Confession: I didn’t read nearly as many books this year as I have in the past. A few years ago I think I probably read between three to five books a week (yeah, no TV… ever). Now I’m happy if I can finish five books in a month. Pastoral ministry has changed and the needs of a family of six require much more of my time, and I gladly trade reading for that time with people and most importantly, my family.
So this list isn’t going to be crazy long. I’ll reserve it to ten books, just like everyone else, and work my way to my favorite book of the year.
10.) Historical Theology: An Introduction to Christian Doctrine, by Gregg R. Allison – This book is really an accompaniment to Grudem’s Systematic Theology and provides a historical survey of the development of Christian doctrine. So if you were interested in the Doctrine of the Inerrancy of Scripture, Allison provides a survey of that doctrine from the early church, through the Middle Ages, Reformation, Post-Reformation, and into our current day. He actually interacts well with a variety of sources and provides a great starting point for further study. This is a great book on a subject that Christians should spend more time studying.
09.) A New Testament Biblical Theology: The Unfolding of the Old Testament in the New, by G. K. Beale – Another confession: I haven’t finished reading this yet. After all, it just released at the beginning of December. So why is it on my list? What I have read is really, really, really good. I can’t say I agree with all of Beale’s conclusions, but more often than not, I do. He has challenged me and helped my understanding of the Temple (thanks largely in part to his NSBT contribution, The Temple and the Church’s Mission). His work on the NT’s use of the OT has shaped my appreciation for the NT writers enormously and I can’t think of a more interesting book of worship than his We Become What We Worship. Beale has fast become one of my favorite theologians. The reason I believe this book will probably become a “classic” for me is because it builds beautifully upon the foundation laid by George Ladd regarding the Kingdom of God. Throughout Beale’s work, the “already and not yet” framework of the Kingdom functions as a controlling motif. This is one of the better works I have read on inaugurated eschatology in quite some time. And I’m still reading.
08.) Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian, by John Piper – I wish I’d have read this book before October. You see, in October I delivered a message on Racial Reconciliation at the annual ACRC conference (audio here). I think Piper might have helped me plumb the depths better, or at least given me more food for thought. At any rate, if you are even remotely interested in the subject of race/ethnicity and reconciliation within the church, you need to purchase this book. Actually, I truly believe that ethnic reconciliation is a non-negotiable for Christians. Piper essentially shares his story as one who grew up in the ‘south’ and who was incidentally a product of his time and his culture. Yet a few years later, he came to see the radical outworking of the gospel. In the majority of the book, Piper discusses the power of the gospel to overturn ethnocentrism and then provides many practical ways that Christians, pastors, and churches can better embrace a reconciling heart and ministry. I would recommend this book for the chapter on interracial marriage (Piper advocates it) and the sovereignty of God and the “black experience.”
07.) Redemption, by Mike Wilkerson – You can read my review here, but I’ll just restate how much I liked this book. It basically is a pastoral care goldmine. Full of pastoral observations that are rooted in Scripture, Wilkerson’s book should be read by anyone involved in doing ministry with really broken people… people who have gone through a lot of “stuff.”
06.) The Lord’s Supper: Remembering and Proclaiming Christ Until He Comes, edited by Thomas R. Schreiner and Matthew R. Crawford – With my belief that the Lord’s Supper is far more important than many of our churches admit, this book was a welcome addition to the current literature on the subject. It takes an overall baptistic perspective, but does well in painting a “big picture” appreciation for the Sacrament. I wish the authors would have spent a bit more time interacting (and promoting) the Reformed Spiritual Presence view, but I can’t be too picky because they do a great job in so many other areas. The book includes essays on whether or not the Last Supper was a Passover meal (it was!), the Lord’s Supper in the Gospels, Paul, the Eucharist in Roman Catholic theology, Luther’s view, and more. I continue to consult this and develop my understanding of Communion.
05.) Understanding the Times: New Testament Studies in the 21st Century: Essays in Honor of D. A. Carson on the Occasion of His 65th Birthday, edited by Andreas J. Köstenberger and Robert W. Yarbrough – Yeah, that’s a long title. But we’re talking about a collection of essays for one of the premier NT scholars, D. A. Carson. I briefly reviewed this one too (here) and will consult it more in the future. Any time you get essays from Porter, Osborne, Dever, Woodbridge, Köstenberger, Moo, O’Brien, Schnabel, Blomberg, and others… you’ve put together something anyone interested in NT scholarship should own.
04.) The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims On the Way, by Michael Horton – If you enjoy Systematic Theology, Reformed Theology, or anything related to Hermeneutics (think Drama of redemption), you’ll want to get a copy of this if you don’t already own it. I like Horton. He’s the kind of thinker and writer that is just plain fun to read, even when you don’t agree. Horton’s view is classic Covenant Theology, yet it’s fresh and inviting. I don’t know if it “will be viewed as one of—if not the—most important systematic theologies since Louis Berkhof wrote his in 1932,” but it’s certainly up there. I’d reserve the role of the most important Systematic Theology to Robert Culvers, but this is slowly climbing my list of favorites.
03.) Practicing Affirmation: God-Centered Praise of Those Who Are Not God, by Sam Crabtree – I needed to read this book, badly. You need to read this book, badly. I’m going to reread this book and then do a sermon series based on it. Yeah… get it.
02.) A Meal with Jesus: Discovering Grace, Community, & Mission Around the Table, by Tim Chester – This “biblical theology of food in the Gospel of Luke” literally blew my mind. Imagine doing “missions” work in a way that is both effective and simple. Yeah, that’s right. Show hospitality and eat food with people as you make your dinner table a “missional” practice. Allow me to just state, for the record, that this works. The insights into the Gospel of Luke and how meals functioned in the 1st century are excellent.
*drum roll please…*
01.) God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment: A Biblical Theology, by James M. Hamilton Jr. – This is far and away my favorite book of 2011. I think Hamilton’s proposal is about as close to a “center” as you can find. And yes, I reviewed this book too (here). God’s glory… the center of theology.
Honorable mentions: Dangerous Church (by John Bishop), Redeeming Sociology (by Vern S. Poythress), Jesus + Nothing = Everything (by Tullian Tchividjian), You Lost Me. (by David Kinnaman), and Radical Together (by David Platt).