The distinction between a book collection and a library is fundamental for the preacher. The working preacher’s library is indeed a collection of books, but it is a collection of books put to work. The books in the minister’s library should be worn, loved, and marked. The preacher looks to each book as a potential treasury of material for life, ministry, and preaching.
The most recent publishing year has brought several significant new titles worthy of the preacher’s attention. Beyond this, the world of publishing has exploded, even as some pundits have predicted the demise of the book itself.
One recent survey indicates that a majority of preachers now use the Internet in some fashion as sermons are prepared. Nevertheless, it seems very unlikely that the electronic media will completely replace the book. There is just something about the physical properties of ink printed on paper that makes the book seemingly indispensable, as it has been for the last several hundred years.
Biblical Studies
The world of biblical interpretation abounds with various approaches and schools of thought. Several of these have by now run their course, and are a matter of hermeneutical history rather than ongoing work. The fascination with narrative interpretation continues to be of great interest, and yet many of these books and methodologies are of limited value.
The real substance of solid biblical research is still in the hard work of exegesis. Two new volumes have been released in The New American Commentary series (Broadman & Holman). 2 Corinthians by David E. Garland is a thorough study of Paul’s second canonical letter to the church at Corinth. Garland, a well established New Testament scholar, offers much for the preacher’s consideration in a book many find to present significant challenges for preaching. Judges, Ruth by Daniel I. Block is a stellar example of biblical exegesis in the hands of a trustworthy Old Testament scholar. Both of these volumes are in the expanding New American Commentary series. Another series of note, The Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture series (InterVarsity Press) is a remarkable project seeking to mine wisdom from the earliest Christian exegetical sources rooted in the Patristic Era. Thomas C. Oden of Drew University continues as the general editor for the series, and each volume is edited by a capable scholar who brings both insight and interest to the volume at hand. 1-2 Corinthians by Gerald Bray and Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians by Mark J. Edwards are two very worthy contributions to this series. Regardless of denominational identity, preachers will gain much by immersing themselves in a rich history of interpretation. As Thomas Oden comments, “Preaching at the end of the first millennium focused primarily on the text of Scripture as understood by the earlier esteemed tradition of comment, largely converging on those writers that best reflected classic Christian consensual thinking. Preaching at the end of the second millennium has reversed that pattern. It has so forgotten most of these classic comments that they are vexing to find anywhere, and even when located they are often available only in archaic editions and inadequate translations. The preached word in our time has remained largely bereft of previously influential patristic inspiration.”
Andreas J. Kostenberger has produced an interesting study in Encountering John in the Encountering Biblical Studies (Baker Book House). Kostenberger combines literary, historical, and theological investigations in one volume worthy of the preacher’s attention.
A major research work, Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible (Eerdmans/ Brill) is a massive work dedicated to considering every demon and deity mentioned in the biblical text or known in the biblical world. It can be extremely helpful in unraveling the various and complex religious systems of the biblical world.
Significant special studies include Theological Exegesis (Eerdmans/Brill) edited by Christopher Seitz and Kathryn Greene-McCreight. This work is actually a series of essays in honor of Brevard S. Childs, one of the most influential professors at the Yale Divinity School. Childs, the founder of the new school of canonical hermeneutics has served as a catalyst for several influential students who have continued his work.
Preaching Christ From the Old Testament: A Contemporary Hermeneutical Method (Eerdmans/Brill) by Sidney Greidanus, is an important work that should demand a place on the preacher’s bookshelf. The relationship of the Old Testament to Christian preaching continues to represent a challenge for the contemporary preacher. Greidanus provides a theologically-based approach to the interpretation of the Old Testament which is distinctively Christian and Christ-centered. A professor at Calvin Theological Seminary, Greidanus offers a significant contribution which will help to re-define the preaching of the Old Testament in this generation.
Graham H. Twelftree, Senior Pastor of Northeastern Vineyard Church in Adelaidec Australia, has produced Jesus the Miracle Worker (InterVarsity Press). In this work Twelftree considers every healing and exorcism account associated with Jesus in the four gospels. It is a serious study which is helpful in both its approach and its biblical reconstruction. N.T. Wright, canon theologian of Westminster Abbey and one of the world’s most recognized New Testament scholars, continues his work of research and reconstruction in the life and ministry of Jesus.
Unlike many other New Testament scholars, Wright does not dismiss the issue of the historical Jesus, and in The Challenge of Jesus: Recovering Who Jesus Was and Is (InterVarsity Press), Wright attempts a reconstruction of the life and ministry of Jesus consistent with the gospels.
Craig L. Blomberg considers biblical and material possessions in Neither Poverty Nor Riches (Eerdmans). A major work on a timely subject comes in Eschatology in Bible and Theology: Evangelical Essays at the Dawn of a New Millennium (InterVarsity Press), edited by Kent E. Brower and Mark W. Elliott, Brower and Elliot have collected a fascinating assortment of essays dealing with eschatology from various biblical and theological perspectives. Given our millennial moment, this book will be of great assistance to the preacher.
Andreas J. Kostenberger has produced another important contribution in his translation of Adolf Schlatter’s The Theology of the Apostles (Baker Book House). Adolf Schlatter is one of the most important, yet neglected, figures in the development of New Testament theology. His contributions should be recognized by evangelical scholars and the enduring value of his writings is well represented in this volume. Two books seeking to relate the gospel to Old Testament texts have been released in the series, The Gospel According to the Old Testament (Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing). Iain M. Duguid considers the legacy of Abraham in Living in the Gap Between Promise and Reality. Raymond B. Dillard looks to Elijah and Elisha in Faith in the Face of Apostasy.
Finally, preachers will be interested in the short autobiographical essay Not Til I Have Done (Westminster/ John Knox Press) by Elizabeth Achtemeier. The review of her life and intellectual pilgrimage is a road map through much of the theological development of the 20th century. (Achtemeier served for several years as a contributing editor of Preaching.)
Theological Studies
The end of the millennium finds the discipline of theology divided into various schools and basic approaches. On the left, theology has largely become of a matter of linguistics and symbolic philosophy. The primary methodology employed by these theologians is hermeneutics. Among evangelicals, there is significant debate about the future of theology as a discipline and the norms for theology in the present. The republication of God, Revelation and Authority (Crossway Books) a massive six-volume work by Carl F.H. Henry, should help to bring gravity and clarity to evangelical considerations. Henry, the dean of evangelical theologians, has produced a work which is both definitive and comprehensive. The republication of this massive work should be greeting with enthusiasm in the evangelical community. In these volumes, Henry deals with the most basic issues of theological identity and method.
Focus on eschatology and millennial expectation is addressed in Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond Zondervan), edited by Darrell Bock. Bock has assembled a team including Craig A. Blaising, Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr. and Robert B. Strimple to debate the various positions of premillennialism, postmillennialism, and amilennialism. The book is a refresher course on eschatology and will be very useful in reviewing eschatological options.
R.C. Sproul, founder and president of Ligonier Ministries, has written a primer on the gospel. Getting the Gospel Right: The Tie that Binds Evangelicals Together (Baker Book House) is intended to be a clarifying manifesto and a consensus statement for evangelical identity. Sproul notes: “The loss of Christian unity at any point is tragic and destructive. When that loss threatens our unity in the gospel itself, it is catastrophic.”
Reason For the Hope Within (Eerdmans), edited by Michael J. Murray, is a very helpful introduction to trends and patterns among evangelical philosophers of religion. This volume promises rich reward for the reader.
The Post-Christian Mind (Vine Books) by Harry Blamires continues the insightful work Blamires began in The Christian Mind, published a generation ago. Blamires points to the influence of the postmodern mind and the contour of postmodern thinking. The preacher will find this a helpful and informative volume. Two works on the theology of spirituality are also worthy of note. Timothy F. Sedgwick’s The Christian Moral Life (Eerdmans) focuses on the intersection of ethics and spirituality. Alister E. McGrath, has produced Christian Spirituality (Blackwell). McGrath surveys biblical and historical sources for understanding spirituality.
Seeking to establish common ground between evangelicals and charismatics, Larry Hart of Oral Roberts University has produced Truth Aflame (Thomas Nelson Publishers). Whether or not one agrees with Hart’s conclusions, his work should at least serve to establish some common understanding. Another important book is The Revenge of Conscience (Spence Publishing) by J. Budziszewski. Budziszewski, who holds appointments in both law and philosophy, writes an insightful volume on the moral madness of contemporary culture.
Evangelicals throughout the world have a luminary in John Stott. Stott has established himself as a theological leader among Anglican evangelicals. In John Stott: A Biography, the Early Years (InterVarsity), Timothy Dudley/Smith, traces Stott’s life through the 1950s. Some theological turns by Stott have caught many evangelicals by surprise, particularly his adoption of annihilationism. Nevertheless, his biography is an important part of the evangelical heritage, and preachers will read this volume with great profit. Stott has himself produced Evangelical Truth: A Personal Plea for Unity, Integrity and Faithfulness (InterVarsity Press). It seeks to define what it means to be an evangelical.
It is perhaps surprising that at the end of the second millennium a great deal of attention has turned to one of the most formative figures of the church in the first half of the first millennium. Augustine, the great African bishop, whose writings so shaped the theological tradition of the western church, is considered in Saint Augustine (Viking/Penguin Lives) by Garry Wills. Wills is one of America’s best known public intellectuals. His consideration of Augustine is worthy of our attention and is insightful even in its brevity. The Penguin Lives series of biographies is intended to be a reconsideration of several of the most important figures in global intellectual history, seen from the vantage point of the end of the 20th century. A massive and masterful work on the life and work of Augustine is presented in Augustine Through the Ages: An Encyclopedia (Eerdmans), edited by Allan D. Fitzgerald. This massive 900-page work will be the definitive source for generations to come.
Pastoral Theology
Works by and for pastors continue to be mainstays of the publishing market. Among the most interesting offerings in this category over the past year are works attempting to set Christian ministry in the cultural context of post-modernity. Good News in Exile (Eerdmans) by Martin B. Copenhaver, Anthony B. Robinson, and William H. Willimon, is a fascinating insight into the mind of three “post-liberal” pastors dealing with the basic issue of Christian identity. The book attempts to forge a “third way” between liberalism and evangelicalism. Readers will judge the attempt for themselves, but will find the assessment of these pastors fascinating.
Tom Sine offers interesting insights in Mustard Seed Versus McWorld (Baker Book House). Sine, known as an evangelical “futurist,” here describes the often contradictory patterns of life and ministry at the end of the 20th century. The book offers genuine insight and is sure to be a catalyst for thought.
Rick E. Ferguson, pastor of Riverside Baptist Church in Denver, approaches the basics of ministry in The Servant Principle (Broadman/Holman). Ferguson roots all of ministry in discipleship, following the example of our Lord Jesus Christ. Dick Keyes of the L’Abri Fellowship resists cultural compromise in Chameleon Christianity: Moving Beyond Safety and Conformity (Baker Book House). As Keyes notes, “What distinguishes our time is not necessarily greater evil or immorality than before, (but) a greater confusion about morality itself — despite widespread and passionate moral accusations and the advent of ethics as a growth industry.”
John Piper, whose works on theology and ministry consistently point us all to the glory of God, has produced another important work in A Godward Life: Book Two (Multnomah). A series of devotional essays, Piper’s work deals with the most important issues of life and ministry, and directs us toward what is genuinely a Godward life. D.A. Carson, one of the premier New Testament scholars of our generation, has produced another important devotional work in For the Love of God (Crossway Books), which will eventually be a two volume set of devotional readings covering all of Scripture. Carson brings a scholar’s mind and a preacher’s heart to his devotional writing.
John MacArthur, one of the most well known and respected preachers in the evangelical world has produced Nothing But the Truth (Crossway Books), a basic apologetic manual which will be helpful to both pastors and lay persons. Similarly, Stephen F. Olford now offers The Christian Message for Contemporary Life (Kregel), a review and summary of the gospel as presented in the Bible.
Pastors provide helpful approaches to dealing with specific theological issues. In Absolutely Sure (Multnomah), Steven J. Lawson deals with the vexing question of eternal life. His approach is both biblical and pastoral. In SpiritWorks (Broadman/Holman), veteran pastor Jerry Vines of the First Baptist Church of Jacksonville, FL considers charismatic practices and the phenomenon in biblical prospective. Even those who disagree with his conclusions must respect his pastoral and biblical approach.
Finally, two new titles are of such significance that each will demand a priority in the pastor’s reading schedule. The first of these, Spiritual Marketplace: Baby Boomers in the Remaking of American Religion (Princeton University Press), by Wade Clark Roof, is an important companion to Roof’s earlier volume A Generation of Seekers. In this volume, Roof discusses how the baby boom generation has transformed much of America and will continue to influence American Christianity in the decades ahead. And American Sermons: The Pilgrims to Martin Luther King, Jr. (The Library of America), edited by Michael Warner, is a definitive collection of sermons from American History. The volume is a treasury which should be the pastor’s companion in the reading year ahead.
Contemporary Issues
William J. Bennett, former secretary of education, has produced The Index of Leading Cultural Indicators (Broadway Books). As his previous volume, it provides important statistical information on life in America at the end of the 20th century. In American Culture, American Taste: Social Change in the Twentieth Century (Knopf), historian Michael Kammen looks at the development of American mass culture. We take this culture for granted and do not realize that it was the result of several cultural patterns coming together at the end of a propitious century.
Historian and controversialist Frances Fukuyama, the author of The End of History and The Last Man, looks at global culture at the turn of the millennium in The Great Disruption: Human Nature and the Reconstitution of Social Order (Free Press). Though Christians are right to disagree with many of Fukuyama’s most basic assumptions, his description of the disruption that has occurred in global culture, especially in the moral arena, is fascinating.
Rejecting the barren legacy of modern feminism, Danielle Crittenden describes the spiritual emptiness of many modern women in What Our Mothers Didn’t Tell Us (Simon & Schuster). Crittenden’s work has prompted a firestorm of controversy, as has the new work by Wendy Shallit, A Return to Modesty: Discovering the Lost Virtue (Free Press).
Two important works consider the effect of modern culture on the young. The Rise and Fall of the American Teenager (Bard Books) by Thomas Hine is an important study of the invention of adolescence and of the notion of the perpetual teenager as a fixture of American culture. Hine helps to demonstrate why adolescence has become such a dangerous time and why the adult expectations of adolescence are themselves part of the danger. In Ready or Not (Free Press), Kay S. Hymowitz laments the destruction of childhood in the midst of a culture determined to force children into a premature adulthood. Such individuals are morally immature, psychologically damaged, and culturally out of place, argues Hymowitz. Both of these books will be helpful to preachers considering the challenges facing young persons, whether teens or preteens.
Three significant works address the impact of atheism and secularism on the modern mind. A.N. Wilson, one of Britain’s most well-known authors, has written God’s Funeral (Norton), which deals with the loss of faith during the 19th century. Wilson, a former evangelical who has now become an agnostic, has written a book sure to infuriate the faithful. At the same time, however, it serves to illustrate the pattern of secularization that has so affected the modern mind. Robert Coles, an insightful and perplexing psychiatrist, addresses the same phenomenon in The Secular Mind (Princeton University Press). Paul C. Vitz, professor of psychology at New York University, addresses the psychology of atheism in Faith of the Fatherless (Spence Publishing). Vitz offers fascinating insights into the forms and patterns of atheism in the 20th century. Hauntingly, he also traces the effect of atheism on our history and culture.
Two helpful books on important ethical issues include The Right to Die? Caring Alternatives to Euthanasia (Moody Press) by Mark Blocher, and Genetic Engineering: A Christian Response (Kregel) edited by Timothy J. Demy and Gary P. Stewart. Both offer helpful biblical correctives to a secular approach to these urgent ethical issues. Added to these is Homosexuality in American Public Life (Spence Publishing), edited by Christopher Wolfe. Wolfe offers a most helpful overview of the entire issue of homosexuality and its complexities in American life.
Finally, we turn to the latest contribution by the team of Charles Colson and Nancy Pearcey. How Now Shall We Live? (Tyndale), is a panoramic review of the necessary framework of a Christian worldview. Filled with rich cultural analysis and keen biblical awareness, this volume will be of great assistance to Christians pondering the issues of life in these strange times. Echoing the ministry of Francis Schaeffer, the volume is an attempt to arm the Christian church for the conflict of worldviews we now experience.
Needless to say, no preacher should be without adequate reading material for the coming year. The turn of the millennium does indeed remind us of the urgent passing of time and the necessity of judging all of life by the stewardship of the time we are given. This surely applies to our reading as well. The preacher must choose carefully and invest wisely. Above all, the preacher must be a constant student and as such will be a voracious reader of books, articles, and materials from many different sources and in several different forms. As this very partial review has demonstrated, there is ample material for good reading and careful thought for the year ahead.

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