I tend to be a bit of a slow reader. Even when I’m not busy with classes, it takes me a while to get through a book. Although it was through books I discovered apologetics, most of my research nowadays is done through shorter articles, videos, or podcasts. That said, I managed to read a handful of books this year that I wanted to recommend. Let’s kick off the year with a few quick book reviews. Here are 5 books to check out in 2021.
“A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War” by Joseph Loconte
This book is pretty niche, but it’s my kind of niche. C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and World War I history wrapped into a single cover. If you have an interest in any of those things, this book will be worth your time. Loconte covers these subjects with a great deal of understanding of worldview. How does a culture’s view of religion, patriotism, and glory influence how they fight a war? What did these iconic authors have to say about them? How did the horrors of the war influence and shape their writings and journeys to faith?
“Holy Sexuality and the Gospel” by Christopher Yuan
I first heard Christopher Yuan speak at a ReThink conference many years ago. His story of going from a gay club enthusiast and drug dealer to Christian speaker and professor is incredible and unique. When he came back to ReThink in 2019, I decided it was time to actually buy his books. If you’re interested in his story, check out the book he co-wrote with his mother, “Out of a Far Country,” detailing both of their journeys to Christianity. It’s a fantastic and pretty short read.
His newest book, “Holy Sexuality,” goes into much greater depth on some of the concepts he discussed in that book and in some of his lectures. The title comes from the idea that we have divided sexuality into homosexual=bad and heterosexual=good when even a straight person can commit countless sexual sins. Instead, the goal ought to be holy sexuality, the way God designed us. He provides some of the best teaching here on how Christians can understand homosexuality from a Biblical perspective and how to apply it as a church in our modern culture.
Although I picked up this book at an apologetics conference, I would hesitate to call the book apologetics. It is important material that any apologist should know, but the book is less about defending Christianity and more making sure we understand Biblical teaching on sexuality. Given Yuan’s background, of course, the book will emphasize teachings related to homosexuality. However, it goes so much further than that. He explains the biblical views of marriage, singleness, identity, love, and friendship more clearly and thoughtfully than I have ever seen before.
“So the Next Generation Will Know” by J. Warner Wallace & Sean McDowell
This is another one I picked up at ReThink 2019. If you’ve been following Tent Making Christianity for a while now, you know Drew and I love the work that Wallace and McDowell have done over the years. Both are excellent speakers, authors, and youth leaders. They poured their years of experience into this book, meant to equip Christian parents and youth leaders to reach Gen Z with the gospel. Ironically, I am neither a parent nor a youth leader currently, aside from leading a Bible study with college students. I still found the material extremely valuable, even just in understanding other people not much younger than me. If you are interacting with young people and are feeling a little bit lost with the technology and shifting culture, you absolutely should read this book. It’s pretty short and easy reading.
“Why I Still Believe” by Mary Jo Sharp
Mary Jo Sharp is a name I’d heard many times but knew little about until October 2019. She was one of the speakers at the Unbelievable Live conference. Her talk blew me away, speaking to some of the exact things that had been on my mind. What can we as Christians do to combat our own cynicism? How do we not get frustrated by Christian hypocrisy and infighting? Where does the beauty of God and his creation fit with a broken world? Sharp wrestles with these questions and more while also sharing many stories from her life. From the way she was treated as a pastor’s wife to the debates she did while teaming up with guys like Nabeel Qureshi and David Wood, her story is worth your time.
“Unoffendable” by Brant Hansen
This one might seem a bit out of leftfield. Hansen is not a pastor or trained theologian, but a Christian radio DJ and personality. His podcast, the Brant and Sheri Oddcast, is one of the few non-apologetics podcasts I try to make time for. It manages to be both goofy and insightful. I had a copy of his first book, “Unoffendable” lying around, and I finally decided to read through it this year. It quickly became one of my new favorite books. I’m adding it to my very short list of books that, if I ruled the world, every Christian would read.
Hansen discusses how we, as Christians, are not meant to hold onto anger. For some, this may be a bold claim. In today’s world of righteous anger and justified outrage, anger is often seen as a powerful motivator and fitting response to injustice. Hansen offers from scripture an alternative, living and acting with humility, love, and gratitude. That may sound obvious or even naïve, but it’s exactly what many of us miss. Especially today, with social media, the ability, or more accurately the skill, to be unoffendable is more critical than ever.
The book may not be about apologetics, but I think it is closely tied to it. Part of being an ambassador for Christ is modeling his character. Books like Tactics by Greg Koukl are great for learning how to have a less offensive manner. We rarely get any concrete training on how to develop a thick enough skin to let things go and be unoffendable. This is one I plan to be rereading periodically. Also, Hansen is hilarious. He makes his point with a dry wit and great stories, making the book easy to read for anyone.
Those are my 5 books to check out in 2021. Let us know what your suggestions are in our Facebook Group here.