What books should Reformed Christians own?
An Annotated Bibliography for Building a Basic Library - Suggested and Annotated by Kim Riddlebarger
It was the author of Ecclesiastes who once lamented, "of the making of books there is no end!" This is certainly Biblical justification for the production of a "select" bibliography. The purpose of this brief bibliography is simply to provide Reformed Christians with a guide to some of the best books available on a number of subjects, and to suggest some of the volumes that a basic home library might contain. These are not suggestions for scholars, but for laity. An asterisk (*)means highly recommended and should be included in any basic home library.
Basic Reference (Biblical)
- * Geoffrey Bromiley, ed., The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, rev. ed., 4 Volumes (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1979). This is easily the most important and useful Biblical reference in print. The articles are scholarly, concise and cover virtually every subject in the Scriptures. Highly recommended.
- D. A. Carson, Douglas J. Moo, and Leon Morris, An Introduction to the New Testament (Grand Rapids: The Zondervan Corporation, 1992). A very up to date and useful volume dealing with questions of New Testament introduction--i.e., the date, authorship and historical circumstances surrounding the books of the New Testament. Useful material for responding to higher-critical theories of NT origins.
- R. K. Harrison, An Introduction to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1969). A thorough treatment of questions surrounding the date, authorship and background of all the Old Testament books. Good response to higher-critical theories of the authorship of the Pentateuch, etc.
- George Eldon Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament, rev. ed., edited by Donald A. Hagner (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1994). An important and helpful treatment of the theological development and background of the New Testament, considered from the perspective of the biblical author's individual contribution.
- G. J. Wenham, J. A. Motyer, D. A. Carson and R. T. France, eds. New Bible Commentary, (Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994). This is the best and most up to date one-volume commentary in print. It is generally conservative and represents the best of British and American Evangelical scholarship.
Basic Reference (Theological-Historical)
- * Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1986). This is a must for every Reformed Christian. It is simply indispensable.
- * Walter A. Elwell, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1984). This volume is unsurpassed for its usefulness. It covers virtually all major theologians, movements and doctrines, and is written by advocates of each of the various theological traditions. Very helpful!
- Donald McKim, ed., Encyclopedia of the Reformed Faith (Louisville: Westminster/Knox, 1992). This is a very helpful volume covering the history, key figures and theology of the Reformed tradition.
- Richard A. Muller, Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms (Grand Rapids: Baker House, 1985). This book is not what it seems! This is a real gem, with great articles on the Trinity, Christology, and a host of other topics from the perspective of Lutheran and Reformed orthodoxy. An English index enables the reader to find the right article even if you do not read Greek or Latin. This is highly recommended, especially as a supplement to Berkhof.
[I have made the mistake of reading too many books and mastering too few. A working knowledge of a few Christian classics is simply invaluable. Here is a bare-bones list. Note: there are many editions available of these works.]
- Athanasius, On the Incarnation.
- Augustine, The Confessions of St. Augustine.
- Anselm, Cur Deus Homo.
- Blaise Pascal, Pensees.
- Martin Luther, The Bondage of the Will, [I recommend the Library of Christian Classics edition, Luther and Erasmus: Free Will and Salvation, edited by Rupp and Watson. This edition includes both Erasmus' essay on free will, as well as Luther's famous response.]
- Martin Luther, On the Freedom of the Christian [also entitled "Christian Liberty"]
- * John Calvin, The Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed., McNeil and Battles (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1960). Reformed Christians need to stop talking about Calvin and start reading Calvin! Great for devotions!
- * Zacharias Ursinus, Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, n.d.). This is a real gem and will provide a great deal of background information for Catechism.
Distinctly Reformed Works on Various Topics
- Louis Berkhof, Manual of Christian Doctrine (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1994). This is basically an abridged edition of the larger Systematic Theology, and is useful for both individual and group study and is great for beginners.
- James Buchanan, The Doctrine of Justification (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1977). This is a wonderful volume treating both the historical context and the Biblical data which underlies the Reformed doctrine of justification. It is a real gem.
- Edmund P. Clowney, The Church (Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1995). Most people never stop to consider the nature of the church, its mission, and its officers. They should! And this is the place to start.
- Anthony Hoekema, The Bible and the Future (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1979). This is the best statement and defense of amillennialism in print. Highly recommended!
- Michael Horton, The Law of Perfect Freedom (Chicago: Moody Press, 1993). A great exposition of the Ten Commandments. A great aid in preparation for catechism.
- Michael Horton, Putting Amazing Back Into Grace (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1993). This is the best introduction to the basic themes of the Reformed theology in print!
- Michael Horton, We Believe: Recovering the Essentials of the Apostles' Creed (Nashville: Word Books, 1998). Michael is the best theological writer around, and this book is a great restatement of the historic Christian faith.
- Michael Horton, Where in the World is the Church? (Chicago: Moody Press, 1995). A practical and informative treatment of the Christian's role in culture.
- Leon Morris, The Atonement: Its Meaning and Significance (Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1983). Leon Morris' book is not a defense of the Reformed perspective of the atonement. But it is a brilliant exposition of the major word groups used by both Old and New Testament writers in association with the Cross of Christ. This is the easier version of his book, The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross.
- John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1955). This is a great introduction to the Reformed understanding of the doctrine of salvation.
- J. I. Packer, Keep In Step With the Holy Spirit (Old Tappen, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1984). Packer does a great job with the questions often raised about the person and work of the Holy Spirit. He does an especially fine job of responding to the so-called Keswick view of sanctification and the appendix dealing with Romans 7, is itself worth the price of the book.
- J. I. Packer, Knowing God (Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1973). This is one of those books which every Reformed Christian should read at least once every couple of years.
- R. C. Sproul, Chosen by God (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, 1987). This is perhaps the best introduction to the Reformed doctrine of predestination. Highly recommended.
- R. C. Sproul, Faith Alone: The Evangelical Doctrine of Justification (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1995). R. C. does a great job of stating and defending the doctrine of justification in the face of contemporary challenges, such as ETC.
- Geerhardus Vos, Biblical Theology (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1977). Vos is tough reading, but always worth the effort. Vos looks at the framework of redemption as it unfolds historically through the pages of Scripture.
- B. B. Warfield, The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1948). The best statement and defense of the nature and character of Biblical inspiration in print.
- B. B. Warfield, The Person and Work of Christ (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1968). A compilation of many of Warfield's essays on the person and work of Christ. There are some great essays here--"The Emotional Life of Our Lord," "Christless Christianity," and "The Essence of Christianity and the Cross of Christ."
- B. B. Warfield, Biblical and Theological Studies (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1950). Again, another compilation of Warfield's essays on various Biblical and theological subjects, including, "The Biblical Doctrine of the Trinity," "Predestination," and "Faith."
- Louis Berkhof, History of Christian Doctrines (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1987). This volume supplements his Systematic Theology. It includes very helpful summations of the history of various Christian doctrines.
- Hans Hillerbrand, ed., The Reformation (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1993). This not a history of the Reformation per se, but a collection of the most important primary source documents set out in such a way to chronicle the Reformation era. It is a most enjoyable work.
- Richard A. Norris, The Christological Controversy (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1988). This is a great collection of selections from the church fathers regarding the debate over the person and nature of Christ.
- William G, Rusch, The Trinitarian Controversy (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1986). Another collection of primary source documents from the church fathers regarding the debate over the Trinity.
- B. B. Warfield, Calvin and Augustine (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1974). This volume includes Warfield's essays on "Augustine's Doctrine of the Knowledge of God," "Calvin's Doctrine of the Knowledge of God," and "Calvin's Doctrine of the Trinity."
- B. B. Warfield, Studies in Perfectionism (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1958). Warfield's decimating critique of Charles Finney and the so-called "Victorious Christian Life" teaching is unsurpassed.
Coping With the Spirit of the Age
- Mortimer J. Adler & Charles Van Doren, How to Read a Book (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1972). This is a real gem and should be must reading for every "reader!" Many great practical tips and suggestions for study are found here! Required for all Academy students.
- Michael Horton, Beyond Culture Wars (Chicago: Moody Press, 1994). How do we as Christians relate to the culture wars and political activism?
- Michael Horton, In the Face of God (Dallas: Word Books, 1996). This is a brilliant book, and I think Michael's best to date. Must reading.
- Michael Horton, Made in America (Baker Book House, 1991). This is one of Michael's earliest and still one of the most profound. Is American Christianity more American than Christian?
- J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1981). Though this was written in the 1920's to combat Protestant Liberalism, it reads as though it was written yesterday about contemporary Evangelicalism. Highly recommended. This is a brilliant and insightful book.
- George Marsden, Fundamentalism and American Culture (New York: Oxford University Press, 1980). If you came from an Evangelical background and want to understand the modern American Evangelical church, this is must reading. A truly great and enjoyable book.
- Kenneth A. Myers, All God's Children and Blue Suede Shoes: Christians and Popular Culture (Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1989). This is the best treatment of popular culture in print. If you grew up on the Beatles, go to movies regularly and read John Grisham novels, this is a must read.
- Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business (New York: Penguin Books, 1986). Watch too much TV? This will cure you. This is simply a profound and thoroughly enjoyable book about how the medium of TV itself distorts whatever it communicates. Highly recommended!
- Neil Postman, Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology, (New York: Random House, 1993). Does the technological revolution mark the beginning of the millennium? Think again. Postman does a remarkable job of showing both the impact and the limits of recent technological breakthroughs.
- Francis A. Schaeffer, The God Who is There (Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1968). Perhaps better than anyone else, Schaeffer is the master of showing that ideas have consequences! This is still a very insightful book.
- Gene Edward Veith, Jr., Postmodern Times: A Christian Guide to Contemporary Thought and Culture (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Book, 1994). This is the best introduction to the prevailing American world-view in print. Required reading for all office-holders at Christ Reformed Church. A very, very, good book.
- David F. Wells, God in the Wasteland (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1994). If No Place for Truth, exposes the problems Evangelicals face, this book offers some suggested solutions!
- David F. Wells, No Place for Truth (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1993). Wells exposes the recent Evangelical decline like no one else! A very courageous book!
Some Personal Favorites
[Just a couple of additional titles which I have recently read, and think you might enjoy]
- John Calvin, Sermons on Galatians (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1997). Calvin's sermons are simply wonderful. Great devotional material.
- Petrus Dathenus, The Pearl of Christian Comfort (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 1997). This is a real gem for anyone struggling with assurance of their salvation.
- D. G. Hart, Defending the Faith: J. Gresham Machen and the Crisis of Conservative Protestantism in Modern America (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1994). I like Machen! I like Hart's treatment of Machen! This is a great and enjoyable book!
- Nathan O. Hatch, The Democratization of American Christianity (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989). Why is Evangelicalism like it is? Hatch helps to answer that question.
- Roger Lundin, The Culture of Interpretation: The Christian Faith and the Postmodern World (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1993). This is a brilliant book treating how critical theory and other forces in contemporary culture influence our understanding of the nature of truth and belief.
- Heiko A. Oberman, Luther: Man Between God and the Devil (New York: Doubleday, 1990). This is an enjoyable and readable book, putting Luther in his historical context.
- Steven Ozment, When Fathers Ruled: Family Life in Reformation Europe (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1983). Another very insightful and intriguing book about family life during the Reformation era.
- David Steinmetz, Calvin in Context (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995). Scholarship at its best--interesting, informative and profound.