Thought I would write a quick post on some of the books I think are important acquisitions for a Christian’s library. If you don’t yet have them (and in some cases, if you can get them), you should try to acquire them. The list is somewhat eclectic and does not pander to what’s new, although some new titles were deliberately included.
This is not a Top Ten list, but all the books are, in my opinion, must haves.
1. Systematic Theology by John Frame
Although Frame said (in Salvation Belongs to the Lord) that he probably wouldn’t write a full scale Systematics, this book lives up to its promise. It does not bother to interact with the never-ending swell of scholars’ opinions. Instead, Frame quotes whom he must and concentrates on theological exposition. He does not argue his covenant theology, but simply assumes it. Nevertheless, this is a great book.
2. Systematic Theology: The Beauty of Christ by Douglas F. Kelly
The second and much anticipated volume of Kelly’s magnum opus (I was starting to wonder if we would see this volume). Kelly’s handling of the material and his catholic appreciation of Christianity, while remaining Reformed, is noteworthy. So too is his use of patristic and classic resources.
3. The Works of Hugh Binning
From the age of the Puritans comes this terrific big book of Binning’s theological sermons and writings. The style is analytical and precise but clear and spiritual. They evince a maturity which men three times his age never achieved. Just as well, since Binning died young. I love these sermons!
4. The Christian Mind by Harry Blamires
This book certainly deserves to be called a classic. It remains one of the best internal critiques of the way evangelical Christianity has sacrificed the place of the mind in its self-understanding (far better than Mark Noll). He wrote two follow-ups: Recovering the Christian Mind and The Post-Christian Mind. They are both worthy. The latter one does a very good job of showing how words are disconnected from their meanings and misused nowadays (which is ironic in an age of deconstructionism). Two other hard to find but fine works are The Secularist Heresy and The Will and the Way.
5. The Meaning of the Pentateuch by John Sailhamer
A brilliant piece of exegetical and theological scholarship which has not been given the attention it deserves. No easy ride, but worth the effort to get through. His chapters on covenant and on Jesus in the OT are superb correctives to much of the misguided Biblical Theology being produced by evangelical scholars today.
6. Darwin’s Doubt by Stephen Meyer
Now with a chapter responding to his critics, this book and its excellent precursor, Signature in the Cell, inform us about the wonderful intricacies of life while clearly showing up the haplessness of evolutionary efforts to explain what is being discovered. Another book worth mentioning is Cornelius Hunter’s very helpful Science’s Blind Spot. The author shows how bad [natural] theology contributed to the push for methodological naturalism.
7. C. S. Lewis at the Breakfast Table ed. by James Como
A selection of pieces written by those who either knew or studied with Lewis, or else have been followers of his work. This book really helps to set Lewis in his context as well as to show his patience and humility. Only two chapters are disappointing.
8. Miracles by Craig Keener
Keener is one of the clearest scholarly writers around. His (profuse} use of sources is a model for any writer. This two volume book demonstrates the same careful balance as his previous and outstanding Historical Jesus of the Gospels, of which it is a kind of sequel. Keener gives the reader exposure to lots of useful background on miracles in ancient sources. He then shows how Hume’s arguments are in fact question-begging and how (he thinks) the tide is turning on the question. His cumulative documenting of many cases of healings, etc. is difficult to ignore. While not always convincing, this is a powerful resource which brings the question of miracles before us more than any other work.
9. Van Til’s Apologetic by Greg Bahnsen
Bahnsen’s knowledge of Van Til’s presuppositional method was encyclopedic. His sympathy with Van Til and improvement of aspects of his thought make this the book on the subject. Bahnsen’s Always Ready is still the best introduction to presuppositionalism.
10. Do You Know Jesus? by Adolf Schlatter
Writing approximately between the end of the 19th century and the period just before WW2, Schlatter was one of the top NT scholars of his era. These meditations are short but engage the mind as much as the heart. They follow the career of Jesus. As such they provide spiritual food for thought on the only human being who really matters.
Honorary mention: Critical Stages of Biblical Counseling by Jay Adams
This books concerns itself with the first session, the “turning point”, and the end session of counseling. The advice is mature and sage from the doyen of the Biblical Counseling movement (although some of them seem to have forgotten it). A very helpful book.