Recently, the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association released the best-selling Christian books for 2014. That list is as follows:
1) Jesus Calling-Sarah Young
2) Heaven Is For Real: Paperback-Todd Burpo
3) Heaven Is For Real: Movie Edition-Todd Burpo
4) The Five Love Languages-Gary Chapman
5) Four Blood Moons-John Hagee
6) I Am A Church Member-Thom Rainer
7) The Total Money Makeover-Dave Ramsey
8) You Can, You Will-Joel Osteen
9) The Daniel Plan-Rick Warren
10) The Mystery of the Shemitah-Jonathan Cahn
Granted, I don’t know what one has to do for a book to be labeled as a “Christian Book.” Some of these books may or may not offer helpful points with regards to relationships, finance, and diet, but they are not explicitly Christian. Some, like Jesus Calling, despite their immense popularly are unhelpful and even dangerous as argued by Michael Horton here and Tim Challies here. It’s not just the best-sellers though. A quick trip to Lifeway will reveal a myriad of books with varying levels of theological soundness. It is no surprise, then, that many evangelicals simply don’t know what to read. They are either left overwhelmed by the amount of books that are available and therefore don’t read at all, or they are, unbeknownst to them, reading books that are leading them away from what accords with sound doctrine as many of the aforementioned books would undoubtedly do.
What is the solution to this problem? Pastors and those in leadership in the church need to be intentional about recommending and providing good books to those in the congregation.
In this post, I hope to do just that with recommending 5 books that were released in the year 2014. I am not saying these are the “Best Christian Books” of the year, but rather these were simply 5 books that I read which I would strongly recommend to anyone interested in the topics.
1) What’s Your Worldview: An Interactive Approach to Life’s Biggest Questions-James Anderson
This is a unique book. It’s structured as a “Choose Your Adventure” type of book where your answers to particular worldview questions dictate where you turn in the book. Is there any objective truth in the world? Is there more than one valid religion? Does God exist? Is God a personal being? These are just some of the many questions which Anderson asks. He’ll ask the question, spend a page describing the question, and then leave it to the reader to answer the question. The page that they turn to next will be determined by how they answer each question.
As Anderson states in his introduction, “a worldview is an overall view of the world. It’s not a physical view of the world, like the sight of planet Earth you might get from an orbiting space station. Rather, it’s a philosophical view of the world-and not just of our planet, but of all of reality. A worldview is an all-encompassing perspective on everything that exists and matters to us. Your worldview represents your must fundamental beliefs and assumptions about the universe you inhabit. It reflects how you would answer all the “big questions” of human existence, the fundamental questions we ask about life, the universe, and everything.”
Anderson realizes, though, that many who self-identity as Christians hold worldviews that are anything but Christian and many secularists do not even realize that they have a particular view of the world that shapes their opinions, ethics, politics, etc.
This book would be helpful for any person regardless of their religious background in order to help them clarify their worldview and to consider the implications of their particular worldview.
2) An Infinite Journey: Growing Toward Christlikeness-Andrew Davis
Dr. Andrew Davis is the Pastor of First Baptist Church of Durham North Carolina. I first became aware of him when I was in seminary after reading “An Extended Approach to the Memorization of Scripture” There, Davis argued the advantages of memorizing books of the Bible as opposed to individual verses. The argument convinced me, and I have been working towards memorizing books ever since that time. As a result of Davis’ influence on me regarding the memorization of scripture, I was delighted to see that he released a work on sanctification.
Davis says that Christians are called on two simultaneous journeys in this world. The first is the external journey of making disciples of all nations while the second is the internal journey of personal sanctification. The primary focus of this book is on the latter journey.
At 480 pages, this book is probably the most comprehensive single-volume work on the nature and practice of sanctification that I know of today as it describes what sanctification is, why sanctification is necessary, and how, practically speaking, the pursuit of sanctification will impact various aspects of our lives.
3) Taking God at His Word-Kevin DeYoung
I must admit that when I first saw this, I was a little surprised to find another book written on the topic of inerrancy. Don’t get me wrong, inerrancy is a fundamental topic for the Christian to understand and believe. My years at Duke showed me the fruit of what happens when inerrancy is denied. It was simply a topic that I thought had been adequately covered in recent years. What I quickly came to realize as I read the book, though, is that while there are plenty of theological books on scripture, there was not a solid popular level book on the fundamentals of scripture. The subtitle of this book is Why the Bible Is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What That Means for You and Me. It is those issues that DeYoung addresses so well in only 111 pages. He tackles questions related to the reliability, authority, and readability of the Bible, without complex terminology or an intimating book size. This is a type of book that would be ideal to give to one who is skeptical on the issue of inerrancy, but it is also one that any Christian would benefit from reading.
4) Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God-Tim Keller
Outside of perhaps reading one’s Bible regularly, I know of no practice that more Christians feel guilty for not doing than pray. We all have heard sermons on prayer and have been exhorted to pray regularly, but in my experience, there is much confusion regarding how to pray, what to pray, and why we should pray.
I know of several good books on prayer including DA Carson’s A Call to Spiritual Reformation: Priorities from Paul and His Prayers. But as far as a comprehensive book dealing with many of the practical struggles that we all face with prayer, Keller’s book is now at the top of my list and I would heartily recommend it to any who were seeking to grow in their own prayer life.
5) The Heart Is the Target: Preaching Application from Every Text-Murray Capill
(This recommendation is a bit different in that it is primarily directed to pastors or those who preach regularly.)
The rise to prominence of expository preaching in the past 50 years has been one of the greatest blessings to the church. With that blessing, though, I fear there has been some confusion regarding what expository preaching actually is. I have heard countless sermons that are merely running commentaries on the text justified by the fact that it is an “expository sermon.” In some parts of the reformed community, application is said to be “the work of the Holy Spirit” and so should not be attempted by the pastor in the sermon. This, though, is an approach that I find dangerously unhelpful, as well as unbiblical. A sermon is neither a lecture, nor is it just a commentary on the text. Capill writes, “Lecturing is about passing on information; preaching is about transformation. One is about getting people to understand biblical truth, the other is about pressing biblical truth on their lives. One is about explanation the other is about proclamation.” Obviously the task of preaching requires passing on information and explaining the text, but that is not the sole purpose of preaching. Capill convincingly makes the case for the need of application in sermons, but also provides many resources for one to learn how to apply the biblical text in such a way that targets the hearts of the congregation.
- Joshua Bryan DeLong