Another year has passed more quickly than I could have ever imagined. I’d like to share with you my reading for the year, as well as my awards for books, movies, and blogs. Please let me know about your own reading, movie-watching, and the like this year. I’d love to read about what you were up to last year and what books moved you or taught you much.
The books of the year are based off my reading this year; not on whether they were actually released this year. The categories for InterVarsity Press (IVP) and Crossway, however, are from this year.
Theology book of the year
Flame of Yahweh by Richard Davidson- This book is a massive wealth of information about sexuality in the Old Testament. Davidson analyzes an enormous number of texts to draw out the teaching on sexuality found therein. Davidson approaches the texts from what I would call a moderate egalitarian viewpoint, but he justifies this view directly from the text, with a particular emphasis on the creation account. Moreover, Davidson’s exposition of Song of Songs in particular is just phenomenal. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.
Philosophy book of the year
The Shape of the Past by John Warwick Montgomery- this book is a historiography book–it is a study of how we write and study history, and it is phenomenal. John Warwick Montgomery is one of those rare people who can touch on seemingly endless topics from a clearly informed perspective, and draw them together with breathless beauty. The first half of the book offers a major look at various historiographic perspectives of the past. The second half is a collection of essays, each of which as informative and wonderful as the next. The book was published originally in 1975, but it remains as brilliant as it ever was. John Warwick Montgomery is just phenomenal, and this book was heavy, but breathtaking. Here’s a quote from the book.
IVP Book of the Year
Rescuing the Gospel from the Cowboys by Richard Twiss- A convicting read, Richard Twiss argues that we have failed Native Americans when it comes to spreading the Gospel. The book is full of moving stories and deep insights. It is beautiful and haunting. If you want to know more, read my review.
Crossway Book of the Year
Newton on the Christian Life by Tony Reinke- John Newton is probably best known as the author of the hymn “Amazing Grace,” but Reinke highlights so much more about this amazing pastor in this interesting work. Read my review for more.
Fiction book of the Year
The Once and Future King by T.H. White – I’m embarassed to say this, but I actually owned this book once and got rid of it because I figured I wouldn’t actually enjoy it. Was I ever wrong. I picked it up at the library and was absolutely blown away. This classic novel about King Arthur was everything I expected it to be and so much more. I was particularly impressed by the amount of genuinely hilarious humor found throughout. I did not expect the depth it had, either. It was fantastic. Okay, I did read Ben Hur by means of audiobook this year, but I read that book annually because it is probably my favorite work of fiction ever, so it’s not really fair to put it in competition.
Best non-fiction, non-theology/philosophy
The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander- think racism is no longer a problem in America? Think again. This book has an enormous amount of research showing how our allegedly colorblind criminal justice system has perpetuated a system of injustice.
Young Adult Novel of the Year
Ghost Hawk by Susan Cooper- A haunting novel about the colonial period in the United States. It is rare that I am as emotionally moved by a novel as I was in this one.
Most Anticipated Book of Next Year
Brandon Sanderson seems to me a well that I will not stop returning to. Ever. I’ve not worked through his whole body of work yet, but everything I’ve read from him is amazing. He consistently nails stunning plot twists in believable ways. Thus, Calamity, the third book of “The Reckoners” is my most anticipated book for next year. I can’t wait to get my hands on it and find out what happens next.
Best worldview movie of the year
Star Wars: The Force Awakens- No, I’m not just saying this because it is Star Wars (though part of me is saying precisely that). I selected this one because it has so much in it to discuss. I’m not going to spoil anything here, so be sure to head on over to my post on the movie to read more.
Blog of the Year
Christians for Biblical Equality– CBE continues to put out excellent articles week in and week out. Every new post is worth the time to read, and they have covered an enormous amount of ground with articles on neuroscience to articles on exegesis. This is a fantastic blog and well worth your time to read and subscribe to.
Reading List for 2015
The list starts at where I left off in 2014, when I first started keeping track.
Rescuing the Gospel from the Cowboys by Richard Twiss presents a broad, far-reaching analysis of the contact and sometimes conflict between Christianity and Native cultures.
Conflict is a major theme of the book, as Twiss traces the history of interactions between Western Christians and Native peoples. This history involves much wrongdoing, from wanton destruction of Native peoples through disease (which was at some points compared to the plagues on Egypt attacking the Native peoples), to continued missiology that refuses to adapt to new insights from anthropology.
A central question asked time and again through the book is why, in order to be Christian, people must give up all their cultural background and embrace a Eurocentric version of religious practice. The example often used is that of drums in worship. Many argue that this is an example of potentially dangerous syncretism–the incorporation of anti-Christian ideology into allegedly Christian worship. They allege that because drums have been used in spiritual fashions that are non-Christian, they must be tied to non-Christian beliefs. Twiss argues that, instead, it is an example of critical contextualization–integrating the Christian faith by means of cultural expressions. He notes that this is allowed in all kinds of ideas and expressions in Western cultures. He mentions the integration of Platonic and Aristotelian thought into Creedal expressions as one example. Another example could be the general allowance for Christmas trees–themselves once expressions of pagan practices.
Thus, a major aspect of Twiss’ project is to demonstrate that Native peoples must be allowed to develop their own understanding of how to follow the Jesus way. Just as in Western churches, incense, organs, Christmas trees, specific candle lightings, and the like are allowed and even endorsed; so too should Native expressions and critical incorporation of their own practices be allowed in worship. Only then, argues Twiss, can the Gospel be truly integrated into Native life and communities.
Twiss also outlines various ways missions have been done to Native peoples and notes that these have largely changed and adapted in response to new insights from anthropology, but these adaptations have been adapted abroad, not in Native mission fields. This means a continued colonializing is taking place as Native peoples are expected to change everything, without being allowed to keep their own religious expressions. He summons much data to support these claims.
A major chapter in the book features his amalgamation of stories into a fictional sweat lodge ceremony in which nine different Native men are talking about their struggles with following Christ in a Native culture. These provide great insights into the ways in which Native people have worked to integrate their culture and faith together and met enormous resistance.
By the time I finished the book, I realized that I’d had to be fairly introspective and consider my own faults along with all that I had learned. I had, at least in my head, thought of various practices like integrating Native dancing into worship as being some kind of syncretism. I hadn’t thought about how plenty of the things I do (Christmas trees, for example) had sprung from a cultural milieu and come to be accepted in Western Christianity. I had been convicted by Twiss, but also enlightened.
The few critiques I have to offer of the book pale in comparison to its insight, but I’ll note them here. First, there are a couple times in which it seems to repeat the same point more than once–sometimes even with the same quote or citation. I’m sure this is due to it having been finished posthumously, and so the editors drew together works from Twiss’ other materials, but it remains disconcerting at points. Another issue is that there are several points at which Twiss lists a whole slew of relevant scholars and a major work or two from each. It’s the kind of thing that could have been more easily relegated to endnotes in order to clean up the text a bit, but this is a minor nitpick.
The appendices are quite useful, including a list of various words or phrases used to refer to Native American peoples, as well as when they were first used and how they’ve come to be used now.
I recommend Rescuing the Gospel from the Cowboys as highly as possible. It is filled with excellent information, convicting insights, and hope. Pick it up and read it.
+Touches on a number of important topics
+Deep insights with convicting but guiding words
+Excellent use of stories to illustrate important points
+Provides hope and applicable insights
-Large lists of scholars at points with little context
Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this book from the publisher. They did not require any specific kind of feedback whatsoever.
Book Reviews– There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)
Richard Twiss, Rescuing the Gospel from the Cowboys (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2015).
The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.
Every Sunday, I will share a quote from something I’ve been reading. The hope is for you, dear reader, to share your thoughts on the quote and related issues and perhaps pick up some reading material along the way!
Our Cultural Concepts of Christianity
I recently finished Rescuing the Gospel from the Cowboys by Richard Twiss. It was a phenomenal, thought-provoking read that I highly recommend. In one section, Twiss argues that:
If self-revelation is the work of Creator and Creator’s engagement with people and nations, then crosscultural communication never occurs in isolation, in a cultural vacuum, but by definition occurs in a crosscultural context. Human messengers are never free from the prevailing cultural influences of their upbringing, worldview values, and sociocultural/political attitudes of their day. (61, cited below)
The point he is making is that humans are tied to their cultural background in such a way that any time we speak to someone from a different context, that becomes a cross-cultural context, no matter how neutral we attempt to be in our understanding. Thus, when applied to missions, it is important to keep in mind one’s own cultural influences and try to avoid imposing those cultural standards onto other cultures. We must not turn Christianity into Christianity + our own cultural understanding and practice of Christianity. Much of the book focuses on how Western culture has been imposed upon Native culture in Christianity as well as how we might break that cycle.
Rescuing the Gospel from the Cowboys is an excellent read that will challenge most readers’ expectations and presuppositions. I highly recommend it.
Sunday Quote– If you want to read more Sunday Quotes and join the discussion, check them out! (Scroll down for more)
Richard Twiss, Rescuing the Gospel from the Cowboys (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2015).