Ubfriends Book Club

bHey ubfriends community, how’s about we form a good ol’ book club on this site? After seeing some of the theology-related comments and perusing some of the old articles, I realize that this could be a great place to hold discussions on a book. The first step would be to agree on a book to read and choose a start and finish date. Then, we could each take turns writing an article on a given chapter of the book and have the whole community dialogue in the discussion section. We could even do a final video chat to close out the discussion. These are just my ideas, but if you’re interested, let’s work out the details in the comment section below.


  1. Excellent idea David! I’m all in for this. The frustrating thing for me about ubfriends is that our conversations end up cycling. The cycle is often extended when someone reads a book but in the end we come back to our #1 most commented article… (i.e. are you “in” or “out”?).

    Here are some of my favorite authors that I would like to read and discuss more about:

    1. James Danaher
    2. Henri Nouwen
    3. NT Wright
    4. Dorothy Day
    5. René Girard

    • You know, I think that your layers presentation was genius. That helped me to realize that some of the problems that I had with UBF were not issues relegated to the ministry alone. Some had to do with the Western Evangelical layer and others the Eastern or Confucian layer. And I’m not demonizing those layers at all, just thinking that they need more scrutinization and understanding. I think that a good strategy would be to read books related to these issues and discuss them.

      I like Danaher and Wright (and heard good things about Girard) in particular and would love to discuss any of their works.

    • Well if you want to address the burden layers, then I would suggest starting with Robb Ryerse’s book Fundamorphosis: How I Left Fundamentalism But Didn’t Lose My Faith

      The thought about the layers surfaced after reading his book. Before that I blamed ubf and only ubf. But this opened my eyes to see that I had to navigate numerous layers of issues. In and of themselves, each layer was not necessarily “bad”, but each one posed unique challenges.

      On a side note, I am Facebook friends with Robb. He might be open to a Google hangout after we read and discuss his book. He has an excellent new ministry and would have many thoughts on how to re-invent ministry.

    • This sounds great. I’d love to join in.

    • Sounds like a good idea, Brian. Also, Charles, what books are you interested in? Any further ideas to shape the book club?

    • David, I’m not as well as you and Brian are, for sure. I’ve benefited greatly from reading Wright. I’ll check out bits from the books that get recommended on this site from time to time. My interests are all over the place and I want to take in what I can find and what more is recommended because I feel so behind on what I should have been reading. So, I’d like to ride the train on this and go along with what you, Brian and others may decide on. I like the format you suggested.

    • Sounds good, Charles. I hope that whether people read or not, they will follow along and even participate because I’m sure there will be plenty of good food for thought.

  2. Shying away from them Catholic writers eh David? :) Maybe Gerardo will come out of hiding…

    • Haha, no way! I’d also like to read Nouwen at some point and perhaps Merton as well. Have you heard of the Jesuit priest, James Martin? He gave a fantastic interview here: http://www.onbeing.org/program/james-martin-finding-god-in-all-things/7121#.VSAOFfzF8qg

    • Haven’t heard of Martin but sounds appealing.

      Seems like we have a good booklist here so far. Maybe we can get a suggested reading list based on these books and vote on which one goes first? Any other book choices?

    • David, just got done listening to the interview with Martin. Yes, it was fantastic. I had not heard of ignatian spirituality before and I like how Martin described it, which the interviewer summarized by saying that it humanizes having a relationship with God / the religious experience. The three take aways I got from it were using the mind (imagination) in prayer, joy (even in the cross), and friendship and love with other people. The idea of humanizing the experience is so fascinating. Rather than de-humanizing people in the pursuit of being like the divine, it captures the spirit of the incarnation that literally humanized the divine. This is an area that’s particularly interesting to me right now.

    • “The idea of humanizing the experience is so fascinating. Rather than de-humanizing people in the pursuit of being like the divine, it captures the spirit of the incarnation that literally humanized the divine.”

      Well said, Charles. That deeply resonates with me as of now as well. I’m trying to learn a bit about Ignatian spirituality myself and I want to incorporate some of it in my talk at Hyde Park UBF next month. I found this website: http://www.ignatianspirituality.com/

    • Another gem from that interview, “Jesus became human. Jesus participates in humanity, and so we’re called to participate in humanity. There’s a reason Jesus didn’t come down as a book. He came down as a person. And so we’re called to identify and participate in people’s lives like that.”

    • “There’s a reason Jesus didn’t come down as a book.”

      Charles, that’s really gem! Also, Jesus never seemed to care about writing down his words or having his disciples write them down. This only happened decades later; at least 2 of the gospels were not written by his direct disciples, and most of the letters were written by Paul who came very late to the party.

  3. James Danaher, as mentioned by Brian. After “Eyes That See and Ears That Hear,” I’ve read the three books he wrote after that: “The Second Truth,” “Contemplative Prayer” and “Jesus After Modernity.” They are all excellent.

    Richard Rohr, Franciscan priest from New Mexico. After reading “Falling Upward,” which was recommended to me by John Armstrong, I read about a half a dozen of his books from the library, which are all very good.

    Timothy Keller. One of the shortest books that he wrote “The Prodigal God” virtually changed my view of how to understand and communicate Scripture, not as a book of commands and imperatives and examples to follow, but as a gospel of the grace of God. The next book I read “Counterfeit Gods” solidified this indicative perspective. I could never go back to the way that I had previously taught the Bible after that. Here’s the link from over four years ago: http://www.ubfriends.org/2011/02/07/counterfeit-gods-and-the-bible/

    • Rohr is awesome from what I’ve read of snippets here and there. Keller gets a bit annoying at times, but still good.

  4. Joe Schafer

    Two more suggestions.

    Lesslie Newbigin: His books revolutionized my understanding of the gospel and mission. He can be challenging to read and understand, but if we put our minds together we can learn a great deal.

    Scot McKnight: I have been slogging through his two most recent books. Both are about the relationship between gospel and church. Kingdom Conspiracy is a little more scholarly, and A Fellowship of Differents is written for a more popular audience, but it’s not a lightweight book by any means. Here is a review of the second book that may pique your interest.


    • Both great options. “Fellowship of Differents” is highly interesting to me. I’ve not read much of McKnight except for some of his blogging, which is excellent.

    • Joe Schafer

      That book has an interesting treatment of Paul’s teachings on sexuality that you will probably appreciate. And the theme of the book is very consistent with the original aims of this website (which I haven’t given up on).

    • Well McKnight’s book gets my vote! I’m ok with any of the authors and books mentioned so far.

    • I’m down with the McKnight book as well. I’ve been wanting to read his work and this book sounds relevant.

    • btw, if/when we discuss sexuality, I prefer a non-affirming book. The discussions are more profound and lively.

  5. Joe Schafer

    Current UBF members and leaders are, of course, more than welcome to join this club. Perhaps we can agree to a “let’s not talk directly about UBF” policy for commenting on the articles related to the book club.

    • I second that and welcome anyone to participate, provided they read the book and discuss the book itself.

    • I’ll risk making another comment that Mr. Kim will find objectionable. I do wish that UBF leaders would join in an amicable irenic theological interaction. But firstly, many won’t want to “waste their time” reading this. Secondly, this would be of secondary or tertiary importance or even unimportant to many of them, because it does not involve evangelism, discipleship, 1:1 Bible study, leadership training, preparing Bible study, message and/or conference preparation, world campus mission emphasis, etc, etc. Yet, of course, we can still hope.

    • Ben, that’s odd because a theology-based book club contributes to all those things, but of course contributes nothing to the ubf definitions of such things.

      My suggested bookclub guidelines:

      1. No mentioning of ubf, good or bad or ugly.
      2. Read the book; discuss the book
      3. No name-calling.
      4. Show respect for diversity of theological backgrounds.
      5. Seek to learn, share and connect.

      Do we want to setup a “bookclub” section of ubfriends? That way people could continue to process ubf issues here. Or maybe we just mix them together? I’m fine either way. Suggestions?

    • Brian, I like most of those guidelines. I would say that I wouldn’t be averse to talking about UBF so long as we do so in a perhaps matter-of-fact manner that doesn’t detract from the main conversation. Tough to do, but I just don’t like the idea of completely cutting UBF out of the conversation.

      On partitioning the site, that’s not a bad idea because it would make things a bit neater or organized. Either way, I’m fine.

  6. I recently came across an author I highly recommend. I was looking for a theologian who dealt with the issue of disability in the church and found a couple studies by Amos Yong. His interest stems from the fact that he his brother has Down Syndrome. He also happens to have a lot of insightful things to say about the Asian American Diaspora and Asian theology in his other works, which of course is very interesting and relevant to all of us.

    • I love the thought of exploring the issue of disabilities. Nouwen has much to say in that regard as well.

      I’m not able to handle an Asian author or Asian theology at this point. Maybe this could be on our radar for a reading list.

    • I’m with Brian on both points.

    • Sharon, I’m wondering if you’ve listened to any of the sermons from the conference that Desiring God held on disability within the church (http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/now-available-disability-conference-audio-and-video). I don’t listen to Piper too heavily these days because I feel as though he paints with too broad a brush when talking about God’s sovereignty, but anyway.

  7. I know what you mean guys, but this guy is pretty self-critical. I was pleasantly surprised by his willingness to critique his own tribe.

    • Believe it or not, I’m tired of critiquing Asians and not interested listening to Asians critique themselves!

    • Joe Schafer

      I like the disability angle and I intend to read Yong’s book for that reason. I read the first few pages and it was thought provoking.

      And, like Brian, I also have an emotional aversion right now to discussing material about Asian conceptions of the gospel. I felt the same about the writings of Jackson Wu. A voice in my head says, “Why on earth should I spend any more effort trying to develop a better understanding of missionaries who don’t give a damn what I think and probably never will?” If some were willing to join the discussion and demonstrated an ability to engage in healthy self criticism, then I might feel differently. But at this point it would be very hard for me to discuss Asian experiences of the gospel without veering off into unpleasant discussions about UBF with no participation on their part, and it seems pointless. Perhaps I will be able to do this in the future, but not yet.

      And if Yong has a really great perspective and is truly self aware and self deprecating, it will just make me think, “I wish those missionaries had been like him.”

    • I see where you guys are coming from, so perhaps it’s better to read through Mcknight at this point. I will say that reading Jackson Wu was very eye-opening to me. Personally, his writings have given me a bit of closure about some things related to Eastern culture that I was mystified about. I’m listening to the book Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Blinders to Better Understand the Bible. They talk about how understanding the honor/shame paradigm is essential to interpreting the Bible correctly. For instance, they show how the narrative of David and Bathsheba is thoroughly rooted in honor/shame culture which de-emphasizes the personal conscience and leans more heavily on externally imposed morality. It was very fascinating to see it from that point of view. As Westerners, we have a guilt/innocence paradigm which emphasizes the individual conscience and the concepts of right and wrong. Anyway I’m rambling, but fascinating stuff and really helps to explain the Bible and even current cultural conflicts between easterners and westerners.

  8. Closure is a good word, David. I think that’s what Yong did for me. The basic understanding I took away from his book was the dynamic between fundamentalism and anti-intellecualism among Asian Christians, and the reality that there is a lack of depth in the field of Asian theology. I hope that many young Asians that I know can be encouraged to do the thinking that needs to be done in the Asian community.

    • I’m sure that I would benefit from Yong’s contributions; he’s got quite a few lectures on youtube that I might take a look at. Does Yong address how both Eastern and Western culture can combined in a healthy way within the church?

      What I found in UBF was that I would hear a sometimes Western evangelical-style sermon which emphasized one’s individual life and personal response to/acceptance of the gospel and their subsequent calling (we even put a huge emphasis on one’s “personal ministry”). But then in community practice, uniformity was expected, the individual conscience was to be suppressed and social interactions were based upon honor/shame (all of which are thoroughly Eastern concepts). For me, this was massively confusing because mixed messages were being sent; it was almost schizophrenic in a sense. Don’t want this to sound like a negative rant, but that’s just the way it was. Anyway, I’m curious to know if there have been any scholarly attempts to address things like this. It seems like this is the real work of the gospel and that which Paul outlined in letters like Ephesians, but left up to the churches to specifically work out.

  9. But I’m with all of you. Don’t really want to discuss UBF too much.

  10. forestsfailyou

    Adornment of the Spiritual Marriage
    by St. John of Ruysbroeck

    Orthodoxy by Gk Chesterton

    Weight of Glory by Cs Lewis

    Practical Mysticism
    by Evelyn Underhill

  11. David, he doesn’t go into that much in the book I read, though I’m not finished. He clearly believes that the Asian perspective will be important, but seems to think that no one has yet done the work to develop and articulate what that contribution might be. Instead, there is just the kind of situation you are describing, a lack of coherency due to a superficial embrace of a kind of evangelical conservatism. He’s pretty good at describing this and charging young Asian theologians to do something about it.
    I also have a hard time listening to Piper for much the same reason. But I’d still be willing to listen to him discuss this topic. Thanks for the suggestion.

  12. crystal park

    “No place for truth” or whatever happened to evangelical theology? David F. Wells
    i just want to know what others here think of if you guys have a chance to read this book.

    • Ouch. As a Catholic I say double ouch.

      I really really struggle to show any respect for evangelicalism.

  13. Just to clarify…I painted too broad a brush in my comments about this author. the above comments are referring Asian Christians in the US because of their unique experience as immigrants and their unique relationship with American Evangelicalism.

    • Sorry to be the source of negativity… but I have not a single ounce of concern about Asian Christians and how they relate to American Evangelicalism. If I could paint a picture of hell, it would be just that.

      I know I am jaded by the ubfland I grew up in, but that is my reality. ubf was like a religious version of North Korea. For example, this story could easily be talking about the ubf I experienced for decades if you take out the guns/killing and replace them with bible/shunning North Korea executes Defense Chief, Hyon

      “Hyon was executed because he expressed discontent towards leader Kim Jong Un, and failed to follow Kim’s orders on several occasions, according to Kim Gwang-lim, chairman of the National Assembly Intelligence Committee and a lawmaker with the Saenuri Party who attended the briefing.”

    • My experience with Korean missionaries at ubf:

    • My experience was that UBF attracts both, people with narcissist personality disorder (NPD) and dependent personality disorder (DPD). They form a symbiosis, the NPD people are at the top of the hiearchy, the DPD people at the bottom, and the UBF system further amplifies their particular problematic character traits. I was more of the DPD kind. But as strange as it may sound, people in the middle of the hierarchy showed both traits. One German ex member told me that only in UBF he met this bizarre mxiture of extreme arrogance/high-handedness on the one hand and humbleness/subservience on the other hand.

      This is also true for the Korean missionaries in UBF. Not all were narcissists. And I still think that there were many things I could learn from the Koreans I met in UBF, and I’m thankful for that. That’s why I was so disappointed when I saw that UBF did not want to change and expelled all who wanted to change it in 2001, most of them being Koreans themselves. I still think there is much potential when Western people and Koreans meet and cowork. But only if they meet at the halfway point, if there is complete transparency and equality and no “system” behind everything, which unfortunately was not possible in UBF because of the narcissist leaders who never allowed that to happen and who benefitted from the strong UBF system that Samuel Lee had engraved into the minds of everyone there.

    • Great points Chris. I was DPD and then I learned NPD. The shepherd/sheep relationship so often is an unhealthy co-dependency. I have referred to it as the yin/yang effect that plagues Korean thoughts. So glad I broke that bond. Sure not everyone at ubf is NPD or DPD but it is so common.

    • Being autonomously driven I don’t think that I ever had a DPD. But in the UBF system I felt that I should become one with a DPD toward the NPD-type leaders. This went on for over 25 years until Prov 29:25 provided me with the final break-through and epiphany after the passing of SL in 2001.

  14. I hear you Brian. I just did’t want to lump all Asian Christians together and misrepresent the author. The book did help me to understand alot of things though. But I do understand your sentiment.

  15. crystal park

    This is a CAT Scan of what I have thought of recently. I was a care taker being stuck between NPD and DPD. As you know, the root of both is the same – to cover their shame and fear. My life has gotten crazy because I was a care taker of both NPD and DPD. Getting out of this symbiosis by stopping a role of care taker was my Exodus.

  16. Mark Mederich

    IWASDPDTHENNPDNOWSPR(spirit personality reordered)DOOYAH!!!!!!!!!!!!

  17. fellowshipbible

    Book :Twisted Scriptures
    Author : Mary Alice Chrnalogar

    This book discusses the authors opinion of how to contrast healthy and unhealthy discipleship.

    • That raises a topic fellowshipbible: Should we discuss books that relate to spiritual abuse? Two times JA recommended rather strongly that I read “Kingdom of the Cults” to help process my time at ubf… I never did but those kinds of books may actually be helpful. At this point I have understood enough to make sense of my life and have no inclination to read on the subject any further. Just my 2 cents.

  18. Hi all, I’d like to start the book club some time soon, just swamped with work as of late. Let’s try to shoot for maybe mid-summer. I’ll chime in again as soon as I get some time. Sorry about the delay and thanks for being patient.

  19. Hi everyone, let me contribute by mentioning my two favorite books that are available in English, These are

    1.) Dietrich Bonhoeffer – ‘Life Together’
    it comforted me in my view on what church is irrespective of what People made of it

    2.) Badru Kanteregga/David Shenk: A Muslim and a Christian in Dialogue

    fantastic outline of both faiths in respectful but also in critical interaction

  20. Oh really? i was not aware of that book being discussed here … i will have to check … thanks, Chris