The Bible is not only a book of incomparable stories and poems; it is also a book of divinely inspired lists. I suspect that my lifelong love of lists was sparked when I was a small boy, listening only half-comprehending to the Bible being read aloud. (I'm sure I was not the only child spellbound by the recitation of clean and unclean animals in Leviticus: "And the stork, the heron after her kind, and the lapwing, and the bat. All fowls that creep, going upon all four, shall be an abomination unto you.")
If you are also a lover of lists, and a lover of books, this issue of CT is for you. Here is our list of the best books published in 1998. More than 200 titles were nominated. Ballots were sent to a large panel of pastors, scholars, writers, and other church leaders, who chose the titles for our "Top 25" list. (Because of ties, the list includes a total of 26 titles.)
CT's Book of the Year is The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life in God, by Dallas Willard, published by HarperSanFrancisco (the copublisher of last year's Book of the Year, Billy Graham's Just As I Am). Eerdmans led all publishers with a total of six titles.
As always, the books play off each other, as if in conversation. Poet Kathleen Norris's Amazing Grace shares a spot on the list with Roger Lundin's Emily Dickinson and the Art of Belief; many of the words in Norris's "vocabulary of faith" were central to Dickinson as well. I'd read both of these books, but I never thought about them at the same time; now I will.
In After Heaven, Robert Wuthnow reports on America's spiritual "seekers." In The Divine Conspiracy, Dallas Willard observes that it is quite possible to be a Christian today without being a disciple of Jesus. Maybe we should read Wuthnow and Willard together, in the same Sunday-school class or small group or seminar.
And certainly, if we pay attention to Richard Foster's Streams of Living Water: Celebrating the Great Traditions of Christian Faith, we will celebrate the appearance of the first two volumes of a projected 27 in InterVarsity Press's Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture. (Why not get together with a few friends in your church and commit to buying the series for your pastor as the volumes appear?)
Of the five scholars featured in Tim Stafford's February 1999 CT cover story, "The New Theologians," three are represented among the award winners: Ellen Charry (By the Renewing of Your Minds: The Pastoral Function of Christian Doctrine), Miroslav Volf (After Our Likeness: The Church As the Image of the Trinity), and Kevin Vanhoozer (Is There a Meaning in This Text? The Bible, the Reader, and the Morality of Literary Knowledge). All attest to the truth that there need be no conflict between rigorous scholarship and Christian faith grounded in Scripture and directed by the Spirit.
By John Wilson, Book Review Editor.
1999 BOOK of the YEAR
AN EXCERPT THE DIVINE CONSPRIACY
When Jesus directs us to pray, "Thy kingdom come," he does not mean we should pray for it to come into existence. Rather, we pray for it to take over at all points in the personal, social, and political order where it is now excluded: "On earth as it is in heaven." With this prayer we are invoking it, as in faith we are acting it, into the real world of our everyday existence . … The reality of God's rule, and all of the instrumentalities it involves, is present in action and available with and through the person of Jesus. That is Jesus' gospel.
- THE DIVINE CONSPIRACY: REDISCOVERING OUR HIDDEN LIFE IN GOD, by Dallas Willard; HarperSanFrancisco.
- AFTER HEAVEN: SPIRITUALITY IN AMERICA SINCE THE 1950s, by Robert Wuthnow; University of California Press
- THE DYING OF THE LIGHT: THE DISENGAGEMENT OF COLLEGES & UNIVERSITIES FROM THEIR CHRISTIAN CHURCHES, by James Tunstead Burtchaell; Eerdmans Publishing Co.
- BELIEF IN GOD IN AN AGE OF SCIENCE, by John Polkinghorne; Yale University Press
- BY THE RENEWING OF YOUR MINDS: THE PASTORAL FUNCTION OF CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE, by Ellen Charry; Oxford University Press.
- AFTER OUR LIKENESS: THE CHURCH AS THE IMAGE OF THE TRINITY, by Miroslav Volf; Eerdmans Publishing Co.
- ANCIENT CHRISTIAN COMMENTARY ON SCRIPTURE: NEW TESTAMENT II, MARK, edited by Thomas C. Oden & Christopher A. Hall; InterVarsity Press.
- AMAZING GRACE: A VOCABULARY OF FAITH, by Kathleen Norris; Riverhead Books/Penguin Putnam.
- EMILY DICKINSON AND THE ART OF BELIEF, by Roger Lundin; Eerdmans Publishing Co.
- THE PAUL QUEST: THE RENEWED SEARCH FOR THE JEW OF TARSUS, by Ben Witherington III; InterVarsity Press.
- LOSING OUR VIRTUE: WHY THE CHURCH MUST RECOVER, by David F. Wells; Eerdmans Publishing Co.
- DICTIONARY OF BIBLICAL IMAGERY: AN ENCYCLOPEDIC EXPLORATION OF THE IMAGES, SYMBOLS, MOTIFS, METAPHORS, FIGURES OF SPEECH AND LITERARY PATTERNS OF THE BIBLE, edited by Leland Ryken, James C. Wilhoit, Tremper Longman III; InterVarsity Press.
- THE INCLUSIVE LANGUAGE DEBATE: A PLEA FOR REALISM, by D. A. Carson; Baker Book House.
- ANCIENT CHRISTIAN COMMENTARY ON SCRIPTURE: NEW TESTAMENT VI, ROMANS, edited by Gerald Bray; InterVarsity Press.
- THE CALL: FINDING AND FULFILLING THE CENTRAL PURPOSE OF YOUR LIFE, by Os Guinness; Word Publishing.
- THE THEOLOGY OF PAUL THE APOSTLE, by James D. G. Dunn; Eerdmans Publishing Co.
- AMERICAN EVANGELICALISM: EMBATTLED AND THRIVING, by Christian Smith, University of Chicago Press.
- CAN GOD BE TRUSTED? FAITH AND THE CHALLENGE OF EVIL, by John G. Stackhouse; Oxford University Press.
- INVITATION TO THE CLASSICS: A GUIDE TO BOOKS YOU'VE ALWAYS WANTED TO READ, edited by Louise Cowan and Os Guinness; Baker Book House.
- J. I. PACKER: A BIOGRAPHY, by Alister McGrath; Baker Book House.
- SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY: VOLUME 3, by Wolfhart Pannenberg; Eerdmans Publishing Co.
- WELCOMING BUT NOT AFFIRMING: AN EVANGELICAL RESPONSE TO HOMOSEXUALITY, by Stanley J. Grenz; Westminster John Knox Press.
- ENCOUNTERING THE NEW TESTAMENT: A HISTORICAL AND THEOLOGICAL SURVEY, by Walter A. Elwell & Robert W. Yarbrough; Baker Book House.
- IS THERE A MEANING IN THIS TEXT? THE BIBLE, THE READER, AND THE MORALITY OF LITERARY KNOWLEDGE, by Kevin J. Vanhoozer; Zondervan Publishing House.
- STREAMS OF LIVING WATER: CELEBRATING THE GREAT TRADITIONS OF CHRISTIAN FAITH, by Richard J. Foster; HarperSanFrancisco.
- TRUE WORSHIP: RECLAIMING THE WONDER AND MAJESTY, by Donald P. Hustad; Harold Shaw Publishers.
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