My Top Ten Books for 2011

Here is my top ten list of favorite books I read in 2011.*

#10. Francis Chan and Preston Sprinkle, Erasing Hell: What God Said About Eternity, and the Things We Made Up (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011).
I appreciated Chan’s pastoral heart and concern and I was impressed with Sprinkle’s explanations of the biblical issues surrounding Bell’s book. It was a very good response.

#9. Eric Metaxas, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2010).
A very good biography on the Lutheran theologian who attempted to undermine the Nazi regime in his native Germany. I really enjoyed the stories of his early life and upbringing, in particular his education both in Germany as well as his time in the United States. I think the book seemed to lose energy at the end as it turned more away from his theology and his ethical dilemmas of subverting the Third Reich (even participating in the assassination plot of Hitler) to his romantic relationship and execution. Nevertheless, it was an very good read.

#8. Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert, What is The Mission of the Church?: Making Sense of Social Justice, Shalom, and the Great Commission (Wheaton: Crossway, 2011).
Indeed a very important book. Although it was critiqued rigorously in some “specialist” circles (here and here), it is what I believe to be a helpful corrective for churches who have wandered away from proclaiming the gospel and making disciples.

#7. Mark Galli, God Wins: Heaven, Hell, and Why the Good News Is Better than Love Wins (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale, 2011).
There were many excellent responses to Love Wins, each with their own unique strengths. When asked my opinion on which of the response books I prefer, I would generally say that I liked Wittmer’s In Christ Alone (Grand Rapids: Edenridge, 2011) for the overall doctrinal and philosophical issues, Chan and Sprinkle (#9, above) for the textual problems, and Galli’s for the theological issues and the bigger picture.

#6. D. A. Carson, The Cross and Christian Ministry: Leadership Lessons from 1 Corinthians (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2004).
A wonderful series of expositions from 1 Corinthians. Very helpful reminder of my task as a pastor. As Paul wrote to the church at Corinth: “And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor 2:1–2 ESV).

#5. Robert A. J. Gagnon, The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics (Nashville: Abindgon, 2001).
A controversial entry, I know. And not a book for the average Christian reader as it is quite academic. Although it was published ten years ago, it is in my opinion the single best treatment on what the Bible actually says about homosexual practice. Dr. Gagnon is Assistant Professor of New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.

#4. John R. W. Stott, The Cross of Christ: 20th Anniversary Edition (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2006).
I mentioned this book on this blog previously. “Uncle John,” who turned 90 in April, passed away in July. Stott belongs on the “Mount Rushmore” of 20th century Evangelicalism. Although I had read this classic years ago, recent works attacking the substitutionary atonement of Christ precipitated a re-reading. Since many “untaught and unstable” (2 Pet 3:16) continue to distort this doctrine, it looks like I may be re-reading this book often.

#3. Michael Horton, Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2008).
I just grabbed it to start skimming it and I couldn’t put it down. Very convicting. Horton impressively identifies how certain brands of “Christianity” (particularly self-help, health-and-wealth churches as well as those in the emerging stream) that have left Christ out of Christianity. The “Christless” gospel becomes moralistic or self-actualizing rather than focusing of the work of Christ on our behalf.

#2. D. A. Carson, The Gagging of God: Christianity Confronts Pluralism (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996).
This book won Evangelical Christian Publishers Association’s Gold Medallion for Book of the Year in 1996. I’m sure it made an impact at that time. It also is a desperately needed corrective to the emerging pluralism that invades today’s churches. The long-term impact of this book may be accurately reflected in the dedication of the book to his children (who are now grown): “This one is for Tiffany and Nicholas, not because they can as yet understand much of it, but because in a few years they will need it” [emphasis added]. Well, it has been fifteen years since its publication and I, for one, desperately needed it. Thank you, Dr. Carson!

#1. J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1923).
I have said this many times before and I will say it again here: this book so timely addresses contemporary issues it is easy to forget that it was published almost 90 years ago. The book has as its backdrop the “modernist-fundamentalist” controversy of the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century. Machen was writing against the drift in mainline churches toward accommodating the Christian faith to the prevailing “modern” culture, saying that such a move is not Christianity but another religion altogether even though it was employing traditional Christian language. Many parallels to our times today.

……

*These are books I read in 2011 and not necessarily books published in 2011. 

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