Best Reads of 2007 (and 2008!)

books1.jpgMy apologies for the scantness of posts lately.

Here’s the thing: Generally my posts arise out of whatever has been on my front burner lately. So, last week I was thinking a little about Christmas and Xmas, thus the C.S. Lewis post. Before that I had been thinking through the doctrine of inerrancy quite a bit, thus my “inerrancy” post.

But what I’ve been thinking about most lately, to tell you the truth, is Verbal Aspect Theory in the Greek of the New Testament, as I’ve been preparing for a J-Term course on Advanced Greek Grammar.

I assumed that most of you wouldn’t want to hear about my thoughts on that (and those that would just need to get a life), so I haven’t posted much lately. But something new came onto my radar today as I started thinking about (you might have guessed) books. More specifically, I’ve been thinking about what books I most enjoyed reading this year, and those which I’m most looking forward to reading in ’08. Now, not all of the books on the first list are necessarily books that were published in 2007 (the same goes for the 2008 list), nor are they necessarily books I read for the first time in 2007. They’re simply the best books I read this year.

So, if you want my suggestions for what to do with any Christmas cash you may have received, here they are:

The Best Books I Read in 2007

1. Overcoming Sin and Temptation, by John Owen (Kelly Kapic and Justin Taylor, eds.)

The title of this book was given to it by the editors, and it actually includes three of Owen’s treatises on the topic. His magisterial treatment of sin, temptation, and how to kill both is astoundingly good. I once heard Tim Keller say that had he not read On Mortification and On Temptation (the first and third treatises in this volume) he probably wouldn’t still be in ministry today. I take what Keller says pretty seriously, so I made this the first book I read when I became a pastor back in January, and despite its difficulty, it is an absolutely priceless work, and was devastating to sin’s progress in me. It was the best book I read this year, and I plan to re-read my highlighted sections (most of the book) and margin notes early in ’08.

2. Communion with the Triune God, by John Owen (Kelly Kapic and Justin Taylor, eds.)

I suppose it’s becoming clearer why we named our son Owen, eh? This is Owen’s masterpiece on what it means to have deep fellowship with each person of the Godhead separately, and therefore with the Triune God as a whole. The best part of the book however, in my view, was Owen’s extended meditation on the beauty and excellency of Jesus Christ that occupies 70 pages in the middle of the book. Nothing could be better for a beaten, tired soul than to meditate for hours on the glory of God the Father, Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit. That’s why I highly recommend that you read this on vacation, as I did.

3. Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ, by John Piper

At the risk of sounding like a broken record: nothing could be better for a beaten, tired soul than to meditate for hours on the glory, excellency, and beauty of Jesus Christ. I gave this book to everyone who came on our Fusion Community retreat this fall, and having read it once or twice before, I wasn’t expecting to be so floored by it. But I was, to use the prophet Isaiah’s word, absolutely undone. If you’d like to read it and then sit down and discuss it with me at some point, I have a few copies in my office I’d be glad to give away gratis.

4. The Cross and Christian Ministry: Leadership Lessons from 1 Corinthians, by D.A. Carson

Carson’s book is an absolute must-read for anyone in leadership in the local church, anyone who aspires to leadership, or anyone who simply wants to see the perennially difficult move from biblical text to practical application done extremely deftly. But if you’re not going to read this book, I plead with you: at least buy it for your pastor (Don’t buy it for me – I already have a well-thumbed copy).

5. The Drama of Doctrine, by Kevin Vanhoozer

This was not my first crack at this book. It was a required text for a course I took on Theological Prolegomena from Vanhoozer at Trinity. It was a book I wanted to get to again, however, because it requires a good bit of time to read, and it’s not a book you can just brush through. It’s a book that demands that the reader read a paragraph or a page, set the book in his lap, think through what Vanhoozer is saying, write his questions and comments in the margin, and think some more before continuing on to the next section. His outstanding proposal—which draws heavily on theatrical and dramatic metaphors—for how theology and biblical study ought to be done is without peer, in my mind, and I think would steer the emerging church conversation in an incredibly productive and healthy direction if people would only read it. (Extremely) unfortunately, almost no one will read it because of the book’s size (500 pp.) and daunting subtitle: “A Canonical-Linguistic Approach to Christian Theology.” The church desperately needs, in my opinion, a simplified version. Pray that God would plant that idea in Vanhoozer’s head.

And now on to next year…

Books I’m Most Looking Forward to Reading in 2008

1. Why We’re Not Emergent: By Two Guys Who Should Be, by Kevin Deyoung and Ted Kluck

This book looks fantastic—finally an “insider’s take” on the emerging church conversation. Don’t get me wrong. People like D.A. Carson, Tim Keller, Scott McKnight, etc., have done a fine job laying out some of the issues, but I think a lot of people would like to hear from some 20-somethings who have done some thinking on the matter. If this book is as good as the table of contents looks, I’ll be purchasing a copy for everyone in my young adults ministry.

2. Worship Matters: Leading Others to Encounter the Greatness of God, by Bob Kauflin

Kauflin is a song writer and worship leader with Sovereign Grace Ministries and Covenant Life Church in Gathersburg, MD. I have no idea if he’s going to be good at prose. I haven’t read any excerpts from this book, so I have no idea what he’s going to say. But Kauflin writes extraordinary worship music that is, in my opinion, unparalleled in contemporary worship music in its depth, biblical ‘thickness’, and Christ-centeredness. I suppose I just want to get a closer look at the heart of this man.

3. The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism, by Tim Keller

Tim Keller explains the rationality of belief in the life and resurrection of Christ in such a simple, conversational way in his sermons that you can’t imagine anyone refusing to bow to Christ by the end of the service. It seems so… obvious. This book is Keller’s attempt at answering, in his simple, winsome way, some of the most common and difficult questions non-believers ask. I plan on more or less memorizing this book and then taking my new tools to lots of coffee shops.

4. Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor: The Life and Reflections of Tom Carson, by D.A. Carson

I’ve never heard Don Carson tell the story of his father without getting choked up, and I’ve heard the story half a dozen times. I am confident that Carson will reflect on the life and journals of his father with similar emotion and admiration. Before I’ve read a page, I’m going to guess that this will be my #1 Best Read of 2008.

5. The Death of Death in the Death of Christ, by John Owen

This is the only book on my ‘2008’ must-read list that is not going to be published in 2008 (unless Kapic and Taylor bless us with an annotated edition of it as well). It’s time for me to work though this very difficult book again and meditate at length on Christ’s atonement and what it secured for me. I’m most excited about it because I know it will most likely stir me to worship more than anything else I’ll read next year (the Word, obviously, excluded).

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