Essential Library; Books For Every Christian
Charles Spurgeon had around 12,000 books in his library and that was in the 1800s, which makes the amount even more impressive. Spurgeon, however, read a book a day and had a near photographic memory. There are a few other men or women who have this kind of mental capability and I am not one of them. There is no need for me to have thousands of books because I would never read all of them and the money spent on them would be poor stewardship. My limited time and reading capacity only amplifies my need to be very strategic about what books I choose to read and have in my library. There is a lot of junk out there and there is also a lot of good stuff that may not be the best stuff to read. In a world that offers many “good” things, we as Christians must be adept at giving our attention to God-centered things, which are the best things for the already and the not yet. With so many “good” and “Christian” books available, we must be selective with the books we trust our hearts and minds to. I would also suggest that we should try to have a library that develops a comprehensively biblical worldview, and the way we do that is by reading books that engage a lot of different disciplines or theological genres.
What I have tried to do then is to think about the books that I have read, and compile a short list that would make up an essential Christian library.
- ESV Study Bible – This study Bible is a condensed seminary education in one book and the contributors are trustworthy. This is simply the best study Bible there is.
- The NET Bible – NET stands for New English Translation. You can access this Bible or download it for free on www.bible.org “The NET Bible is a completely new translation of the Bible with 60,932 translators’ notes! It was completed by more than 25 scholars – experts in the original biblical languages – who worked directly from the best currently available Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts.” It has some technical aspects that may be confusing for a lay person, but it is very helpful.
- NASB Bible Translation – This is my translation of preference because it is translated word for word – as much as possible coming from the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek manuscripts. I use the previous two translations as reference points for the NASB and sometimes I check it with the NIV, which is more of a thought for thought translation.
With the study notes from the first two Bibles above and the wooden translation of the NASB, you have a great foundation for understanding the context of the passage you are reading.
Bible Reference Tools
- Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance – If you are going to read the NASB translation then you need the NASB concordance. Nothing is more frustrating than looking for words in a concordance when translations use different English words to try to get at the meaning of the original language.
A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd Edition by Walter Bauer and Frederick William Danker. My Greek and NT professor at seminary used to say that this is one of the three most important books a student of the Bible can have in his or her library. This lexicon in conjunction with a concordance and Bible will help the Bible student avoid many fallacies of interpretation. To use this book does require some instruction and knowledge of Greek, but with a little guidance it will is nearly indispensable.
- Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine by Wayne Grudem – This is simply one of the most important books you can buy when it comes to getting answers about various theological disciplines in the Bible.
- The Trellis and the Vine; The Ministry Mind-Shift That Changes Everything Mark Dever who has written books on church ministry says about this book: “This is the best book I have read on the nature of church ministry. What I am I giving my life to? Church ministry. What is the best book I have read on church ministry? This one. I don’t know of a better book to encourage you to look at than this one. The Trellis and the Vine.” I think that about says it all.
- What Is a Healthy Church? “What is an ideal church, and how can you tell? How does it look different from other churches? More importantly, how does it act differently, especially in society? Many of us aren’t sure how to answer those questions, even though we probably have some preconceived idea. But with this book, you don’t have to wonder any more.”
- One to One Bible Reading; A Simple Guide for Every Christian God’s Spirit uses God’s word to build up God’s people for God’s mission. This easy-to-read book helps us know why God’s word is so important and how we can use reading the Bible for discipleship with any person, even unbelievers. This is a new personal favorite.
- Evangelism; How the Whole Church Speaks of Jesus This book nicely complements and aligns with One to One Bible Reading. If you want to cultivate a culture of evangelism that raises the expectation that the whole church will speak of Jesus, this is the book. Evangelism is more than an occasional event or visitation program, it is an ongoing way of life in which we are constantly investing in others so that we might speak of the saving power of the good news of Jesus.
- The Reason for God; Belief in an Age of Skepticism by Timothy Keller – Keller is a pastor in Manhattan and this book is an easy and engaging read and was written in 2008. The date is important because it engages so many of the arguments that are advancing against the Christian Worldview. It also engages “New Atheism” and its proponents who have recently written a host of books intended to proselytize Christians to become atheists or skeptics or free-thinkers.
- A Shot of Faith (to the head): Be a Confident Believer in an Age of Cranky Atheists by Dr. Mitch Stokes. I try to be conversant with as many worldviews as I can because the Internet makes everybody an expert about some of the most obscure things. I pay particular attention to a worldview espoused by a group of so-called New Atheists. They are zealous to evangelize anyone who will listen, arguing that all religions are dangerous and even evil and that science is the only reasonable and rational object of our faith. And they sound convincing until someone like Mitch Stokes comes a long and systematically points out why their arguments are not as solid as they would have us believe by showing the fatal flaws and subjectivity of their thinking. I highly recommend this book for people who struggle with doubts and intellectual objections to the Historical Christian Faith.
Marriage and Family
- God, Marriage and Family; Rebuilding the Biblical Foundation – By Andreas J. Kostenberger – Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle says this is the best book on biblical marriage.
- Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood; A Response to Evangelical Feminism Edited by John Piper and Wayne Grudem – This is an encyclopedia of biblical femininity and masculinity.
- The Big Picture Story Bible by David R. Helm – This picture Bible for children was recommended by Curtis Cook and is great for family devotions with young children while communicating that God has a forever plan as a forever King.
- Let the Nations be Glad; The Supremacy of God in Missions by John Piper – Piper gets a bad wrap for being a Calvinist but this book dismisses the generalization that if a person is a Calvinist they don’t proclaim the gospel and lack a zeal for the Great Commission. Piper pleads with us to advance the gospel to the ends of the earth because the Supreme God of the universe will not fail in bringing about His purpose of being worshiped by every tribe, tongue and nation. Missions is the practical application of a proper God-centered theology.
- Revolution in World Missions by Dr. KP Yohannan – This is a book about missions, but it edified me in many other ways. It reads somewhat like and autobiography. Yohannan is originally from India but now lives in the U.S. and travels to raise awareness and support for funding the indigenous missions movement in Asia as a part of Gospel for Asia. Among other things, this book will help you to think about missions and Asia in a way that maybe as foreign as foreign missions seems to most.
There are too many to recommend so here are two that have inspired me.
- Spurgeon; A New Biography by Arnold Dallimore – I was inspired to name my son after this man after reading this book. I suppose that about says it all.
- John Newton; From Disgrace to Amazing Grace by Daniel Aitken – I was both sad and inspired when I finished this book about the man who wrote the hymn “Amazing Grace”. Newton shows not only that God saves great sinners through Christ the great savior, but also how God might multiply faithful ministry, even in difficulty.
A Personal Preference
- Desiring God; Meditations of a Christian Hedonist by John Piper – Simply put, this book changed my life as a university student. It did take me three tries to read the whole thing, but what I gleaned from it helped me have a proper perspective of who God is and that God is most glorified in me (us) when I am (we are) most satisfied (joy) in Him.
Again, this is an essential library so I can’t recommend too much or that we be defeating the purpose. However, I do want to suggest some authors that I feel comfortable recommending to any person.
- CS Lewis
- John Piper
- AW Tozer
- JI Packer
- Albert Mohler
- Lee Strobel (Apologetics)
- Don Whitney
- Charles Haddon Spurgeon
- Timothy Keller
- Douglas Wilson
- Sam Storms
- Mark Dever
- Jared Wilson
- Anything from 9Marks Ministry – resources for local churches
Some summary thoughts are in order. I’m sure I have missed some books and authors that I would recommend. The Bible is our authority and everything else is commentary that must be examined thoroughly by the authority of the Bible. This truth however does not mean we should not read books anymore than it means we should not listen to preachers. Just because I recommended a book or an author doesn’t mean I agree with everything that book or person means, but we would all do well to carefully learn from, and be mentored by faithful and biblical men and women.