2012 Booklist: Classics, New and Old
We have looked at the first five of my top ten reads from 2012. Here is the second half of my list.
Historically, I have not been a huge fan of the Narnia series. It was a pleasant surprise, then, that I found this story to be quiet entertaining. While the ending may be a bit anticlimactic, I thoroughly enjoyed this particular tromp through the world of Narnia.
This book attempts to reconcile the sovereignty of God with the problem of suffering through a unique approach—by delving into six Biblical stories of “spectacular” (i.e., large and important) sins in the Bible: the rebellion of Satan, humanity’s fall, the pride of Babel, the sale of Joseph, the “tainted” kingship of the Davidic line, and Christ’s betrayal by Judas Iscariot. Piper seeks to show how even the most spectacular sins fail to nullify God’s good purposes—that evil is ultimately used by God as the source of its own suicide. If you struggle with questions like, “Why doesn’t God restrain sin and calamity more often?”, this book could prove useful.
Years ago, I read through Out of the Silent Planet, the first in C. S. Lewis’ space trilogy. I enjoyed the first chapter and found the rest to be rather boring. However, Shannon began reading through the trilogy in 2012, and she absolutely loved Perelandra (the second book in the series). I agreed to let her read it to me after she finished it herself. I enjoyed this book much more than the first. As something of a “retelling” of Paradise Lost (although that is a simplification), Perelandra delves into some incredibly interesting theological material. This story contains one of the best descriptions of holiness and one of the best depictions of evil I have ever read; it is the highlight of the trilogy for me. (I read about 100 pages from the middle of That Hideous Strength, and Shannon described the rest of the book to me as she read through it.) I thought the last chapter of Perelandra, which is heavily influenced by the Psalms—and which even Shannon found boring—was powerfully beautiful.
It seems that most of the Christian commentary I have read on Hollywood and entertainment comes from people who are either fully immersed in culture (with no real ability to tell the forest from the trees) or fully removed from and ignorant of Hollywood (with no real ability to tell a tree from a dump truck). That is why I so greatly appreciate this effort by pastor Wayne A. Wilson, a student of films and a student of Scripture. Unlike many Christian “authorities” in our day, he discerns and explains the difference between a film’s message and its method. Chapter 3 investigates what church history has to say about the theater (dramatic portrayals of real or imagined stories), gleaning some helpful principles that directly apply to the medium of film. (I hadn’t realized that spiritual heavyweights such as Tertullian, Richard Baxter, Blaise Pascal, William Wilberforce, Charles Spurgeon, and John Wesley had strong opinions on such matters.) His commentary on the Biblical view of public displays of sexuality versus public displays of violence are the most insightful I have ever seen. Chapter 7, “The Law of Love,” in which Wilson examines how nudity and sexual acts affect the actors themselves, is especially enlightening. He also develops a comprehensive description of what constitutes good art. To call this book “well rounded” is an understatement. It is truly a modern day classic.
A lot has been said about Hell in the last couple years. When Francis Chan announced by video his plans to weigh in on the matter, I was struck by the tone of his announcement: passionate and humble. His book carries that same spirit. Chan and Sprinkle exemplify what I think are two essential elements in discussing a topic like this: a firm commitment to follow the teaching of Scripture (regardless of the consequences) and a firm commitment to demonstrate love and compassion. Chan’s heart is for people—not to win a theological argument. Many in our Western Christian subculture—including myself—have too often been defined by a stringent devotion to sound doctrine without an ounce of love for people. This book challenges such lovelessness, and it convicted me on more than one occasion. It is amazing how easy it is to read this book, considering the amount of material covered. I highly recommend it.
2012 Book of the Year
Obviously, this award isn’t exactly current. I’m evaluating books I read in 2012, not books that were published in 2012. This is simply my attempt to shine a little more light on a book I deem worthy of special attention. And this year’s award goes to Worldly Amusements, by Wayne A. Wilson.
With his feet firmly planted on the solid ground of Scripture and his finger expertly planted in the wind of culture, Wilson strikes what I think is the perfect balance required for evaluating a topic such as movie watching. He is a lover of film, but he has not succumbed to the seduction of the entertainment industry. It has been said that the church is strengthened by persecution from the world and weakened by seduction from the world. In a culture where the entertainment choices of Christians and non-Christians are practically identical, Pastor Wilson shines the much-needed light of Scripture into the heart of his readers. His discernment and Biblical wisdom are exemplary. I was challenged, convicted, and encouraged all at once. Applying the Biblical principles Wilson expounds on has already garnered much fruit in my life—particularly in my marriage. My standards for movie watching have been forever altered—for the better.
Rest assured, I will talk about this book in more depth in the future. In the meantime, I recommend picking up a copy and reading it for yourself. Whatever the case, Worldly Amusements wins my unimportant-but-not-unenthusiastic Book of the Year Award for 2012.