Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Most Influential Books in My Life: #s 1-5

Here's the second installment on the books (other than Scripture) that have influenced me most—not necessarily my top recommendations, but in God's kind providence, the ones that shaped my understanding of the gospel, Scripture, and following Christ more than any others . . .

5. Gary Friesen, Decision Making and the Will of God. This is actually a minor oops on my part. Piper's The Pleasures of God should be slotted in at #5 ahead of Friesen, but no biggie. The original edition, which I read, had some flaws—mostly debatable overstatements, as I remember—but it exploded the functional mysticism I'd absorbed from various strains of teaching. Rather, not everything is black or white, right or wrong. Sometimes the process we use in making a decision is more important than the conclusion. The more my affections are fixed on Christ, the more my motivations and preferences will be conformed to his.

4. John MacArthur, Study Bible. Though my first read was the NKJV, I'm linking to the brand spanking new ESV—available today, in fact, according to Amazon. Though "I don't agree with everything John MacArthur says," reading through every word of the notes along with the text was invaluable. It exposed me to a plausible interpretation of all sorts of difficult texts and a pretty comprehensive, coherent system of theology and biblical interpretation.

3. Doug Moo, The Epistle to the Romans. Could easily be #2 OR #1. The first time through, it taught me sanctification by grace through faith, not works or human effort. For me and, I think, others in the class, this was a radical shift that's difficult to overestimate. The second time through, it started me on a trajectory that rebuilt my hermeneutics, as I began to grasp how Paul read the OT.

2. D.A. Carson, Exegetical Fallacies. I hope Carson forever changed how I preach. I'm quite certain he forever changed how I listen to preaching. Would it be reasonable to suggest that no one should set foot into a pulpit without reading this? It's just far too easy and immeasurably too costly to mishandle the Word of God, not to dig into this simple gem. Thanks to Ed Williams' classroom presentation requirement and Nashotah House's extensive library of old periodicals, Samuel Sandmel's article on "Parallelomania" is forever burned into my brain.

1. A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God. It's interesting to me how both of my top 2 are such small books. And I still don't quite understand how Tozer made it so clear to me for the first time that the Christian life is about cultivating an internal affection for God, not working towards external reformation in order to earn his favor. I'm not sure I'll ever know whether he said something I'd never heard before, or whether the Spirit simply brought it to bear so that it seemed brand new. Other books changed the way I think and what I believe. This one changed my heart.

12 comments:

Ben said...

I hate to make the first comment on my own post, but I actually think I implied an unhelpful mind-heart dichotomy with that final sentence. A changed/renewed mind shapes the heart's affections. Tozer changed my mind—helped me see biblical truths, which I embraced cognitively. But somehow, the connection between that cognitive change and the affective change was more clear, immediate, and transformative after Tozer than anything else (other than Scripture) that I can remember.

AJ Gibson said...

Thanks for the list, Ben. Interestingly, I did a similar post a couple of years ago and Tozer was my #1 too. (http://bit.ly/d0kMqn) Piper's "Pleasures of God" was also on my list. I'd also add a big "AMEN" to Moo, Dever, and Friesen--hugely influential for me.

Ben said...

Ha! Funny. "The Gospel According to Jesus" and "The Race Set Before Us" would probably be 11 and 12 for me. So if you take out the two volumes in my #s 6-10 that influenced me in the opposite direction of what the authors intended, then they'd have been top 10 too.

Michael C. said...

Glad to see Tozer on your list. Pursuit of God would definitely be in my top ten as well. I don't feel like as many people in our generation are exposed to Tozer, so I'm glad to see his writing appear on this list and AJ's.

Discipline of Grace would be another formative book for me.

Look up said...

Ben

Do Tozer's commendations of Finney affect your affinity with either of their beliefs?

Ben said...

LU,

Don't know anything about it, has nothing to do with the post, and I try not to feed trolls.

Look up said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ben said...

Again, completely irrelevant to the point. Let me be very clear. I've never claimed full affinity with Tozer and never will. But that was not my point. I'm partial toward open, frank discussion of issues, as anyone who's followed here over the years could attest. I'm not partial to trolling. Find another bridge.

Ben said...

Finney wasn't evangelical. End of discussion. If you don't like that, tell the world all about it. But somewhere else.

James Kime said...

Ben, where would you rank Ryrie's So great salvation?

or maybe

"Let's go soulwinning" by Hyles.

Did either of those impact you?

Ben said...

Ryrie certainly did.

Joshua Caucutt said...

That Romans class was my first attempt at graduate level learning and while much of what went on in that class impacted me greatly . . . I wish I could have taken it later on when I had a little more of a "clue".