January February Reading

March 3, 2011

Generous Justice:How God’s Grace Makes Us Just (Timothy Keller)

(Book titles are hyperlinked.) Keller lists four types of people he hopes will read this book: 1)Young adults with concern for social justice, but do not allow that concern to “influence how they spend money on themselves, how the conduct their careers, the way they choose and live in their neighborhoods, or whom they seek as friends.” 2) those who approach the “subject of ‘doing justice’ with suspicion.” 3) “younger evangelicals who have ‘expanded their mission’ to include social justice along with evangelism.” and 4) unbelievers who believe that “religion, and especially the Christian church, is a primary force promoting injustice and violence on our planet.” Keller maintains that these four groups have in common that “they all fail at some level to see that the Biblical gospel of Jesus necessarily and powerfully leads to a passion for justice in the world. A concern for justice in all aspects of life is neither an artificial add-on nor a contradiction to the message of the Bible.” It is upon this premise that the book expands.

Keller draws from a broad overview of the Old and New Testament Scriptures, teachings of church history (most frequently referring to Jonathan Edwards’ teachings), and specific teachings of Jesus as he lays out the beautiful picture of the righteousness/justice of God, showing God’s heart and identification (particularly through Christ’s incarnation) with the vulnerable and helpless of society. Throughout the book, he also draws out the beauty of the Ā Gospel, and the amazing grace that God has shown us through His love for us.

A particularly helpful aspect of the book (at least from the background I am coming from, where specific objections were actually taught as reason to avoid helping the poor) is that he addresses several common objections people may have to assisting those in need. Some of them are: 1)Though they are need, they are not in extremity, 2)Those assisting will not have enough for themselves, 3) the poor are poor by their own fault, 4)they will act irresponsibly with what they are given. There are others, as well, and Keller walks through each one, deconstructing the objections with Scriptural examples and directives.

In my reading of the book, Chapter Eight seemed somewhat disconnected from the rest of the book. Further into the chapter, it began to make more sense. I am not sure if this was just me and my foggy state of mind or if others may feel the same. However, it did not affect my appreciation for this work. This is a book that now has a good deal of highlighting and notes, and one that I will have on a list to read again and refer to often. Highly, highly recommend.

Adopted for Life (Russell D. Moore) (audio)

I always marvel at the way my reading is often connected in themes. I began listening to this audio book while still working through Generous Justice, and was thankful for how the two books intersected in topics. (This book was Christian Audio’s free download for the month of February. They have a free download each month.) The most valuable aspect of this book to me was picture it painted of who we are in Christ now that we are sons of God, and who I was before: helpless, orphaned, outside of the family of God.

Some parts of this book seem to Biblicize the Moore family’s personal choices in various things they did when adopting their two sons from Russia (such as renaming them, not teaching them their original culture or language, preferring adoptions of babies/young children, and their particular method of discipline), and then use proof-texting to tie it to Scripture. Others were just assumed to be Biblical. This seems to be misleading, at best. In other areas, Moore is very clear to state that something they did was simply their choice, and that many others would and should do things differently.

The book is not so much a how-to on adoption as it is a picture of what Moore believes adoption to be and parallels the Gospel of our adoption in Christ to the picture of earthly adoption. (Though it is not the position of theological adoption that I had previously been taught, it was extremely helpful to see it in this light.) Moore also repeatedly emphasizes God’s heart for the vulnerable, particularly the orphans. In addition, it is a sort of memoir of his own family’s adoptions.He walks through the various aspects of their own adoption of sons, their period of infertility, the adding of their two biological sons, and the various trials they endured through these times. The book is both theological and anecdotal in nature, perhaps leaning more towards the latter.

I do wish that this work would have addressed other ways to “care for the orphans,” but then again, the book was on adoption specifically, as the title claims. šŸ™‚ Our desire is to eventually minister to Ā the orphan through adoption or foster care, so this was a very helpful book for us to read. Yet, it is a good book for any Christian unfamiliar with observing an adoption up-close. Or, for someone who has…

(The audio book is also read by Russell Moore, which is nice. I always enjoying hearing audio books read by the actual author.)

Nurture Shock (Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman) (audio)

Nurture Shock is not your normal run-of-the-mill parenting or child-education book. It is certainly not a how-to book. It is an engaging work thatĀ dissectsĀ and refutes many common assumptions about various aspects of child development, both their brain-thinking and their moral-thinking.

Author Po Bronson puts it this way in the introduction to the book: “In other words, [what we think are our parenting/mothering] instincts can be so off-base because they are not actually instincts. Today, with three years of investigation behind us, Ashley and I now see that what we imagined were our ‘instincts’ were instead just intelligent, informed reactions. Things we had figured out. Along the way, we also discovered that those reactions were polluted by a hodgepodge of wishful thinking, moralistic biases, contagious fads, personal history, and old (disproven) psychology — all at the expense of common sense.” (emphasis mine)

“[This book will] reveal just how many of our bedrock assumptions about kids can no longer be counted on.”

The bedrock assumptions this book addresses are: 1)the inverse power of praise, 2)how lack of sleep really affects children more than commonly believed, 3)the fact that children are not “color-blind” to race, 4)why children lie (don’t be alarmed, this is not excusing lying; in fact, it specifically addresses ways that children learn lying by what they see/hear their parents doing (and thus perceive it as lying), 5)misdirected “gifted” testing too early in a child’s life, 6)sibling relationships, 7)arguing in teens, 8)teaching self-control to young children, 9)playing well with others 10)language skill development in infants/why “baby-genius” DVD’s aren’t all they’re made out to be.

The books in some ways is a presentation of scientific studies, sometimes letting the reader draw his own conclusions and sometimes and having the authors share their/the investigators conclusions. Some of the conclusions were already similar to various hypothesis I’d held, but most were new or things I hadn’t even thought about. Although I may not hold all the same conclusions as the author or may react differently to them, I recommend this book to both parents (and relatives around those children) and educators. I certainly wasn’t “shocked,” though in many areas simultaneously, surprised but not surprised. Of course, it’s likely that there will be new research in just a few years…but some of this is just common sense.

(This audio is also read by one of the two authors, Po Bronson.)

King’s Cross: The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus (Timothy Keller) (audio)

King’s Cross is probably the best book I’ve read (well, listened to) in recent months, and probably in years. Keller uses the Gospel of Mark to clearly articulate and examine the major themes of “the King” and “the Cross,” dividing the book in to two main parts under those headings. This work is both commentary and devotional, both theological and inspirational, both intellectual and easy to read (or listen to). It is written to address both the skeptic of Christianity and those already in love with this King.

It is hard to briefly summarize the book. (Add to the fact that my mind is quite numb right now…) There are no one-liner quotes to put in your Twitter feed of Facebook status from this book (perhaps an overstatement), but there are certainly bold paragraphs and chapters that are well worth highlighting and dwelling upon. This is a book that I hope to ready again for many years to come.

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother (Amy Chua) (audio)

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother is Amy Chua’s comparison of the stereotypical Chinese (or Asian) mothering system with the stereotypical American mothering system. It is her honest and somewhat candid story of how she parented her two daughters (now young adults) using what she refers to as “Chinese Mothering.”

Undoubtedly, she draws many false dichotomies and makes many over-generalizations about what she perceives to be American parenting. I listened to this book on audio, but I’m afraid that if I had read it I would have really disliked the book even more. On the audio, it is Amy Chua reading and somehow she seems to be smiling as she reads, somehow almost masking theĀ narcissism, judgmentalism, ethocentricism (which she decries if her children show towards Chinese parenting) andĀ authoritarianism, amongst other things, that she so blatantly displays in her parenting. Somehow she manages to get you to love and hate her at the same time.

Amy’s goals for her daughters was for them to be the best at everything they did, and if they were not they were met with swift and severe punishment. She is married to a Jewish man, but she and her husband chose to allow the Chinese mothering have primary influence. Beyond academic success, she also pushed her oldest daughter to excel at piano and her youngest to excel at violin. She shows how it was her Chinese mothering that brought this success, and that American/Western parents would have given up very early in the game. In her opinion, her parenting style worked…in that it got the “results” she was looking for: success. Unfortunately, this caused a lot of opposition and conflict between in her family, particularly with her youngest daughter. (At one point, she even recounts how she would not accept a birthday card from her daughter because it wasn’t “good enough,” and made her make a better one.) When her youngest was a teenager, she finally relented in her extreme micromanagement and allowed her daughter to make some decisions on her own, likely salvaging the relationship. At the same time, she recounts many warm, tender moments, especially the moments of success for her daughter and her feelings of affection to the family dogs–something that she deemed inappropriate to share with her children.

Of course, I disagree strongly with what she viewed as success, as well as the goals she had for her children. This book has made many headlines recently, and it was indeed a helpful book to read, if for nothing other than perspective. (And obviously, I’m not going to over-generalize and assume that this is how all Chinese mothers parent their children.) There were even a few things that I agreed with. But in the long run, seeing her parenting method “work,” is still not worth the walls she built between herself in her children, even if they still talk to her and are appreciative that they have excelled in life because of her. Nonetheless, Amy Chua is a gifted writer and it was a stimulating read…er, listen.

This year, I’m setting bi-monthly reading goals rather than an annual resolution and list. I knew January would be quite busy into early February, but still had 4 books I planned to read. Of those four (in the pic above), I only finished one, and am still reading the others which I’ll carry over to the next 2 months. Thankfully, at this season of life I’ve realized that I can listen to a lot more via audio book than actual sit-down reading. I’ve had some schedule changes in the last month that give me a good deal more listening time, so I am excited about getting in more books that way. Sadly, my retention level while listening is far worse than if I were reading the book. But maybe that’s because I highlight and underline way too much…Good thing Adler’s How to Read a Book is coming up on my to-read list!

(I got several free audio books by signing up for and I received 2 free audio book credits. You can cancel during the first 30-days and not be charged. Start the cancellation process and give “financial reasons” as your reason, and they’ll give you a $20 credit, as well.).

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  • Sarah March 4, 2011 at 11:14 am

    Wow. This is an impressive list. I really enjoyed the Timoth Keller book I read and think I’d like to check out these. _Nurture Shock_ sounds very interesting and I may just go order it right now. Six Seeds (something I ‘liked’ on facebook) did a series of posts about the tiger mother book. All in all a much more interesting and intellectual list that what I’ve been working through . . šŸ™‚
    Thanks for your comment over on my blog! I’m planning to put up more pictures of my girl’s room (if I ever get around to it) – I’m so happy with all the elements that have recently come together.

  • Keren March 5, 2011 at 11:52 pm

    Thanks, Sarah. I enjoyed reading all these-even “The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.” šŸ™‚ “Nurture Shock” definitely gets you thinking!

    Look forward to your future pics!

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