Shelf Life

This edition of Shelf Life first appeared in the Spring/Summer 2006 edition of In Touch magazine. For reprint permission contact Mark Baker.

Some books I read on Sabbatical, from Mark D. Baker. Mark is Associate Professor of Mission and Theology at Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary.

Sensual Orthodoxy, by Debbie Blue (Cathedral Hill Press, 2003). A refreshing and engaging book of sermons. Blue uses concrete images to bring the text alive in new ways. A quote from the preface: “If God is in any meaningful sense alive, then the Word of God wouldn’t be like an untouchable repository of facts about God that you must handle barely and gingerly, but something true you could crash around in, actually wrestle with.”

More Ready Than You Realize: Evangelism as Dance in the Postmodern Matrix, by Brian McLaren (Zondervan, 2002). This book critiques many current approaches to evangelism, but more importantly presents alternatives. It has a positive, encouraging feel. I was pleasantly surprised that this book was as engaging and easy to read as his more explicitly narrative books.

Texts Under Negotiation: The Bible and Postmodern Imagination, by Walter Brueggemann (Augsburg Fortress, 1993). This required text in Tim Geddert’s class is a concise and clear discussion of modernity and postmodernity and their relation to biblical interpretation. This work both added to my understanding of the topic and provided me some helpful ideas on how to better communicate things I already understood.

To End All Wars, by Ernest Gordon (Zondervan, 2002). An autobiographical account of a Scottish P.O.W. who became a Christian while in a P.O.W. camp. The book describes the transformation of the camp from a place where death ruled-not just in the sense of captors lacking respect for life, but the way the prisoners themselves lived and treated each other-to a place of light and hope through the Spirit of Jesus even while remaining a death camp in the literal sense of that term.

The Brothers K, by David James Duncan (Dial, 1996). Although the title refers explicitly to baseball strikeouts, The Brothers Karamozov has clearly influenced Duncan and this novel. It is a profoundly anti-religious book. (Here I am using the word “religion” to refer to a negative human construction.) In the beginning its critique is focused on fundamentalist Christian expressions of religion, but by the end Duncan has also exposed the alienating forces of Buddhist/Eastern spirituality and hippie radicalism.

Duncan treats his characters with compassion and respect and includes characters who have sincere connection and companionship with Jesus in the same church context in which others are clearly enslaved by religion. If understood broadly, God/Jesus breaking into characters' lives is present in a variety of ways.