December 27, 2012

Best Books of 2012

Time for the end of the year list. Of all the books published in 2012, I found these to be the most helpful. Here they are, along with some quick thoughts on each:

10. Preach by Mark Dever and Greg Gilbert

Short, practical, and theologically rich. Recommended for all Bible teachers. Read the review here. 

9. The Church by Mark Dever

The doctrine of the church is often neglected in contemporary evangelical circles. It seems that most of us don’t even know what the church is anymore. Dever calls us back to the Scriptures and reminds us that they do, after all, tell us just what the church is to be and do. You won’t find a better short treatment of biblical (i.e. traditional Baptist) ecclesiology anywhere. Read the review here.

8. The Reclaiming the Christian Intellectual Tradition Series

Yeah, I cheated. This entry actually includes five books: 
  • The Great Tradition of Christian Thinking by David Dockery & Timothy George, 
  • The Liberal Arts by Gene Fant,
  • Literature by Louis Markos,
  • Philosophy by David Naugle, and
  • Political Thought by Hunter Baker
These books offer a short introduction to their particular discipline from an explicitly Christian perspective. I particularly enjoyed Political Thought and Philosophy. Four out of the five (all of them but Political Thought) include excellent suggestions for further reading.

7. A Shot of Faith {To the Head} by Mitch Stokes

This one has been called “Reformed Epistemology for Dummies,” and I don’t disagree. Stokes takes the Reformed Epistemology of Alvin Plantinga, brings it down to earth, and applies it practically to the defense of the Christian faith. Read the review here.

6. Center Church by Tim Keller

Keller is (usually) balanced and always insightful. He doesn’t disappoint here. He covers an amazing amount of ground here and offers what may be the definitive discussion of contextualization in ministry. Though, as usual, Keller’s emphasis on social justice isn’t quite in line with the emphases of the New Testament authors. Essential reading for all interested in gospel-centered ministry or the relationship between Christianity and culture. Read an interview with Tim Keller about Center Church here.

5. The Explicit Gospel by Matt Chandler and Jared Wilson

So many of us have assumed the gospel for so long that is largely forgotten in many (supposedly) evangelical circles. Matt Chandler calls us back to real Christianity, a Christianity where the gospel is explicit. Chandler covers a lot of the same ground as Greg Gilbert’s excellent What Is the Gospel? but still manages to stand out enough to make this book essential reading as well. Read the review here.

4. Church Membership and Church Discipline by Jonathan Leeman

I cheated again, but these two belong together. The loss of meaningful membership and discipline in otherwise faithful churches is great cause for concern. These books could do much to remedy that. If I could put these two books in the hands of every church leader, I would. Here's a short excerpt to whet your appetite. 

3. The Intolerance of Tolerance by D. A. Carson

Another great one from Carson, and, like most everything else he writes, essential reading for church leaders and other informed Christians. In this insightful work of cultural analysis, Carson argues that the what most people now call “tolerance” is actually a great source of intolerance. Read the review here.

2. God Is Love: A Biblical and Systematic Theology by Gerald Bray

In all honesty, I haven’t read this one all the way through. The parts I’ve read, however, have been quite good. As the subtitle says this is a biblical and systematic theology. Bray traces the storyline of the Scriptures while covering all the major theological loci. He interacts very little with historical or contemporary theology, almost exclusively referencing the biblical text. The result is a systematics text that doesn’t feel like every other systematic theology. God Is Love manages to feel fresh while at the same time restating classic evangelical orthodoxy. Read the review here.

1. Kingdom Through Covenant by Peter Gentry and Stephen Wellum

In this massive book, Gentry and Wellum critique both Dispensationalism and traditional Covenant Theology while presenting a middle way they call “Progressive Covenantalism.” I found their conclusions utterly convincing. No other book published this year has done as much to increase my understanding of Scripture. Read the reviews here, here, and here, along with a response by the authors here.

Other Notable Books Released This Year

Included here are some other notable books released this year that didn’t quite make the cut (mainly because I haven’t had a chance to read most of them yet):
  • The Hole in our Holiness by Kevin DeYoung
  • Creature of the Word by Matt Chandler, Josh Patterson, and Eric Geiger
  • The Most Misused Verses in the Bible by Eric Bargerhuff
  • Sojourners and Strangers by Gregg Allison
  • The Conviction to Lead by Albert Mohler
  • The Man Christ Jesus by Bruce Ware
  • Am I Called? by Dave Harvey
  • Dangerous Calling by Paul David Tripp
  • Delighting in the Trinity by Michael Reeves
  • Jesus the Son of God by D. A. Carson
  • Every Good Endeavor by Tim Keller
  • A Puritan Theology by Joel Beeke and Mark Jones
  • The Creedal Imperative by Carl Trueman

And, just for good measure, here are a few more best of lists:


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