The Books of 2019
The beginning of the year is a good time to assess what was done before. This enables us to better plan what’s next. This includes books read and new reading plans. Hopefully this booklist, with mini-reviews, will help to inspire a new year of reading and growing.
I re-read some books from last year, but they won’t be included in this year’s list. Some of the links to amazon are affiliate links, which add no cost to you, but help us maintain the site.
Wrongly Diving the Word: Overcoming the Law-Gospel Distinction by P. Andrew Sandlin
For many Christian readers, this might sound like the craziest thing to overcome! The Law-Gospel distinction (LGD) is huge amongst reformed Baptist and Presbyterians, and Lutherans of course. However, a widespread theological construct doesn’t make it a valid or biblical construct. Wrongly Dividing the Word seeks to critique and offer an alternative for understanding the relationship between Law and Gospel.
After spending the majority of five chapters dealing with the weakness of the LGD, Sandlin writes,
It is not simply a statement of a gracious soteriology; lots of people accept the Biblically well-established fact that salvation is by grace alone. The LGD is something more. Its supporters, following Luther, see it as parallel to the grace-works distinction. This is its great fallacy. The fact that salvation is by grace and not by works is not to say that Law is not gracious or that Gospel is not obligatory. It is this unity of grace and obligation that seems lost on the LGD advocates. They understand Gospel as entirely a matter of reception and Law as fully a matter of performance. They see Gospel as indicative and Law as imperative. Gospel is de facto, and Law is de jure. Gospel is received passively. Law is obeyed actively. The Gospel is a gracious message to be believed. The Law is a rigorous command to be obeyed. This is the LGD. The failure of this paradigm consists in the fact that the Bible simply does not make these distinctions. (Kindle loc. 307)
Later, when Sandlin begins to build the alternative framework for understanding Law and Gospel in chapter 7, he writes,
“A great problem emerges when we see the revelatory law chiefly as a legalistic system of commands that one must keep in order to obtain eternal life. The law is a revelation of God’s grace that demands belief and trust (faith) in the great God of heaven and earth. That belief, in turn, requires fidelity in the form of a heart-charged (not a moralistic) obedience. The law is anything but legalistic. The law inspires and demands love for God and his glorious, life-imparting precepts.” (Kindle loc. 357)
“The sacrificial system was “Law,” and it contained the message of salvation by faith and not by works. The sacrifices were substitutes for the penalty of death that God had righteously leveled on sinful man (Lev. 16; 17: 11); the animals died so that sinful men and women would not have to die. These sacrifices showed that sinners cannot save themselves; they must trust in God to save them. The Jews were required (“Law”) to live by grace through faith in the coming Redeemer (“Gospel”). The OT Law in its sacrificial system is filled with the Gospel. In the OT, Law includes Gospel.” (Kindle loc. 365)
Sandlin continues to demonstrate this same understanding throughout Scripture by looking at David, Jesus, and Paul’s teaching on the Law. This book is also incriminating of those who push the LGD in Reformed circles, effectively causing the Lutheranization of Reformed teaching and scholarship.
Good Morning, Friends (Vol. 1 & 2) by RJ Rushdoony
Our family devoured his smaller devotionals called A Word in Season (AWS). We smashed through 3 volumes but noticed duplicate entries (sometimes twice in one book). After that, we decided to hold off on them, but still recommend them to others for slower consumption.
Good Morning, Friends is the enhanced version of AWS. Each chapter was originally a weekly radio broadcast in the ’50s. My favorite volume is the 2nd, specifically the series of chapters that focus on “how to be a failure.” Each chapter covers a different tactic to be a failure: do as you please, worry, indulge in criticism, be in love with yourself, demand perfection, be ungrateful, stand on your rights. One of my favorite parts of the book is when Rushdoony writes,
The person who is deeply in love with himself expects the whole world to share his passion. Everyone has to feel as deeply in love with him as he is himself. It makes no difference how he treats them: he can be nasty, suspicious, angry, thoughtless, cruel, faithless, and unloving, but if you dare doubt his love, or express any disapproval of his character, you are then a traitorous and disloyal person. We all know people like this. They are not interested in anything but their own lives, love nothing but themselves, trust no one but themselves, and yet are always afraid that everyone near them is disloyal and worthless. They are ready to lie about the most trivial matters rather than admit that their grand passion is a wayward one and that they can be wrong. (Kindle loc. 774)
A Christian Survey of World History by RJ Rushdoony
A Christian Survey of World History has an eye on the doings of God at all times and locations covered in the material. It starts with creation onwards to the Reformation. A separate book covers the founding and growth of the American republic. There were many high points when I was finally able to get my hands on a copy (quite hard with being in SE Asia) and read it straight through.
An exemplary chapter is The Early Church Confronts the World. While commenting on the brutal persecution ordered by Diocletian, Rushdoony writes,
“The more merciful governors tried to delay the orders, or merely cut off the ears or split the noses, or put out the right eyes, or otherwise maim the Christians. It was a savage blood-letting of the best in the church, who were the salt of the empire. It stripped the empire of many of its finest citizens. Twelve years later, when Constantine met with the leaders of the church at the Council of Nicea, it was a strange assembly which surrounded him. Many were without eyes, others without arms or without hands, others maimed in various ways: a gathering of men who had faced death for the faith.” (pp 77)
Small snippets that you’ll never forget are throughout the pages of this book. In no way is the book comprehensive. I recommend it paired with History of The World and The Mystery of History for homeschool families.
A New Day of Small Beginnings by Pierre Courthail
Vos’ Biblical Theology has long been the standard for a reformed approach to biblical theology. A New Day of Small Beginnings is what needed to be written! It’s positive towards the Law, and it’s applicability for today, as well as being eschatologically optimistic.
Here are a couple of highlights:
- He highlights all covenants containing both Gospel and Law, both gracious and moral. Courthail frequently refers to God’s Word as God’s “Gospel-Law.”
- When surveying the Covenants, he groups them by the mountains associated with them (The Mountain of Eden, Ararat, Moriah, Sinai, and Zion).
- Drawing from Psalm 121, the author writes, “We will lift our eyes to the main mountains of Scripture, “the mountains of God,” to find our help. From mountain to mountain, we will lift up our hearts, beginning with the garden where it all began and culminating with the heavenly City above.” (pp 11)
- His explanation of the High Priestly Prayer is excellent. There isn’t room, but his understanding of the “timing” in the prayer should urge further study.
- “The first part of the High Priestly Prayers deals with the years A.D. 1 to 30: the time of Christ’s earthly life.” “This second part…concerns the years A.D. 30 to 70: the period of the Apostolic Church.” “This third part…concerns the whole span of our era after A.D. 70: the post-apostolic period of the Church.” (pp 99-100)
As I develope courses for various theological disciplines in trainging relationships, this book is a required reading for Biblical Theology.
Crush The Evil: God’s Promises Heal Man’s Pessimism by P. Andrew Sandlin
Out of the four books I read by Sandlin this year, Crush the Evil was the only disappointing one. Sadly, I felt that his targets of “crushing” were too easy, such as militant Islam. I understand why he wrote it, and that is why these reviews are subjective. I am glad for this book trying to bring hope into the modern church, which is mostly pessimistic. One of the rare jewels in this book reads,
In Jesus Christ, we are the seed of the woman. We are united by faith to the one who delivered a mortal blow to Satan at the cross and then in the resurrection. He’s gradually bringing Satan and all of his other enemies under his feet. He’s reigning in the world from his heavenly throne, and we’re reigning with him (Eph. 1: 15–2: 7). (Kindle loc. 327)
The Trouble with Being “Cross-Centered”: How Today’s Church De-Centers the Gospel by P. Andrew Sandlin
The phrase “gospel-centered” replaced “cross-centered” as the moniker for the Church today. The moniker changed, but the weaknesses stayed the same. The problem is the ignorance of the resurrection, both theologically and practically. The Trouble with Being “Cross-Centered” points out that focusing on the resurrected Christ,
…leads to a rather exciting, if jarring, conclusion: the mode of Jesus of the Gospel accounts is not the mode of Jesus that we encounter today. We have no access to the Jesus of his earthly, pre-resurrection sojourn. When we were saved, we were united to the resurrection Jesus—not the Jesus that the first apostles encountered in ancient Israel. Because Jesus is a changed man, and because we are united to him in his resurrection (Rom. 6: 3–5), we are changed men and women (v. 4, “walk[ing] in newness of life”). That is how God changes us. God changes us by having changed Jesus. (Kindle loc. 95)
Our relationship is not with the suffering-Jesus. It is with the Jesus who suffered trials as we have, died, but finally rose victorious over them all. We are united to the triumphant Christ, he suffered as we do, but now he offers victory in this life through our union with Him. Sandlin continues along this line later, when he writes,
Christians do not live the “crucified life”; they live the resurrection life. When we suffer, when we are lonely, when we are ill, when we are weak, we appeal to Jesus, but only to the Jesus who lives today in constant victory over loneliness, suffering, illness, weakness. In other words, we cannot encounter a Jesus who knows only loneliness, suffering, illness, weakness, because that Jesus no longer exists. We can only encounter a Jesus who has defeated all of these. And if we are united to him, we have also defeated them. We simply must live a life of resurrection—dead to sin, alive to Jesus (vv. 11-12).
There is simply no other Christian life. (Kindle loc. 129)
A cross-centered-life is a hamstrung life. Empowering resurrected Christians by taking dominion over resurrected reality to the glory of the Triune God is the reason Christ came.
Prayer Changes Things: Curing Timid Piety by P. Andrew Sandlin
In Prayer Changes Things, Sandlin nails two points regarding the lack of prayer from the Church and the abundance of ineffectual prayer. The sting becomes even more real when I consider the Reformed branch of the Church to which I belong. Sandlin writes,
Too many Christians formally committed to sola Scriptura, however, are shy about these texts and others I could have cited, which means: they are shy about taking God at his word. They seem eager to defend God’s honor in asserting that his faithfulness includes not answering our prayer. Heaven forbid we claim God is not faithful if he does not keep his word, in spite of the fact that this is just what the godly claimed in the Bible (Ex. 32: 11–14; Jud. 6: 1–18; 2 Chr. 20: 1–12). They knew God’s promises, and they expected him to fulfill his promises, and if he did not, they asserted he was not being faithful, and they told him so. This is why in Malachi 3: 10 God charges a faithless and rebellious Israel, “Put me to the test,” that is, trust me to prove to yourself whether my word is true. For us to scoff at this way of speaking to God, considering it sub-Christian, is simply rank unbelief decorated with a pious veneer. To refuse to hold God to his word is not a shining example of piety; it is a tragic example of faithlessness. (Kindle loc. 594)
After all, our prayers these days are too often not answered, and this cannot be our fault due to our unbelief, despite the fact that this is just what Jesus taught (review again Mt. 6: 30; 8: 26; 16: 8; Lk. 12: 28). There must be some other explanation. For example, God has a secret, eternal, unrevealed, covert plan that contradicts his written word; and if we actually knew his hidden intentions, we could safely ignore his written promises that contradict them. The fact that the Bible teaches that our unbelief can and does sometimes contribute to unanswered prayer is an unpleasant prospect that congregations don’t like to hear, but the Bible does teach it (see also Mk. 6: 1–6; 11: 22–24; Jas. 1: 6). (Kindle loc. 600)
The two paragraphs point out the significant problems we have regarding prayer today. First, the lack of prayer. The cause may be due to doctrinal beliefs, laziness, or lack of faith. Second, the seemingly large number of unanswered prayer. The fact that it is so common to talk about the benefit of praying over against the power of prayers to change the world around us in reformed circles may be a sign that our ethical status with God is poor.
The rest of the book deals with how to pray, what stifles our prayers, and how God answers our prayer. This book is a must-read for 2020 Kingdom advance.
Flight From Humanity by RJ Rushdoony
The focus of Flight From Humanity is highlighting the roots of Neoplatonism in the church. Also, its presence to this day. When commenting on the dialectics of Platonism and Neoplatonism, Rushdoony writes,
For Scripture, however, there is no such dialectical tension. The warfare is not between matter and spirit, nature and grace, or nature and freedom, but between sinful man and God. Man by his sin has declared war on God, and as a result is in a state of tension and warfare because of sin, not because of a dual nature. Man’s problem is moral or ethical, not metaphysical. Neoplatonism not only misrepresents the problem man faces, but, by making it metaphysical, makes it necessary to truncate or castrate man of a basic aspect of his being before he can be delivered. (pp 28, Epub)
Freud by RJ Rushdoony
I won’t spend a lot of time on Freud. It would probably be the book I recommend least of the ones by Rushdoony this year. If someone I am talking to is majoring in psychology or has influence in that circle, then I would recommend this book right away.
Liberation Theology: Prelude to Revolution by Joe Morecraft
I am overjoyed that Morecraft’s works are being digitized! I should note that the quality is not great (grammatical and spelling problems, not revised or updated, etc.) However, in spite of these problems, I am still glad these books are in the cloud.
Although the work is criticizing Liberation Theology (name of this book), Morecraft finds agreement with them, when he writes,
Liberation theologians are correct in some of their criticism of American Christendom. We have been guilty of the privatization of faith and the ecclesiologising of the gospel. We have confined the application of the Bible and of our faith to individualistic, spiritual, heavenly concerns; and we have limited the implications of the kingdom of God to the life and society of the institutional church. The time has come to break out of these chains and prisons we have built for ourselves. Jesus Christ is the Lord of the universe. The Bible is authoritative in everything about which it speaks, and it speaks about everything. The mission of the church is to make Christian disciples, not only out of individuals scattered here and there, but also out of the nations of the world. (pp 59-60, Epub)
Is this the best book on the topic? Probably not. Is it worth reading? It’s short and accessible. If that’s your wheelhouse, then yes.
A Consuming Fire: The Holy of Holies in Biblical Law by Joel McDurmon
A Consuming Fire is a follow up to McDurmon’s The Bounds of Love. The first intended to be an introduction to theonomy. The followup book focused on developing the Cherem principle, which was briefly dealt with in the first book. I will hold back on commenting on the book here, as I am still writing up a series of posts reviewing the work. Generally speaking, I give the book a solid 3/5.
Defending the Trinity in the Reformed Palatinate: The Elohistae by Benjamin R. Merkle
If you think the Reformers were one group of people that agreed to the same theology, you’ll be in for a surprise. I recommend Defending the Trinity in the Reformed Palatinate for any student of Church history. Much of this book focuses on the common exegetical arguments for the Trinity, and how Calvin’s hermeneutic undermined it to a great degree. Many of the Reformed scholars who ended up rejecting the Trinity did so because they found Calvin’s refutation of the Trinity in the Hebrew word “Elohim” required it. This is a simplistic statement, but if you want specifics, read the book.
Never Try to Arouse Love Until… by Calvin G. Seerveld
The foundation of Never Try to Arouse Love Until… is the larger The Song of Songs In Critique of Solomon by Calvin Seerveld. The first and larger book definitively proves, and this smaller companion book assumes some important exegetical points. Seerveld begins by highlighting the four main characters (Shulamite, The Groom, the various women of the harem, and Solomon). Furthermore, Solomon is the villain (perverted playboy), and the whole narrative is the woman defending herself from the advances of Solomon.
This book is chalked full of insights, applications, and principals that will lead to covenantally loyal relationships. In summarizing the Song of Songs critical take of Solomon, Seerveld writes,
Solomon in all his royal glory is not worth comparing to one simple, happy bourgeois marriage celebrating its fiftieth anniversary of promises that shared good and ill in one flesh. Solomon’s voice in The Song stands for the titillating blandishments of quick-and-easy sexual satisfaction, offered indiscriminately by our ubiquitous media today. Many lonely people have fallen for its lure and suffered the sting of the tempting scorpion’s tail. (pp 79)
I recommend that every single and engaged Christian read this book. It’s required reading for those I am discipling.
Discipling The Nations: The Government upon His Shoulder by Dennis Woods
The value of this book is in the first few chapters. Specifically, where the book deals with the humanistic nature of the Constitution of the United States of America. Focusing on its lack of covenanting with God, which actually allowed for the destruction of liberty. He even deals with people in his circles (theonomists) who argue that the Constitution is a godly procedural document.
The ending of the book was disappointing, to say the least. What you have been teased about the whole time, the application was weak. The most significant reflection after reading the book is that most Christians still have shallow “applications” even after all these years.
Crimes of the Educators by Samuel Blumenfeld
Crimes of the Educators is a decent book dealing with the damage that has been done by “modern” educational models that have flowed from Dewey and his cohorts. Even with that being the case, I am still not sure I would recommend the book. Even on topics the book nails, the content is repetitive. Blumenfeld also revels in the “glory days” of public schools (although all government schooling is unlawful).
I recommend it for a few chapters, not for the book.
Are They Few that Shall Be Saved by B.B. Warfield
Are They Few that Shall Be Saved is a short discourse on the doctrine of the elect being a small number. One of the reasons for its genesis is the denial of the status of being “biblical” to anyone who disagrees. Remember, the optimistic view of a mostly converted world before Christ’s physical return was still common, yet the limited view was a big enough deal that Warfield felt the need to address it. Our time has even more so made the limited-elect view a test of orthodoxy in many circles.
B.B. Warfield deals with the primary texts arguing for the “few saved” view and shows how none of those portions of text have nothing to do with the numbers of those who enter into the Kingdom. Towards the end of this short work, he writes,
What saves the picture from being as dark as it is painted is that the contrast between the many and the few is not the only contrast which runs through our Lord’s teaching and the teaching of His apostles…The gain of mustard seed when sowed in the field (which is the world) is not to remain less than all seeds: it is to become a tree in the branches of which the birds of heaven lodge. The speck of leaven is not to remain hidden in the mass of meal: it is to work through the meal until the whole of it is leavened. The presence of this class of representations side by side with those which speak of few being saved necessarily confines the reference of the latter to the initial stages of the kingdom, and opens out the widest prospect for the reach of the saving process as time flows on…
Timothy, Titus & You: A Study for Church Leaders by George C. Scipione
Timothy, Titus & You is a study guide for those who are seeking or on track to become officers in a local church. He also points out that even those who will not become elders or deacons in the church should read this book, as they will be responsible for electing those officers in the future. I would recommend this to anyone becoming a deacon or elder.
Becoming Your Own Banker: The Infinite Banking Concept by R. Nelson Nash
I am not a financial advisor, but Becoming Your Own Banker is written by one. The basic premise is taking dividend-paying, cash-value life insurance. It’s a non-taxable way to build an inheritance for your children. You can take loans against the cash value, which only increases its value for that year, and in turn, pays you back for dividends, which you put back into the account. I couldn’t recommend this more for those trying to be a trustee family.
Leadership and Ethical Responsibility by Thomas Schirrmacher
When Leadership and Ethical Responsibility is talking about leadership, it means leadership in a broader sense than the book by Scipione above. I don’t agree with everything in the book, especially the latter part of the books. Christians in leadership positions of any kind would greatly benefit from this book. The sad part about this book is that most Christians desiring to be a leader would be disqualified from reading this book.
Do you think about others only reluctantly? Is it too complicated to love others? Do you not like to reflect about things and prefer to not work? Do you prefer comfortable and simple solutions instead of coming to the best decision for everyone by putting in a lot of effort and contemplation? If so, then you have the wrong book in your hands! In such case you also are not a Christian leader…Additionally, if you see yourself as a “Christian” leader, it is surely clear to you that you want to – and should – love, think, and work more than others. Jesus did not become our Lord by taking the easy path. Rather, he placed himself in the service of others up to the point of offering himself as a sacrifice. (pp 11)
The majority of this book deals with decision making as a Christian Leader. Schirrmacher structures his content on decision making according to the tri-perspectivism of John Frame. Normative decisions, deciding situationally and deciding existentially. There are some excellent observations in all these sections. However, I do believe his normative category should cover some of the content he categorizes as situational.
Studies in Church Leadership by Thomas Schirrmacher
There are 5 sections in Studies in Church Leadership. First, he coves church government. Schirrmacher writes,
I believe that the New Testament church structure consisted of three levels of leadership (deacons, elders, regional conference), although only two terms are used. Above the deacons were the presbyter or elders — leaders of the local congregation — and over them, those responsible for several churches, such as Timothy or Titus, who held no ‘office’ specifically defined in Scripture. (pp 11)
This was my favorite section in the book. I believe he brings clarity to the historical understanding of church government. Also, I found his historical case (Calvin’s view) and exegetical case for women deacons quite convincing.
Search the Scriptures (Read Vol.1- 3 out of 10) by Cornelius Vanderwaal
Vanderwaal does a stupendous job surveying the Bible. He sees the Law of God in a positive light. Vanderwaal is hopeful in his eschatology. And points to the reality of Christ as the center and meaning of all history. You can get the whole Search the Scripture series by him for free.
Act and Being: Towards a Theology of the Divine Attributes
I plan to write a more extensive review of Act and Being in the future. Overall, I recommend this book to anyone wanting to do a serious study on the Attributes of God. When the Attribute of Immutability is discussed, I find his insights beyond helpful. Overall, his point is that we should not base our understanding of God’s attributes through Greek negation, but through God’s actions in history.
As we shall see, Greek philosophy begins as an attempt not only to reject the inadequate gods of popular belief but to provide a rational version of the ancient world-view those gods represent. It is a demythologization (Aufhebung?) only as a translation or transposition, not a displacement or abolition. It is when Christian theology becomes dependent on the philosophers’ speculations rather than on the equivalent Old Testament polemics against paganism that the troubles begins. (pp 6)
In Christ’s Name: Living in the Power of His Name by Phillip G. Kayser
Christ’s name is mighty, and since scripture teaches that so much of our life is connected to Christ’s name, being ignorant on this topic is being impotent. When emphasizing this importance of Christ’s name, Kayser writes in this book,
In the New Testament we are commanded to pray in His name (John 16:26), gather in His name (Matt. 18:20), cast out demons in His name (Mark 9:38), work miracles in His name (Mark 9:39) and preach remission of sins in His name (Luke 24:47). We are justified in His name (1 Corinthians 6:11), plead with people in His name (1 Corinthians 1:10), give a cup of cold water in His name (Matt. 10:42), trust in His name (Matt. 12:21) and receive a little child in His name (Matt. 18:5). In fact, Colossians 3:17 says, “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” This is how the apostles lived. For example, in Acts 3:16 Peter says, “And His name, through faith in His name, has made this man strong.” Christ’s name brought healing. The phrase “through faith in his name” is an explanatory phrase, and if you take it out, the sentence would read “And his name…has made this man strong.” What was the means of Christ’s name bringing healing? It was faith in His name. A brief study of Christ’s name shows that everything absolutely everything flows through Christ’s name. (pp 1)
Living in the name of Christ is living by faith, with power and confidence empowered by the Spirit, and saturated in prayer.
Paul in Conflict with the Veil by Thomas Schirrmacher
Paul in Conflict with the Veil is a fantastic book dealing with the often debated text of 1 Corinthians 11:2-16. He proves, quite convincingly, that Paul is using irony by quoting the opponent’s position and then refuting it. He shows that verses 4-9 are the Corinthian’s opinions and that Paul is in direct contradiction to those opinions. Schirrmacher provides a helpful structuring of the verses.
The indented verses signify the Corinthian position:
(2) I praise you, however, that you remember me in all things and that you keep the traditon which I left you.
(3) I want you, however, to know that every man’s head is Christ every woman’s head is her husband Christ’s head is God.
(4) Every man who prays or prophesies with anything hanging from his head disgraces his head.
(5) Every woman, however who prays or prophecies with a bare head disgraces her head, for she is then the same as one whose head is shaved.
(6) If a woman does not cover herself, then let her have her hair cut off. Because, however, it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or to be shorn, she should wear a veil.
(7) The man, of course, should not veil his head, for he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of the man.
(8) For the man does not come from woman, but the woman from man;
(9) for the man was not created for woman’s sake, but the woman for the man’s sake.
(10) Therefore let the woman have authority over her head, because of the angels.
(11) For, in the Lord, neither is the woman without the man nor the man without the woman.
(12) For, just as the woman is from the man, so the man is also from the woman; but all are from God.
(13) Judge for yourselves! It is fitting that a woman pray to God unveiled!
(14) Nature does not teach that it is indecent, for a man to have (long) hair,
(15) but when a woman has (long) hair, it is an honor for her! Her hair has been given to her instead of a veil.
(16) If, however, anyone finds it good to be quarrelsome, (let him consider that) we have no such custom, nor do the churches of God.
The point of this dialogue between Paul and the Corinthians is that a church cannot create binding traditions on others.
This custom is not the contention referred to which was common in Corinth, and which Paul has already condemned twice as sin, not as merely exceptional. The ‘custom’ can only be the veiling discussed in the preceding verses, a custom which we cannot define more definitely. The Corinthians had a rule unfamiliar to other churches. If Paul rejects the custom, we need not know more about it. The text states simply that no church can make its own private usage binding on others. (pp 52)
The Books of 2018
After completing the 2017 reading goal of a hundred books, I decided to scale back in 2018 to make more time for other works. Although my reading time was diminished, I am quite thankful for what I was able to read, and the fruit that God has grown in my family and our ministry. Here is a list of what I read in 2018.
1. No Other God: A Practical Look at a Personal God by Pierre Viret
This book by the puritan Pierre Viret, who is garnering more attention as of late, is an explanation of the theology and application of the 1st Commandment. What makes this book stand out is that it is set in a fictional conversation of back and forth questions and answers.
This was an enjoyable issue of JCR. My favorite chapter was on Satan and himself by Greg Bahnsen. The most encouraging section was on the limitation of his kingdom regarding presence and power.
I have read a lot of books on Christian economics before this issue of JCR, so it was a quite slog to read.
4. Theonomy: An Informed Response (edited by Gary North)
This is one of the three books written in response to the embarrassing effort to refute Theonomy in the book Theonomy: A Reformed Critique. It was amazing to have the defamatory statements by Tim Keller exposed in the chapter written by Ray Sutton. If you are not theonomic in your Christianity, I do recommend reading the chapter by John Maphet where he deals with the backlash of the vilification of those who hold to Theonomy in the wake of Theonomy: A Reformed Critique.
5. Prophecy Wars by Gary Demar
As is his specialty, this is another little book that shows the excellencies of postmillennialism over other “end time” views. The first part of the book is follow up of sorts to the 3-way debate between Demar, Hamilton, and Waldron. The second deals with prophetic fetishes, such as “blood moons.”
6. Have you ever thought? by Fred R Swarbrick
This was an easy read, but worth a quick read over some coffee or tea in the morning. It is a collection of fictional conversations over various topics such as the existence of God. My favorite “talk” was between two Christians over the false teaching that we are to be unconditionally forgiving to others, even when they have done wrong against us.
Enjoyable, but not exactly my cup of tea as far as JCR volumes are concerned. Although, the essay by Ellen Meyers on the Russian Church and its thinking between 1900-1917.
This volume was stellar due to the chapter by Stephen Perks on limited liability, especially regarding the differences between him and Gary North on limited liability and the local church.
9. The Origin and Destiny of Man (The Coronation Series, #1) by Francis Nigel Lee
To mention one thing, I love when Lee brought up the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. I have always heard that since Adam, man has always had the ten commandments, and the author put that on display when he showed how eating from the tree broke all ten of the commandments.
10. In the Midst of Your Enemies: Exposition and Application of 1 Samuel by Joel McDurmon
There are not many reformed and applicable commentaries out there, but this is one of them. His section explaining jury nullification in the case of Jonathan being sentenced to death for breaking his father’s stupid law was encouraging. A great read if you are privileged to get wrangled into jury duty.
11. Biblical Doctrines by B.B. Warfield
Chock-full of theological goodness. My favorite chapter in this volume of Warfield was Prophecies of St. Paul, in which his postmillennialism shines brightly. Here is just a tidbit from it:
“The method of Christ’s attack on the principalities and powers and world-rulers of this darkness and spiritual hosts of wickedness, and the means by which He will work His victory, are declared at Ephesians 6:12; from which we learn – as we might have guessed from Romans 11:25, sq. – that Christians are His soldiers in this holy war, and it is through our victory that His victory is known.”
12. John Frame’s Selected Shorter Writings (Vol 1) by John M. Frame
It was an okay read with little chapters ranging from various facets of generally reformed thinking.
13. Christianity and Liberalism by J. Gresham Machen
Machen is considered a theological giant, and even though the content can make one go, “Really?” The things he is dealing with were raging debates at that time.
14. Biblical Solutions to Contemporary Problems: A Handbook by Rus Walton
A typical theonomic book covering large topics, laying down principles from Scripture, and then giving a couple of applications. For historical interest, it was written after the great disappointment that was Ronald Reagan.
15. Thine Is The Kingdom: Studies In The Postmillennial Hope (edited by Kenneth L. Gentry)
A collection of essays from various authors covering different facets of postmillennialism. My two favorite chapters from the book were “Psalm 110 and the Postmillennial Hope” by William O. Einwechter, and “Practicing Postmillennialism” by Jefferey A. Ventrella.
16. God’s Law In The Modern World: The Continuing Relevance Of Old Testament Law by Kenneth L. Gentry
The was a little book, coming in just under 100 pages. There are much better introductions to Faith for All of Life Christianity, such as A Conquering Faith listed below.
17. The Late Great Evangelical Church by Colonel Vaughn Donor
This book is a historical walkthrough to show how pietism had cropped up through Church history, and in what ways it has contributed the culturally irrelevant institutional churches of today.
18. The Samaritan Strategy: A New Agenda for Christian Activism by Colonel Vaughn Donor
A book calling for the Christians to engage in service to others as the means of dominion.
19. Ethics & God’s Law: An Introduction to Theonomy by William O. Einwechter
See the next book.
20. Walking in the Law of the Lord (Updated version of the book above) by William O. Einwechter
For those who want a beginner-academic level intro to theonomy, I would definitely recommend this title.
21. A Conquering Faith: Doctrinal Foundations for Christian Reformation by William O. Einwechter
This may be one of the best intros to the Christian religion. It’s short, concise, and calls the reader to an active faith.
22. An Eschatology of Victory by J. Marcellus Kik
My edition had the forward written by Rushdoony. I would recommend it to some looking for a preterist interpretation to Matthew 24 and Revelation 20.
23. English Bible Translations: By What Standard? by William O. Einwechter
A very short book arguing for the supremacy of the KJV, but does not fall into the fundamentalist KJVO camp. Honestly, not one of the best books defending the KJV, even though it is my preferred manuscript tradition.
24. Power of the Blood: A Christian Response to AIDS by David H. Chilton
This book was stunning. The gutsiness David Chilton had to deal with uncomfortable information, interpret it through a Biblical lens, and call for Christians to help those infected with AIDs. His approach to the subject was by far superior to Rus Walton’s treatment in his book listed above. This was written in the 80s when a lot of information was still coming out, so even though some of the medical findings have been found inaccurate, it doesn’t diminish the value of the work.
25. Infallibility: An Inescapable Concept by RJ Rushdoony
The author shows that infallibility is never non-existent, it is merely transferred to a different idol.
Lays down an intellectual foundation for defying tyrants that lift their wills above God’s.
27. Faith on Earth?: When the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on earth? (Luke 18:8) by Lou Poumakis
Gives an excellent explanation to a passage of Scripture often misunderstood. He follows lock-step with Rushdoony’s school thought regarding eschatology.
28. Thy Will Be Done: When All Nations Call God Blessed by Ronald W. Kirk
Paints a picture of what a Christian community might look like if it followed its prayer of, “Thy will be done.” One of the most devotional books I read in 2018, even though it wasn’t intended for that use.
29. Be Keen to Get Going: William Carey’s Theology by Thomas Schirrmacher
Shows how the work of Carey was motivated by postmillennialism.
30. World Mission: Heart of Christianity by Thomas Schirrmacher
Fabulous, I would give this to churches currently, or thinking about supporting missionaries. Even missionaries themselves would benefit much from it.
31. Faith & Life by B.B. Warfield
After reading the more academic Biblical Doctrines, Faith & Life gave the opportunity to read Warfield’s pastoral teachings.
32. Musical Instruments in Worship: A Critique of the Non-Instrumentalist Position by Phillip Kayser
Does away with the myth that musical instruments are barred from New Covenant worship.
33. Universal Suffrage: A History and Analysis of Voting in the Church and Society by Phillip Kayser
Critiques pure democracy in the church and government. Phillip Kayser also argues against women voting.
34. The Christian’s Great Interest by William Guthrie
Another Puritan work arguing for the “great interest” of asking, “Am I Saved? How do I know?” Not really on a recommendation list, and probably won’t read it again.
35. Sunday as a First-Day Sabbath by Philip Kayser
Argues for the Sunday Sabbath.
36. Has God Indeed Said?: The Preservation of the Text of the New Testament by Phillip Kayser
A defense of the manuscript tradition behind the KJV and various other translations that I fully recommend to those wanting to know more about the Greek behind their Bible.
37. The Impulse Of Power: Formative Ideals Of Western Civilization by Michael W. Kelley
Shows how power religion has always had some of its wicked levan in the development of Western Civilization, even in the Church. I was fascinated with his section on the Bishop and its absorption of a Roman community benefactor (read savior).
38. Deflation and Liberty by Jörg Guido Hülsmann
Coming in under 100 pages, the author argues very ably that deflation must happen, even when some libertarians argue that deflation should be avoided at all costs.
39. Was Calvin A Theonomist? by Gary North
Shows how Calvin believed that God’s Law should be enforced in modern society.
40. Introduction to the New Testament by Louis Berkhof
A good intro to the books of the New Testament.
41. Tithing and Dominion by Edward A. Powell & Rousas John Rushdoony
The absolute best book on financing the Kingdom of God in history. Teaches the 3-tithe system found in God’s Law, that they are still binding on Christians, and how we can apply them today. If there is one book I would plead Christians to read this year, Tithing and Dominion would be it.
42. The Disintegration of Islam (1916) by Samuel Zwemer
Shows how Islam was ready to keel over and die before Christianity, and also called governments not to do what they did, place Islamic rulers and their laws in authority when the Empire pulled out. Statist governments supported the dying Islam for their own gain and received terrible puppets as a result.
43. Missio Dei by Thomas Schirrmacher
Teaches that God is the first missionary. Schirrmacher attempts to lay out a foundation for missiology that is rooted in the character of God.
44. Christianity and the State by Rousas John Rushdoony
As far as Rushdoony books go, the title gives away what the content is about, the relationship between Christianity and the civil government. His chapter on the Edict of Milan was refreshing.
45. The Changing of the Guard: Biblical Principles for Political Action (Biblical Blueprint Series, #8) by George Grant
Good book, but seriously dated when it comes to a handful of the suggested tactics.
46. Orphan Justice: How to Care for Orphans Beyond Adopting by Johnny Carr
Cool title, some useful statistics, tear-jerking stories, but sorrowfully disappointing regarding his call to actions.
I have read his commentary on James (super long), but this book was a more manageable size. He spends a long time dealing with the Jurrasic Park novels and its focus on the Choas Theory.
48. The Canon of Scripture: Biblical Presuppositions of Canon by Phillip Kayser
The best book on the Canon of Scripture to date. Written from an unabashedly biblical-presuppositional framework. I couldn’t put it down, and it was finished in one day. Make sure you read the updated version (~500 pages).
49. PsychoHeresy: The Psychological Seduction of Christianity by Martin Bobgan
Compares what God’s Word offers for a cure to mental issues compared to the offers of Jung, Skinner, and many others. It also calls out specific people and ministries that capitulated to humanistic psychology.
50. The American Indian by Rousas John Rushdoony
This little book attacks and destroys a lot of ungodly views. The idolization of the “noble savage,” myths regarding American Indians, dehumanizing of modern anthropology, and the subjugation of a people to sub-standard and backward living due to a Statist desire to “preserve culture.”
51. Larceny in the Heart: The Economics of Satan and the Inflationary State by Rousas John Rushdoony
Any healthy economic system must start here. Only God is God, and don’t operate on greed.
52. Our Threatened Freedom: A Christian View on the Menace of American Statism by Rousas John Rushdoony
53. Revolution via Education and other Essays by Samuel L. Blumenfeld
The first few chapters were fantastic, but it really dragged on as the book continued. After being 3/4 of the way through the book, I was more excited to finish than I was engaged by the writing.
54. The Incredible Scofield and His Book by Joseph M. Canfield
Read it. The man was a scoundrel who made orphans and a widow by deserting his family, forged signatures to get loans and left others to pay the tab, lied under oath to become a politician, lied regarding his service in the Confederate army to gain support in the South, and many more morally reprehensible actions.
55. The Christian Educator’s Handbook on Adult Education by Kenneth O. Gangel
Had some helpful organizational information, but bombed it on the philosophy of education.
56. God Is Too Much by Joel H. Nederhood
Many examples were dated, but still an intriguing devotional on the Apostles Creed.
57. Ancient Rome: How It Affects You Today by Richard J. Maybury
A book in the Uncle Eric series discussing the “Roman disease” which infects statist governments, and slowly hollows them out from the inside until they collapse.
58. Keeping the 10 Commandments by J.I. Packer
Parker was a mixed bag on this book. Has some refreshingly good things to say on some of the commandments, but others seemed to detract from the moral authority of the commandment. It could be good to go through while correcting along the way.
59. Classical Me, Classical Thee: Squander Not Thine Education by Rebekah Merkle
A book oriented to classically trained students. Meh. That’s about it.
60. Standing For Christ In A Modern Babylon by Marvin Olasky
Meh. Wouldn’t read it again or recommend it.
61. Thy Kingdom Come: Studies in Daniel and Revelation by Rousas John Rushdoony
Excellent, I would recommend this book to every Christian. Although he is not partial-preterist, he still holds to a final apostasy before Jesus comes back in this book. As Rushdoony matured in his ministry, his position changed to progressive victory with no great apostasy (Warfield).
62. Mises on Money by Gary North
A primer on Mises.
63. Honest Money: The Biblical Blueprint for Money and Banking by Gary North
Intro to Christian Economics.
64. The Seven Deadlies: Poisons and Antidotes by Douglas Wilson
Fun little read. My thought is the same for the book below.
65. European Brain Snakes: Postmodernism as a Species by Douglas Wilson
See book above.
I had never thought about the martyrdom Antipas’ is an argument for the late-date view of Revelation. Anyways, Demar crushed it.
67. How to Be an (A)theist: Why Many Skeptics Aren’t Skeptical Enough by Mitch Stokes
An interesting approach to undoing Atheism; trying to be a consistent atheist while still holding to logic and morality. Still, probably not going to convince an atheist if you gave it to him.
68. The Burden of God: Studies in Wisdom and Civilization from the Book of Ecclesiastes by Michael W. Kelley
The best commentary to date on the book of Ecclesiastes. Ecclesiastes a covenantally faithful exposition of the uselessness of humanistic wisdom running a nation.
69. Fool’s Talk: Recovering the Art of Christian Persuasion by Os Guinness
Not what I thought it would be, but it did make some good points on how to be a convincing conversationalist regarding Christianity.
70. Exodus: God And The King of Kings: The Case For God, Moses, And The Exodus by Mike A. Robinson
This author is a mixed bag, as can be seen in his book defending the Christianity of Trump. There is so much reaching at times. This one is better, but it is very repetitive and everything good he said here can probably be found in another one of his 10 books. I much prefer his book on Islam, even if takes a more conspiracy theorist approach at times regarding the historicity of Muhammad.
71. Preaching?: Simple Teaching on Simply Preaching by J. Alec Motyer
Another book on preaching will probably be lost in the ever-growing pile of preaching books published. It’s not bad by all means, but it is nothing special.
72. Autonomy and Stagnation: Economic Commentary on Ecclesiastes by Gary North
Great points along the same vein as the Michael W. Kelley on Ecclesiastes mentioned above, but very repetitive. The book could have been easily halved.
73. Predictability and Dominion: An Economic Commentary on Job by Gary North
This one is much better the one by North mentioned just above, but I would still recommend Toby Sumpter’s commentary on Job over this one.
74. A Spell for Chameleon (Xanth #1) by Piers Anthony
Brain candy. Read sixteen books in this massive fantasy series one summer when I was 15. Still enjoyable. It made a few good points here and there, but it definitely did the sensualization of female breasts often found in 80’s & 90’s fantasy. Nothing pornographic though.
The final work of Kik before his death, he was actually not able to finish it before his passing. It is always interesting to see the concerns of man for the Church not too long before his death. He made excellent points here and there, but also what I might qualify as blunders. It might be hard to find if you want to read it.
76. The Book that Made Your World: How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization by Vishal Mangalwadi
This book was a breath of fresh air. Historical honesty, hopeful eschatologically, and fire under our bottom to keep building God’s Kingdom for His glory and the blessing of the nations. Of course, there were things that I would hotly contest, but those things were minimal compared to the gold found within Vishal’s book. The backdrop of India was the most fascinating aspect.
Reading projects for the new year
Quite a few books are lining the docket for 2019. Here is the list, and feel free to call me out if these are not on my finished list for 2019 next year.
- Puritan Theology by Beeke
- A Christian Survey of World History by RJ Rushdoony
- Omnibus Vol.1
- Mystery of History: Ancient World
- An Informed Faith Vol. 1-3 by RJ Rushdoony
- More Warfield
- 2-3 Systematic Theologies
Into the New Year
Hopefully, this list will spur you to do some reading this new year. May God make us more and active and better Christians for it. If you haven’t seen, this past year I also wrote a small booklet introducing the concept behind service being the duty of Christian and not the State. Feel free to download it here and share it around.
Matt is a husband, father, and an avid reader. He holds a bachelor’s degree from New Geneva Christian Leadership Academy in Applied Christian Studies.