This one's just for fun. For a while I've intended to post briefly on the books (other than Scripture) that have influenced me most, more for my personal reflection than anything. I'm not suggesting these are my top recommendations today, merely that they shaped my understanding of the gospel, Scripture, and following Christ more than any others, as best I can tell. With those criteria, what I read longer ago tends to be more influential than what I read after my theology was more developed. Here goes . . .
10. Rick Warren, The Purpose-Driven Church. Heavily influential, but not in the way Warren intended. I can still remember the moment, while I was on a step machine in the little gym at MBBC, when I read, "We should never criticize a method that God is blessing." This book made pragmatism come to life, and laid bare its vacuity.
9. Mark Dever, Nine Marks of a Healthy Church. Everything PDC wasn't. As in, grounded in Scripture, rather than culture, psychology and yuppie consumerism. This was the most recent read to crack the top 10—circa 2003.
8. Norm Geisler, Chosen But Free. Also not influential in the way the author intended. Some of the respected influences in my life were strong anti-Calvinists, and I had no desire to discard their convictions lightly. Geisler came highly recommended, and I thought he might present a coherent case for the non-Calvinist understanding of the issues. The book's embarrassingly shoddy exegesis and logic convinced me that Geisler's "moderate Calvinist" (actually neither moderate nor Calvinist) position was utterly untenable.
7. John MacArthur, Ashamed of the Gospel. Years ago a professor I respected, and still do, asked me how I could speak approvingly of John MacArthur when he was one of the architects of the Evangelicals and Catholics Together (ECT) movement. He wasn't being dishonest, simply regurgitating the misinformation others had fed him. Of course, MacArthur was one of it's most vocal critics, certainly not an architect. Though I can't remember whether I learned that from Ashamed of the Gospel, I do know that book clarified in my mind once and for all that MacArthur wasn't the squishy neo-evangelical that fundamentalist rhetoric often made him out to be. In some ways, reading it may have been the beginning of a trajectory in my life—not so much because MacArthur convinced me for the first time that the seeker-sensitive movement was bad, but because it defined to me a bit of who was credible and who wasn't.
6. John Piper, The Pleasures of God. This wasn't the first book by Piper that I owned, but it was the first that I read. I think I bought it at the Bethlehem Baptist bookstall. Everyone who recommended Piper to me said to read this book first. They were right. Piper masterfully unpacks the biblical theology of the supremacy of God's glory, not only to us, but to God himself. God is right to demand all honor, praise and worship, not because he is a narcissistic egomaniac, but because he is worthy. Were God to share this worship, he would himself be an idolator. Just beautiful, essential stuff. This book took my theological framework and gave it the theocentric foundation it needed.
Top 5 to come soon, I hope. In the meantime, feel free to share yours . . .