Rather than provide you a list of my top ten books of the year, here are my favorite books of 2022 from four different categories—Theological, Devotional, Pastoral, and Recreational. I’ll make a few comments on each one as we go. And I’ll apologize in advance for the lengthy one.
Michael Horton, Justification, 2 Volumes.
A tour de force and my go-to source from now on the doctrine of justification.
Stephen Charnock, The Existence & Attributes of God, 2 Volumes.
If you think systematic theology is dry, stuffy, and impractical, I dare you to read Charnock. Every Christian should read his second discourse on practical atheism.
John Piper, Providence.
I’ve read a lot of John Piper’s books, but this is my favorite. Reverent and worshipful.
Hans Boersma, Five Things Theologians Wish Biblical Scholars Knew.
The second chapter, titled, “No Plato, No Scripture,” is worth the price of the book itself. Here’s one of my favorite sections:
[W]hen we try to read Scripture apart from any metaphysical presuppositions whatsoever, our very attempt to exalt the Bible collapses in on itself. Faith isn’t meant to function without reason, and we shouldn’t attempt to do theology without philosophy. The isolation of Scripture vis-á-vis metaphysics is practically impossible: invariably it means the unwitting adoption of one metaphsyic or another—most of the time one that assumes nominalist presuppositions since they make up the metaphysical air we breathe. . . . When we try to isolate Scripture from metaphysical presuppositions, we make it the unsuspecting victim of whatever philosophy happens to be prevalent. It seems more prudent to acknowledge the potential benefit of metaphysics and to ask which metaphysical account coheres with what we find in Scripture (136, emphasis mine).
Those inclined to disagree with Boersma, should consult Richard Muller‘s essay, “Incarnation, Immutability, and the Case for Classical Theism,” Westminster Theological Journal 45 (1983): 22–40. (If interested, email me and I’d be happy to scan it to you.)
Muller shows that John 1:14—specifically the words “And the Word became flesh”— requires a certain metaphysic. Does the word became indicate a change in God? Does the word became mean God is mutable? Muller demonstrates that exegesis won’t resolve the dilemma here. (As an aside, if you take the word became in verse 14 to mean that Christ added a human nature to his already divine nature, it shows that you’ve been catechized into and embraced the orthodox Christian faith as codified in the Council of Chalcedon in 451. See St. Cyril of Alexandria’s book On the Unity of Christ.
Those who affirm divine immutability uphold the metaphysics of the Council of Nicaea (what Boersma and Craig Carter call “Christian Platonism”), while those who deny divine immutability operate out of “post-Kantian metaphysics, specifically from Hegelian ontology” (Muller, 34). Neither Muller, nor Boersma, nor Carter assert that the church fathers swallowed Greek philosophical thought hook, line, and sinker. The fathers did no such thing. Supposing that they, and the classical Christian tradition more generally, borrowed from Greek philosophical thought uncritically betrays a lack of familiarity with both classical Christian theism and Greek philosophical thought.
I always come back to Carter’s observation:
“The pro-Nicene theology that emerged in the fourth century as the consensus doctrine of God in the Christian church was not a result of the imposition of Greek metaphysical ideas onto the Bible, as if Aristotle was preferred over Moses, Isaiah, and Paul. Rather, on the crucial issue of divine transcendence, Aristotle was corrected on the basis of Moses, Isaiah, and Paul. . . . [Jürgen] Moltmann’s project is built on a faulty foundation because he simplistically equates the use of Aristotelian concepts with the uncritical use of such concepts, as when he writes smugly, ‘Aristotle’s God cannot love’ (Crucified God, 222), as if no one from Athanasius to Aquinas had noticed the fact” (Recovering Trinitarian Classical Theism, 210, 210n11).
Matthew Henry, The Pleasantness of a Religious Life.
You’ll think to yourself, “I’m glad I’m a Christian,” as you read this book.
Charles Spurgeon, Morning and Evening.
Like everything else Spurgeon writes, this is theologically weighty and practically pungent.
Esther Liu, Shame: Being Known and Loved.
Working through this book in my quiet time was immensely helpful. I highly recommend it to anyone who wrestles with shame.
Dane Ortlund, Deeper.
I love this book because Ortlund’s desperation seeps through his writing. You can sense his earnestness for this topic.
While I’m sure DeYoung’s arguments won’t convince committed egalitarians, it will help you understand why complementarians believe as they do.
A profitable read. Brooks provides you with biblical categories to help readers think through how God transforms people.
John Steinbeck, East of Eden.
Masterful prose, excellent character development. Well worth the read.
Charles Martin, A Life Intercepted: A Novel.
If you think you can achieve your way into significance, read this. Great story.
Charles Martin, Water from My Heart: A Novel.
This will inspire you to become a better person.