This year has proven quite busy, but toward the last few months I have been most fortunate to read a lot of new releases. Here are my top picks!
Pastor Paul by Scot McKnight might be one of the most important books of this year. With an eye on the sad state of the modern pastorate (including the phenomena of the celebrity pastor that transcends denominational lines) and careful exposition of Paul the apostle, this is McKnight at his best. Simply a must-read for pastors, or anyone remotely interested in ministry.
Between Two Trees (by Shane Wood) deals with how the Bible presents death and its entry into our world. Wood attempts to uncovers some inadequate (watered down?) evangelical tendencies, challenging some of the ways we think and talk about sin and death. Wood here is compelling, creative, and theologically rigorous, leaving us with much to think about.
Wesley Hill’s The Lord’s Prayer: A Guide To Praying To Our Father is an amazing and short (yet concise) treatment on the Lord’s Prayer. With captivating visuals and full of rich theology, this works great as a devotional or bedside reading, or for studying the Lord’s Prayer. I would recommend this for anyone who is interested in enriching their prayer life, or looking for good exegesis on Matthew 6:9-13.
Spiritual Warfare in the Storyline of Scripture is a really fun book. It’s hard to write another book on spiritual warfare, but the authors/scholars have done a great job at a fresh yet exegetically cautious resource. They briefly deal with every explicit reference to spiritual warfare in all of the Bible. The book is a good size and a great addition to a believer’s library.
Urban Legends of the Old Testament deals with 40 myths/misconceptions of the Old Testament. The authors really outdid themselves. Dealing with urban legends that I grew up hearing (like the Trinity apparently taught in Genesis, or Satan being cast down from heaven) as well as many I had never heard of, this is a well-rounded and carefully written book.
Christ the Cornerstone is a collection of essays by John Stott, and I am amazed at how relevant these essays are, even if many were written decades ago. Stott, a theological giant, is committed to go where the text goes. Also admirable is his stubborn resistance of unhelpful dichotomies (such as social action vis a vis evangelism; if you can, get this book!). It is also quite impressive how Stott directly took on so many hot topics during his career (the trend today is for leaders to avoid controversy at all costs), and did so carefully and gracefully, while always committed to the text of Scripture. Christ the Cornerstone has rekindled my love for Stott as well as reinforced in me the vitality of going where the text goes, even if that means losing some friends.
Resilient Faith is a great book that delves into the Church for the first 250 years of its existence (I thoroughly enjoyed the introduction), comparing and contrasting early Christianity to what it has evolved into today. The author offers great insight into the mindset and praxis of early Christianity, as well as offering implications for today and the modern American church. The author writes in a very readable fashion.
He Descended to the Dead deals with determining if this concept is indeed biblical or not, as well as the history of its interpretation. Christ’s descent (what it means/doesn’t mean) is debated within Christians circles, and the author brings clarity and reason to the discussion. A good rad through and through.
The Story of Creeds and Confessions is great as an introduction to the creeds and very well-documented. A great resource to have. A bit on the dense side, but quite enjoyable.
Offer Yourselves to God (Gordon Fee) is both simple and short but not disappointing. Here Fee, an expert on all things Pauline, unpacks the apostle’s views on work, vocation, and ministry.
Call me picky but I have been tired of reading Bible books to my five-year-old that seem to insert unhelpful assumptions, or remove key elements of a given narrative. The book at hand is not only visually captivating but also includes great theology (I thoroughly enjoyed the author’s presentation of the Edenic account). I confess that once in a while I get bored with my Bible. When that happens, I turn to comic Bibles or children’s bibles (the audio Bible by David Suchet has been a go-to for quite some time). This is a great resource for such times, or if you’re a visual learner in general. A great gift for teens or young adults, or for those who need visuals. Link here.
Skeptic Jesus: though I myself was skeptical at first about this one, former-journalist-turned pastor John Dickerson won me over. Setting about a ten year investigation/journey of studying Christianity’s impact on our world, this is well-documented and researched, as well as surprisingly accessible read.
The Heart of Revelation (by J. Scott Duvall, revised edition) is a great read, and deals carefully with the often misquoted book of Revelation. Though released in 2016 through Baker, it was released this year through B&H Academic. This will be a sure guide to sermon preparation on Revelation, or a great gift for a believer who struggles with Revelation and fears delving straight into a dense, thick commentary.
This is classic Keener, careful and evenhanded in his approach. Here he deals with the nature of ancient biographies, and leaves us with an invaluable resource for the study of the Gospels and their development. The footnotes and bibliographies alone make an amazing reference resource. As is expected of Keener’s work, this is heavy stuff. Link here.
Bloody, Brutal and Barbaric? is the best book on the so-called “texts of terror” that I have personally come across. Very well-documented, the authors state that it took fourteen years to write, and you can tell. Carefully written.
B & H Academic released a commentary (authored by Dana Harris) that is brimming over with invaluable information. The suggested homilies at the end of certain sections are gold, and should come in handy to anyone preaching through or lecturing on Hebrews.
Matthew Bates’ Gospel Allegiance is an important book in that it deals with the common language evangelicals use: faith. Do we overuse this term to the neglect of others? Do we mean by this term what the New Testament writers meant by the word pistis? A very important book with great implications.
Brazos came out with two commentaries this year, one on Luke (David Lyle Jeffrey) and one on 1 and 2 Peter (Douglas Harink). Though they are not technical and tend to be more theological in nature (they are, after all, written by theologians), both are great and provide solid exposition in a simple format, dealing also with some of the Church Fathers.
Basics of the Faith is a collection of essays from scholars of recent past; topics range from angels to Satan to sanctification. With a great to-the-point essay by F.F. Bruce on Christ’s Incarnation, Basics of the Faith makes for great bedside reading.
Though James Dunn’s Jesus Remembered was released in 2003, there was a 2019 (paperback) edition that was sent my way. This is an important book for the serious exegete (pastor and scholar alike), delving into questions of how the Gospels came to be and how each of the Gospels relates to the others. This volume is massive, but more importantly it is classic Dunn with his no-stone-unturned approach.