BY BENJAMIN R. LEE, Assistant Pastor of Oakwood Presbyterian
It’s that time of year again. At the beginning of every year, I find myself looking back at the books I read in the previous year and planning for the ones I want to engage with in the new year. I have a growing list of books planned for this year, and a goal for how many I hope to read. We have a lot of book worms at Oakwood, so I’m sure many of you have a similar practice at the beginning of the year. That’s why I’m giving you this list of my favorite reads from 2021. Maybe one of these will find its way on your 2022 book list!
The "Just-For-Fun" Book
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
By JK Rowling
Harry finds his way onto my list every year, and for good reason. This is the best fiction story of our generation, and it ranks right up there in history with the greats like The Lord of the Rings. Don’t @ me! It’s true. Maggie and I have just recently begun reading the series with our boys, so I’m sure you’ll see another of JK Rowling’s masterpieces again on next year’s list.
The "I’m-Telling-Everybody-About-This-Book" Book
The Puzzle of Ancient Man: Evidence for Advanced Technology in Past Civilizations
By Donald Chittick
My dad told me about this book, and I am glad he did. The title is pretty self-explanatory, but the content was fascinating. Chittick examines the architectural, engineering, and even artistic accomplishments of ancient civilizations (think Egypt), and argues that these ancient people must have had greater knowledge than we often attribute to them. For example, Egypt’s Great Pyramid is constructed of 2.3 million blocks, each of which weighs more than 1 ton. Historians estimate it took 100,000 men 20 years to build it. If those men worked 10 hour days, 365 days a year for 20 years, they would have to place 31 of those blocks each hour. And that doesn’t take into account the cutting and transportation of those blocks! Modern-day engineers estimate that with today’s modern machinery it would take 27 years just to cut the stone, let alone to build the pyramid. The book doesn’t offer more than hypotheses for how all this was accomplished, but it’s a fascinating read!
The "This-Book-Is-Important" Book
Liberty for All; Defending Everyone’s Religious Freedom in a Pluralistic Age
In recent years Christians, and other religious folks, in America have been asking a question that most of our forebearers were blessed to take for granted, "Will religious liberty endure for the next generation?" The rise of the concept of “sexual liberty” over the last 10 or so years has called this into question. As issues involving gay marriage and “trans rights” have emerged, our culture has been forced to ask how (or if) sexual freedom and religious freedom can co-exist. What we are increasingly discovering is that they cannot. One will inevitably drown the other out. This book makes the argument that for the good of the entire society religious freedom must remain our “first freedom.” Yes, this book is important. I hope you will read this book, consider its ideas, and stand for this freedom for Christians, and for people of every faith.
The "Baptism" Book
Word, Water, and Spirit: A Reformed Perspective on Baptism
Oh man, guys. This book is awesome! There are definitely a lot of folks at Oakwood who have questions about our view of baptism. Look no further! Whether you come from a Baptist background and are wanting to better understand what you’re getting yourself into at Oakwood, or you’re happily convinced on the matter and want to dive into the beauty of this sacrament, this book is for you. It is a bit on the academic side of things, but Fesko is a fabulous writer. I don’t think you’ll find it too burdensome. And if you want to skip over the historical stuff on the front end, and skip to the biblical justification for baptism and its meaning, you’ll still gain a ton! Seriously, pick this one up!
The "Theological-Mic-Drop" Book
Simply Trinity; The Unmanipulated Father, Son, and Spirit
Sometimes theologians and academic types get into biblical sparring matches that don’t matter all that much in the end. That is not the case with this book. Over the past 10 years, a significant debate has been brewing dealing directly with the nature of the Trinity. Recently, a group of theologians (Most notably Wayne Grudem, Bruce Ware, and Owen Strachan) have argued that there exists within the Trinity what they call “relations of authority and submission.” Their view is variously called “Eternal Functional Subordination” or “the Eternal Subordination of the Son.” Sometimes you see it abbreviated to EFS or ESS. It’s a highly problematic view with wide-ranging implications. First and foremost, if Christ is truly “eternally subordinate to the Father” as they argue, then he cannot be “co-equal” with God as the church has confessed since the Council of Nicea in 325 AD. This book is an attempt to call out this view for what it is: a Christological error bordering on heresy... and it’s fabulous. When I finished the book I thought to myself, “I don’t know how you could read this and still conclude ESS is legitimate. This book is Matthew Barrett’s mic drop on ESS.
The "Books-For-Dads" Books
The Boy Crisis; Why Our Boys Are Struggling and What You Can Do About It
Warren Farrell and John Gray
The Intentional Father; A Practical Guide to Raise Sons of Courage and Character
I couldn’t decide which one to recommend, so I’m just giving you both. As a dad with three boys one thing that regularly crosses my mind is how in the world I’m supposed to develop these goofy and awesome boys into men. So, I’m regularly looking for books with a bit of wisdom to offer. That said, The Boy Crisis isn’t so much advice as it is a look at why so many boys are struggling in our modern world. What makes this book so worthwhile is that after pointing out the many struggles of boys, the authors propose the research-based solution: dads. What is so remarkable about this is that these authors don’t appear to be believers. They’re just researchers who’ve picked up on something that God has written in the fabric of reality: that dads play a key role in their son’s development.
The Intentional Father is a more practical guide to raising boys. The author, Jon Tyson, is a pastor in New York and his central thesis is that developing boys into men requires more than haphazard, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants attempts. It demands intentionality. The weakness of the book is that Jon is essentially just telling us what he did, though he certainly admits that his way isn’t the only way. This book is not the silver bullet for raising boys, but I think reading what this dad did will generate both ideas and motivation. If you’re raising boys it’s worth the read!
Well, there you go! I hope you found something here worth checking out. If not, that’s okay too! Enjoy your reading in 2022, and let me know if you find a book you couldn’t put down.