While doing my doctoral work with Professor Howard Marshall, I often heard him say, “The beginning of wisdom is knowing what not to read.” He was referring to the vast number of books available but the very real limitation of time.
Exposure to good books, helpful resources and rich teaching aids us indispensably as we seek to preach to others. But we must make choices as to what resources are best suited to our current needs. To help in this I have surveyed some of the key books that have been released in the last year, trying to note the concerns or strengths of the books so that you can discern which ones will be useful for you.
Each year brings a continuing flow of various study bibles and this one has been no different. Some such Bibles seem merely to be the result of marketing efforts, but others are truly helpful.
One of the most interesting this year is The Books of the Bible, just released by The International Bible Society. Using the TNIV text they have sought to produce a more natural reading Bible. The text is printed in one column (like most books) instead of the typical two column and chapter and verse divisions are not in the text (the range covered is noted at the bottom of each page). The result is that the text looks like a regular book. This will aid reading and seeing the more natural divisions in the text which are often obscured by the chapter and verse divisions. The biggest change however is in the order of the books. The editors have sought to place books in order according to chronology, genre and theology. Probably the most obvious change is that Luke and Acts are placed together at the beginning of the New Testament followed by Paul’s letters (since Luke was his colleague) in what is believed to be chronological order. You can see the order of all the books as well as other information on the Bible at www.TheBooksofTheBible.info. There is also a companion book which describes the methods and goals of this Bible, The Beauty Behind the Mask: Rediscovering the Books of the Bible, written by Christopher Smith.
The most interesting study Bible this year is the Literary Study Bible (ESV), ed. Leland Ryken (Crossway). I have only seen a portion as it is due out soon, but the study notes aim to help readers be aware of and appreciate the literary dimensions of Scripture.
Another very promising study Bible due out very soon is the Apologetics Study Bible from Broadman & Holman. In addition to notes on various verses this Bible also has special articles dealing with verses commonly twisted, key apologetic issues and prominent apologists in the history of the church. The impressive list of contributors includes William Lane Craig, Darrell Bock, and Ravi Zacharias. This should be a very helpful resource.
Conversations: The Message with its Translator (NavPress) is a special annotated version of The Message incorporating “special excerpts, contemplations, sermons, and essays” from Eugene Peterson. Peterson’s notes stress a contemplative reading of the Scriptures, with questions and prayers, rather than the overly analytical approach one often encounters in hermeneutics courses.
Nelson has published The Majority Text Greek New Testament Interlinear. It is an attractive, nicely bound volume but is not as helpful as The English-Greek Interlinear New Testament, ESV published last year by Crossway. The Crossway volume has more tools to benefit the reader. The primary benefit of this Nelson volume will be for those who favor the Majority Text.
Other new study Bibles include Celebrate Recovery Bible (NIV; Zondervan), an outgrowth of Saddleback’s Celebrate Recovery ministry, a second edition of The Woman’s Study Bible (NKJV; Nelson), and Aspire: The New Women of Color Study Bible (NIV; Zondervan). Nelson has also published a new Parallel Study Bible with the NKJV, NCV, The Message and an abridgement of the notes from their NKJV Study Bible.
Lastly, two new audio Bibles have come out featuring the voice talents of well known actors: The Bible Experience (TNIV; Zondervan) and The Word of Promise New Testament Audio Bible (NKJV; Nelson). Both are nicely done with good musical accompaniment. I have enjoyed listening to them. The Word of Promise uses a scripted dramatization of the NKJV rather than a straight reading. It also has Jim Caviezel, following his role in the Passion of the Christ, doing the voice of Jesus.
A Concise Dictionary of Bible Origins and Interpretations, Alec Gilmore (Continuum; pb.) is an expanded form of the first edition, this time including entries on hermeneutics. Useful reference for brief explanations of various people and ideas associated with the translation and production of the Bible over the centuries. Brief descriptions are given of major English translations though curiously the ESV is left out.
Randolph Tate’s Interpreting the Bible: A Handbook of Terms and Methods (Hendrickson; pb., 482 pp.) contains an alphabetical list of entries on terms and methods which can help one through the dizzying maze of contemporary hermeneutical discussions.
The IVP Introduction to the Bible, ed. by Philip Johnston (hb., 292 pp.) gathers an impressive group of scholars writing brief introductions and overviews for each section of the Bible as well as an overall introduction to the Bible and a section on the history between the two testaments. There is much helpful material here nicely summarized. Of course brevity means there is a limitation to what can be covered and that certain viewpoints will be assumed without much defense or discussion of other views.
If you are looking for new copies of original language texts this is a good year. Hendrickson has the new revised edition of the standard Septuagint text, as well as new wide margin editions of the Nestle-Aland Greek text and BHS. The wide margins allow for more personal notes.
If your language skills have become rusty and you doubt their value a few new books can help. Calvin And the Biblical Languages, by John Currid (Christian Focus; pb., 106 pp.), provides a good reminder of the importance and usefulness of the biblical languages for pastoral ministry and church life. Jerry Sumney’s Philippians: A Greek Student’s Intermediate Reader (Hendrickson; pb., 161 pp.) can help you refresh your knowledge. The title may not sound very attractive for pastors, but it is a good resource for studying Philippians and refreshing language skills. He walks through the text making syntactical observations. Similarly Gary Long’s Grammatical Concepts 101 for Biblical Greek (Hendrickson; pb., 239 pp.) is helpful. Kregel has produced iVocab: Biblical Greek (by D. Hoffeditz and M. Thigpen) which allows you to see and hear flashcards on an MP3 player, cell phone or computer. This will be helpful for the technologically up to date.
Rodney Whitacre’s A Patristic Greek Reader (Hendrickson; pb., 279 pp.) provides another way to practice one’s Greek and also learn something about the writings of key leaders in the first several centuries of the church (“Patristics”). He provides selected Greek texts along with helps and an introduction to each text or author.
Preaching the Old Testament
This year has been a rare blessing to preachers in providing several excellent books on interpreting and preaching the Old Testament. This is such a common area of struggle for preachers that I am especially excited about the books in this section. First, three new books expound the idea that all of Scripture points to Christ and his gospel. Graeme Goldsworthy’s Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics (IVP; hb., 341 pp.) has finally appeared, and is one of the more significant books of the year. Goldsworthy articulates how we should interpret the whole Bible in light of the gospel. This is a readable book (unlike many others on hermeneutics) that is concerned first and foremost with the pastoral situation.
Similar to Goldsworthy, is Dennis Johnson’s Him We Proclaim: Preaching Christ from All the Scriptures (P&R). Johnson devotes about 150 pages to defending the idea that all of Scripture points to Christ in some way, and that this was the way the apostles handled Scripture. The second portion of the book then explains and illustrates the approach. Seeing all Scripture as pointing to Christ in some way significantly strengthens preaching, helping us to avoid mere moralizing and instead to focus more squarely on the glory and grace of God. Johnson includes a helpful appendix outlining an approach to sermon preparation from this perspective.
Sidney Greidanus, long-time proponent of this approach, has produced an amazing book, Preaching Christ from Genesis: Foundations for Expository Sermons, (Eerdmans, pb., 518 pp). I don’t know if anything else like this exists. When you preach through Genesis you need this book. It is not simply a commentary on Genesis, nor a set of sermons from Genesis. This book is an attempt to flesh out Greidanus’s Christocentric approach to preaching the Old Testament (see his earlier Preaching Christ from the Old Testament) in a specific book. Greidanus defends the approach, discusses literary and historical interpretive issues in Genesis, and expounds a model for the preaching of narratives. Then he goes through Genesis section by section following the same process in each section analyzing the passage and noting various ways to connect to the gospel. The book closes with 5 Appendixes, two that summarize the steps of sermon preparation and three which are sample sermons from Genesis. In my mind this is an indispensable tool for preaching Genesis.
Walter Kaiser differs somewhat with the books just mentioned, but in the end the divide is not too wide. He has written The Majesty of God in the Old Testament: A Guide for Preaching and Teaching (Baker, pb., 174 pp.). This great little book provides a homiletics refresher as Kaiser walks through the study and preaching of 10 Old Testament texts. Beyond simply giving help for these 10 passages, Kaiser models the preaching of the OT with a concentration on the character of God. Kaiser strongly exhorts us to recognize the awesomeness of God in the Old Testament.
Lastly, but perhaps the best place to start, Dale Ralph Davis has written a wonderfully straightforward, readable book entitled, The Word Became Fresh: How to Preach from Old Testament Narrative Texts (Christian Focus; pb., 154 pp.). Davis, like Goldsworthy, laments how complicated we have sometimes made biblical interpretation and instead outlines a basic approach to careful, sensible reading which opens up the theology of Old Testament narratives. This is one of those books that makes you want to preach after reading it!
Other Special Studies in the OT
Several new or revised surveys have come out this year. Eric Mitchell has joined Paul House as co-author in the second edition of Old Testament Survey (B&H; hb., 368 pp.). Mitchell wrote new portions for the book adding more material on historical background. This is a solid survey of the Old Testament which can be useful in a variety of ways in preaching and teaching. Gleason Archer’s well-known A Survey of Old Testament Introduction (Moody; hb., 510 pp.) has been reprinted with some new graphics. Moody has also published an updated edition of C. Hassell Bullock’s An Introduction to the Old Testament Prophetic Books (hb., 473 pp.). Robert Chisholm, Jr.’s Interpreting the Historical Books (Kregel, pb., 231 pp.) provides a standard survey of these books but, unlike other handbooks, also provides a chapter on preaching from these books and a chapter which contains some examples of such preaching. A more theological approach is taken by Christopher Seitz in Prophecy and Hermeneutics: Toward a New Introduction to the Prophets (Baker, pb., 264 pp.). This is a stimulating but more complex book dealing primarily with the Minor Prophets.
Ronald Heine’s Reading the Old Testament with the Ancient Church (Baker; pb., 208 pp.) is an excellent book that will be helpful in assimilating the Old Testament personally and as a result in preaching the Old Testament. I particularly enjoyed the section on the Psalms. The discussion of the Psalms and their use as guides for prayer connects well with James Sire’s new book Praying the Psalms of Jesus (IVP; pb., 222 pp.) and a new offering from Concordia Reading the Psalms with Luther (hb., 363 pp.). These books encourage us to use the Psalms as Jesus and his followers through the ages have, not just as reading material but as guides for our own prayer and praise. The Luther volume combines the ESV text with Martin Luther’s brief introductions to each psalm and his prayer drawn from each psalm.
Christian Focus has reprinted several good volumes in its Focus on the Bible Series including 1 Samuel and 2 Samuel, both by Dale Ralph Davis, and Proverbs, by Eric Lane.
Nobuyoshi Kiuchi has written the Leviticus volume for the Apollos Commentary Series (IVP; hb., 538 pp.). In keeping with the series this commentary deals with the Hebrew text and seeks to draw out contemporary application. Unlike more critical commentaries Kiuchi favors Mosaic authorship and assumes the text as it stands is theologically coherent. He particularly pays attention to symbolic meanings of the rituals.
Nancy Ganz has continued her Herein Is Love series with a volume on Numbers (previous volumes treated Genesis-Leviticus). This is another insightful commentary designed for children. It is useful for children’s curriculum as well as for considering how to preach from Numbers. Ganz writes with real theological depth and concern for application.
1 & 2 Kings by Peter Leithart (Brazos, hb., 304 pp.), in keeping with the series, provides a theological interpretation of 1-2 Kings. This does not mean he fails to engage the text itself (his interaction with the Hebrew text makes this clear). Rather, the focus is not simply on historical issues, but on what these books are intended to mean to the people of God. His introduction “1-2 Kings as Gospel” is well worth reading and will be a great help in preparing to preach through these books which are not often chosen for expository series. This commentary will be a great supplement to other tools when preaching in 1-2 Kings.
Gerald Wilson’s Job commentary in the NIBC series (Hendrickson; pb., 494) has just come out. It is more technical and less theological.
Robert Louis Wilken’s has written the Isaiah volume in The Church’s Bible series (Eerdmans; hb., 504 pp.) and Mark Elliot has written Isaiah 40-66 in Ancient Christian Commentary series (IVP; hb., 349 pp.). Both series collect statements from early church authors on the scriptural text, though the CB includes sources from a wider era. Of these two, I find the Wilken’s volume more helpful because he uses longer citations which allow you appreciate the source more. Both of these series, however, are only supplemental to the task of preaching and do not rank as primary purchases.
Far more helpful in interpreting and preaching Isaiah is Gary Smith’s Isaiah 1-39 (B&H; hb., 696 pp.). Smith is clear and readable while also being very conversant with up to date scholarship. He provides a thorough analysis of each passage and closes the exposition of each passage with a section on “Theological Implications.” This volume is garnering significant praise from many quarters.
Lastly, the Minor Prophets are among the most neglected books of the Bible in preaching, so it is a great benefit to have Richard Phillips’ Zechariah, in the new Reformed Expository Commentary (P&R; hb., 351 pp.). This volume, like the rest of the series, contains sermons through the book rather than being a typical commentary. How could a 300+ page sermon series through Zechariah not be helpful to pastors! These sermons are thoughtful, theological, and applied well.
There are several helpful new books in this category. Can We Trust the Gospels? by Mark Roberts (Crossway; pb., 202 pp.) is a very helpful, non-technical defense of the reliability of the Gospels. This is a good book to give to college students and to help in “Davinci Code” and “Gospel of Judas” conversations. John Piper’s What Jesus Demands of the World (Crossway; hb., 400 pp.) is a serious investigation of the commands of Jesus found in the gospels. Piper has done his academic homework but writes as a pastor. This book will be very helpful in preaching in the gospels as well as for personal contemplation of the commands of Jesus.
Peter Walker’s In the Steps of Jesus: An Illustrated Guide to the Places of the Holy Land (Zondervan; hb., 215 pp.) is helpful simply in getting a feel for the land of Jesus. It is richly illustrated.
Kim Riddlebarger in The Man of Sin: Uncovering the Truth about the Antichrist (Baker; pb., 240 pp.) provides a good, balanced treatment of a challenging theme in the Bible, examining each place in the Scriptures where this theme arises. Ann Jervis’ At the Heart of the Gospel: Suffering in the Earliest Christian Message (Eerdmans, pb., 149 pp.) is a helpful, pastoral study of the prominence of suffering in the message of the New Testament. We need to make sure this important theme of the Scripture is evident in our preaching.
Gordon Fee, Pauline Christology (Hendrickson; hb., 707 pp.) is a must have. Fee is always exegetically careful and pastorally aware. Similar to his approach in his book on the Holy Spirit in Paul (God’s Empowering Presence) Fee works his way book by book through Paul examining passages that speak to Paul’s understanding of Christ. His exegesis of key texts will be helpful as will his theological conclusions.
Faithful to the End by T Wilder, D. Charles and K Easley (B&H; hb., 327 pp.) is a college or seminary level introduction to Hebrews through Revelation. It interacts with a good bit of the scholarly discussion and can be a helpful tool when beginning a sermon series through one of these books.
The MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Nelson; hb., 950 pp.) provides concise coverage of the entire New Testament. The level of coverage is something like a very thorough study Bible.
R. T. France’s The Gospel of Matthew, (NICNT; Eerdmans, hb., 1169 pp.) will be a new standard. France, who wrote a shorter commentary on this gospel 20 years ago (in the Tyndale series), has been one of the most prominent evangelical scholars on the gospels and now in his retirement he has given us this magisterial treatment. A must have. Within the gospel of Matthew, J. I. Packer’s Praying the Lord’s Prayer (Crossway; pb., 120 pp.- previously published as part of Growing in Christ) is classic Packer, good devotional, practical reading that will richly benefit preaching. Banner of Truth has published the first English translation of John Calvin’s Sermons on the Beatitudes (hb., 114 pp.) rendering the sermons into modern English and formatting the text for easier reading. Mark (IVPNTC; hb., 351 pp.) by Ronald Kernaghan is fine, but not as good as Garland’s earlier NIV Application Commentary.
Teaching Acts: Unlocking the Book of Acts for the Bible Teacher (Christian Focus; pb., 300 pp.), by David Cook is a really helpful volume, with good advice for preaching. The introduction discusses how attention to structure can help in preaching. The sixth and final volume of Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ Studies in the Book of Acts has now been published. Titled Compelling Christianity it includes sermons on texts in the eighth chapter of Acts. Lloyd-Jones’ sermons are always worthwhile and the publication of these sermons is a blessing.
Paul Barnett’s commentary on Romans (Christian Focus; pb., 383 pp.) has been reprinted. It is a good readable, theological exposition which will be very helpful in sermon preparation. He also has a brief summary of the “New Perspective on Paul” which is helpful. Kent Hughes’ Philippians (Crossway; hb., 240 pp.) is the next volume in the Preaching the Word series and continues the careful exposition seen in his previous volumes. Philip Graham Ryken’s 1 Timothy in the Reformed Expository Commentary series (P&R, hb., 312 pp.) is a helpful volume. As in the other volumes of this series, this commentary consists of sermons from a clear Reformed perspective preached one each passage of the book. While one will need other commentaries to access the latest scholarship, these sermons are good models of interpretation and application of the text for the church.
Ben Witherington’s Letters and Homilies for Hellenized Christians, Vol. 1: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on Titus, 1-2 Timothy and 1-3 John (IVP, hb., 623 pp.) is an odd combination of letters to be considered together. Witherington contends their social and religious contexts were similar. This commentary is more academic but has helpful analysis.
There are two other new entries in the Reformed Expository Commentary series: Daniel Doriani’s James (P&R, hb., 220 pp.) and Richard Phillips’ Hebrews (P&R, hb., 656 pp.). Doriani is informed and thoughtful in his exegesis and he illustrates and applies very well. His humor I found engaging and his treatment of chapter 5 (prayer for healing) is very helpful. Phillips sermons are also well done, and he takes seriously the warning passages in Hebrews.
Christopher Catherwood’s Church History: A Crash Course for the Curious (Crossway; pb., 224 pp.) is a nicely done brief summary of church history. Jonathan Hill’s Zondervan Handbook to the History of Christianity (Zondervan; hb., 559 pp.) is a longer survey rich with pictures and illustrations. Ingemar Öberg’s Luther and World Mission (Concordia; hb., 522 pp.) is a significant study dispelling the common misconception that the Reformers lacked an interest in world mission.
Stephen Nichols has been on a roll producing very readable and enjoyable short books on various aspects of church history. He is on his way to being the popular voice of church history among evangelicals of this generation. His The Reformation: How a Monk and a Mallet Changed the World (Crossway; pb., 159 pp.) is a fun, informative, enriching read. He covers from Luther all the way to the Puritans. Just out is his For Us and Our Salvation: The Doctrine of Christ in the Early Church (Crossway; pb., 172 pp.). In the same vein of his previous works this one describes the discussion in the first five centuries of church history about the deity and humanity of Christ. Nichols frames the discussion in light of modern day controversies like the Davinci Code and Jehovah’s Witnesses showing that we need to understand how the church over the ages has understood the teaching of the Scriptures. This book will be a great help in a number of ways, not least when preparing for Christmas sermons where we face again the wonder of God becoming man.
Many are fascinated with Scotland and now Iain Murray’s Scottish Christian Heritage (Banner of Truth; hb., 403 pp.) provides a good overview of key people and movements in the history of the church there.
Meet the Puritans, edited by Joel Beeke and Randall Pederson (Reformation Heritage Books; hb., 896 pp.) is a monumental work. It provides a brief bio of Puritan writers (as well as Scottish and Dutch authors of similar perspective) and an annotated list of their writings, noting also where they have been reprinted. This is a great help in seeking to mine the wealth of the Puritans. Don Kistler has just launched The Northampton Press, and its first book is a compilation of previously unpublished sermons by Jonathan Edwards titled Sermons on the Lord’s Supper. There are actually nine sermons on Communion and six others on various topics. Also on Edwards, Sam Storms’ Signs of the Spirit (Crossway; pb., 238 pp.) is designed to help us read and understand Jonathan Edwards important Religious Affections.
Kelly Kapic’s Communion with God (Baker; pb., 284 pp.) is an investigation of John Owen’s understanding of humanity and how we relate to God. Kapic demonstrates Owen’s pastoral concern in doing theology, how his concern for practical application is always intertwined with his theology. J. I. Packer in the foreword says no other book on Owen comes as close to Owen’s heart as this one!
Three volumes in the Profiles in Reformed Spirituality series (Reformation Heritage Books) have come out this last year. The most recent focuses on 17th century Particular Baptist pastor Hercules Collins and is titled, Devoted to the Service of the Temple (pb., 139 pp.). This is a great little book full of rich, spiritual insight on various topics including contentment and pastoral ministry. The other volumes deal with Alexander Whyte and Jonathan Edwards.
Baptist Standard Bearer has republished John Gill’s massive and often celebrated commentary on the whole Bible. In addition to the print version they have produced a CD with all of Gill’s books, 100 of his tracts and sermons and several books he edited or recommended. Since the CD is fully searchable, this is a valuable historical, theological resource.
A Theology for the Church, ed. Daniel Akin (B&H, hb., 979 pp.) is a multi-author systematic theology written by Southern Baptists but does not claim to represent the theology of all Southern Baptists (as if that were possible!). Each chapter surveys the Biblical material, surveys the thinking of the Church through the ages, synthesizes this data and then discusses implications of the doctrine for the church. This format makes it a useful resource. Some particularly good chapters include Greg Thornbury (Prolegomena), Timothy George (God), and Mark Dever (Church).
Several items on baptism have appeared including Troubled Waters: Rethinking the Theology of Baptism, by Ben Witherington III (Baylor; hb., 153 pp.) and Believer’s Baptism: Sign of the New Covenant in Christ, ed. Tom Schreiner and Shawn Wright (B&H; hb., 400 pp.). Believer’s Baptism does a thorough job of discussing exegetical, historical, theological, and practical issues from this perspective and is now the standard Baptist treatment of the topic. Steve Wellum’s chapter on baptism and the covenants particularly stands out.
Exploring Theology: A Guide for Systematic Theology and Apologetics, by Clarence Benson and Robert Morgan (Crossway, pb., 335 pp.) is another reprint of books previously published by the Evangelical Training Association in Wheaton. ETA material is aimed at training laypeople in fundamentals of the faith. This volume suits this aim admirably. It contains three books previously published individually: one on the doctrine of God, one summarizing Christian doctrine, and one summarizing key defenses of the reasonableness of Christianity. This could be a useful reference for pastors or as a tool to pass on to your people. The doctrinal treatment tends to stay within the broad areas of agreement among evangelicals without getting into more controversial or debated areas.
Douglas Vickers’ The Texture of Truth (RHB; pb., 204 pp.) is a lay-level survey of the basic doctrines of the faith from a Reformed perspective intended to help people grasp and live out the faith.
Always Reforming: Explorations in Systematic Theology, edited by A. T. B. McGowan (IVP; pb., 365 pp.) contains essays from several senior theologians on various topics within systematic theology. An important volume.
Octavius Winslow’s Our God, a devotional treatment of the character of God has been reprinted (RHB; pb., 164 pp.). Winslow was a contemporary of Spurgeon highly regarded for theological and experiential preaching.
Graham Cole has written He Who Gives Life: The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit (Crossway; hb., 320 pp.) the most recent volume in the Foundations of Evangelical Theology series. Cole is well informed, readable and pastoral. On the issue of gifts, Cole is not a cessationist, but classifies himself as ‘open but cautious’ in the use of the sign gifts. Kenneth Berding has produced a significant study in What are the Spiritual Gifts? Rethinking the Conventional View (Kregel, pb., 363 pp.). The exegetical work here will help in preaching on this topic, and he makes some good proposals on how we think of the gifts.
In God the Holy Trinity: Reflections on Christian Faith and Practice (Baker; pb., 175 pp.) Timothy George has edited essays on the way the doctrine of the Trinity shapes Christian living in worship, prayer, service and mission. This is a helpful treatment of a doctrine whose importance we readily affirm but whose relevance we often fail to see. Everyday Theology: How to Read Cultural Texts and Interpret Trends, ed. Kevin Vanhoozer (Baker; pb., 287 pp.) is collection of essays on theological implications of various cultural trends.
Sam Storms’ Chosen for Life: The Case for Divine Election, (Crossway, pb., 237 pp.), is a revised and expanded edition of a book previously published in 1987 which earned high praise. It is an accessible pastoral treatment of this challenging doctrine. The Great Exchange: Our Sins for His Righteousness (Crossway; pb., 288 pp) by Jerry Bridges and Bob Bevington is an exposition of the doctrine of the atonement book by book from Acts to Revelation. The authors have self-consciously patterned their book after George Smeaton’s 19th century classic, The Apostles’ Doctrine of the Atonement. Brian Vickers’ Jesus Blood and Righteousness: Paul’s Theology of Imputation (Crossway; pb., 254 pp.) is also a significant contribution.
John Piper’s The Future of Justification (Crossway) is thoroughgoing analysis of the doctrine of justification and a critique of N. T. Wright’s position on the topic. It is a weighty and important contribution to this important doctrinal conversation with significant pastoral implications. This will be one of the more significant books this year.
On the topic of justification, Reformation Heritage Books has republished John Owen’s The Doctrine of Justification by Faith (pb., 448 pp.) with Owen’s Latin and Greek quotations translated. The volume also contains a significant introductory essay by Carl Trueman.
Ben Quash and Michael Ward have edited a series of sermons entitled Heresies and How to Avoid Them: Why It Matters What Christians Believe (Hendrickson; pb., 148 pp.). The contributors, all from Britain, include Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans and one Quaker all affirming basic orthodoxy as found in the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed and the Chalcedonian Definition. It is encouraging to see theological sermons intended to affirm orthodoxy and willing to name errors. These sermons can be helpful in encouraging doctrinal preaching.
Charts for a Theology of Evangelism by Thomas Johnston (B&H; pb., 160 pp.) is a unique book which compiles a lot of data and is helpful in comparing differing approaches (by era as well as theological orientation).
Donald Bloesch’s Spirituality Old & New (IVP; pb., 192 pp), is a helpful treatment of this hot topic stressing that true biblical spirituality grows out of correct theology and warning against careless borrowing of other forms of spirituality. The second and third books of Eugene Peterson’s trilogy on spiritual theology have appeared: Eat This Book (hb., 186 pp.) and The Jesus Way (hb., 289 pp.) both from Eerdmans. Peterson is always very stimulating.
Lastly, it may seem odd to include a book on counseling here, but Eric Johnson’s tome Foundations for Soul Care: A Christian Psychology Proposal (IVP; hb., 716 pp.) deserves mention if only because his serious engagement with the Scriptures makes it a Bible reference! There are differing opinions on psychology and Christianity, but this is a major contribution to the discussion. We need to return to thinking of our pastoral labors as “soul care.”
Ray Van Neste is Associate Professor of Christian Studies and Director of the R.C. Ryan Center for Biblical Studies at Union University in Jackson, TN.