One of my good friends is Byron Borger, the owner/manager of Hearts and Minds Books in Pennsylvania. Byron regularly prepares a great review of a wide array of books. I encourage you to read his reviews (which you can get by email) and buy books from him. Yes, you can buy books for a larger discount at Amazon but Byron will help you personally and guide you with a human and thoughtful response about new (and old) books. I know no other resource like Byron Borger if you love Christian books. In a recent review of new books he wrote the following about me and my book:
Costly Love: The Way to True Unity for All the Followers of Jesus, John H. Armstrong (New City Press) $15.95. I will tell you more about this later but I truly wanted to list it here. This is one of the most provocative and thoughtful and thorough studies of the Biblical teaching about love I have yet seen. It is serious and well researched, drawing on writers both ancient and new, from across the theological spectrum. John is a big supporter of our bookish effort, an old Wheaton College grad, a former super-strict Puritan-esque Reformed scholar and revival preacher. I liked him even when he came on a bit too stridently with his overly confident theology. Since those days, John has shifted considerably – in part motivated by studying and taking to heart a profound essay on the rightness of ecumenism by conservative Anglican J. I. Packer — and wrote one of my all-time favorite studies of this topic, Your Church Is Too Small: Why Unity in Christ’s Mission Is Vital to the Future of the Church. Under the auspices of his ACT3 Network, John has been advocating, preaching, praying, writing, and networking others for more gracious and fruitful inter-denominational conversations. It is rare to find one with such conventionally evangelical theology so robustly engaged in collegial conversations and partnerships with Roman Catholics and Episcopalians, with Pentecostals and the Eastern Orthodox, with Mennonites and Methodists. John knows all kinds of people and meets with everybody, even though it sometimes breaks his heart that others don’t share his enthusiasm for learning to love our brothers and sisters in Christ, regardless of denominational affiliation or political/cultural tendencies.
This is one of the most provocative and thoughtful and thorough studies of the Biblical teaching about love I have yet seen.
Such relationships have softened him, so to speak (or toughed him up, since he no longer only hangs out with those like himself.) He has learned to be civil and gracious and recognize the good stuff God is doing in communions and ministries unlike his own.
It is a longer story to share another time but John has come to very deeply understand – he feels it in his bones as much as anyone I know – that for Christian community to develop and for something even approximating Godly unity (of the sort he calls “missional ecumenism”) will take a lot of healing, a lot of honest conversations, a lot of humility, a lot of grace extended. We desperately need to understand, encounter, and manifest God’s love. John 13 couldn’t be clearer about the urgency of Christians loving others – see Francis Schaeffer’s lovely little The Mark of the Christian or Art Lindsley’s Love: The Final Apologetic for starters on this extraordinary truth – but it seems we are ill-equipped to live out that kind of Christian love for one another. And, oddly, those who seem to know the most about the Bible and about theology are often themselves the most stubborn and hurtful when it comes to resisting efforts to tear down the dividing walls.
Surely the answer to this broken situation, this tragic violation of the new commandment of John 13:34, is love. God is love, after all. As Kyle David Bennett so creatively spells out in his book Practices of Love, our spirituality must yield the fruit of love. Out of Armstrong’s own frustrations and eagerness to press towards greater conversations and shared ministry, he set out to study love. It is the essential mark of the Christian disciple, of course, so it is important for any and all of us. But it was especially urgent for him and his new call into ecumenical, missional fidelity. It seems odd that so little of much depth has been written directly on this topic.
And so, Costly Love: The Way to True Unity for All the Followers of Jesus is the fruit of several years of study and several years of writing. John is a studious scholar, and a fine, upbeat writer. This book is – I don’t say this cheaply – a true labor of love.
I had the great privilege of writing an early endorsement of Costly Love, and I hope to describe it for you in greater detail, later. For now, please know of its good back-story, its semi-scholarly tone, its great, great worth. I hope you consider buying this from us – it is published by a fine Roman Catholic publisher, and the beloved Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin wrote the foreword. (It’s not every day that an evangelical like John ends up on a Roman Catholic press, but that, too, is a sign, it seems of how special this book is and what it represents.) This book needs to be better known in our (mostly Protestant) circles and I commend it to you.
There are many solid endorsements of this book from a wide variety of important women and men, theological and church voices. For instance:
“Good books make you think, great books provoke you to change John Armstrong has given us a great book that has the potential to transform churches and leaders. Costly Love presents a vision of life that is biblically faithful and consistently congruent with reality. This is as timely a work on this subject as any I have read. This is surely a book we all need for our divided times.”
Rev. Tyler Johnson, Lead Pastor, Redemption Church, Phoenix, AZ
“Love is the best thing we have – and yet we struggle to describe it, let alone live into it. That’s because love is a cross and an empty tomb; love is knitting the church back together and saving the world. John Armstrong is perfectly placed to write about love – with evangelical zeal, catholic wisdom, and erudition without obscurity.”
Dr. Jason Byassee, Vancouver School of Theology and Duke Divinity School
Hearts & Minds