Summer Reading: 2 Disappointments and A Surprise

I’m behind on reporting on my summer reading list (and, honestly, behind on the reading itself), so I thought I’d kill three birds with one post.

First, two disappointments: Orphan Slave Son came highly recommended and for about half the book it more than lived up to the praise. In fact, I would say the sections on Orphans and Salves are awesome. They offer a helpful  and new (to me) framework for understanding some common misapplications of the teachings of Jesus. I found his insights helpful for my own life as well as for people I lead.

After that I had high, high hopes for the third act. But the section on Sonship fell flat in my opinion. Maybe Pasley did too good a job critiquing and re-thinking in the first two sections, maybe I just didn’t have the energy left to go through another round, maybe I need to read it again.

Overall the book is a good book, with a lot of helpful insights, I just couldn’t help but feel a bit let down after being brought to such heights earlier in the work.



DisUnity is a book that appeared on almost every ‘book of the year’ list I read. It was one of the first books on my summer list that I jumped into.

Again, this is not a bad book, nor is this intended to be a bad review, but with all the hype behind it, I couldn’t help but feel let down. It didn’t feel fresh, nor did it offer much beyond the classic “birds-of-a-feather” observation and some “hey-let’s-all-get-together” hopes.

[And, now for something a bit controversial. DisUnity was published by IVP press. Some of my favorite books have been published by IVP (including this one and this one and this one). But over the last three or four years I have found their offerings to be lacking.

It’s not a content issue. The ideas and titles and theses continue to speak to me. I keep buying their books!

I’m not entirely sure what the deal is (although I do have some ideas), but it seems like at least two things are true: On the one hand, I think IVP is doing a good job utilizing a wide range of voices. They are going after lesser known authors and giving them a voice. This is a good thing. But on the other hand I think the writing and the quality of the books suffers.]

Cleveland’s a great researcher and this is a HUGE topic that needs addressing. But, for all its promise the book doesn’t deliver to that level. She’s worth watching, and I’ll be interested to see what she has to say after some time goes by and she gets a bit more seasoning as a writer.



Finally, a book that did deliver was Surprised by Scripture. It’s hard to imagine at this point being surprised (pun intended) by something NT Wright publishes (meaning you know you are going to be in good hands here).

This book tackles a number of contemporary issues (science and faith, women in ministry, the problem of evil, politics, etc). It might as well be a top-10-things-college-students-ask-about book. Wright is able to walk the incredibly difficult line of winsome and academic. You may not agree with all his conclusions, but he will make you think, he will challenge you, and he will give you some great tools to help answer people’s questions.

Highly recommended for anyone who finds themselves in apologetical conversations.


Quote of the Week (NT Wright on Forgiveness)

From NT Wright’s excellent book, Simply Jesus

“Forgiveness, indeed, is a sort of healing. It removes a burden that can crush and cripple you. It allows you to stand up straight without pretending. It spreads out into whole communities.

Forgiveness and healing! The two go so closely together, personally and socially. Whole societies can be crippled by ancient grudges that turn into feuds and then into forms of civil war. Families can be torn apart by a single incident or one person’s behavior that is never faced and so never forgiven. Equally, societies and families as well as individuals can be reconciled, can find hope and new love, through forgiveness. Jesus was tapping into something extremely deep in human life.”

NT Wright Quote of the Week

I just finished NT Wright’s excellent book on character and virtue: After You Believe. In it he argues winsomely to wrap up the quest for Christian character inside the ideas of worship and mission. They all go together. We pursue virtue and character as an act of worship and to help us in our mission.

He writes that the 4 big virtues are humility, patience, chastity, and charity. These four big words contain a bunch of other ideas (i.e. faith, hope, and love, the fruits of the spirit, etc). This section comes from his thoughts on chastity, but I would argue they really capture the essence of the book:

“Christians have always insisted that self-control is one of the nine fold varieties of Spirit’s fruit. Yes, it’s difficult. Yes, you have to work at it and discover why certain temptations, at certain times and places, are hard to resist.

“That because chastity is a virtue: it’s not first and foremost a rule which you decide either to keep or to break; it’s certainly not something you can calculate according to a principle, such as the greatest happiness for the greatest number; and in particular, as Jesus himself indicated, it won’t be generated by going with the flow of what comes naturally.

“This is where the genuinely celibate, like Jesus himself…have discovered the joy of a ‘second nature’ self-control which much of our culture, like most of the ancient world, never even imagines.

“By contrast, as those of us who care pastorally, or in families, for people who have embraced the present habits of society will know, the bruises and wounds caused by those habits are deep, long-lasting, and life-decaying. The church is often called a killjoy for protesting against sexual license. But the real killing of joy comes with the grabbing of pleasure…the price tag is hidden at the start, but the physical and emotional debt incurred will take a long time to pay off.

“Here Patience and Humility come into play once more. The frantic urge toward sexual intimacy is part of the drive to express yourself, to push yourself forward, to insist that this is who you are and this is how you intend to behave.

“No, says Humility; you don’t discover your true self that way. You find it by giving yourself away. Precisely, agrees Patience: taking the waiting out of wanting is short-changing yourself and everybody else. The virtues are linked together…if you want one of them, you better practice them all.”