Reading Digest #6 (June 10, 2009)

This is my first digest since April, so it’s a bit long. My goal in posting my reading is not to impress you, but to hopefully encourage you to read more, and to point your bibliographic antennae in the direction of books you may find useful, informative, and edifying.

And, as always, I’d love to hear what you’re reading. Let me know in the comments.


Galatians (personal devotions).

Galatians 5:6 (family devotions). We have been meditating on a single passage that wonderfully boils down the two main components of the Christian life—faith in God (vertical) and love towards others (horizontal). “Faith working through love” has become our mantra in family worship, the theme of our recent conversations, our mutual aspiration. … Also, last night we started reading The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald.


The Epistle to the Galatians (NICNT) by Ronald Y. K. Fung (Eerdmans, 1998, 342 pgs). Fung’s commentary is the most readable technical work on Galatians, a feast for the mind, and spark for the soul’s meditation. It’s not too much to say that this book models how technical commentaries on Paul’s Epistles should be constructed.

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad (Everyman’s Library, 1993, 110 pgs). Considered to be one of the most unrelenting fiction works. At a recent dinner with biblical counselor, David Powlison told me that here in this book Conrad stares directly into the pit of human heart. Reading this dark realism reminds me of the darkness of this sinful world, darkness the gospel has arrived to redeem sinners from, a darkness that remains the only alternative path apart from faith in Christ.

The Infinite Merit of Christ: The Glory of Christ’s Obedience in the Theology of Jonathan Edwards by Craig Biehl (Reformed Academic, 2009, 2009, 250 pgs). I’ve read so many average books about Edwards’ theology I often wonder why I don’t just read more of Edwards! Not with Biehl. In this monumental synthesis, Biehl weaves together 800 direct quotations into a breathtaking, overarching framework of Edwards’ theology. And at the center of that framework stands the person and work of Jesus Christ. Majestic in scope, clarity, and organization, Biehl has made the center of Edwards’ theological framework more explicable to my little brain. This is one of the most important works published this year and a defining volume in the cottage industry of books on Edwards’ theology.

Smart Choices: A Practical Guide to Making Better Decisions
by John S. Hammond (Broadway, 2002, 256 pgs). Hammond’s book is worthwhile. In it he provides a clear system for digging to the bottom of important questions (a crucial, but often neglected, first step in making decisions) and then works toward assembling multiple creative solutions. I found his principles a bit rigid and sometimes overly structured, but the case study examples are packed with creativity and innovative thinking. These examples keep the book moving at a steady pace.

5 Minds for the Future by Howard Gardner (Harvard Business, 2008, 196 pgs). Gardner, an influential intellectual, argues that successful minds of the future will intermix the following five skills or “minds”—disciplined, synthesizing, creative, respectful, and ethical. I myself am a synthesizer. And from what Gardner says, this is an important skill in the information swamp we now live. A helpful book.

Heralds of God by James S. Stewart (Hodder & Stoughton, 1946, 222 pgs). Cross-centered books on preaching are not numerous, so I appreciate any volume, even an old one like Stewart. He does a fine job connecting the preacher’s priorities to the Cross. A little book now long out of print.

The Preacher: His Life and Work by J. H. Jowett (Harper & Bros, 1912, 239 pgs). Very similar outline and flow to Stewart. Jowett displays a great sense of the splendor and particulars of the preacher’s life and ministry. Also short, worth finding, and now long out of print.

The Life of Alexander Whyte by G. F. Barbour (Hodder & Stoughton, 1924, 675 pgs). Barbour has a gift for locating, extracting, and reproducing many devotional bits from the life and ministry of the famous Scottish preacher. I have enjoyed pouring over the yellow, musty, Deckle-edged pages of this classic biography. Also out of print, unfortunate for such a superb model of Christian biography.

A Geerhardus Vos Anthology edited by Danny E. Olinger (P&R, 2005, 375 pgs). Vos is not remembered as a man of the one-liner, spouting off zingers from the hip to satiate the thronging masses. But he was one of the Church’s greatest biblical theologians. And sadly his pointed wisdom can get lost in the thicket of his dense prose. Olinger rummaged Vos’ writings and excavated hundreds of terse theological quotes on topics ranging from communion with God, the kingdom, pride, etc. His quotes are arranged alphabetically by topic. No student of Reformed theology should be without this collection. Useful, informative, and often devotional.

9 thoughts on “Reading Digest #6 (June 10, 2009)

  1. I recently purchased every single book WTS Books has to offer from Octavius Winslow. I’m in love with the depth in which this man writes. He speaks most clearly to me as someone who is still battling his “dark night of the soul”.

  2. I’m reading “A Praying Life” by Paul Miller – I don’t have enough superlatives to describe how good this book is. Also reading, “Seeing with New Eyes” by David Powlison, also excellent. I love his chapter on Psalm 131. Also reading, “Redemption: Accomplished and Applied” by John Murray. In the Bible I’m reading through Deuteronomy and the book of Psalms. Also, every day I read a portion of “The Gospel Primer” by Milton Vincent. Can’t say enough about that book.

  3. Warms my heart to see you reading Macdonald to your kids.

    I expect some comments soon.

    I’m in the process of moving into a new library (I can hardly wait), so currently most of my Macdonald is buried within and behind boxes. His books are best situated when near at hand. There is good reason why Lewis called him his master. Have you read the Great Divorce? We find Macdonald there in the blessed land, serving as Virgil did to Dante in the Divine Comedy (save Paradiso–poor Virgil, the unbaptized, could not go there!) .

    Great stuff.

    Blessings upon your reading Tony. May it ever lead you to the Highest Good.

  4. Tom, as you know, this list was made possible in large measure to your recommendations. Keep them coming, my friend! And the kids are loving Macdonald. Enthralling.



  5. Oh no, my friend, “Heralds of God” by James S. Stewart is NO LONGER out of print. Regent College Publishing, in my neck of the woods, has made it available again here:

    Just finished “FEEL” by Matthew Elliott (Tyndale House), and currently in the midst of “Know and Tell the Gospel” by John Chapman (Matthias Media) and “Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood” by Piper/Grudem (Crossway). Also studying James using commentaries by Motyer, Wiersbe and Blomberg/Kamell.

  6. Hi
    Heralds of God published as (the rather delightful!), ‘Teach yourself preaching’ in UK. There are plenty of second hand copies available on UK Amazon. It’s a great little book which I read about 20 years ago and had a lovely letter back from Professor Stewart after I had written to thank him for it.

  7. I’ll jump on this a little late.

    I’m reading:

    Religious Affections by Jonathan Edwards
    Signs of the Spirit by Sam Storms
    Chosen for Life by Sam Storms
    The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs
    The Doctrine of God by John Frame

    It is encouraging to see what you guys are reading!

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