Kevin T. Bauder
Last week I published a list of the most interesting books that I had read during the 2016-2017 academic year. The problem is that I got wrapped up in a couple of categories of reading, with the result that several interesting books were left out. So this week I want to fill in the rest of the list.
Draney, Daniel W. When Streams Diverge: John Murdoch MacInnis and the Origins of Protestant Fundamentalism in Los Angeles. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2008.
The Bible Institute of Los Angeles was one of the earliest Bible schools in America. It nearly came apart during the last half of the 1920s under the leadership of dean John MacInnis. Draney argues that the episode reveals much about the differences bubbling beneath the surface of 1920s fundamentalism. I think those are the very differences that later emerged with the New Evangelicalism. This book is written for historians, and it fills in an important part of the fundamentalist story.
Leeman, Jonathan. Church Membership: How the World Knows Who Represents Jesus. Wheaton: Crossway, 2012.
Church membership is one of the most misunderstood topics in the theological catalog. Leeman explains it simply enough for an ordinary Christian to understand. This is a IX Marks publication, and as with most things that come from IX Marks, it is brief, readable, to the point, and biblically faithful. This would be a good volume for a church to require every prospective member to read.
McClain, Alva. The Greatness of the Kingdom: An Inductive Study of the Kingdom of God. Winona Lake, IN: BMH, 1959.
This was a re-read of a book that has begun to show its age. Nevertheless, it’s probably the best thing out there for understanding what the kingdom of God means within a traditionalist dispensational framework. McClain wrote the volume more as a biblical theologian than as a systematic theologian—because dispensationalism is more of a biblical theology than it is a theological system. Anybody who wants to argue for dispensationalism should read this book first, as should anybody who wishes to critique it.
McCullough, David. 1776. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005.
Justly famous for his biography of John Adams, McCullough here narrates the opening year of the Revolutionary War. The book doesn’t include anything that should shake up the established historians, but McCullough writes well and tells the story engagingly. I’ll want to read more of his stuff.
Mowat, Farley. The New Founde Land. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1989.
The trouble with Farley Mowat is that you’re never sure when his writing is fictional and when it’s factual. He was an environmentalist who didn’t allow mundane facts to stand in the way of a good (and motivating) story. Still, his description of the island of Newfoundland does make a good story: partly historical, partly autobiographical, and partly editorial. You’ll want to read it with a grain of salt, but it’s worth looking at.
Regier, David. Then Tweets My Soul. Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 2016.
This little volume is simply a collection of tweets from the Church Curmudgeon. They’re mostly passable humor, but occasionally hilarious. They tend to have a point behind them. It’s not serious reading, but this book qualifies as a guilty pleasure.
Robinson, Marilynne. Gilead. New York: Picador; Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2004.
A good reading diet ought to contain a certain amount of literary fiction. Gilead won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2005, so I went into the read with high expectations. The book met them. Set in 1956 Iowa, it is the fictional autobiography of Rev. John Ames, an elderly congregational minister. Ames writes to his young son, whom he knows will hardly remember him. That’s enough—no spoilers. But I don’t think the book will disappoint you.
Stonehouse, Ned B. J. Gresham Machen: A Biographical Memoir. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1954.
Twenty years have passed since I last read Stonehouse’s biography of Machen. Stonehouse never claimed to be a great stylist, but he knew his man and he had access to the documents. He tells a long story, and Machen’s life makes it worth reading. This volume is presently available for download in an electronic version from the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.
VanDrunen, David. Living in God’s Two Kingdoms: A Biblical Vision for Christianity and Culture. Wheaton: Crossway, 2010.
Reformed theologians have developed a number of models to describe the relationship between Christianity and human cultures. Perhaps the two leading visions are Neo-Kuyperianism (“it all belongs to Christ”) and the two-kingdom theory (“yes, it belongs to Christ, but He administers it in different ways”). VanDrunen may be the ablest recent defender of the two-kingdom theory. At any rate, this volume is a useful introduction to the theory and to its differences with Neo-Kuyperianism.
Wellum, Stephen J. and Brent E. Parker. Progressive Covenantalism: Charting a Course between Dispensational and Covenantal Theologies. Nashville: B&H Academic, 2016.
The constitution of progressive covenantalism is Wellum and Gentry’s Kingdom through Covenant. But that’s a backbreaker of a book at well over 800 dense pages. An anthology, Progressive Covenantalism develops some of the significant themes in a shorter space with less technical information. If you want a single volume that will explain this new theological movement, Progressive Covenantalism is the book to read.
That’s ten more titles on top of last week’s eleven. If you’re an average pastor or seminary student, this list will give you enough reading to keep you busy for at least a month or two. But remember, I’m not suggesting that you read these books. All I’m saying is that I enjoyed them. You might or might not like them as much as I did—my taste in books tends to be off the beaten track. Still, I hope I’ve offered a couple of titles that you might find interesting.
This essay is by Kevin T. Bauder, Research Professor of Historical and Systematic Theology at Central Baptist Theological Seminary. Not every one of the professors, students, or alumni of Central Seminary necessarily agrees with every opinion that it expresses.
Come, Let Us with Our Lord Arise
Charles Wesley (1701–1788)
Come, let us with our Lord arise,
Our Lord, who made both earth and skies:
Who died to save the world He made,
And rose triumphant from the dead;
He rose, the Prince of life and peace,
And stamped the day forever His.
This is the day the Lord has made,
That all may see His love displayed,
May feel his resurrection’s power,
And rise again, to fall no more,
In perfect righteousness renewed
And filled with all the life of God.
Then let us render him his own,
With solemn prayer approach his throne,
With meekness hear the gospel word,
With thanks His dying love record,
Our joyful hearts and voices raise,
And fill His courts with songs of praise.