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Stack of books at the bookshop

Open Book is a podcast sponsored by Ligonier Ministries. Stephen Nichols interviewed R.C. Sproul in its first season and John MacArthur this season in their respective libraries about authors and books that have had great influence on them.

The podcast got me thinking: what authors have influenced me? The first standard I used  was simply the number of books written by particulars author in my library, excluding commentaries. Here are five of the authors who appear most in my personal library.

  1. John MacArthur. I have more books written by MacArthur in my library than any other author. I’ve learned much from him and admire his faithfulness to Scripture.
  2. R.C. Sproul. Sproul’s influence on me has been immeasurable. From the holiness and sovereignty of God to an unwavering commitment to the gospel, I owe a debt of gratitude to him. I miss him.
  3. Jerry Bridges. The Pursuit of Holiness was my introduction to Bridges, which began  commitment to read everything he writes. I’ve almost achieved it. Bridges is faithful to the Word, simple yet profound, and encouraging.
  4. Francis Schaeffer. I’m glad I read Schaeffer as a new Christian because he helped shape my worldview. Some of his concepts were a bit beyond me, but as I re-read him, they became clearer. Schaeffer’s thinking and warnings stand up well today.
  5. C.S. Lewis. Mere Christianity was the first of many Lewis books. He has an engaging style and gives you a lot to think about. He was a professor of classics, and many of his  works are just that.

I need to point out that by mentioning these books and authors, I’m not endorsing everything they wrote.

So, what’s in your library?

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The Traditionalist Classic House Number TRN5-BL

Predestination is, and has been, a hot topic in the church.

In the Westminster Confession of Faith it’s defined as follows: “God, from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established (3.1).” In 3:2, the Confession states, “Although God knows whatsoever may or can come to pass upon all supposed conditions, yet hath He not decreed anything because He foresaw it as future, or as that which would come to pass upon such circumstances.”

We see the doctrine of predestination not only mentioned, but taught explicitly, in a number of passages of God’s Word: Psalm 139:16; Acts 2:23; 4:27; 13:48; Romans 8:29-30; 9:23; 1 Corinthians 2:7; Ephesians 1:5, 11; 2:10.

Here are five good books on the subject of predestination and it’s narrower aspect, election:

  1. Chosen by God by R.C. Sproul (Tyndale, 1986). This is the most readable treatment of the doctrine available.
  2. The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination by Loraine Boettner (Presbyterian & Reformed, 1932). This is the classic statement and defense of predestination and Calvinism as a whole.
  3. The Plan of Salvation by B.B. Warfield (Eerdman’s, 1942). A shorter treatment, but excellent nonetheless.
  4. The Justification of God: An Exegetical and Theological Study of Romans 9:1-23 by John Piper (Baker, 1983). If I’m not mistaken, this was Piper’s doctoral thesis.
  5. Chosen for Life: An Introductory Study of the Doctrine of Election by Sam Storms (Baker, 2000).

There are certainly more books that deal with predestination as it relates to salvation and also God’s providence in general, but any of these five would be good to start with, Enjoy!

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The Traditionalist Classic House Number TRN5-BL

Elisabeth Elliot, a godly and wise woman, graduated to glory earlier this week. Her death got me thinking about the many books she’s written. Here are five good books by Elisabeth Elliot in no particular order.

  1. Through Gates of Splendor. Elliot tells the story of the five young missionaries who were martyred at the hands of the Auca Indians in Central America in 1954.
  2. Shadow of the Almighty: The True Life and Testament of Jim Elliot. Elisabeth’s first husband’s life is chronicled. What a life it was!
  3. Passion and Purity: Learning to Bring Your Love Life Under Christ’s Control. A classic regarding God’s view of sex and intimacy under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
  4. A Chance to Die: The Life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael. Carmichael was a missionary in India for fifty-three years. She had a tremendous impact on an entire generation, largely due to Elliot’s attention.
  5. The Marks of a Man: Following Christ’s Example of Masculinity. A great book for men of all ages to read about how to be a godly man.

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Number5-2-L502

I’ve begun preaching through the Gospel of John and thought I’d pass along five good commentaries on the book. They’re not listed in order of importance or worth.

  1. John (from the Moody Gospel Commentary series) by J. Carl Laney. A unique feature is helpful tips for teachers and pastors.
  2. The Gospel of John by William Hendriksen. Thorough and scholarly, yet readable.
  3. The Gospel of John by James Montgomery Boice (5 volumes). Well done expositions (originally sermons) from an excellent preacher.
  4. The Gospel According to John by D.A. Carson. Technical at points, but practical, too.
  5. The Gospel According to John (from the New International Commentary on the New Testament) by Leon Morris. Excellent. Has become the standard work on John according to many.

Tolle lege!

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The Sermon on the Mount – Matthew 5 through 7 – is one of the most well-known and quoted passages in all of Scripture. But what does it mean? Jesus makes some unusual and even startling statements. The following five books help us get a handle on it. Of course there are more than five good books on Matthew 5-7, but these are a good lace to start. Please add your own, too.

  1. The Sermon on the Mount by James Montgomery Boice.
  2. Christian Counter-Culture by John R.W. Stott.
  3. The Sermon on the Mount: An Evangelical Exposition of Matthew 5-7 by D.A. Carson
  4. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Matthew 1-7 by John MacArthur. The section on the Sermon on the Mount is contained within a larger commentary, but MacArthur’s actual commentary would be book-length by itself.
  5. The Sermon on the Mount by Daniel Doriani.

Enjoy!

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Pluralism – the spirit of our age – teaches that all religions ultimately lead to God. Biblical Christianity teaches that, ultimately, the only way to God is through Jesus Christ (called exclusivism). The two questions that get to the core of pluralism are:

  1. Is Jesus Christ the only Savior?
  2. Is faith in Jesus Christ necessary to be saved?

For the last two Sundays, I preached a series on the biblical answer to pluralism and its half-measure cousin inclusivism. In my preparation, I came across five good books on the subject:

  1. The Gagging of God:  Christianity Confronts Pluralism by D.A. Carson.
  2. Jesus Among Other Gods: The Absolute Claims of the Christian Message by Ravi Zacharias.
  3. Why One Way? by John MacArthur.
  4. Is Jesus the Only Savior? by Ronald H. Nash.
  5. Is Jesus the Only One Way? by Philip Graham Ryken.

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Having nearly completed a series of sermons preaching through the book of Ephesians, it may be helpful to make a list of good and useful commentaries on the epistle. I’ve used each of these in my preparation – some more, some less.

  1. Ephesians: The Mystery of the Body of Christ by R. Kent Hughes. A good mix of exposition and application.
  2. Ephesians (Reformed Expository Commentary) by Bryan Chapell. More pastoral in nature, but deals well with the technical issues.
  3. Ephesians: An Expositional Commentary by James Montgomery Boice. A solid, well-done treatment, as are all of Boice’s works.
  4. Ephesians (The New Testament Commentary) by William Hendriksen. The most technical of those I’ve listed, though still practical.
  5. The Message of Ephesians (The Bible Speaks Today) by John R.W. Stott. Stott was nearly unrivaled in his ability to explain ideas clearly and concisely.

Honorable Mentions: The Bible Exposition Commentary by Warren Wiersbe. Ephesians by John Calvin. Ephesians (The MacArthur New Testament Commentary series) by John MacArthur.

A word about the use of commentaries: I use commentaries to “check my work,” so to speak. After I’ve done my own work of reading, studying, and attempting to apply the passage of Scripture I’ll be preaching, I consult the commentaries. I don’t go to them before I’ve done my own study because I don’t want my understanding of the passage colored by someone else’s thoughts. It’s important that I be able to determine what the Bible says and means, and not simply rely on the work of others.

Having said that, it would be foolish to ignore the collected wisdom of Spirit-filled men of God who’ve gone before me.They have something to teach me, therefore I need to listen. Commentaries let me know if I’ve missed something in my own study, or if I’m being “original” in the sense that I’ve come up with something no one else has (which will almost always be wrong). Consulting commentaries and commentators let me know if I’m on the right track and have a good understanding of the passage, as well as sharpening fuzzy thinking.

Commentaries are tools, not straitjackets.

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