Aside from books on covenant theology (reviewed on this site throughout the year), and works on Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, and books on false religions and philosophies (see below), the following are the ten best books I read in 2022.
Top Ten Books
Goodwin, Thomas. The Works of Thomas Goodwin. Volume 3. Edinburgh: Nichol, 1861.
Volume three of Goodwin’s works contains some particularly edifying and valuable works. The Return of Prayers is meditation on the duty of Christians to give attention to the answers to their prayers. A Child of Light Walking in Darkness addresses the Christian who is experiencing the withdrawal of God’s felt presence. In other words, this is a helpful work on Christian assurance of salvation. The Trial of a Christian’s Growth is a treatise on sanctification and mortification of sin drawn from the parable of the vine and the branches. The Vanity of Thoughts Discovered, with Their Danger and Cure encourages Christians to discipline their minds so that they do not think unprofitable and/or defiling thoughts.
The volume opens with An Exposition of Revelation. Goodwin operates in the historicist mode common in his time. His exposition does not have enduring value and is of interest only to those interested in the history of interpretation. For a summary of the Exposition, see this post: Three Post-Reformation Revelation Commentaries.
McKenzie, Robert Tracy. We the Fallen People: The Founders and the Future of American Democracy. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic: An Imprint of InterVarsity Press, 2021.
McKenzie is doing a number of things in this book. He is modeling good historiography from by a Christian historian. He provides a careful discussion of how the American founders viewed original sin. He then traces how an increasingly democratic age and an increasingly positive view of human nature reinforced one another. He provides a helpful history of the main events of the Jacksonian era in light of the these transformations. Finally, he makes wise applications to our own democracy in light of the theology and history discussed.
Crowe, Brandon D. Why Did Jesus Live a Perfect Life? The Necessity of Christ’s Obedience for Our Salvation. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2021.
This is an excellent, accessible, exegetical and theological defense of the active obedience of Christ. In this book Crowe deals with the law’s requirement for perfect obedience. His version of covenant theology complicates his exegesis at points, but he is headed in the right direction. I highly commend this book.
Fanning, Buist M. Revelation. Edited by Clinton E. Arnold. Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic, 2020.
This may be the best recent commentary on Revelation. For a review see here.
Gerhard, Johann. On the Law. Theological Commonplaces. Saint Louis: Concordia, 2015.
A Lutheran scholastic view of the law. I found it helpful, and I am sympathetic to the Lutheran approach to the law, with some modifications brought over from the Reformed view.
Tweeddale, John W. John Owen and Hebrews: The Foundation of Biblical Interpretation. New York: T&T Clark, 2019.
Tweeddale’s published doctoral dissertation includes helpful background about the writing of Owen’s Hebrews commentary. More significant however are the careful treatments of how Owen saw the OT and NT relate and the place of the in relation to the new covenant. This is significant because Owen departed from many of the covenant theologians of his day. In my view Owen’s views were better grounded in sound exegesis. Highly commended as a resource into this part of Owen’s thought.
Wells, David. No Place for Truth. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993.
Wells persuasively argues that it is not abstract ideas which shape people’s thinking (ideas have consequences) but the inculturation of ideas that shape people’s thinking. This is a helpful corrective to a pure intellectual history.
Given my work at BJU Press, I found some of the most helpful material to be on the democratization of American culture and how that has fostered both problematic individualism and problematic communities.
Adams, Isaac. Talking about Race: Gospel Hope for Hard Conversations. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2022.
Chapters 7-9 of this book are particularly Bible saturated and provide a great deal of biblical wisdom for this fraught topic. One aspect of this book that I greatly appreciated was its recognition that no technique can solve our racial divisions. Instead, Adams directs readers attention to dependence upon God in prayer and to relating biblical teaching on sanctification to this topic.
Jacobs, Alan. Breaking Bread with the Dead. Penguin, 2020.
Jacobs makes a case for reading past authors with whom we disagree. As typical for Jacobs the argument is supported by well-chosen literary examples and careful reflection.
Whitney, Donald S. Praying the Bible. Wheaton: Crossway, 2015.
The most valuable benefit of this book for me was Whitney’s schedule for praying through the psalms.
Three Notable Articles
Webster, John. “Sins of Speech.” God without Measure: Working Papers in Christian Theology: Virtue and Intellect. Vol. II. New York: T&T Clark, 2016.
This is a careful theological essay on the ethics of speech. Webster begins with the theological foundations in God and creation for virtuous speech, relates human nature to virtuous speech, describes how sin disorders speech, and then looks at how speech can be mortified and vivified for the regenerate person. I found the essay spiritually warm, and it had the effect of arousing desire for more God-honoring speech in my own life.
Jonathan M. Cheek, “Bruising, Crushing, or Striking: The Translation of שׁוף and the Promise of Victory in Genesis 3:15,” Journal of Biblical Theology and Worldview 2, no. 1 (Fall 2021).
This is a helpful investigation of the meaning of שׁוף. Cheek argues that “bruise” is an anachronistic translation that no longer communicates what it died in the seventeenth century. He finds “crush” to be an adequate interpretation of what the seed of the woman does to the serpent’s head (cf. Rom. 16:20), but he prefers “strike” as less interpretive and more fitting to describe both what the serpent does and what happens to the serpent. He finds this sense supported in the other passages where שׁוף is used: Job 9:7 and Psalm 139:11. Cheek acknowledges that the strike of the serpent on a heel can be fatal if the serpent is poisonous, and he grants that the passage could point to the death of the Messiah as a key component of the victory of the Messiah over the serpent. Though this would be cryptic to original readers, the unfolding of Scripture would clarify this. Cheek does maintain that in context Genesis 3:15 does give the reader an expectation of victory over the serpent.
Craig Blaising, “A Critique of Gentry and Wellum’s Kingdom through Covenant: A Hermeneutical-Theological Response,” Master’s Seminary Journal 26.1 (2015): 111-27.
This is an excellent review of Kingdom through Covenant. Blaising praises the attempt at a canonical reading of the covenants and of biblical theology that is not superficial but which captures deep connections. Blaising’s overall critique is that KtC does not pay enough attention to certain “crucial textual details” which, if attended to, would provide for a more holistic biblical theology.
More specifically, Blaising critiques the continuity/discontinuity framing for evaluating biblical theological systems. Blaising suggests, “It would be better to avoid these abstractions and refocus the issue on plot development and resolution.” The better system will account for how the biblical narrative develops “as a coherent narrative” and how it brings all the elements of its plot to a resolution.
Second, Blaising critiques KtC’s understanding of typology. 1. He notes that not all types are directly Christological nor escalatory. 2. He demurs from the claim that types “establish” God’s plan, arguing that the plan is established in the narrative and framed in covenant promises. He is wary of typology when used to “contravene, suppress, or subvert the meaning of explicit covenant promise, and even more so when the NT explicitly repeats and reaffirms the same promise as declared in the covenants of the OT.” 3. He denies that the covenants prior to the new covenant are types of the new covenant, especially when the antitypical nature of the new covenant is appealed to as justifying a reinterpretation of those covenants’ promises.
Blaising instead calls for an understanding of the nature of the speech act of a covenant promise and the commitment God makes when he swears to covenant promises. Blaising also calls for a “holistic anthropology” that recognizes that the scriptural vision for humanity into the eternal state is multinational. Third, Blaising calls for a holistic new creation eschatology that recognizes the particular land promised to Israel is a part of the whole, renovated earth. The whole does not replace the part; the part is necessarily a part of the whole. Fourth, Blaising calls for a Christology that does not reduce all fulfillment to the Person of Christ but which recognizes variegated richness of the realm Christ inherits. Finally, Blaising argues that the ecclesiological payoff that progressive covenantalists are seeking―a regenerate new covenant community―is to be had in progressive dispensationalism without losing the fullness and complexity of the biblical narrative.
Top Ten Books on Philosophy and Religion Finished in 2022
Chirico, Leonardo. Same Words, Different Worlds: Do Roman Catholics and Evangelicals Believe the Same Gospel? London: Inter-Varsity, 2021.
This is a superb work that does an excellent job of describing Roman Catholic beliefs and how they differ from orthodox Protestant theology. Chirico understands that Roman Catholicism is a system and that individual teachings must be understood in light of the system. As a result, apparent agreement between Roman Catholic and Protestant theology is just that—apparent. I also read De Chirico’s A Christian’s Pocket Guide to Papacy (Christian Focus, 2015) and A Christian’s Pocket Guide to Mary (Christian Focus, 2017) and Gregg Allison’s 40 Questions about Roman Catholicism.
Trueman, Carl. The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self: Cultural Amnesia, Expressive Individualism, and the Road to Sexual Revolution. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020.
This book is as good as everybody says it is. Well worth reading.
Snead, O. Carter. What It Means to Be Human: The Case for the Body in Public Bioethics. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2020.
Carl Trueman put the phrase “expressive individualism” into evangelicals’ lexicon with regards to LGBT issues. Carter Snead shows that expressive individualism also undergirds arguments regarding abortion and other issues of bioethics.
Cooper, John W. Panentheism—the Other God of the Philosophers: From Plato to the Present. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006.
This is a historical and theological survey of the concept of Panentheism. It does an excellent job of describing the variety of views that fall under that label and how the concept developed in history.
Watkin, Christopher. Jacques Derrida. Great Thinkers. P&R, 2017.
Watkin, Christopher. Michel Foucault. Great Thinkers. P&R, 2018.
Watkin, Christopher. Gilles Deleuze. Great Thinkers. P&R, 2020.
I found Watkin’s books on these French postmodern thinkers to be helpful in understanding their thought. He did a good job of accurately describing these difficult thinkers in an accessible but accurate manner.
Stevens, Anthony. Jung: A Very Short Introduction. OUP, 1994.
This book reveals the great influence of Jung on contemporary thinking. Though the author is secular and sympathetic to Jung, it is hard to read without wondering if Jung was engaged in occult practices that put him in touch with the demonic.
Bennett, Matthew Aaron. 40 Questions about Islam. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2020.
This is a helpful introduction to Muslim beliefs and practices.
McGuckin, John Anthony. The Orthodox Church: An Introduction to its History, Doctrine, and Spiritual Culture. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2008.
McGuckin is an Orthodox theologian, and this book does a good job of describing its history, doctrine, and practice from an Orthodox perspective.