Block, Daniel I. For the Glory of God: Recovering a Biblical Theology of Worship. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2014.
This is a warm, biblically grounded study of worship that does an excellent job of moving from exegesis and biblical theology to contemporary application. I read the work slowly on Lord’s days, and I found it to be an excellent companion on those days.
Caro. Robert The Years of Lyndon Johnson. 4 volumes. Knopf, 1982, 1991, 2002, 2012.
These books, massive as they are (and still awaiting the concluding volume) were hard to put down. Caro is a superb writer, and I feel better informed after reading them not only about LBJ but also about life in Texas leading up to his time, the workings of the Senate, and much more. It may seem overkill to take a hundred pages to the present the biography LBJ’s rival in the election to the Senate or to tell the story of his mentor once he arrived. But these seeming diversions are often some of the best parts of these books.
Bull, Josiah, ed. Letters of John Newton. 1869; Reprinted, Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth 2007.
I’ve long preferred reading biographies to reading diaries or letters. Biographies have a narrative thread that letters and diaries lack. However, reading John Newton’s letters are different. Newton was a master letter writer, and his letters are full of wise pastoral counsel. These are letters worth reading slowly and meditating on.
Though I’ve not yet finished it, Tony Reinke’s book, Newton on the Christian Life, is one of the best books I began to read in 2015. Reinke has distilled Newton’s wisdom as found throughout his letters and organized it into a work that will challenge you in your walk with God and inspire you to read more Newton.
Edwards, Jonathan. “Dissertation II: The Nature of True Virtue.” In Ethical Writings. Edited by Paul Ramsey. Works of Jonathan Edwards. Volume 8. Edited by John E Smith. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989.
This, as might be expected, was one of the more difficult works that I read this year. I found Edwards’s arguments that there is no true virtue without love toward God compelling. I was not convinced by his argument that greater amounts of love are due to those with greater degrees of being (God, as Being in general, being the most deserving of love). This argument, it seems, could be run in an pantheistic direction. In addition, Scripture does not seem to tie our moral obligation to being. These disagreements aside, this is an enjoyable and beneficial work to think your way through.
Myers, Ken. All God’s Children and Blue Suede Shoes. Wheaton: Crossway, 2012.
This is one of the most incisive books about culture that I’ve read. Myers asks his readers to move beyond the question of what is permissible to the question of what is good and wise. Watching television is permissible. Watching several shows every night, night after night is neither good nor wise. This is true even apart from the content of the shows. While content is not unimportant, Myers is concerned to sensitize Christians to the sensibilities of pop culture, which tend to be sensibilities at odds with those of Christianity: novelty over tradition, immediacy as opposed to patience, diversion rather than meditation, celebrity rather than community, youth rather than respect for the wisdom of the aged, “authenticity” as opposed to controlling passions and developing virtue. I found myself challenged to think carefully about my cultural activities and the sensibilities they cultivate.
Köstenberger, Andreas J. A Theology of John’s Gospel and Letters. Biblical Theology of the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009.
This is a great introduction to John’s Gospel and Letters. Readers encounter introductory matters, such as authorship, learn about the literary structure of these books, and have their themes unpacked in a winsome combination of depth and brevity.
Principe, Lawrence M. The Scientific Revolution: A Very Short Introduction. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.
Oxford’s “Very Short Introduction” series is generally excellent. The authors are experts in their fields, and most do an admirable job of truly introducing readers to a diverse array of subjects. Principe’s work is one of the best I’ve read in the series so far. Principe not only explains the factors contributing to the Scientific Revolution, but he also treats the people who came before it with respect. He demonstrates that the thinkers prior to the Scientific Revolution were not unintelligent, nor were their theories irrational. They made good sense of the world in the intellectual framework of the time. What is more, their view of the world may still have something to teach those of us who live on the other side of the scientific revolution.
Oliphint, K. Scott. God With Us: Divine Condescension and the Attributes of God. Crossway, 2011.
I really appreciate the way that Oliphint wrestled with thick theological issues in this book while firmly rejecting attempts to trim Bible statements to better fit theological conclusions. Yet he does not reject the legitimacy of theological reasoning but instead works toward a legitimate theological solution. This work strikes me as a model for careful, biblically-rooted systematic theology.
Witmer, Timothy Z. The Shepherd Leader: Achieving Effective Shepherding in Your Church. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2010.
If Oliphint shows what biblically-rooted systematic theology looks like, then Witmer shows what biblically and theologically-rooted practical theology looks like. Anyone who serves as a pastor or elder would benefit from this book.
Stanglin, Keith D. and Thomas H. McCall. Jacob Arminius: Theologian of Grace. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.
This is probably the best book on Arminius’s life and thought in print. I believe I have a better understanding of what Arminius did and did not think as a result of reading this work. The authors do an excellent job of explaining his theology in a readable and sympathetic manner without sacrificing scholarly accuracy.