welcome. why "weak on sanctification"?

this accusation is often made about lutheran christians. because we focus so strongly on god's justifying grace in christ, and our continual need, as "sinner-saints," to receive god's gifts of grace through word and sacrament, people say we are "weak on sanctification." i prefer to say we are strong on jesus, whose sanctifying work in our lives is the fruit of the gospel all along our lifelong journey. i would much rather focus on what he has done than on anything i might do.

the weekly discussion

each week I set forth a topic to promote discourse about some aspect of Christianity, the church, or the spiritual life. i would love to hear your perspective and thoughts on each week's subject. these discussions are usually posted on mondays, so if you missed this week's post and would like to catch up on the conversation, just scroll down and join us.

October 13, 2009

book thoughts: what i've been reading

it has been awhile since i've posted updates on what i've been reading, so here's a look at a few of the good books that have come my way in recent months.

the list reflects the fact that my reading for some time now has been heavy on non-fiction, christianity and theology. i've been especially interested in writings on worship, ecclesiology (the church), lutheranism, church history, christianity and culture, and the spiritual life.

An Altar in the World, by Barbara Brown Taylor
a luminous book about encountering god in the common, everyday practices of life. taylor, a former episcopal priest, understands the sacramental nature of ordinary living as well as anyone i've read. her prose shimmers, and has caused me often to feel a bit of the "joy" about which c.s. lewis testified—that strange and sweet sensation that another world is present in mine.

The Lost World of Genesis One, by John H. Walton
walton, a professor at wheaton college, offers this "literal" interpretation of genesis one—and here's the catch—in the context of what we know about ancient near eastern thought. his main point is that a truly literal reading of genesis in its ancient context shows that it is not so much interested in the material origins of the universe (our modern concern) as in how god organized the already-existing materials to function as a cosmic temple from which he reigns as king.

Acedia & Me, by Kathleen Norris
finally, someone has written about my besetting sin! this book is an insightful, sometimes unwieldy combination of personal memoir and spiritual and psychological reflection, laced with long walks through history, literature and theology, with one consistent theme: the deadly sin of acedia (commonly known as sloth). a remarkable book on a sorely neglected aspect of the spiritual life.

Knowing Christ Today, by Dallas Willard
one of our best spiritual writers offers this well-reasoned defense of the legitimacy of moral and spiritual knowledge over against the contemporary notion that religious faith is based only on emotion and preferences. not only is such knowledge legitimate, it is indispensable—"A life of steadfast discipleship to Jesus Christ can be supported only upon assured knowledge of how things are, of the realities in terms of which that life is lived."

Christless Christianity, by Michael Horton
subtitled, "The Alternative Gospel of the American Church," professor horton launches a full-scale attack on "moralistic, therapeutic deism," which he claims is the true religion of american evangelicalism. like luther, he laments the (american) captivity of the church and calls us to reformation. his claim is, that aside from the religious packaging, the church offers little that can't be found in any number of self-help groups available in our culture.

Life among the Lutherans, by Garrison Keillor
being a newbie lutheran myself, i thought i should read this to see what i've gotten myself in for. this collection of "news from lake wobegon" talks paints a pretty good picture of folks who are "merciless in their goodness," "ordinary people doing their best to be good and walk straight in a world that seems to reward the crooked and mock the righteous." oh, and you don't want to miss the service with the gospel birds or the report from the national usher's convention.

today's van gogh
the novel reader, 1888


  1. I clicked on the link to the Michael Horton book, and after the usual info that amazon.com provides I read a user review that ended with this sentence:

    "Horton regrettably offers no recommendation for the reformation of American Christianity beyond a simplistic call to let the church be defined by the Gospel rather than the laws of the market."

    Seems to me we need more simplicity of that sort.

  2. I agree. But to give the reviewer some credit, I do think Horton is somewhat short on practical counsel in this book. However, what the reader may not know is that there is a follow-up book called, The Gospel Driven Life, which purports to go beyond diagnosis and give some prescriptions to solve the problems raised in Christless Christianity.