9 Dec 2009

Santa Bring Me a Blessing … A Good Book

Author: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: Bobby's World, Books, Hebrew Bible, Ministry, Preaching

First I want to express thanks to all those who have sent notes expressing a desire for new editions of my blog. I am pleasantly surprised in fact by the number of those I have received. I have needed a break actually as I continue to reorient my life. Two years ago Hell rather than Christmas arrived. Today my life looks so different than it did then. Second I get requests for book recommendations frequently so I offer a few for the Christmas season … here are some great quotes on reading …

The worth of a book is to be measured by what you can carry away from it. ~James Bryce

Anyone who says they have only one life to live must not know how to read a book. ~Author Unknown

A good book should leave you… slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading it. ~William Styron, interview, Writers at Work, 1958

If you resist reading what you disagree with, how will you ever acquire deeper insights into what you believe? The things most worth reading are precisely those that challenge our convictions. ~Author Unknown

These books cover a variety of aspects of life under the Son. Perhaps they will help us understand (or exegete) our world a little more and give us greater sensitivity to the unending message of God’s steadfast love in the Scriptures. I have chosen to list works that are not that difficult to read and yet thoughtful and reflective of deep thinking on the matter under consideration.

The Hebrew Bible (Old Testament to some)

Christopher J. H. Wright’s Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament (IVP) is an outstanding book. Wright actually uses the Gospels (especially Matthew) to demonstrate how the New Testament pictures are thoroughly rooted in the “OT” story, promise, and mission. I would love to get this book into the hands and then the minds of all students of the word. We just might be surprised not only how “Old Testament” Jesus is but how “Old Testament” the “New Testament” is. This is a book that can be read with great profit by ministers, elders, teachers and anyone that wants to understand the Christian faith better.

John Walton over the last few years has published a couple of very important books. His newest book, The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate (IVP) is quite simply the best book I have ever read on Genesis one. Walton immerses Genesis one completely in its ancient near eastern context … in a remarkably readable way. Drawing on the “cosmic temple” cosmology that pervaded the near east he demonstrates beautifully how an Israelite would have heard Genesis one. This book of less than 200 pages deserves the book of the year award for 2009.

New Testament

Scot McKnight’s A Community Called Atonement is a lively and creative look at the cross or atonement. McKnight argues against the frequent reductionism of the past by embracing the wealth of NT metaphors. His golf club illustration is memorable and communicates clearly. Refreshingly atonement is about community, God’s Community. Our mission, our task is rooted in atonement. Chapter 19 of this small volume focuses on baptism, Lord’s Supper and prayer are needed in the wider evangelical community.

We all know N. T. Wright is probably the world’s most influential NT scholar but his Christians at the Cross, Finding Hope in the Passion, Death, and Resurrection oCf Jesus reveals him not only as a man of deep faith but one who moves from the ancient world of the NT to applying its message to postmodernity with felicity. This is a collection of 8 sermons Wright delivered during “holy week” in 2007 in Easington Colliery in the Northeast of England. I was blessed, you will be too.

Wrestling with Faith

Christopher J. H. Wright’s The God i Don’t Understand is a faith filled meaty book. This small book is divided into four sections of questions that Wright and many other folks through the years have struggled with: What about Evil & Suffering?; What about the Canaanites?: What about the Cross?; and What about the End of the World? Who has not had someone after reading the book of Joshua not ask some questions? Wright’s discussion in What about the End of the World is wonderful. He offers a loving yet trenchant critique of dispensational premillennialism as embraced by many in the Left Behind series … but Wright is not so interested in polemics as he is in getting at the teaching of the Bible. His exposition of the new heavens & new earth are worth listening too. You will be blessed by reflecting on the God i Don’t Understand … we are not called to exactly understand everything but to have faith. We praise him …

Christian History

Though my name (not alone though, following John Mark Hicks and Johnny Melton on GP) appears on both the next works I believe they have something to offer to the fellowship of believers. Kingdom Come: Embracing the Spiritual Legacy of David Lipscomb and James Harding I believe plugs us into a vibrant kingdom theology that makes for exhilarating Christian living. A Gathered People: Revisioning the Assembly as Transforming Encounter presents a methodology for thinking about Christian subjects in a wider biblical context illustrating this through the idea of God’s Gathered People in corporate worship. I’m prejudiced but I think it is worth reading.

American History/Christianity in America

Cormac O’Brien has blessed us with The Forgotten History of America: Little-Known Conflicts of Lasting Importance from the Earliest Colonists to the Eve of the Revolution. Lavishly illustrated with period artwork, O’Brien is a very talented storyteller. O’Brien firmly believes that the history prior to 1776 is just as significant for the identity of our nation. How many know the story of Panfilo de Narvaez or are conscious that St. Augustine was half a century old by the time Pilgrims set sail or the story of Anne Hutchinson or King Philips War. Throughout O’Brien asks us to reflect on how things could have been different. Not everyone will agree with his perspective that comes out (I don’t) yet the work will help us remember. A very good and enjoyable book.

Richard T. Hughes formerly of Abilene Christian University, Pepperdine and now Messiah College has become recognized as a leading historian on the America and the deeply difficult question of Christian American and Christianity in America. His latest book, Christian America and the Kingdom of God is a work that does not settle for platitudes or easy answers. It is the work of a person deeply “infected” with Christian faith in the Scriptures and one who has reflected on the matter deeply. I can’t help but believe serious reflection on this book can help America be a better nation and help Christians be better Christians.

Many other works could be recommended. But I wanted to include a variety from works that have encouraged or challenged me. I hope if you are looking for a book for someone … consider one or more of these.

See you soon …
Bobby Valentine

8 Responses to “Santa Bring Me a Blessing … A Good Book”

  1. Joseph Says:

    Bobby, I read Walton’s book earlier this year and blogged my frustrations about it, particularly that the lay version of Walton’s argument was published before the academic one. Walton skipped a crucial step when he did not subject his argument to the scrutiny of the academic community before making it available to the lay reader. That being said, there are many things worthwhile about it. I am also presently reading Mark Smith’s The Priestly Vision of Genesis 1 which is also written (in part) for a lay audience. For those who tackle Walton, I would recommend they continue on to Smith as his book goes into greater detail than Walton’s, though without being too pedantic (that is, unless you try to wade through the 100 pages of endnotes!).

    BTW, earlier this week I checked out of the HUGSR library Casey’s thesis, The Interpretation of Genesis One in the Churches of Christ and saw you had checked it out back in 2001. How ironic!

  2. Stoned-Campbell Disciple Says:

    Joseph I did read Casey’s thesis on Gen 1. It is well done. On Cosmic Temple imagery I would assume that most students familiar with the ANE contexts would be familiar the idea. Walton has broached the matter before in commentary on Genesis and in his excellent work, ANCIENT NEAR EATERN THOUGHT AND THE OLD TESTAMENT. G.K. Beale’s work The Temple and the Mission of the Church has as well. What Walton does in this work is place these ideas in an accessible form for a wider reading public. I am grateful he has though the book is not without faults. I have not read Mark Smith but I will check it out. Thanks for the heads up.

  3. Frank Bellizzi Says:

    Thanks for these recommendations, description, Bobby. I’m glad to hear that things are going well for you.

  4. Keith Says:

    Glad to hear from you again Bobby. Your book recommendations are always welcome!

  5. johnmarkhicks Says:


    A hearty Amen to your recommendations, and glad to see you blogging again.

    John Mark

    P.S. who wrote those books with you, my friend, and why are they not mentioned! ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Stoned-Campbell Disciple Says:

    hmmm that is a good question. Everyone knows it is just one long name “JohnMarkHicksBobbyValentine” or “JohnMarkHicksJohnnyMeltonBobbyValentine” … see ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Actually I did not mean to do that!

    Hope all is well. We probably need to talk.

  7. Joseph Says:

    It wasn’t the temple argument that frustrated me, rather it was the argument concerning ื‘ืจื. He is correct that functional origins belongs to the semantic domain of the word, but to say that material origins does not belong flys in the face of every Hebrew lexicon. I believe it reasonable to say that he should have raised that claim to scholars who could evaluate his argument before it was presented to a wider reading public.

  8. Stoned-Campbell Disciple Says:


    Regarding “create” (bara) Walton has given reason for his belief. In his earlier “Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament” Walton argues in chapter 8 that ancient cosmologies and cosmogonies that the idea of “create” was functional. On page 181 he writes “If ontology in the ancient world is function-oriented, then to create something (i.e. to bring it into existence) would mean to give it a function ro a role within an ordered cosmos.” He continues on p. 182 by saying “my own survey of the literature readily available showed that in cosmic contexts where deity is the subject, the objects of these verbs indicate a larger functional sense rather than anything strictly material …” On the following page he has a lengthy note on bara.

    Walton’s scholarly study “Genesis One as Ancient Cosmology” will be published by Eisenbrauns. I’m sure as with everything in academic study there will be debate but I believe that Walton has made a strong case for his interpretation.

    But i understand where you are coming from. Either way I appreciate the effort that Walton has expended to place Genesis one in its ancient context for modern readers who totally miss the cosmic temple imagery … even if he ends up being wrong on bara.

    Bobby V

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