Voices

Books with flava

From translating a former hip-hop artist to interpreting the Bible, wintry treadmill books

Issue: "Five-man legacy," Jan. 28, 2006

In my Father's house there are many mansions, and one of them may belong to Mykel Mitchell, the author of Word: For Everybody Who Thought Christianity Was for Suckas (New American Library, 2005). Hip-hop record industry veteran Mitchell turned to Christ when he couldn't get satisfaction from "the expensive toys, the fly gear and the expensive girlfriends," but his writing is still full of "flava" that some Christians will abhor but others will relish.

That diversity is one of the secondary things that will make heaven enjoyable, and no one makes it more fun than Randy Alcorn in Heaven (Tyndale, 2005). A book jacket for once accurately summarizes contents: "If you've always thought of Heaven as a realm of disembodied spirits, clouds, and eternal harp strumming, you're in for a wonderful surprise. This is a book about real people with real bodies enjoying close relationships with God and each other, eating, drinking, working, playing, traveling, worshiping, and discovering on a New Earth."

In the meantime, plenty of work remains to be done, and Ken Eldred's God Is at Work: Transforming People and Nations Through Business (Regal, 2005) tells in practical terms how Christians can be instruments for both spiritual and economic progress. Readers of a philosophical bent will profit from a book I've just caught up to, J.P. Moreland and Scott B. Rae's Body & Soul: Human Nature & the Crisis in Ethics (InterVarsity, 2000), which defends the Christian belief that we are both physical and spiritual beings and applies that understanding to issues such as abortion and cloning.

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Kevin Seamus Hasson's The Right to Be Wrong (Encounter, 2005) offers a sensible program for regaining religious freedom in the face of both "Park Rangers" who would ban all religion from public places and "Pilgrims" who would allow only one.

Mr. Hasson's book, sadly, hasn't received as much publicity as Noah Feldman's Divided by God: America's Church-State Problem-and What We Should Do About It (Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 2005), which The New York Times hyped. Mr. Feldman essentially stands in the schoolhouse door and shouts "never" regarding vouchers or other instruments that would set up a level playing field for faith-based education and social services. He would, however, placate Christians with symbolic victories: A city hall could erect a crèche, a government employee could say "Merry Christmas." Perhaps he thinks Christianity is for Mr. Mitchell's "suckas."

Some people still think that only suckas believe in South Africa's ability to go where no other African country has gone before-to have a country where black majority and white minority can sit down at the table of brotherhood for more than a photo op. Optimistic Allister Sparks' Beyond the Miracle: Inside the New South Africa (U. of Chicago, 2003) shows how Nelson Mandela could have become a dictator like his Zimbabwean neighbor, Robert Mugabe. Christians in America and other countries should pray for South Africa's success, and for churches to teach that color is only skin deep but theology is forever.

Some of us suckas miss baseball during the winter, so here are two books to keep us warm at night: Buzz Bissinger's Three Nights in August (Houghton Mifflin, 2005) explains in great detail the strategy involved in a Cardinals-Cubs series, and Mind Game by the writers of Baseball Prospectus (Workman, 2005) weaves together statistics and narrative in an attack on traditional thinking about everything from sacrifice bunts to momentum.

What we really need to keep us warm at night, though, is trust in Christ. Jerry Bridges' Is God Really in Control? Trusting God in a World of Terrorism, Tsunamis, and Personal Tragedy (NavPress, 2006) emphasizes both God's sovereignty and man's need to act thoughtfully, and it shows how David, Nehemiah, and Paul emphasized both providence and prudence. To see how God keeps His church going despite arrogance and tumult, it's good to look up leaders from Aaron to Zwingli in The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, edited by Cross and Livingstone (Oxford U. Press, 2005).

It's hard to develop necessary trust in God, though, if we can't trust the book that tells us about God. That's why the evidence in Translating Truth: The Case for Essentially Literal Bible Translation, by Wayne Grudem, Leland Ryken, Vern Poythress, and others (Crossway, 2005) is important.

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.

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