If you already saw my book review on Goodreads, I’d still say go ahead and reread my plug for the book below anyway. For emphasis. But first, the following paragraph introduces the book on its back cover.
The world is full of good things…Ice-cold lemonade. The laughter of children. College football. Scrambled eggs and crispy bacon. But what happens to these earthly pleasures when Jesus shows up? Do the things of earth grow strangely dim? Or does he shine in all that’s fair?
I wish I had read this book twenty years ago. That would have been impossible, though, because the copyright is 2015. So I wish I had read another book like it anytime in the last twenty years. But if there is one, I don’t know about it. I wish the truths of this book were in the bones of my Christian discipleship, but since they haven’t been, I’m even more thankful for this book now.
Rigney tackles helmet-on-helmet how Christians must not love the world in one way and how those same Christians—Christian hedonists even—must love the world in another way. He does great work showing the Trinity’s story on earth and how we should think theologically and poetically and eat cake all the while. The categories of comparative love and integrated love alone are worth triple the price of the book.
I restarted reading as soon as I finished. I am telling everyone I know about it. I’ve already bought a copy and given it away.
I do wish the endnotes were footnotes, not only because endnotes are gross, but also because many of the endnotes deserve more prominent page space. I also think the book could have used some Kuyper alongside of Edwards, Lewis, Chesterton, but whatever. If you want to honor God with your heart and your hands then get The Things of Earth and READ it right away.
These are books that, from my perspective, transcend time and culture. They are the kind of resources that should be frequently published and first translated when we take the gospel to a new group. They would help anyone, in any age, in any place to know, defend, and articulate the faith once for all delivered to the saints. Of course, my frame of reference is limited, limited by language (English) and limited by scope (what I’ve actually read). So I reserve the right to update this list as my own library grows. Also feel free to leave your own suggestions/criticisms in the comments. But for all that, remember:
It is not the reading of many books which is necessary to make one wise, but the well-reading of a few, could they be sure to be the best. ~Richard Baxter
So here are the best of the best for my evangelical money.
1. The MacArthur Study Bible
John MacArthur, Editor. If I was stranded on an island and could only have one print resource, this is the one I want. Though I don’t carry or read my MSB on a daily basis, it is an absolutely essential tool. The background on the Canon, the overview of systematic theology, and the topical index are brief but outstanding assets. It is a one-stop shop for book overviews and outlines, not to mention the many helpful interpretive notes.
2. The Sovereignty of God
Arthur W. Pink. Though it is #2 on this list, it is #1 on my personal impact list. No man will be humbled appropriately without understanding of, and submission to, God’s sovereignty. Neither will man’s capacity to worship God be elevated sufficiently without acknowledgment and admiration of His supremacy and authority over all things. [Make sure to get the unabridged version that includes Chapter 5].
3. The Master Plan of Evangelism
Robert Coleman. If making disciples is the Great Commission–and it is–then those of us who are His followers ought also to follow His example in spreading the news of the Kingdom. The Master Plan of Evangelism is an oldie but a goodie (with hundreds of thousands in print) and explains the process of disciple-making unlike any other, with both simplicity and substance.
4. The Gospel According to Jesus
John MacArthur. If we are commissioned to teach the nations to observe everything that Jesus commanded then we ought to know (and obey ourselves) what Jesus commanded. This is the classic treatment on following Christ as Savior and Lord and the firestorm of the Lordship salvation debate.
5. Living by the Book
Howard Hendricks. If the Bible is the Book we are responsible to know, this book is the best resource for those who study in English. Hendricks helps us bridge the historical, cultural, geographical, and grammatical gaps as he covers the three basics of Observation, Interpretation, and Application.
6. The Holiness of God
R.C. Sproul. The “fear of the Lord” is largely absent and undoubtedly that stems from our ignorance of the Lord. The Holiness of God is classic Sproul, presenting God’s holiness and pressing for our proper response. Knowing God by J.I. Packer is along the same lines.
7. Desiring God
John Piper. I didn’t “get” this book until I read The End for Which God Created the World by Jonathan Edwards. However, though TEFWGCTW is shorter, it is much heavier. Desiring God is essential Piper, but more than that it is essential explanation that God is glorified not only by His glories being seen, but by their being rejoiced in.
8. Concise Theology
J.I. Packer. This is a pocket resource on systematic theology, quickly covering most subjects in three or four pages while providing key Scripture references. If you’re ready for something less concise, than I’d suggest moving right to Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem.
9. The Cross-Centered Life
C.J. Mahaney. A happy Christian life depends on the definitions and distinctions between justification, sanctification, and glorification. Though other books dig deeper into the individual elements, this is a great primer on living in light of each part of our salvation.
10. Why One Way?
John MacArthur. 10 years ago this would not have made the top 10 list, and that’s not simply because it wasn’t published yet. The ever rising animosity toward authority and truth make this book both timely and vital. It is the most accessible treatment of modernism/postmodernism I’ve read while defending the exclusivity of the gospel and God’s Word in this inclusive age.
There are other classics that make my Honorable Mention list, such as:
Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan
Anything on Prayer by E.M. Bounds
A Call to Spiritual Reformation by D.A. Carson, also on prayer
Evidence that Demands a Verdict by Josh McDowell on apologetics
Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood edited by Piper & Grudem
Specifically For Men:
Thoughts for Young Men by J.C. Ryle
Future Men by Doug Wilson
Specifically For Women:
The Fruit of Her Hands by Nancy Wilson
Remember, these are some of the best and not the only books to own and read. No doubt I’ve missed something, so let me know.
Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested: that is, some books are to be read only in parts, others to be read, but not curiously, and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention. ~Francis Bacon
May these books, and other good books like them, be digested by believers with diligence.
Reading is making a comeback. Numerous bloggers have commented on the collection and reading of books in the past few weeks and I’ve started to compile an ever growing list of these posts for my own future reference.
One of the reasons behind the recent resurgence of bookish discussion by bloggers was the article by Christianity Today on the top 50 books that have influenced evangelicalism. The list is subjective if not downright suspect, but it received a fair amount of attention nonetheless. I knew this was no small subject when the über-Christian blogmaster Tim Challies weighed in with his perspective.
All of that to say, I’ve come up with a list of the 25 books that have influenced me the most. And though the description of my list may sound like any other prejudiced, postmodern perspective, I can assure you that no sympathetic postmodernite would be interested in the meta of these narratives. So while my library list is nothing special, it might be useful to others who need help.
This list was born Saturday on the back of a Burger King bag while riding in a Volkswagen to Pullman for the WSU/Cal game with Jonathan and Curtis. These are either just personal favorites or those with the most influence on the Void. I’m already planing an additional post with a catalog of the 10 books every Christian should own. I also want to point out that the Bible is the default superscript over the whole list. So with those qualifications in place and in particular order:
The Sovereignty of God A.W. Pink
The End for Which God Created the World Jonathan Edwards
Ashamed of the Gospel John MacArthur
Brothers, We are Not Professionals John Piper
The Master Plan of Evangelism Robert Coleman
Exegetical Fallacies D.A. Carson
The Death of Death in the Death of Christ John Owen
The Legacy of Sovereign Joy John Piper
The Religious Affections Jonathan Edwards
The Five Points of Calvinism: Defined, Defended, and Documented Curtis Steel and Daniel Thomas
On The Bondage of the Will Martin Luther
The Institutes of the Christian Religion John Calvin
Evangelicalism Divided Ian Murray
The Reformed Pastor Richard Baxter
The Rise and Fall of the American Teenager Thomas Hine
Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics Daniel Wallace
Faith Works (re-titled: The Gospel According to the Apostles) John MacArthur
Honorable mentions go to Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God by J.I. Packer, God’s Outlaw by Brian Edwards, Future Men by Doug Wilson, The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis, The Vanishing Conscience by John MacArthur, and Boy, Was I Mad! by Kathryn Hitte.
Dishonorable mentions go to the original Revolve biblezine, Create in Me a Youth Ministry, and all The Prayer of Jabez spin-offs. Other books were generously and purposefully driven from the list and no books in the Left Behind series were harmed in the production of this post.