Books, books...

I have been mulling over the books I most enjoyed reading this past year (limiting myself to those published in 2009):

There was Perspectives on Christian Worship: 5 Views , ed. J. Matthew Pinson (B & H Publishers). Actually, six views but Michael Lawrence and Mark Dever are counted as one. The others include Dan Kimball, Timothy Quill, Dan Wilt and someone called Ligon Duncan. Any book on worship is worth reading so long as the discussion is sane and attempts to be biblically informed and theologically sensitive and this book certainly falls in that category. Of course, the views are divergent but the exchanges are informative and often persuasive. In addition, I greatly enjoyed Bryan Chapell's Christ-Centered Worship: Letting the Gospel Shape Our Practice (Baker Academic).  Greatly anticipated as a sequel to his Christ-Centered Preaching, this volume deserves to be on every pastor's desk. Calling churches to go "beyond contemporary worship" and reflect the historic reformed traditions, this book is most welcome and Chapell's irenic tone will do much to foster his desire. Is this, perhaps, the most important book published in 2009? Possibly.

Tom Lennie  authored Glory in the Glen: A History of Evangelical Revivals in Scotland 1880-1940 (Chrtistian Focus) . The blurb suggests that Lennie has "the largest private library of revival literature in the UK". Hmm. Reminds me of visiting S. M. Houghton's library in the 1970s - long chicken sheds in the garden, many of them, filled to capacity with books! Thrilling reading, making one ache for such times again.

I was thrilled to see a brand new (and attractively produced) version of what I blurbed on the back as "one of the most important texts of all time" - The Marrow of Modern Divinity, confidently ascribed to Edward Fisher - the original simply had "E.F." (Christian Focus). To cite Luther, he who understands the relationship between law and gospel is a theologian, and reading the Marrow will help us all to become better theologians.

Of particular usefulness was Brian Croft's Visit the Sick: Ministering God's Grace in Times of Illness (Day One Publications) - an invaluable and practical help to everyone who visits the sick (and that just about includes all of us).

I cannot pass by a superbly produced version of Bunyan's Pilrgim's Progress edited  C. J. Lovik and illustrated by Mike Wimmer (Crossway). Without a doubt, the version to get for children and adults for Christmas. No home should be without a copy.

This has been the 500th anniversary of the birth of John Calvin with scores of books (I purchased around 40 newly published volumes on Calvin this year) and among the best: John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine and Doxology, ed. By Burk Parsons (Reformation Trust), an anthology of essays at entry-point level; David Hall's (ed.) A Theological Guide to Calvin's Institutes in the Calvin 500 series (P & R); Michael A. van den Berg's Calvin and Friends (Eerdmans) - surprisingly accessible and informative; and by far and away the best book on Calvin this year, our very own Robert Godfrey's John Calvin: Pilgrim and Pastor (Crossway). If you buy nothing else this year on Calvin - get this one and you will not be disappointed.

And for light reading: I enjoyed reading The Cambridge Companion to John Henry Newman (ed. Ian Ker and Terrence Merrigan, CUP). If that doesn't get me kicked off the Alliance Council, nothing will. Fascinating reading about one of the most gifted and insightful theologians who lost his way in the labyrinth of mysticism and "smells and bells."  Oh, yes, I should also mention Wagner Outside the Ring: Essays on the Operas, Their Performance and Their Connections with Other Arts, John Loouis DiGaetani (McFarland; a sequel to Wagner Inside the Ring [2006]). Riveting!