As I mentioned in a previous post I read 53 books this year and reviewed 24 of them. In this post I wanted to share some of the best of them and why. In no particular order they are:
1. Grounded in the Gospel: Building Believers the Old Fashioned Way by J. I. Packer & Gary A. Parrett – This book totally changed the way I think about the educational ministry of the church as it relates to discipleship. It calls for a resurrection of the church to intentionally teach believers the faith through catechism. The authors ground the use of catechisms in Scripture, give an overview of its use in church history and offer suggestions for how to incorporate catechisms in the church today. This is a must read for all pastors, Sunday School or small group teachers and even parents who want to teach their children the faith better.
2. The Glory of God in Salvation Through Judgment by James M. Hamilton Jr. – This book is a biblical theology of the entire bible. Hamilton contends that the theological center of the bible is the glory of God in salvation through judgment. He walks through each book of the Bible and hows how this theme runs throughout. You can read my review here.
3. Following Jesus, The Servant King: A Biblical Theology of Covenantal Discipleship by Jonathan Lunde – This book radically changed the way I view the nature of discipleship as a believer in covenant relationship with God through Jesus Christ. There is a lot that is commendable with this book. Lunde does a better job with rooting covenant discipleship in the OT than he does with it in the NT. You can see my review here.
4. The Sword of the Lord: The Roots of Fundamentalism in an American Family by Andrew Himes – This book is a fascinating look at the history of Fundamentalist and the life and ministry of John R. Rice from a family insider. There are some significant points of disagreement I have with Himes with his view of some theological issues but his history is well documented and he is gracious in his assessment. You can read my review here.
5. A Meal with Jesus: Discovering Grace, Community, and Mission Around the Table by Tim Chester – This book hit me like a ton of bricks and challenged me personally in the area of personal evangelism like no book has. Chester walks through the meals of Jesus in the Gospel of Luke and shows us how to use meal time as a natural inroad to evangelism.
6. A Light to the Nations: The Missional Church and the Biblical Story by Michael W. Goheen – This book is a powerful biblical theology of the mission of the church. Rooted in the OT and flowering in the NT, Goheen shows how the mission of Israel to be a light to the nations with the gospel is carried on in the mission of the church. You can read my review here.
7. The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited by Scott McKnight – This is perhaps the most controversial book I read this year. McKnight claims that much of the gospel content that evangelicals have presented in their presentation is more about the plan of salvation rather than the entire gospel message itself. I personally found much of what he had to say dead on and I feel his overpowering tone has blinded many to the truth of what he is saying. You can read my review here.
8. Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith by Douglas Groothuis – I am a sucker of apologetics and this is a good one. As the title indicates this book is a comprehensive case for the Christian faith. Groothius uses the cumulative case method to build a case for why Christian theism is the best and only answer to the experience of life and to make sense of reality. My only negative critique of the book is that because he utilizes the cumulative case method he misses many of the apologetical strengths of the presuppositional model. Nevertheless, this is a great text book and reference book for every household to have. My review is forthcoming.
9. Jesus + Nothing = Everything by Tullian Tchividjian – Of all the books that challenged me spiritually this one was the best. The title says it all in relation to our salvation. Page after page is filled with great one liners to mull over. You can read my review here.
10. Four Views on the Spectrum of Evangelicalism (Counterpoints) ed. by Collin Hansen – This book provides a look into four views of Evangelicalism and what makes an evangelical an evangelical. The views range from Fundamentalism by Kevin Bauder to Postconservative by Roger Olson. There is agreement on the gospel being the center of evangelical life but great disagreement on how we relate to those who have different doctrinal articulation and practical expression of that gospel message. My review is forthcoming.
11. Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion and Naturalism by Alvin Plantinga – This book was perhaps the hardest to put down while reading. This was such an engaging read and another reason why I love Plantinga so much even when I disagree with him. Plantinga evaluates the critiques of prominent contemporary atheists against Christian theism and then critiques their naturalistic claims and assumptions. He shows how naturalism and atheism are not inherent within science but rather philosophical or pseudo religious add ons. His main argument in the last chapter is that naturalism is itself an argument against naturalism and that theism makes the best sense out of what we see in science. This argument is called a naturalistic argument against naturalism. This book was so engaging that it kept me up until midnight and later on several occasions. There are a few chapters and sections that will be difficult to understand if you have not had a course in logic (like myself) or have not read much in philosophy especially by more contemporary atheists like Dawkins and Dennett. Plantinga does believe in theistic evolution at minimum but this does not detract from its use for Christians who do not hold to any form of evolution. I might be reviewing this book later.
12. The Children of Divorce: The Loss of Family as the Loss of Being by Andrew Root – The central thesis of this book is that divorce causes an identity crisis in a child because the relationship that brought them into being, and from which they get their identity, no longer exists. Root provides a short history of the increase of divorce. This increase has been caused as the foundation for marriage has moved from labor centered to love centered. This book was fascinating and made me want to know more about so much that it touches on regarding the family. This is a must read for anyone who is directly touched by divorce, pastors, social workers, youth workers and anyone who works with children or even adults who have divorce in their families. My review is forthcoming.
13. The Christian Faith: Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way by Michael Horton – This was my systematic theology book for the year and it was a good one. Horton’s work is a wonderful and engaging read. He has paved the way for how to do systematic theology with an eye to biblical theology and I hope others will follow suit. Horton reminds me of Herman Bavink in how he interacts with many different disciplines and people but he is more accessible as he has written this book with the layman in mind. My review is forthcoming.