Ten Books To Read Before Seminary

Years ago, before I attended London Theological Seminary I was given a list of books to acquire and read prior to starting my courses.  I can’t remember all of the titles on the list (there were ten I believe), but I do recall plowing my way through Calvin’s Institutes, Machen’s New Testament Introduction, Hendriksen’s Survey of the Bible, Merrill’s Kingdom of Priests.

Along with the Bible, which should have been read once through at least (!) before even contemplating going to Seminary, here is a list of books which I would strongly recommend a young preacher to read prior taking the leap:

1. Memoir and Remains of Robert Murray M’Cheyne by A. A. Bonar, or Memoirs of Thomas Boston edited by George Morrison

The M’Cheyne biography is short but leaves an impression of a sold-out life.  Boston’s Memoirs are longer and a tad more difficult, but they portray a pastor’s heart in a small village surroundings.  Another great work would be J.C. Ryle’s Christian Leaders of the Eighteenth Century.

2. Lectures to my Students by C.H. Spurgeon, or Preaching and Preachers by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Spurgeon for practical advice delivered with humor; MLJ for focus on what a preacher should (and should not) be.

3. History of the Christian Church by Williston Walker, or (if Walker is too much), Christianity Through the Centuries by Earle Cairns

Walker is the best single volume church history in my opinion.  Like most church historians, he has his biases.

4. The Mystery of Providence by John Flavel, or Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices by Thomas Brooks

This assumes one has read Pilgrim’s Progress.  Flavel is a bit easier than Brooks, mainly because Brooks is the archetypal Puritan who breaks every point down into 14 separate heads.  

5. Handbook of Evangelical Theology by Robert Lightner

A very good basic introduction to Theology.

6. Spiritual Depression by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Bad title (it’s more about spiritual mindedness), but a terrific example of exposition and application.

7. Arminian Theology: Myths & Realities by Roger Olson

I include this because Arminianism is apt to be caricatured more than Calvinism.

8. Evangelical Hermeneutics: The Old and the New by Robert L. Thomas

Contemporary evangelical hermeneutics is in a self-satisfied tailspin.  This book helps illustrate the dangers and reintroduces some common sense.

9. The Ultimate Proof of Creation by Jason Lisle

Lisle manages to introduce the reader to presuppositonal apologetics, logic, and young-earth creationism all at once.

10. The Promise-Plan of God by Walter Kaiser

I don’t agree with Kaiser all the time, and I think he pushes the promise – fulfillment thing too far (like most evangelicals!).  but this is a very good overview of biblical theology.


5 thoughts on “Ten Books To Read Before Seminary”

  1. Thanks for a great list of informative books. (I like how you include THE Book *before* the list of 10 — wish that were a “given”, but nowadays one can never be too sure…) Am adding the M’Cheyne book to my own to-read list in the next twelve months, as well as the Brooks and Flavel. CHS is a hands-down favorite… How did he get so many of his sermons transcribed? Or… did he perhaps read them directly from his own mss, Jonathan Edwards-style?


    God *can* be trusted. He *keeps* His promises. He *never* makes “mistakes”!

    1. Grace,

      Welcome. Spurgeon had a stenographer write his sermons down.. He often went into the pulpit with just a basic outline. In his earlier years he wrote sermons out though. FYI, Edwards did not always take a full ms. into the pulpit.

      God bless,

      Paul H.

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