I read 42 books this year. This is a bit less than in 2019, likely because I spent much less time in the car and so didn’t listen to nearly as many audiobooks. A good minority of these were assigned reading for my doctoral program. A few brief thoughts:
- I am increasingly frustrated with theological writing that is ponderous and just plain bad. This isn’t a unique observation, but I grow weary of passive voice and bloated writing that just can’t get to the point. It was a joy to discover Jurgen Moltmann is a jewel of clarity and conciseness.
- The books I read to better understand the racial issues in American history were profoundly moving and sobering.
- It was refreshing and paradigm-shattering to read theologians from outside (sometimes far outside) the normal conservative evangelical bubble.
I hope you find my brief notes on the following volumes helpful. There is some very good stuff here. You may disagree with my comments on some of these volumes, and you’re certainly welcome to. Reading thoughtful people is always rewarding, even if your basic takeaway is negative!
A ho-hum book of essays of varied quality. Al Mohler contributes a workmanlike chapter on the necessity of expository preaching. J. Ligon Duncan offers up two chapters making a representative, Reformed case for the regulative principle of worship. Derek Thomas presents an often angry response to common objections to the regulative principle, full of arcane insider-baseball discussions and so many strawmen that his chapter ought to come with a disclaimer from the fire marshal.
There is nothing new here for any pastor who received training from a decent seminary.
An unnecessary and ponderous text that sets out to prove the biblical authors were aware of and expanded upon previous revelation. There is nothing new here for any pastor who believes and holds to the three Chicago Statements on inerrancy, hermenutics and application. I suspect Chou’s intended audience is a bible major undergraduate. Pretend you just read 350 pages in which the author labors to prove to you the sky looks blue, and you may begin to understand the depth of my exasperation.
See my review.
A great book. An important book. Here is a worthy review.
Kaiser’s work is a good introductory book for a new pastor or a seminary student. I think Kaiser’s preaching methodology is mechanical and artificial. See my review.
I think Alexander needs to be read with caution. He falls victim to the siren song of parallel-o-mania. But, his basic framework in this biblical theology text was helpful to me. See my review.
A very great book. Kuruvilla is the best writer I’ve yet encountered on preaching. He has helped me greatly. I can’t recommend enough! See my review.
A very helpful book comparing different homiletical styles.
Burton wrote an outstanding book about the various replacements for religion that have cropped up in recent years. Very helpful. Frightening. It helps you better understand this mad, mad world.
A good book by the now-former Roman Catholic Archbishop of Philadelphia. Like Strange Rites, it’s a cultural analysis book that helpfully frames what’s happening in the West.
A provocative book by a rebel theologian. Moltmann explodes the categories of classical theism and advocates a social, relational framework for understanding the Trinity. In short, Moltmann’s theology proper is everything the classical Reformed theologians hate.
A good book, despite the fact Tripp is a more than a bit removed from the life of a “normal” pastor and this makes some of his anecdotes more annoying than helpful. See my review.
A wonderful little book which charts the history of the American flavor of this movement. Kidd offers some excellent pushback against the evangelical machine’s obsession with politics during the last two generations.
A disappointingly weak entry in an otherwise outstanding series from Oxford. White has a thematic arrangement, rather than a chronological focus. This makes his book hard to follow. I gave up about two-thirds of the way through. Disappointed.
A very important book. Essential for gaining a well-rounded understanding of an important and tragic time in our nation’s history.
Perhaps the saddest book I’ve ever read. Absolutely horrifying.
A helpful little book.
King earned a Pulitzer for this one. Shocking. Horrifying. Beautifully written. Sobering. Probably the best book I read in 2020.
A great book from the Oxford series. I learned a lot. One of the most enjoyable books I read in 2020.
The was just the worst book ever. Terrible. I can’t describe how awful it is. Read my review, if you dare.
Like Stott’s work (above), this is a helpful little book.
A great read. Nothing new here at all, but enjoyable. Atkinson’s specialty is exhaustively documented narrative history, and he doesn’t disappoint in this first entry in his Revolutionary War trilogy.
I read this to get Gregory’s opinion on the doctrine of eternal generation. I sure got it!
Outstanding book. The best thing I’ve ever read on teleology.
Great book. Allport attempts to rescue Chamberlain a bit, and does a persuasive job of it.
Good book. A bit breezy and light, but that’s what you get when you commission a historian to take a history text up to the year 2000.
Another wonderful book from the Oxford series. Great stuff. I learned a lot.
Frightening and sobering book.
A provocative little book by Jenson, a late Lutheran theologian. Again, this guy’s theology proper makes the Reformed crowd spit fire.
It’s a classic for a reason.
A helpful book. I corresponded with the author a bit. See my review.
An inspiring, classic missionary biography.
The best book on the Trinity I’ve ever read. Erickson imbibes a non-classical theology proper and a social, relational Trinitarian frame work from Wolfhart Pannenberg, Jurgen Moltmann and Leonardo Boff, then baptizes them in the laver of evangelical orthodoxy and presents it to the Church as a gift. I read this in 2019, and re-read it again this past year.
I re-read this book this year.
Good, thought-provoking theology from a theologian outside the American evangelical bubble.
A wonderful theology. It’s fair to say Brunner does not like classical theology proper. He presents a much more relational, personal, loving God than the typical Reformed works that come from a classical perspective. His translator was superb.
Brunner’s comments on the Church and the nature of faith and belief are excellent. His eschatology falls off a cliff into mysticism.
Thought-provoking and important book. See my review.
Good little book.
Another good little book.
I really hated this book. See my review.
Boff presents a social, relational framework for the Trinity and uses that as a platform for church government and society. Boff is a Roman Catholic, Marxist liberation theologian.
A basic little book that I found unnecessary and ultimately unhelpful.
This is Brunner’s eschatology, which is the genesis of what he later covers in volume three of his dogmatics. As I mentioned above, Brunner falls off the cliff into mysticism here. His constant refrain runs thus: “the New Testament says xxx, but modern man can’t accept that kind of thing, so it can’t mean xxx, but I don’t really know what it means … but when Jesus returns it’ll be wonderful!” That’s cute, but it’s a bit like eating a Rice Krispie treat. It might taste ok, but it’s pretty insubstantial and might even make you sick.