All posts tagged “Tim Keller

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My favorite books of 2012

This past year was a rich year for reading, and whittling my 2012 reading list down to a top ten was tough, but I’ve given it my best shot. As it happens, only two of these were actually published in 2012, but they’re all timely anyway. It was interesting for me to realize that three are novels, five pertain to public theology, and the other two have to do with history and ecclesiology, respectively.

gileadGilead (Picador) by Marilynne Robinson. I finished this one on New Year’s Eve, and it was easily one of my very favorite books of the year. Robinson’s prose is poetically earthy, and the themes of the story are profound. The premise may not immediately hook you – an elderly, dying Congregationalist minister in Iowa writing an honest letter to his young son – but if you stick with it, you’ll be deeply moved.

asher-levMy Name is Asher Lev (Anchor) by Chaim Potok. A novel about a tormented artist who struggles to pursue his craft without abandoning his Jewish faith, something that becomes more and more difficult as his “gift” becomes increasingly evident. It’s an interesting look at the Hasidic Jewish community, a tradition foreign to many of us. And for those of us who aren’t artists in any obvious sense, it’s an insightful look at the life of an artist. As a Christian, I found much to ponder, considering the challenge of being “in the world but not of it.”

poisonwood-bibleThe Poisonwood Bible (Harper) by Barbara Kingsolver. I’d wanted to read this one for quite some time, but it was always a bit intimidating to me, both because of length and because of its premise. But I think it’s a hugely important book for Christians to read, especially as we think about the ways we engage with others across cultures. My thoughts on the book, and the difficult questions it raises, are here.

Public Theology

A-Public-FaithA Public Faith (Brazos) by Miroslav Volf. I had a lot to say about this when I read this in early 2012 (I re-read it this fall), but in brief, he argues that as adherents of the world’s major religions grow numerically, as globalization brings them together geographically, and as they each seek to promote their vision for society, we face the twin temptations of imposition and withdrawal. Volf writes that the Christian faith, when functioning properly, offers a unique vision of human flourishing, as well as the resources to realize it. I wish everyone would read this book.

Desiring-the-KingdomDesiring the Kingdom (Baker Academic) by James K.A. Smith. I was too intimidated to actually review this one, but it was a paradigm-rocker for me. Drawing on Augustine, Smith emphasizes that we’re primarily desiring beings, making decisions not first and foremost on the basis on reason or belief, but because of desire. We’re liturgical animals, he says, created to worship. Those who design shopping malls, he provocatively points out, understand this better than do those who lead our churches and Christian schools.

creation-regainedCreation Regained (Eerdmans) by Al Wolters. This book tackles worldview in light of the Reformed understanding of the narrative arc of the Bible, which moves from creation to fall and on to redemption. It may seem opaque, but my biggest takeaway was Wolters’ distinction between structure and direction in creation – in a nutshell, all creation (including people and institutions) is structurally good, but because of the fall all creation is misdirected, which is where redemption comes in. This understanding, I think, has profound implications for cultural engagement. My review is here.

kingdom-callingKingdom Calling (IVP) by Amy Sherman. For some odd reason I never reviewed this one, but it’s a wonderful plea, as the subtitle aptly puts it, for “vocational stewardship for the common good.” Sherman shows how our vocations – the work we do every day – can and should serve the common good and point to the coming of the Kingdom. For those who are not in so-called “full-time ministry” and feel that only pastors and theologians and evangelists and missionaries are truly doing God’s work, this book will encourage you and will equip you to serve God and others through the work of your hands.

every_good_endeavorEvery Good Endeavor (Dutton) by Timothy Keller. This is the best, most comprehensive book I know of on the “integration of faith and work.” Whereas most books like this focus on a single aspect of that integration, Keller takes more of a both/and approach, emphasizing a broader, more cohesive whole, and does so in a more theologically robust way than many others. I anticipated the book here and pointed to it again here.

Church and History
Ancient-Future Faith (Baker Academic) by Robert Webber. I include this one because its themes have stuck with me throughout the year, more than most of the books I read. As we find ourselves on shifting cultural terrain, Webber believes we’ll find key resources for the future in the practices and beliefs of the ancient church, focusing specifically on the implications for our understanding of Christ, church, worship, spirituality, and mission. By the way, for those of us in traditions inclined to mark the beginning of church history in 1517 (and for those with no appreciation for church history at all), we need this book.

moral-minorityMoral Minority (Penn) by David Swartz. I’ll be reviewing this one very soon, but for now I’ll simply say it’s a well-researched, fascinating, historical look at evangelical political involvement in the United States in the second half of the twentieth century. It’s getting some very good press from the likes of the New York Times, Christianity Today, and Scot McKnight, all well-deserved in my opinion.

If you’re interested in my previous favorites, check out my 2011 and 2010 lists. What books would you recommend I read in 2013?

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Keller talks faith & work on Morning Joe


Recently I read Tim Keller’s latest book, Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work (Dutton), which he co-authored with Katherine Leary Alsdorf. So far, it’s the best book I’ve read on the important topic of integrating faith and work.

You may recall that in early October, before the book’s release, I shared an excerpt on common grace along with the book’s trailer.

Keller was on Morning Joe this morning discussing the book, something I’d been hoping would happen (earlier interviews on the show about his other books, like this one, have always impressed me). Here’s today’s clip:

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To see how Keller’s church in New York puts these ideas into practice, check out its Center for Faith and Work.

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Tim Keller on common grace

Ahead of the November release of Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work (Dutton), co-authors Tim Keller and Katherine Leary Alsdorf are featured in brief videos on the book’s website, discussing some of the motivation behind the project. The book’s introduction is also available at the site to whet our appetites for what’s to come.

I was also interested to see an affiliated article by Keller on common grace, something he’ll certainly cover in more detail in the book. “The doctrine of common grace,” he writes, “helps us to acknowledge God’s goodness in all of creation and enables us to pursue mission with love in a fallen world.” He goes on to warn that those who don’t properly understand common grace are likely to “fall prey to many misconceptions,” including the false belief that we can earn God’s blessings:

[W]ithout an understanding of God’s common grace, the world will be a more confusing place. In the movie Amadeus (1984), Salieri is totally confused and bitter that he, a morally good person, has so little talent, while Mozart, a morally despicable person, has obviously been blessed with a rare, God-given musical talent. Salieri perceived this situation as a failure of divine justice; but in fact his problem was a failure to understand the doctrine of common grace. God gives good gifts of wisdom, talent, beauty, and skill graciously, that is, in completely unmerited ways. He casts them across the human race like seed, in order to enrich, brighten, and preserve the world. Far from being unfair, God’s unmerited acts of blessings make life on earth much more bearable than it should be given the pervasive effects of sin on all of his creation.

The full article is available here. For more on common grace, here are my thoughts on Rich Mouw’s excellent little book on the topic.

In the Every Good Endeavor trailer below, Keller discusses how the gospel changes our work.

Every Good Endeavor from Redeemer City to City on Vimeo.

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Repaso: August 24, 2012

1. James K.A. Smith on “holy worldliness”
James K.A. Smith writes for Christianity Today’s This Is Our City project on the “earthly city” and cultural transformation, with nods to Rich Mouw and Augustine:

[A]s citizens of the City of God who find ourselves exiled in the earthly city (in Augustine’s technical sense) are called to “seek the welfare of the city” precisely because we are called to cultivate creation. We will seek the welfare of the earthly city by seeking to annex it to the City of God, thereby reordering creaturely life to shalom.

2. Jon Foreman on the fight & the dance
The Switchfoot frontman is at it again with a new Huffington Post piece:

Yes, it’s a dog-eat-dog world, and dogs don’t dance. In fact, most of the creatures here on the planet can fight, very few can dance. We humans have the rare honor of rising above the fight of natural selection and choosing to seek a higher good than mere survival. I could choose joy instead of the fight. Unfortunately, the fight still seems to be the rut that I (and the rest of the human race) fall into. It’s sad but true. We struggle better than we salsa. The habit of the fight seems easy to explain: Dominance is easier to achieve than friendship; consumption is easier than love; and objectification is easier than empathy. Certainly, I desire to enter into the dance of happiness and joy. But, all too often I’m distracted by the fight: sidelined by the little battles along the way.

3. Forum on human rights in Guatemala
Back in June I referred to an amazing, heart-breaking story produced by This American Life about a Guatemalan man living in Boston named Oscar Ramirez. He recently participated in a panel discussion hosted by the Washington Office on Latin America focused on obstacles to justice for human rights abuses in Guatemala. The video is here, and it also features two people who are featured in Granito, the documentary I blogged about last month.

4. Tim Keller on biblical justice
I reviewed Tim Keller’s Generous Justice a while ago, shortly after it came out, but was just reminded of how good and important it is thanks to an excerpt reprinted in RELEVANT this week:

Despite the effort to draw a line between “justice” as legal fairness and sharing as “charity,” numerous Scripture passages make radical generosity one of the marks of living justly. The just person lives a life of honesty, equity and generosity in every aspect of his or her life. If you are trying to live a life in accordance with the Bible, the concept and call to justice are inescapable. We do justice when we give all human beings their due as creations of God. Doing justice includes not only the righting of wrongs but generosity and social concern, especially toward the poor and vulnerable.

5. National Geographic’s photo contest winners
The Big Picture has the 11 winning photos from the 2012 National Geographic Traveler Magazine Photo Contest, and many of them are quite good (as one might expect from a competition with a name like that).

6. Josh Garrels is building a studio
If you’re not sick of me posting videos from the singer-songwriter Josh Garrels (like this, this, and this), consider another. He’s working on his follow-up record to “Love & War & The Sea In Between” and he’s looking for a little help.

“The Process” – Josh Garrels from Josh Garrels on Vimeo.

Repaso is intended as a thought-provoking compilation of news and commentary from the past week related to the intersections of faith, development, justice and peace. As always, I welcome your thoughts on any of the links and ideas in this roundup!

[Photo credit: "A lonely cabin is illuminated under the Northern Lights in Finmmark, Norway." (Photo and caption by Michelle Schantz/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest) via The Big Picture]