Today I continue reviewing my reading list from 2011. I’ll start this second post with In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan. I don’t often read health books, but this one was recommended and it was rather compelling. The basic premise is that we have stripped our food into component vitamins and minerals. In doing so, we don’t really understand how these vitamins and minerals work together in their natural state (in food) and we have over-processed what we eat, thinking by infusing the correct combination nutrients we will improve our health. In reality, our society seems to show the opposite. We are overweight and unhealthy with chronic diseases becoming the norm. It is an interesting book. Well worth checking out.
A few years ago I read the description of Eugene Peterson’s A Long Obedience in the Same Direction. I thought it sounded like just the thought-provoking material I needed being a Christian in a quick-serve society. The very idea that being obedient over a long period rather than quick spiritual fixes seemed refreshing. Unfortunately, I found the book to be quite dry and dull. There were a few moments that captured my imagination, a few concepts that made me excited, but these moments were just that: few. This was only my second time of reading Peterson, and I was sorely disappointed as I enjoyed the previous book quite a bit.
On the subject of sophomore disappointments, Why We Love the Church by Ted Kluck and Kevin DeYoung was a letdown from their previous book Why We are not Emergent. I found the latter to be interesting and informative while the former was a bit dry and had some heavy Reformed theology leanings. While I don’t have a problem with Reformed Theology, per se, those who propound it can come across as narrow in their focus, espousing their view exclusively and dismissing other voices. This particular leaning aside, it isn’t a bad book, just be aware of this going in.
Then there was Love Wins by Rob Bell. I’ve debated what to say here, as I’m trying to be brief and this book can’t really be discussed in brief. Suffice it to say, I think Bell is trying to make a point about Christians rigidly defining our view of Heaven and Hell, but in doing so, he carelessly implies views that are not only unorthodox but not really scripturally based. Rob Bell writes as an artist and he is throwing his hat into the theological arena. He needs to be clear and he needs to build good, strong arguments. I don’t believe he does this. Perhaps the lesson to take from this book is that Christians need to be thoughtful when establishing what they believe, rather than blindly accepting what leaders tell them is the truth. They may end up believing what church leaders say, but it is far better to own your beliefs because it helps you to be sensitive to those who are not yet convinced. You understand the struggle and the questions better.
A spiritual search was the focus of Peter Gilquist’s memoir Becoming Orthodox, where Gilquist chronicled his journey from evangelical Christianity to Eastern Orthodoxy. I read this because I wanted to understand more of this branch of Christianity. I have often had difficulties with the expression of visible mainstream Christianity in America, so I admit that this book was one that aided my particular search. I enjoyed Gilquist’s writing and appreciated his explanations of various tenants of Eastern Orthodoxy. While I still find aspects of it appealing, I am not in any place to consider a conversion. Anglicanism, however, does seem a bit appealing, which brings me to my next book, Simply Christian by N.T. Wright the former Bishop of Durham. I have been a fan of Wright’s work for a couple of years now, and found Simply Christian to be accessible yet challenging. He recreates a view of Christianity that sacrifices nothing, but gives a fresh way of looking at the faith. I also appreciate that Wright is willing to meet readers where they are. He confronts current ideas and attitudes and shows how they reflect the broken nature of our world, then explains how Christianity confronts these ideas. If Christianity seems stale or overly familiar, this is a good book to visit.