Maybe you love to read. Maybe you hate to read. Maybe you make time to read. Maybe you try to find every excuse possible to avoid reading. Maybe you start a book and not pick up another book until that one is finished. Maybe you start 15-20 books and only finish half…………..maybe. 🙂
Thankfully, God has also given many good teachers who are also writers and that is where this blog post comes from. Many (possibly including many of you readers) are curious what exactly pastors read. Truth be told, every pastor I have met, who loves God’s Word and their church, loves to read. They cannot get enough books. So what do they read?
Today on PS23, we want to answer that question. Now, we are not going to be be comprehensive or this would be a really loooooooooong blog post, but rather each PS23 blogger who contributed below has listed their top 5 favorites over 2015. Additionally, each man below has given a review of one of the books mentioned to wet your pallet.
I trust this is helpful to you and maybe give you many good reads for 2016.
Favorite Book of 2015: Do More Better by Tim Challies
Other favorite books: Parables by John MacArthur, The Daring Mission of William Tyndale by Steve Lawson, What Does the Bible Really Teach About Homosexuality? by Kevin DeYoung, and every single issue of Expositor’s Magazine.
Throughout my life, organization has always been a struggle. I am naturally lazy. Now, this didn’t bug me until about 8 years ago, I learned from Scripture that laziness and procrastination is sin (Prov 6:6-11; 2 Thess 3:6-15) because I am not being faithful to the tasks God has given me to do. I am doing what I want, thinking “this is my life and my time and I can do whatever I want with it.” Wrong-O!! I belong to God, in Christ Jesus, and this is His world in which He has given me time to honor and glorify Him with my time. So now, I hate it when I fail to plan and get little-to-nothing done. I like to be on task and do what God has given to me to do. Basically, I want to be faithful and not sin by being lazy. Enter Do More Better by Tim Challies. I am profoundly grateful for this little 94pg book.
In a nutshell, Challies appeals with the Bible the necessity of productivity AND being as productive as possible. His Scripture references are spot on. His application is practical, accessible, and immediately workable. What Challies has done is made productivity more desirable than laziness because the whole focus of Do More Better is living a dependent life upon the Holy Spirit’s faithfulness in salvation and sanctification. I have gained so much from this book and my life has been more focused to God’s glory than ever before in getting more done, better :-).
I think David Murray said it best: “Do More Better is the simplest, most concise, most comprehensive, most practical, and most realistic productivity guide that I’ve encountered.”
FYI: if you would like to kick start better productivity, Challies is doing a “10 Days of Productivity” starting on Jan 1.
Favorite Book of 2015: Hebrews and A People to be Loved by Preston Sprinkle
Other favorite books: Lawrence in Arabia by Scott Andersen, Rediscovering the Church Fathers by Michael Haykin, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit by Bruce Ware, and Philip Schaff’s History of the Christian Church.
A better review of A People to be Loved is forthcoming, but here’s the short short version. Great book! Preston asks tough questions and humanizes the discussion. He comes under the authority of Scripture providing great exegetical work to explain why homosexual practice is sinful. But he does it with love, kindness, and compassion — exactly how God commands us to in 2 Timothy 2:25. This book impacted me to remember we’re talking about people who need Christ just like I need Christ. I’ve read countless blogs on the issue this year and went into the book with a dozen questions. He reasonably answered everyone one of them. It’s so clear and concise that one could easily read this book in a couple hours.
Favorite book of 2015: God’s Battle Plan for the Mind:The Puritan Practice of Biblical Meditation by David W. Saxton
Other Favorite Books Luther on the Christian Life by Carl Truman, On Guard: Preventing and Responding to Child Abuse at Church by Deepak Reju (If you are a church leader you need to buy and start reading this today), The Pastor as Public Theologian by Kevin Vanhoozer and Owen Strachan, and On Being a Pastor by Derek Prime & Alaister Begg
The thing that makes Saxton’s work so special is that it reminds that true meditation on scripture is not mere memorization, but rumination on the personal implications of the truth contained in scripture that has been memorized. And it gets very practical about how to make this discipline a part of your life.
Favorite Book of 2015: The New Cambridge History of the Bible: Volume 4: The Bible 1750 to the Present, edited by John Riches (Cambridge University Press, 2015).
Other favorite books: Dangerous Games: The Uses and Abuses of History by Margaret MacMillan; Luis de Molina: The Life and Theology of the Founder of Middle Knowledge by Kirk R. MacGregor; Literary Introductions to the Books of the Bible by Leland Ryken.
Dishonorable mention: One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America by Kevin M. Kruse.
My dishonorable mention is only listed because it’s been fairly influential. Kruse, professor of history at Princeton University attempts to construct an explanation for “Christian America” and the rise of the religious right in the last 50 years by an untenable connection Cold War dread of the 1950’s, Eisenhower’s feared “military-industrial complex,” Billy Graham (isn’t everything Billy Graham’s fault?) and willing political allies (naturally Republican or the Southern Democrats who were about to become Republican), and Eisenhower himself (who is conversely portrayed as a manipulative genius or a knave, depending on whatever point the author is trying to make). Kruse assumes that there was no “Christian” dominance in American society or politics before the 1950’s and whatever there was of the American Civil Religion, as Bellah called it, was a benign sort of Christmas Card influence. The resulting thesis is laughable, but it’s well written and is still being read and believed (especially by the newer adherents of the Evangelical Left).
A quick note on the others: Anything Margaret MacMillan (author of Paris 1919 and The War that Ended Peace) is worth reading. This little work on history, 180 pages written as part of the Modern Library series, will help any pastor sharpen his focus on his studies. Luis de Molina is probably the most important theologian few people have heard of. de Molina and his significant contribution, “middle knowledge” are often dismissed as being “Catholic” or some such thing by people who haven’t read much. This is really a good and readable biography and presentation of his thought. It shouldn’t be ignored. Leland Ryken’s latest work is…oh wait, I’m a judge for the Evangelical Publisher’s Association’s Gold Medallion Awards and this book is in my category, so I need to leave it be. I can say you won’t waste your money if you buy it.
The New Cambridge History of the Bible will be a four-volume set (replacing the original three volume series of the 1960’s). Volume Three is in pre-order and the first two volumes are already available (you can read my longer review of those two at narnia3.com). Volume Four covers the modern era since 1750 and is edited by John Riches, Emeritus Professor at the University of Glasgow. The material is presented first geographically, then chronologically. This is a long (over 800 pages) and expensive ($180 retail) read, but if you are interested in the history of the Bible from a global perspective presented in a fair and even-handed manner, then this is a must have work of reference.
Especially noteworthy are the sections that discuss the dissemination of the Bible across the globe. The dominance of the British Empire and the work of the East India Company are given their due. While colonialism is given the requisite criticism, it thankfully isn’t overdone. Different hermeneutical and interpretative schemes that began to development in the Enlightenment and Post-Enlightenment eras are given a good overview and the careful reader will note how many of these schemes are refurbished and recycled in the last 300 years. The differences between Fundamentalists and Evangelicals are not as nuanced as I think they should be, but that is to be expected.
The essays will often be dis-satisfying or even infuriating to an inerrantist or even a biblical maximalist, but they cannot be dismissed. This set is a valuable addition to the literature and this volume on the modern history is a worthy addition to any library.