Here is my annual list of the non-fiction books I read last year. 12 of these are for a Doctor of Ministry class I was prepping for; this accounts for the unusually high total book count.
I had great fun reading this year. About half of these I actually listened to on digital audiobook, and never read. It’s a great way to redeem the time you spend in your daily commute. Who knows what books 2020 will bring …
1: God in Three Persons: A Contemporary Interpretation of the Trinity by Millard Erickson
An excellent book; the most helpful work on the Trinity I’ve read, along with Carl Beckwith’s The Holy Trinity. I reflected on some lessons Erickson’s book taught me about what to emphasize when I teach about the Trinity in a systematic, comprehensive fashion … if I ever manage to do it!
Great book. Franklin was truly a genius, blessed by God with many talents and abilities. It’s a shame his enlightenment context prevented him from seeing his need for salvation through Jesus Christ.
3: Was America Founded as a Christian Nation? by John Fea
I’ve never appreciated revisionist or partisan attempts to re-frame history to suit a particular narrative. Christians are very guilty of this crime. John Fea, a Christian historian at an undergraduate liberal arts institution, does an excellent job of analyzing this question from many different angles. The answer is “it depends,” and he spends the book explaining why.
This book’s chief value to me, besides the analysis of a complicated historical question, are the numerous titles in the footnotes that will lead me to further reading.
The title says it all. John Fea uses Fithian, a Revolutionary War-era Presbyterian minister from rural Pennsylvania, as a foil to discuss how the enlightenment impacted educated colonists in rural America. Good book.
5: Who’s Tampering With the Trinity? An Assessment of the Subordination Debate by Millard Erickson
This is only one of three books, that I’m aware of, that contends that the eternal functional subordinationist position with regards to Christ is a dangerous teaching. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It’s a watershed look at a very dangerous teaching. Erickson, in his trademark way, examines the other side fairly and objectively, then presents his own analysis. He does a masterful job. Indeed, this is perhaps the last great work from one of the best conservative theologians of the 20th century.
6: American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House by Jon Meacham
I gave up this book halfway through. I didn’t enjoy the detailed discussions about the gossipy intrigues of Jackson’s extended family. I understand it was part of the context of Jackson’s presidency, but I still didn’t want to hear about it. I’d have preferred to read a history about Jackson “the man,” and an analysis of his accomplishments and missteps as President. If I wanted a soap opera, I’d have turned on When Calls the Heart – at least that show always has a happy ending.
7: Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life by William Deresiewicz
8: No Higher Honor: A Memoir of My Years in Washington by Condoleeza Rice
9: Jesus and Pharisees by A.T. Robertson
10: The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America by Frances Fitzgerald.
Good book. See my review.
12: A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal by Ben Macintyre
13: Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad
14: John Adams by David McCullough
15: The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William L. Shirer
16: The Korean War by Max Hastings
17: Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert by Rosaria Butterfield
18: Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
19: The Meaning of Everything: The Story of the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester
20: Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin by Masha Geesen
21: God the Father Almighty: A Contemporary Exploration of the Divine Attributes by Millard Erickson
22: The End of White Christian America by Robert Jones
Great book; see my review.
23: Resident Aliens: Life in the Christian Colony by Stanley Hauerwas and William Willimon
24: The Confessions by Augustine
25: Leading in Prayer: A Workbook for Ministers by Hughes Oliphant Old
26: Gathering: A Theology and Spirituality of Worship in the Free Church Tradition by Christopher J. Ellis
27: Catastrophe 1914: Europe Goes to War by Max Hastings
28: One in Hope and Doctrine: Origins of Baptist Fundamentalism 1870 – 1950 by Kevin Bauder and Robert Delnay.
Read this one a few years ago. Read it again, and absorbed much more. Northern Baptists need to read this book and understand their history – especially my brethren in the GARBC or one of its regional associations.
29: To the Praise of His Glory: B. Myron and Thelma M. Cederholm by Larry Oats
A short, breezy biography of the founder of Maranatha Baptist Bible College, now University. I attended Seminary here, and will forever be glad for the precious theological education I received.
For me, this book’s value was not in gaining insight into Cederholm, who I never knew and whose legacy had no impact on me. Rather, it helped augment the story of northern Baptist fundamentalism in my mind, as I’d just finished Bauder and Delnay’s One in Hope and Doctrine. That story ended in 1950, and Cederholm entered from stage right with the Conservative Baptist movement in 1947. If you view Cederholm as a foil to tell the story of the Conservative Baptists, then this book is very helpful and very nice. Truth be told, I’d likely have gone with the so-called “soft core” Conservative Baptists in the big split in the early 1960s.
Larry Oats, the former Dean of Maranatha Baptist Seminary, wrote the book and the University published it. So, it isn’t surprising to see that it’s rather hagiographic. This is not a critical look at Cederholm or the Conservative Baptist movement. It’s a light, insider view of a man who played a pivotal role in northern Baptist fundamentalism for many decades.
30: Scientism and Secularism: Learning to Respond to a Dangerous Ideology by J.P. Moreland
31: Visible Saints: The History of a Puritan Idea by Edmund S. Morgan
32: Homosexuality and the Christian: A Guide for Parents, Pastors, and Friends by Mark Yarhouse
One of the best books on the homosexual issue from a traditional perspective. See my review.
33: Slaves, Women & Homosexuals: Exploring the Hermeneutics of Cultural Analysis by William J. Webb
Excellent and insightful. See my review.
Dwyer is a gay Episcopal priest who argues that the Biblical authors didn’t have a Biblical worldview, that all sexual relations in the ancient world were about power, lust and violence, and that all homosexual references in the Bible aren’t really saying what we think.
I emailed Dwyer about his “sex in ancient world = lust, power and violence” thesis, and asked whether Song of Solomon hurt his thesis. He didn’t respond. I wonder why …
35: Is God Anti-Gay? by Sam Allberry
No, He’s anti sin. A good book. See my review.
36: God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships by Matthew Vines
A very dangerous and very important work. A prototype of how to misinterpret and twist the Scriptures for narcissistic ends. See my review.
37: The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics by Robert Gagnon
38: What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality? by Kevin DeYoung
Gagnon-lite. See my review.
39: Transforming Homosexuality: What the Bible Says about Sexual Orientation and Change by Denny Burk and Heath Lambert
Perhaps the best book available on this topic. See my review.
40: Spiritual Friendship: Finding Love in the Church as a Celibate Gay Christian by Wesley Hill
An important book from a same-sex attracted Christian committed to celibacy. See my review.
One of the most frustrating and disappointing books I’ve ever read. See my review.
42: God and the Gay Christian?: A Response to Matthew Vines ed. Albert Mohler
See my review.
43: When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment by Ryan Anderson
Horrifying; see my review.
44: Onward! by Russell Moore
45: Letters to My Students: Volume 1: On Preaching by Jason Allen
Very basic. Probably won’t buy the next volume.
46: Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. by Ron Chernow
Probably the most enjoyable book I read last year.