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Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

“So What Are You Reading Now?”

Jun 8, 2018

I’m glad you asked. OK, so you didn’t ask, but a few of you might have been thinking that! I know that a small percentage of my readers absolutely love these sorts of articles. Alas, the great bulk of you seem to ignore them, if not dislike them! Admittedly, they certainly do not receive much attention, generate many comments, or result in many shares.

But for the handful of you who do look forward to learning about the latest mountain of books I am ploughing through, this piece is for you! As my wife can attest, the coffee table that I seek to keep clear is usually covered with piles of books.

A while back a massive reading binge saw the table completely cleared. But that did not last very long, and I again have 40 or 50 volumes accumulated there. As the saying goes, so many books, so little time. And for every book read another new purchase is likely – at least in my household.

This batch of books all happen to be Christian books, dealing with things like theology, biblical studies, apologetics, church history, biography, and eschatology. They are either new books just recently bought, or somewhat older books that I recently acquired.

I arrange them here simply by author, alphabetically. Here then are 23 books I happen to be reading and enjoying at the moment, and I trust that you may find some of them of interest as well:

Gregg Allison, 50 Core truths of the Christian Faith. Baker, 2018.
In some 400 pages the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary theologian explores the basic Christian doctrines. Although laid out in a popular style format, this really is a full-blown systematic theology, covering all the key biblical truths. A solid yet easy to follow work.

Craig Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of the New Testament. B&H, 2016.
Blomberg is a key New Testament scholar who has already penned important books on the reliability of the synoptic gospels, and of John’s gospel. Now he tackles the entire NT. In nearly 800 pages he offers us a very valuable work with an apologetics edge, dealing with many questions and concerns about the NT. An invaluable reference work.

Melvyn Bragg, William Tyndale. SPCK, 2017.
If you are looking for a recent and brief biography of this important reformer, pastor, Bible translator and martyr, this book is for you. In just a hundred pages we learn much about this man, his work, and his legacy, chief of which being his translation into English of the New Testament and much of the Old Testament.

Robert Caldwell, Theologies of the American Revivalists. IVP, 2017.
I find it quite intriguing that God can get his job done, using all sorts of people with all sorts of differing theologies. In the First and Second Great Awakenings in America all sorts of people were used, from the Calvinistic Whitefield and Edwards to the Arminian Finney. Caldwell, a church history professor, carefully examines what these revivalists taught and thought about keys issues like sin, conversion, free will, the Holy Spirit, and the marks of salvation. An excellent work.

Kenneth Collins and Jerry Walls, Roman but Not Catholic. Baker, 2017.
This is a very good, very thorough and very detailed assessment of Roman Catholicism by two authorities who can hardly be called Catholic-bashers (one was raised a Catholic). They make it clear that they believe Catholics to be full members of the body of Christ, but they look at many core teachings, such as the role of the Pope, Mary, the doctrine of justification, the nature of the church, and conclude that evangelical Protestantism is the truest expression of biblical faith. This gracious, irenic and scholarly discussion is first class, and even if you disagree with their theological orientation, you will find much of value here.

Gordon Fee, Jesus the Lord According To Paul the Apostle. Baker, 2018.
Fee is also one of our leading NT scholars. Back in 2007 he penned his invaluable Pauline Christology. The 700 pages of that volume have been reworked and narrowed down to a more manageable 200 pages, giving us the gist of all that Paul had to say about Jesus. As always, excellent work.

Nathan Finn and Jeremy Kimble, eds., A Reader’s Guide to the Major Writings of Jonathan Edwards. Crossway, 2017.
Without question Edwards was America’s most important theologian and philosopher, who was also a pastor and a revivalist. This collection of essays about his life, his work, and his thought, is outstanding. A number of experts look at various facets of the man and his ministry, including his writings on theology, revival, and the Christian life.

Michael Kruger, Christianity at the Crossroads. IVP, 2018.
The period immediately following on from the New Testament story of the birth of the church can be a bit cloudy and confusing for many Christians. Just what happened then, and how did the church take off? Christian thought and practice were strongly formed during this period. As he puts it in his subtitle, “How the Second Century Shaped the Future of the Church.” This is a very helpful look at second century Christianity from the respected New Testament professor at Reformed Theological Seminary.

Larry Hurtado, Destroyer of the Gods. Baker, 2016.
The veteran NT scholar from Edinburgh offers us a compelling explanation of the distinctiveness of early Christianity and why it thrived, despite so many obstacles and so much opposition. The early faith stood in marked contrast to the cultural, political and philosophical setting of the Roman world.

J. Richard Middleton, A New Heaven and a New Earth. Baker, 2014.
As the subtitle indicates, this book is about “Reclaiming Biblical Eschatology”. Christians too often have a rather fuzzy notion of what is to come, biblically speaking. We have notions of floating around on clouds strumming a harp, etc. But a new earth is part of the next world we will be living in. A welcome, holistic look at salvation in its fullest sense.

R. Albert Mohler, The Prayer That Turns the World Upside Down. Thomas Nelson, 2018.
In this brief volume the veteran evangelical leader offers us a detailed and incisive look at the Lord’s Prayer. He provides a devotional, theological and practical guide to the prayer, offering us plenty of help along the way to both appreciate and live out this key prayer of Jesus.

Abdu Murray, Grand Central Question. IVP, 2014.
Murray is a somewhat newish and youngish Christian apologist who is making quite a name for himself. Here he looks at a number of the key issues raised by the major worldviews. He looks at such things as the nature of truth, the problem of suffering, and the nature and significance of personhood. Islam, pantheism and secular humanism are among the main worldviews that he interacts with.

Abdu Murray, Saving Truth. Zondervan, 2018.
In his newest book the North American director of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries looks at our post-truth culture. He lays out the damaging consequences of this, and shows Christians how to not only defend truth but to live truth in such a hostile environment. His books are always worth reading.

Iain Murray, Evangelical Holiness. Banner of Truth, 2013.
Murray has served as an assistant to Martyn Lloyd-Jones in London, and has authored numerous volumes, including biographies on Lloyd-Jones. Here we have various addresses of his on topics like holiness, apostasy, attacks on Scripture, and the role of controversy. Inspiring stuff.

Olson, Roger, Arminian Theology. IVP, 2006. Olson is an Arminian and I am not. But he is a very fair and careful theologian who seeks to accurately explain and present what Arminians actually believe, along with interaction from non-Arminian points of view. Some hard-core Calvinists may well beg to differ, but this is a gracious, irenic and helpful defence and elaboration of basic Arminian beliefs.

John Piper, 21 Servants of Sovereign Joy. Crossway, 2018.
In over 800 pages the lives of 21 great men of God from past and present are looked at in some detail. They include: Augustine, Athanasius, Luther, Calvin, Bunyan, Whitefield, Spurgeon, Wilberforce and Lewis. This is both an academic as well as a devotional volume that will be of use to all believers.

Paul Schlehlein, John G. Paton. Banner of Truth, 2017.
One of the earliest books I read as a new Christian was a large, old hardback autobiography about this amazing missionary to the South Sea Islands. I never forgot the incredible tales of commitment and devotion to reaching the lost in the face of so much suffering and so many trials. This new biography of just under 200 pages is a welcome addition to works about this missionary to the cannibals.

Andrew Schmutzer and David Howard, eds., The Psalms. Moody, 2013.
In this important work 18 experts – most of them OT scholars – such as Walt Kaiser, Bruce Waltke, Tremper Longman, Allen Ross and John Piper look at numerous aspects of the Psalms. Historical and theological considerations are found here, as well as application and preaching helps. A great collection of essays to help bring alive the Psalms.

Peter Stanford, Martin Luther: Catholic Dissident. Hodder & Stoughton, 2017.
I found this to be rather interesting and helpful. Stanford happens to be a Catholic, but he actually believes that there was a real need for people like Luther to come along and help correct the things that needed correction, adjustment or redirection. He believes that the Catholic church is better today for someone like Luther and his reformist passions.

Harry Stout, ed., The Jonathan Edwards Encyclopedia. Eerdmans, 2017.
OK, I confess, this is the one book here I do not yet own – but hey, it is expensive (Koorong has it for $80). But I am weak, and the temptation will soon enough overtake me and I will grab a copy. Well over 100 experts contribute to this massive work (650 pages), offering us everything we need to know about the man, his work, his writings and his ideas.

Mark Strauss, Jesus Behaving Badly. IVP, 2015.
The New Testament specialist offers us a popular-level look at the real Jesus, not the Jesus of political correctness and liberal theology. He examines a number of fuzzy notions about who Jesus was, including: Was he a pacifist? Was he chauvinistic? Was he racist? Was he a mere moralist? Was he sexist? These and other common notions about Jesus are carefully examined. A helpful volume.

Ralph Wood, Chesterton: The Nightmare Goodness of God. Baylor University Press, 2011.
Anything by or about Chesterton will always get my attention. Wood, a professor of theology and literature, does an excellent job analysing and assessing the work of Chesterton on a number of fronts. Chesterton “makes his deepest affirmation about God and man and the world in the face of nightmarish unbelief.” He discusses many of his key works and examines topics such as tyrannical tolerance, the West and Islam, eugenics, and the nature of civilisation and democracy. Wood knows his topic and is a joy to read.

Paul Williamson, Death and the Afterlife. Apollos/IVP, 2017.
For those who know a bit about such matters, the Bible actually says relatively little about the intermediate state (what happens between death and the resurrection), and the material that is there can be somewhat ambiguous or uncertain. Williamson, an OT lecturer at Moore College in Sydney offers us a very good overview and assessment of these matters, as well as the final state of heaven and hell.

Hopefully some of these volumes will whet your appetite. Happy reading and happy learning.

[1923 words]

30 Responses to “So What Are You Reading Now?”

  • Thank you, thank you, thank you, Bill! I’m now chomping at the bit to read all of these. Must share on FB!

  • do you have any recommendations for books about Charles Finney????? either biographies, sermons or quotes?????

  • Thanks Paul. Yes, these two are solid biographies:

    Charles E. Hambrick-Stowe, Charles Finney and the Spirit of American Evangelism (Eerdmans, 1996).

    Keith Hardman, Charles Grandison Finney 1792-1875: Revivalist and Reformer (Baker, 1997,1990).

    As to an assessment of his theology, it depends if you want pro or con!

  • Can I add a book I have just read which is for those who are not afraid to face reality? it is “The Marketing of Evil” by David Kupelian.

    It is an expose of how the world has duped us into believing their lies and brought them into the mainstream of society and made them acceptable.

    As is says on the cover, “How radicals, elitists, pseudo-experts have sold us corruption disguised as freedom.” He covers topics like homosexuality, the sexual revolution, TV, criminalizing public prayer, marriage, abortion, the lies we are told and being anti-American.

    Whilst it is based on the American way of life, it has many corollaries that can be applied to most western nations.

    I could not put the book down and finished it in two days. The author is Managing Editor of WorldNet Daily.

  • I would be on the pro side for finney

  • Thanks Paul. Then also see works such as these:

    Garth Rosell and Richard A. G. Dupuis, The Memoirs of Charles G. Finney: The Complete Restored Text. Zondervan, 1989.

    Basil Miller, Charles Finney (Men of Faith). Bethany, 1969.

  • Three books on the go at the mo. As a result of the recent jailing of Tommy Robinson, I thought I’d check out his “Enemy of the State” and as a result of him being banned in the UK, Michael Savage’s “God, Faith and Reason” makes enjoyable and thoughtful reading. But to acquaint my self with some fundamental Philosophy 101 rounding I’m finding “Meaning- the History of Western Philosophy” by Dr. Clinton J de Bruyn good reading. Recent finishes- “Beyond Opinion” by Ravi Zacharias et.al. and Ravi’s recent “Why Jesus” is thought provoking.

  • Hello Bill, a little off topic but I was wondering if you were aware of and were going to write anything about the passing of the child-killing zone bill in NSW parliament?

    What shocked us was not that it passed, after Ireland nothing is a shock anymore, but that it passed with the support of so many Liberals and especially Nationals. But after we learned on the weekend that 4 Nats had told Vikki Campion to kill Barnaby’s son this is simply more proof the Nats have ceased to be a conservative party.

  • Thanks Gene. Yes I am aware of it and may yet write it up.

  • thanks. I don’t know what you believe about the rapture I am pretrib but my dad is not christian so I am getting books to leave behind for him. I am getting ones on George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Spurgeon, “50 people every christian should know”, a couple books by Charles Colson, DA Carson, CS lewis (8 classics of his), “Creed without Chaos: Exploring Theology in the Writings of Dorothy L. Sayers”.

    I am trying to get some of the early American spiritual founding fathers and the revivalists the heavy hitters to leave for him, I think they had better grounding in truth than most modern christian preachers, as well as a few more modern. Any good ones you would recommend to add to this list???

    I am a night owl here in the states so it is a bit past 3 am here and I am just going to bed.

  • Looks like a good list to me Paul.

  • Hehehe…the question on my mind is “Where on earth do you find the time to read so much?” you obviously have divine connections. All there was time enough for me to read today were devotions and the budget I’ve started again this week after some time off. Wow…I guess this explains why you were up till 01:00 this morning Bill but my next question is how can you be so well read while writing as many articles as you do about nearly every important social issue of our day and then some? You are a little like our ‘retired’ theology/worldviews lecturer, our retried New Testament lecturer as well as our semi ‘retired’ Old Testament lecturer, all rolled into one and then there’s our former Missions lecturer plus Church History lecturers as well as Pastoral Care/Preaching lecturer/. Why you could even run your own college after some of the greatest theologians since the beginning of time, which brings me to the next question, how do you budget for all of the books you buy or borrow, is there another library where you source all of your resources from? You certainly are well informed on a great many subjects, so what is your favourite subject and what are you reading at the moment brother? Since “Righteous by Promise” came along, I have not picked up Schaeffer to read again yet, but it seems that the more knowledge I gain the further down the tubes the church down the road goes. Help please, will the slow death of Christ’s church haunt us forever and will the Lord ever be truly glorified in her properly, before he returns, what of understanding or wisdom will we be held accountable for particularly when our leaders pay no mind to God’s word? Our former principle was flabbergasted at what confronted him on his last visit to preach here just as well he never saw the cartoon pictures being displayed over one wall in the hall, the week before. If it was not as serious this would be funny, the devil is having a field day Bill, when can you visit! Pfft! Blessings

  • Hi Bill, can you shed some light on why Protestant Christians – except some Catholics are so apathetic to the unborn? Do you see any connection between the massacre of the unborn and all the violence in America today – especially in our schools?

    Thank you,
    Louise

    PS Your articles are informative and convicting at the same time. What the church [all of us] desperately needs.

  • Thanks Louise. Protestants can be apathetic about many things unfortunately. Of course many Catholics can be apathetic as well. But some evangelicals are getting in the prolife camp thankfully. And yes I have no doubt that the mass killing of babies is linked to the rise of violence in our culture.

  • Who am I to recommend a book that I haven’t finished yet. I am hooked though and reckon I’ll finish this weekend.
    Red Alert (Does the Future have a Church) by Gil Cann. Albatross Books.
    I hope you look out for it.

  • Thanks Bill for a great list. Finding time outside of my daily Matthew Henry, marriage, home schooling, full time job, spending time with our 3 children on the Word of God and building relationships and other concerns is such a challenge.

    Nonetheless, looking at that list is a real blessing and I appreciate seeing from time to time what is on your list so that I can pick them up.

  • An awesome picture, and a great list. One of those books looks interesting, and quite relevant given some online debate I’ve run into. Sadly most of the copies are at the WA branch and that’s a tad far to visit. Perhaps I need to think about drawing up a list of interesting material and either ordering online, or see if it can be delivered to a ‘local’ store and thus be an excuse to visit? 🙂

  • Interesting that Roger Olson’s ‘Arminian Theology’ is on your list, for it so happens that 2018 is the 400th anniversary of the Synod of Dordt, held at Dordrecht in The Netherlands. At this Synod, Arminianism was examined and, having been found to be inconsistent with the teaching of the Bible, was formally rejected by the Dutch Reformed Church. The Canons of Dordt, produced by the Synod, are easily found by searching the internet and are also worth reading today, 400 years after the event. And as you may have already guessed, I too am not an Arminian!

  • I recommend “Red Alert: Does the future have a church”, just published by Gil Cann. An excellent critique of the modern church, its modus operandi and some sobering challenges, with an Australian focus. Arguably, every chapter worth the price of the book.

  • Thanks Warren. You are the second one to mention this book (see also Dick above). However, if the author and his fans want us all to read the book, they are doing a lousy job of it! I have just spent the past 10 minutes trying to track it down. It is on none of the bigger online bookstores like amazon, and I can barely find out anything at all about it! I am not very impressed! Maybe he does not want anyone to read it!

    I am certainly interested in checking it out however. So either you, or the author, or the publisher, or someone needs to get their act together a bit and give us some basic info here! OK!?

  • i just looked and if you go to amazon Australia the book The Jonathan Edwards Encyclopedia is only $62 it looks one like slightly cheaper on the amazon marketplace. (it is much cheaper in American amazon but not sure about shipping to Australia). I know you prefer local stores but when price is a consideration amazon it usually a good bet

  • Thanks Paul. I believe amazon Australia has free shipping on orders over $49. Yes amazon US is often the cheapest, but they do not have free international shipping as do some of the others. Often I find Book Depository and AbeBooks to be the cheapest as a result. Koorong is often pretty competitive in prices. Here you can see a number of options (in Australian dollars) as to this volume:

    booko.com.au/9780802869524/The-Jonathan-Edwards-Encyclopedia

  • “Red Alert”. You can order online at gilcann.com.

  • Thanks Warren, although the details are still a bit skimpy! Questions remain: Who is the publisher? How many pages is it? What exactly does it cover, etc? Except for the three brief blurbs, we are still sorta in the dark as to what the book is all about!

  • “Red Alert”…
    Publisher: Albatross Books P/L
    Pages: 309, 17 chapters
    Price: $25 + $10 postage
    Author: Gil Cann – one of the most gentle and unassuming men you could meet.
    What does it cover: Addresses issues that prevent (Western) churches from becoming healthy, authentic and convincing Christian communities through which unchurched people may discover God’s love for them. What it means to be church – what is it and what is it for? Traditional institutional assumptions about church are challenged in the current environment of discouragement and confusion. The practice of church today is deeply influenced by centuries of Christendom-thinking which is now proving a great weakness as following Christ becomes more difficult and costly. Why is decline (in the West) so rapid and widespread? What is needed is a complete change of strategy and practice.

    Hope this is helpful.

  • Many thanks Warren. Before I buy a book I like to know something about it!

  • Always good to read your lists and commentary.
    How about a book list BY PROMINENT NON CHRISTIANS that is worth reading just for the sake of engagement with them.
    Take JB Peterson’s dissection of GENESIS

    If you or your readers would like to be involved he’s one place to start

    www.facebook.com/modernprophet/

  • Thanks John. My earlier book lists have featured plenty of titles by non-Christians, and my nearly 500 book reviews have a large percentage on non-Christian titles:

    billmuehlenberg.com/category/book-reviews/

  • Just loaded “Roman but not Catholic” onto my Kindle. I have some issues with the Catholic Church that I am expecting to find I have in common with Messrs Walls and Collins. We will see.

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