Saturday, December 21, 2013

My Top 10 Books of 2013

It is the time of year that many look back over the year to assess the year’s successes, failures, and hardships. For those that enjoy reading, there were also successes and failures, and sometimes hardships when reading books. Successes in the books read, failures in the books not read or finished, and hardships to grind through some books.

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Of course, my list of books will not be the same as someone else’s list of books, since our interests will be different, and there are few people in the world who have actually read the same list of books this year. The books I will list here did not come from another list at all. These are the top 10 books that I have personally read this year.

10. Love Your God with All Your Mind, J.P. Moreland

In the evangelical world there are opposites in many areas. Not the least of those opposites are in the area of the mind and the spirit. However, what has probably been neglected the most in evangelicalism is the importance of the mind. In this book, J.P. Moreland takes very seriously the imperative that Jesus highlighted for the questioning scribe:

“YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.” (Mk, 12:30)

Moreland highlights the use of the intellect as Christians in God’s kingdom in the areas of evangelism, apologetics, worship and vocation. The evangelical has many times loved the Lord with great zeal, but neglected to love God with the mind.

I finished this book on 23 June 2013.

9. Transformed by God, David G. Peterson

In this book Peterson highlights the absolute significance of the New Covenant under Christ for life and ministry. He looks at the New Covenant foretold by Jeremiah and its influence on the New Testament.  Peterson also looks at the practical implications of the New Covenant for evangelism and the care of believers. In all that we as Christians do, we do it all for the glory of God.

Finished on 21 April 2013.

8. Why Africa is Poor: And What Africans Can Do About It, Greg Mills

I am not sure how I came upon this book, or who recommended it to me, but it certainly is an eye opener, especially for those who have easy answers to Africa’s difficult questions. On the other hand, for those that live in Africa, like I do, it is the book that affirms what you have suspected all along. Those with a politically correct bend just want to throw more and more money Africa’s way. However, Mills is adamant that that is not the way to solve Africa’s economic problems, since there is no secret to economic growth. He looks at several other countries that have made a success of it in East Asia and Central America. The one question that Mills answer in this book is why Africa has failed to realise its potential after half a century of independence. It is certainly not a lack of aid at all, since untold billions have been poured into Africa. The solution is in Africa itself.

Africans, especially South Africans, will do well, in conjunction with this book, to also read Affirmative Action Around the World: An Empirical Study by Thomas Sowell.

Completed on 3 April 2013.

7. Biblical Words and Their Meaning: An Introduction to Lexical Semantics, Moises Silva

I wrote a short review of this book. Here is a short excerpt from that review:

“One of the most difficult books that I have read in recent years is that of Moises Silva, ‘Biblical Words and Their Meaning: An Introduction to Lexical Semantics. I read the Kindle edition, so instead of page references, you will find location references.

“When reading this book, it is important to keep your wits about you. Even though Silva wrote this as an introduction to lexical semantics, if this is not your field of study, you will have to concentrate hard.

“However, I really enjoyed reading this book. There were some things that I already knew, but even then, Silva explained those things very well with some different ideas and examples. Then there were some other things that I didn’t know, and he opened my eyes to new things.”

While this was a challenging book, I found it really rewarding.

Finished on 5 March 2013.

6. Kingdom Come, Sam Storms

Once again, I wrote a short review on this book. I was raised a dispensationalist and studied at a dispensational Bible school. However, I grew away from dispensationalism even while in Bible school toward historical premillenianism. However, I feel I have grown more in this area away from that without finding a secure footing in any system of eschatalogical thought. Having read Sam Storms’ book that deals with amillenialism I have realised that I need to take the claims of amillenialism seriously. This book will definitely become one of the go-to books on amillenialism.

Completed on 13 October 2013.

5. The Same Sex Controversy: Defending and Clarifying the Bible's Message about Homosexuality, James R. White and Jeffrey D. Niell

This is a no holds barred treatment of the subject, yet with compassion. It is thought provoking, and deals very thoroughly with the Biblical text on the matter of homosexuality. If you are looking for a proper treatment of what the Bible says about this subject, this is the book for you. If, at the end, you are not convinced that, at least the, Bible condemns the sin of homosexuality, then you probably do not want to change what you believe.

Finished this book on 3 November 2013.

4. The Law of Christ, Charles Leiter

This book answers questions such as the relationship of Christians to the law of Moses, the law of Christ, freedom from the law and the fulfilment of the whole law. Too many Christians try to live their lives by some list of rules; anything from the ten commandments to their own list of rules. This book points us to Christ for our sanctification, not to a list of rules. It is indeed a freedom giving book!

This book truly puts the Old Covenant and its attendant laws in perspective, compared to the law of Christ under the New Covenant. Christians are not a people of Old Covenant laws, but a people that are led by the Spirit and living according to a Person, not the letter of the law.

Completed on 10 March 2013.

3. Kingdom through Covenant: A Biblical-Theological Understanding of the Covenants, Peter J. Gentry and Stephen J. Wellum

This is a phenomenal book!

Gentry did a stellar job in applying Biblical Theology principles to the concept of covenants in the Bible in chapters 4-15. Here the gargantuan job of scouring the Scriptures with regards to the covenants and related data is presented in great detail.

Wellum wrote the introductory chapters and then applied Systematic Theology principles to Gentry's data to write the Systematic Theology formulated chapters 16-17.

For those who don't want to work through Gentry's chapters and all its technical data can go straight to Wellum's chapters.

In fact, the book is worth it even if you do only read Wellum's chapters. However, if you want to know how Wellum came to his conclusions, then Gentry's chapters are essential.

Apart from a few questions I have, all in all it is an excellent book!

Finished on 8 January 2013.

2. Translating Truth: The Case for Essentially Literal Bible Translation, Wayne Grudem, Leland Ryken, C. John Collin, Vern S. Poythress, Bruce Winter

This book deals with the translation of the Bible and advocates an essentially literal translation (ELT) of the Bible. I have written a 5-part review of this book. It explains in detail what essentially literal translation is, plus it dispels some myths regarding this type of translation. If you are serious about which translation you should be using, this book is a must, even if you are not a proponent of ELT.  Definitely a book to read by all lovers of God’s Word!

Completed on 28 November 2013.

And now. . .

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1. 1 Peter (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament), Karen H. Jobes

It must be unusual for a commentary on a book of the New Testament to make it to number one of a top ten books list, but in my opinion, this one deserves it. I have written a review on this commentary which may be read here. Here is an extract:

“Those that are serious about preaching through the Scriptures book by book, chapter by chapter and verse by verse will find great benefit in this commentary. On the other hand those that are used to preaching topical sermons and who don’t really do exposition of Scripture will only waste their money and time, since they probably won’t want to spend the time working through a commentary as thorough as this one! However, anyone who is serious about studying Scripture, and willing to look at textual issues—which Jobes handles superbly in a proper evangelical way—and issues of the Greek language behind 1 Peter, will truly benefit, and indeed enjoy this commentary.”

This is certainly a book, even if it is a commentary, that I will recommend!

Completed on 19 December 2013.

So, there you have my top 10 books of 2013!

Here are a few honourable-mentions that did not make it onto my list, but are still worth reading:

Long Journey Home: A Guide to Your Search for the Meaning of Life, Os Guinness
Scaling the Secular City: A Defense of Christianity, J.P. Moreland
Counterfeit Gospels: Rediscovering the Good News in a World of False Hope, Trevin Wax
The Story of Christianity: The Early Church to the Present Day, Justo L. Gonzalez
God's Lavish Grace, Terry Virgo
The Flames of Rome, Paul L. Maier



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