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Book Reviews (by Kim Gentes)

In the past, I would post only book reviews pertinent to worship, music in the local church, or general Christian leadership and discipleship. Recently, I've been studying many more general topics as well, such as history, economics and scientific thought, some of which end up as reviews here as well.

Entries in christian (27)

The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate - John H. Walton (2010)

The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate- John H. Walton

The last 6 years of my life I have been focused on studying history, Christianity, and science, always with an eye to looking at the serious questions of cosmology, anthropogeny and the origins of civilization. In relation to cosmology, I have found no single book more profound and articulate in explaining the Genesis account of creation than John H. Walton's "The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate".

There is a torrid spew of rhetoric accompanying both Christian and non-Christian views on the creation narrative found in Genesis 1. There are as many factions of Christian creationism as there are scientific theory groups whose anti-theist positions demand just as polemic a view point. What normally happens when Christian talk about cosmology (origins) is that they come down into two groups: those who believe the Genesis 1 account is literally true; and those that believe the Genesis creation narrative is allegorical. There are a few other subtler positions that combine features of the two, as well.

What Walton does with "The Lost World of Genesis One" is to revisit the text, the language, the culture and the ancient literature in which the text finds its context, and brings to us a brilliant re-thinking of the entire debate.  Part of the problem with this intensely powerful topic is that the conversation around it has become almost political in its consumption of subtly. We take sides without thinking deeper about the topic. But most of that is hardly our fault. Genesis is written thousands of years ago, into a language and culture we don't know or understand. Walton walks us into that strange world, and expertly explores how the ancient text was written, for whom it was written and how it can be read today in a startlingly satisfying and understandable way.

Because of the intensity and applicability of the topic (especially in today's culture and media) and the landmark approach which Walton synthesizes in this book, this is easily the most important book you read will this year, possibly in the next several.  In the Western world we often believe that the most important questions can be answered by short, simple sound bites. But this leaves us with a truncated mental grid through which to explore complex and profound truths. John Walton takes a lifetime of research and teaching to present a clear understanding of Genesis 1 that doesn't reduce the complex and important details into creationist or evolutionary memes. 

One of the pivotal points made by Walton is that the Genesis narrative, rightly understood, holds together as real and actual creation, but in a way that compliments the setting into which it was written. He says :

In a functional ontology, to bring something into existence would require giving it a function or a role in an ordered system, rather than giving it material properties. Consequently, something could be manufactured physically but still not "exist" if it has not become functional.1

The implications of this statement are vetted out through 18 propositional chapters, along with a summary and much more supporting information which even includes a "Q&A" section to explore the nuances of what such a position means to Christians and the world.  I won't give more details here, since this is a serious book that really states every point well. In my opinion, this is the most important book of the decade.

I implore you- if you read just one book this year, make it this book. This excellent book contains the single best explanation for cosmology and the Genesis narrative I have ever heard. It is because of this that "The Lost World of Genesis One" garners our Editor's Choice Award. I can't urge you enough to consider this profound work. John H. Walton has given the Christian church a brilliant, readable and (most importantly) usable thesis for one of humanities most profound inquiries- the question of Creation.

Amazon Link:


Review by Kim Gentes


  1. Walton, John H. The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2010) Pg. 26. Kindle Edition.


The Case for the Psalms: Why They Are Essential - N.T. Wright (2013)

Case For The Psalms - NT WrightThe weight of most books by NT Wright focus on biblical history, theological concepts and important themes that flow as the undercurrent of the biblical narrative and its teachings. Most prominent of these is Wright's understanding of the mission of Christ, his place in Hebrew history, his embodiment of so many concepts (such as Torah, Temple and prophet), and the kind of kingdom that He inaugurated and passed on to the Christian church through the apostles and early disciples. What all this teaching does, however, can only be properly understood through the world in which Jesus was originally speaking- the world of the first century Jewish tradition. And nothing so profoundly and deeply saturated the Jewish tradition and devotion as the poems and songs of the Old Testament: The Psalms.

This book is not so much a technical treatise of its main theological components (though that is reflected on). Nor is it an indepth examination of the groupings of the Psalms, or even a detailed exegesis of many or even a few of the Psalms. Instead, this book is NT Wright's personal exploration and explanation of the power and depth of life lived and breathed within the life of the Psalms, as a center of devotional life.

As per usual, Wright centers his readers in the context of who and what we are.

God created humans in the beginning to be his vice rulers over the world.1

From there, the author launches into a swift but careful journey through not only how the Psalms are important to us but why- pointing to the rich heritage that the Jews, and later the early Christians, had with the Psalms as their foundation for devotion and liturgy. Not just that, but he convincingly explains the personal connection of Christ with the Psalms, not just as a forerunning text prophetically announcing Jesus, but as a seminal text which Jesus lived and breathed:

This means, of course, that the Psalms were the hymnbook that Jesus and his first followers would have known by heart.2

All the while, Wright is not trying to place technical proof for later study in the professional minister's teaching war-chest. Rather, he is outlining the real reason that the Psalms are so unique in their vocation as the sub text of the Christian life- because they are so profoundly human. As Wright puts it:
The Psalter forms the great epic poem of the creator and covenant God who will at the last visit and redeem his people and, with them, his whole creation.3

The book is arranged in sections primarily answering how the use of the Psalms explore and invite the reader into the reality of God's kingdom. It is a reality which infuses us with the wholly right kind of Christian "worldview", not expressed in or as politics and dogma, but as the time, space and matter through which God, the world, and human beings encounter each other. These three concepts of God's time, God's space and God's matter are at the heart of Wright's exploration of the Psalms.

And if that were all the book contained, it would be well worth your time and investment. But there is  something more personal for Wright here. The last two sections of the book (which, at just a couple hundred pages, is much shorter than almost all of his other works) contain a personal testimony and appeal to the church to consider the Psalms as their own life-transforming songbook and poetry.

As a worship leader, writer, Christian, husband, father and leader I have recently found a deeper longing for spiritual formation through the ancient texts of the Psalms. This last year, our own local church has had a program of reading (twice) through the Psalms for us to do as a community as well. Along with this practice and reading this book, I have found a new depth of closeness with God. It isn't something mystical, really. Just a profound knowing that the story that I am in is part of the broader story- my struggles, joys, pains, hopes and loss are understood and shared, not just by the God whom I worship but by the history of humanity trying to find Him in every day lives.

This is another excellent book by NT Wright.  It is easily his most personal and passionate work. If you are worship leader, this should be your #1 next book to read. But any person at any place in life could really benefit from this book. And then, follow its prescription- read the Psalms. Daily. Regularly. After Simply Christian, this is my favorite book from NT Wright. Excellent.


Amazon Link:


Review by Kim Gentes


  1. Wright, N. T. (2013-09-03). The Case for the Psalms: Why They Are Essential (Kindle Location 576). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.
  2. Ibid. (page 11)
  3. Ibid. (page 33)

After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters - N.T. Wright (2010)

After You Believe - NT WrightLike all NT Wright books, "After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters" tackles a specific topic or area with an aim to provide scriptural and historical context as a foundation for the author's theological and philosophical positions on the topic. Wright always does his research and this book is no exception. "After You Believe" tackles the topic of character by looking at the ancient Aristotelian concept of virtue and how it was reimagined and reformed by the theology and practice of both Jesus and Paul.

The book is a treatise exploring a Christian virtue ethic in which the believer takes on the assumptions of character transformation through gradual surrender to God's kingdom concepts of worship and mission. More specifically, this is not a book about the "how-to's" of Christian practice.

What you find here is NT Wright continuing his conversation about how not only our theology, but our practice, must anticipate the full appearing of kingdom of God in it's action. That is to say, Wright's vision of a Christian virtue ethic is based on eschatology (where we are headed) and how full human flourishing occurs as we make the journey there, beginning in this world, not the next.

"After You Believe" is a subtle side-swipe of the standard "spiritual disciplines" talk that has come through in many popular Christian books. Wright has little patience for "self-help" Christian concepts, and debunks the "God-less do-gooding" as much as he deconstructs the popular notion of "cheap grace" - both of which he considers errant parodies of true Christlikeness. In fact, this book nods at Aristotle's astute observations of virtue, and yet, explains that Jesus and Paul answered the ancient Greek notion of virtue with the true answer to human flourishing - love-fueled Christlike character.

NT Wright has done with "After You Believe" what he has done with many other New Testament topics- re-addresses them in light of his creational theology that puts God's goal of rescuing humanity from it's sin stained condition and restoring the future of our created intention through Christ's work on the cross and the Holy Spirit's presence with the church through the ages.  This book is vivid, powerful and readable. But it is not simple. It requires you take seriously the concepts he brings to bear in his other books (though he leave you enough overview in this book, even if you haven't read the others).

The purpose of this book is pragmatic (explaining to Christians what they are to do in this life, while waiting for the glorious eternity in the next), but it has a powerful, perhaps eternal intent- to get us walking towards the future in the area of our character, long before the future fully arrives.

It is an excellent book on, as Wright puts it "how to think about what to do". Get it. Read it.  You will not be disappointed. A great book from a great thinker about a topic that is of great importance to all Christians.


Amazon Link:


Review by Kim Gentes

A Well-Worn Path: Thirty-One Daily Reflections for the Worshipping Heart - Dan Wilt (2013)

[Free Devotional Download "7 Sacred Steps" from writer Dan Wilt- see at the bottom of the review.]

OK. Confession time. I'm one of those people who prays everyday, and reads most days. For a long time, I would go on the "energy" of a scripture section, allowing the concepts, fused as they are with a perfusion of love and truth, to propel me through an ongoing desire to read and meditate on the Bible. But what I found is that I actually need to be more intentional about my devotional life. Not because God is standing over me, frowning for my lack of enthusiasm, but because at the core of my human condition is a lack. A lack of the real material of heaven that is required to live life on earth.

When I feed regularly on the scriptures, my soul is filled with what Jesus promised - "a spring of water gushing up to eternal life." But often enough, as silly as it sounds, I just forget or let myself become overwhelmed with the cares of daily life that I don't leave enough space in my day for meditations on God's word. When I lose focus, I find it is helpful to reset myself by using a guidebook or plan to help structure/lead my devotional time. The last month, I was privileged to get an early copy of Dan Wilt's "A Well-Worn Path" book. 

It was just the kind of simple structured path I needed to get my daily walk into a regular rhythm again. I've read a number of things Dan has written, and this may be his most piercing work yet. He doesn't mince words or paint pictures for pages. He gets to the heart of an issue in short order. Each scripture. Each day.

In fact, as I read each day through, I felt as though the devotionals were a sort of scriptural, even prophetic, declaration over my life. "Believe, Then See", "Enter Light", "Cease Worry", "Do Good", "Create With God", and on it went. Rather than giving placid generalities, Wilt throws a spear into the heart each day, by taking the most poignant edges of scripture and punctuating it with a simple phrase of instruction. After a further paragraph or two of clarity he offers up a prayer that we can join in immediately.

The devotions are simple, one page, and a pure gasp of clean air from the atmosphere of heaven. Much of Dan Wilt's writings are crafted stories and imagery meant to bring you into the heart of the matter. "A Well-Worn Path" is much more direct and works well as a month-long progression that doesn't tire you out from his style or topics. In fact, the nice thing about using a well-written devotional like this is that the choice of topics makes the journey authentic and prone to learning. I wouldn't have chosen to challenge myself in the same way the author does, and this is good. We are often too easy on ourselves.

Having gone through the devotional, I can honestly and completely recommend it to you. It is powerful, succinct and absolutely worth-while. In my opinion, it is Dan Wilt's best writing yet.


Amazon Book Link:


Review by Kim Gentes

DOWNLOAD! Check it out below!

Be sure to chime in and let us know what you thought (post comments) and you are welcome to share this with friends on Facebook and twitter with your friends. 

Free Devotional Download "7 Sacred Steps" from author Dan Wilt

7 Sacred Steps
by Dan Wilt

Note: To save the ZIP file above
simply [Right-Mouse] click the link.

Thirty Stories Of Hope: Daily Readings To Encourage The Heart - Dan Wilt (2013)

[Free Devotional Download "5 'Makes' of Great Relationships" from writer Dan Wilt- see at the bottom of the review.]

 I've read a lot of books that deal with Christian topics, but many of them diverge into two camps:
A) theoretical advice that falls far afield from the reality of having to live here on earth, and
B) personal stories of victory and rescue that seem as foreign and contrived as movie fiction with no connection to what might actually help me.

What I love about Dan Wilt's book here is that he is our "everyman" talking about real life stories that meet you and I on the playing field of life, not some super-stardom miraculous happenings that never seem to happen to you and I. Dan talks about moms, dads, children, working, friends, struggles and real life- and shows the absolutely glorious rays of hope that shine into our lives from the source of true hope- God Himself. I won't share details of these stories because they are rich in their reading and well worth the individual time to digest one a day until you've filled up with the kind of life-giving inspiration Dan weaves with words. Dan's gift is story-telling, and judging from the 2 million listeners he speaks to each week, there is little doubt that his message is heard, loud and clear.

I've had plenty of tough times, personally, and the stories Dan tells are part of a diet of encouragement that our world is desperately in need of. And it's not just because they are clever stories. Rather, it is because the center of his hope-telling is the person of Jesus, in whom all Dan's stories source their glistening ray of light.

I love this book because I can read something reasonably sized for my busy day and just let it digest for 24 hours. Some times I feel like a story is good enough for a few days. But I like that the book is set up for busy people like me. The story is powerful but succinct. Each story has a theme, a real life application and a foundational scripture verse he ties things together with.

I can't recommend this book enough. Really, it is a great treasure.


Amazon Book Link:


Review by Kim Gentes

DOWNLOAD! Check it out below!

Be sure to chime in and let us know what you thought (post comments) and you are welcome to share this with friends on Facebook and twitter with your friends. 

Free Devotional Download "5 Makes of Great Relationships" from author Dan Wilt

5 "Makes" of Great Relationships
by Dan Wilt

Note: To save the ZIP file above
simply [Right-Mouse] click the link.