Everybody else is doing one so I figure I will too. I must note that my “Top 5” of 2012 were not all published in 2012—I may just have happened to read them this last year. Also, they appear in no particular order:
- A Shot of Faith to the Head: Be a Confident Believer in an Age of Cranky Atheists by Mitch Stokes – I’ve already reviewed this book here. Read it if you want the run-down.
- Union with Christ: Reframing Theology and Ministry for the Church by J. Todd Billings – Union with Christ is an essential theme and doctrine in Christianity, particularly within the Reformed tradition. In conversation with Augustine, Calvin, Bavinck, Barth, and others, Billings does some serious, but readable theological work, expounding the deep implications for theology and ministry of our union with Christ. For under 200 pages Billings’ scope is wide, covering everything from salvation to theological epistemology, the doctrine of God, Christology, the Lord’s Supper, social justice, and paradigms for mission. It also functions as an excellent, irenic introduction Calvin and the Reformed tradition as a whole. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.
- The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy and Kathy Keller – What can I say? It’s a Tim Keller book on marriage. That means it’s going to be well-researched, relevant, biblical, practical, theological, very readable, and, of course, gospel-centered. I’ve recommended this book to just about everybody: college students, engaged couples, newly-weds, oldly-weds, pastors, and marital experts. The great thing is that what you learn in this book won’t just teach you about marriage, it will teach you about all of your relationships, and most of all, the way the good news of Jesus Christ really does change everything.
- Lord and Servant: A Covenant Christology by Michael Scott Horton – While this book was probably one of the most fun for me to read this year, it was also one of the nerdiest. Lord and Servant is the second in Horton’s quadrilogy of dogmatics and maybe the most important. In this series, he sets out to explore various classic theological topics letting the biblical notion of covenant–with its all-important Creator/creature distinction—and the eschatological story-line of the Bible shape the discussion. Much like the others, he’s working with some very high level theological and exegetical tools, interspersing and engaging with contemporary philosophical theology (Radical Orthodoxy), biblical studies (N.T. Wright), and patristics (Irenaeus) with insights from Calvin and the post-Reformation dogmatic tradition. As the subtitle indicates the end-goal of the work is Christology, but Horton does so much more in this volume with significant sections on: the doctrine of God, anthropology, Christology proper, and the contemporary atonement discussion. Horton has some of the finest discussions I’ve seen on the contemporary doctrine of God debates, as well as a thoroughly Reformed proposal for understanding the atonement in its fullness that beautifully incorporates insights from other traditions, as well as from its critics. In fact, the atonement discussion is worth the price of the book alone. Although this is admittedly not easy reading, for anybody with a taste for serious theology, it is a must.
- New Testament Biblical Theology: The Unfolding the Old Testament in the New by G.K. Beale – It was almost a tie for me between this volume and Beale’s earlier one The Temple and the Church’s Mission: A Biblical Theology of the Dwelling Place of God. At a whopping 967 pages of text, excluding indexes, it is hard to convey the truly colossal accomplishment of Beale’s magnum opus. Beale doesn’t set out to write your typical New Testament Theology with summaries of the Pauline corpus, or the Gospels, with a minor constructive chapter at the end. Instead, Beale gives us a truly Biblical theology focusing on the major redemptive-historical storyline of scripture, showing the way the promises in the OT of a New Creation Kingdom are inaugurated and fulfilled through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Not only does he trace the fulfillment of the OT storyline in the NT, but he does so in light of Second Temple Jewish background material, and with an eye towards contemporary theological discussions. On top of it all, this stuff preaches!! Pastors, seminarians, biblical scholars, and students would do well to purchase this and work their way slowly through it, page by page. There is a wealth of biblical riches here.
- Honorable Mention: Christianity and Liberalism by J. Gresham Machen – Written at the height of the Fundamentalist/Modernist controversy, Machen aims to set out a clear choice between classic Christianity, the faith essentially shared for 2,000 years across Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox lines, and that of the Modern theological liberalism that was prevailing in his day. I finally hunkered down to read it these last couple of weeks and have been stunned at the relevance this work still has nearly 90 years after it was written. Get this book, if only for the fact that you can download it for free.
So if you’re looking for something to read in the 2013 year, you may want to start with one of these. All of them will faithfully point you to Christ and help you love God with all of your heart, soul, strength, and mind.
Soli Deo Gloria
P.S. There are a couple that probably should be on here, but this thing was taking too long so they’ll make next year’s: Tim Keller’s Center Church and Ross Douthat’s Bad Religion.