I did not have much success with Christian books this year. This may be partly due to the fact that I didn’t read many to begin with (fifteen total, including audiobooks), but I’m still disappointed that some of the Christian books that most intrigued me turned out to be so mediocre. Luckily, there were five that impressed me enough to make a best-of list.
5. Unclobber by Colby Martin
Synopsis: After years of serving in an Evangelical megachurch, Colby Martin reevaluated his traditional stance on same-sex relationships. This bold theological move prompted his church to sack him. These events led Colby to create a faith community of his own. Unclobber is the story of his journey from conservative Evangelicalism to a more inclusive faith, and a theological treatise on why he believes an orthodox reading of the Bible does not condemn loving, monogamous same-sex relationships.
My thoughts: Unclobber’s ten chapters alternate between Colby’s story and theological exegesis of what he calls the “clobber” passages–the key Bible verses that are used to condemn same-sex relationships. While you could poke holes in his logic if so inclined, this book is fairly comprehensive for a strictly introductory text. It’s well-written, engaging, and worthy of serious consideration.
4. What Falls from the Sky by Esther Emery
Synopsis: After suffering a devastating blow in her marriage, Esther Emery decided to do something radical to regain her equilibrium. She gave up the Internet for a full year. No email, no social media, no professor Google. Without the distractions of the world wide web, Esther began to connect with life in a way she never had before and her long-dormant faith came back to life. What Falls from the Sky is a memoir about her year in analogue.
My thoughts: Foregoing the conveniences and artificial connectivity of the Internet is no easy task in today’s digital world. Giving it up for a year could be a clever marketing gimmick, but Esther’s experiment was clearly born out of desperation, not calculated for monetary gain. This gives her story an air of authenticity, especially as she grapples with the loss of instant affirmation that social media offers. Esther’s writing is lyrical, her backstory compelling, and her book a definite winner. I will be doing an interview with Esther next week, so look out for that!)
3. Very Married by Katherine Willis Pershey
Synopsis: If the media, the news, and alarmist Evangelical leaders are to be believed, marriage is on the decline. (Nevermind that the divorce rate is at a forty-year low.) In the secular world, monogamy is considered to be a modern aberration and millennials seem to harbor a deep cynicism about the age-old institution. Enter Katherine Willis Pershey with this memoir cum thesis on what makes a marriage work. In Very Married, she pulls back the curtain on her own marriage and shares her wisdom on how to have a fulfilling life-long relationship.
My thoughts: A far cry from the legalistic (and usually sexist) marriage books that populate the Christian market today, Pershey’s nuanced and inclusive treatment of the topic is mightily refreshing.The 5 Best #Christian Books of 2016Click To Tweet
2. Silence and Beauty by Makoto Fujimura
Synopsis: Silence and Beauty is a theological, cultural, and historical analysis of Shūsaku Endō’s 1966 classic, Silence. Fujimura explores the themes of redemption, trauma, and hidden faith found in Silence in the context of Japanese art and culture, as well as his own Christian faith.
My thoughts: Anyone can read and understand the basic themes in Endō’s Silence, but much more can be gained by understanding the cultural context in which the story takes place. Fujimura is firmly grounded in American and Japanese culture. This perspective puts him in the unique position of being able to serve as a bridge for Western readers who wish to dive deeper into Endō’s work. Elegant and insightful, Silence and Beauty is a must-read for Endō enthusiasts. Read my full review here.
1. Making Sense of God by Timothy Keller
Synopsis: Making Sense of God is a philosophical book that attempts to convince readers that belief in God is perfectly reasonable. Like most apologetic works, this one tackles some common objections to belief in God such as suffering and the false dichotomy of religion vs. science. Most of the book focuses on general belief in God, with just two chapters at the end dedicated specifically to Christianity.
My thoughts: Tim Keller has been likened to C.S. Lewis because of his intellectual skill and literary prowess. Comparisons like this usually make me roll my eyes, but Keller is an exception. Making Sense of God is the third book by Keller that I have read and I am continually impressed by his aptitude for distilling down complex ideas for the layman.
What is the best Christian book you read this year?