Despite predictions to the contrary, the book continues to be the most important verbal resource for most Americans. Even before the personal computer revolution, many futurists had predicted that the book would cease to be a central medium of communication by 1990. Books, one forecaster explained, would continue to have romantic appeal and a certain attraction for eccentrics, but would have given way to electronic media in terms of serious communication.
Well, that “Brave New World” has appeared — and the book is secure. Though electronic media are making notable inroads into some sectors of the information economy (and ministers had better familiarize themselves with the technology), books remain the central medium in the verbal marketplace.
Indeed, over 2000 titles were released in the fall publishing “season” — in the United States alone! And those count only the books released by the major trade publishing houses. Academic, specialty, and foreign titles would vastly expand that number.
Preaching ministers, wordsmiths all, are among the most ravenous consumers of books. In fact, ministers are now considered part of what publishers consider the “core market” of book buyers. When other segments of the book-buying public go “soft,” ministers are still purchasing volume after volume.
This represents a major point of continuity with previous generations of ministers, especially since the Victorian era, when books first became an economic possibility for most pastors. The preacher’s library is recognized in most churches as the central symbol of the preacher’s calling to study — an act of ministry on behalf of the congregation.
The past year witnessed a continuation of the rapid expansion of religious titles experienced in recent years. In fact, the religious books segment of the total book market has outstripped most other categories.
How is the preacher to keep up with new releases? The Preaching annual book survey is intended to serve the preaching minister as a guide through a choice slice of recent booklists.
Preaching and Homiletics
The resurgence of interest in preaching which first appeared in the mid-1980s shows no signs of abating, but recent years have not been marked by the release of major comprehensive texts in homiletics, as was the case in recent years. Nevertheless, several major survey titles and programmatic works are announced in booklists for 1992, indicating that the renaissance of homiletical interest has not been reversed.
But 1991 witnessed the release of several worthy titles, including the 1991 Preaching Book of the Year, The Supremacy of God in Preaching (Baker) by John Piper. Raymond Bailey, whose Jesus the Preacher (Broadman) was recently featured in “The Preacher’s Bookshelf,” released a successor volume, Paul the Preacher (Broadman). As he had done with the preaching example of Jesus, Bailey demonstrates the homiletical approach of the Apostle Paul and calls contemporary preachers to follow the example of the Great Apostle. The volume addresses modern preachers with both hope and judgment.
Preachers will welcome the republication of Karl Barth’s Homiletics, a compilation of his lectures on preaching presented from 1932 to 1933. The character of Barth’s contribution to dogmatic theology will be debated well into the next century, but all preachers will appreciate Barth’s great love for preaching and his fundamental assertion that preaching is the acid test of theological conviction.
The great pen and pulpit of the late Martin Lloyd-Jones continues long after his death. A committed cadre of editors and friends continue to release materials unpublished at his death. As always, “The Doctor’s” stalwart evangelical conviction is evident on every page. The Heart of the Gospel (Crossway) is a collection of Lloyd-Jones’ sermons on Matthew 11. They are, as J. I. Packer suggests, “among the ripest fruit of the greatest period of a great man’s ministry.” Signs of the Times (Banner of Truth Trust) is a worthy collection of his essays and articles.
Bill Bennett’s Thirty Minutes to Raise the Dead (Thomas Nelson) is an enthusiastic and insightful primer on expository preaching written by an active pastor. Multnomah Press continued its useful and interesting Mastering series with Mastering Preaching by well-known preachers Bill Hybels, Stuart Briscoe, and Haddon Robinson. Robinson, who with Briscoe is a Preaching contributing editor, has recently resigned as president of Denver Seminary to become the Harold J. Ockenga Professor of Preaching at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. The three preachers offer helpful insights through an interesting format. Of similar benefit is Mastering the Pastoral Role by Paul Cedar, Kent Hughes, and Ben Patterson.
Biblical Studies
The past year has been marked by the emergence of several major commentaries and thematic works in biblical studies. The much-anticipated first volume of the “New American Commentary” was released with the publication of Philippians, Colossians, Philemon by Richard Melick. Professor of New Testament at Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary in Memphis, Melick is a gifted scholar whose exegetical insights will be much appreciated by preaching ministers.
John Stott, whose ministry throughout the world continues long after his retirement as rector at All Souls Church in London, released two major commentary protects, both from InterVarsity Press. The Gospel and the End of Time (1 and 2 Thessalonians) and The Spirit, the Church, and the World (Acts) are examples of Stott’s faithful and clear exegesis.
Leon Morris, another well-known evangelical scholar, produced I and II Thessalonians (Eerdmans). The “Word Biblical Commentary” released notable volumes including Galatians by Richard Longenecker (Word) and Ephesians by Andrew Lincoln (Word). “Interpretation,” another note-worthy series (Westminster/John Knox Press) released Exodus, a major contribution by Terence E. Fretheim; Revelation by Eugene Boring; and First and Second Samuel by Walter Brueggemann, who presented the recent Lyman Beecher Lectures on Preaching at Yale Divinity School.
Other volumes of interest to preachers include The Bible and the literary Critic (Fortress) by Amos Wilder (brother of playwright Thornton Wilder); Suffering and Ministry in the Spirit (Eerdmans) by Scott Hafemann, a fascinating exegesis of Paul’s defense of his ministry in 2 Corinthans; The Holman Bible Dictionary (Holman/Broadman), a major contribution to biblical reference materials; and A Mind for What Matters (Eerdmans), which brings together several seminal essays and articles by the late F. F. Bruce, one of the leading evangelical scholars of this century.
Two major volumes on the issue of biblical criticism should catch the attention of every thoughtful preacher. Historical Criticism of the Bible by Eta Linnemann (Baker) is essential reading which traces the pilgrimage of Professor Linnemann from her status as the star student of Rudolph Bultmann to her rejection of the so-called Higher Criticism. A useful and convictional volume of essays by David S. Dockery and David Black, New Testament Criticism and Interpretation (Zondervan) applies both evangelical conviction and the best of contemporary scholarship.
Students of the parables (and this surely includes all preachers) will appreciate the insights offered by Craig Blomberg in Interpreting the Parables (InterVarsity) and Robert Farrar Capon in Parables of the Kingdom (Eerdmans). Both belong on the preacher’s bookshelf. Blomberg’s volume is an important survey of the parables and their interpretation.
Kent Hughes, pastor of the Wheaton College Church, continues his insightful commentary series with Colossians and James (Crossway). Hughes is a gifted preacher who applies careful exegesis to his creative and imaginative preaching ministry.
Other commentary offerings include I. Howard Marshall’s volume on I Peter (InterVarsity) and Matthew: The Churchbook (Word) by Fredrick Dale Brunner. Brunner’s volume, which covers Matthew 13:28, follows his earlier volume, The Christ-book (Word), which covered chapters 1-12. The Churchbook is one of the most thought-provoking commentaries to appear in recent years. Brunner matches thorough exegesis with weighty theological interaction, including substantive conversation with Patristic sources.
Beyond this, the year included the release of the NIV Exhaustive Concordance (Zondervan), the NRSV Exhaustive Concordance (Zondervan), and the NRSV Unabridged Concordance (Thomas Nelson). Given the importance of those two translations, the concordances will be greeted warmly by all students of Scripture.
Theological Studies
The present age often marginalizes theological concerns, but the faithful preacher cannot escape responsibility for dealing with theological issues and maintaining theological integrity. To that end, the preaching minister must continue the serious study of theology in the context of ministry. Several recent titles will aid the preacher in this effort.
Richard Mueller, who recently moved from Fuller Theological Seminary to Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan, contributed The Study of Theology (Zondervan), a solid introduction to theological issues. Gordon Lewis and Bruce Demarest continued their multi-volume systematic theology with the appearance of Integrative Theology: Volume Two (Zondervan).
Jacques Ellul, the famous French theorist and theologian, continued his string of contributions with The Technological Bluff (Eerdmans), a sturdy volume which will maintain Ellul’s reputation as one of the most gifted interpreters of the modern age. Of equal stature is the work of the late Helmut Thielicke in Modern Faith and Thought (Eerdmans).
Creative approaches to dealing with tensions in contemporary theology are found in Theological Crossfire by Clark Pinnock and Dale Brown (Zondervan) and How to Play Theological Ping-Pong by Basil Mitchell (Eerdmans). Pinnock and Brown combined in their volume to present the evangelical (Pinnock) and liberal (Brown) positions on several critical issues. The dialogue format makes for interesting reading.
Wentzel van Huyssteen’s Theology and the Justification of Faith (Eerdmans) is a creative review of contemporary theology from a major South African theologian. The English translation of this award-winning book will benefit its readers. Body, Soul, and Life Everlasting by John W. Cooper brings cogent insights to the issue of life after death, maintaining biblical holism against contemporary and ancient challenges.
Evangelicals will warmly receive a worthy volume honoring John R. W. Stott. The Gospel in the Modern World (InterVarsity Press), edited by David Wells and Martyn Eden, combines the strengths and insights of several capable contributors.
An important book dealing with issues related to the believer’s church, People of God (Broadman) is edited by David S. Dockery and Paul Basden. The essays will be of interest to all Free Church leaders, as well as those of more connectional communions.
Two very important volumes should find their way onto the shelves of every preacher. The Word Became Flesh (Baker) is Millard Erickson’s important contribution to contemporary Christology. The volume represents a recovery of Chalcedonian orthodoxy in conversation with contemporary issues and based on solid biblical foundations. The 600-page book is a worthy extension of Erickson’s sturdy and popular systematic theology, Christian Theology (Baker). That volume is now the most popular systematic theology text among evangelical seminaries.
The other volume is a multi-author work which honors prominent theologian Kenneth Kantzer, former editor of Christianity Today and dean at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Doing Theology in Today’s World (Zondervan), edited by John Woodbridge and Tom McComisky, is a virtual continuing education course in 500 pages. The volume is a stellar model for future Festscriften and a serious contribution to theological scholarship. Contributors include J. I. Packer, Don Carson, Richard Mueller, Kevin Vanhoozer, and Harold O. J. Brown.
Preachers should set the goal of working through at least one serious theological volume each quarter. These two volumes are worthy examples of books which will illuminate, challenge, and sharpen the preacher.
Church History
Good preachers have a keen sense of history and understand the present age in light of ages past — whether ancient or more contemporary. Volumes dealing with church history offer unique and pleasurable opportunities to renew acquaintance with the history and heritage of the church.
Three new historical biographies are worthy of notice. Billy Sunday and the Redemption of Urban America by Lyle Dorsett; Liberty of Conscience: Roger Williams in America by Edwin Scot Gaustad; and The Divine Dramatist: George Whitfield and the Rise of Modern Evangelicalism by Harry S. Stout (all from Eerdmans) capture the essence of pivotal individuals even as they cast light on broader issues and movements.
George Marsden, a leading scholar of American church history, has produced Understanding Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism (Eerdmans), a volume which will be essential reading for evangelicals and those seeking to understand evangelicalism. The republication of David Bebbington’s Patterns in History (Baker) will be appreciated by those seeking increased understanding of the historical process and the Christian understanding of history.
Martin Marty, the most quoted church historian in America, has released the second volume of his insightful survey of Christianity in America as The Noise of Conflict. As always, Marty demonstrates his ability to maintain the reader’s attention while diving deep into the most minute details of events and movements.
Readers will find How My Mind Has Changed, edited by James Wall and Mark Heim (Eerdmans), an intriguing window into the state of mind of mainline denominationalists and selected evangelicals. The volume is the compilation of the “How My Mind Has Changed” articles series from the pages of The Christian Century.
Perhaps the biography which will most captivate preachers, William Martin’s A Prophet with Honor: The Billy Graham Story (William Morrow) is the definitive and authorized biography of the world’s most famous preacher and evangelist. The book is a credible and readable biography — and an invaluable window into the character of American religion as well as that of Billy Graham.
Other Books of Interest
Books covering a wide array of issues and representing a broad range of subjects also deserve note. The work of George Barna and the Barna Research Group has received la great deal of attention in recent years, and deservedly so. His What Americans Believe (Regal Books) offers an invaluable glimpse into the heart and soul of the American public. A more programmatic and thematic approach comes from the pen of Anthony Campolo in Wake Up America (HarperCollins). As always, Campolo is interesting and provocative.
The Almanac of the Christian Church (Tyndale) is a must for every preacher’s desk. The volume is an indispensable repository of both vital and eccentric data on the church and Christian issues. It is filled with facts, graphics, addresses, and other almanac fare.
Several works addressing the modern worldview have emerged in the past year. Among the most important are The True and Only Heaven (Norton), by Christopher Lasch (author of The Culture of Narcissism); The Birth of the Modern (HarperCollins), by historian Paul Johnson (author of Modern Times and Intellectuals); and The Passion of the Western Mind (Crown/Harmony), by Richard Tarnas. An important analysis of modern evangelicalism is found in Made in America (Baker), by Michael Horton.
Some of the most interesting and thought-provoking volumes to appear in recent years have been produced by sociologists. Preachers familiar with Habits of the Heart, a project undertaken by Robert Bellah and associates, will be pleased to know of the release of The Good Society (Knopf) by the same team. Robert Wuthnow, author of the important work The Restructuring of American Religion (Princeton University Press), has now contributed similar insights in Acts of Compassion (Princeton University Press). Preachers who fail to understand the sociological dynamics documented and debated in these two volumes will rob their ministries of critical insights.
Finally, note should be taken of recent reference works which offer assistance to the preacher. The New Twentieth Century Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge (Baker), edited by J. D. Douglas, is a helpful one-volume update of the classic Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge. The Dictionary of the Ecumenical Movement (Eerdmans) and the Dictionary of Pastoral Care and Counseling (Abingdon) are definitive reference volumes for those areas of interest, practice, and research.
American Religious Creeds (Triumph Books), edited by Gordon Melton, is an invaluable three-volume collection of creedal and confessional statements adopted by American religious groups. Not all statements are included, but the set represents the most thorough collection currently available.
Clearly, one of the most important books to appear in recent years is James Davison Hunter’s Culture Wars: The Struggle to Define America (Basic Books). Hunter, professor of sociology at the University of Virginia, has chronicled and documented tensions within evangelicalism in American Evangelicalism: Conservative Religion and the Quandry of Modernity (Rutgers University Press) and Evangelicalism: The Coming Generation (University of Chicago Press). His present book is an indispensable guide to the culture war which may represent the most significant social dynamic of our age.

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