One of the delights of being in a rich, high technology culture is that we can readily get excellent books.  These books are being added to the church distributed library, and I would commend them to you.

  • Jesus Made in America by Stephen Nichols – A Cultural History from the Puritans to the Passion of the Christ.  This book has one of those titles that teach you something even before reading the book.  One of our goals is to identify where we are tempted to idolatry so we can repent of it.  This book helps us by walking through temptations which are particularly American.  Nichols spotlights 8 American settings and considers how Christians were influenced by culture in understanding Jesus.  His choice of eras is interesting, contrasting the Puritans, with their rigorous logic and passionate devotion, both centered on Jesus, to their descendants one century later.  Theology fell apart, although it still had logic and devotion, but with assumptions and loves that replaced and opposed how Jesus is revealed in scripture.  Some eras aren’t usually talked about, such as the early 1900s, when many denominations radically redefined Jesus in ways that explain where those denominations are today.  The latter half of the book zeros in on developments in our lifetimes, with the author both communicating the big picture and painfully amusing details, such as businessmen targeted books arguing that Jesus was event oriented because he turned water into wine.  The chapter on movie portrayals of Jesus brings home the disconcerting truth that our nation “knows” about things in large part through the fictional extravagance of movies.  Nichols traces our danger through history.  Gospel preaching Billy Sunday described Jesus as “the greatest scrapper that ever lived” but the gospel hating Harry Emerson Fosdick lovingly described Jesus as the perfect personality.  They assume Jesus is like their idealized selves.  Will you choose to be “conformed to the image of his Son” or will you try to conform Jesus to your image, to make an idol who looks a lot like you?
  • Addictions – A Banquet in the Grave by Ed Welch – I’ve said that we could describe our culture as being entertainment oriented, but we are better off if we know the problem behind the problem.  This book helps us get to that deeper level of understanding.  Our culture is addicted to seeking pleasure.  Sin is varied, but not creative, so what is it a corruption of? “Addictions are ultimately a disorder of worship.”  The best and most powerful teaching is tied to the Gospel, and this book is clear, “If sin is not our core problem, the gospel itself–the thing of first importance–is marginalized.”  This book helps us be the church–recovering sinners pointing other sinners to the Savior.  “An effective church will have addicts in it.  After all, the church is, in part, a hospital for sinners in different stages of their struggle with sin.”