2017:
- Ian W. Toll, Pacific Crucible: War at Sea in the Pacific, 1941-1942
- Michael Reeves, Delighting in the Trinity
- Aelred of Rievaulx, Spiritual Friendship
- Timothy B. Tyson, The Blood of Emmett Till
- Heath Lambert, Finally Free: Fighting for Purity with the Power of Grace
- Paul Gallico, The Snow Goose
- Allan Harman, Preparation for Ministry
- Kyle McClellan, Mea Culpa: Learning from Mistakes in the Ministry
- David Murray, Reset: Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Burnout Culture
- William H. McRaven, Make Your Bed
- Tim Challies, Do More Better: A Practical Guide to Productivity
- Yaa Gyasi, Homegoing
- Mary Aiken, The Cyber Effect: A Pioneering Cyberpsychologist Explains How Human Behavior Changes Online
- Erik Larson, The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America
- Eugene Robinson, Disintegration: The Splintering of Black America
- James Early Massey, The Burdensome Joy of Preaching
- Donald Macleod, Priorities for the Church: Rediscovering Leadership and Vision in the Church
- Ron Klein, Journey to Excellence: What Boards and Heads of Christian Schools Need to Know to Get There
- Ben Sasse, The Vanishing American Adult: Our Coming-of-Age Crisis–and How to Rebuild a Culture of Self-Reliance
- Taylor Branch, At Canaan’s Edge: America in the King Years 1965-68
- Guy de Maupassant, Like Death
- Thomas Devonshire Hawkes, Pious Pastors: Calvin’s Theology of Sanctification and the Genevan Academy
- Sinclair B. Ferguson, Devoted to God: Blueprints for Sanctification
- Jane Harper, The Dry
- Justin Jones-Fosu, Why Matters Now
- Rosaria Champagne Butterfield, Openness Unhindered: Further Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert on Sexual Identity and Union with Christ
- Richard Baxter and W. Stuart Owen, The Ministry We Need
- John Owen, The Nature and Causes of Apostasy
- John D. Inazu, Confident Pluralism: Surviving and Thriving Through Deep Difference.
- Frances DeBra Brown, An Army in Skirts: The World War II Letters of Frances DeBra
- David Wenham, Did St Paul Get Jesus Right?
- Dale Ralph Davis, True Word for Tough Times
- Doug Serven (general editor), Heal Us, Emmanuel: A Call for Racial Reconciliation, Representation, and Unity in the Church
- Mark Jones, Knowing Christ
- Jason L. Riley, False Black Power?
- James Baldwin, Go Tell It on the Mountain
- Amy L. Wax, Race, Wrongs, and Remedies: Group Justice in the 21st Century
- John B. Boles, Jefferson: Architect of American Liberty
- Gerard Helferich, Theodore Roosevelt and the Assassin: Madness, Vengeance, and the Campaign of 1912
- Ian D. Campbell, Opening Up Matthew’s Gospel
- Mark E. Ross, Let’s Study Matthew
- J.C. Ryle, Matthew
- R.T. France, The Gospel of Matthew
- Leon Morris, The Gospel according to Matthew
- Matthew Henry, An Exposition with Practical Observations of the Gospel According to St. Matthew
- Kathryn Stockett, The Help
- Shona and David Murray, Refresh
- Ranulph Fiennes, Fear: Our Ultimate Challenge
- Kenneth J. Stewart, In Search of Ancient Roots: The Christian Past and the Evangelical Identity Crisis
- J. Cameron Fraser, Learning from Lord Mackay: Life and Work in Two Kingdoms
- Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business
- John Owen, Of Communion with God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost
- Joel R. Beeke, Puritan Evangelism: A Biblical Approach
- Alec Motyer, A Christian’s Pocket Guide to Loving the Old Testament
- Lily Koppel, The Astronaut Wives Club
- The Bible
- George Herbert, The Temple
- Diarmaid MacCulloch, The Reformation: A History
- Jean M. Twenge, iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy – and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood – and What That Means for the Rest of Us
- Seamus Heaney (translator): The Burial at Thebes: A Version of Sophocles’ Antigone
- Wilbur Ellsworth, The Power of Speaking God’s Word: How to Preach Memorable Sermons
- Andrew Purves, Pastoral Theology in the Classical Tradition
I’m delighted to participate in Jackson Public School’s Adopt-a-School Program. It gives me the opportunity to serve alongside the wonderful leaders and volunteers at Raines Elementary School, Reformed Theological Seminary’s neighbor on Flag Chapel Road. Attending this morning’s Partners in Education Awards Breakfast was Dina Brown-Owens (principal), Calandra Daniels (music teacher), Cathy Barnett (vice principal), and Kenny Bryant of the Hinds County Sheriff’s Department.
One hundred years ago today the largest man-made explosion prior to World War II devastated Halifax, Nova Scotia. Two ships collided in the harbor, one carrying 2,300 tons of wet and dry picric acid, 200 tons of TNT, 10 tons of gun cotton and 35 tons of benzol. The subsequent blast killed 1,900 people, and left 10% of the city’s population injured.
Holiday visitors to Boston enjoy the beautiful Christmas tree at the Prudential Center, an annual gift from Halifax citizens, grateful for the many Bostonians who fought their way through a raging blizzard to come to their city’s aid.
I first learned of the disaster from an obituary in a Boston area paper. The deceased lost her sight as a young child on that terrible winter day. Her face pressed against a window, she watched the ships burn. Then the explosion; a shock wave shattered thousands of windows. Shards of glass tore into her eyes. Others suffered a similar fate.
The Halifax disaster and Boston’s relief mobilization should not be forgotten.
[Sources: This summary and the CBC photos below were obtained from a link of the Nova Scotia Museum that is no longer active. Additional information about the tragedy can be found on the museum’s website and here.]