Some Recommended Reading for 2011

As one who loves books I always want to encourage other believers to read.  I also like to stimulate people to begin building good solid biblical libraries.  In that spirit I offer the following five recommendations for your enjoyment.

1.  The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan, updated by C. J. Lovik, illustrations by Mike Wimmer.

This new edition of Part One of Bunyan’s classic allegorical tale is superbly done, with Lovik’s updates being kept to a sensible minimum without dumbing-down the story.  Lovik also provides detailed notes at the back of the book which enhance its value.  Special mention must go to Wimmer, whose period illustrations wonderfully capture the events they portray.  All in all, this is the best edition for all but the purist.

2.  Has The Church Replaced Israel? by Michael J. Vlach.

Vlach teaches theology at The Masters Seminary and did his doctoral work on “supercessionism” or “replacement theology.”  This book presents his conclusions for the interested Bible student.  Though the writer is in sympathy with Progressive Dispensationalism, this hardly affects his work, which is well reasoned, up to date, clear, and convincing.  This is the best critique of replacement theology I know.

3.  For Zion’s Sake: Christian Zionism and the Role of John Nelson Darby by Paul R. Wilkinson

This is basically Wilkinson’s doctoral thesis and is well worth reading.  Not only because it covers the life of Darby, an important (and often misunderstood) Christian thinker in his own right, but because of its fine historical coverage of “Christian Zionism” (as opposed to Political Zionism), together with a much needed appraisal of that queer ecumenical phenomenon, so-called “Christian Palestinianism.”  Wilkinson has done has research well and sets it out compellingly.  The one foible is his sometime lack of discrimination in citing populist dispensationalist writers as authorities where more scholarly dispensationalists might have been appealed to.

4.  Presuppositional Apologetics by Greg L. Bahnsen, edited by Joel MacDurmon

Not a substitute for the author’s Always Ready, which is the best introduction to presuppositionalism; this posthumous work is certainly a worthy companion to it.  Geared towards an intermediate level, this book features some really good material.  Worth the price of the book are Bahnsen’s brilliant evaluations of Gordon H. Clark, E. J. Carnell and Francis Schaeffer, showing the big differences between their more “verificational” approach and Van Til’s apologetics.  NB  Sadly, it seems the publisher (CMP) have allowed this title to go out of print.  It keeps its place because if you see it, buy it!

5.  The Bible Among the Myths by John W. Oswalt

Oswalt is the well known author of a two volume Commentary on Isaiah and is at home in the OT background material he employs in this book.  His main aim is to demonstrate the uniqueness and superiority of the Biblical creation story and resulting worldview.  He does this very effectively by showing how all non-biblical creation myths are immanentistic and lack a transcendent Creator God.  Only in a few comments relating to the Greek philosophers is Oswalt off-base.


  1. I did my doctoral thesis on J.N. Darby.

    I have some reservations about Wilkinson’s work. I don’t like his description of Darby and other Dispensationalists as ‘zionists.’ Zionism is a political term with a political agenda.

    Darby believed that Israel would be restored to the promised land, but he would have been appalled at Christians who lobby on behalf of Israel. He would have seen such activity as ‘worldly’ and setting the stage for a Jewish antichrist in Israel.

  2. Thanks Matthew,

    Wilkinson is careful to define “Christian” as opposed to forms of Jewish Zionism including “Political” Zionism (Herzl et al) at the start of the book. I don’t like the term “Zionism” either, but it is used by “Christian” Palestinianists to describe any pro-Israel position (be it political or eschatological).

    In his 9 point definition of Christian Zionism (pp.13-14) he does say that others may disagree with him and that he will cite authors who would disagree. Darby may be one of them (I’ll leave that ball in your court).

    But I do agree with your last point. I may have missed where Wilkinson suggests this of Darby.

    I had planned a review of the book, but I’m presently working on a review of Sailhamer’s latest. If you have any additional comments for or against “For Zion’s Sake” I would like to read them.

    God bless you and yours.


  3. Wilkinson’s category of ‘Christian Zionists’ is remarkably abitrary. He says that it only includes Pre-Tribulationalists but gives no reason for this limitation. He never gives any coherent explanation of the difference between his two categories of ‘Christian Zionist’ and ‘Restorationist.’ Why was Darby a Christian Zionist and his Post-Tribulational associate/ opponent B.W. Newton a ‘Restorationist?’

    Why not use the old fashioned term ‘Dispensationalist? (which would have no political connotations, as has Zionist).

    One of the things that really surprised me is that a work on church history such as this makes so many political points about Israel and the Palestinians. I actually found that a little shocking. I know all academic works have their biases, but this book is really agenda-driven.

    I was amazed that Paternoster, one of the more liberal Evangelical publisher put this out. It is so different to their usual material.

  4. Yes, I think there is some arbitrariness there. First and foremost this is supposed to be a study of what might be called pro-Israel movements within the Church focusing esp. on Darby. I think he does that quite well.

    It’s difficult not to make political points when one is dealing with this subject, but what you have picked up on is his ongoing involvement in educating folks about the whole Sabeel movement. Whether it ought to be included in a work of history per se is another thing. I found it interesting and I think others will too. As you know much more about Darby than I do I would have no problem linking to any review of the book you might write.

    As for Paternoster, well, they have become more welcoming to certain evangelicals (Howard Marshall, Oliver Crisp) so perhaps they thought Wilkinson’s work was important as “another point of view.” Perhaps he has friends in the right places? 🙂

    Thanks again


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