Top Ten Reads of 2013

True to form, here are my top reads from 2013. Due to school, I didn't have as much freedom to read what I would have chosen, but here are my favs. These are not books published in 2013, but ones I read this year. I don't necessarily recommend these; I just benefited most from them. In no particular order:

  • The Epic of Eden by Sandra Richter - This "Christian entry into the Old Testament" is really good. She's a great writer and knows how to "major on the majors." Richter seeks to provide order and structure for those readers of the Old Testament who get lost in it. She rightly empasizes the divine/human covenants as a major structuring principle.
  • The Institutes of the Christian Religion (Book 3) by John Calvin - The Institutes made the top five most influential books by the likes of the following Christian leaders: Hudson Armerding, James Boice, Bryan Chapell, Howard Hendricks, Carl Henry, Harold Lindsell, Kenneth Kantzer, J.I. Packer, and R.C. Sproul. Pretty impressive. I read book 3 this year and loved it. Book 3 covers faith and repentance, the Christian life (which was the richest section and which you can also buy it excerpted here), justification, election, and the resurrection.
  • Divine Government by R.T. France - The kingdom of God was the central message of Jesus. R.T. France is a reliable guide as he walks the reader through Mark's teaching on the kingdom. In true Francian form, the Old Testament background features prominently. I also prefer France because he takes the time indicators in the Gospels more seriously than others (see ch. 4).
  • The Moral Vision of the New Testament by Richard Hays - I love Richard Hays. I am sure we disagree on some significant theological issues and I think he unhelpfully limits the Pauline corpus, but I usually come away from his stuff thinking harder about the biblical text. This book is a masterpiece by most accounts. I read it once before in 2010 and enjoyed it all the more this year. His chapter on non-violence is impeccable and worth the price of the book.
  • The Acts of the Risen Lord Jesus by Alan Thompson - This NSBT series continues to edify and instruct. This is definitely one of my top 5 from that series (along with Dempster, Beale, Williamson, and Kostenberger/O'Brien). The exegetical focus is on such themes as the kingdom, eschatology, sovereignty, mission, the Gentiles, the Spirit, the temple, and the law, all in less than 200 pages. I had to read this one quickly so I want to visit it again soon. Warning: if you like Dispensational theology, this will be hazardous to your theological well-being.
  • Theology and Ethics in Paul by V.P. Furnish - This is dense prose, but worth the effort. It was first published in 68' and then reprinted in 2009 with a beefy new introduction by Richard Hays. In almost 300 pages, Furnish covers the sources, themes, and character of Paul's ethic. Very good stuff.
  • Imitating God in Christ by Jason Hood - This is a new book on a biblical theology of imitation, a theme I love. I think dudes in the Young, Restless, and Reformed crowd in particuar ought to read this one. It consists of four parts: imitating God, Jesus, the Saints, and a history of the theme.
  • The Art of Pastoring by David Hansen - Hansen gets it. This is my favorite book on pastoral ministry so far. I think the most important section of Scripture is the Corinthian letters, and the reader can tell that Hansen has soaked in that message. I first learned of this book in this excellent article on pastoral suffering by Scott Hafemann. Will read it several more times I am sure.
  • The Freedom of a Christian by Martin Luther - Luther is my favorite dead theologian. He is the father of gospel-centeredness and I look forward to a lifetime of learning from The Reformer. This is his major treatise on justification. He tells the Pope that this book "contains the whole of Christian life in brief form." We all know Luther was not shy of overstatement, but still! 
  • Death by Living by N.D. Wilson - I plan to read everything N.D. Wilson writes. His Notes made my top ten list in 2010. This recently won the Christianity Today book award for Spirituality. Deserved. Wilson makes you zoom out, imagine, and thank God - for everything.
Honorable mentions go to five other books. For those aware or interested in the debate surrounding the new perspective on Paul, by far the best place to go is Stephen Westerholm's Perspectives Old and New on Paul. It's incisive. Well, good news for the busy. He recently summarized and hugely condensed that work into Justification Reconsidered. The former is 488 pages; the latter is 104 pages. Be grateful! Keller's booklet The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness is brilliant. I also re-read Wright's Paul: A Fresh Perspective. Those critics of Wright who have never read Wright should do two things: a) stop criticizing until they have read something b) start with this one for a short summary of his views on Paul. Lots of theological insight here. My theological conviction won't allow me to include James Dunn's The Theology of the Paul the Apostle on a top ten list since he denies the Trinity, but one doesn't work through 800 pages of exegesis without mentioning it in such a blog post as this! Though I think Dunn is off on a host of things (Christology, law, justification, authorship, etc), this book did have a ton of insight in other areas and is sadly a must-read for those interested in Pauline Theology. Finally, Mike Wittmer's The Last Enemy was an edifying read. I hope to read at least one book on death a year. Keeps perspective.

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