BlackCalvinist January 29th, 2016
My friend Pastor Kenny found this blogpost over at Changed By Glory:
In the post, the author (also a pastor, but over in the UAE) gives a compelling list (a short one) of reasons Christians should study theology:
- Because to know God is the essence of eternal life (John 17:3)
- Because God has made himself known (Hebrews 1:1, Deuteronomy 29:29)
- Because by beholding Him we become like him (II Corinthians 3:18, 1 John 3:2)
- Because by knowing God rightly we worship him rightly (John 4:23, Proverbs 19:2)
- Because we are commanded to get knowledge and to think on excellent things and there is nothing more excellent than God (Proverbs 23:12, Philippians 4:8)
- Because we should be always ready to give an answer for our hope and be ready to teach others (1 Peter 3:15, 2 Timothy 2:2)
- Because there is literally nothing greater that we could do than this (Jeremiah 9:23-24)If these seven reasons are not enough, then I don’t know what is.
He absolutely nails it with this post. I’ve been beating the drum about #4 specifically (which I believe should be #1 on the list) for the entire 23 years I’ve been actively involved in Christian apologetics and theological discussions. If we have a fundamentally wrong (Biblically inaccurate) concept of God, our worship will cease to be worship.
With that, I’ve expanded on Ken’s call for books Christians should read (in addition to the Bible) to “Books and Websites” for Christians. Plenty of people read, but many like the convenience of something electronic to keep up with. In no particular order, have these books find their way to your personal library as a start of something bigger. I realize that the study theology can be intimidating to those who have never studied it actively before, so all of the books here, unless otherwise noted, treat them as an introduction to the subject. Very readable, very accessible and in plain english.
Knowing God by J.I. Packer – this book is multipurpose. It will help you gain a biblical understanding of the attributes of God and the character of God.
The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul – without an understanding of the holiness of God, you will not understand the sin problem and the need for Christ in the first place! But this book covers more than that.
Essential Truths of the Christian Faith by R.C. Sproul – for new believers wanting a brief and understandable introduction to Christian theology and beliefs. Short, straight to the point, scripture included, short explanations included a list of ‘further reading’ references.
What is a Healthy Church Member ? by Thabiti Anyabwile – short and concise, to the point, supported by scripture.
Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper – p. 79-87 of this book are dangerous. “Risk is Right: Better to Lose Your Life Than Waste It”. God did not put you on Earth to work, gather, consume and spend the rest of your time gathering sea shells on the shore in retirement. That is a wasted life. He created you for His glory – this book gives you a basic roadmap of how that works out theologically and practically. It is part of the reason I’m married now.
Desiring God by John Piper – God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him. Sounds glorious and great, right ? Piper’s approach to the Christian life fills the believer with joy and deepens their love for God. If you grew up in a legalistic church tradition where you thought God was going to ‘get you’ if you broke from church tradition OR if you grew up in a stodgy, cold and sterile church tradition where everything was about ritual and obedience….this book is for you.
By Grace Alone by Sinclair Ferguson – Amazed or…..accustomed ? If you are not daily amazed at the grace of God in the life of the Christian, you don’t understand it well. The good Dr. Ferguson has laid out an entire book on the topic and he approaches it from multiple angles. Revisit this topic and learn it afresh and anew.
What Is The Gospel ? by Greg Gilbert – Part of the IX Marks series, this one is short and concise (similar to Thabiti’s book) and is a welcome reminder of the simple, yet complex and overwhelming truth of what the gospel is. Read it and pass it on to a friend stuck in a not-so-sound church.
The Difficult Doctrine of God by D. A. Carson – Carson’s book may be considered ‘heavy reading’ for those not used to theological discussions, but he writes in a very understandable fashion. What is the love of God ? A lot more than you think. A lot more complex than you think.
Love in Hard Places by D.A. Carson – Carson’s follow up book two years later – this time, dealing with Christian love. What is it ? And let’s not do the easy cases – let’s pick the hard ones. This book will challenge you – heavily.
The Forgotten Trinity by James R. White – A devotional book on the Trinity. Meditations on God as He exists and praising Him for it. This book is more devotional than theological, but it is theological.
Father, Son and Holy Spirit: Roles, Relationships and Relevance by Bruce Ware – Where Dr. White’s book is missing information, Dr. Ware’s book fills in the blanks. Understanding both how He has revealed Himself and how all the members of the Godhead work together.
In My Place, Condemned He Stood- J. I. Packer and Mark Dever – Understanding and appreciating the atonement. Simple, right ?
Faith Alone: The Evangelical Doctrine of Justification by R.C. Sproul – Sproul gives a good overview of church history and controversies down to the present day regarding the question of how a person is made right with God. He gives detailed Biblical evidence for the Bible’s teaching that man is declared just before God by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone apart from works, tackles the James vs Paul issue and more. This is one of those books that gives you a good basis and background to understand what you believe, why you believe it and why you don’t believe something else.
The Enemy Within by Kris Lundgaard – why do I do the things I don’t want to do ? Why do I struggle with X, Y and Z sins ? Kris Lundgaard’s book tackles this issue and all related issues. A must read and re-read, as all believers struggle with something throughout the course of their lives.
Always Ready – Greg Bahnsen, Edited by Robert Booth – The non-Christian is not starting off on neutral or objective ground when discussing things related to Christ and Christianity. Neither is the Christian. Both presuppose a host of things that guide their search of truth. As a Christian, we must begin with (not ‘reason up to’) the Word of God as true and move forward from there. “But the non-Christian won’t accept that!” They accept something…. and Bahnsen’s book will help you understand how to critique their worldview, defend your own and show the foolishness (Psalm 14:1) of unbelief.
Covenantal Apologetics by K. Scott Oliphint – A good introductory approach to the same topic as Bahnsen, but a more recent book (Bahnsen’s book is based off of his lectures in the 80’s and early 90’s before he died in 95). Very readable and very understandable. I’d get this one first and then the Bahnsen book if you’re new to the topic. Also addresses some of the modern critics of scripture and Christianity.
The Doctrines of Grace-James Montgomery Boice and Philip Graham Ryken – Reformational theology; something a lot of modern believers have not heard before and are completely unfamiliar with. Ryken and the late Dr. Boice make the doctrines of grace (sometimes nicknamed “Calvinism”) very easy and understandable. Yes, for those of you not familiar, you will run into things that contradict things you’ve been raised up on. Don’t be surprised. You’ll also see ways that the doctrines of grace apply to daily life.
Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem – This is a reference book you will use for the rest of you life. As with any systematic theology text, you don’t read it from front to back, but you use it chapter by chapter as needed. Grudem writes in plain english, yet he doesn’t dumb anything down. Easily understandable, you’ll actually feel smarter after you get done reading portions of it…and you’ll have a lot to meditate on.
A New Theology of the Christian Faith by Robert L Reymond – You will use this book for the rest of your life. Reymond is heavy reading. Whereas Grudem is the teacher who knew the subject well and knew how to bring even the person who had no knowledge of the subject up to speed, Reymond kinda requires you to know a few things before you step in to read here. Don’t worry, he won’t ridicule your ignorance and if you have to read a section 2-3 times to get it, that’s okay.
*Reymond and Grudem agree on a lot of things, differ on some things. It’s good to have theology you disagree with on your shelf, once you get yourself settled on major issues. It is good to know what other Christians believe, why they believe it and how they defend it.
A General Introduction to the Bible by Norman Geisler and William E. Nix – This book is a classic and will give you a boatload of information on the trustworthiness of scripture. It’s very ‘academic’, so it’s not light reading. But when folks come up to you with things like “the Bible has been handed down and retranslated so many times, there’s no way it can be accurate to what was originally written”, or “the Catholic church hid these other gospels from you because they didn’t want you to know the truth”, you’ll have a ready answer.
Another note on books – a few of these are available FREE online. John Piper has made all of his books available for free as PDF files on his site. This has been his practice almost from day one of having his site up. Both of D.A. Carson’s books (and others) are also free online. Look around.
I’m going to limit my immediate recommendations to four. Yes, in future blogposts, I’ll probably recommend quite a few more sites, but for now I’m keeping it simple (this is an ‘introductory’ article on the subject).
Speaking of which, I’m not recommending any blogs at the moment. My reasoning is simple; get your theology from published authors whose works are in print, have been trained in the subjects they speak about and have stood the test of time. Here-today-gone-tomorrow blogs are a dime a dozen.
Monergism.com is probably the most user-friendly, multipurpose, comprehensive Christian website with good material that I can recommend. Just about everything you can think of, this site has.
Desiring God – John Piper’s ministry website: 30+ years of sermons, every book free as a PDF file, current articles and much more.
Ligonier Ministries – R.C. Sproul’s ministry website along with all of the Ligonier Academy teaching fellows. Ligonier exists to fill the ‘gap’ between Sunday school and the seminary, so this is a good place for believers of all experience and knowledge levels to drop in and learn. R.C. Sproul’s daily broadcast, Renewing Your Mind, is also located on the site.
CARM – Christian Apologetics and Resource Ministry. Matt Slick’s website is what I originally wanted my main site (mentioned below) to be. The difference between he and I is that he invested more time and I got busy with my regular job (he also went to seminary while I got a masters’ in a different area of study). Anyway, this site is a goldmine for Q & A on just about every Christian subject and Christian-related subject you can think of. Stumped with that hard question about the reliability of scripture ? Yeah, he’s covered it. Stuck on a ‘trick question’ about the nature of God ? That’s been handled too.
I’d normally throw my own site (theologicallycorrect.com) into the mix, but it got hacked back in December and I’m slowly in the process of moving it to a new server. I’ll relaunch soon and announce it.
I’m also purposely missing sites and books on church history, although Holcomb’s Know the Creeds and Confessions (good for knowing the basics of church history) and Know the Heretics (good for understanding false teachings from the past….because a lot of them pop back up at multiple points in church history including now) are two books I’d immediately recommend on the topic.
One of Ken’s friends on his post (Ronjour) also had a pretty great list (we crossed paths on a few of the same books). It is good to see more people studying theology!
That’s about it for now. I’m already considering writing a follow-up to this with books and website recommendations for the Christian who is a little past the ‘beginner’ stage of discussing and studying theology.
Feel free to discuss and drop off comments below. Take care.