Archive for the 'Fundamentals' Category

Books and Websites for Christians to Read: 2016 Edition [Part 1 – for the Newcomers]

January 29th, 2016

My friend Pastor Kenny found this blogpost over at Changed By Glory:

7 Reasons You Should Start Studying Theology Right Now

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:

  1. Because to know God is the essence of eternal life (John 17:3)
  2. Because God has made himself known (Hebrews 1:1, Deuteronomy 29:29)
  3. Because by beholding Him we become like him (II Corinthians 3:18, 1 John 3:2)
  4. Because by knowing God rightly we worship him rightly (John 4:23, Proverbs 19:2)
  5. 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)
  6. 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)
  7. 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. 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.

Missing Things……

I’d normally throw my own site ( 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.

What Did Jesus Say About……?

May 20th, 2012

It’s interesting to see people misquote Jesus who claim to be Christian. What’s not interesting is to see the millions of biblically illiterate folks follow along with them without even once opening their bible to see if what was said was:

1.  Actually in the Bible

2. Actually said by Jesus

3. Said in the same context as they mean it

4. Means the same thing as they mean.

So, this series is going to start off pretty simple and straightforward. The words of Jesus on particular topics that people say ‘Jesus never said anything about that’.  We’re also going to see if the rest of scripture agrees with this or if the apostles introduce something ‘new’ to the mix along the way (for the benefit of our ‘red letter Bible’ friends who think the only things that matter in the NT are the words of Jesus).

So here’s my basic topic list – What Did Jesus Say About (WDJSA):

  1. Who He is
  2. Repentance and Faith
  3. Homosexuality, Marriage, Adultery and Pre-marital Sex
  4. The Bible
  5. The Poor
  6. Election and Predestination
  7. Education
  8. Parenting
  9. Hell
  10. Heaven
  11. Church Leadership
  12. Social Justice

I’m more than willing to expand the list, so feel free to add some possible topics in the comments below or on Facebook.

*edit: Just added a few more to the list.

Bible Interpretation Basics: What Are You Reading ?

January 25th, 2012

Scripture was written in different genres.

Most people miss this fact when they approach it, which is why some of them have such a hard time trying to understand what scripture is teaching or attempting to communicate at different places.

That is to say, there are some parts that are written as instructional literature (Leviticus, Colossians) where step-by-step directions were given, or direct commands to do one thing and not another. Some were written as narrative (1 & 2 Samuel, Acts, the Gospels) where a story was being told to the reader and events were being related.

There is also prophetic language (Isaiah 40 and forward, Daniel 7, 9-12, Revelation) where images and symbols were used (in some cases) to represent actual things, people and events.  Sometimes, the images used were literal; other times, they were/are figurative (i.e. the woman in Rev. 12 who gives birth to the man child that will rule the nations with a rod of iron). Other times (Isaiah 46 for example), simple direct statements on what will happen are given (no illustrations or images necessary).

There is wisdom literature (James, Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Ecclesiastes) where the reader is taught truth via illustration, narrative and long-form arguments. A ‘long-form’ argument can be a number of illustrations, stories and logical statements all ‘piled up’ over time to point to one particular point or truth. They  require a longer attention span,  more reading and/or listening and more attention to detail.  For example, Proverbs 1:20-33 takes wisdom (which is defined for us in Proverbs 1:1-7) and personifies it and then explains how wisdom will ‘mock’ when calamity strikes those who choose to ignore its’ counsel. The book of Job is a masterful piece of wisdom literature, as all of Job’s friends, Job himself and God Himself all go into extended long-form arguments and illustrations to make their cases.

Occasionally, we also see poetic literature (Psalms, Job, Song of Solomon). Poetic scripture, like wisdom literature (and in some cases, some books are both) may use illustrations and analogies to teach a particular point, or, like prophetic literature, it may also simply come straight out and say what it means (example, Psalm 150).

Understanding scripture entails that we take the time to understand first and foremost what it is that we are reading.

One blessing of the modern age in western society is that we have any number of biblical resources available to help us realize what it is we’re reading so that no believer has to be left wondering ‘what does scripture mean by this’ ? A responsibility in an age of much is that much is also required of us (Luke 12:48).  The responsibility to handle scripture accurately (2 Tim. 2:15) is not just the job of the preacher, but of all believers (just like the qualifications for deacon and elder are applicable to all believers, not just those seeking the office).

So I recommend checking out sites like and others that support and encourage believers to engage in serious study of the scriptures for the purpose of knowing what you believe, why you should believe it, how to live it and what to proclaim to others.

Once we figure out what it is we’re reading, some rules begin to come into play to guide our interpreting.

For example, Acts is not a theological manual. It’s a narrative.  Is there theology in Acts ? Definitely. There is theology (and by that word, we simply mean teaching about God, man and salvation that must be believed) in all of scripture. But was Acts written to teach us what is to be considered normative for every believer in every age or is it describing what happened  in history (specifically in the early history of the church) ?

From this, we can deduce that taking a passage or event in Acts and saying ‘this happens to every believer in every age and was not just a one-time event’ is an error.  Examples of this error can be readily found in the pentecostal movements’ use of Acts 2 as ‘normative’ (every believer must speak in tongues as a sign of the Holy Spirit indwelling them). Even in the book of Acts, every believer didn’t speak in tongues at conversion (Acts 16 for example).

On the other hand, books like 1 Thessalonians were written as direct instructions to believers.  Is there theology here ? You better believe it. Is there narrative here ?  Some. Paul makes references in both letters to the church at Thessalonica to when he and Timothy came and spent time among them, how the word of their Christian love has spread throughout other churches and more. But the primary focus of both letters (1 and 2 Thessalonians) is instruction, not narrative.  Questions on the return of Christ and the coming final judgement are answered (1 Thess. 4, 5) , how to conduct ourselves in relation to other believers (1 Thess. 4:3-8), how to conduct ourselves in the church (1 Thess. 5:18 and forward) and more.

In the next installments, I’ll write for a bit on how to deal with some of the other genres of scripture and a bit more detail on what to ‘expect’ when you approach scripture and what you should expect so that your expectations don’t lead you to false conclusions regarding scripture.

Faith & Works

January 21st, 2011

For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. – James 2:26

Everybody believes something. And whether what we believe is true or false, right or wrong, we will act on what we believe. That is to say that faith affects behavior. As we learned how the Scriptures define faith, now we will take a look at how faith works it way out in our daily living.

Those given to us as examples of faith in the Scripture did things as a result of their faith. Faith produces action. Faith works. Faith is not a work in and of itself. We are not saved by works (Ephesians 2:8-9). Faith is trust; it is belief. Specifically as we discuss it, faith is trust in the person of Jesus Christ. So while faith is not a work, faith does work. If it is alive and active and real, then faith will result in good works. Why is this? Faith leads to behavior. If we believe something it shows in how we live.

James tells us in his letter in the New Testament that faith that does not work is dead. Dead faith is useless. It cannot save. It is dead, lifeless, meaningless, and void. On the other hand, faith that results in works is living and active faith.

Let’s make a practical application here. If we claim to believe something but that belief does not result in action or behavior then we really do not believe what we claim to believe. The best example I ever heard of this came from my mentor in the ministry who stated it this way:

If you are in the woods and believe that you hear a bear coming to get you, you will run just as fast as if a bear is really there coming to get you.

Belief results in action, in works, in behavior. If we really believe something to be true, we act accordingly. This truth can have a kick to it when we start to examine our belief system. If we claim to believe something but it does not have a direct effect on what we do, then we really do not believe it. As I stated, everybody believes something, whether it is true or false, and we act on what we believe.

There is a two-fold danger here of which we need to be aware. First there is a danger in believing a lie. If we have a false belief in our belief system then how will that affect the way we act? For example, in the Old Testament King Saul became jealous and thought that David was out to kill him. He acted accordingly, becoming suspicious to the point that he tried to kill David by throwing a spear at him while he sat at the dinner table. Saul’s false belief led to murderous intent and actions (1 Samuel 18:9-12).

Secondly there is a danger that we will think that we believe something, but in reality we do not believe it. How do we know? If we think we believe but do not act, then we do not really believe. This happens when we mentally assent to something accepting in our minds that it is true, but we really do not embrace this belief with true faith, and as a result, we do not act on what we claim we believe. Assent without belief makes no difference in the way we think, talk, act, or live.

This would be exemplified in the life of a person who believed that a bear was coming through the woods to eat them and they just sat there. It makes no sense to think that your life is in danger and not try to fight or flee. Yet when it comes to doctrine, people claim to believe sound doctrine while in truth they may not even understand that doctrine at all. They think they believe the truth, but it does not affect the way they live. They hear, but do not do (James 1:22).

The real, eternal danger here is that we either believe a lie (false doctrine) or we think we are trusting Christ when we really are not. If we believe a lie, we are doomed, for only the truth makes us free (John 8:32). If we think we believe the truth but do not actually believe it, then we are self deceived and are in danger of hearing those most awful words in Scripture, “I never knew you, depart from Me” (Matthew 7:23).

Remember the Parable of the Soils from Matthew 13? Two of the four soils mentioned embraced the Word quickly but then died without bearing fruit – the shallow soil where the seed had no root and the thorny soil where the cares of this world choked the plant – they represent people who emotionally or mentally embrace the preaching of the gospel but do not actually have faith. They do not really believe what they have heard. What proof do we have of this? There is no root and no fruit. They wither and die with no root, or they never bear fruit being choked out by the cares of this world. If they had true faith, they would yield fruit (good works).

In order to understand faith we must strive to believe what God tells us so that we might rightly inform our belief system. We must be sure that what we claim to believe affects the way we live. In the Scriptures this is the idea that a good tree bears good fruit. If we have faith in Jesus Christ, we will bear good fruit. If we do not bear good fruit, then we need to examine what we really believe. We may believe in ourselves all the while thinking that this misplaced faith is the same thing as faith in Christ.

Saving faith is alive, it produces spiritual fruit, it is active and real because it is faith in the Word of God and in God Himself. Saving faith has no room for self, for pride, or for licentiousness (using grace as a license to sin). Saving faith is a gift from God. It is trust in Christ. It is proof of what we cannot see and the reality behind that for which we hope (Hebrews 11:1).

CarBlogging Episode 2: What’s PREACHING ? What’s EXPOSITORY preaching ?

July 24th, 2010

Here’s the current episode of CarBlogging:
Episode 2: What’s PREACHING ? What’s Expository Preaching ?

If you missed part 1 (What’s Good Preaching ?), click this link:

Carblogging with BlackCalvinist

February 8th, 2010

Something new I’ve been thinkin’ on for a few months and finally decided to DO:

Expository preaching vs Topical Preaching…..a few thoughts.