The 11 Best Books I Read This Year (Theology)

Since it is that time of year where bloggers reflect wistfully on the past year, especially with regard to books they’ve read, music they’ve listened to or products they’ve enjoyed so as to compile a nice digestible list, chock full of affiliate links, I thought I’d add to the noise and let you all in on what my year of reading has been like.

It was an ambitious year. I lost count of the number of books read. I had a page that tracked the number of pages and books read. I stopped counting somewhere after 6,000 pages. Here’s a little insight into my favorites from the year.

1. The Bible, twice.

The ESV Study BibleI do not bring this one up to boast. I am a firm believer that a Christian ought to engage The Scriptures in equal proportion to any other literature they read. I started the year with a “Bible in 90 days” personal challenge, and succeeded by God’s grace (and my wife’s grace, who put up with me in the evenings when I was scrambling to finish the day’s reading.) I followed that with another time through in 180 days. I’ve been spending the last quarter of the year reflecting on smaller portions. It’s been good.

2. The Chronicles of Narnia

Chronicles of Narnia Movie Tie-in Box Set The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (rack) My second greatest literary joy this year has been reading through C.S. Lewis’ master piece with my girls. We got through five of the seven books. I intend to read this with them cyclically. Such masterful imagery and apt allegory for The Christian life.

3. Tim Keller

Generous Justice: How God\'s Grace Makes Us JustThis is cheating to count it as one on the list. Having read The Reason for God, I decided that I wanted to read the rest of his work. So I did. Counterfeit Gods, The Prodigal God, Generous Justice, Ministries of Mercy, and King’s Cross. I have started The Meaning of Marriage but likely will not finish it before the year is out. This guy is a master of interacting with pressing cultural issues in an intensely biblical and relevant (true meaning of the word) way.

4. Worship in Spirit and Truth by John Frame

Worship in Spirit and TruthThis guy convinced me that the regulative principle is the correct way to approach a theology of Christian worship. He also convinced me that I was already holding to the regulative principle, and clarified and sharpened some of the implications of that in the way I help plan and coordinate our Sunday morning services. Along with Christ Centered Worship by Bryan Chappell, it greatly impacted my presentation at our Music Ministry Workshop this fall.

5. Erasing Hell by Francis Chan

Erasing Hell: What God said about eternity, and the things we made upThis is the best, most accessible response to Love Wins phenomenon that has been published. It was helpful to me in my message to Stonebrook church on Matthew 18, which dealt with the topic of Hell.

6. Historical Theology by Gregg Allison

Historical Theology: An Introduction to Christian DoctrineEvery young punk theology geek rejoiced when this companion volume to Grudem’s Systematic Theology was published this year. I cannot claim that I’ve read this cover to cover, but it has been a helpful reference in my studies.

7. The Next Story by Tim Challies

The Next Story: Life and Faith after the Digital ExplosionA timely and helpful look at what the Christian Worldview tells us about how to handle technology. Read this book if you feel you might be trapped by your email, Facebook, texting, and cell phone. Tim was kind enough to send me a review copy, from which I wrote a quick review.

8. Servanthood as Worship by Nate Palmer

Servanthood as Worship: The Privilege of Life in a Local ChurchThis small book caught my eye in a conference bookstore because it had stacks of chairs with the word “worship” on the cover. Being a firm believer that serving in setup and sound crews is every bit as important as standing on stage with a guitar, I bought it and was delighted with its contents. I wrote a quick review of it if you’d like more info.

9. Radical & Radical Together

Radical Together: Unleashing the People of God for the Purpose of GodA good friend of mine called this the most important book he’s read in 20 years. He might have been using a bit of hyperbole to make a statement, but I can understand the sentiment. This is a challenging book that calls out to those of us in comfortable evangelicalism to take a look at the claims and commands of Jesus and take them seriously. I wrote a review of this one as well. If you read this, make sure you read both Radical and it’s follow-up Radical Together, in order to get a clear picture of Platt’s full view on the matter. (I think Radical may be a little unbalanced.)

10. Chosen by God by R.C. Sproul

Chosen by GodI have been avoiding reading Sproul for a few years now because he is a bit of a hot button in our church. This year I read The Holiness of God and Chosen by God. Both are incredible, mind-blowing, life altering books. Classics. You should read these. (Along with Desiring God by Piper, Knowing God by Packer, and Trusting God by Bridges, these would be my top five recommended readings of “Christian living books” for all Christians at the moment.)

11. Arminian Theology by Roger Olsen

Arminian Theology: Myths and RealitiesI had to put this here. I feel compelled to get out of my reformed reading rut and make sure that my literature is balanced. This was a helpful read. I feel like I can go a long long way down the road with an Arminian Christian (who actually knows what Arminianism is). Its most helpful contribution however, was in helping me better understand the real tenants of Arminianism, and recognize that most of what is called “Arminianism” in the church is not Arminianism at all, but Pelegianism, which is a far worse error and the real problem Calvinists have with main-stream evangelicalism.1. The book did little to convince me of the perspective. Quite the contrary, it helped affirm my position. However, it was well worth the read. I plan on reading several more books along this line in the near future.

So there you have it, the 11 (21) best books I read this year. Check a few out, and yes those are affiliate links, which I do make a little off of if you click and buy, blah blah blah. :)

What were your favorite books this year? What are you planning on reading in 2012?


1 This is referring to an in-house debate among Christians about the nature of certain finer points of theology that is rather important, but completely irrelevant to non-Christians.





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