Though the demise of the book has been forecast by many, the printed page holds a cherished place in the ministry of the preacher. For most of us, the library is like a meeting of friends, where books old and new offer material for thought, reflection, and debate.
The most recent publishing season has seen the release of hundreds of volumes directed toward the Christian preacher. Among these are biblical commentaries, theological works, historical essays, and works of practical interest to the preacher.
Biblical Studies
In the field of biblical studies, recent months have seen prom-ising developments in the writing of commentaries. Several long standing series are moving toward completion. Among these are the “New International Commentary on the New Testament” and the “Word Biblical Commentary”. In addition, promising new volumes have appeared in the “New International Commentary on the Old Testament” and the “New International Greek Testament Commentary.”
In the “New International Commentary on the Old Testament,” preachers will be most pleased to know of the release of the second and final volume of Daniel Block’s magisterial commentary on Ezekiel. The Book of Ezekiel, Chapters 25-48 (Zondervan) is the most massive study of Ezekiel to appear in the modern era. Backed by solid evangelical scholarship, Block’s commentary offers the preacher the greatest assistance in understanding this important book.
Preachers will also want to note the publication of Romans by Thomas Schreiner in the “Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament” (Baker). Schreiner offers a thorough theological exegesis, as well as brilliant commentary on the most critical issues of interpretation. Both Block and Schreiner teach on the faculty of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY.
Growing interest in patristic exegesis has lead to the very promising development of the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, edited by Thomas C. Oden and Christopher A. Hall (InterVarsity Press). Thomas Oden has become a one-man champion of the recovery of patristic tradition and preaching. The “Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture” offers collected insights from the history of interpretation, with patristic sources clearly identified and most helpfully arranged. This is one of the most promising developments in Christian publishing, and preachers will find great encouragement from these volumes. Perhaps never before has this material become so accessible to the preacher, and those who turn to these volumes will be richly rewarded. The first two volumes in this series — Mark and Romans — were released in 1998, with other volumes to be released with regularity over the next several years.
The persistence of historical questions related to the four gospels has led to the release of a number of evangelical responses over the last several years. One of the most promising of these is Jesus and the Gospels by Craig L. Blomberg (Broadman & Holman). Blomberg, who teaches at Denver Conservative Baptist Seminary. The volume is sturdy and comprehensive.
Preachers will also be interested in the release of The Missions of Jesus and the Disciples According to the Fourth Gospel by Andreas J. Kostenberger (Eerdmans). Kostenberger is a skilled and insightful Johannine scholar. Kostenberger’s study is especially helpful because of his concentration of one of the most neglected themes in the fourth gospel, namely, the church. Kostenberger points to the theme of mission in the gospel of John and Jesus’ self understanding in terms of His mission of redemption. Marva J. Dawn has produced an interesting volume in Truly the Community: Romans 12 and How to be the Church (Eerdmans). Drawing from current communitarian models, Dawn offers the insightful analysis of Romans 12 in terms of the church as a transformed community.
James D. G. Dunn has released a massive study of Pauline literature in The Theology of Paul the Apostle (Eerdmans). As Dunn states, “Paul was the first and greatest theologian from the perspective of subsequent generations. Paul was undoubtedly the first Christian theologian.” Therefore, the contemporary church should look to the great apostle as a model of theological reflection, as well as gospel preaching.
A special treat for preachers is the release of The Finished Work of Christ: The Truth of Romans 1-8 by Francis A. Schaeffer (Crossway Books). Schaeffer, who died in 1984, will e remembered as one of the greatest Christian apologists of the twentieth century. An entire generation of evangelicals now reaching middle age were assisted by Francis Schaeffer in their understanding of the gospel, culture, and the comprehensiveness of the Christian world view.
It is often forgotten that Francis Schaeffer was also a powerful preacher. In fact, thousands of his sermon tapes are still in circulation. The Finished Work of Christ is an edited version of the transcripts of some of Francis Schaeffer’s most popular sermons, all based on the first eight chapters of Romans. Though James D. G. Dunn represents the revisionist tendencies of the last twenty years, Francis Schaeffer represents a restatement of the classical Reformation understanding of Paul and his theology.
Another most promising volume comes from Paul House, who also teaches on the faculty of Southern Seminary. In his Old Testament Theology (InterVarsity Press), House offers a comprehensive theological analysis of the Old Testament from a consistent evangelical perspective. A gifted scholar who represents the rising generation of evangelical biblical studies, House offers the preacher tremendous insights in this book-by-book analysis.
Just a few years ago, evangelical theology was said to be running out of steam, with only a trickle of significant theological volumes being released by evangelical publishers. Clearly that trend has been reversed with the release of several significant theological titles. Millard J. Erickson, perhaps the most prolific of today’s evangelical theologians, has released a significant update to his landmark volume, Christian Theology (Baker). In this second edition, Erickson has added helpful material on postmodernism and has sharpened the focus of several of his most significant chapters. The volume is already the most popular systematic theology in use in evangelical seminaries. Christian Theology deserves a place on every preacher’s bookshelf.
Erickson has also continued to release helpful essays and works of a shorter nature on pressing issues in theology. In a significant consideration of evangelical theism, Erickson explores the attributes in God the Father Almighty (Baker). As Erickson states, the doctrine of God is “the first and most basic element of Christian belief.” Preachers will find great assistance in this thorough investigation. In Postmodernizing the Faith: Evangelical Responses to the Challenge of Postmodernism (Baker), Erickson takes on some of the most ominous developments among evangelicals. Seduced by the variant streams of postmodernism, many evangelicals are abandoning classical theism and evangelical doctrine in an open embrace of postmodernism’s promise of negotiated truth. Erickson’s criticisms are pointed and penetrating, yet he is fair and careful in his analysis of recent proposals.
David S. Dockery president of Union University in Jackson, TN has edited a most helpful volume honoring Millard J. Erickson upon his sixty-fifth birthday. Contributors to the collection include younger evangelical scholars, as well as Carl F. H. Henry, Roger Nicole, and Walter C. Kaiser, Jr. The volume, New Dimensions in Evangelical Thought (InterVarsity Press), also includes a chapter by European theologian Wolfhart Pannenberg. The collection offers an unusual insight into current developments in evangelical thought, and also serves as an introduction to the work of the various contributors.
Donald G. Bloesch, professor of theology emeritus at Dubuque Theological Seminary continues work on his second systematic theology, Christian Foundations. In the fourth volume in this series, Jesus Christ: Savior and Lord (InterVarsity Press), Bloesch offers a consideration of Christology which is enriched by serious attention to the history of doctrine. In a sense, Bloesch’s recent contributions constitutes something of a recovery of neo-orthodoxy at the end of the century. Jesus Christ is a volume certain to cause much discussion among evangelicals.
A most helpful recent addition to the evangelical library of systematic theologies is A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith by Robert L. Reymond (Thomas Nelson). Reymond, who has taught at both Covenant Theological Seminary and Knox Seminary, is widely respected as an evangelical theologian of solid conviction and keen perception. This new volume will be most helpful to preachers seeking to understand classical orthodoxy in a contemporary context. Reymond bravely addresses the most critical issues of the day without compromise. Most helpfully he has recast historic doctrines in a format which is richly historical and deeply biblical.
Two popular theological offerings will be welcomed by evangelical preachers. In What Angels Wish They Knew: The Basics of True Christianity (Moody), Alistair Begg offers a review of the gospel, providing theological insight along with an inviting style and approach. Begg, pastor of Parkside Church in suburban Cleveland, is an effective communicator with a winsome writing style.
Likewise, Michael Horton has provided a most useful resource in We Believe: Recovering the Essentials of the Apostle’s Creed (Word). In a day of theological compromise, it is most helpful to return to those historic benchmarks of the Christian faith, such as the apostle’s creed. Horton proves himself to be a keen observer of the contemporary scene, as well as a faithful theologian in the evangelical tradition. Preachers will find both encouragement and enrichment in reading this volume.
John Piper, who is certainly no stranger to evangelical preachers, has provided another volume worthy of a place in every minister’s library. In God’s Passion for His Glory (Crossway Books), Piper points to another evangelical preacher, Jonathan Edwards, as a model for a ministry that is genuinely committed to the glory of God. For many years, Piper has been an admirer of Edwards, and nourished by a thorough knowledge of Edwards and his works, Piper offers modern preachers what is perhaps the most accessible volume on Edwards and his thought.
The doctrine of the church is, as always, a focus of attention. As a century draws to a close, a new sense of urgency fills many as the church faces the temptations and difficulties of ministry in a postmodern age. Several concerned evangelicals have contributed to The Compromised Church: The Present Evangelical Crisis, edited by John H. Armstrong (Crossway Books). Following on the heels of a previous volume, The Coming Evangelical Crisis (Moody), this collection is addressed to the most pressing issues of compromise in local congregations. With chapters on preaching, worship, discipline, and a variety of other congregational issues, the volume will prompt debate, and may well sound an alarm which will finally awaken evangelical ministers and laypersons to the dangers present within as well as without the church.
Eschatology is a persistent issue of interest especially as the dawn of a new millennium approaches. Three recent offerings provide analysis that would be of interest to preachers. In The Church and the Last Things (Crossway Books), preachers will find new material from the ministry of the great Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, long time minister of Westminster Chapel in London. Lloyd-Jones was a stalwart expositor of scripture who was known for the doctrinal substance of his preaching. Crossway Books has issued this most helpful collection of doctrinal sermons, focusing on the doctrines of ecclesiology and eschatology. Preachers reading this volume will be taken back to the famous Friday night Bible studies held by Dr. Lloyd-Jones in Westminster Chapel after the end of World War II.
In The Last Days According to Jesus: When Did Jesus Say He Would Return? (Baker), author R. C. Sproul presents an argument sure to prompt conversation. With characteristic boldness, Sproul calls for a reconsideration of the timeframe references of New Testament prophecy. Holding to a modified preterism, Sproul represents a growing movement among Reformed evangelicals.
Marvin Pate, professor of Bible at Moody Bible Institute, has edited Four Views on the Book of Revelation (Zondervan). The book is actually a debate between two covers, with arguments representing preterist, idealist, progressive dispensationalist, and classical dispensationalist positions put forth by leading proponents of each view. The volume will be especially helpful to pastors seeking to understand how these various competing eschatologies understand the book of Revelation.
Pastoral Theology
A promising recovery of interest in Christian worship also marks contemporary evangelicalism. As with the issue of biblical interpretation, evangelicals are looking to historic sources for help in understanding the tasks of ministry. In a massive effort, Hughes Oliphant Old is tracing Christian preaching throughout the history of the Christian church. This massive project is expected to require seven volumes to be released over the next several years. The first two of these volumes are now available as The Reading and Preaching of the Scriptures in the Worship of the Christian Church (Eerdmans). Volume one covers the biblical period and volume two considers the patristic age. Old has not only offered critical insights for the preacher, his work represents ground-breaking research which has never before been available in a project in this weight and depth. Preachers serious about their task will find these volumes to be richly rewarding.
From the Reformation onward, the role of music in worship has been one of the persistent controversies facing the Christian church. Paul Westermeyer of Luther Theological Seminary surveys the role of music in the church in Te deum: The Church in Music (Fortress Press). In a volume which is accessible to non musicians, Westermeyer offers a well-grounded understanding of music in the Christian tradition, and in its various appropriations and different movements and eras.
In True Worship: Reclaiming the Wonder and Majesty (Shaw/Hope), Donald P. Hustad points the church toward a recovery of authentic worship in the midst of modern confusion. Troubled by the debasement of much contemporary worship, Hustad argues for a recovery of worship which is thoroughly grounded in the worship of God. Hustad — a familiar figure — writes out of a lifetime of reflection on Christian worship.
Contemporary Issues
Preachers have come to value the contribution of Phillip E. Johnson to contemporary debates over creation and modern naturalism. A professor of law at the University of California, Berkeley, Johnson has emerged as a powerful and courageous voice against scientific naturalism. His most recent volume, Objections Sustained: Subversive Essays on Evolution, Law and Culture (InterVarsity Press), Johnson takes on several of the most vexing issues of the day, and brings a lawyer’s mind and skill to the debate. Those interested in the contemporary debate over creation will also want to find Mere Creation: Science, Faith and Intelligent Design, (InterVarsity Press) edited by William A. Dembski. Dembski, a fellow of the Discovery Institutes Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture, brings together scientists, philosophers, and an assortment of other worthy contributors in a fascinating presentation of modern cosmologies, with the proper attention to the critical issue of intelligent design.
Given the state of Christian scholarship and the trajectory of so many academic institutions established by Christians, preachers should be interested in the massive project accomplished by James Tunstead Burtchaell in The Dying of the Light: The Disengagement of Colleges and Universities from Their Christian Churches (Eerdmans). Burtchaell, formally provost at the University of Notre Dame, has traced the abandonment of Christian content and character by the most prestigious academic institutions in the nation. His argument is irrefutable, and his historical narrative accounts a great tragedy. The volume is one further indication of the need for a recovery of genuine Christian scholarship in this generation.
David L. Edwards, formally provost of Southwark Cathedral in London, has produced a fascinating survey of church history in Christianity: The First Two Thousand Years (Orbis Books). Edwards, who represents the liberal tradition in contemporary Anglicanism, writes with flair and insight as he recounts the narrative of the Christian church. Evangelicals will find Edwards’ road map through Christian history to be both informative and interesting. Looking to one of the stalwarts of contemporary evangelicalism, Alister McGrath has written J. I. Packer: A Biography (Baker). Packer influenced an entire generation of evangelicals on both sides of the Atlantic. McGrath writes as an admirer of Packer, and his biography is a window into the history of English-speaking evangelicalism.
As the century draws to a close, it is appropriate to look to two of the fascinating characters who saw the birth of the twentieth century and offered assistance in developing a Christian world view. Abraham Kuyper, one of the most significant Christian leaders at the turn of the century, served as both theologian and statesman, serving even as prime minister of the Netherlands. A resurgence of interest in Kuyper is represented by two recent volumes, Creating a Christian World View. Abraham Kuyper’s Lectures on Calvinism (Eerdmans) by Peter S. Heslam and Abraham Kuyper: A Centennial Reader edited by James D. Bratt (Eerdmans). Both volumes offer a fascinating entree into understanding Kuyper’s work and significance. Creating a Christian World View is a reconsideration of Kuyper’s famous lectures delivered at Princeton Theological Seminary in 1898.
Among the most famous apologists of the twentieth century is C. S. Lewis, and 1998 represents the centennial of his birth in Ireland. Lewis continues to be one of the best selling authors in English literature. Few authors of the twentieth century have seen such success attached to their works, much less over so many categories of literature. Children continue to be fascinated by The Chronicles of Narnia, and Mere Christianity remains one of the most popular considerations of Christian truth. Most importantly, Lewis’ influence as a critic of modernity offers much assistance to contemporary evangelicals seeking to understand the postmodern context. Though Lewis’ own understanding of Christian theology is difficult to ascertain, his trenchant criticisms of modernity and secularism have no equals and few peers.
The Lewis centennial has spawned a spate of helpful volumes to be added to the already considerable body of Lewisiana. These include, The Taste for the Other: The Social and Ethical Thought of C. S. Lewis, by Gilbert Meilaender (Eerdmans); The Pilgrims Guide: C. S. Lewis and The Art of Witness, edited by David Mills (Eerdmans); C. S. Lewis: Light Bearer in the Shadow Lands, edited by Angus J. L. Menuge (Crossway Books); The C. S. Lewis Index, compiled by Janine Goffer (Crossway Books); and C. S. Lewis and Francis Schaeffer: Lessons for a New Century from the Most Influential Apologists of our Time, by Scott R. Borson and Jerry L. Walls (InterVarsity Press). Preachers will be stimulated by these volumes and the issues raised by Lewis which endure to the present.
As the book of Ecclesiastes states, of the writing of books there is no end. For many of these, evangelical preachers should be thankful. As the most recent publishing season has demonstrated, there is no shortage of words. The wise and discriminating reader will find many recent books worthy of attention and reflection.
Ten Books Every Preacher Should Read in 1999
James Tunstead Burtchaell, The Dying of the Light: The Disengagement of Colleges and Universities From Their Christian Churches (Eerdmans, 1998).
Ellen T. Charry, By the Renewing of Your Minds: The Pastoral Function of Christian Doctrine (Oxford University Press, 1998).
David Edwards, Christianity: The First Two Thousand Years (Orbis Books, 1998).
Michael Horton, We Believe: Recovering the Essentials of the Apostles’ Creed (Word Publishing, 1998).
Alister McGrath, J. I. Packer, A Biography (Baker Book House, 1998).
Thomas C. Oden and Christopher A. Hall, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament, Volume II: Mark (InterVarsity Press, 1998).
Hughes Oliphant Old, The Reading and Preaching of the Scriptures in the Worship of the Christian Church, Volume I, “The Biblical Period,” and Volume II, “The Patristic Period,” (Eerdmans).
John Piper, God’s Passion for His Glory: Living the Vision of Jonathan Edwards (Crossway, 1998).
Ernest G. Schwiebert, The Reformation (Fortress Press, 1997).
Paul Westermeyer, Te Deum: The Church and Music (Fortress Press, 1998).

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