I love this time of year because I love books and all these folks are releasing their favorite books list. Here is mine. These are not books published in 2016, but rather books I read in 2016. These are not in any particular order.
Unchanging Witness by Fortson and Grahams
If you want to be prepared to combat revisionist history about how the church has dealt with homosexuality this is the book. The authors carefully show that the church has spoken with a unanimous voice that homosexual practice is sinful. The authors also show how several denominations ended up compromising on this issue. These things alongside exegesis of key Biblical passages make the book an important contribution to the ongoing fight against the homosexual agenda.
No book I have read has so clearly opened up to me the humanity of Christ. I read this while preaching through Hebrews and found it a great aid in understanding Christ and treasuring Him more. Jones pulls liberally from the Puritans as he works through various aspects of Christ’s life. The chapter on Christ’s intercession was especially helpful and encouraging.
The Christian Family by Herman Bavinck
I read constantly on the family. Any insight I get into why the family is in the shape it is today is valuable. Bavinck’s book was unique because he wrote (early 1900’s) when the transition to women being in the workforce was beginning to take place. He is a bit of a bridge from the early years when the home was the economic center and later years when the economic center had shifted outside the home. Bavinck is well-balanced, wise, and tethered to Scripture. The book was helpful in learning what are principles and what is application.
Pastor Bayly has been a great influence on me over the years. With warmth, love, wisdom, and the occasional punch Pastor Bayly takes us through what fatherhood is and who our good Father is. Fatherhood is so misunderstood and maligned in our culture. I came away sorry for my sins as a father, grateful for the grace of Christ, and ready to dig in and get to work with courage and trust in God. I really enjoyed his chapter on discipline. It is easy to get slack in the task. His reminder that discipline is love was sorely needed.
His chapter on fathers in the gates was convicting as well. I make too many excuses for not being involved in the community. Pastor Bayly exposes those excuses and encourages us men to find ways to get involved in our community as a voice for righteousness.
I loved the tender affection for God and others that is woven throughout the book. Christians fathers should be known for their love, their physical affection with their children, their wife, and their friends. We should be known for our tears and our passion. I highly recommend it for all fathers, sons, grandfathers, pastors, and elders
Simplicity in Preaching by J.C. Ryle
A short book that should be read by all preachers on a regular basis. It reminds us that our job is not to dazzle, impress, overwhelm, or collect compliments. Our job is to clearly and simply give our congregation the Bible so they might grow in holiness. A much needed antidote in our celebrity driven culture to preaching that tries to please the crowd.
Our Culture, What’s Left of It by Theodore Dalrymple
A scathing critique of British culture that translates pretty easily into American culture. There are no sacred cows with Dalrymple. He takes shots at Virginia Woolf, Princess Diana, modern art, the press, welfare, and many other jewels in the modern’s crown. Along the way he explains why we are where we are. He answers are not always convincing, but his diagnosis is spot on. And he can write. His opening and closing paragraphs are excellent. If you want to know what a secular, liberal agenda does to people read this book.
War, Peace and Christianity by Charles and Demy
This book may have been the most helpful book I read all year. The authors explore the just war tradition through a series of questions about theology, philosophy, church, the Bible, and war itself. Dozens of key topics are addressed from did the early church teach pacifism to how should the just war tradition develop weapons. What makes this book most valuable however, is the thread of justice that runs throughout it. Justice is not tossed around. It is carefully and repeatedly defined, qualified, and explained. What does a just society look like? If a society is peaceful does that mean it is also just? Can only Christians understand justice? Numerous topics addressed in the book are easily transferred to local police situations and courtroom situations. The book also has a lot of footnotes directing the reader to other key texts.
Calvin and the Reformed Tradition by Richard Muller
A spectacular work of scholarship that opens up some doors and closes others. Muller is a bit prickly at places, which makes the reading more fun. He also backtracks a couple times from a previous work of his. It is a difficult read if you not familiar with some of men and ideas. If I read the book again in five years I would certainly get more out of it. Several key points from the book: (1.) Calvin is not really an innovator. He is mainstream reformed theology. (2.) Reformed theology has a broad consensus on issues relating to salvation with variation within that consensus. (3.) Historical scholarship is hard. This book is worth reading, not just for the content and conclusions, but also for the methodology of Muller. He is careful and precise.
A good book for those interested in a historical study of the reformers and union with Christ, what we call limited atonement, the order of salvation, and assurance of salvation and works.
The Biblical Doctrine of Infant Baptism by Pierre Marcel
An excellent work on infant baptism that doesn’t get to infant baptism until you are 2/3 through the book. He discusses sacraments in general, the relationship of sacraments to the Word, the covenant of grace, what baptism is, how it relates to the church body, what it means to be in the covenant, and why infant baptism is Biblical. I did not agree with all he wrote, but Marcel’s presentation seemed fresh and different. Few books have made me look so carefully and precisely at the relationship between the covenant and baptism.
Robert E. Lee on Leadership by H.W. Crocker
I read numerous books on leadership this year. This one was the best. The book is well organized and clear. It is not a biography of Lee, though obviously it does talk a lot about his life. What makes Lee such a great character study in leadership is how he worked through defeat. The key principles are laid out at the end of each chapter. This makes them easy to find again when you are reviewing. These principles are broad enough to apply to numerous different situations, such as coaching, teaching, pastoring, running a business, or even running a home. Throughout the year the principles laid out in this book have been my aid over and over again.
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