Top Ten Books of 2011

The end of the year provides the opportunity to look back at the year which has now passed us by. One of my favorite times of reflection is to think back over the books which I’ve read and try to select a top 10 list of favorite books. It’s not too hard, the good ones always rise to the top without too much effort on my part. My list this year includes eight published in 2011 and two which were published in the latter months of 2010 but which I read in 2011. The books are not listed in order of importance, but rather alphabetically.

Published in 2011:

Historical Theology: An Introduction to Christian Doctrine (Zondervan) by Gregg Allison. This book is a comprehensive (784 pages) survey of the development of Christian doctrine throughout the history of the church. It thus serves as a must have resource for church historians, theologians, and those who enjoy such subjects. I’m privileged that Dr. Allison will be serving on my dissertation committee.

John MacArthur: Servant of the Word and Flock (Banner of Truth) by Iain Murray. Reading and listening to John MacArthur for the past 17 years has shaped my understanding of the gospel and the role of the preacher. This biography, by one of my favorite biographers Iain Murray, was released to coincide with the culmination of MacArthur’s preaching through the entire New Testament at Grace Community Church over 40+ years. If you’re unfamiliar with the life and ministry of John MacArthur, this book will serve as a great introduction for you.

The Lord’s Supper: Remembering and Proclaiming Christ Until He Comes (B&H Academic) edited by Thomas R. Schreiner and Matthew R. Crawford. In my opinion, there are two few books on baptism and the Lord’s supper. This book fills a significant lacuna in Baptist life. A variety of gifted scholars contribute chapters on their respective areas of expertise in history, theology, and Scripture.

Ministry By His Grace and For His Glory: Essays in Honor of Thomas J. Nettles (Founders Press) edited by Nathan Finn and Tom Ascol. This book was edited by friends for our mutual friend and mentor, Tom Nettles. Dr. Nettles is my doctoral supervisor, so I was especially happy to see this book released. More than a mere memorial to Dr. Nettles, this volume contains substantive chapters on areas of church history, theology, and pastoral ministry that have been important in Dr. Nettles’ life and ministry.

Pujols: More Than the Game (Thomas Nelson) by Tim Ellsworth and Scott Lamb. I have been very proud of my friends Tim Ellsworth and Scott Lamb for the success of their book on Albert Pujols. This book is a great read, combining great baseball stories within the framework of the life of a devoted follower of Christ who just happens to be the greatest baseball player of our times.

Reckless Abandon: A modern-day Gospel pioneer’s exploits among the most difficult to reach peoples (Ambassador International) by David Sitton. I spent a week teaching at the missionary training center established by David Sitton the first week of December. I read this book on my flight home. I’ve given away multiple copies as well as shared my copy with others. No one has been able to put it down. Exciting, suspenseful, joyous stories of the conquest of the gospel among the unreached peoples of Papau, New Guinea.

Rediscovering the Church Fathers: Who They Were and How They Shaped the Church (Crossway) by Michael A. G. Haykin. Although Dr. Haykin is known for his works on 17th and 18th century Baptists and Evangelicals, his official area of expertise is the early church. Drawing on his vast knowledge of the church fathers, Haykin has provided in this work an introduction to the fathers which shows their importance for Christians living in the 21st century.

Tempted and Tried: Temptation and the Triumph of Christ (Crossway) by Russell D. Moore. Dr. Moore is an amazing wordsmith both in the pulpit and on the printed page. In Tempted and Tried, Moore uses his considerable skill to deliver a devastatingly convicting punch to any and all excuses for sin in your life. This is a must read for every Christian since every Christian is engaged in spiritual warfare whether they realize it or not. This book will help you not to be ignorant of Satan’s devices.

Read in 2011, but published in late 2010:

Decision Points (Crown) by George W. Bush. I really enjoyed reading this first-hand account of the Bush presidency. You can hear Bush’s voice as you read this seemingly authentic account of his life. Even if you disagree with his decisions as president, I think this book humanizes Bush by showing how he went about making those decisions.

God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment: A Biblical Theology (Crossway) by James R. Hamilton. I love everything Dr. Hamilton writes. This biblical theology provides a helpful lens for reading and understanding how the Bible fits together. Hamilton argues that the center of biblical theology is “God’s glory in salvation through judgment.” Though it might be an awkward book title, it is a helpful perspective on a theme which Hamilton fleshes out throughout the entire canon of Scripture.

New Book on Perspectives on our Struggle with Sin

Perspectives on Our Struggle with Sin

My friend Terry Wilder has recently edited a volume offering differing perspectives on understanding the struggle with sin described in Romans 7. I received a complimentary copy and it looks very helpful. Three authors offer their perspective on interpreting Romans 7 in individual chapters. The other two contributors respond to the other chapters. This creates a book that is more dialogue than diatribe and which stimulates the mind while stirring the soul.

The publisher’s website provides an overview of the contents of the book. If you’d like to order a copy of the book, it is available in print and for Kindle here.

Perspectives on Our Struggle with Sin presents in point-counterpoint form three differing views of a Christian’s relationship with the law, flesh, and spirit as illustrated through Paul’s often-debated words in Romans 7.

Stephen Chester (North Park Theological Seminary) writes “The Retrospective View of Romans 7: Paul’s Past in Present Perspective,” suggesting the apostle’s description of his struggle speaks more to his pre-Christian self.

Grant Osborne (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) offers “The Flesh Without the Spirit: Romans 7 and Christian Experience,” perceiving Romans 7 as an accurate representation of what believers go through even after their conversion.

Mark Seifrid (The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary), in “The Voice of the Law, the Cry of Lament, and the Shout of Thanksgiving,” asserts that Paul is not speaking of his past or his present Christian experience in Romans 7, but more fundamentally and simply about “the human being confronted with the Law.”

Chad Owen Brand (The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) writes a conclusion on the theological and pastoral implications of Romans 7.

Acclaim for Perspectives on Our Struggle with Sin:

“One difficult and disputed text, three fine scholars, and three views of the passage. How is one to read Romans 7? This book takes you through all the options and rationale with detail, charity, and clarity. This is how to have a discussion over a disputed text. Read and learn about Romans 7. Decide who is right and why. And, above all, learn about how to discuss a difficult text.”

Darrell L. Bock
Research professor of New Testament Studies
Dallas Theological Seminary

“The meaning of Romans 7 continues to bedevil and puzzle readers. This volume does not simply rehearse arguments and positions from the past. The authors approach the text from fresh and illuminating perspectives, and hence this work represents a significant contribution to scholarship.”

Thomas R. Schreiner
James Buchanan Harrison professor of New Testament Interpretation
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

“Christians have long debated how Paul’s moving depiction of a struggle with sin in “Romans 7 should influence our theology and practice of the Christian life. Now, in one book, Christians are given a wonderful opportunity to engage the different views, see how they differ, and come to their own conclusions. Chester, Osborne, and Seifrid clearly and capably defend their positions; and they do so with enough of a difference in method that the reader is given a good sense of the scope of the issues and their significance.”

Douglas J. Moo
Kenneth T. Wessner Chair of Biblical Studies
Wheaton College

Sinclair Ferguson on Pentecost

This coming Sunday (June 12, 2011) is Pentecost Sunday on the Christian calendar. As part of my continuing series of sermons on “The Forgotten Member of the Trinity,” I will be preaching a sermon from Acts 2 titled “The Coming of the Spirit of Christ.” In my preparation, I was reading from Sinclair Ferguson‘s great contribution to IVP’s “Contours of Christian Theology” series. Here is what Ferguson said about Pentecost:

Pentecost publicly marks the transition from the old to the new covenant, and signifies the commencement of the ‘now’ of the day of salvation (2 Cor. 6:2). It is the threshold of the last days, and inaugurates the new era in which the eschatalogical life of the future invades the present evil age in a proleptic manner. Thus, from the New Testament’s standpoint, the ‘fulfilment [or “end”, ta telē] of the ages has dawned’ (lit.) on those who, through the gift of the Spirit, are ‘in Christ’ (1 Cor. 10:11). That which is ‘new’ in the new covenant ministry of the Spirit is therefore inextricably related to the significance of the Pentecost event.

From Sinclair Ferguson’s The Holy Spirit (InterVaristy Press, 1996), pp. 57-58.


Book Review of The Lord’s Supper: Remembering and Proclaiming Christ Until He Comes (B&H Academic, 2010)

I have been reading the Southern Baptist Journal of Theology (SBJT) for over ten years. I own almost every issue. It was thus a real honor to have a book review published in this esteemed journal. The current issue (Spring 2011) has the timely theme: “Debating Adam” (Table of Contents). The Editorial by Stephen Wellum and an article by A. D. Caneday are available online for free. The Book Reviews are also available online for free. My review of The Lord’s Supper: Remembering and Proclaiming Christ Until He Comes is on the last two pages.

The Lord’s Supper is an important contribution to an all too often neglected subject. My review is largely appreciative, although some questions are raised by the book that need to be answered. Chief among these is the question of who are the proper recipients of communion (the open/closed communion issue). I encourage anyone interested in the historical, theological and/or biblical  to get a copy of this volume. Though you may not always agree with the answers, you have to admit that the major questions are raised. My hope is that this volume will spark an important conversation among Baptists about this vital practice commanded by Christ.

  • Read my review here.
  • Order the book here.

On the Use of Footnotes

I guess my training as a church historian has turned me into something of a “footnote snob,” but few things are more troubling to me than the absence of footnotes in a quasi-historical work. But my snobbery extends beyond my own personal preference, I think everyone (historian, or not) should be troubled at the lack of citations for historical claims (be they endnote, footnote, or any other format, although footnotes are always to be preferred)!

This frustration was recently brought on by my reading of the otherwise enjoyable and informative God’s Secretaries: The Making of the King James Bible by Adam Nicolson (It is, after all, the 400 year anniversary of AV 1611.). It is truly a well-written book, but the absence of footnotes makes me suspicious of much of the analysis within the book. To be sure, this work was written for a popular audience for whom footnotes are often considered off-putting. Nevertheless, it is helpful to be able to check one’s sources to see if they are being used correctly. One statement in the book gave me pause. Nicolson states that Richard Clarke’s “collected sermons were said to be ‘a continent of mud'” (p. 99, that’s what I’m talking about). I was familiar with that phrase from my study of Baptist history as one made by Robert Hall of John Gill’s works. Seeing this quote applied to another who lived a century prior to Gill naturally caused me to wonder if this was a common phrase used in the 17th and 18th centuries or was Hall quoting this statement about Clarke’s sermons when he described Gill’s writings. Apparently neither. A quick Google search revealed that this quote appeared in an 1853 work by A. W. McClure titled The Translators Revived: A Biographical Memoir of the Authors of the English Version of the Bible (full-text available on Google Books). Nicolson seems to have drawn his statement about Clarke’s sermons from the following biographical sketch in this volume:

Dr. Clarke is spoken of as a Fellow of Christ’s College, Cambridge; and as a very learned clergyman and eminent preacher. He was Vicar of Minster and Monkton in Thanet, and one of the six preachers of the cathedral church in Canterbury. He died in 1634. Three years after his death, a folio volume of his learned sermons was published. But alas for “folios” and learned sermons” in these days. When people look on such a thing, they are ready to exclaim, like Robert Hall, at the sight of Dr. Gill’s voluminous Commentary,–“What a continent of mud!” (p. 97)

Even a quick reading of the above quote reveals that this was never said directly about Clarke, but about Gill.

You may ask, “What’s the big deal?” Well, besides from the concern for accuracy, this highlights the need for footnotes in works of this nature. Of course, anyone can make an honest mistake. That’s not the point. The point is that if Nicolson misread the data at this point, how are we to know that he has not misread the data at other, more crucial places? There is simply no way to readily check the facts without proper citations being provided. As a historian, I always assume that the absence of footnotes is either sloppiness or a cover for someone playing fast and loose with the facts. Rightly or wrongly, this is the impression given and a simple citation would go a long way toward providing credibility.

Review of Pujols: More Than the Game

I love baseball.  I love books.  I love books about baseball.  Naturally, I was interested in a book about arguably the greatest player in baseball today, Albert Pujols.  The St. Louis Cardinal star has set himself apart from the class in every major area of statistical analysis for offensive production.  Scott Lamb and Tim Ellsworth have written a book that certainly makes the case for Pujols’ baseball greatness, but also asserts that for Albert there is something bigger than the game.  For Albert Pujols the game of baseball is merely a platform on which to bring glory to His Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Lamb and Ellsworth have carefully researched and masterfully woven together newspaper accounts, interviews with friends and teammates, and the multitude of measures of statistical analysis to tell the remarkable story of the rise of the boy from the Dominican Republic who has become an American citizen and one of the greatest players in the history of America’s pastime.  Pujols: More Than the Game (Thomas Nelson, 2011) is an immensely enjoyable guided tour of Pujols’ life and baseball career.  It is highly readable, my 11 year-old-son has begun reading the book and has regaled me with stories of Pujols’ exploits.  Written by two lifelong baseball fans, the book is also baseball-savvy enough to keep the attention of the most seasoned student of the sport.

Perhaps one of the greatest tributes I can give to Pujols is that, although I am a friend of both of the authors, when I first read the draft of the book several months ago I was able to forget who the authors were and was able simply to enjoy the book on its own merits.  Lamb and Ellsworth have written a baseball book, and I love baseball and books.

Favorite Books of Spring 2009

In January I posted the list of books which I was required to read for the Spring 2009 semester of my PhD studies.  Here is the list of my favorites from that list:

  • The English Reformation by A.G. Dickens
  • Baptist Ways by Bill Leonard
  • Richard Sibbes by Mark Dever
  • The Baptists (vol. 2) by Tom Nettles
  • A Piety Above the Common Standard by Anthony Chute
  • 400 Years of Baptist Theology by James Leo Garrett
  • The King’s Reformation: Henry VIII and the Remaking of the English Church
  • The Puritan Mind by Perry Miller
  • The Stripping of the Altars by Eamon Duffy

Four New Titles to Be Released to Commemorate SBTS’s 150th Anniversary

Three of Southern Seminary’s outstanding cast of church history professors are scheduled to release works commemorating the seminary’s history in time for the sesquicenteniel celebration during the week of the Southern Baptist Convention in Louisville (June 23-24, 2009).  These three works, published by three different publishers, will offer a fitting tribute to Southern Seminary’s history.

Dr. Gregory A. Wills has authored a history of the institution for Oxford University Press.  Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (1859-2009) promises to offer a fresh perspective on the seminary’s founding upon a solid foundation, the drift toward theological liberalism, and the recovery of the school’s confessional identity under President R. Albert Mohler, Jr. is offering a sneak peak inside the volume, but it is not yet available for pre-0rder.  It scheduled for release on June 12.

Dr. Thomas J. Nettles new comprehensive biography of Southern Seminary’s founder James P. Boyce is now available for pre-0rder on  James Petigru Boyce:  A Southern Baptist Statesman will be published by P&R Publishing and is a part of their American Reformed Biographies series.  The biography focuses on his theological development, his lifelong struggle to establish the Seminary; and the theological controversies that shaped Baptists in the last half of the nineteenth century.  Dr. Nettles has also prepared a sourcebook on Boyce which will be published by Founders Press this summer.

Soldiers of ChristA final work scheduled for release by the SBC annual meeting is Soldiers of Christ:  Selections from the Writings of Basil Manly, Sr. & Basil Manly, Jr. Edited by Southern Seminary professor Dr. Michael A.G. Haykin, in conjunction with Dr. Roger D. Duke and Dr. A. James Fuller, Soldiers of Christ focuses on the writings on the father and son duo without whom, as current SBTS President R. Albert Mohler, Jr. notes in his Foreward, Southern Seminary would not exist.  This work will be published by Founders Press.

With these four releases, this Summer promises to be a great opportunity for reading about Southern Seminary’s history!

New Booklet from Michael Haykin on Current Financial Crisis

The current financial crunch has shaken and rattled the West to a depth that has not been seen since the 1930s. This financial collapse is affecting far more than America. Much of the world has been similarly impacted, with failing banks and the disappearance of financial liquidity. What is God saying in the midst of it? How has God worked during previous crises? Perhaps it is only now that we begin to ask profound questions that many of us tend to ignore in daily life. Why did this happen? What does it all mean? What is God saying in the midst of this financial mess? In whom do we trust?

This new booklet from Michael Haykin provides a timely perspective amidst our financial chaos.  Scheduled to be released at the F.I.R.E. Conference in Indianapolis, IN in a couple of weeks, it can be pre-ordered now at a 50% savings from Audubon Press.  That’s only $1.99 each.  This offer is good through May 20th.  You can also order by calling toll-free 800-405-3788 M-F 9:00-5:00 CST.

2009 Spring Reading List

Below is my reading schedule for this semester at SBTS, along with the date that each book is due.

January 28th    The English Reformation by A.G. Dickens

February 2nd     Baptist Ways by Bill Leonard
The Long Argument by Stephen Foster

February 4th     John Wyclif: Myth and Reality by G.R. Evans

February 9th    Richard Sibbes by Mark Dever

February 11th     The Life of Thomas More by Peter Ackroyd
18th Century Philosophy by Beck (1-150)

February 16th    The Baptists (vol. 2) by Tom Nettles
Godly Clergy by Tom Webster

February 18th    18th Century Philosophy by Beck (151-302)

February 23rd    A Piety Above the Common Standard by Anthony Chute
Saints and Strangers by Joseph Conforti

February 25th     William Tyndale by David Daniel
Pietists by Erb

March 2nd    400 Years of Baptist Theology by James Leo Garrett
The Prescisianist Strand by Theodore Bozeman

March 4th    John Wesley ed. by Outler (41-69; 121-33; 197-250-305; 425-91)

March 9th    Turning Points in Baptist History by Williams and Shurden
The Antinomian Controversy by David D. Hall

March 11th    The King’s Reformation: Henry VIII and the Remaking of the English Church

March 16th    John Winthrop by Francis Bremer

March 18th    The Boy King: Edward VI and the Protestant Reformation by Diarmaid MacCulloch

March 23rd    The Mathers by Robert Middlekauf

April 6th    The Puritan Mind (Parts 1 & 2) by Perry Miller

April 8th     Thomas Cranmer by Diarmaid MacCulloch
What is Christianity? by Adolf von Harnack

April 13th    The Puritan Mind (Parts 3 & 4) by Perry Miller

April 15th    The Later Reformation in England by Diarmaid MacCulloch
Evangelical Theology by Karl Barth

April 22nd   The Stripping of the Altars by Eamon Duffy
Vatican I  (photocopy) Documents of Vatican II, pp. 62-79; 350-423; 441-73; 564-590; 738-42; 750-63; 799-812; 863-902