The Babylonian Genesis by Alexander Heidel.

The Babylonian Genesis: The Story of Creation

A readable translation of Enuma Elish and other Babylonian creation stories, which are immensely helpful in understanding Genesis 1 and 2. Heidel’s analysis is over sixty years old (the book was first published in 1942 and thoroughly revised in 1951) and therefore will not reflect the most up-to-date interpretations, but it seems to be very thoughtful and well-supported. I was disappointed by his understanding of the “waters above” in Genesis 1 as a mist that originally lay on the primordial ocean. Likewise, I was a little skeptical of his interpretation of Leviathan and Rahab.

Understanding Genesis:  The Heritage of Biblical Christianity by Nahum M. Sarna.

Understanding Genesis (The Heritage of Biblical Israel)

Really helpful in my understanding of Genesis 1-3. Respectful of the text, yet not literalistic.

Church History In Plain Language by Bruce L. Shelley and Mark Noll.

Church History in Plain Language Updated 2nd Edition

True to its title, this is a very readable history, and Shelley does a fair job of condensing 2000 years into 500 pages. He does a poor job of citation, though, and sometimes quotes whole paragraphs of descriptions from other sources without making his source clear. The coverage of the 20th century seemed a little disjointed, but as a whole, it was an enjoyable and enlightening history.

Surprised By Hope:  Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church by N. T. Wright.

Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church

N. T. Wright tries to shed light on the widely misunderstood Christian belief about life after death. The Christian’s ultimate hope is not “to go to heaven when you die,” though granted we do go to a (temporary) resting place. Our real destination is a new heavens and earth, i.e., a new creation, to come fully when our bodies are resurrected and renewed. Wright explores how this was inaugurated at Christ’s resurrection and how it ought to inspire Christians to get to work NOW for this kingdom, which has already come and yet is still coming. We are not to abandon this world, since it’s “going to be destroyed anyway,” but we are to be champions of art, justice, and love.

My admiration for Wright only grows.

How To Read Genesis by Tremper Longman III. This was an okay book. It does provide a lot of helpful background into Ancient Middle Eastern stories and customs, but Longman does not really engage in the implications of this background information. Longman tells his readers about Gilgamesh and the snake who steals the plant of immortality, but he doesn’t tell us whether he thinks that Genesis 2 is myth and not history, or vice-versa. He tells us that the Tower of Babel is highly poetic in composition, but he refrains from commenting on what that means for the historocity of the story. I only read the commentary on Genesis 1-11, but ultimately, I felt disappointed.

How to Read Genesis

The Challenge of Jesus by N. T. Wright. This book was my first exposure to N. T. Wright, and I left it with nothing but respect for him as a scholar. Wright writes for a conservative audience, assuring them that Christians ought not to be afraid of applying biblical ibscholarship to their understanding of the scriptures. He warns them not to assume that all there is to know about Jesus is already known. Wright then proceeds for the rest of the book to take a second look at the world of the Jews, to understand what these first century Jews expected from their Messiah, and to think about how they would have interpreted the cross and the resurrection. Wright concludes with a renewed look at Christ’s calling for Christians in a postmodern world.

The Challenge of Jesus was very readable and yet still scholarly. It encouraged my faith to walk through the essentials again.

The Challenge of Jesus: Rediscovering Who Jesus Was and Is

The Meaning of Creation:  Genesis and Modern Science by Conrad Hyers. Fantastic exposition of Genesis 1. Hyers covers ANE mythology and shows how strange a literal interpretation really is. His interpretation of Genesis 2-3 was less convincing, but gave me things to think about.

The Meaning of Creation: Genesis and Modern Science

Beyond the Firmament:  Understanding Science and the Theology of Creation by Gordon J. Glover delves into what we can know about nature from the Bible and what we can know about God from science. He concludes that the original audience of Genesis was hardly concerned with explaining the world’s formation scientifically, and that science is only able to explain the world of the senses by means of natural causes. Glover does a good job of putting Genesis 1 in its ancient context and arguing that its primary message was to show that Yahweh alone, not pagan deities, created the world and gave it order. His explanations of what science says about the age of the earth and about evolution are designed to be simple enough for the nonscientific mind to understand, but I think better much explanations can be found in Falk’s Coming To Peace With Science and Collins’s The Language of God. Glover’s intended audience is conservative evangelicals, and he is very sensitive in his approach. This may be the book to give someone within this movement who is just beginning to have questions about literal six-day creationism. Personally, I found little in this book that I had not been exposed to before, aside from ANE mythology and culture. Glover covers Genesis 1 pretty well, but leaves us hanging on Genesis 2-11. I give the book a B-.

Beyond the Firmament: Understanding Science and the Theology of Creation

The Christian View of Science and Scripture by  Bernard Ramm (1954) is so formal that it reads like a textbook, but it is a valuable Protestant resource on the relationship between science and the Bible. Ramm makes the important point that Christianity must develop a philosophy about the relationship of modern science to our religious beliefs, one that goes beyond debating the authenticity of individual cases of contention. He works his way through the various branches of science and works out his philosophy pretty exhaustively. Ramm is fairly liberal (in the positive sense of the word), allowing for sincere Christians to believe in an old universe, a local flood, and even evolution (though he himself embraces progressive creationism).

It is pretty amazing how little has changed since the publication of this book in the 1950s when it comes to the nature of the debate. However, a lot has changed in science. There is no mention of the important subject of DNA, which has a lot to say about the debate. Nevertheless, the Christian View of Science and Scripture has some very important and challenging things to say that young earth creationists ought to consider

Finding Darwin’s God:  A Scientist’s Search For Common Ground Between God and Evolution by Kenneth R. Miller. The title says it all. Biologist Kenneth Miller argues that the challenges of the Young Earth Creationists and the Intelligent Design movements against evolution and naturalism fall short when the evidence is examined. Alternately, he argues that atheists who claim that science has expelled religion have gone beyond the realm of scientific study.  Lastly, Miller attempts to use quantum physics to harmonize the process of evolution and the Western idea of a good God who created man, wanted a relationship with him, but gave him the freedom to choose for himself.

Miller is a obviously a teacher. Again and again, he explains the ideas of evolution and even quantum physcis for the layman, giving numerous case-specific examples. He is especially effective in answering arguments  by Henry Morris and Philip Johnson. However, sometimes, at least for this reader, his explanations are difficult to understand, but his main points nevertheless get through. Some of Miller’s ideas did not sit well with my understanding of God’s sovereignty, namely the assertion that God allows nature to work itself out independently from his control and yet somehow accomplishes his will. Scriptures seem to teach the opposite, that even the outcome of the cast dice is determined by him.

For the reader who is looking for a scientific explanation of evolution and how this theory is scientifically compatible with religion, this may be a good read. The reader who is looking for a theological explanation of how evolution and religion, especially Christianity, are compatible, should look elsewhere. December 2008. B

Finding Darwin's God: A Scientist's Search for Common Ground Between God and Evolution (P.S.)

Quo Vadis by Henryk Sienkiewicz is about a Roman general named Vinicious who falls in love with the young Christian Lygia. When Vinicious converts to Christianity, his love for Lygia is threatened by the persecutions of Nero. An educational read, if not a bit slow at times, this book is a good way to learn about early Christianity and Nero’s cruelty. November 2008 B

Quo Vadis

Coming To Peace With Science by Darrell R. Falk. Falk makes the case for a belief in Jesus and in evolution. He concentrates much more heavily on the scientific evidence for evolution rather than how Genesis and other scriptures can be interpreted to include evolution. He is wonderfully courteous toward opposing views within Christianity and exhorts believers to likewise be patient and open with others with different interpretations. July 2008.  A

Coming to Peace With Science: Bridging the Worlds Between Faith and Biology

Battling Unbelief by John Piper is a condensed version of Future Grace. Piper shows how the root of sin (from anxiety to lust) is unbelief in the promises of God. Piper is a favorite of mine. He has a wonderful passion for Jesus that makes me envious. July 2008  A

Battling Unbelief: Defeating Sin with Superior Pleasure

The Language of God by Francis S. Collins is another book about the relationship between Genesis and modern science, but this one is much better written than A Matter of Days (see below). Francis Collins is a distinguished geneticist who was the head of the Human Genome Project. He is also a Christian who embraces evolution and a 14 billion-year-old universe. His purpose in this book is to convince believers and non-believers alike that modern science and faith in God are not contradictions. Among other things, Collins describes the unlikely orchestration of events post Big Bang that made life possible on earth, the fascinating work of the Human Genome Project, and his own fulfilling relationship with Jesus.

As I have been examining what I believe about science and Genesis, I have come to respect old earth interpretations of other Christians. It used to be that I was aggressively opposed to non-literal views of Genesis 1 and 2, but now I am seeing the possible value of having alternate interpretations. Many non-believers have as their one stumbling block to accepting the faith the idea that Christianity ignores the clear testimony of nature. I wonder if this ought to be a stumbling block for them? Should we not be able to tell them that not all Christians are young earthers?  A

The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief

A Matter of Days by Hugh Ross. The astronomer and pastor Hugh Ross makes a case for an old earth interpretation of Genesis 1 and 2. He presents convincing scientific data that supports an old earth and refutes arguments for a young earth. He then makes a less convincing (but not bad) case for a Biblican interpretation other than a literal twenty-four hour day. Ross points out that the debate among Christians has turned un-Christian in its hostility toward those who are non-literalists and encourages believers to be patient with one another. (I heartily agree. ) He also labors to show that the church’s history is not uniform in its interpretation of Genesis 1 and 2. I found this to be a pretty helpful read for me as I search out this issue, but I was rather skeptical of some of the ways he interpreted scripture. Other things in scripture he pointed out gave me pause. 5/08 B

A Matter of Days: Resolving a Creation Controversy

The Truth Behind the New Aetheism by David Marshall. This is an excellent response to the “new aetheists” Dawkins, Harris, et al., exposing their bad logic and even bad research. For anyone searching for a reasoned defense of the Christian faith, this will not disappoint. 3/08 A

The Truth Behind the New Atheism: Responding to the Emerging Challenges to God and Christianity

Knock, Knock: Shedding Light On Jehovah’s Witness At the Door by Ruth Baker. The author is not the most sophisticated writer, but she has a heart for the conversion of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The most helpful suggestion she gives for evangelizing to J. W.’s is to counter their doctrines by quoting only scriptures that match their own Bible translations. Otherwise, they will not accept anything you say. If you are looking for a history of Jehovah’s Witnesses or a detailed outline of their beliefs, then you should look elsewhere, but if you want to find a good strategy for witnessing to J. W.’s, then this is a helpful resource. 3/08 B

Knock, Knock: Shedding Light on Jehovah's Witness at the Door

A Short History of Christianity by Stephen Tomkins. Because this is such a short history, I don’t think I learned much. It might be more accurately titled Christian History: A Taste. What I did learn is that much of our history is pretty discouraging, but I wonder if Tomkins neglected to fairly present the good of Christianity. I hope to find out in future, more thorough books. 2/08 C

A Short History of Christianity

What’s So Great About Christianity? by Dinesh D’Souza. This is one Christian’s response to the recent onslaught of atheistic anti-Christian literature. D’Souza answers their attacks eloquently, showing how religion is triumphing globally over atheism, how Western culture, including the scientific method, is thoroughly indebted to Christianity, how Christian teachings are supported by science, and how aetheist attacks against Christianity don’t hold up philosophically. I found this eye-opening and intriguing. It’s a good tool for anyone seeking an answer to books like The God Delusion, God Is Not Great, et al. One of the things I found particularly interesting was D’Souza’s outlook on how the Big Bang Theory supports creation ex nihilo and how evolution theory cannot possibly work without the hand of God. 12/07 A

What's So Great About Christianity

The Weight of Glory, by C. S. Lewis. I’m constantly amazed how much insight Lewis has into God’s character and how much good sense he displays . These are great essays and served as wonderful Sunday morning devotionals for me. My favorites are “Transposition” and “The Inner Ring.” 11/07 A

The Weight of Glory