I figure one of the ways I can be most useful as a blogger is to point readers to good books. One way I do that here on the blog is through a segment called Book Blurbs. This is where I list out some of the books I’m reading (or listening to) along with a brief blurb on each book. The aim is to draw your attention to worthwhile books. I don’t mention every book I read, and for some of the books included I am still reading them, or I don’t plan on finishing the book because only part of the book was needed. And for this edition of Book Blurbs there is somewhat of a similar theme to the books listed below.
1. Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics by Ross Douthat
Douthat, the youngest-ever op-ed columnist for The New York Times, writes a fascinating volume on the fall of Christendom in America since the 21st Century. Chapter six, the chapter on material prosperity entitled “Pray and Grow Rich,” is sobering. Douthat argues that people like Joel Osteen and the prosperity gospel message they declare creates confusion around what it truly means to be a Christian.
2. Contentment: Seeing God’s Goodness by Megan Hill
Megan Hill’s writing is polished. Although I’m not a big fan of devotionals, this one is good. Hill provides practical and theological advice on what it means to be content.
3. The Progress Paradox: How Life Gets Better While People Feel Worse by Greg Easterbrook
Just as the title suggests, this is a book about how people feel (in terms of anxiety, depression, personal happiness, etc.) worse as modern prosperity advances. It’s an interesting paradox, really. I’m intrigued by this idea — that since the 20th century, life has gotten significantly better in unprecedented ways, but has only exacerbated personal unhappiness for many. When we look to comfort and not to God for meaning, we will be miserable.
4. Neither Poverty nor Riches: A Biblical Theology of Possessions by Craig Blomberg
This is my first introduction to the New Series in Biblical Theology series, edited by D. A. Carson, and I was pleased by this volume. It’s a biblical theology of wealth. Wealth is a blessing that should be enjoyed and used to bless others, although the excessive desire for it can lead to spiritual and personal harm.
5. The High Price of Materialism by Tim Kasser
Kasser and his team set out to answer the following: “What happens psychologically when a person feels that making money and having possessions are relatively high in the pantheon of values?” The results aren’t pretty. Those with high materialistic values report insecurity, lower self-esteem and self-worth, and lower psychological well-being. We remember Paul’s words: “But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content” (1 Timothy 6:8). If you minister in a context in which money and possessions is a pressing idol, this book may be useful to help you to understand the secular research behind the devastating effects of personal devotion to wealth.