Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Books I think every Christian should read

With the holidays coming up I thought that I would put together a list of books that I find to be invaluable and written on a level where every Christian should be able to get through them at some point in their lives. I'll put three disclaimers on this:
  1. First, I chose books that I think would be readable for high schoolers and beyond. Sometimes there are some better books on the same subject that are written at a higher academic level (particularly in apologetics) or are just plain longer and more comprehensive. These books are chosen just to be an introduction to the Christian faith and some aspects of it or the Christian life.
  2. Second, I reserve the right to modify and add to this list at any time based on future reading when I find better things. :-)
  3. Third, most of these links are to books from Monergism because when you buy through them I earn credit toward free books that may someday also go on this list. You don't have to purchase there as sometimes WTS Books and Amazon are cheaper. I do find that Monergism is usually competitive or cheapest and they offer $3.99 shipping on all orders (and free shipping on orders over $50 through Christmas).
Hopefully this gives you some gift ideas or maybe some things to use gift cards or Christmas money on!

The Christian Life: A Doctrinal Introduction by Sinclair Ferguson - You need to read this book and then you need to read it again. Sinclair Ferguson argues that Christian doctrine matters for Christian living and the whole book expresses what Christian doctrine is and shows how it affects Christian life. Andrea and I are going through this book in our family devotions and both of us are finding it very helpful. Dr. Ferguson writes with the heart of a pastor and the mind of a highly trained theologian. The chapters are very short and pointed making the book easy to read and follow. If there was one book that I would want to see given to every new believer or new communicant (aside from the Westminster Standards of course) then it would be this one.

Redemption: Accomplished and Applied by John Murray - This book should be the follow-up to Ferguson's book. Ferguson gives the big picture overview of the whole of Christian doctrine and its import on Christian living. Murray then focuses on Christ's work as being the actual atonement for our sins and the order of salvation as we partake of the redemption purchased by Christ. Murray has a very formal writing style and so this book is not as easy to read as Ferguson's book. That said, I do think that even a high school student who is willing to take the time to read carefully and to think about what is said can make it through this book. I don't think that you can finish reading this without being led to glorify God again for his saving work in your life. This is my favorite book outside of Scripture.

Far as the Curse Is Found: The Covenant Story of Redemption by Michael Williams - As Reformed and Presbyterian believers we hold that the Bible is not a theology text book but it tells a story. Specifically it is redemptive history as it tells us the work of God in history to redeem a people for himself. This book by Dr. Williams is the best book that I have found in telling that story and surveying the history of God's saving activities throughout all of Scripture. Williams' book is well written; both clear and focused in its subject material. Again, I think that this forms an excellent follow up to the books by Ferguson and Murray and builds on the material there well (I should note that Dr. Williams was a student of Professor Murray's at WTS and now teaches systematic theology at Covenant Theological Seminary so I would hope his work follows and builds on Murray's!).

Finding the Will of God: A Pagan Notion? by Bruce Waltke - If you follow the book reviews label at the bottom of this post you can see my full review of this book. All Christians should desire to know what God's will is for their life. Dr. Waltke explains how you can know the will of God and be confident that your life decisions are according to that will. This book is a wonderful application of the theology set forth in the books listed above. It would also make a great gift for students in high school who are choosing a college, college students choosing a career, and older Christians who are looking at big decisions in the future.

Apologetics to the Glory of God: An Introduction by John Frame - To be honest I really stuggled over which book to recommend on the subject of apologetics as there are several good introductions and primers written from a Reformed perspective. I eventually settled on this because Professor Frame has been blessed with a great mind to understand truth and Scripture and apply it to apologetics and also with incredible skill as a communicator. You will struggle to find anyone who can express his thoughts in spoken or written form as well as Frame. This book is a great introduction to Reformed Christian apologetics. Though this is my highest recommendation I will say that I just recently read The Battle Belongs to the Lord: The Power of Scripture for Defending Our Faith by Scott Oliphint and it comes right behind Frame's book. I may put another post up soon with general recommendations for apologetics as introductions, intermediate, and advanced works.

Biblical Christian Ethics by David Jones - To be perfectly honest I had a really hard time choosing a book on ethics to recommend though sadly not for the same reason that I had a hard time choosing a book on apologetics. In my expericence books on ethics tend to be very mixed bags because they tend to be very long or to leave important concepts or subjects out. For example, I think the best Reformed book on ethics is John Murray's Principles of Conduct but the book is dated (it was written in the 50's and so has nothing on abortion or cloning) and rather difficult to read (Murray was not as good of a communicator as Frame). Right behind that is John Frame's The Doctrine of the Christian Life but this book is 1,104 pages long and correspondingly expensive (I should place a disclaimer on here that I disagree with John Frame on the Second Commandment and the regulative principle of worship and images of Christ). This book by Jones is a little old but it's still a good introduction to Reformed ethics. You might need to supplement this with Murray and Frame later but it will give you the concepts and framework you need to biblically think through ethical issues.

Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin - Often Calvin is construed as being difficult to read, complicated, heady, and not easily applicable to the Christian life. Anyone who has read his Institutes knows that this is far from the truth. Calvin was first and foremost a pastor. This work comes from a pastor's heart and summarizes and presents the Biblical doctrines that believers need to know in their Christian walk. If you only read one systematic theology in your whole life then you need to read this. Make sure you get this edition as Ford Battles' translation is by far the easiest to read in English.

1 comment:

richard said...

I just wish-listed Ferguson's book you recommended (among others). I want you to know you are starting to make my checkbook cringe.