Last week I published the first half of my “Most Interesting Reading of 2019” list. These books aren’t necessarily the best that I read. They’re not even necessarily the most commendable. Instead, they were the books that I found most interesting, for a variety of reasons. In some cases, the reason may have been sheer astonishment and incredulity. Consequently, if you read one of these books and just hate it, don’t blame me. You already know I’m odd.
Casillas, Ken. The Law and the Christian. Greenville, SC: Bob Jones University Press, 2007.
This book provides proof that Bob Jones University is continuing to mature theologically and exegetically. Casillas wants to find a biblical way to walk the tightrope between legalism and license. His discussion is thoughtful and careful. The book is a delight to read.
Hayek, Friedrich A. The Road to Serfdom. 15th Anniversary Edition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994.
This was a re-reading of a book that I discovered in seminary. It is one of the three foundational texts of modern American conservatism (the others being Richard Weaver’s Ideas Have Consequences and Russell Kirk’s The Conservative Mind). Hayek deals most explicitly with the economic side of conservatism, which he connects directly to political and social freedom. If you have never read this book, you absolutely must. That goes for Weaver and Kirk, too.
Kuhn, Thomas. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. 4th ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012.
This was another re-read. I began to come across references to Kuhn’s work during the mid-1980s. Eventually I decided I needed to read it for myself. This is the book in which Kuhn coined the phrase paradigm shift. He was explaining how science often advances, not by discovering new evidence, but by interpreting old evidence in new ways. How and why this re-interpretation happens is the subject of the book. Some books bear re-reading. This is one.
Kyle, Chris. American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U. S. Military History. New York: HarperCollins, 2013.
The first thing that you need to know is that this book is about the military. It includes descriptions and language that one encounters in a military environment. Still, if you want to know what a man has to do to become a Navy SEAL and a top-notch sniper, it will show you. It will also give you a boots-on-the-ground glimpse at America’s involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan—but only if you have the stomach for this kind of reading.
Marshall, Walter. The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification. 2nd ed. Edinburgh: James Taylor, 1692.
During the early part of the year I did some binge-reading in Keswick theology. I discovered that a few present-day Keswick writers hark to Marshall as a kind of spiritual and theological progenitor, so I decided to read the source. On my view, while Marshall used some language that was similar to language that Keswick would later use, he is really a representative of the better sort of Puritan. He was a godly man who still calls us to godliness.
Peters, Ellis. The Virgin In the Ice. New York: William Morrow, 1983.
It’s a guilty pleasure: I like murder mysteries. The problem is that many murder mysteries have become a platform for their protagonists to engage in all sorts of deplorable conduct. Ellis Peters’s Cadfael series, however, is just good, clean fun, and not a bad introduction to Twelfth Century society and religion. Brother Cadfael is a former soldier and sailor who has become a Benedictine monk, but in his calling he finds plenty of chances to solve crimes. The Cadfael series comprises about twenty books; The Virgin In the Ice just happens to be one that I read this year.
Peterson, Robert A. Our Secure Salvation. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2009.
I read Peterson’s book on assurance almost immediately after reading Canaday and Schreiner’s The Race Set Before Us. The difference was pronounced. Both share a Reformed perspective on this life of faith, but I would never think of handing The Race Set Before Us to ordinary Christians‑‑except, perhaps, to confuse and scare them. In Our Secure Salvation, however, Peterson offers a gentle, warm, and encouraging summation of the Reformed view of assurance. I’m genuinely grateful for this book.
Renihan, James M. Edification and Beauty: The Practical Ecclesiology of the English Particular Baptists, 1675-1705. Studies in Baptist History and Thought. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock/Paternoster, 2008.
Renihan’s book is expensive. It isn’t available on Kindle. It’s a bit hard to read, what with all the early Baptist quotations. But it is a good book. It points out how close the Particular Baptists were to the Presbyterians of the Westminster Confession and the Congregationalists of the Savoy Declaration (these documents were adapted by Baptists as the Second London Confession). It also focuses on the ways in which Baptists differed from the two foregoing groups. In so doing it provides a very useful glimpse into early Baptist life and faith.
Riddlebarger, Kim. A Case for Amillennialism: Understanding the End Times. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2013.
You don’t have to agree with a book to enjoy it. I rather strongly disagree with Riddlebarger’s thesis that the Bible teaches amillennialism, but I enjoyed the book because he makes the argument about as well as it can be made. Its main deficiency is that Riddlebarger seems to equate Dispensationalism with a kind of populist theory from Dallas. I’ll certainly be responding to Riddlebarger’s arguments in my classes. I appreciate the work that he has done to sharpen me.
Sowell, Thomas. Black Rednecks and White Liberals. New York: Encounter Books, 2005.
I can think of no one who writes more ably on the topic of race and culture than Thomas Sowell. In this particular volume he argues that certain aspects of American Black culture and certain aspects of poor White culture share common roots in an older “redneck” or “cracker” culture. The argument is interesting and Sowell presents it well. I like the book, not because I agree or disagree, but because it was well argued and presented. It’s too bad that this man isn’t writing any more.
Tuchan, Barbara W. The Guns of August. New York: Macmillan, 1962; repr. Random House, 2009.
For me, the complexities of World War I have made the conflict something of a blur. I understand the horrors of that war. I can perceive its social and cultural effects. But I had not understood the causes and events that led to the conflict before reading Tuchan’s work. She tells a tale of secret treaties that left nations distrustful of each other, of Russian ambition, of British bumbling, of German militarism embodied in the Schlieffen Plan, of the French Plan XVII which left that nation trusting to the élan of its soldiery. And she ties it together well.
When I publish these lists, I’m always afraid that I’m displaying too many of my own quirks. But as I said above, you already know I’m odd. This list only confirms it. Some of these are good books. Some aren’t. But I enjoyed them all.
This essay is by Kevin T. Bauder, Research Professor of 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.
When dangers press and fears invade,
Oh let us not rely
On man, who, in the balance weigh’d,
Is light as vanity!
Riches have wings and fly away;
Health’s blooming cheek grows pale;
Vigour and strength must soon decay,
And worldly wisdom fail.
But God, our God, is still the same,
As at that solemn hour
When thunders spake his awful name,
His majesty and power.
And still sweet mercy’s voice is heard,
Proclaiming from above
That good and gracious is the Lord,
And all His works are love.
Then trust in God, and God alone,
On Him in faith rely;
For man, and all his works, are known
To be but vanity.