Tag Archives: John Calvin

Top 10: Books

Over the last few weeks, Jon and Joe have been discussing books and reading in The Pastor Discussions Podcast, and particularly influential books in the last one.  All that talk made me want to do a top 10 list of books most influential to my life.

10. Do More Better by Tim Challies

Because of this book, I went from being completely disorganized to semi-disorganized.  I say that a bit tongue-in-cheek, but if you knew me before this book, you’d probably understand.  This was a short book that actually was very practical in getting organized.  Since reading this book, I have followed his method of organization and my life has been much easier to maneuver.  I need to reread this and take it to the next level though.

9. Spiritual Leadership by J. Oswald Sanders

I have read many a leadership book, but Sanders’ book takes the cake.  It was written for pastors and church leaders, not for business men and CEOs.  This too will be a book to be reread.

8. Jesus Outside the Lines by Scott Sauls

A friend of mine introduced me to Scott Sauls (not personally, but Twitter-ally).  It wasn’t long before this book was published and I immediately got me a copy.  This is one of the few books that I have devoured.  Sauls was articulating so much of what I had been seeing in my own study of Scripture and of Jesus in particular along with the culture around us.

7. Thoughts for Young Men by J. C. Ryle

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I wish someone had given me a copy of this book when I was 13 years old.  This book should be standard reading for every Christian teen.  Get a copy of it, and hold on to it to give every boy on his 13th birthday.  And then make them read it.  Yes, it’s that important.

6. The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges

I read The Pursuit after reading The Hole in Our Holiness.  Hands down, The Pursuit is better.  This small, thin book explains holiness unlike other books, and why and how we ought to attain it.  If you desire holiness, read a copy of this book.

5. The Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin

Need I say more?  This is the magnum opus of John Calvin, and perhaps of any writer (imho) in the history of writing outside the Bible.  This book was originally written as a thin manifesto to the King of France in hopes of his understanding what the Protestants believed.  Many years and many editions later, this book spoke to nearly every issue from a Reformed perspective.  I don’t agree with everything in this book, but most things I would.  The link above has this book on sale for kindle edition: $.99.

4. The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

Yes, I put this above Institutes. This book is so interesting.  I heard about it on the Art of Manliness podcast, and thought it would be a neat book to read.  It was beyond neat.  It was interesting, spell-binding, and informative.  Duhigg knows how to keep a person’s attention.   he deals with exactly what is in the title.  He shows how habits work, how to break a habit, and how to build a habit.  It’s not what you think.  Duhigg interweaves real-life stories throughout the book, so that you have to know what happens next.  he then explains why the things that happened in those stories happened. Definitely a book to read again and again.

3. Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper

I remember getting this book and (here it is again) devouring it.  I went to a Desiring God pastor’s conference in 2004, received the book, and on the trip home read the entire thing.  That’s quite a feat for me as I read slowly, and I get carsick if I read on road trips.  This book changed my perspective on life and on missions.  It made me a Piper-ite.  I have read many, many of his books, but he writes too many for me to keep up.

2. The Holiness of God by R. C. Sproul

Long story short: Somehow, I don’t know how, I got my hands on this book.  It just looked interesting, so I read it.  Every night I read another chapter.  It resonated with my spirit, until I got to the last chapter (third to last in the expanded edition).  The last chapter I wrestled with, but I kept saying to myself, “If the rest of this book is true, how can I deny that this is true?”  It started me on a journey that forever changed my theology and my life.  Because of this book I became…a Calvinist (or as I like to call it: a biblicist).

1. The Fall of Freddie the Leaf by Leo Buscaglia

This is a children’s book.  You can read why this is my number 1 book on my post “Why I Read.”  This book, being given by my AP Lit teacher for my high school graduation, made me fall in love with reading.

How about you?  What are your most influential books?  At the moment I am reading Holiness by Ryle and Christ-Centered Preaching by Chappell.  They may make this list in the future, knocking some of the others off the list.  I am also listening to The Three Musketeers which will not remove any from the list and reading The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey.  We’ll see how this goes.

Let me know your thoughts!

Top 10: Theologians

I love theology and like everybody who loves theology, I have my go-to theologians (I include pastors in this list). These are my top 10 favorite go-to guys when it comes to theology.  These are not necessarily in any order because I go to some for certain issues and others for different issues.

10. Tertullian – A few years ago, I read almost everything by this guy.  It was a bit dry at times, but it was very helpful.  Tertullian was an early Christian theologian/Church father (late 2nd/early 3rd centuries).  He was pivotal in early Christian doctrine.  He did for a while get way off orthodoxy, but later repented and came back to the fold.  For the most part, his works are helpful.  Even St. Augustine found his works helpful in developing his own theological issues.  Two of the thoughts (not doctrines) I remember from Tertullian were his argument that Christianity is the only crime for which one is tortured until he denies his crime (thus denying following Christ) and that many Christians refused to join the Roman military lest they be forced to fight their Christian brethren.

9. Augustine – What can one say about St. Augustine that hasn’t been said already?  He is superb.  There is a reason that both Romanists and Protestants claim him.  He was so instrumental in the doctrines of the church, and the systematic understandings of Scripture.  Neither Romanists nor Protestants would agree with everything he wrote or taught, each having their favorite doctrines and others they wish didn’t exist, but much of what he wrote is most definitely helpful.  My first taste of Augustine proper (not just reading what other said he said) was de Trinitate (On the Trinity) and then his Confessions.  Read them both.

8. John Calvin – Of course! I’m a Calvinist; why would I not include him?  He is probably the most well-rounded theologian of all.  His Institutes are a must read.  I use his commentaries constantly as I prepare for Sundays.  He is a must go-to guy.

7. Thomas Watson – I love this guy!  A Puritan and a shepherd.  To me, he is the easiest of the Puritans to read.  I have read his books on prayer, the Lord’s Supper, and repentance.  Each one is rich and deep, but understandable.  “The Sacrament is chiefly intended as a spiritual banquet; it is not to indulge the senses but to feed the graces.”  (The Lord’s Supper, Banner of Truth Trust, 2004)

6. John Piper – The enthusiasm of this man for God’s glory is second to none.  I have read many, though certainly not all, of his books.  I spent one year a few years back reading one book a month.  It was my year of Johns (Calvin’s Institutes, and 12 Piper books).  My first experience with John Piper was his Desiring God pastor’s conference in 2004.  I got a copy of Don’t Waste Your Life and was hooked.

5. Charles Spurgeon – My second son’s middle name is Haddon.  Need I say more?  I love to go to Spurgeon’s sermons. In fact, I am hoping to soon start a regimen of reading one sermon a day.  His Morning & Evening is one of my favorite devotionals, his Soul Winning book is one of the best I’ve read.  I love his Treasure of David commentaries on the Psalms.  If I have a question on the Psalms, I usually go to him first. AND! the only bobble-head that I own, is a Spurgeon bobble-head.

4.Richard Baxter – I’ve only read The Reformed Pastor, but it is one of the few books that I have read more than once.  I usually will read a book once and never touch it again, except to find a quote or such thing.  Baxter’s book (and thus theology) on pastoring is humbling and encouraging.

3. John MacArthur – On most doctrines, John MacArthur is spot on.  Again, his commentaries are generally a set that I will go to, though I haven’t acquired them all as of yet.  I fell in love with this guy when I read The Gospel According to Jesus.  Clear, concise, and helpful.  He is a master of theology.

2. Benjamin B. Warfield – While I’m not a Presbyterian, I find his stuff fascinating.  If I remember correctly, it was his book on Tertullian and Augustine that got me reading these two.

1. Joel Beeke – Again, these are not in actual order.  Sometimes Beeke is my number 1 and sometimes not.  In all actuality, all of the above have been my number 1 at some point.  I will say that if you have not read his book, Living for God’s Glory you need to stop what you’re doing and pick up a copy and read it.  Beeke is articulate and to the point.  Sometimes he can get a little dry, but who doesn’t?  You’ve probably yawned once or twice just reading this blog, haven’t you?

So there you are.  These are the theologians that I find to be most helpful.  Some runners up would be: Edwards, Luther, Beale, Storms.  How about you?  Who are your favorites?  Let me know!