This weekend I took a break from dissertation writing to finish a book and read two other short ones. First, I finished up James A. Patterson’s recent study of the important 19th-century Baptist figure, J. R. Graves. Patterson, professor of Christian Thought and Tradition at Union University, offers a long overdue look at the man and his controversies. Titled James Robinson Graves: Staking the Boundaries of Baptist Identity, Patterson traces the broad contour of Graves’ life with special emphasis shown to Graves seemingly life long quest to establish the parameters of Baptist identity. Patterson’s examination of the many controversies in which Graves was engaged is a reminder that spirited-debate among Baptists is not a new thing. An interesting feature of the book is an epilogue examining Graves’ legacy well into the 21st century.
Along with finishing up the Graves volume, I also read a couple of short books that I found very helpful. Kelly M. Kapic’s A Little Book for New Theologians: Why and How to Study Theology looks to be a worthy successor to the often-assigned A Little Exercise for Young Theologians by Helmut Thielicke. As such it does the same two things which Thielicke’s small work did: 1. Stress the importance of theology as a discipline. 2. Emphasize the importance of the piety of the theologian. This is a welcome work, not just for new theologians, but for all of us who need to be reminded from time to time of these important emphases.
I also read the very small book (likely a printed sermon judging by its structure and brevity) by Tim Keller titled The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness. This book quite simply needs to be read by everyone. The content is an exposition of Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 3:21-4:7 regarding his own selfless manner of living. It is short and to the point and the point is potentially life-transforming. Read it!