Books of the Year 2018

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For thirteen years, I have compiled a list of the best Christian books across multiple publishers and genres. Reading books is a priority for me, so I make time to read a wide variety of Christian books throughout the year. Here’s a list of my top 10 favorite non-fiction Christian books of 2018.

1. Jonathan King, The Beauty of the Lord: Theology as Aesthetics (Lexham). Without debate this is the best book I read in 2018. At the center of our faith is not merely believing — but also tasting and seeing the beauty of God. How do we quantify the beauty of God? “Beauty is a quality of God’s glory and thus the display of God’s glory is always beautiful, always fitting, always entails an aesthetic dimension to it” (326). Or, to put it another way, “everything God does is beautiful in its God-glorifying nature” (298). King’s book is one of the most expansive and ambitious theological achievements that I’ve ever come across, a rare book which offers a treasured doctrine of Reformed theology in fresh articulation on every page. Not merely the best Reformed definition of aesthetics (long overdue and sorely needed), this is Reformed theology at its beautiful best. … King’s book is part of an impressive series from Lexham: Studies in Historical & Systematic Theology. See also Timothy Padgett’s Swords and Plowshares: American Evangelicals on War, 1937–1973, an engaging look at how Evangelical writers and columnists processed WW2 and then Vietnam.

2. John Piper, Expository Exultation: Christian Preaching as Worship (Crossway). What makes John Piper the preacher tick? This is the answer. Piper applies Christian Hedonism to the task of preaching, and adds a uniquely valuable book in the suite of Piper offerings. Expository Exultation is the third in a trilogy that covers how we can trust the Bible (A Peculiar Glory) and how to read the Bible (Reading the Bible Supernaturally). … Also noteworthy is Joel Beeke’s book on preaching: Reformed Preaching: Proclaiming God’s Word from the Heart of the Preacher to the Heart of His People, a book that builds off Piper’s “expository exultation.” Says Beeke: “We might add that it is expository admiration for God, expository adoration of God, expository affection toward God, and expository subjection unto God. Indeed, sometimes it is expository lamentation over our sins against this beautiful and holy God. But real preaching is always a flame of worship arising from the wick of the preacher’s soul immersed in the oil of the Spirit in the lamp of Scripture.”

3. Russell Moore, The Storm-Tossed Family: How the Cross Reshapes the Home (B&H). Throughout your life, you will disappoint your family, and your family will disappoint you. But throughout the disappointment, the gospel remains. “In reality, every family is, to some degree or other, a broken family.” But you are not your family. “You are not your genealogy. You are not your family tree. You are not your family. After all, if you are in Christ, you are a new creation. You are not doomed to carry on the dark family traditions that would harm you or drive you away from God or other people.” This latest book from Dr. Moore will serve families in every stage of life.

4. Jackie Hill Perry, Gay Girl, Good God: The Story of Who I Was, and Who God Has Always Been (B&H). We all know that Jackie can write lyrics. Her memoir proves that she can write prose. It is a magnificent first book of what I hope will be many more to come in the future. It’s relevant for those who are same-sex attracted and those who are not. “This is a book with a lot of me in it but with a whole lot more of God,” she says. “He is what the soul needs for rest and what the mind needs for peace. He is the Creator God, the King of Glory, the one who, in love, sent the Christ to pay the penalty for and become the sin that we are all born with. It is the words from and about this resurrected Lamb of God that I hope will lift off the page and into the heart. This book is a lifted hand, a glad praise, a necessary hymn, a hallelujah overheard and not kept quiet.”

5. Karen Swallow Prior, On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life through Great Books (Brazos). I really enjoyed Karen’s previous work, Booked, and this book was a fitting follow up. Karen helps sharpen our appreciation for fictional literature, highlighting the virtuous themes in a dozen great works which advance one main virtue: cardinal virtues (prudence, temperance, justice, courage); theological virtues (faith, hope, love); and heavenly virtues (chastity, diligence, patience, kindness, humility). Spanning from Bunyan to Austin to Cormac, this book is a literary feast!

6. Joe Rigney, Lewis on the Christian Life: Becoming Truly Human in the Presence of God (Crossway). As we expect from Joe, this book is a careful reading of Lewis and application of his wisdom to the questions of today. Another gem!

7. Richard P. Belcher Jr., Finding Favour in the Sight of God: A Theology of Wisdom Literature (IVP Academic). An engaging and illuminating theology of Proverbs, Job, and Ecclesiastes, I will return to this book over and over.

8. N. T. Wright, Paul: A Biography (HarperOne). Wright has problems, but he remains one of the most engaging, theologically-driven writers of our generation. His books are a model of form and his style is especially suited for biography. As to be expected, Wright returns to his work of attempting to undermine the Reformers on justification, and this emerges in the final chapter (15: The Challenge of Paul). But the discerning reader will pick up loads of interesting gems about the life and ministry of Paul in this volume. … For a better look at justification, see Michael Horton’s two-volume masterpiece (here and here). … And for an anticipated volume on Paul’s life and ministry, be watching for John Piper’s Why I Love the Apostle Paul: 30 Reasons, due out in January (Crossway).

9. Peter Leithart, The Gospel of Matthew Through New Eyes, Volume One: Jesus as Israel (Athanasius). Of interest to me is how a notable Bible teacher’s legacy gets passed along to the next generation, and here’s one answer. From the lineage of James Jordan comes a commentary series taking his vision of the Bible and working it out, text by text. Leithart has covered the epistles of John and now the first 12 chapters of Matthew. Readers won’t agree with everything, but as with all of Leithart’s commentaries, this book is a feast for the mind and heart. … In 2018 his Revelation commentary was finally released, in two volumes (chs 1–11 and 12–22). … And along this same James Jordan-inspired trajectory, see Alastair Roberts and Andrew Wilson’s Echoes of Exodus: Tracing Themes of Redemption through Scripture (Crossway).

10. Hans Boersma, Seeing God: The Beatific Vision in Christian Tradition (Eerdmans). A wonderful historical survey of the doctrine of the beatific vision in all its glory (and debate) over the centuries. We need more lively doctrinal surveys like this one.

Previous Books of the Year

2017: Herman Selderhuis, Martin Luther: A Spiritual Biography (Crossway)
2016: The six-volume ESV Reader’s Bible (Crossway)
2015: Randy Alcorn, Happiness (Tyndale)
2014: Tim Keller, Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God (Dutton)
2013: Tom Schreiner, The King in His Beauty: A Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments (Baker)
2012: Steve DeWitt, Eyes Wide Open: Enjoying God in Everything (Credo)
2011: Greg Beale, A New Testament Biblical Theology: The Unfolding of the Old Testament in the New (Baker)
2010: Don Carson, Scandalous: The Cross and Resurrection of Jesus (Crossway) and The God Who Is There: Finding Your Place in God’s Story (Baker)
2009: Bruce Gordon, Calvin (Yale)
2008: The ESV Study Bible (Crossway) and Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics (Baker)
2007: Bruce Waltke, An Old Testament Theology: An Exegetical, Canonical, and Thematic Approach (Zondervan)
2006: Joel Beeke and Randall Pederson, Meet the Puritans: With a Guide to Modern Reprints (Reformation Heritage)

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