Tom Nettles on Charles Haddon Spurgeon


I was blessed to have Dr. Tom Nettles as my doctoral supervisor. Dr. Nettles has written what many consider to be the definitive treatment of the theology of the 19th century British Baptist pastor, Charles Haddon Spurgeon. His nearly 700 page volume was published last year with the title Living by Revealed Truth: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles Haddon Spurgeon.


Recently, I had the privilege of hosting Dr. Nettles at Farmdale Baptist Church. He preached in the morning service from James 1:1-18 (see here for audio). In the evening service, Dr. Nettles offered a lecture on Charles Haddon Spurgeon titled “Spurgeon: A Model of Consistency in a Time of Trouble” (audio below).

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An Orthodox Catechism Now Available for Pre-order

ImageReformed Baptist Academic Press is now accepting pre-orders of quantities of 10 or more of An Orthodox Catechism. This catechism is modernized version of the Orthodox Catechism published in 1680 by Hercules Collins. It was itself a revision of the 1563 Heidelberg Catechism loved and used by Protestants world-wide. This edition by Collins edits the section on baptism in a way suitable to a seventeenth-century Baptist. 

Michael A.G. Haykin and I have edited this historic catechism for a modern audience. We have also authored a historical introduction that explains the significance of the catechism along with Collins’ rationale for his edits.

The product page for the book is up on the RBAP website, but you will have to wait until the book is in stock to order individual copies (should be available within a week). The book retails for $12.00, but is available at a special price of $9.00 directly from the publisher. However, for churches or individuals who order 10 or more copies, the price is only $6.00 per copy. You pay shipping and $1.50 handling. These pre-orders must be paid via check. RBAP will invoice you via email. You need to contact RBAP directly to receive this offer.

UPDATE: The book is now available on Amazon for $10.80. Please note that the Kindle edition listed is not our edition, but a transcription of the unedited original.

Article Published in New Book on Heidelberg Catechism

This year marks the 450th anniversary of the Heidelberg Catechism. This Protestant document was written in Heidelberg in 1563 on behalf of Frederick III, Elector Palatine and spread over the world when it was approved by the Synod of Dort in 1619. A new volume has recently been released to commemorate this important event in church history—Power of Faith: 450 Years of the Heidelberg Catechism, edited by Karla Apperloo-Boersma and Herman J. Selderhuis. See flyer from the German academic publisher, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, here.

In this 454 page hardcover book, respected specialists in their fields present how the Heidelberg Catechism spread and influenced culture, education and ecclesiastical life. In addition to the text, over 700 pictures illustrate the contributions making an attractive volume for display. This work includes the following contribution co-authored by Michael A. G. Haykin and me: “To ‘concenter with the most orthodox divines’: Hercules Collins and his An Orthodox Catechism—a slice of the reception history of the Heidelberg Catechism.”

Power of Faith is slated to be released in Dutch, English and German editions. You can order the English edition from (German edition) now.

New Book on Heidelberg Catechism Celebrates 450th Anniversary

Next year (2013) marks the 450th anniversary of the Heidelberg Catechism. This Protestant document was written in Heidelberg in 1563 on behalf of Frederick III, Elector Palatine and spread over the world when it was approved by the Synod of Dort in 1619. A new volume is being released next March to commemorate this important event in church history. Power of Faith: 450 Years of the Heidelberg Catechism, edited by Karla Apperloo-Boersma, Herman J. Selderhuis. See flyer from publisher here.

In this 440 page hardcover book, respected specialists in their fields present how the Heidelberg Catechism spread and influenced culture, education and ecclesiastical life. In addition to the text, over 250 pictures illustrate the contributions making an attractive volume for display. This work will include the following contribution from Michael A. G. Haykin and Steve Weaver “To ‘concenter with the most orthodox divines’: Hercules Collins and his An Orthodox Catechism—a slice of the reception history of the Heidelberg Catechism.”

Power of Faith is slated to be released in Dutch, English and German editions. You can preorder the English edition from (German edition).

This was also posted at the blog of the Andrew Fuller Center.

“Eat the meat, spit out the bones!” Hercules Collins (paraphrase)

In 1680, Hercules Collins penned his first work, an adaption of the Heidelberg Catechism, which he titled An Orthodox Catechism. In his preface, Collins defended his inclusion of three creeds from the early church: the Apostles, Nicene and Athanasian. His defense includes great advice on how a Christian should read works by those with whom they may have disagreements. He essentially says to chew the meat and spit out the bones. Great advice for us all.

I have proposed three Creeds to your consideration, which ought throughly to be believed and embraced by all those that would be accounted Christians, viz. The Nicene Creed, Athanasius his Creed, and the Creed commonly called the Apostles; The last of which contains the sum of the Gospels; which is industriously opened and explained; and I beseech you do not slight it because of its Form, nor Antiquity, nor because supposed to be composed by Men; neither because some that hold it, maintain some Errors, or whose Conversation may not be correspondent to such fundamental Principles of Salvation; but take this for a perpetual Rule, That whatever is good in any, owned by any, whatever Error or Vice it may be mixed withal, the Good must not be rejected for the Error or Vice sake, but owned; commended, and accepted.[1]

[1] Collins, An Orthodox Catechism, The Preface.

Book Recommendation: The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness by Tim Keller

I am naturally drawn to bargains, so I noticed that the SBTS LifeWay campus store was selling Tim Keller’s small book The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness: The Path to True Christian Joy for only $1.99. But I thought there must not be much to it since they’re selling it so cheap. My dad bought a copy and when I asked him about it later, he said it was a must read. Taking his recommendation I bought it and read it. I found the book to be a gospel-liberating tract with the potential to transform lives. After reading the book, I immediately passed it on to my wife and encouraged her to read it. She did and shared my assessment. I have since given out approximately 25 copies to church members. I am encouraging everyone I know to read it, because it is just that helpful.

In this short work which is profoundly simple in its structure, Keller breaks down 1 Corinthians 3:21-4:7 in three concise chapters. First, Keller correctly diagnoses the problem that most of us have of a latent self-centeredness. Second, Keller paints the biblical portrait of what a transformed self would look like. Finally, and most helpfully, Keller explains how we can get this transformed-view of self. With clinical precision this book will diagnose the problem which plagues most of us as Christian, but it will not leave us there. In typical Keller fashion, we are shown the difference that the gospel can make in our lives. That’s what makes this little book potentially life-changing, its gospel-centered approach to the human condition. I can’t recommend this work strongly enough. Pick up a copy for yourself and then be sure and pass it on to others. It’s that good!

If you can’t get to the LifeWay campus store at SBTS, you can get a print copy or Kindle edition (for only $0.99) from

Weekend Reading

This weekend I took a break from dissertation writing to finish a book and read two other short ones. First, I finished up James A. Patterson’s recent study of the important 19th-century Baptist figure, J. R. Graves. Patterson, professor of Christian Thought and Tradition at Union University, offers a long overdue look at the man and his controversies. Titled James Robinson Graves: Staking the Boundaries of Baptist Identity, Patterson traces the broad contour of Graves’ life with special emphasis shown to Graves seemingly life long quest to establish the parameters of Baptist identity. Patterson’s examination of the many controversies in which Graves was engaged is a reminder that spirited-debate among Baptists is not a new thing. An interesting feature of the book is an epilogue examining Graves’ legacy well into the 21st century.

Along with finishing up the Graves volume, I also read a couple of short books that I found very helpful. Kelly M. Kapic’s A Little Book for New Theologians: Why and How to Study Theology looks to be a worthy successor to the often-assigned A Little Exercise for Young Theologians by Helmut Thielicke. As such it does the same two things which Thielicke’s small work did: 1. Stress the importance of theology as a discipline. 2. Emphasize the importance of the piety of the theologian. This is a welcome work, not just for new theologians, but for all of us who need to be reminded from time to time of these important emphases.

I also read the very small book (likely a printed sermon judging by its structure and brevity) by Tim Keller titled The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness. This book quite simply needs to be read by everyone. The content is an exposition of Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 3:21-4:7 regarding his own selfless manner of living. It is short and to the point and the point is potentially life-transforming. Read it!

Top Eleven Books for Preachers

While I’m on the theme of favorite books (see my previous two posts), here’s a list of my top eleven books for preachers.
  1. Christ-Centered Preaching by Bryan Chapell. This was the first book on preaching which I ever read and it is my favorite. Urges the preacher to preach each sermon in the context of the whole Bible which is Christ-centered.
  2. The Preacher’s Portrait by John Stott. Great book for the preacher. Stott examines several words used for the “preacher” in the New Testament. An excellent and edifying study.
  3. Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture by Graeme Goldsworthy. Another great book on interpreting and preaching Scripture in light of the progressive revelation of Christ.
  4. Preaching & Preachers by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Must read. The good doctor was very opinionated and that makes for good reading. He is at his best discussing the romance of preaching.
  5. Lectures to My Students by Charles Haddon Spurgeon. Another must read. One of my favorite books that I refer to again and again. The lecture on “Sermons – Their Matter” is excellent. “The Blind Eye and Deaf Ear” and “The Minister’s Fainting Fits” are other excellent treatments. This is also a book that will make you laugh out loud because of Spurgeon’s humorous way of expressing himself.
  6. Power in the Pulpit by Jerry Vines & Jim Shaddix. This is a great book that deals with every aspect of preaching from the preparation of the preacher to the preparation of the sermon. It also deals with the delivery of sermons. An excellent one-stop guide to preaching.
  7. An Earnest Ministry by John Angell James. This older work (I’m not sure that it is still in print.), as the title suggests, emphasizes “earnestness” in ministry. James is talking about what we might call passion. This work was helpful to me in seeing the difference between communicating passion and manipulating emotions. The former is essential, the latter is evil.
  8. George Whitefield (2 volume) by Arnold Dallimore. Any preacher will be thrilled, encouraged and challenged by this biography. It is hard to put down, so beware!
  9. Spurgeon: Prince of Preachers by Lewis Drummond. One of the first biographies which I ever read and one of my favorites. It is a long one (896 pages), but an excellent read. Highly recommended.
  10. The Supremacy of God in Preaching by John Piper. This quote alone is worth the price of the book. But buy the book, there is much more where that came from!
  11. The Temple Repair’d by Hercules Collins. This one is not readily available (except in library archives in London). But I have produced a critical edition which I plan to publish in the near future. It contains great exegetical and homiletical advice from a 17th century Particular Baptist. Some excerpts from this work were published in my Devoted to the Service of the Temple: Piety, Persecution, and Ministry in the Writings of Hercules Collins.

My Eleven Favorite Christian Biographies

Since biographies are my favorite genre of books to read, I have provided a list of my favorite Christian biographies. These biographies are not only my favorites (in terms of enjoyment in reading), but also the most influential upon me personally (not coincidentally). As I reflect on this list and on how these biographies have shaped me, I see their influence in my respective roles as a preacher, student of theology, student of church history, Augustinian, Protestant, Calvinist, and a Baptist.

This is a list of my favorite Christian biographies. My initial love for biographies began when as a young teenager I checked out of the local public library biographies of baseball heroes Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Ted Williams, and Stan Musial. The biographies listed below, however, are those which I have read as an adult and which continue to encourage me today (even by just seeing them on my bookshelf). They are testimonies of God’s faithfulness to build His church. They are witnesses to the truth that God gifts His church with pastors/teachers. They are a continuing echo of the cloud of witnesses in Hebrews 11 who call out that the life of faith is worth living.

I believe strongly in the benefit of reading systematic theologies, church histories, books on biblical interpretation, and solidly biblical books on Christian living. These are all present in my regular reading schedule. However, if I am forced to recommend only one type of book it would be a Christian biography. In the best of the Christian biographies, all of the above sub-genres are present, but rolled up into the interesting life of a Christian with all of its struggles and triumphs. Great Christians of the past wrestled with theological matters, lived in a particular context in the history of the church, dealt with biblical interpretation issues, and lived out their Christianity in adverse circumstances. For the most bang for your buck, buy and read Christian biographies. If you don’t know where to start, begin with my list below.

  1. Spurgeon: Prince of Preachers by Lewis Drummond. One of the first Christian biographies I ever read. I couldn’t put it down until I had read its approximately 1,000 pages.
  2. Here I Stand (biography of Martin Luther) by Roland Bainton. Simply a classic!
  3. George Whitefield (2 vols.) by Arnold Dallimore. These volumes are on virtually everyone’s list! Great reading!
  4. Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography by Iain Murray. Great introductory volume to Edwards. Murray is a skilled writer and clearly sympathetic to Edwards’ theology.
  5. A Life of John Calvin by Alistair McGrath. Very well researched, clears up some common misconceptions about Calvin’s role with the city government of Geneva.
  6. J. I. Packer by Alistair McGrath. I’m aware that this biography is unbalanced in its discussion of the differences between Packer, Lloyd-Jones, and Stott; but it is fascinating reading. One might read Evangelicalism Divided by Iain Murray to balance out this volume’s interpretation of the last half of the twentieth century.
  7. Augustine of Hippo by Peter Brown. The most thorough biography of one of the most influential thinkers in the history of the church. If it is too dense, you might want to start with Augustine’s autobiography: the classic Confessions.
  8. Be Myself by Warren Wiersbe. The humorous title (based on the titles of his books on biblical exposition: the BE series) caught my interest, but this book offers great insight both into Wiersbe, the man and the last half of the twentieth century in American Evangelicalism. The anecdotes of Wiersbe’s interactions with Martyn Lloyd-Jones are fascinating.
  9. Jack: A Life of C. S. Lewis by George Sayer. This may not be the best biography of Lewis (it is the only one I’ve read), but it was helpful for me to understand Lewis.
  10. The Life and Times of Isaac Backus by Alvah Hovey (Free PDF downloadable from Google Books). Great biography of an early American Baptist who was persecuted for his Baptist convictions in New England. Backus’ views on the relationship of baptism and the Lord’s Supper have been influential on me in understanding the historic Baptist position. Also, the insight into the background of the concept of religious liberty in the United States is fascinating. Backus was contemporary of America’s founding fathers and had some interaction with them in regard to the subject of religious liberty.
  11. Life and Letters of John A. Broadus by A. T. Robertson (Free PDF downloadable from Google Books). First biography of one of Southern Seminary’s founding faculty members by his son-in-law, New Testament and Greek scholar A. T. Robertson. Tells the story of Broadus the preacher, educator, and Baptist.

Ten Most Influential Books in My Life

The list below is of the ten books which have most influenced my life and ministry (besides the Bible). These are not necessarily my favorite books or the ones I would most recommend to others. Instead this list is autobiographical, i.e. these are the books which were used by God in my life to shape my own thinking. Through these books (six of which I read as a teenager over a decade ago), I was introduced to a great body of literature written by the Reformers (Luther, Calvin, etc.) the Puritans (Baxter, Watson, Bunyan, etc.) and their successors (Edwards, Ryle, Spurgeon, Lloyd-Jones, etc.). For the last eighteen years I have been tracing the footnotes of the first books I read as a teenager. Each book has led to another and I’m confident that the journey will never end until death. Anyway, here’s the list. Feel free to post your list of most influential books in your life in the comments section.

  1. Chosen by God by R.C. Sproul (In this book I was given a biblical, theological and historical introduction to the doctrine of election. This view of the sovereignty of God in salvation has been the foundation of my understanding of salvation by grace alone.)
  2. The Pleasures of God by John Piper (This is not only the first book that I read by Piper, but my favorite [maybe for that reason]. I think the reason is this book lays the theological foundation for all that Piper has written elsewhere, namely God’s pleasure in Himself.)
  3. Ashamed of the Gospel by John F. MacArthur, Jr. (This book exposed to me how the modern church’s infatuation with gimmicks and programs belies, at the very least, a subconscious embarrassment over the true biblical gospel. I am also indebted to this book for my introduction to Charles Haddon Spurgeon. After reading this book, I ordered a biography of Spurgeon at a small bookstore in Lenoir City from an employee named Gretta Willett. Two loves were born that day [I’m married to Gretta now.]. The rest is, as they say, history.)
  4. Reckless Faith by John F. MacArthur, Jr. (God used this book to open my eyes to the lack of discernment in the church. This book issues a needed call for a biblical theology grounded upon the Word of God.)
  5. The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul (I bought this book at a truck stop on Watt Rd. in Knoxville, TN where I stopped to buy gas on my way to Pellissippi State Community College in 1994. The author’s portrayal of the holiness of God revolutionized my view of sin and salvation, as well as worship!)
  6. Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God by J.I. Packer (This book not only explains how belief in the sovereignty of God and our responsibility to evangelize are not mutually exclusive, it also contains one of the best explanations of the gospel in print.)
  7. Christ Centered Preaching by Bryan Chapell (I love books on preaching. This is my favorite. Most of what I know about preaching I learned from Bryan Chapell.)
  8. Nine Marks of a Healthy Church by Mark Dever (I’ve learned more from Mark Dever about the biblical teaching about the church than from anyone else. This book is a fitting summary of Mark’s teaching on the church.)
  9. An Earnest Ministry by John Angell James (This 19th century pastor taught me the importance of being fervent in my preaching, discipling and evangelizing.)
  10. Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey (A wonderful explanation of the Christian worldview contrasted with the competing worldviews of our day.)