Our Top Ten Books of 2009
In no particular order here are ten books that particularly stood out to me this year. This is by no means an exhaustive list. No doubt there are other ones you may think deserve a place in this list. These just happen to be my personal favorites.
The Marrow of Modern Divinity
An intriguing book, quite unlike any other, The Marrow of Modern Divinity defies categorisation. It is penned as dialogue between a minister (Evangelista), a young Christian (Neophytus), a legalist (Nomista) who believes Christianity is a set of rules to be obeyed and (Antinomista) who thinks sinning is not a big issue as God will forgive him anyway. The result is a wonderfully insightful book that remains tremendously relevant. This book is a classic on the gospel - not many books like it and we are dleighted that Christian Heritage has republished this work in such a beautiful easy-to-read format, with Thomas Boston's notes both on the edges and at the end of chapters. Clearly my favorite of the year.
Finally Alive by John Piper
There are very few doctrines, if any, that are more central to the distinction between true Christianity and false religion than the doctrine of the new birth, or regeneration. That is why we are at pains to specifically focus on this doctrine at Monergism. When a very religious Nicodemus sought Jesus out by night, it was the doctrine of the new birth that proved him an unbeliever, still dead in his sins. When the gnostic heretics were filling the church with confusion in John's day, it was the doctrine of the new birth, over and over again, that he used to distinguish true believers from false imposters. And so today, if we would learn what it really is to be a Christian â€“ what distinguishes a true Christian from a merely religious person, how a person becomes a true Christian, what true Christianity looks like in a person's everyday life â€“ it must be the biblical teaching on the doctrine of regeneration that informs our understanding. John Piper's new book, Finally Alive, is a lucid and compelling study of this vital doctrine. Argued adroitly from a wide range of scriptural passages, and applied poignantly and appropriately to the state of the Church in modern America, Finally Alive cannot fail to have a dramatic impact on our understanding of what a Christian really is, how we can examine our own hearts to discern if we are truly in the faith, and how we can labor more passionately and effectively for the gospel-accomplishment of regeneration in the hearts of those all around us and across the world who are still dead in trespasses and sins. This is not just first-rate exegesis â€“ it is convicting, practical, exhortational material. Highly recommended!
A Treatise on the Law and Gospel
Having never before read any of John Colquhoun's considerable output, and only having, for that matter, a very sketchy idea of his place and significance in Reformed history, I was eager to get into what I thought could not but be his most important work, a treatise on the sum of biblical revelation, considered under the headings of Law and Gospel; but if I was eager beforehand, my enthusiasm only grew from the first page and on. â€œHow,â€ I wondered, â€œdid so insightful, meticulous, and applicational a writer escape my notice for so long?â€. The treatise was a feast, and served further to drive home to me the unparalleled tendency of the historic Reformed faith to ground its adherents in the vast and glorious freedom of the Gospel, and always in such a way as not to minimize a life of practical holiness, but rather to excite and encourage true piety and devotion. I would earnestly recommend A Treatise on the Law and the Gospel to anyone at all, and in order to lend force to my recommendation, I would mention a few outstanding features of the work.
Risking the Truth: Handling Error in the Church, by Martin Downes
Risking the Truth is one of the most innovative and interesting books I have come across this year. Structurally, I have never encountered a book quite the same: in addressing a unified question, that of heresy within the Church, it draws on the insights and contributions of many leading Christian pastors, teachers, and theologians across the world (and the selection of contributors, by the way, is absolutely superb!); and yet it is not exactly like any other example of multi-author works available. It is not a collection of essays or chapters on assigned topics, but rather a series of one-on-one interviews, conducted by Downes, which make for a unique set of enjoyable benefits that I discovered to be consistently threefold at least: first is the benefit of a personal glimpse into the lives and ministries of humble and capable men of God; second, immense collective insight into how to discern and address heresy within the Church; and third, analyses and reflections upon specific modern errors and heresies by those who are leading experts in their particular fields.
The Law Is Not of Faith , by Bryan D. Estelle, J.V. Fesko, and David VanDrunen
In recent Reformed treatments of Covenant Theology, there have been several trajectories tending to emphasize ever more strongly the continuity between the Abrahamic, Sinaitic, and New covenants as different administrations of the Covenant of Grace, and correspondingly, to de-emphasize any discontinuities that may exist, particularly when it comes to the works-principle so evident in the giving of the Law, and in Paul's treatment of the Mosaic administration. Examples include John Murray's â€œmonocovenantalism,â€ the New Perspective on Paul, and the Federal Vision, but the impact is wider than these examples might suggest, even to the extent that any suggestion within Reformed circles that Sinai entailed, in some sense, a republication of the Covenant of Works, is often met with stiff resistance and charges of Lutheran or (worse yet!) Dispensational influences. But does this widespread reaction against the teaching of republication have roots in historic Reformed thought? And more importantly, can it find support in the whole tenor of the Pentateuch and in the prophets and apostles who later interpreted it? According to the authors of The Law Is Not of Faith, the answer to that question is a resounding â€œNo!â€; and in support of that contention, they have mounted a redoubtable defense. This is stimulating, well-researched and exegetically-formidable writing, and at the same time it is very pertinent to many of the most hotly contended issues in Reformed theology today. I earnestly recommend it.
A Praying Life , by Paul Miller
While there are a multitude of resources out there on prayer, this one stood out as worth my time. Devotionally rich and profoundly insightful.
Counterfeit Gods , by by Tim Keller
In a very insightful examination of our cultural â€œgodsâ€ the things we look to for meaning and success, Keller diagnoses our true underlying problems, which go far beneath the panic we felt when the stock market crashed, and gives hope for a true and lasting solution. My personal favorite of Keller's books! In it he has displayed some amazing acuity in uncovering our â€œcounterfeit godsâ€ and that matters tremendously. Because the idols that we follow are not genies we control to get what we want, they are tyrants that control us and then destroy and forsake us. â€œIdols control us, since we feel we must have them or life is meaninglessâ€. So instead of looking to those tyrannical traitors for what we want, we need to look for satisfaction in the God who really does reign, but is not a tyrant. How? â€œWe have to know, to be assured, that God so loves, cherishes, and delights in us that we can rest our hearts in him for our significance and security and handle anything that happens in lifeâ€ â€“ and we really can come to that assurance, but only if â€œwe look at his sacrifice on the cross, and say to God, 'Now we know that you love us. For you did not withhold your son, your only son, whom you love, from us'â€.
Who Made God? ? by Edgar Andrews.
With the many responses to the new atheists out there, this is perhaps one of the most intelligent!. Andrews gives are very reasonable approach to refuting the presuppositions of atheism. Fun to read.
Why Johnny Canâ€™t Preach by T. David Gordon.
This is a must read book for all preachers of the gospel as it relates to how media and society have shaped our messages. This is a book to be thankful for and has been a blessing to those I know who have read it.
CrossTalk: Where Life & Scripture Meet by Michael R. Emlet
I wanted to find a practical book among the more theological ones above and this book immediately came to mind. It is a book for all people active in personal ministry --- "ministryâ€”counselor, pastor, discipler, spiritual mentor, small-group leader, campus ministry worker, youth leader, crisis pregnancy worker, or intentional friend."Samuel Logan says, "This is simply the best book about the nature and function of the Bible that I have ever read! Dr. Emlet has written a superb book, which anyone who wants to understand and apply the Bible really MUST read! "