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Notable books

Notable Books | Nonfiction books from Christian publishers reviewed by Susan Olasky

Issue: "O Jerusalem," April 10, 2010

Practice Resurrection

As both pastor and seminary professor, Eugene Peterson has been interested in what it means to mature or grow up in Christ. He contends that activity-eager Christians who want to do something for God need to understand that they are being drawn into what God is doing, especially through the church. Peterson's understanding of the matter remains unfashionable-both pastors and congregations want activities and programs-so in this work he enlists the help of Paul's letter to the Ephesians, which explores what it means to mature in Christ. Peterson's writing style forces the reader to slow down and pay attention to words and metaphors, which is only fitting since part of his message is that we should slow down and pay attention.

The Christ of the Empty Tomb

In the foreword to this collection of Easter sermons, Linda Boice writes that her late husband, James Montgomery Boice, began and ended his long ministry at Philadelphia's Tenth Presbyterian Church with such preaching. His last sermon came on Easter 2000, just days after doctors diagnosed the aggressive liver cancer that claimed his life less than two months later. Boice stared at death while clearly proclaiming the resurrection of Christ, showing how that historical truth transforms everything. In this book's short chapters, which make it perfect for devotional use, Boice examines facets of the resurrection by drawing on different biblical texts and focusing on the experiences of various eyewitnesses.

Giving Church Another Chance

Todd Hunter's book will be most useful to those whose spiritual journeys reflect his own wanderings, which led him through Calvary Chapel and the Vineyard to the emergent church and disillusionment, before landing him in an Anglican Mission. He changed from thinking "church is broken" to finding in its rhythms and practices the way to make "the right stuff work." In chapters on singing the doxology, reading Scripture, hearing sermons, liturgy, tithing, Communion, and receiving the Benediction, Hunter shows how these practices provide training for living Christianly beyond Sunday morning. The book would be stronger if he showed more fully how the gospel of grace gives life to all those practices.

Scandalous

D.A. Carson's essays on the cross and resurrection are based on five scriptural passages-Matthew 27:27-51, Romans 3:21-26, Revelation 12, John 11:1-53, and John 20:24-31-that aren't at first glance resurrection texts. He lays out clearly the context of the passage, its meaning to its early readers, and applications for us. Carson combines his scholarship with sharp writing to unpack the texts, cutting through bland spiritual superficialities. With urgency, he presents Christ and the doctrine/reality of the resurrection as the defense against God's wrath, the odiousness of sin, the rage of the devil, and the evil of death.

Spotlight

Publishers Weekly recently hosted a roundtable on trends in Christian fiction with representatives from Christian publishing houses. One participant noted that 35 percent of the February Christian Bookseller Association bestseller list was made up of "bonnet fiction," romance novels set in Amish or other closed communities, which are popular because they are romantic and clean. Sinking in popularity is chick lit. One participant said that readers are not so interested in pure fluff.

Other trends: Look for more family-based fiction. Problem novels continue to sell, including novels that take on sexual abuse, alcoholism, and even autism. Apocalyptic fiction is also coming back: Tyndale noted a rise in interest in the Left Behind series. Several participants noted that women's fiction is author-driven: Karen Kingsbury sells, for instance. One participant said, "Female characters in fiction written by believers used to fit a pattern, rather nice and tidy, and that is just not the case anymore." Another added, "The novels that are doing well are less dark in subject matter than just a couple of years ago-it's like an Oprah book club backlash."

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