Book Suggestions

I remember sitting in my church history class and my professor asking us if we had ever read Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion. In a class of about 15 students no one raised their hands. He went on to tell us that most Christians have never read it and yet everyone seems to think they know for sure what Calvin believed. It was at that moment I decided I would be one of those rare Christians and read the complete 1,500 page two volume work edited by John T. McNeil and translated by Ford Lewis Battles. Though it took me the better part of two years to complete I was better for having read it. Having read it I will attest to the fact that many Christians misunderstand Calvin because they have not done the  hard but rewarding work of reading this great work and no one can claim to understand Calvin until they have.

Tim Keller writes at the TGC blog about his journey this year in reading through the Institutes. After drawing on some things he has observed while reading the Institutes (all of which I can attest to being true having read it myself) he closes with this thought:

Last (and here our modern evangelical terminology fails us) Calvin’s writings are astonishingly “doxological.” We might be tempted to say “inspirational” or “devotional” or “spiritual,” but to use such Hallmark greeting card phrases doesn’t do them justice. Calvin’s writings don’t read at all like a theological treatise, but like a man’s meditating on the Scripture before God. The language is filled with reverence and awe, and often tenderness. That means that, despite the close reasoning of so many parts of the material, Calvin was all about the heart.

Indeed, he taught that our biggest problem is there. “For the Word of God is not received by faith if it flits about in the top of the brain, but when it takes root in the depth of the heart . . . the heart’s distrust is greater than the mind’s blindness. It is harder for the heart to be furnished with assurance [of God’s love] than for the mind to be endowed with thought.” (III.2.36)

To furnish our hearts with more of that assurance is the ultimate purpose of the Institutes, and I can say, personally, that it is fulfilling its purpose in me this year.

In the famous words of Saint Augustine – tolle lege – take up and read! Get your copy of the Institutes of the Christian Religion from Amazon or WTS.

Carl Trueman is one of my favorite authors and his most recent book, The Creedal Imperative, looks like it might be his best piece of work yet. WTS is running a sale right now for $10 each or $8 when you buy 5 or more. So, get one for yourself and every pastor you know!

Here is the publishers description:

Recent years have seen a number of high profile scholars converting to Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy while a trend in the laity expresses an eclectic hunger for tradition. The status and role of confessions stands at the center of the debate within evangelicalism today as many resonate with the call to return to Christianity’s ancient roots. Carl Trueman offers an analysis of why creeds and confessions are necessary, how they have developed over time, and how they can function in the church of today and tomorrow. He writes primarily for evangelicals who are not particularly confessional in their thinking yet who belong to confessional churches – Baptists, independents, etc. – so that they will see more clearly the usefulness of the church’s tradition.

Here is a short video with Trueman on the book:

If you are not familiar with Andrew Root you need to be especially if you work with youth in any way in your church. Andrew is a bright, articulate and passionate about teens and theology and has done a lot of work to help youth ministries be more theologically minded and driven. Andrew is a professor of various youth ministry fields, family, friends and culture at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, MN and  has written some great books already: Revisiting Relational Youth Ministry, The Theological Turn in Youth Ministry and The Children of Divorce: The Loss of Family as the Loss of Being (which I have reviewed here).

In an effort to continue his passion of bringing theology into the youth ministry, Root is writing a four book series with Zondervan titled A Theological Journey Through Youth Ministry. The first two books are coming out tomorrow: Taking Theology to Youth Ministry and Taking the Cross to Youth Ministry. The other two books will come out this December: Unlocking Mission and Eschatology in Youth Ministry and Unpacking Scripture in Youth Ministry.

I strongly recommend you check out these books if you work with teens or pick them up for the youth workers in your church.

When it comes to the Psalms, like some other books, it seems that commentaries are all over the map and there are few and far between that are worthy of ones time. Let’s be honest though, it is the longest book in the Bible and is not at the center of many, if any, theological debates. For many it provides great comforting devotional material and for others it is the hymnal of the church. I dare say that many, if any, preachers have not preached through the Psalms. And maybe there is good reason for this.

When it comes to deeply exegetical commentaries on the Psalms there is very little to offer. Outside of the Word, Tyndale, NACOT (only the 2nd so far)and NIVACOT series there are not many and there is nothing within the NICOT to date. In an effort to provide a solid exposition of the Psalms Allen P. Ross has turned his years of research and study on the Psalms into a commentary for Kregel, A Commentary on the Psalms: Vol. 1 (1-41). This is the first of three volumes by Ross.

The introduction of the book covers a number of issues related to the Psalms. Among other things there is a short history of the interpretation of Psalms, discussion on the various types of Psalms (praise, lament, etc.), a guide on types of literary features within the various Psalms and a short intro to the theology of the Psalms. Concluding the introduction is a brief overview of the exegetical method employed throughout the book. Ross offers a number of helpful tips and guidelines for the exegesis process. Each chapter follows the same structure:

  1. Introduction – The Psalm itself, including textual variants in the footnotes.
  2. Composition and Context – This looks at the overall features of the Psalm and the historical, theological, biblical and literary context of each individual Psalm.
  3. Exegetical Analysis – This includes a one line summary of the message of the Psalm and the basic outline.
  4. Commentary in Expository Form – This is the bulk of each chapter and is an exposition of the Psalm following the exegetical analysis outline.
  5. Message and Application – As the heading states this is the application section. Here contemporary application is drawn while looking towards the New Testament as well.

As an exegetical commentary time will tell how well received it will be but I trust it will be well liked and recommended by exegetes, scholars, teachers and pastors. This commentary is written for the pastor with the layman in mind as well. The only area in which it might have improved was in the theology of the Psalms as a book and as individuals but that is not the primary purpose of the book. Ross is keen on exegesis and models it well. He has a good grasp of how the Psalms speak to all of life’s experiences and how the Psalms still speak to the church today. I recommend Psalms by Ross for all pastors, Bible students and laymen alike.

NOTE: I received this book from Kregel in return of a review but was under no obligation to provide a favorable review.

If there is one mission I have in my church and among my friends is to encourage them to read good Christian books. I am an avid reader myself and I am always depressed at how little I see other Christians reading. For some people it might be encouraging them to read period because they don’t already read. For others it might be encouraging them to set a goal of reading 10  or 20 books this year. And for others it might be encouraging them to read books beyond either their reading or comprehension level as a means to stretch them and produce growth.

This morning I stumbled upon a video clip of Mark Dever discussing how as a pastor he has worked to create a culture of reading within his church. This advice is dynamite!

Kregel has released its newest book in the 40 Questions and Answers Series with Eckhard Schnabel’s book 40 Questions About the End Times. This book looks like an even handed approach to many questions Christians have concerning the end times. You can read an interview Matt Smethurst did over at the Gospel Coalition Blog.

To celebrate the release of this new book Kregel is hosting a giveaway for a $25 Amazon gift card. Enter to win here.

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