(September 2004 – Volume 10, Issue 9)
Last month’s Think on These Things article listed a number of my favorite books in the categories of biography, fiction and Christian living. In this edition we will pick up where we left off, beginning with theology.
- David Wells has written three marvelous books that might be defined as practical theology. No Place for Truth is a call for the evangelical church to return to the serious study of theology. God in the Wasteland is centered on the doctrine of God and Losing Our Virtue is Wells’ examination of anthropology. I hope he writes another dozen books in the series.
- John MacArthur opened a can of worms when he wrote The Gospel According to Jesus and Faith Works. It is my opinion that he somewhat overreacted to easy believism and occasionally overstates his case. However, his position is fundamentally sound and worth studying even if one takes a different view.
- On dispensational theology I would recommend Charles Ryrie’s Dispensationalism (his revised and expanded edition) and Issues in Dispensationalism edited by Wesley R. Willis and John R. Master. Along the same lines is Alva McClain’s excellent little book, Law and Grace – a must read.
- The Doctrines That Divide by Erwin Lutzer is a fine primer on some of the foundational doctrines of Scripture and the battles fought over them.
- The Potter’s Freedom by James White is a response by a Calvinist theologian to Norm Geisler’s Chosen but Free, which presents a modified Arminian position. While my position is more aligned with White’s, the two men represent well their respective theologies. Unfortunately Geisler insisted on calling his view moderate Calvinism, but it resembles very little if any form of Calvinism.
- Benjamin B. Warfield’s writings have had a huge impact on Christian thinking. Short Writings of B. B. Warfield would be a good introduction to this Reformed theologian.
- The Greatness of the Kingdom by Alva J. McClain is the definitive work on the Kingdom Age from a dispensational perspective. McClain gives the reader an excellent understanding of the whole flow of Scripture.
- For a good book on eternal security I recommend Shall Never Perish by J. F. Strombeck. It’s been around since 1936 but I doubt that it has been surpassed.
- Still one of the best books exposing some of the problems of the modern day tongues movement is Charles Smith’s Tongues in Biblical Perspective. MacArthur’s Charismatic Chaos is helpful as well.
- Armageddon Now! by Dwight Wilson exposes the silliness and damage caused by many premillennialist date setters. A good warning to all who might be tempted.
- Jim Owen has written the best challenge I have read to “Christian psychology” in Christian Psychology’s War on The Word of God. This work is well researched, biblical, and compassionate. Another good book in the genre is The Biblical View of Self-Love, Self-Esteem, Self-Image by Jay Adams.
- Evangelicalism Divided by Iain H. Murray combines the best in the study of recent church history with a needed challenge to evangelicals.
- The Coming Evangelical Crisis edited by John Armstrong plows some of the same ground.
- The King James Version Debate by D. A. Carson is among the best trying to address an issue that just won’t go away.
- Today’s Gospel, Authentic or Synthetic by Walter Chantry should be pondered in light of the fluffy gospel message popular today.
- David Hunt’s best books are still The Seduction of Christianity and Beyond Seduction in which he sounds important warnings.
- Darwin on Trial is one of the more recent books to enter the evolution debate. Phil Johnson does an excellent job from the position of a lawyer proving his case, rather than as a scientist.
- D. A. Carson is always worth reading – his Exegetical Fallacies calls us to carefulness in our study of Scripture. In The Gagging of God he shows the many ways that pluralism attempts to silence the message of God.
- Can Man Live Without God? by Ravi Zacharias takes an apologetical/philosophical approach to calling people to Christ.
- Then, of course, there is Francis Schaeffer’s famous trilogy: The God Who Is There, Escape From Reason, and He Is There and He Is Not Silent. It seemed in my college days that everyone read Schaeffer. I find few that do today. They don’t know what they are missing.
- In a day when cherished hermeneutical principles are under attack from all sides, the excellent Protestant Biblical Interpretation by Bernard Ramm needs to be dusted off and read again. For the more advanced student, who should have a handle on current trends undermining historical-grammatical hermeneutics, Robert Thomas’ Evangelical Hermeneutics is a must read.
- Knowing God by J. I. Packer and The Knowledge of the Holy by A. W. Tozer have already been cited. Others worthy of mention include:
- The God You Can Know by Dan DeHaan is similar in focus to the volumes above.
- Trusting God by Jerry Bridges is a wonderful work, filled with Scripture, demonstrating the trustworthiness of our God.
- Seeking God by Richard Mayhue is a valuable source, especially for teachers.
- God’s Lesser Glory by Bruce A. Ware deals with the open theism heresy.
- Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility by D. A. Carson is the best I have read on this subject.
- Jonathan Edwards’ A Faithful Narrative of the Surprising Work of God describes events during an important period in church history known as the Great Awakening.
- God’s Forgetful Pilgrims by Michael Griffiths is a good reminder of what the church is supposed to be, according to Scripture.
- Biblical Eldership by Alexander Strauch is powerful in presenting the biblical picture of eldership in the local church.
- The Master’s Plan for the Church by John MacArthur is helpful.
- One of the best general books on church history is Christianity Through the Centuries by E. Cairns although there are hundreds of excellent accounts of church history and its major players.
- Spurgeon’s Lectures to My Students may be a bit dated but is worth reading anyway. Richard Baxter’s The Reformed Pastor is still affecting ministers today. Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ Preaching and Preachers is another classic.
- As for preaching helps, the top three candidates are Biblical Preaching by Haddon Robinson for techniques, Preaching and Teaching with Imagination by W. W. Wiersbe for creativity and The Supremacy of God in Preaching by John Piper for inspiration. Words on Target by Sue Nichols is a helpful little volume as well.
- Every pastor should read Jay Adams’ Competent to Counsel, which will encourage them to use the same authority, based on the Word, in counseling that they do in the pulpit.
- Speaking of authority, everyone, not just pastors should read Biblical Authority by James Draper and Kenneth Keathley.
- Successful Christian Parenting by John MacArthur is among the best overall books on parenting.
- Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Ted Tripp reminds us that parents are aiming for more than outward compliance. We are trying to mold a heart for God. Tripp’s brother, Paul, has an excellent follow-up geared to raising teens called, The Age of Opportunity.
- Love Life by Ed Wheat offers much biblical and practical help for married couples. Unfortunately he occasionally buys into psychology that finds no basis in Scripture. Read with discernment.
It would be virtually impossible to list even a portion of the great commentaries on the Scriptures. I would recommend commentaries on individual books rather than one volume works, which by necessity are superficial. Sets are numerous; I find the sets that I most often turn to are the New Testament Commentary by William Hendriksen (although he is amillennial), The MacArthur New Testament Commentary (a combination of commentary and sermons) and The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, authored by many scholars, so it can be a bit uneven in quality. On individual books you might want to read D. A. Carson’s New Testament Commentary Survey and Commentaries for Biblical Expositors by Jim Rosscup. This last book is an extremely valuable resource and has been updated and revised in 2004. Also, Indian Hills Community Church has a booklet entitled Bible Study Tools for the Layman that is helpful, as is Calvary Theological Seminary’s The Expositor’s Toolbox. These last three works are dispensational in nature, while Carson’s is Reformed.
Some books written by unbelievers have something helpful for Christians. Among them: Amusing Ourselves To Death by Neil Postman. Postman offers exceptional insights into the trends of modern times that Christian leaders should understand. The Varieties of Religious Experiences was written by William James many years ago. Its value, especially in this experience-oriented age, lies in demonstrating that experiences can spring from many sources and can never be the test for truth. More recently Alan Wolfe’s The Transformation of American Religion offers valuable insights.
Finally, Cyril J. Barber’s The Minister’s Library is indispensable for the serious student of God’s Word. Happy reading!