Reading for Pastors and Amateur Theologians

If I were a professor in a university requiring my students to work through Christian books, these are some that I would put on my reading list.  They are mostly heavily theological. 

 

*       means 'Read if you have the inclination but not indispensible'.
**     means 'Quite useful'.
***    means 'You ought to get this book and use it a lot'. 
****  means 'Excellent!'
***** means 'Outstanding, not to be missed'. 

PRE-CHRISTIAN

Plato: Dialogue with Phaedo
Read in order to see the essence of Plato's view of the soul and then strain out this view of the soul in your own thinking and go back to the bible instead.

EARLY CHURCH

Augustine:

  • Early works* (note how Platonist they are),
  • Confessions** (a great classic),
  • Anti-Pelagian writings*,  
  • Sermon on the Mount*.

MEDIEVAL

Anselm: Why Did God Become Man?*

Aquinas, Summa Theologica*

(Get some bits of it and dip into it to get the flavour of where post-13th century theology was coming from).


16TH CENTURY REFORMATION

Luther's Works … Dip into them all of your life, especially:  

  • Vols.1-8 (Genesis*; go through it slowly, few pages a day for several years; see his method as a mature expositor of Scripture);
  • Vol.21* (Sermon on the Mount and Magnificat),
  • Vols.22-24* (John's Gospel).  
  • Vols.31-34, 42-43, 44-47, 54.
  • Don't miss Luther's Prefaces (NB, vol.34, pp.283-288; 327-338)**  
  • And Luther's editors are always worth reading.  In all volumes the most illuminating pages are the ones introducing each work,

Calvin's Writings.  

  • Institutes***;
  • Commentaries*,
  • Old Testament lectures*.  

Notice the great theme of his theology: the cross as the pledge of God's love for everyone! There is no 'limited atonement' in Calvin!

Book of Common Prayer* , 1662.  

Mainly Cranmer's work.  Notice the outstanding ThirtyNine Articles - most of them brilliant.  Cranmer's prayers are excellent.  There are flashes of genius everywhere  ('We do not presume to come to this thy table trusting in our own righteousness….').

17th CENTURY PURITANISM

  • Thomas Watson* (everything he wrote was great),
  • Thomas Manton* (a great expositor),
  • Thomas Goodwin's Works*, vol.1-2 (on Ephesians 1:1-2:10 - heavy reading),
  • Matthew Henry*****,
  • Stephen Charnock on Attributes of God, New Birth.
  • Christopher Love, Grace** (obtainable USA).  
  • John Bunyan*..

18th CENTURY

  • George Whitefield's sermons;
  • Jonathan Edwards (leave philosophical works, and go for the sermons**).
    • Charity and Its Fruits***** is marvellous.
  • Methodist Hymnbook - old editions with Wesley's hymns.
  • Isaac Watts, Guide to Prayer.


19th CENTURY

  • Charles Hodge****,
  • J.C.Ryle***** (a model for preachers),
  • Charles Spurgeon's 62 volumes of sermons (***** - get the index and use it all the time!)
  • Bavinck, ****

20th CENTURY

  • B.B.Warfield**** 
  • J.G.Machen, Christianity and Liberalism*
  • J.Stott - generally (always worth reading, sometimes worth refuting)*
    • J.Stott's expositions*** (select Psalms, Sermon on the Mount, Acts, Romans, Ephesians, 1-2 Thessalonians, 1-2 Timothy, Titus).  [Galatians is weaker]. 
  • J.I.Packer (****).  Always worth reading, especially Fundamentalism And The Word Of God
  • John Frame****
  • D.M.Lloyd-Jones*****.  Notice his evangelistic style (esp. in the six volumes on Acts 1-8).
  • John Murray.  
  • Systematic Theologies:  Grudem, Rodman Williams, Spykman, 
  • J.A.Motyer*****  (note also his articles in New Bible Dictionary).   Exodus, Psalms (New Bible Commentary), Isaiah (2 versions), Amos, Philippians, James.
  • Van Til's writings are heavy going but his basic philosophy and apologetics was surely pioneering in the right direction.   Note Frame's work on Van Til.
  • R.T.Kendall's expositions (esp. James, Joseph, Jacob, 1 Corinthians 3; Hebrews 6). 

BIOGRAPHIES

The great heroes of the church are always worth reading about.  I should collect biographies of:  Augustine (esp. by Peter Brown), Luther, Calvin, Bunyan, Whitefield (esp.by Dallimore), John Wesley, Jonathan Edwards (esp. by Marsden), Spurgeon (esp. by Iain Murray, also Autobiography); Hudson Taylor (the two vol classic, and the seven vol. modern biography); George Muller; Lloyd-Jones (by I.Murray).   

PHILOSOPHY

Bertrand Russell's History of Philosophy is the easiest to read.

COMMENTARIES - EXPOSITORY

There are different kinds of commentary.   Two categories are especially important: the expository and those that gives you masses of technical information.  The best of the expositions are written by Motyer, Lloyd-Jones, Ryle (Gospels), Stott.  Also: Walkte, Genesis; Kidner, Ezra, Nehemiah (TOTC); Spurgeon, Psalms; Eaton, Ecclesiastes (TOTC), Charles Bridges (Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Psalm 119); Eaton, Hosea (Christian Focus).  

TECHNICAL

For something easily accessible, Hendriksen is always good.

  • R.T.France, Matthew in NICNT; Mark; 
  • I.H.Marshall, Luke
  • D.A.Carson, John
  • F.F.Bruce, Acts
  • John Murray, Romans
  • Schreiner, Romans
  • Gordon Fee: 1 Corinthians, Philippians, 1,2, Thessalonians
  • Harris, 2 Corinthians
  • Bruce, Galatians
  • ****H.Hoehnner, Ephesians (massive but a model of what detailed exegesis should be).
  • P.O'Brien,  Colossians & Philemon, 
  • Moo, Colossians & Philemon (Pillar Commentary). 
  • ****Mounce, 1-2 Timothy, Titus,
  • Ellingworth, Hebrews
  • Moo, James (Pillar Comm).
  • Gruden, 1 Peter
  • Moo, 2 Peter Jude
  • Brown, 1-3 John (Catholic, destructive, but mentions everything!)
  • Zane Hodges, 1-3 John (Dallas Seminary … a contrast to more legalistic interpretations)
  • M.Eaton, 1-3 John (Christian Focus … a contrast to more legalistic interpretations)
  • Beale, Revelation
  • Hendriksen, More Than Conquerors (Revelation)

LLOYD-JONES

Short books: 

  • Spiritual Depression
  • 2 Peter
  • Doctrine series
  • Revival
  • Habakkuk
  • Faith On Trial

Slightly Longer

  • Sermon on the Mount
  • John 4
  • John 17
  • Philippians
  • 1 John

More than two volumes

  • Authentic Christianity
  • Romans
  • Ephesians
     

Extracted from Michael's notes by Calvin Eaton