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Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

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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stottbook

I like recommending books to people, but they have to be good books. As someone has said, “Life is too short to waste on bad theology.” There are times when a short answer will suffice, but not always. Good books can help us go deeper into a subject and give perspectives we may lack.

Basic Christianity, by John Stott, is one of those good books that takes us deeper and gives an in-depth explanation of what Christianity is and isn’t. Originally published in 1958 (and since updated), it has become a classic. The book serves an as introduction to Christianity for the inquirer and a good reminder for Christians who want to brush up on the basics.

Who is Jesus? Stott answers the question by focusing on the claims, character, and resurrection of Jesus in part one. Part two deals with man’s need – the fact and nature of sin, and the consequences of sin. The third part of the book answers the question of the work of Christ. What He did is explained through His death and the salvation it brings to sinful man. In the fourth part, Stott explains man’s response to what Christ has done: counting the cost, reaching a decision, and being a Christian.

This is a good, well-written book. It also fits another of my criteria – it’s under two hundred pages. (That’s not a hard and fast rule, but the vast majority of books don’t need to go beyond two hundred pages.) Read Basic Christianity yourself and give away copies. You’ll be glad you did!

 

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The apostle Paul is one of the most, if not the most, important Christian who has ever lived. His conversion and subsequent life of ministry is powerful evidence for the reality and truth of the Christian faith.

Renowned and respected scholar F.F. Bruce’s book Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free provides an in-depth overview of Paul’s upbringing, conversion, ministry, teachings, and travels. Bruce includes quite a bit of information about the Roman empire and the world in which Paul lived. This book is a goldmine of information!

I highly recommend Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free. If I ever teach a class on the life and ministry of Paul, this will be the textbook.

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World chose The Prodigal Church: A Gentle Manifesto Against the Status Quo as one of it’s four top books in the category of accessible theology. Here’s a quote from the book’s author Jared Wilson:

Grace is what makes Christianity unique among all world religions and philosophies…None of us would have come up with the concept of divine unmerited favor. None of us would have invented the notion that we cannot be good enough or smart enough, that we could not somehow become gods ourselves.

Here are another few good quotes:

If the purpose of worship is to feel good, we stop worshipping God.

Preaching even a ‘positive’ practical message with no gospel-centrality amounts to preaching the law…Don’t treat the Bible as an instruction manual. Treat it as a life preserver.

What you win them with is what you win them to.

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Francis Schaeffer wrote all of these words in 1968, but they accurately explain our current cultural climate. You might even say they are prophetic.

The present chasm between the generations has been brought about almost entirely by a change in the concept of truth.

The tragedy of our situation today is that men and women are being fundamentally  affected by the new way of looking at truth and yet they have never even analyzed the drift which has taken place. Young people from Christian homes are brought up in the old framework of truth. Then they are subjected to the modern framework. In time they become confused because they do not understand the alternatives with which they are being presented. Confusion becomes bewilderment, and before long they are overwhelmed. This is unhappily true not only of young people, but of many pastors, Christian educators, evangelists, and missionaries as well.

He speaks of presuppositions that people who lived in Europe held before 1890 and that people from the Unites States held until about 1935.

Before these dates everyone would have been working on much the same presuppositions, which in practice seemed to accord with the Christian’s own presuppositions…

What were those presuppositions? The basic one was that there really are such things as absolutes. They accepted the possibility of an absolute in the area of Being (or knowledge), and in the area of morals. Therefore, because they accepted the possibility of absolutes, though men might disagree as to what these were, nevertheless they could reason together on the classical basis of antithesis. So if anything was true, the opposite was false. In morality, if one thing was right, its opposite was wrong. This little formula, ‘If you have A, it is not non-A,’ is the first move in classical logic. If you understand the extent to which this no longer holds sway, you will understand our present situation.

The shift has been tremendous. Thirty or more years ago you could have said such things as ‘This is true’ or ‘This is right,’ and you would have been on everybody’s wavelength. People may or may not have thought out their beliefs consistently, but everyone would have been talking to each other as though the idea of antithesis was correct. Thus in evangelism, in spiritual matters and in Christian education, you could have begun with the certainty the your audience understood you.

 

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schaeffer

On the recommendation of James White (of Alpha and Omega Ministries), I’m going to start re-reading the Francis Schaeffer trilogy. The God Who is There and Escape from Reason were published in 1968, while He Is There and He Is Not Silent came along four years later in 1972. Although Schaeffer wrote these books nearly fifty years ago, the ideas he presented help explain where we are today as a culture.

Our society is coming apart at the seams very quickly. The police-involved deaths, along with the assassination of five police officers (not to mention the reactions), brought it to our attention this last week. None of us could have imagined how much things have changed in the last ten years. Calls for unity (“Can’t we all just get along!”) have very little chance of being answered for one simple reason – we no longer share the same worldview. Almost all Americans, until now, have shared the Judeo-Christian worldview, even if they weren’t believers in Christ. That’s no longer true. Schaefer explains why in his trilogy.

I read these books in 1981 or 1982 when I was a very new Christian and found them fascinating. They should be nothing less this time around. White also suggested reading Brave New World by Aldous Huxley and 1984 by George Orwell to further understand the times we live in.

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