Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Books’

I figured I’d continue my “5 Scholars” gimmick series with some thoughts on scholars who I wish would write more for a non-academic audience.  This is a follow-up to my “Must Read” and “Good Read” lists.  Some of these guys have already written some things for a non-academic audience, but would benefit many by writing even more.  In my opinion, it takes a certain skill to write for laypeople, a skill not all Bible scholars (or scholars of any stripe) are blessed with.  These five, however, have what it takes to make it work, and I hope they do so in the future.  Anyway, without further ado, here we go.

(1) Craig Blomberg.  Blomberg is a favorite of mine.  He’s a solid Bible scholar; writes nothing flashy or earth-shattering, but consistently churns out quality books.  I’ve previously reviewed his Jesus & the Gospels and Neither Poverty Nor Riches here at BBG.  Both of these books can be read by lay people (especially the one on the Gospels), yet are bulky and detailed enough that I’m not sure many would be drawn to them.  The same goes for his The Historical Reliability of the Gospels.  Perhaps I’m wrong, but I feel like his books could be read by laypeople, but don’t target them. 

Books I’d like to see

  • Blomberg is excellent on parables, perhaps a scaled down version (i.e., not 300+ pages) of what he’s previously written
  • A lay introduction to Jesus, focusing less on scholarship and more on the Gospel accounts (maybe condense sections 3-5 of his Jesus & the Gospels)
  • Of all the scholars I read, Blomberg could pull off a Jesus/Gospels Q & A better than anyone.  I could see him sitting down in a room with 20 laypeople, answering questions in a way that would be informing and transforming.  I’d love to see him do something like this, addressing questions of interpretation, historicity, etc.  This may be something better done on his blog, but either way, I think it’d be great. 

(2) Douglas Moo.  For my money, Moo is one of the finest NT scholars out there.  I place his Romans commentary as my personal favorite, his James commentary is up there with the best, and I’d bet his Colossians/Philemon commentary is just as good.  Granted, he has written lay level commentaries on Romans and James, but I’m learning that commentaries are not as popular amongst laypeople as perhaps they once were. 

Books I’d like to see

  • An Intro to Paul, something along the lines of what Michael Bird accomplished and Anthony Thiselton tried to
  • Some of D A Carson’s best stuff are his expositions on sections of Scripture (Sermon on the Mount, for example).  I could see Moo doing something like this on a section like Romans 5-8, or maybe the intersection of faith & works.
  • I’ve heard Moo is writing a book on creation and the environment.  Again, if anyone could write a book like this detailing what the Bible teaches about God’s creation to a lay audience, I think Moo could do it.
  • A book on Bible translation.  As the chairman of the committee responsible for the upcoming NIV2011, Moo could do everyone in the church a service by writing about how translations are done, what sorts of issues are involved, why it’s more complicated than it looks, etc.

(3) Bruce Waltke.  Waltke is a gifted communicator with a passion for the church.  He openly admits that he writes for the church more so than the academy.  The only problem is that his books tend to be huge and detailed, something that makes them far less accessible to laypeople (you know, the ones who actually comprise most of the church) than to scholars &/or trained pastors.  His OT Theology weighs in at 1000+ pages (and took me forever to review), and his Proverbs commentary might be the best around, but is 2 Volumes totalling 1300+ pages.

Books I’d like to see

  • A condensed version of his OT Theology
  • A book on biblical wisdom, not so much an intro to wisdom literature, but a look at what it means to live wisely in a biblical sense in the 21st century
  • A similar book on the Psalms, what can the Psalms teach us about how we live, worship, etc.

(4) Gordon Wenham.  I feel like Wenham is often overlooked when discussing the best OT scholars out there, but if I were to list some of the best Pentateuch commentaries, he’d be near the top for Genesis, Leviticus and Numbers (the latter being one that could reach a lay audience).  He has written Exploring the Old Testament: A Guide to the Pentateuch, which could hit a lay audience if it weren’t so textbookish. 

Books I’d like to see

  • His Leviticus commentary is quite good, I wonder if he could write a book on the theme of sacrifice in the Bible, culminating in Jesus (and I’d love to hear his thoughts on Hebrews)
  • I’d love for someone to write a book taking a few major themes of the Pentateuch (3-5) and showing how they set the stage for what comes in the rest of the Bible.  I’m thinking of themes like: creation, blessing, sacrifice (see above), covenant.  Wenham would be a great scholar to write such a book, and could probably do it in a non-scholarly fashion.

(5) Peter O’Brien.  O’Brien has written some of the best Pauline commentaries out there.  His commentaries on Philippians, Colossians and Ephesians are either the best for those individual books are darn close.  It is clear he has a desire to explain the text for pastors and teachers in a way that is biblically faithful and responsible.  Yet, he’s written almost nothing for the lay person to read. 

Books I’d like to see written

  • Philippians and Ephesians both have a lot to say about the church, since O’Brien has written excellent commentaries on both, I bet he could do something along these lines
  • Moore Theological College has posted 100+ O’Brien sermons/lectures online.  Could any of these be turned into smaller books of expositions?  I’ve listened to his series on Romans 8 and I think so.
  • Like Douglas Moo above, I think he could write an excellent lay level Intro to Paul.

Is there anyone I’m missing?  Any other book ideas (which, by the way, is another post I’d like to write)?

Read Full Post »

A few days ago I wrote a post called “5 Must Read Scholars (for the non-academic),” and this is intended as a quick follow-up (that’s taken me 3 days to write).  You can call this the “honorable mention” list, the “B-Team,” the “JV Squad,” etc.  I’d like to follow this up with a list of scholars I wish would write for a non-academic audience, but that probably won’t happen for a few weeks as I’ll be off the radar for a while.  Anywho, see my previous post if you want to know my angle on this.  Without further ado…

(1) Craig Keener.  Of the 5 on this list, Keener was the hardest for me to leave off the original.  Part of this is because he’s a great scholar.  His knowledge of ancient backgrounds is simply astounding (though he can overdo this and include much that is less relevant, such as in his large Matthew commentary).  But what I appreciate about him the most is his humility.  Keener sees himself primarily as a servant of the church.  I was hooked just reading the dedication page of his Bible Background Commentary on the New Testament, which is dedicated to those working on the “frontlines” of ministry and do not have the time to research historical and cultural backgrounds to the Bible.  Keener isn’t simply amassing knowledge to write books; he’s dispensing it for the benefit of the church.  (I should also mention, he fits firmly in the Pentecostal/Charismatic camp and, thus, I have a soft spot for him.)

If you want a feel for his humility, check out these two interviews: with Matt at Broadcast Depth and with Nijay Gupta (Part I and Part II).

Layperson reading suggestions:

Academic reading suggestions:

(2) Douglas Stuart.  I need to give a shout-out to one of my former profs.  Stuart is an excellent combination of scholarly rigor and pastoral sensitivity, and I’m privileged to say I’ve learned from him firsthand.  One top of the “How to Read the Bible…” books he’s coauthored with Gordon Fee, Stuart has written a couple commentaries for both pastors and scholars (and the mix, of course), as well as an excellent book on OT exegesis.  While I’m here, I might as well plug (once again) his OT Survey course, available for free at Bible Training. 

Layperson reading suggestions:

Academic reading suggestions:

(3) Darrell Bock.  In my last post, Nick mentioned Bock as another option, and I heartily agree.  His massive 2-volume Luke commentary is outstanding, and has written 2 shorter ones that would be great for laypeople.  One main reason he didn’t make my first list is that I haven’t read a ton of his stuff, so I can’t speak first hand about everything (maybe Nick can chime in if he reads this).  Nonetheless, the stuff he has written on the popular level, specifically dealing with the trustworthiness of the biblical Gospels, would benefit anyone who reads them.

Layperson reading suggestions:

Academic reading suggestions:

(4) Tremper Longman III.  Longman is an excellent OT scholar and widely respected.  Some of his more popular level stuff I haven’t read, though IVP sent me How to Read Exodus a while back and it looks helpful.  Again, I think I appreciate his desire to communicate effectively with non-scholars, so I’m including him on this list.

Layperson reading suggestions:

Academic reading suggestions:

(5) George Eldon Ladd.  Ladd may seem like an odd choice here, and not just because he’s the only deceased scholar on either list, but his inclusion is definitely deliberate.  Given all the confusion regarding eschatology in the church, I think it is important to read solid biblical scholarship on the issue (part of why I recommended N T Wright on my first post).  Greg Beale is also good here, but I think Ladd’s influence is greater than many realize.  I see bits of his work on eschatology and the kingdom in many different places, from scholars like Gordon Fee & Craig Blomberg to men like John Wimber.  Someday, when I have a year with nothing to do (read: never), I’d love to do a side-by-side reading of George Ladd and N T Wright.  Between the two of them, I think you can end up with a pretty solid view of God’s ultimate plan of redemption.

Layperson reading suggestions:

Academic reading suggestions:

Is there anyone else I’m missing?

Read Full Post »

A conversation over at Marcus’ blog reminded me of a post I’ve been meaning to write for some time.  I’ve wanted to do a list of must-read scholars for a while, but have never been sure how to approach it.  Do I do a list of the best?  Most influential?  Most interesting?  Do I restrict it to OT scholars?  NT scholars?  Theologians?  Do I go completely subjective and list my favorites, or do I include those with whom I’m less enamored?  Will anyone even care about my stupid list?  These are the questions in my mind…

I’ve opted to consider my main audience for this blog: the average churchgoer.  I know people from my church read this blog who are not academically trained but are still interested in learning from Bible scholars.  They may not know Greek and Hebrew, but they desire to glean from the insights of those who do.  So I’ve decided to tailor this list to this (somewhat imaginary) group.  Because of this, I will leave off scholars who have made a major impact on scholarship but are less helpful to the layperson (the Rudolf Bultmann types).  I’m also sticking to my area of “expertise” (if I may be permitted a moment of hubris), which mostly NT & OT scholarship (so no systematic theologians).  The list is presented in no particular order.

Allow me to make a couple other notes:

  • I’m weighing more heavily toward the NT side of things.  This is for 2 main reasons: 1) I know NT scholarship better than I do OT scholarship, and 2) most of my favorite OT scholars have written little for the layperson in mind (I’m thinking of Gordon Wenham and guys like that). 
  • I’ll give a couple reading recommendations for each scholar, in case my reader(s) want(s) to dig deeper.
  • The scholars on this list are invited to mention their inclusion on their resume or CV.  You’re welcome. 
  • If you think this is just an excuse to talk about scholars and books, you know me very well.  =)

(1) Gordon Fee.  Come on, if you’ve been reading this blog for more than 5 seconds you knew Fee was making the cut.  In fact, I’d have to turn in my charismatic membership card if I didn’t include him.  I appreciate any man who writes the book on exegesis, but insists that exegesis is merely the first step in applying the Bible to the life of the church.  I also appreciate any scholar whose lectures are more like sermons.  I heard a line from his daughter, theologian Cherith Fee Nordling, about Fee that sums up what I appreciate about him (paraphrase): my father loves the Lord and loves the Bible, but never in reverse order. 

Layperson reading suggestions:

Academic reading suggestions:

(2) Christopher J H Wright.  It’s funny, 6 months ago I may not have included Wright.  But the more I read his stuff, the more I want to give him a high-five (see my previous post for an indication).  In some ways, he’s an interesting bird- how many OT scholars are also missiologists?  A Cambridge PhD who trained church planters in India and now heads up John Stott’s ministry organization?  This is my kind of guy. 

Layperson reading suggestions:

Academic reading suggestions

(3) Richard Bauckham.  Bauckham has actually written less for the layperson than the rest of the scholars on this list, but I wanted to include him anyway because he’s one of the few scholars refered to as “groundbreaking” that may actually deserve the title.  Mind you, no one is really groundbreaking.  When I mentioned in a class at my church that Bauckham had written a book defending the eyewitness connection to the Gospels, I was met with “no duh” stares.  It’s not his conclusion that is groundbreaking, it’s the manner in which he makes his case that sets him apart from so many others.  Bauckham is the toughest read on this list, but may well be worth the trouble.

Reading suggestions

(4) D A Carson.  This is not Carson’s first appearance on this blog.  There are few scholars who have made so much of their work accessible to the church, as you can see here on his resource page at The Gospel Coaltion website.  This son of a church planter in French Canada has planted churches, travels around the world every year speaking in churches and conferences, teaches and advises students, yet still finds time to write somewhere around a million books a year.  He cranks out a book faster than I write a blog post.  If I had to pick one scholar on this list for the average layperson to read I think Carson would be it, not because he’s the best scholar but because he does the best job of communicating to the audience I’m aiming for.  Note: this list of books is highly selective, there are many more I could include.

Layperson reading suggestions

Academic reading suggestions

(5) N T Wright.  I’ll confess, I’ve been debating whether or not I should include Wright on this list.  If we’re talking about most interesting, he’d easily make the list.  Everything he writes is worth reading, even if he’s dead wrong (note, over 1100 people went to a conference at Wheaton centering on Wright’s scholarship).  Wright is brilliant- sometimes brilliantly right, and sometimes brilliantly wrong.  I’ve put it this way: Wright is a classic pendulum swinger.  He’ll notice an over-emphasis on something, then in attempt to correct this problem he’ll go too far in his emphasis.  If you know that going in, you’ll do well in reading him.  Anyway, I love reading his stuff, but you must always read with discernment.

Layperson reading suggestions

Academic reading suggestions

So there’s my list; maybe on another post I can give my “near miss” category (I’m at 1300+ words already though).  I’d love to hear thoughts from others out there, either about the people on this list or others you think should be included.

Read Full Post »

Being Conformed to Christ in Community: A Study of Maturity, Maturation and the Local Church in the Undisputed Pauline Epistles, by James Samra.  This book is the published version of Jim Samra’s Oxford dissertation in the Library of New Testament Studies series.  Full disclosure: Samra is the senior pastor of a church in Michigan, where my wife’s uncle also pastors.  He (my uncle-in-law) is the one who gave me this book because he thought I’d be interested, and he was right.  It is a rare dissertation that makes me say, “this would make a great teaching in the church.”  In fact, I think some of this work might show up in his upcoming release, The Gift of the Church Being Conformed to Christ in Community is a bit dissertationy, which keeps it from being ideal for church goers, but the fruit of Samra’s labor begs to be distilled in a more popular format.  For Samra, the process of maturation is the process of being conformed to the image of Christ, and this process is intended to be lived out and aided by life in the local church (note the emphasis on ‘process’).  To give a taste, Samra sees 5 components to the process of maturity: 1) identifying with Christ; 2) enduring suffering; 3) experiencing the presence of God; 4) receiving and living out wisdom from God; and 5) imitating a godly example (p168).  While this book showcases Samra’s skills as a New Testament scholar, I was more blessed by his obviously pastoral concern for the church.  I look forward to his next book.

Jesus in a New Age, Dalai Lama World: Defending and Sharing Christ with Buddhists, by M. Tsering.  I remember hearing an Asian pastor once say “it is 10 times harder for a Buddhist to come to Christ than a Muslim.”  The opinion was obviously observational, and perhaps hyperbolic, but gets at a major issue in sharing Christ with a Buddhist: the Buddhist worldview is far removed from a Christian one.  This book deals specifically with Tibetan Buddhism, which is, in many ways, quite removed from the earliest (some might say ‘purist’) forms of Buddhism.  Tsering gives an overview of the religious history of Tibet, showing the movement from early shamanism to modern Tibetan Buddhism, which is essentially a combination of Buddhism and shamanism.  He surveys the worldview of Tibetan Buddhists and the struggles of reaching them with the gospel (both historically and strategically).  There are wonderfully helpful tidbits throughout the book.  Anyone interested in the intersection between Buddhism and Christianity, or even in cross-cultural missions more broadly, would benefit from reading this book.

Read Full Post »

A Call to Spiritual Reformation: Priorities from Paul and His Prayers.  I’m slowly but surely making my way through many of D A Carson’s books.  It is a rare skill to be exegetical and devotional in the same book, or even on the same page, yet Carson pulls it off.  This book came at just the right time, as I need a pick-me-up in the prayer department.  It’s interesting, and a bit disheartening, to see how little we allow Scripture to shape our prayers.  While this book doesn’t answer every question regarding prayer, it does provide a biblical framework with which to start, and contains numerous bits of practical advice along the way.  My wife is currently reading this as well, and has also benefitted greatly from it.  I’ve quoted from this book once in a previous post.

Paul, the Spirit and the People of God.  Have you ever had a book that you’ve never read from beginning to end, but probably read the whole thing in chunks over a long period of time (for many of us, that’s the Bible)?  That was me and this Gordon Fee book, until recently.  I finally made the time to read through the whole thing, and I’m glad I did.  Stemming from his work in God’s Empowering Presence, which is 900+ pages of detailed exegesis and theological reflection, Fee offers this manageable 200ish page volume.  I think this would make an excellent book for a small group to study if they are interested in learning more about the Holy Spirit in Paul’s letters (and in the NT as a whole).  Much of the church today lacks a robust understanding of the Spirit, including my own charismatic circles.  It will be hard to read this book and not be challenged to see just how central the Spirit is to biblical theology and practice.  From eschatology to ethics to spiritual gifts, Fee does a tremendous job of making accessible what a lifetime of research has taught him.

From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya.  We read this Ruth Tucker book (affectionately known as FJ2IJ) in our missions training school.  It is, as the subtitle indicates, a biographical history of missions.  Tucker runs through the history of missions by looking at various important figures, with some historical setting for a little context.  Reader beware- she pulls no punches.  The history of Christian missions is mixed with triumph and failure, and she’ll let you know about it.

Read Full Post »

From time to time I’ll post short thoughts on books that I’ve read but don’t want to review for some reason.  Hope you find it helpful.

Old Testament Theology: A Thematic Approach, by Robin Routledge.  IVP sent me a copy of this book, which came out in 2008.  It’s a decent overview of OT Theology, offering thoughts on the variety of themes that pop up throughout the OT (as the subtitle indicates).  If you are looking for one OT Theology to study, this would not be my first choice (perhaps Waltke, or Stephen Dempster’s, which I haven’t read but heard is good).  Routledge gives a solid overview of differing views, perhaps to the detriment of coming down hard one a particular position.  Students will appreciate the footnotes; he gives page numbers for every major OT Theology written to go with each section he is discussing.  All in all, it’s okay, but not my first choice.  Had a thought after I posted this.  Routledge doesn’t show any of the exegesis that goes into his views, which factors into my assessment.  I like to see the exegetical work behind the conclusions, which is one reason why I like Waltke’s book so much.  It’s also interesting given that Routledge has not produced any major commentaries on OT books, unlike Waltke, Brueggemann and others.  At least those authors could say, “check out my commentary for more.”

The Surprising Work of God: Harold Ockenga, Billy Graham and the Rebirth of Evangelicalism, by Garth Rosell.  I read this for my church history class and really liked it.  Dr Rosell is writing as someone who witnessed a lot of the events he writes about and people he knew, as his father was a well known evangelist during the revivals in the 50’s.  I was inspired by the faith of the people involved in the early days of modern evangelicalism,  Rosell offers more on Ockenga than Graham, which I was thankful for, since Ockenga is less well known these days than Billy Graham.

The Cross and Christian Ministry: Leadership Lessons from 1 Corinthians, by D A Carson.  I know, I know, 2 Carson mentions in one day.  I actually read this book last year, but forgot it for my Top 5 of 2009.  It definitely would have made that list had I remembered (and I’d probably not cheat and have Block’s Ezekiel commentary).  I actually think this is the kind of book where Carson is at his best; he offers solid and insightful exegesis alongside convicting thoughts on how we can apply the text to our lives and the church.  There is no doubt that the cross was central to Paul and his ministry; Carson helps us follow that pattern with this book.  Anyone in ministry should read this book.

Read Full Post »

Book Giveaway at Kingdom People

(Yeah, I know, it’s been slow around here and I”m cheating by linking to other places.  Sorry.)

Trevin Wax, who has been mentioned previously on this site, is having a book giveaway over at his blog, Kingdom People.  You have the opportunity to win 10 books (Trevin’s Top 10 of 2009) along with his soon-to-be released book and an ESV Study Bible.  Click through on the link and check it out.

Read Full Post »

I’m going to be honest: I don’t feel like I read as many good books this year as I did last year.  My guess is that’s due largely to having a baby in April; less time = fewer books, unless you count Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See.  When I did this list last year, I had to think about how to narrow down my number to 5.  This year, I’m pushing it to get to 5.  Anyway, here goes.  Like last year, books on this list may not have been published in 2009 (I don’t have time to keep that up-to-date), but that I first read it this year.  Here we are, in no particular order:

The Epic of Eden, by Sandra Richter

Okay, I lied about the whole “no particular order” thing.  This was my favorite new read of 2009.  Simply put, this is the best book that I’ve read geared towards lay people that clearly explains the often foreign world of the Old Testament.  As I said in my review, “One gets the sense that she’s explained these things in non-academic settings before.”  My biggest complaint now is trying to find a way to fit it into an already jammed packed training school curriculum.

Introducing Paul, by Michael Bird

This is another book written by a biblical scholar but can be read by non-scholars.  I mentioned Bird’s wit in my review, as well as in a video, and it helps liven up the book considerably.  There are a million books out there on Paul, but few that lay out the issues so clearly as this one.  Bird isn’t content to focus merely on academic debates, but can get practical as well.  I look forward to what this young scholar will be offering down the road, and I hope he continues writing books on this level as well as his more in-depth academic treatments.

The Revelation of Saint John, by Ian Boxall

After reading this book, I finally felt like I had found a commentary on Revelation I could recommend to people in my church.  Let me be clear, that doesn’t mean it’s always easy.  By its very nature any commentary on Revelation will be a bit difficult to wade through.  But time and time again I felt like Boxall took a position and explained it clearly and concisely.  By the end of it I found myself wishing he had more space.  One of Boxall’s strength is the use of Ezekiel in Revelation, which has inspired me to study Ezekiel more in-depth than I ever had before (I’m actually following through on what I wrote in my review of this book).  At any rate, this is my favorite non-technical commentary on Revelation.

The Book of Ezekiel: Chapters 1-24, by Daniel Block

Okay, I’m cheating a bit here.  One, I haven’t actually finished this book.  Two, it was published 12 years ago (hence my “not necessarily published in 2009” caveat above).  Block’s 2-volume commentary has been regarded by many evangelical scholars as the best commentary on Ezekiel since it came out.  As mentioned above, Boxall on Revelation inspired me to study Ezekiel more deeply, so I used some gift cards to get Block’s commentary.  I’m so thankful I did, as it has been a reliable (and enjoyable) guide to this often confusing OT prophet.

We Become What We Worship, by Gregory Beale

I think I have to include this one, since I did a 5-Part book review of it.  I had my disagreements with Beale’s exegesis at points, thinking that he stretched a bit to fit things under his thesis.  But still, I came away with a stronger sense of the Bible’s teaching on idolatry and how it destroys our worship of our God.  Tough reading at points, but worth the time and effort.

Honorable Mention

The Book of Basketball, by Bill Simmons

Okay, this is definitely cheating.  But, this is Boston Bible Geeks, and Bill Simmons is known as the Boston Sports Guy.  Maybe there aren’t that many people who would read a 700 page book on the NBA, and even fewer who would do it in a weekend, but I’m one of them.  The problems with Simmons: juvenile humor and an overload of soon-to-be-outdated pop culture references (which I’m sure will be his excuse to update this book every 5-10 years to sell more copies).  The upside: well, he writes about sports and entertains while he does it.  I’m a sucker for sports history- comparing eras, taking on longheld myths, arguing about which players are the best and who’s overrated.  Sure, Simmons is gimmicky and overplays his “I’m just an average fan” hand.  (He brags about how he pays for his season tickets instead of using a press pass- big deal when you make a ton of money and have the time to go to all those games.)  But, he does take the discussions that many of us “regular” fans have and turns them into columns and books, and manages to do it reasonably well.  He isn’t for everybody, but for the younger generation of  Boston sports fans, well, we’re obligated to read him.

How about you?  I’d love to hear some thoughts from our reader(s) regarding what new reads they’d recommend for us.

Read Full Post »

Some of the most frequently asked questions I receive about this site are regarding book reviews.  How did we get started?  Why do we do it?  Do publishers really send you stuff for free?  Stuff like that.

I’ve been mulling over a post such as this for a while, but didn’t feel like anyone would actually be interested in reading a post about book reviews.  But, a recent ruling by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) does impact this blog a little bit and is receiving some discussion throughout the internet.  I’ll comment more on it later, but basically the issue is one of compensation.  The FTC has declared that if a blog writer receives compensation (either payment or the book for free), they must declare so in their review.  Brian and I do fall under the category of compensated individuals, so in the interest of integrity, I feel it’s important to comment here.  Brian may add some of his own thoughts, either in the comments below or in his own post.

Let’s proceed, Q & A style:

Q. How did you get started writing reviews?

A. For me it was purely by chance.  You can read about it here at my old blog.  In a nutshell, I randomly happened upon a free copy of the Reader’s Hebrew Bible to review, and a guy named Chris at Zondervan agreed to send along Bruce Waltke’s An Old Testament Theology as well.

Q. How do you get publishers to send you books?

A. I ask.  It’s really as simple as that.  I write them, tell them who I am and why I want to review a particular book.  Sometimes they send it, sometimes they don’t.  That’s about it.  A couple publishers now send me books without me asking.

Q. Do you review all books you receive?

A. Not necessarily.  Any book that I request, I will review.  That’s part of the deal.  If a publisher decides to send a book along without my initiation, I feel no obligation to review the book.  I sometimes do, but the bottom line is that there’s only so much time in the day.

Q. Do you really read all the books you review?

A. Yes.  That’s actually why it takes so long sometimes.  I don’t want to review a book if I haven’t actually spent the time to work through it.  I feel like it’s a matter of integrity to read what I review.  The last thing I want is to mislead anyone with a review because of superficial reading on my part.

Q. Does the fact you receive a book from a publisher influence you to give a positive review?

A. The cynical reader might think we’re only being nice to publishers because they send us books.  The answer is actually quite simple: we generally give positive reviews because we pick the books we want to review.  It’s not like reviewing books is our job.  It is something we do on the side.  Naturally, since we only have so much time, we lean towards reading books we think we’ll like.  Also, and perhaps even more importantly, we tend to focus on books we think will be helpful to the church.  That means we aren’t going to request a book we think will be awful.  There have been books I’ve requested and was a bit disappointed in, but none I thought were awful.  My reviews reflect that.  But the bottom line is this: we request, read and review books we think we’re going to like and will be helpful to the church. We may pick a book that falls in the “stay away” category and thus give a negative review, but we won’t intentionally request such a book from a publisher.

Q. Will you change anything regarding after reading the new FTC Guidelines?

A. It’d help if I finished reading the 81-page document first (pdf here)!  I think there are 2 things going on here that are related to reviewing books here on BBG.  First, if a reviewer receives compensation they must acknowledge that in their review.  This is something we already do.  At the beginning of every review, we say something along the lines of this: Thanks to (person’s name) of (publisher) for a review copy of this book. Then sometimes we follow that up with an apology for taking so long (ahem, Brian).  As far as I can tell, this is what the FTC wants.  If we find out otherwise, we will make the adjustments accordingly.  We do not receive any money for these reviews.  The free book itself is considered, rightly so in my opinion, compensation.  We’re happy to acknowledge this.

Second, according to this interview with a member of the FTC, providing a link to Amazon under the Amazon Affiliates program may be problematic.  I’m not sure if we’d have to do anything more than what we’d already be doing.  Truth be told, I’m not sure we actually use our Amazon Affiliates link very often.  I don’t even know how to do it, and it’s not like Brian is my blog-maid who follows behind me to tidy up.  Anyway, I don’t think it’ll be an issue because we’re acknowledging that we have received a book for free.

Q. Why do you review books?

A. We touch on this a bit on our Book Review page.  A major goal of BBG is to help Christians and churches learn the Bible and learn how to apply it better.  Sometimes that takes the form of a post on a particular passage, sometimes we provide a link to something we found helpful on the internet, and sometimes we review books.  Some of these book reviews are geared towards laypeople, while there are a few of more academic books that would be more likely useful to pastors and students.  Either way, we hope that by reviewing books, we are assisting our readers in making fruitful choices in their book purchasing/reading.  There are a lot of books out there, and the number is growing fast.  It can be helpful to have someone help point the way to a useful resource.  Hopefully we accomplish this.

Read Full Post »

My wife, daughter and I just returned from a little vacation in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where we visited some family and had a wonderful time.  I had a little extra excitement leading up to this trip beyond seeing family and spending a few days in a lakeside cottage.  In a nutshell, discounted books.

I’ve heard that many publishers have bookstores where they sell “damaged” books at massive discounts.  These damaged books generally have something like a ding in the binding, nothing destructive.  Anyway, both Baker and Eerdmans have such stores, and I was happy to use my $50 VISA gift card I received for Christmas.  So, in a completely selfish and unedifying post, here’s the rundown of what I picked up.

1.  On the Reliability of the Old Testament, by Kenneth Kitchen.  This is one of those books that’s been on my “to buy” list for some time, but other books would creep ahead of it for one reason or another.  Kitchen is a master of the Ancient Near East and ancient Egypt and brings a wealth of knowledge to the study of the Old Testament.  I’m trying to increase my understanding of the world of the Old Testament, and can’t think of a more exhaustive resource than this one.

2.  The Presence of the Future, by George Eldon Ladd.  Ladd is one of the most influential scholars in the study of eschatology, if not the most influential.  I’ve made eschatology a pet topic of mine, largely because it is either ignored or taught poorly in churches.  I’ve received the benefits of Ladd’s works second hand through the writings of others, I’m looking forward to learning straight from the man himself.

3.  Jesus and the God of Israel, by Richard Bauckham.  I’ll admit, this book was a completely selfish purchase.  Sure, I’ll find a way to make it useful in my teaching, but it won’t have as much direct influence as the other books.  Bottom line: Bauckham is an outstanding scholar and his books are always worth reading.  This particular book focuses on monotheism and New Testament Christology.  This book expands on his earlier God Crucified, which is a favorite of mine.

4.  The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, by Mark Noll.  This is one of those books that I’ve seen quoted and referenced time and time again, but haven’t managed to get my hands on a copy.  Basically, Noll laments the lack of an evangelical intellect.  Or, to put it his way, “the scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind.”  I’m looking forward to reading this book by one of the top evangelical thinkers and historians around.

5.  Showing the Spirit, by D A Carson.  Carson has released a few “expositions” of select passages in the New Testament.  This particular book is on 1 Corinthians 12-14, or the “spiritual gifts” chapters.  As one who fits broadly into the charismatic world, yet is concerned with exegetical precision, I’m always looking to refine my understanding of these important chapters.  I’ve referred to this book in small chunks in the past; I’m looking forward to learning from Carson.

So there you go.  In case you’re wondering, I didn’t even spend my entire $50.  You just can’t beat that.

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »