CultureWatch

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

Some of My Favourite Sets (of Theological Books)

Oct 1, 2018

OK, another post about books, reading and theology. There goes 95 per cent of my potential reading audience. But for the 5 per cent of you still here, you might find this of some use. If you like to read, if you like books, if you like theology, and if you are like me, you might also enjoy various sets of works.

And who does not like collections? Some folks collect stamps, or rocks, or coins, or dolls, or baseball cards, or toys, or movie posters, or marbles, or feathers, or butterflies, or teaspoons, or old bottles, or paintings, or records, or cars, or seashells. OK, so I collect books, and theological sets!

Here I especially want to focus on multi-volume sets or series featuring multiple authors. There are numerous sets like this that are quite valuable, and Christians should be aware of them. One need not get every book in the series, but being aware of what is available may be of some use.

Given my interest of late in Christian biographies, let me look at a few sets which are very good indeed when it comes to telling the stories of some of the great saints. Most of the books in these sets are not overly lengthy, so they will not consume too much of your time. But they are great volumes to help you get to know further some of these great figures from church history.

History Makers series
This helpful series of biographies (and a few autobiographies) is put out by Christian Focus. It seems to have around 20 volumes thus far, with most penned during the past two decades or so. I am not sure if more are on the way, but they are relatively inexpensive paperbacks, and are well worth collecting. I here feature the biographical subject, followed by the author:

Richard Baxter – Richard Baxter
David Brainerd – Vance Christie
John and Betty Stam – Vance Christie
Andrew Murray – Vance Christie
Adoniram Judson – Vance Christie
F B Meyer – Bob Holman
Martin Luther – Thomas Lindsay
Mary Slessor – Bruce McLennan
John G Paton – James Paton
The Cambridge Seven – John Pollock
A Fistful of Heroes – John Pollock
George Whitefield – John Pollock
Gordon of Khartoum – John Pollock
Hudson Taylor and Maria – John Pollock
D L Moody – John Pollock
J C Ryle – Eric Russell
R M McCheyne – Alexander Smellie
George Muller – Roger Steer
Thomas Boston – Andrew Thomson
John Owen – Andrew Thomson
John Calvin – Williston Walker

On the Christian Life series
This rather recent series is put out by Crossway. The “On the Christian Life” series looks at the practical issue of how various great Christians of the past saw the Christian life, and how it is to be lived. It is an excellent series and all the volumes are quite good.

The 15 volumes that thus far have appeared were written between 2013-2018. There may well be more new ones forthcoming. They are (in rough order of appearance):

Bonhoeffer – Stephen Nichols
Schaeffer – William Edgar
Wesley – Fred Sanders
Calvin – Michael Horton
Edwards – Dane Ortlund
Warfield – Fred Zaspel
Augustine – Gerald Bray
Bavinck – John Bolt
Luther – Carl Trueman
Newton – Tony Reinke
Owen – Matthew Barrett
Packer – Sam Storms
Lewis – Joe Rigney
Lloyd-Jones – Jason Meyer
Spurgeon – Michael Reeves

A Long Line of Godly Men series

This is another useful series of biographies of godly men. There seem to be over a dozen books in this series so far, most penned by Steven Lawson. The Reformation Trust Publishing books are these (by order of author):

Knox – Douglas Bond
Watts – Douglas Bond
Sibbes – Mark Dever
Owen – Sinclair Ferguson
Luther – Steven Lawson
Calvin – Steven Lawson
Tyndale – Steven Lawson
Spurgeon – Steven Lawson
Whitefield – Steven Lawson
Edwards – Steven Lawson
Lloyd-Jones – Steven Lawson
Foundations of Grace – Steven Lawson
Pillars of Grace – Steven Lawson

A History of Evangelicalism series
This five-volume series, put out by IVP, is edited by David Bebbington and Mark Noll. As the name suggests, it does not cover 2000 years of church history, but several hundred years of American and British evangelicalism. It is a very good set indeed. The volumes are:

Noll, Mark, The Rise of Evangelicalism. 2004.
Wolffe, John, The Expansion of Evangelicalism. 2006.
Bebbington, David, The Dominance of Evangelicalism. 2005.
Treloar, Geoff, The Disruption of Evangelicalism. 2017.
Stanley, Brian, The Global Diffusion of Evangelicalism. 2013.

40 Questions About series
This is a quite good series put out by Kregel. It looks at various theological, biblical and ecclesiastical subjects, all examined in a question and answer format. There are nearly a dozen books available thus far, and presumably more are coming. They are, in rough order of appearance:

Merkle, Benjamin, 40 Questions About Elders and Deacons – 2007
Schreiner, Thomas, 40 Questions about Christians and Biblical Law – 2010
Plummer, Robert, 40 Questions About Interpreting the Bible – 2010
Schnabel, Eckhard, 40 Questions About the End Times – 2012
Keathley, Kenneth and Mark Rooker, 40 Questions About Creation and Evolution – 2014
Hammett, John, 40 Questions About Baptism and the Lord’s Supper – 2015
Pate, C. Marvin, 40 Questions about the Historical Jesus – 2015
Kimble, Jeremy, 40 Questions About Church Membership and Discipline – 2017
Barrett, Matthew, 40 Questions About Salvation – 2018
Gilhooly, John, 40 Questions About Angels, Demons, and Spiritual Warfare – 2018
Gomes, Alan, 40 Questions About Heaven and Hell – 2018

Foundations of Evangelical Theology series
This is a top-notch series in systematic theology, edited by John Feinberg. There are seven volumes so far in this Crossway series, and each is very substantial and thorough indeed. Feinberg’s volume on the doctrine of God is nearly 900 pages for example. They are, in order of appearance:

The Cross and Salvation: The Doctrine of Salvation by Bruce Demarest, 1997.
No One Like Him: The Doctrine of God by John Feinberg, 2001.
To Know and Love God: Method for Theology by David Clark, 2003.
He Who Gives Life: The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit by Graham Cole, 2007.
Sojourners and Strangers: The Doctrine of the Church by Gregg Allison, 2012.
God the Son Incarnate: The Doctrine of Christ by Steve Wellum, 2016.
Light in a Dark Place: The Doctrine of Scripture by John Feinberg, 2018.

Sets by the same author

There would be plenty of single-author sets that I could mention here. Let me just run with four of them. Future articles may cover more.

One really valuable set is With the Church Fathers series by Christopher Hall. Most Christians are quite ignorant of the church Fathers and how very foundational they are to the church today. In these four books we see what they said and believed about theology, the Bible, worship and ethics. They are:

Reading Scripture with the Church Fathers (IVP, 1998)
Learning Theology with the Church Fathers (IVP, 2002)
Worshipping with the Church Fathers (IVP, 2009)
Living Wisely with the Church Fathers (IVP, 2017)

For fans of the Old Testament, I still benefit greatly from John Goldingay’s 3-volume Old Testament Theology (IVP, 2003, 2006, 2009). All up the three volumes contain some 2700 pages of first-rate analysis of OT themes and theology. A solid and superb study of the OT.

And of course one cannot omit two more sets which are so useful in getting a solid grasp of major parts of the New Testament. I refer to two classic sets by the great Welsh preacher and biblical expositor, Martyn Lloyd-Jones. His most important set of course is his 14 volumes of expository sermons on the book of Romans. Published by Banner of Truth, the set is magisterial, and well worth getting.

As I wrote previously: “Delivered as a series of sermons between 1955 and 1968 at Westminster Chapel, London, it is a monumental achievement. At 5078 pages – to be precise – it is a goldmine of exegetical and expository excellence, timeless theological truths, and spiritual nuggets.”
billmuehlenberg.com/2013/02/27/5000-pages-on-romans-by-the-doctor/

And then we also have his eight volumes on the book of Ephesians, released between 1974-1982. As with his series on Romans, the 6 chapters of Ephesians are covered in great detail, with each verse given thorough treatment. “The Doctor” is always to be consulted on these two books.

Here then are ten sets you should be aware of. Plenty more could be mentioned here, so stay tuned for further articles.

(Many of these books can be found at Koorong for Australian book lovers: www.koorong.com/ )

[1384 words]

7 Responses to Some of My Favourite Sets (of Theological Books)

  • Thanks for putting this list together. It is so hard to find books to read that further develop my understanding. A lot of so-called Christians have books to sell with their stories and I find myself wondering if it is only a money making venture. I wonder if we as a people, are following the way of the world instead of the way of the Lord.

  • Thanks Bill.

  • Good list Bill. I’ve always been a big fan of Lloyd-Jones but have not yet bought those multi volume sets on Romans & Ephesians. I have some of his other books and they are excellent. Your posts like this one are always helpful for those times when one is looking to good quality new reference books for the library. Thank you. 🙂

  • Good stuff Bill. I loaned my mother two of the Lloyd-Jones books (Romans 3:20-4:25, Romans 5) in the mid-1970s. She was converted soon after. The books had in turn been given to me by the pastor for whom I’d been a student minister. Thanks be to God for sound scholarship and good books.

  • The best theological writing comes from continental state churches supported by taxation where scholars have time and salary to think and write. It helps if your name starts with ‘B’.
    Everyone should read a little Karl Barth even if you cannot manage even one volume. And the G C Berkower volumes are essential. Try a little Emil Brunner over lunch.

  • Thanks Travis. While I do have all 14 volumes of Barth’s “Church Dogmatics,” and 12 of the 14 volumes of Berkouwer’s “Studies in Dogmatics,” I must say I found your comment about state churches, government funding, and best theological writing to be all utterly bizarre to be honest! I would have thought that the best theological writings, for starters, included things like the epistles of Paul, usually written when he was on the run, being persecuted, or even while in prison. He certainly had no tax-payer funding to write them! That could also be said of almost all of our great theological writers from the past 2000 years.

    And for what it is worth, another continental theologian whose surname begins with ‘B’ is noted for his Letters and Papers from Prison, among other works. He had time to think and write while incarcerated, and he of course was put to death by the state religious apparatus. And the Swiss theologian Barth was no supporter of the German Nazi religious system either. Like Barth, Brunner was also Swiss, and Switzerland has no state church of course. The Dutch theologian Berkouwer was the only one who could be said to perhaps benefit somewhat from state religion, but he of course championed ecumenicism to an extent, so did not depend on such state patronage.

    And continental state churches happen to be among the most theologically and politically liberal in all of the West, supporting the whole gamut of leftist causes, from homosexuality to Islam. Sorry, give me a non-taxpayer funded theologian in a non-state church any day of the week!

Leave a Reply