What I read in 2022

What I read in 2022

I do most of my “reading” by audiobook, while driving to and from work. I read 59 books this past year. Some biography, some history, some theology, and a lot of Christian religious and social history. Here’s the list; perhaps you’ll grab some of these and find them helpful. See also my lists from 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, and 2017.

My Top 10 Books of 2022

A Gospel for the Poor: Global Social Christianity and the Latin American Evangelical Left by David Kirkpatrick. An extraordinary book that opened my eyes to the Latin American wing of evangelicalism and introduced me to Rene Padilla (et al), the Lausanne Covennant, and the concept of integral mission.

The Journey of Modern Theology by Roger Olson. Olson’s magnum opus, a historical survey of modern theology. I was introduced to more thinkers in this book than I ever have from one volume. Accurate, engaging. It expands your horizons and makes you realize how small a world your particular theological tribe inhabits. Very, very helpful.

Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation by Kristin Kobes DuMez. I also read this in 2021, but decided to review it once more. This is an astounding book. It gave me the framework for understanding white evangelicalism as a sociological category, rather than simply a set of shared theological commitments. Very well-written, and engaging. This is a landmark book that came along at the right time.

Deep State: Trump, the FBI, and the Rule of Law by James B. Stewart. An outstanding piece of journalism about the entire Trump + FBI investigation debacle. Very informative. Stewart gave a one-hour talk about this book which I found fascinating.

White Evangelicals and Right-Wing Populism by Marcia Pally. An astonishing work, short, but packing a large punch. Its value is Pally’s discussion of populism and its triggers applied to Trump and the current evangelical scene. Pally gave one of the best interviews I’ve ever heard here if you wish to get a preview of the book.

The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan. An earth-shattering classic. This work is generally credited with launching second-wave feminism in the United States. It examines “the problem that has no name;” the mid-century, middle-class, white housewife’s sense of loneliness, despair, and purposelessness because she was socialized to not expect or want an identity of her own–everything was subsumed into her husband and family. I see some flavors of complementarian Christianity basically want to enshrine this imaginary utopia as the Christian ideal. I say no. A truly remarkable book.

Mission Between the Times by Rene Padilla. Everything about this little collection of essays is so great. It’s like a breath of fresh air because it doesn’t come from the white, conservative evangelical world. Every pastor or thinking Christian would benefit greatly from reading this volume. Padilla focuses on our “mission between the times” of Jesus’ advents, with critiques of the Western evangelical framework and the incessant wedge it wishes to drive between social responsibility and the Gospel. He comes from Latin American evangelicalism and a completely different context, so his insights are quite refreshing. Padilla did his PhD under F.F. Bruce.

Apostles of Reason: The Crisis of Authority in American Evangelicalism by Molly Worthen. This is a book for the ages. A survey of evangelical intellectual life in the 20th century. Worthen sees evangelicalism as being shaped by a “crisis of authority,” as they tried to balance competing and contradictory emphases and forge an identity.

While they differ from one another on the details of their ideas about God and humankind, three elemental concerns unite them: how to repair the fracture between spiritual and rational knowledge; how to assure salvation and a true relationship with God; and how to resolve the tension between the demands of personal belief and the constraints of a secularized public square. These are problems of intellectual and spiritual authority. None, on its own, is unique to evangelicals. But in combination, under the pressures of Western history, and in the absence of a magisterial arbiter capable of settling uncertainties and disagreements, these concerns have shaped a distinctive spiritual community.

Worthen, Molly. Apostles of Reason (p. 4).

How to be Evangelical Without Being Conservative by Roger Olson. Everything about this little book is refreshing, correct, wholesome, and good. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. For people like me, who are somewhat disillusioned with the tradition they inherited, Olson’s project here is a breath of delightfully fresh air.

The Fifties by David Halberstam. Delightful, majestic, very impressive book. I don’t know how Halberstam did it. It’s a series of chapters of various popular figures, events, and cultural touchpoints of the 1950s. He argues that the chaos of the 1960s didn’t come from nowhere–the foundations were all laid in the 1950s, which are typically remembered in sepia as Mayberry. Without a doubt this was the most enjoyable book I read this year.

The Rest of Them from 2022

Axioms of Religion by Edgar Y. Mullins. An older book (ca. 1908) by the former President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. It presents the Baptist view of Christianity in a comprehensive, winsome way that will benefit any reader. Mullins frames Christianity as a series of axioms which the Baptist ethos best supports. Likely the best apologetic for Baptist polity that I’ve yet read. It’s a shame it’s not well known, today.

The Christian View of Science and Scripture by Bernard Ramm. This was paradigm-shattering for me. Though this work is well-nigh 70 years old, it still captures the basic issues and does it very well. Ramm came out for progressive creationism in an intelligent, winsome way. If you come from a tradition which believes Ken Ham is the 13th apostle, that the Ark Encounter is a good thing, and that the Institute for Creation Research is the only faithful place where science can be done from a faithful Christian perspective, then Ramm will either enlighten you or make you really mad. His burden was to issue a call for charity and clear thinking on science and Scripture. Did he succeed? Read it and see.

Creation Revealed in Six Days by P.J. Wiseman. An interesting little book, largely forgotten to history, which I saw referenced in Ramm’s work (above). The author argues that Genesis 1-2 does not tell us how God created everything. Rather, they record that God took six days to reveal the fact of the creation. This is an attempt to reconcile science and Scripture in the late 1940s. I do not think Wiseman was a crank, and the book is well-reasoned and interesting. You can download a PDF for free at the link.

The Doctrine of the Trinity by Leonard Hodgson. A very good monograph from an Anglican theologian, adapted from a lecture series, which proposes a social theory of the Trinity. Very helpful, well-reasoned. I laughed out loud when Hodgson accurately surveyed the doctrine of eternal generation, then frankly admitted that he had no idea what people meant when they spoke about it. I sympathize and agree!

The Bible Made Impossible: Why Biblicism is Not a Truly Evangelical Reading of Scripture by Christian Smith. This is a provocative book which challenges the way certain conservative Christians read and use the Bible. I agree with much (not all) of this book, and many of Smith’s criticisms are quite accurate. This book is a very helpful prompt for serious introspection.

The Battle for the Bible by Harold Lindsell. A silly little screed from the late 1970s. This is fundamentalism at its worst. Lindsell wrote like a wounded lover lashing out at the woman who wronged him.

The Great Sex Rescue: The Lies You’ve Been Taught and How to Become What God Intended by Sheila W. Gregoire. An outstanding book which details the weirdness and stupidity of much of what conservative Christianity teaches about marriage roles. So, the authors spend much of their time analyzing the best-selling “marriage books” on the Christian market. I suppose it’s because I didn’t grow up as a Christian, but I’ve always found much of conservative Christianity’s rules about dating and marriage roles as absurd, purely cultural, and frankly stupid. The “Billy Graham rule”? Really dumb and unworkable in the modern office environment. This is a wonderful book. If I had to recommend a book for soon-to-be-married couples, I’d buy this one for them so they’d have insight into false narratives around marriage, love, and sex. For pre-marital counseling, I always use Tim and Kathy Keller’s The Meaning of Marriage.

Desperate: An Epic Battle for Clean Water and Justice in Appalacia by Kris Maher. Very entertaining and horrifying piece of journalism.

Christ in Crisis: Why We Need to Reclaim Jesus by Jim Wallis. I read this book, but remember almost nothing about it. I thought it was vague and basically “meh.”

Fundamentalism and American Culture (3rd edition) by George Marsden. A classic for a reason. You must read it. His latest updates encompass the Trump years. Here is a good interview with Marsden about this latest edition, which I enjoyed listening to.

10 Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health by Donald Whitney. Breezy. Short. Good. I read it, then gave away several copies to the congregation.

The Reason for God by Tim Keller. This is a very good book to give someone who has questions about the Christian faith. Keller is a great writer, and communicates very well. We read this book at church in conjunction with the group study materials.

Towards a Recovery of Christian Belief by Carl F.H. Henry. Excellent precis of Henry’s theological program. If his seven-volume God, Revelation, and Authority is intimidating to you, then this slim little volume will give you the basics of Henry’s thought. Incidentally, Roger Olson’s discussion of Henry in his Journey of Modern Theology (above) is quite good.

A Matter of Days: Resolving a Creation Controversy (2nd expanded edition) by Hugh Ross. A winsome, very helpful book by perhaps the most well-known Christian apologist who is not a young-earth creationist. I was particularly moved by Ross’ insistence that the universe must be 14 billion (ish) years old because of the time it takes light to travel. This is very persuasive to me. I know very little about science so I am a great disadvantage when it comes to weighing these matters. Ross makes a good case and I appreciated this book.

Gospel & Law: Contrast or Continuum? The Hermeneutics of Dispensationalism and Covenant Theology by Daniel Fuller. This is an older classic. It made a great impression upon me when I read it, early in 2022. I’m at a loss now to remember much about it. I need to read it again, but I suspect I mentally ditched it when I discovered the delights of progressive covenantalism.

Den of Thieves by James B. Stewart. A fascinating look at the securities scandals of the late 1980s. This was a joy to read.

On Religion by Friedrich Schleiermacher. This is an apologetic work directed to a particular intellectual elite, at a particular time. Some of it was interesting. Much of it was forgettable. I need to read it again.

A Promised Land by Barack Obama. A beautiful memoir by an important President.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. This is a classic for a reason. I usually don’t include fiction books in this annual list, but I made an exception for this one. A moving book.

Principles of Expository Preaching by Merrill Unger. Meh. It’s an older book. It’s very didactic, written with no warmth, and pretty stale. It’s not bad. It’s just very basic.

Elmer Gantry by Sinclair Lewis. Another novel–an infamous satire of fundamentalism, written in 1927. It’s a very sad book, because Gantry is a terrible man. Lewis apparently saw religion as a con-game–or, perhaps better, he saw fundamentalism as a con-game. What’s astonishing is that Lewis clearly understood the fundamentalism he was criticizing. The dialogue and theological reasoning he inputs to his characters is astonishingly accurate. To truly appreciate this book, you need to understand the context of the aftermath of the fundamentalist-modernist controversy in the United States.

American Apocalypse: A History of Modern Evangelicalism by Matthew A. Sutton. A great work of history. Sutton presents the modern evangelical world as a result of an incessant apocalyptic mindset.

Grammar of Prophecy by R.B. Girdlestone. Probably the best book on prophecy I’ve ever read. I haven’t read everything on prophecy (there’s a whole lot of junk), but I’ve read a lot–and this is the best of the lot. An older book, from the late 19th century.

The Interpretation of Prophecy by Patrick Fairbairn. A longer work, just as good as Gilderstone. Great stuff. I suggest people ditch dispensational sensationalists and just read Gilderstone and Fairbairn!

Biblical Hermeneutics by Milton S. Terry. An old classic. A bit long, but a great resource full of keen insight.

Plowshares and Pruning Hooks: Rethinking the Language of Biblical Apocalyptic by D. Brent Sandy. A helpful corrective to dispensationalist interpretive excesses. Lots of common sense, here.

The Hidden Motives of Pastoral Action by Luis Segundo. I remember this book was good. Unfortunately, I don’t remember anything else about it. This is a call to action from a Latin American liberation theologian.

Truth as Encounter by Emil Brunner. A beautiful little book outlining Brunner’s conception of faith as “truth + encounter.” If you’ve read Brunner’s Dogmatics (3 vols.) then this isn’t new. But, it’s helpful to have this in one small volume. Brunner was a real treasure to the church. He is my favorite theologian.

Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War 1929-1945 by David Kennedy. Great history. I loved this book.

Interpreting the Parables (2nd edition) by Craig Blomberg. Read for a class. Good book.

Stories With Intent (2nd edition) by Klyne Snodgrass. Read for a class. Too much material here. It can’t be read as a book. It’s basically an encyclopedia. Much of the info is useless for a pastor. It could be one-third the length.

Anatomy of a Revived Church by Thom Rainer. Rainer excels at very short, very quick books. This one is quite helpful. Every pastor of a small church will appreciate it.

FDR by Jean E. Smith. An epic biography that I enjoyed a lot. I have a newfound appreciation for Roosevelt and what he accomplished.

A Godly Hero: The Life of William Jennings Bryan by Michael Kazin. A good biography of an important man. Kazin is laboring under a handicap here, because he notes that the majority of Bryan’s private correspondence was destroyed. The result is that we don’t really get to understand Bryan very much. I don’t think this is Kazim’s fault. The impression I left it with is that Bryan was a bit of a dreamer, unrealistic, and not somebody I’d take very seriously were he alive today. I feel bad for having that opinion, but that’s where I’m at. For me, the most valuable aspect of this book is that Bryan is a shining example of the kind of populist American Christianity that used to exist–one that believed the Bible, was generally conservative, yet upheld social reform as a Christian imperative. What a concept!

Death in Mud Lick: A Coal Country Fight Again the Drug Companies that Delivered the Opioid Epidemic by Eric Eyre. A beautiful piece of investigative journalism. I thought it was much better than Beth Macy’s Dopesick (see below), which has received far more press.

Stained Glass Ceilings: How Evangelicals Do Gender and Practice Power by Lisa Weaver Swartz. An excellent comparative survey of how two conservative seminaries (one egalitarian the other complementarian) teach gendered roles to their students and their wider ecclesiastical orbits.

Fundamentalist U: Keeping the Faith in American Higher Education by Adam Latts. A delightful and enlightening look at how conservative Christian institutions have tried to “keep the faith” in the American higher education world in the 20th century. Very good book.

The Bible Told Them So: How Southern Evangelicals Fought to Preserve White Supremacy by J. Russell Hawkins. A good book. It gets a bit repetitive, but that’s probably because I’ve read enough along this same line that the stories begin to blur and I lose patience. If you want a great entry point to understand how sociology and culture can create systemic, structural sin, then this is a book to read.

Guaranteed Pure: The Moody Bible Institute, Business, and the Making of Modern Evangelicalism by Timothy Gloege. A delightful book that uses Moody Bible Institute as a prism to frame evangelicalism as a business venture that markets a deliberately generic product with sectarian emphases rounded off (i.e. conservative Christianity) to its constituents. It also acts as a good historical survey of Moody. Highly recommended.

Christianity and the State by Rousas Rushdoony. This is an important book because it reveals at least three key truths; (1) it helps you understand the Christian Nationalist ethos so popular nowadays–much of it is a populist and bastardized flavor of Reconstructionism, (2) it reveals that presuppositionalism as a prism for truth can take you to places where you ought not go, and (3) it proves Rushdoony was quite possibly insane.

Dopesick by Beth Macy. Repetitive. I’d already read A Death in Mud Lick, so perhaps I wasn’t in the mood to cover the same ground again. Still, I feel that book was much better.

The Case for a New Reformation Theology by William Hordern. A generally excellent little book. This was part of a trio of books which Westminster Press put out in the mid-1950s surveying (1) evangelicalism (penned by Edward Carnell as The Case for Orthodox Theology), neo-orthodoxy (this volume), and liberalism (L. Harold DeWolf). Most evangelicals from my orbit know nothing about neo-orthodoxy except that “it’s bad.” What little most people know is that neo-orthodoxy is soft on the doctrine of Scripture. I’ve read Barth on this, and Brunner, and Bloesch, and now Hordern. I don’t believe this charge is quite right. This is a good book.

Two Views on Women in Ministry, rev. ed., by James R. Beck. This is an excellent “two views” book about the ever-present flashpoint of women in ministry. Linda Belleville’s contribution (egalitarian) was particularly instructive for me.

The Last Things: An Eschatology for Laymen by George Ladd. The best little volume on eschatology yet written, that I’ve seen. Historic premillennialist in perspective.

Progressive Covenantalism: Charting a Course Between Dispensationalism and Covenant Theologies ed. Stephen Wellum and Brent Parker. A series of essays fleshing out certain key aspects of a theological system called progressive covenantalism. This is a framework that relies heavily on typology, which Bernard Ramm recommended as an interpretive grid long ago in his Protestant Biblical Interpretation. I believe this approach holds great promise, and I liked these essays.

The Great Reversal: Reconciling Evangelism and Social Concern by David O. Moberg. This classic text is a short, accessible, breezy primer for bible-believing Christians who need a guide to help them think rightly about evangelism and social concern. There was a time when Christians were at the forefront of social betterment, driven by Gospel impulses. Now, after the fundamentalist-modernist controversy, these same impulses are derided in some quarters as “social gospel,” or (more lately) as “woke.” Too often, those who toss these epithets have not read Rauschenbusch themselves, do not understand their own history, and are captive to a very particular flavor of Christian expression that has baptized its outward face in a politicio-conservative philosophy. A few of the chapters here are a bit dated, but this does not detract from the book’s value.

Models of the Kingdom by Howard Snyder. A very helpful little book that provides a taxonomy to chart the different conceptions of “the kingdom of God” that you find in the Christian family throughout the centuries. It will probably help you clarify your own thinking on this subject.

Washington’s Crossing by David H. Fischer. A definitive account of the most crucial period of the American Revolution. I’ve read this book three times now–usually once every few years.

America’s Religious History: Faith, Politics, and the Shaping of a Nation by Thomas Kidd. This seems to be an undergrad-level survey of religion in America. There’s nothing new here, but Kidd does a wonderful job sketching the landscape. If you’re not familiar with this story (like too many reporters at major news outlets are), then this is a worthy book to get.

What I Read in 2020

What I Read in 2020

See also my lists from 2017, 2018, and 2019.

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.

What I Read in 2019

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!

2: Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

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.

4: The Way of Improvement Leads Home: Philip Vickers Fithian and the Rural Enlightenment in Early America by John Fea

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.

11: Sketches of the Life and Character of the Rev. Lemuel Haynes, A. M.: For Many Years Pastor of a Church in Rutland, Vt., and Late in Granville, New-York by Timothy Cooley

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.

34: Those 7 References: A Study of 7 References to Homosexuality in the Bible by John Dwyer

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.

41: Women, Slaves, and the Gender Debate: A Complementarian Response to the Redemptive-Movement Hermeneutic by Benjamin Reaoch

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.


These are the books I got for Christmas:

All but two I purchased on Kindle. I have gone all-in on Kindle books. I probably won’t “read” any of these. Instead, I’ll play them via the “text-to-speech” feature on my Kindle Fire while I drive to and from work each day. It doesn’t have the polish of a professional audiobook narrator, of course, but it’s good enough. I bought a Kindle Fire on sale for $29.99, and it’s only purpose is to be an audiobook player.

A word or two on the books …

  • Systematic Theology by Robert Lethem. I bought a physical copy. I’m looking forward to referencing this new book by a well-respected Reformed scholar. I have many systematic theology texts. My go-to systematic is written by Millard Erickson, who I respect profoundly.
  • The Rise of Christianity by Rodney Stark. Looks to be a fascinating book by a Christian sociologist.
  • Impossible People by Os Guinness. Guinness is always worth reading, and is perhaps the most astute Christian thinker alive today on the practical intersections between the Church and culture.
  • Lord Jesus Christ by Larry Hurtado. The magnum opus of a legendary New Testament scholar on my favorite topic – Christology.
  • Who is an Evangelical? by Thomas Kidd. Looks to be a fascinating book. It continues a trend I began earlier this year of reading books about the evangelical movement.
  • Retro Christianity by Michael Svigel. I read this a few years ago. I want to read it again. It’s a warm exhortation to reclaiming a conservative, Catholic view of church. It challenges me to go far beyond my own fundamentalist training in a conservative, more irenic direction that appreciates the larger traditions of the Church.
  • Openness Unhindered by Rosaria Butterfield. Anything Butterfield writes is excellent.
  • Christ and Culture Revisited by D.A. Carson. Carson wrote it. Need I write more?
  • Adopted by Kelley Nikondema. An interesting-looking book on the concept of adoption by God in salvation.
  • The Care of Souls by Harold Senkbeil. Looks to be a very helpful book. I’ve seen a lot of buzz about it.