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Posts Tagged ‘books’

What books would you take?

I’ve been listening to Office Hours from Westminster Seminary California. R. Scott Clark is going through the faculty at Westminster, asking them what five books (other than an English Bible, along with a Greek and a Hebrew testament) they’d want with them on a desert island. Now, I have my issues with the Westminster bothers, but rest assured that I’ve learned *a ton* from these men – from Godfrey, to Horton, to Clark, Dennis Johnson, Steven Baugh, and D.G. Hart, these brothers have taught me a great deal. I love them, and I appreciate them.

These men are going through their top five, extra biblical books. I love this kind of stuff. I love it because books are SO important. God has given his preachers and teachers to his church. The gift of preacher/teachers blessing isn’t limited to our own generation. We can avail ourselves of the blessed preachers and teachers of past generations by reading them. For example, I can benefit from the pastoral blessings of that great pastor of Hippo, Augustine, simply by opening a volume of his sermons or writings. What a tremendous blessing!

Now, while we can benefit from the preachers and teachers of old, these old-timers are NO SUBSTITUTE for submitting ourselves to the *current* leadership of the church and learning from the *current* pastors/teachers of Christ’s church. For example, if we sit a home on the Lord’s Day reading, say, John Owen, instead of gathering with the local body, worshiping our Lord publicly, and enjoying the fellowship of the saints, we are disobedient fools. These pastors and teachers of old are supplementary to our engagement in the local body now. The great theologians and teachers of yesteryear are only of secondary benefit to our primary focus of weekly worship in the local body now.  Christ’s church focuses on the now, leading toward eternity, the eternal now.

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Saw an interesting blurb on Carl Trueman (a man whom I respect), his wife, and their respective reading habits over on Scripture Zealot. Go give that a read and then come back to this conversation.

In light of the question put to Dr. Trueman’s wife, I just asked my wife how important it is that she read everything I read. She responded that she couldn’t keep up, and that, so long as I communicate the important things that I’m learning, she feels up to speed.

What in the sam hell would make anyone think that a seminary professor’s wife ought to be up to speed on his reading. I really have a feeling of pity for the wife of the seminarian who thinks that she needs to keep up on all her husband’s reading. There are really only a few options: 1) The poor woman’s deluded, and her husband needs to give her a good talkin’ to, 2) she’s a super scholar (in which case my feeling of pity is gone), or 3) her husband is taking, at most, a one-credit class in seminary, and not even doing all the reading for that. I remember reading constantly in seminary. I think my wife, to make sure I didn’t starve whilst in seminary, would manually feed me as I read… that was actually a good set up.

Of the options, I suspect that #1 is the case. She’s got some sort of burden that is not at all in keeping with being a wife and help meet. A wife certainly oughtn’t be her husband; she needs to help him do what God’s called him to do.

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Books! Read Good Ones.

 

I posted this list as a note on Facebook earlier today. That list was supposed to be short, but I wanted to elaborate a bit about why each of these books is so important to me. Here goes.

1. The Bible by God – the whole world hangs on this book. It is God’s self-revelation unto our salvation. I loathe when people (recalling my liberal professors at University) pay lip service to the Bible, but deny its teachings. This book must rule us.

2. The Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin – The only people more influential on my thinking than John Calvin are my parents (God bless them). This book rocked my little world. It was my introduction into the vast cosmos of Christian thought. Calvin is one of the great masters of Christian thought. This work is his justly famous summary of Christian doctrine.

3. Luther the Leader by John L. Nuelsen (I think) – I was a sophomore at University. I wanted to know about the Reformation. I sat in my ignorance on one side of the apartment looking across at this book on the book shelf. I knew the end of my ignorance was in its pages. This was the first book I picked up as an adult, and I picked it up with the express purpose of learning. That was awesome. It sparked a deep desire in me to know the things of God and his people – a desire that continues to burn.

4. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame – This is one of the books that my mom read to me before bed. Thanks, mom. I have not read it as an adult, but as a child it helped me develop an imagination and a sense of wonder at the way things are.

5. He Shall Have Dominion by Kenneth Gentry – This book brought just about everything together for me. It’s a book about Postmillennialism (the best book available to define and defend postmil theory), but it draws together so much: covenant, ethics, history, God’s plan of redemption, and much more. Gentry’s book helped me bring together a fulsome Christian view of all these things.

6. Theonomy in Christian Ethics by Greg Bahnsen – Bahnsen work on ethics helped me sharpen my thoughts about ethics. It’s very popular in Christian circles to be dismissive of large tracts of God’s law. Bahnsen helped me fine tune my commitment to divine law, even in the details.

7. Christian Apologetics by Cornelius Van Til – I have never worked harder to read a book than I worked to read this one. It paid off. In the words of Kenneth Gentry, Van Til helped me begin to *think* as a Christian.

8. The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul – This book helped me keep my mind in the great morass of happy-clappy Christianity that I was introduced to as an undergraduate. God’s holiness is rightly horrifying. Sproul taught me about the trauma of holiness. Thanks, R.C.

9. The Sovereignty of God by Arthur W. Pink – don’t read the abridged version of this. This work will rock you to your core. When I read it I was already convinced of the absolute sovereignty of God (call it “Calvinism” if you must). This book details how the Bible shows God’s absolute sovereignty in various areas of life, including salvation and reprobation. Pink is a great antidote to the poisons of Arminianism.

10. Westminster Standards (but especially the Shorter Catechism) – The Standards are always in my hands. They’re a consistent source of spiritual sustenance and guidance. I recall learning a great deal from the Shorter Catechism in one particular reading at an airport (LAX) in 1998.

 

Leo Tolstoy

 

11. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy – I read this amazing book for the first time in 2000. Took a while, cuz it’s big and thick. That’s okay. Big books just take longer to read. Don’t be scared of them. W&P, itself, was vast and amazing, telling the story of many lives in the context of the Napoleonic Wars in Russia. Simply amazing. This book also kicked off a love affair between me and Russian authors, especially Tolstoy.

12. For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway – This book taught me that people could use words to paint pictures in my mind, that they would write words that could break my heart, that being an author is art. This book (along with others) convinced me of the necessity of reading fiction for pastors. Words are powerful tools. We gotta learn how to use ’em.

13. First in his Class: A Biography of Bill Clinton by David Maraniss – This may seem like a curious book to make the top 15. I suppose that it is. Let me put it this way: Before I read this book, I abhorred Bill Clinton. After I read this book, I abhorred Bill Clinton, but thought that there were many ways that I should be more like him.  Briefly, it opened my eyes to my narrow view or assessment of people. It didn’t make me think differently about right and wrong, but it did help me access people in a broader, healthier way.

14. Confessions by Augustine – This book, to some degree, taught me devotions. It demonstrated that a thinking Christianity can be a devotional Christianity. It is proof that not only can you have both head and heart, but that the heart is diminished without the head, and the head is diminished without the heart. Also, I like reading Augustine thoughtfully kicking around an idea, an idea with which all the greatest minds in history subsequently wrestle. Augustine is a wellspring of centuries and centuries of thought.

15. Jewish Backgrounds of the New Testament by J. Julius Scott, Jr. – I read this book at the end of seminary: wish I read it long before that. Scott shows how dependent the NT is on both the OT and intertestamental Judaism. This book helped me get a better view of the “historico” part of my historico-grammatico-theological hermeneutics.

Looking at my list now, I see that I should have added How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie – this book’s title is cliché, but that’s only because of how successful it was. This book codifies how to treat people so that they like you. The simple version is *actually* be interested in them, focus on them, their desires and interests. Love them first, and, in turn, they’ll love you back. I think this book could be read annually with great benefit.

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