When I’m not reading news articles for your Daily Mountain Eagle, I enjoy cracking open a book. I can’t read just any book — it has to be something that interests me. Typically, I enjoy spiritually-based nonfiction, especially books in that genre that are a little out of the box.
I recently finished “Pure Grace: The Life Changing Power of Uncontaminated Grace” by Clark Whitten. The author is a pastor who has led three mega-churches in his 35 years in the ministry, but in 2005, Whitten planted Grace Church near Orlando. This book is fairly new, released in March, and is Whitten’s manifesto on understanding the logic of grace.
Whitten’s work challenges Christianity as we know it by shedding a light on how self-effort and behavior modification have been a focal point for the religion.
Whitten says legalists feel grace is too good to be true and it must be combined with the law.
I’ve seen this first-hand in almost every church I’ve ever attended. You’re saved when you decide to follow Jesus, but then you have to behave a certain way for God to really like you. That way of thinking is unbiblical, and Whitten does a good job of explaining his understanding of grace in a simple, down to earth way.
Whitten says, “Some statements and concepts in this humble attempt to explain the nearly unexplainable may shock your religious sensibilities, but please hear me out.”
For most, many of Whitten’s thoughts will be shocking. I wasn’t shocked, but I was encouraged, because many of his ideas are strangely similar to questions or ideas that I’ve pondered in the past.
Give “Pure Grace” a read. It’s fantastic look at what grace is and how powerful Christ’s sacrifice on the cross really is.
I also recently finished reading “Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived” by Rob Bell.
When this book was released in 2011, it caused quite a bit of controversy.
Many evangelicals started calling Bell, a church planter and pastor, names like “universalist.”
The book is really about the struggle to reconcile God’s love and God’s judgment. Bell gives insight to many different ways to look at heaven and hell.
Bell is a great writer, and I enjoy reading all his books. In “Love Wins,” he never shares his actually position on the topics he is discussing.
The part of the book that got Bell in hot water with many mainline Christians was his inclusion of universal reconciliation, which is the doctrine that all sinful human souls and every other living thing — because of divine love and mercy — will ultimately be reconciled to God.
Bell’s take on universal reconciliation is very similar to the one held by C.S. Lewis. They both basically hold to the idea that God is going to save everyone He can.
I really enjoyed “Love Wins.” Bell is great at asking the tough questions, and that’s what this book is all about.
Other books I’ve recently read include:
• “Naked Spirituality: A Life with God in 12 Simple Words” by Brian McClaren: The author is one of my absolute favorites, and this book is one of his best. It’s a great read about stripping down our spirituality into something simple and doable.
• “A Love That Multiplies: An Up-Close View of How They Make It Work” by Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar: This book was given to me personally by Jim Bob Duggar when the family visited Jasper last year. We shared a little bit about our families, and he felt compelled to hand me a copy.
While I’m sure the Phillips family and the Duggar family are polar opposites in some areas, there are many ways that we are similar. Both of our families have a strong love for children and see them as gifts from God, and this book is all about how the challenges and triumphs in raising multiple children. Michelle Duggar describes their home as “serene chaos,” and I’ve long said we are very accustomed to “controlled chaos” at our house.
• “So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore” by Wayne Jacobsen and Dave Coleman: While I don’t read fiction very often, this one was very good. Jake Colsen meets a man that he thinks might be John, one of Jesus’ original disciples still living in the 21st Century. If you’re tired of going through the motions of Christianity, this book probes some difficult questions, and it’s a must read.
• “The Day My Butt Went Psycho” by Andy Griffith: This is a children’s book that my 9-year-old Stone read last year.
When I saw the name of this book, I had to read it.
The story is ridiculous, but its potty humor is pretty funny. I can definitely see why it’s Stone’s favorite book. I’m sure it is a must read for third-graders everywhere.
James Phillips is editor of the Daily Mountain Eagle. He can be reached at 205-221-2840 or firstname.lastname@example.org.