Summer Summaries – 2017 Reading Project

Playing catch up again with reviews of books I’ve read for the 2017 Reading Challenge. Summer has been great for providing reading time but not so much with writing time. But here’s where I’ve had my nose buried lately!

“Onward” by Russell Moore

Book 25: A book about Christian living

Dr. Moore is a truly prophetic voice in our generation, and this is among his best work. As usual, his writing both challenges and convicts as he calls Christians to engage the culture winsomely but effectively. To do this, we must “keep Christianity strange,” avoiding the temptation to become conformed to a world that is increasingly antagonistic toward our faith. But we must also avoid the opposite error of conflating the gospel with either social justice or political action. For many, the first introduction to the leader of our denomination’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission was his outspoken criticism of then-candidate Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign. His rhetoric is often biting, and certainly a departure from that of the “Moral Majority” that defined conservative evangelical political activism for a generation. Yet every word he said during the campaign is consistent with what he had written in this book about the importance of character, integrity, and gospel clarity trumping (no pun intended) whatever social/political goals we may have. I, for one, believe that the trail Moore is blazing for the future of evangelical cultural engagement is exactly what we need to succeed in post-Christian America, despite the toes which may be stepped on along the way, and I highly recommend this book for all believers. Pick up your copy here.

“Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand

Book 26: A book about the second world war

The first time I encountered the name Louis Zamperini was several years ago while reading George Beverly Shea’s 1968 autobiography Then Sings My Soul, in a list of notable converts from early Billy Graham crusades. This biography of the former Olympic athlete and Army Air Force veteran is one of the greatest stories I’ve ever read. Zamperini’s life contained more than enough tragedy and suffering to break nearly anyone. He truly endured some of the worst depths of depravity of which mankind is capable, and yet emerged “unbroken” though not unscathed. While his sufferings took him to the brink of sanity, his encounter with the Gospel bought his redemption, and led to a long life, lived well. I understand the movie based on this book is excellent, though I’ve heard it downplays the religious elements of his story. I’ll be checking that out soon, I hope. And I hope you’ll check out this former #1 New York Times Bestseller here.

c10832“The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis

Book 27: A book for children or teens

Nate and I are continuing to work our way through the Chronicles of Narnia this summer. It’s such a joy to watch him learn to love these books that I’ve enjoyed so much over the years. Thus far, this has been his favorite book of the series, as it remains mine.

By the way, though the edition we’re reading together (we LOVE this complete collection illustrated by Pauline Baynes) has the stories in chronological order (with The Magician’s Nephew first), we’re reading them in the order of publication, which I still stubbornly insist is the proper way to read them.

“13 Hours” by Mitchell Zuckoff

Book 28: A book based on a true story

This “inside account of what really happened in Benghazi” is a fascinating and excellently written retelling of the events of September 11, 2012, at the U.S. diplomatic consulate and CIA Annex in northeastern Libya. While the CIA, the Obama administration, and the Hillary Clinton campaign have vehemently denied the veracity of this book, it definitely seems to have the ring of truth. Zuckoff cites many sources, nearly all of whom are decorated heroes who have gone on record stating their name and reputation on the testimony contained in this book, as well as in Congressional hearings. Their detractors don’t exactly have the best track record when it comes to telling the truth, either… Regardless, it was an enjoyable read. I watched the movie as well, after finishing the book. As usual, I greatly preferred the book (get it here), though I did appreciate the visual reference of the appearance and layout of the compounds.

“Watchmen” by Alan Moore, illustrated by Dave Gibbons

Book 29: A graphic novel

Chalk this up as a book I definitely would have never read had it not been for my goal of reading more broadly by using the categories provided by Tim Challies in this year’s reading challenge. Having never read (or even though about reading) a graphic novel, I didn’t even know where to begin. When I googled “best graphic novels of all time”, this one was near the top of every list I saw. I also learned it was the only graphic novel to have been included in TIME’s 100 best novels of all time. When the blurb/endorsement on the cover from a prominent reviewer read “if you’ve never read a graphic novel, start here” I figured that was me, so I did. And while I can see why this book is so well regarded—Moore’s character development is truly brilliant, and the story is very unique and well told—I can’t say that I really enjoyed it. Not to take anything away from the enjoyment of others… it’s just not my cup of tea. If this is the “best” the genre has to offer, I probably won’t be spending much more time in the Graphic Novels section at McKay’s.

“Life on the Mississippi” by Mark Twain

Book 30: A memoir or autobiography

I’ve always been a lover of Twain’s writing. Years ago I gobbled up all his novels I could get my hands on, and later learned to love his satirical writing as well. But I’d never before read this account of his early life spent as a steamboat pilot navigating up and down the Mississippi River, which became the source material for a lot of what he wrote in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. While the writing is perhaps not as polished as his later work, it was still a thoroughly enjoyable read on a hot summer’s day.

“131 Christians Everyone Should Know” ed. by Mark Galli

Book 31: A book about church history

There is a lot to like about this book. The short (2-3 pages each) biographies of so many different people makes each entry a quick easy read… pretty much an ideal “bathroom book”. The timeline in the front of the book helps to place each historical figure in context. I learned a lot of interesting facts about some of the more obscure figures, and even a few new things about some men and women about whom I’ve read and studied much before. But that also leads to the book’s weaknesses. It sometimes makes me nervous to “learn” new things about people I’ve studied before, particularly when nothing in the book has citations which would allow me to verify and learn more about those things which most interested me. Still, despite some shortcomings, this book will be a good reference book and introduction to history, and will come in handy in the homeschooling of our children, particularly as the Classical Conversations method which we use is so heavily dependent on timelines. It’s no substitute for more scholarly and detailed works of Christian history, but is a great introductory book. Grab yours here.

Reflections on the Trayvon Martin Shooting

Unlike seemingly everyone on the planet, I didn’t follow the details of the George Zimmerman trial at all while it was going on. Other than a vague awareness of the fact that the trial was taking place, I just wasn’t paying attention. Maybe I should have been, but the spin and the anger and the speculation turned me off to the whole ordeal. As with other high-profile trials  in the last few years, I decided to wait until the evidence had all been presented and a verdict reached before going back to review the case and form my own opinion.

I had not planned to write anything about the case, since there’s already been so much said, but considering I’ve already posted some other responses to the H&L Facebook page, I suppose I’ve “entered the fray” after all. So here are a few reflections on a trial that has captured the passions of the nation.

The Shooting Was a Tragedy

While it seems this ought to be the one thing everyone could agree on, that’s apparently not the case. I’ve seen several variations of “he had it coming” on social and national media, and that’s a real shame. Let’s not lose sight of the fact that a young man who was made in the image of God is dead.

“Stand Your Ground” Is a Good Law

While it is certainly debatable whether or not this law is applicable in the Zimmerman/Martin case (it was not part of the defense’s case), it’s the right law. People have a fundamental human right to defend themselves and others from a determined attacker. I am thankful to live in a state that recognizes that right. I certainly hope that I will never be in a situation that would require me to defend myself or my family, but you better believe that if we ever were in real danger, the choice between my kids and the bad guy would be an easy one.

Race Is Still An Issue

Another observation that ought to be filed under “obvious”, but it’s worth acknowledging. Maybe Zimmerman’s initial actions were racially motivated. Maybe they weren’t. Regardless, this trial has sparked a national discussion on racial profiling, something that really exists no matter how much some might like to deny it.

Twenty years before George Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin, Michael W. Smith wrote these words in a song on one of the favorite albums of my childhood:

Somebody’s just assuming
He’s up to nothing good
‘Cause he’s not like the others
There goes the neighborhood
What kind of world are we living in
We judge a man by the tone of his skin
It’s crazy

It’s one thing to say (particularly as a WASP) that Smith was right and that we should all be “Color Blind”. It’s another thing entirely to ignore the fact that, while we’ve certainly made much progress, racism is still alive and unwell in this country. And I’m not giving minorities a pass here. Racism goes both ways.

But I can’t know what it’s like to be a black person in America. When our President says that most African-Americans know what it’s like to be followed just because they are black, I’m inclined to believe him. And for those who are disinclined to believe anything our President says, here’s conservative Christian Trip Lee saying the same thing. I have no frame of reference for beginning to understand how that feels, but when I see things like this video, contrived as it might be, it just makes me angry:

We still have a lot of hard conversations ahead of us in this country to work toward racial reconciliation. We need to be able to have those conversations with hearts and minds open. We need to remember that the only solution to the root of racial tensions is the gospel.

There Are Many Definitions of the Word “Fact”

I am convinced that one of the main reasons people are so divided over this case has to do with where they get their news. It’s so hard to find any semblance of objectivity in today’s news outlets! We expect subjectivity in editorial content, but it all too often appears in reports of so-called “facts” as well.

For example, compare the following two articles:

Both of these articles claim to report the facts. One is from a left-leaning MSM outlet, the other is a right-wing blog. Both resort to a little editorializing, even in the selection of which facts get reported, which can paint a very different picture of a man.

CNN includes details about George Zimmerman’s wife being arrested and charged with perjury for falsifying financial reports during bail bond proceedings. American Thinker includes details about prior crime, and the reasons Zimmerman joined the neighborhood watch in the first place. CNN says that Zimmerman followed Martin “against the advice of the 911 dispatcher,” though it is unclear exactly what happened at that moment, without any eyewitnesses. American Thinker invites readers to “do the math” to determine what Martin must have been doing during times unaccounted for, again without eyewitnesses to confirm whatever suspicions the reader may adduce.

In all my reading this week, the best summary of the case I’ve encountered came from a surprising source, Slate.com’s William Saletan. His article “You Are Not Trayvon Martin” is definitely worth a read. Saletan originally intended to write an article accusing Zimmerman of racial profiling and vigilantism, but after carefully reviewing the details of the case, he realized he “had been wrong about many things.”

He concludes that Martin and Zimmerman both made mistakes that night that led to the tragic shooting, and I think he’s right. I also agree with him that…

George Zimmerman Was a Reckless Fool

Zimmerman had every reason to be suspicious of strangers in his neighborhood after a spat of crimes, but I believe his suspicions got the better of him. Neighborhood watch programs can be great tools for reducing crime, and it is admirable to be concerned for the safety of your neighbors, as Zimmerman was. But to follow and report on the movements of a suspicious person—particularly one who has not been observed in the commission of any crime—goes beyond the role of a neighborhood watch member, even a block captain.

Hindsight is 20/20, of course, but had Zimmerman merely phoned the police and continued on his way home—perhaps even calling some of his neighbors to warn them to also keep an eye open—the fatal encounter would never have happened. I don’t think he was out looking for a fight,but though he is not the one who initiated the physical confrontation, his actions did result in an unnecessary death. That said…

The Jury Reached the Right Verdict

Foolishness is not illegal. Once Trayvon Martin started beating him up, Zimmerman was within his legal rights to defend himself, with lethal force if necessary (which it very well may have been). But there was no evidence to find beyond a reasonable doubt that his intent was to harm Martin or to provoke him into a confrontation. In fact, I think there was strong evidence to support Zimmerman’s account of the events of that night. Once Martin began assaulting him, Zimmerman was left with few options. But he was only in that position as the result of poor choices made by both men. Again, as Saletan says, don’t “confuse acquittal with vindication.”

So Where Do We Go From Here?

Honestly, I don’t know. But I do know that efforts to politicize this event one way or another are despicable, and oversimplifying the case to the point where one man is completely innocent and the other completely guilty is naïve. I can’t begin to tell non-Christians how to process this trial, but for those who are believers, two of my seminary professors have very wise counsel on the matter.

Russell Moore, whose Ethics course I took earlier this year at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, recently re-posted a great article (which I shared on this blog when it originally appeared two years ago) about the role of the gospel in fighting racial injustice. As the new president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, Moore is one of the leading Southern Baptist voices on ethical issues, and I think he is right to focus on racial justice.

Al Mohler, the president of SBTS, has also published a wise and compassionate article that reminds us of the central tragedy of the case and the immensity of the challenge that lies ahead in our country, a challenge in which compassionate, conservative Christians must take the lead by boldly proclaiming the gospel, and living it out in every aspect of our lives.

I know this world would be a better place
The only race would be the human race
All of those barriers would be erased
Why can’t we be color blind?

Why I Won’t Be at Chick-Fil-A Tomorrow

It’s been a busy (and exciting!) week, and I’ve been giving the blog a rest. However, it seems one cannot properly call oneself a “blogger” at all these days without having an opinion about Chick-Fil-A — and broadcasting it to the world.

So far, over half a million people have announced on Facebook that they plan to attend “Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day”, an event launched by former U.S. Presidential hopeful and Fox News personality Mike Huckabee. According to Huckabee, this event’s goal is simple:

Let’s affirm a business that operates on Christian principles and whose executives are willing to take a stand for the Godly values we espouse by simply showing up and eating at Chick Fil-A on Wednesday, August 1.

My family and I will not be attending Chick-Fil-A Day, and here’s why:

Reason #1 is that it’s not in the budget. I love a Chick-Fil-A sandwich as much as anyone (and probably more than most), but my family budgets our meal money, and this is not a meal we planned to eat out. I think the entire brouhaha about Dan Cathy’s statements on “traditional marriage” is entirely ridiculous, and I flat out refuse to let it dictate my actions one way or another.

Do I “affirm a business that operates on Christian principles”? Sure, but that’s not why I give them my business. I go there (occasionally) because they make a tasty sandwich available at a reasonable price. It’s the same reason I also take my family (occasionally) to eat at local establishments owned by Muslims, Buddhists, Atheists, and who knows who else. If they make a product I want at a price I can afford, then we can do business. Granted, I give Chick-Fil-A more of my business than their competitors because I happen to think they have a better business model (including better product, better prices, and better service), but in my mind this is more of an evidence of “Christian principles” than an affirmation of them.

The second — and more important — reason I won’t be participating tomorrow is that I simply don’t see wielding purchasing power as a proper (or effective) means of engaging in the debate over homosexuality, or any other social issue. Yes, the media-fueled negative reaction to Dan Cathy’s remarks has been an extreme example of the intolerance of “tolerance”, and we’ve seen some shocking infringements upon free speech by some prominent American mayors, but is having a “CFA Day” the right response? To me it feels like Christians are really just affirming the unspoken assumption of the media that our choice of where we do business is the proper arena for religious and political expression. I can’t buy that.

Incidentally, before Christians (and particularly Southern Baptists) get too upset about the proposed boycott of a company over the issue of homosexuality, it should be noted that Chick-Fil-A is not the first such target. The Southern Baptist Convention voted nearly unanimously at the 1996 Annual Meeting to boycott Disney — a move that had little to no financial impact on the company before being unanimously ended at the 2005 Annual Meeting.

Earlier this year, many Christians were calling for a boycott of Starbucks because of that company’s stance on gay marriage. On this blog I seconded Russell Moore’s thoughts on the potential boycott, and think it’s worth re-examining them in light of the current controversy:

But we don’t persuade our neighbors by mimicking their angry power-protests. We persuade them by holding fast to the gospel, by explaining our increasingly odd view of marriage, and by serving the world and our neighbors around us, as our Lord does, with a towel and a foot-bucket.

I realize that not everyone going to Chick-Fil-A tomorrow is angry, and I’m not trying to dissuade even those who are. I just don’t want people to think that they must go, as if their position as conservative Christians is at stake if they don’t. And I certainly don’t want anyone to think that if they do go they will have done their part and can then safely disengage from influencing culture. There really is a battle raging, but it’s not what people think, and it’s not going to be won by eating fried chicken.

Here are a few Chick-Fil-A posts collected from the far reaches of the blogosphere that are constructive and/or provocative:

Combing the Net – 7/25/2012

The Nicest Cease-and-Desist Letter Ever Written — Even the lawyers at Jack Daniels Distillery exude Southern gentility!

The Desk Jockey Workout: 8 Ways to Stay in Shape at the Office — Some of these tips are things I should probably incorporate into my day a little more than I do…

Is Gun Control a Pro-Life Issue? — In the wake of last week’s shooting in Colorado, the gun control debate has flared up, as vitriolic as ever. Russell Moore’s contribution to this discussion is excellent, interacting with Christians who advocate increased gun control on the grounds that a consistently pro-life stance requires one to oppose gun ownership.

The gun control debate isn’t between people who support the right to shoot innocent people and those who don’t. It’s instead a debate about what’s prudent, and what’s not, in solving the common goal of ending criminal violent behavior. That’s why orange-vested NRA members and vegan gun-control advocates can co-exist, as the Body of Christ, in the same church, without excommunicating one another.

A Smiling Providence in Aurora, Colorado — There haven’t been many good stories coming out of Aurora, but this one is definitely great! Read the story of a 22-year old who miraculously took a shot gun bullet to the head and survived with virtually no damage due to a previously undiscovered birth “defect” which created a channel of fluid in her brain through which the bullet passed. Amazing!

Four Great Motives for Writing — George Orwell on why writers write. I certainly am influenced by all four of these motives in my own writing.

This is an interesting perspective on “the path of history”:

Combing the Net – 7/5/2012

Malware May Knock You Off the Internet Monday — The FBI estimates that tens of thousands of Americans will lose Internet service on Monday due to a malicious computer infection. And unlike many similar warnings that appear on Facebook all the time, this one’s legitimate… it’s Snopes verified! Hopefully you haven’t been affected (NEVER download “free” programs off the Internet!), but you can check to be sure by clicking over to this website set up by the FBI. If it comes up green, you’re good to go.

The Awfulness of Classical Music Explained — I can’t tell you how much I love this article! The Managing Director of the Brooklyn Philharmonic says that classical music concerts are too boring… and he’s right! With all the “‘clap here, not there’ cloak-and-dagger protocols to abide by” is it any wonder that orchestras have a difficult time attracting new audiences? He argues compellingly that the problem isn’t the music itself; people listen to orchestra music today more than ever… they just don’t enjoy the theater experience. Besides… music is intended to provoke a response in the listener. Why stifle that response?

I don’t think classical music was intended to be listened to in this way. And I don’t think it honors the art form for us to maintain such a cadaverous body of rules… One step therefore we might take to make classical music less boring again is simply for audiences to quit being so blasted reverential.

He Never Said That — One of my biggest pet peeves is the use of “apocryphal” quotes, which are sayings commonly attributed to someone who never actually said them. One of the most famous are variations on “Preach the gospel at all times, if necessary use words“, usually attributed to St. Francis of Assisi. This article looks at a fake C.S. Lewis quotation: “You don’t have a soul. You are a Soul. You have a body.” You might also like to click over to this Mere Orthodoxy article which goes in to more detail.

Every year on July 4, the Internet is filled with patriotic/nationalistic posts. I made a point not to read any of them yesterday (one of the reasons I skipped making a “Combing the Net” post), but did want to highlight a few that stood out as being exceptional:

The Idea of America — Kevin DeYoung on why the ideas upon which America was founded are worth celebrating:

I understand the dangers of an unthinking “God and country” mentality, let alone a gospel-less civil religion. But I also think love of country–like love of family or love of work–is a proximate good. Patriotism is not beneath the Christian, even for citizens of a superpower.

Should Churches Display the American Flag in Their Sanctuaries? — Three views on a sometimes touchy subject. While I have strong sympathy for Douglas Wilson’s position (“No”), I probably resonate more with Russell Moore’s (“Fly It Responsibly”):

Removing a flag doesn’t remove the tendency to idolatry or triumphalism; it just leaves such things unaddressed and untroubled. If a congregation already has a flag in the sanctuary, the first step might be for the pastor to use it as an object lesson in a right-ordered patriotism.

The flag can prompt the church to pray for and honor leaders. The flag can prompt us to remember that national identity is important but transitory. There will come a day when Old Glory yields to an older glory, when the new republic succumbs to a new creation. Until then, let’s reorder all our affections, including our flag-waving. But let’s do so maintaining the paradoxical tension of “resident aliens.” There is no need to play “Rapture the Flag.”

Place, Patriotism, and Sensucht — Reflections on C.S. Lewis’ thoughts on patriotism from The Four Loves.

Patriotism is a good thing. It’s the natural emotional connection we have with place. We’re wired to ache for this notion of “home.” It’s what the Israelites longed for in the Sinai. It’s what the Hobbits longed for (the Shire) during their Middle Earth adventures. It’s what constitutes part of C.S. Lewis’sSehnsucht: a nostalgic longing for the “Green Hills” of his Belfast childhood, “the low line of the Castlereagh Hills which we saw from the nursery windows.”

…Ultimately my fondness for “home” and all of its nostalgic resonances–Gettysburg, Old Faithful, college football tailgating, Norman Rockwell, Kansas City barbecue, cherry cobbler–should point me heavenward, stirring my heart but not satisfying it, stoking the fires of Sehnsucht just as the Irish green hills did for Lewis.

Did You Hear What Happened in San Diego Last Night? — Last, but not least, some fun (at others’ expense) is in order! Everyone complaining about a lack of fireworks due to the drought should get a good laugh out of this SNAFU from the San Diego fireworks show, which inadvertently set off ALL the fireworks at once, condensing an 18-minute show into a 15-second fireball:

Combing the Net – 6/15/2012

Jay and Katrina Didn’t Waste Their Lives — The story of a young missionary couple who died on the mission field in Zambia two weeks ago. Jay Erickson’s final blog post (“Pondering Death”) is even more poignant in light of his recent death. In it, he wrote of his contemplation of death, and of his struggle to overcome his fears which hindered him from speaking.

Black and White and Red All Over: Why Racial Justice is a Gospel Issue — Russell Moore on the difficult racial history of the Southern Baptist Convention, a denomination that originally came into existence before the Civil War as the result of a dispute with northern Baptists over slavery, and which was populated largely by segregationists as recently as a generation ago. How far we’ve come in such a short time, as the SBC will elect its first black president next week!

Let Wonder Lead You to Worship (Don’t Let the Devil Dumb You) — A great article that reminded me a lot of N.D. Wilson’s book Notes From the Tilt-a-Whirl (my review).

The devil does not want you to wonder. Wonder is deadly to the domain of darkness because of its dangerous tendency to lead to worship.

So the devil is going to do his level best to keep you stupid — stupid in the sense of being sense-less. If he can’t damn you, he will try to dumb you. You must resist him.

How to Respond to the Video Game Crisis — There’s been a lot of talk lately about the influence of video games on young men (see this recent post), and this article is a very helpful addition to the discussion. Rich Clark exhorts Christians to think better about video games. He sees them as a new art form which, like others, can be used thoughtfully and responsibly for the benefit of society, but can also be a destructive influence.

Video games are a comparatively new medium, and as such they are the object of much skepticism and intrigue. Those who do not play games often view the medium as a waste of time at best and a corrupting influence at worst. Meanwhile, video game proponents—permanently on the defensive—make excuses for bad art and actual corrupting influences. We Christians must be truthful about these things, but neither side right now is telling the whole story.

Review/Summary of “Captivated: The Movie” — This documentary about “finding freedom in a media captive culture” looks very interesting. You can learn more about the movie at the film’s website. Here is the trailer:

Book Review: Don’t Call It A Comeback

“Don’t Call It A Comeback: The Old Faith for a New Day” ed. by Kevin DeYoung

I’ve read several multi-author books before, but this was something new: 22 authors in under 240 pages! It was a whirlwind of topics and voices, but was edited together with surprising cohesion and clarity.

There’s an awful lot to like about Don’t Call It a Comeback. I loved the concept of the project, which had the aim of introducing “young Christians, new Christians, and underdiscipled Christians to the most important articles of our faith and what it looks like to live out this faith in real life“. This book delivers on that promise, and is an excellent introduction to a wide variety of topics — ranging from church history to systematic theology to contemporary issues such as social justice, gender confusion, and abortion — for those who have not read widely or deeply (which describes many, if not most, of the professing believers in my generation).

The book also has a secondary benefit in that it introduces readers to a lot of pastor/blogger/authors (all of whom were under 40 at the time of publishing) who represent an up-and-coming wave of leaders for the Church. Each chapter ends with a short selection of books suggested for further study on the topic. In short, if a young, new, or underdiscipled Christian were to want to delve into a serious study of theology and cultural issues, he would do well to start with the books, authors, and blogs mentioned in this book.

Though the writers have a variety of styles and approaches, each chapter is very accessible for inexperienced readers. The authors do not assume that readers have prior knowledge of the terminology and historical figures typically mentioned in books of a theological nature, yet the tone is never condescending. Neither does it come across as elementary; experienced and knowledgeable readers have much to learn here as well!

While it is a given that in any book by multiple authors some chapters are going to be better than others, there were no chapters that felt sub-par. Even the “weakest” link (and I couldn’t tell you who that might be) is pretty darn strong! But there were a few chapters that stood out to me as favorites. Kevin DeYoung’s chapter “The Secret to Reaching the Next Generation” is worth the price of the book all by itself, and Russell Moore’s chapter on the Kingdom (“Heaven after Earth, Heaven on Earth, or Something Else Entirely?”) is predictably excellent given his work on the equally excellent book The Kingdom of Christ.

Overall (as you can probably tell), I loved the book, but it wasn’t perfect by any stretch. Sometimes one of the most difficult things to do in a book review is to judge the book that was written, rather than the book I wish had been written. I’ve tried to do that, but there are a few things I really wish had been a little different.

The nature of this book required brevity on each topic, leading to a necessary lack of depth. As I said, it’s meant to be an introduction. Still, in many instances I felt adding just one clarifying word, phrase, or sentence would have made a big difference without adding to the length or readability of the book. For example, Tullian Tchvidjian’s chapter “Worship: It’s a Big Deal” (which appeared previously as an article by the same title at worship.com) is a truly great introduction to the value of corporate worship. However, it says nothing about expressions of worship as a way of life outside the context of the Body of Christ gathered on the Lord’s Day. Granted, Ted Kluck’s chapter largely dealt with this side of worship earlier in the book, but given this book’s intended audience, I would like to have seen something to the effect of telling readers that “worship” is a concept not limited to Sunday services. Honestly, simply adding the word “Corporate” to the front of the chapter’s title probably would have been sufficient to make this distinction.

I also came to the end of the book expecting and hoping for some sort of charge. The foreward by D.A. Carson is wonderful, and I thought it deserved an opposite bookend after the final chapter. Something to tell the young, new, underdiscipled Christians where to go next to continue their studies, and to encourage them to find someone to help with their discipleship. Those things were mentioned in the foreward and introduction, but I would have liked to see them reiterated once more.

These few minor reservations aside, this is a great book. It’s one I will gladly place on the short list of books I’d recommend to a young, new, or underdiscipled Christian. Buy it here.