Wednesday, December 17, 2014

best of 2014

Here is my very own modest contribution to the best new Christian books of 2014. Caveat: I do not read many just-published books, so it's not a long list.  And one of these books was published in 2013 (Thornbury); one is a new translation of Calvin's Institutes from 1541; and one, The Sense of Style, is not a Christian book.  So there are three new Christian books from 2014 I can recommend.  I have enjoyed all these books, though, and have included snippets of the publishers' blurbs with the titles. 





In God in the Whirlwind, Wells explores the depths of the paradox that God is both holy and loving, showing how his holy-love provides the foundation for our understanding of the cross, sanctification, the nature of worship, and our life of service in the world. What’s more, a renewed vision of God's character is the cure for evangelicalism’s shallow theology, with its weightless God and sentimental gospel.


How does the church portray the beauty of Christ?  The gospel is a theological message. But this message also creates human beauty—beautiful relationships in our churches, making the glory of Christ visible in the world today.  In this timely book, Pastor Ray Ortlund makes the case that gospel doctrine creates a gospel culture. In too many of our churches, it is the beauty of a gospel culture that is the missing piece of the puzzle. But when the gospel is allowed to exert its full power, a church becomes radiant with the glory of Christ.



Can we trust the Bible completely? Is it sufficient for our complicated lives? Can we really know what it teaches?  With his characteristic wit and clarity, award-winning author Kevin DeYoung has written an accessible introduction to the Bible that answers important questions raised by Christians and non-Christians. This book will help you understand what the Bible says about itself and the key characteristics that contribute to its lasting significance.  Avoiding technical jargon, this winsome volume will encourage you to read and believe the Bible—confident that it truly is God’s Word.


The Reformer’s 1541 French edition of his Institutes really ought to be better known than it is because it offers the reader a clear yet comprehensive account of the teaching of the Bible—of the work of Father, Son and Holy Spirit in creation, revelation and redemption, in the life of the individual Christian and in the worship and witness of the church. Here is doctrine but here too is life–shaping application, for the practical use of Christian doctrine is always Calvin’s abiding concern. The author of the Institutes invites us both to know and to live the truth, and thus allow God’s Spirit to transform us.  Robert White’s new 
translation of the 1541 French edition of the Institutes makes Calvin live once again, and the reader will be truly amazed at both the power and the relevance of the Reformer’s doctrine and application for Christian living in the 21st century.


Once upon a time, evangelicalism was a countercultural upstart movement. Positioned in between mainline denominational liberalism and reactionary fundamentalism, evangelicals saw themselves as evangelists to all of culture. Billy Graham was reaching the masses with his Crusades, Francis Schaeffer was reaching artists and university students at L’Abri, Larry Norman was recording Jesus music on secular record labels and touring with Janis Joplin and the Doors, and Carl F. H. Henry was reaching the intellectuals through Christianity Today. It was the dawn of “classic evangelicalism.” Surveying the current evangelical landscape, however, one gets the feeling that we’re backpedaling quickly. We are more theologically diffuse, culturally gun-shy, and fragmented than ever before. What has happened? And how do we find our way back? Using the life and work of Carl F. H. Henry as a key to evangelicalism’s past and a cipher for its future, this book provides crucial insights for a renewed vision of the church’s place in modern society and charts a refreshing course toward unity under the banner of “classic evangelicalism.”


In The Sense of Style, the bestselling linguist and cognitive scientist Steven Pinker rethinks the usage guide for the twenty-first century. Pinker doesn’t carp about the decline of language or recycle pet peeves from the rulebooks of a century ago. Instead, he applies insights from the sciences of language and mind to the challenge of crafting clear, coherent, and stylish prose.  In this short, cheerful, and eminently practical book, Pinker shows how writing depends on imagination, empathy, coherence, grammatical know-how, and an ability to savor and reverse engineer the good prose of others. He replaces dogma about usage with reason and evidence, allowing writers and editors to apply the guidelines judiciously, rather than robotically, being mindful of what they are designed to accomplish.






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