July 10, 2020

Recommendations: Confessions of a Good Christian Guy by Tom Davis, Good Intentions by Charles North and Bob Smietana

I’ve got two books to recommend this morning. Both would be helpful to small groups looking for topical resources for discussion and study.

The first book is Tom Davis’s Confessions of a Good Christian Guy, a book that rings the bell for one of my favorite topics: transparency and vulnerability in Christian community.

I have a lot of books for Christian men and one of my all time favorites is When Men Think Private Thoughts by Gordon Macdonald. Written in the aftermath of his own episode of brokenness and public humiliation as a minister, husband and Christian leader, Macdonald wrote one of his best books, full of honest insight from someone who had come to know his own soul and the mercy of God through pain, loss and repentance.

Davis has also been there, going to prison for drug use and admitting that his life as a “good Christian” guy was full of secrets that led to his downfall. After Davis’s own story, the book uses the stories of other men and various other destructive and addictive issues to help “good Christian guys” avoid the same problems, rebuild after failure and/or create accountability and community to help one another on the journey.

This is a book with a large dose of raw reality and honesty. Some of these issues and much of the discussion isn’t the kind of polite rhetoric you typically hear in church. This is a book well-written for guys by a guy and it doesn’t pull punches. What it may give up in depth it makes up for in honesty.

If you have a Samson Society, a Men’s group or are simply on the journey to self discovery and wholeness as a Christian man, this is a book you’ll want to have and use. It will stimulate a lot of honesty, and that will raise other potentially controversial issues, so handle with care if you use this in church.

The other recommended book is the very interesting and helpful Good Intentions by Charles North and Bob Smietana, a book that explores nine contemporary social and economic issues through the worldview of Christian faith and practical economics. North is an attorney and professor of economics at Baylor. Smietana is a reporter and contributor on the coverage of religion at several publications, including The Tennessean.

Good Intentions is a unique book that would be especially useful and appreciated in a setting where young professionals or those preparing for the world of work are looking to integrate their discipleship and economics. It’s the kind of discussion we really need to have in churches but generally avoid as “too secular.” North and Smietana have produced a set of basic economic case studies, all approaching “hot button” issues with the questions of Christian faith at the center. They are well written, full of interesting data and engaging.

Right now it’s probably one of the few books with a chapter devoted to a Christian analysis of high gas prices. Their approach in every chapter is to mix solid data, case study analysis and a focus on the issues of a Christian response. The results will surprise many of their readers, particularly those whose focus has been more on good intentions rather than good results.

North and Smietana will show you how economists analyze issues of poverty, but they will also explore the issue of what actually works in each situation. For that reason, some more liberal/progressive readers may find some of their sacred cows are being taken out and shot. This is precisely the kind of book that defies easy and predictable categories to be informative, helpful, provocative and seriously Christian. (I really wanted to read a chapter called “OK Bishop Wright, That’s Great, But Will It WORK?”)

Of course, everyone won’t agree with the approach or conclusions of these writers, but if you are an evangelical wanting to have substantial discussions on issues like immigration, the minimum wage, capitalism, education, poverty and so on, this is a very helpful and user-friendly resource. I’ll be using it with my high school students in showing how the Bible interacts with economic issues in a surprisingly different way than they have probably ever heard.

I recommend both of these books to those doing topical discussions with small groups. Both are excellent and worth your investment of time and money.

(I received review copies of both books.)

Comments

  1. “transparency and vulnerability in Christian community”: Amen! We want to tell others what’s wrong with them, their church, their doctrine, etc., but we can’t openly discuss what’s wrong with us, with our church, with our doctrine. That flat-out is not protestant.

  2. …it isn’t Catholic either. Didn’t mean to be exclusive. Sorry.

  3. Scott Miller says

    I agree with being more transparent and being less the squeeky clean 1950’s vision of Christianity that many play on Sunday morning.
    However, many of these books, especially the Every Man’s Battle books, spend way too much time talking about sin and then add grace as an afterthought. My friend read Every Man’s Battle and came away with, “well everyone does it”.
    While Paul talks in Galatians and Romans about struggling with sin, I don’t think that he meant struggling with it to the extent that we struggle with it – where the battle seems lost or hopeless just because I am unwilling to die to self. Paul also spoke scripture and truth, going beyond the acknowledgement of sin and into “do not offer up your bodies as instruments of wickedness”.
    We, and me especially, need a balance between transparentness and true repentence. I don’t want to be like an AA member, lamenting over my alcoholism/sin, yet constantly talking about it at every meeting. I want to be free from it.
    I John still bothers me with the “if we say we don’t have sin we lie and tell not the truth”, and yet if we continue to sin we do not know Him. There is some middle ground where the fruit of the Spirit is in action and we are not going out of our way to sin.