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20 New Books for the Thinking Christian

Jan 26, 2020

Here are 20 new books that you all should be aware of:

My title should make it clear that at least three groups of people can turn away now – those who are not Christians or interested in Christianity; those who don’t like to think; and those who don’t like to read. But for all the rest of you, what follows should be of some interest.

These are (mostly) all rather recent titles, mainly penned by evangelicals. The books featured here are for the most part academic or scholarly in nature. But they contain plenty that can move us to devotional reflection and worship. Reflecting as they do the sort of reading I am into, they include theological works, as well as volumes on apologetics, biblical studies, and ethics.

And actually there are not just 20 books discussed here, but 27, since two of the items I annotate are actually multi-volume sets. So if you are looking for some stimulating and rewarding Christian reading, here are my latest recommendations, offered in alphabetical order by author.

Barrett, Matthew, ed., The Doctrine on Which the Church Stands or Falls: Justification in Biblical, Theological, Historical, and Pastoral Perspective. Crossway, 2019.
There are plenty of books out there which seek to defend the historic Protestant view on the nature of justification. This one is not only the newest, but it is certainly the largest. In well over 900 pages we have a collection of experts such as D. A. Carson, Sam Storms, J. V. Fesko, Gerald Bray, Stephen Wellum and others dealing with every aspect of the debate: biblical, theological, exegetical, historical and pastoral. Positions both within and without Protestantism are covered, as well as the New Perspective on Paul. This is certainly something to stick your theological teeth into!

Bock, Darrell and J. Ed Komoszewski, eds., Jesus, Skepticism & the Problem of History. Zondervan, 2019.
A number of top-order evangelical scholars and experts such as Craig Blomberg, Daniel Wallace, Larry Hurtado, Craig Keener, Michael Bird, Scot McKnight and Michael Licona are brought together here to deal with matters such as the New Testament canon, evidence for the gospels, the historical Jesus, his death and resurrection, and so on. An important collection of scholarly essays defending the foundations of biblical Christianity.

Brueggemann, Walter, From Judgment To Hope. WJK, 2019.
Make no mistake, this Old Testament scholar is no evangelical, and he can often veer in some odd directions, even Marxist analysis. But he is still one OT expert that is normally worth reading, especially on the prophets. Indeed, he has penned dozens of important volumes on these matters that deserve our attention. This brief study looks at the dual message of judgment and hope as found in the biblical prophets. Always stimulating reading, even if one does not always agree with all of his views.

Campbell, Ronnie, Worldviews & the Problem of Evil. Lexham Press, 2019.
The perennial problem of why there is suffering and evil in the world, especially if there is an all-loving and all-powerful God, has been with us for millennia. Here the American theology professor carefully examines how the major worldviews (eg, naturalism, pantheism and theism) deal with these matters. Concluding chapters lay out the case for the biblical Christian view on these issues. A solid and helpful treatment.

Cole, Graham, Against the Darkness. Crossway, 2019.
This is the latest (the ninth) volume in the excellent series, Foundations of Evangelical Theology, edited by John Feinberg. It offers a comprehensive overview of some important biblical topics: angels, demons, Satan and spiritual warfare. Most of the hot potato issues are addressed here, such as whether the believer can be possessed by demons. But see my full review of this excellent book here: billmuehlenberg.com/2020/01/23/a-review-of-against-the-darkness-by-graham-cole/

Faulkner, Danny, Falling Flat. Master Books, 2019.
This may seem like a strange volume to include here, but we live in strange times. Odd as it may seem, there really is a group of folks – including some Christians sadly – who still believe the earth is flat! Thus this book is, as the subtitle says, “A Refutation of Flat Earth Claims.” In nearly 400 pages the author provides a detailed and thorough scientific and biblical refutation of this position.

Frame, John, John Frame’s Selected Shorter Writings, 3 vols. P&R, 2014, 2015, 2016.
Anyone who has some of the earlier books by Frame will be interested in these. The Reformed Theological Seminary professor in systematic theology and philosophy has penned numerous fine volumes over the decades, but his short writings are not to be missed. A wide range of topics are covered here: theology, ecclesiology, apologetics, ethics, and philosophy. Also included are some sermons and book reviews. Frame is always worth reading.

Gooding, David and John Lennox, The Quest for Reality and Significance. Myrtlefield House, 2018-2019.
This recent six volume set is an excellent work on Christian apologetics and worldview analysis. It covers most of the bases, from epistemology, to ethics, to anthropology, to metaphysics, to the problem of evil. But I have already done a full-length review of these volumes, so follow this link for much more detail on this excellent set: billmuehlenberg.com/2020/01/19/a-review-of-the-quest-for-reality-and-significance-by-david-gooding-and-john-lennox/

Hixson, Elijah and Peter Gurry, eds., Myths and Mistakes in New Testament Textual Criticism. IVP, 2019.
Here two English New Testament professors bring together a team of experts to look at textual criticism and the attacks currently being made on Scripture. Various myths are carefully discussed and critiqued such as concerning the original autographs, classical literature, canonisation, textual variants, early translations, the copying and transmission of manuscripts, and so on. An invaluable collection of very important and up-to-date articles.

Holland, Tom, Dominion: The Making of the Western World. Little, Brown, 2019.
Holland is not an evangelical, and he has long considered himself to be an agnostic, but he performs a wonderful service here to Christians in seeking to make the case for the overwhelming relevance and value of Christianity. In nearly 600 pages the English historian demonstrates how almost all the values and social goods that we enjoy today in the West are the direct result of Christianity. The West as we know it simply would not exist if it were not for Christianity. A top notch read.

Image of Dominion: How the Christian Revolution Remade the World
Dominion: How the Christian Revolution Remade the World by Array Amazon logo

Letham, Robert, Systematic Theology. Crossway, 2019.
OK, I am always a sucker for new systematic theologies, and this new volume by Letham does not disappoint. The veteran theologian and Presbyterian minister has already penned a number of excellent volumes, and this is the culmination of his lifetime of work. In nearly 1100 pages he deals with all the usual topics found in a systematic theology in a comprehensive and careful manner, dealing fairly with controversial matters along the way. A first-class work.

Lillback, Peter, Saint Peter’s Principles. P&R, 2019.
For something a bit different from the other works found here, this is a book on leadership – specifically leadership principles as found in the life and writings of the Apostle Peter. Plenty of theological, practical and pastoral wisdom and insight is to be found here. The American historical theology professor looks at a number of things pertaining to a leader: his formation, character, reading, vision, challenges, integrity, decision-making, relationships, management skills, and exit strategies. A very useful and down-to-earth volume packed with spiritual insights.

McGrath, Alister, The Landscape of Faith. SPCK, 2018.
In this volume the prolific English theologian examines the early Christian creeds and their relevance for today. Especially making use of the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed. McGrath says this: “In my view, the best Christian theology always results from respecting and valuing those who have travelled the Road before us and left behind their jottings for the benefit of those who will follow them.” This is a useful work indeed.

McLaughlin, Rebecca, Confronting Christianity. Crossway, 2019.
A number of common objections to Christianity are dealt with in this volume, such as: Science has disproven Christianity; the Bible condones slavery; Christianity denigrates women; a loving God would not send people to hell, and so on. In her chapter on ‘homophobia,’ she offers the biblical position on this, although admitting that she has been same-sex attracted (she is now in a heterosexual marriage with children).

Murphy, Nancey, A Philosophy for the Twenty-First Century Christian. SPCK, 2018.
In this helpful book the Fuller Seminary philosophy professor looks at most of the major concerns dealt with in the philosophy of religion. After offering a brief overview of philosophy through the centuries, she looks at meaty matters such as epistemology (how we know), faith and reason, evil and suffering, Christianity and science, anthropology and ethics. A useful introduction to some important issues.

Oliphint, K. Scott, Thomas Aquinas. P&R, 2017.
The “Great Thinkers” series has covered a number of important thinkers – eg., Hume, Bacon, Hegel, Marx, Foucault, Dawkins – that Christians should be aware of. This is one of the earlier books in the series. Oliphint notes that Aquinas tends to be overlooked – or looked down upon in some circles – by some Protestant Christians, but this massively important seminal thinker should not be ignored. This book provides a very helpful introduction to his thought and is well worth getting, along with other volumes in the series.

Ortlund, Gavin, Theological Retrieval for Evangelicals. Crossway, 2019.
Somewhat similar to McGrath above, Ortlund believes that evangelicals have been too willing to cut themselves off from their own theological past. They have not always valued church history and the wisdom of past Christian thinkers. He especially urges us to look more carefully at what was on offer prior to the Reformation, and learn from many of the greats, be they Gregory the Great, John of Damascus, Anselm or Aquinas. This is an important call to evangelicals.

Piggin, Stuart and Robert Linder, Attending to the National Soul. Monash University Publishing, 2020.
Unless they live to Methuselah-like age, this is the second and final volume by these authors on Australian evangelical history. The first volume covered the period from 1740 to 1914, and this volume covers the next 100 years. Most of the important issues, movements, and movers and shakers are covered here. An invaluable resource. See my review of volume one here: billmuehlenberg.com/2019/01/29/a-review-of-the-fountain-of-public-prosperity-by-stuart-piggin-and-robert-linder/

Williams, Peter, Getting at Jesus. Wipf & Stock, 2019.
The English apologist and philosopher has written a number of good books defending the faith and taking on challengers to biblical Christianity, including the new atheists. In his newest volume of some 450 pages he takes a much closer look at various objections, charges, claims and accusations made by the new atheists concerning Jesus and Scripture. Very detailed chapters on the historicity of Jesus, the reliability of the gospels, and the resurrection of Christ are featured here. A very good treatment indeed.

Wright, N. T. and Michael Bird, The New Testament in its World. SPCK, 2019.
When I first spotted this volume in a bookstore, I told those I was with that it would have the Wright spin on things. Sure enough, and even more so: what this book really is, is a compilation of his many writings into one big (1000-page) volume. As the authors put it, this is an attempt to condense his “massive and still incomplete Christian Origins and the Question of God series into a single volume, thus forming a kind of introduction to the New Testament”. Thus it is mainly Wright’s writings, but compiled by Bird.

Until next time, happy reading!

(For Australians, a number of these books can be found at Koorong: www.koorong.com/ )

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