My Theological Library

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By: Pouya sh

A month ago we moved house. It’s not really the most enjoyable of experiences but it’s something that has to be done when the time comes. The process of moving house meant that I had to move all the books that i have. I’m an avid reader and aim to read a book each fortnight (on average over the course of a year). The “industry” I’m in also lends itself to be around books. Ministry requires reading, preaching requires reading, studying requires reading. This means I’ve a growing collecting of around 700 books on the shelves and when the library reaches this point it’s probably time to get it sorted out.

I did toy with the idea of working the Dewey system or using the Library of Congress numbers but decided that might be a bit extreme. In the end the best advice came from Andy Naselli’s post on “Why you should organise your theological library and a way how”. I’ve adjusted some of what he’s suggested but used the main categories to organise mine. My library is obviously not as big as his so it doesn’t need as much detail as what he has laid out. But here it is:

1. Biblical Theology

  • Languages (NT Greek)
  • Hermenuetics (how to interpret the Bible etc.)
  • Commentaries (on each book of the Bible)
  • OT & NT introductions, theologies, and overviews

2. Historical Theology

  • Biographies
  • Church & Christian History
  • “Works” by old dead guys

3. Systematic Theology

  • Bible doctrine (the sort of topics in a general systematic theology book)
  • Apologetics
  • Philosophy

4. Practical Theology

  • Christian Living (all those great books people pick up at the front of Christian bookstores ;))
  • Preaching
  • Leadership
  • Youth Ministry
  • Church
  • Pastoral Ministry
  • Missions

At this stage all sub-categories are mixed in together in the broad categories. I’m not convinced this works for the Practical Theology section but it’ll take too much time sorting it out at the moment.

Comments? Suggestions? How do you sort yours?

Evangelical Truth by John Stott

evangelicaltruth stottJohn Stott and his ministry is well known and well respected throughout the world. He has written numerous books and articles, and up until his death in 2011 he was considered a worldwide Christian leader.

In this little book of 149 pages Stott explains the essentials of the Christian faith and makes a strong plea for unity. Here, toward the end of his life, Stott continues to write with great insight, making you think about the primary and secondary issues within the Christian faith. There is constant debate between Christians, now more than ever it seems, over all sorts of theological and social issues. Stott believes these issues should be discussed, but at times there is a need to lessen the vigour and closed-handedness of these debates.

Evangelical Truth has five chapters, including the introduction and conclusion. The three main chapters cover the following areas: the revelation of God, the cross of Christ, and the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

In the introduction Stott gives a brief rundown of his definition of evangelicalism. He pitches this definition against that of fundamentalism and liberalism. Within this chapter he also gives information about evangelicalism has evolved and its main historical turning points within the church.

The chapter on revelation, as expected, is based on the revelation of God through the bible. Stott speaks of general and specific revelation, progressive and personal revelation, inspiration, authorship, biblical authority. He touches on the debate between the sufficiency of scripture and also the inerrancy of scripture. Here Stott makes his stand against using the term ‘inerrancy’.

Chapter three is essentially the gospel. It is the message of the cross well explained. He gives a helpful explanation of ‘justification by faith’, and grapples with what disciples and mission are. It is the shortest chapter in the book but also the most concise and straight-forward. It was good to hear the gospel again.

A final chapter on the ministry of the Holy Spirit makes Evangelical Truth truly trinitarian. The topics of assurance, holiness, purity, community, mission, and hope are all covered. Stott is really telling the reading of how the Holy Spirit works; in the New Testament and his continuing work today. This is a good chapter and well explained.

To conclude, Stott summarises his point and pleads with the reader to be united with Christian brothers and sisters around the globe. He calls for Christians to endure hardship and wants to be an encouraging voice within that. You can really see in the writing that Stott has a wealth of experience and knowledge of the gospel, is passionate about the things of God, and wants Christians around the world to be united under the gospel. He encourages all believers to lead with humility and to love one-another with Christian love.

A great primer of the Christian faith. Get on it.

John Stott, Evangelical Truth: A Personal Plea For Unity, Integrity and Faithfulness (149 pages; Leicester, UK: Inter-Varsity Press), 2003.

Power Through Prayer by EM Bounds

EM Bounds is known as a prolific prayer-warrior, mainly because of his many and various books on the topic. While they were written many, many, years ago they are still greatly relevant for our soul today.

“Power Through Prayer” is a book written particularly for ministers, that’s certainly the impression you get from reading it. Bounds encourages everyone, but particularly those who preach, to come back to prayer, to fight for prayer, and to do all things with and through prayer. Bounds stresses the power that comes through prayer, and through close communion with God in prayer you soul will be lifted high unto the heavens.

Bounds tells tales and stories of people of the past who have spent many hours on their knees fighting for their congregation, the people they minister to. Throughout the book there are various quotes about prayer from famous churchmen in Christian history, including a special affection for David Brainerd, the young American preacher and Indian missionary of the 18th century. They are very inspiring and perfect for an Instquote if one could be bothered. In fact, much of the book is quotable as he wrestles the reader to the ground, urging them to take up a prayer ministry. There is constant encouragement to spend time in prayer, praying for the sermon, and the souls of men and women.

An example of this would be:

“What the Church needs to-day is not more machinery or better, not new organizations or more and novel methods, but men whom the Holy Ghost can use — men of prayer, men mighty in prayer. The Holy Ghost does not flow through methods, but through men. He does not come on machinery, but on men. He does not anoint plans, but men — men of prayer.”

Even though the book is only 128 pages it is an inspirational book. It will shake you up and help you understand the power of prayer in the Christian life. I would highly recommend it to anyone who is wondering about prayer and its importance. It is an excellent book, and you can even download a free PDF of it here.

E. M. Bounds, Power Through Prayer (128 pages; London, UK: Marshall, Morgan & Scott).

George Whitefield (Vol 1) by Arnold Dallimore

This great volume comprehensively describes the life and times of George Whitefield.

Starting with his early years right through to the age of 26, Arnold Dallimore describes the wanderings and impact of this young man. Using previous biographies, and the more important journals of the man himself, Dallimore outlines Whitefield’s contribution to the spiritual state of Britain and America during the 18th century.

This book is brilliantly illustrated with stories of his time at home and at school. There is detailed analysis of his time at university, where he became a true convert of Christ and became firm in his understanding of the doctrines of grace.

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His travels throughout Britain and America take up considerable pages, but these are very much the guts of his ministry. The book ends with Whitefield about to face more trials as he returns to England for the second time.

As I’ve written previously, there are a number of things to take away from this work. His preaching ministry is a powerful manifestation of the Spirit, and his courage in the face of adversity is something to behold. He began preaching while in his teens, and soon began speaking to crowds upwards of 20-30,000 people. Such was the power of his preaching.  Furthermore, there is a sense of his overwhelming love for his fellow brethren, wanting to be united with the many ministers and other preachers.

This is only book one of a two volume set, and there is much depth and content to be gleaned about the man. It’s worth the read.

Arnold Dallimore, George Whitefield: The Life And Times Of The Great Evangelist Of The 18th Century Revival (vol. 1, 590 pages, London: Banner of Truth Trust), 1970.

Respectable Sins by Jerry Bridges

In this book Jerry Bridges writes about a number of sins the Western church has, for some odd reason, decided it’s OK with.

The author focuses on the verse from 1 Peter 5:5, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble”, and tackles the issues such as pride, selfishness, ungodliness, unthankfulness, anger, self-control (or lack thereof), impatience, envy, jealousy, sins of the tongue and many others.

Grounded in the doctrines of cross and the sovereignty of God, Bridges calls his readers to take a long, hard, look at themselves. He encourages people to see the way following Jesus impacts their lives, each and every part of it. Behind that thick wall of pride what do we think and do that we tell ourselves is OK in little doses but really isn’t? It is a very searching and convicting book, highlighting the work of the Spirit to convict his readers about those sins he comments on.respectable sins by jerry birdges

This is a really good and thought-provoking book.

Bridges challenges each individual to be humble before the Almighty and recognise that there are sins, sins which we ‘take for granted’, that need to be confessed and repented of.

At times you might debate whether or not everything he mentions are actually sins, but he writes in a humble and good-natured way that urges godliness. I found it a book that slaps you around the head a bit–but in a good way.

It’s not a long book, finishing up at 181 pages. It would be a good book for small group discussions, or a preaching series. I’d encourage anyone wanting to flee from sin or grow in godliness to pick this book up, and read it.

Jerry Bridges, Respectable Sins: Confronting The Sins We Tolerate (181 pages, USA: Navpress), 2007.

5 Ways George Whitefield’s Life Is Good For Your Soul

As I was walking out the door to go on holiday I randomly threw the biography of George Whitefield by Arnold Dallimore in my bag. It is an extensive biography, a two-volume set, which outlines the life and times of the great preacher.

Having finished the first volume I find myself reflecting on his life and ministry. Biographies teach us a great deal, not only about an individual life, but also about the value system, worldview, and passions the person held.

5 Ways George Whitefield’s Life Is Good For Your Soul

In thinking about Whitefield, I found five areas of his life that struck me as being central to the way he lived. Here are those five areas, and some brief reflections on each of them.

First, he was a man passionate about Jesus and only Jesus.

From his teenage years, but more so after his conversion, Whitefield was consumed with proclaiming and showing Jesus in everything he did.

While at university in Oxford he was a member of what was known as the ‘Holy Club’, and made a conscious effort to always be upright in everything he did. As he grew in grace and a fuller understanding of the gospel he pursued a passion for God’s glory and supremacy over all things.

Second, he was a man committed to preaching.

Everywhere he went, from the age of 17 onward, he preached consistently.

In certain seasons of his life Whitefield would would preach up to 15 times, or 50-60 hours, per week! His ability and gift in preaching was beyond the average person, but this still doesn’t negate the fact that he was always wanting to share the truth of the gospel everywhere he went.

Whether he was in America or in Britain, Whitefield couldn’t help but preach and try to win souls for the Lord.

Third, he was a man who instigated change.

His preaching practices were unorthodox for his time.

He pushed the limits and received rejection for it. His actions of moving away from the church pulpit and begin preaching in the open air changed the face of his preaching ministry. When not allowed to preach in the local church, due to a decree from the local bishop or minister, he would simply began preaching outside–in the fields and parks of the city.

Fourth, he was a man who had the courage to persevere in his ministry despite ridicule and rejection.

Whitefield’s Calvinistic convictions, zeal for the Lord, and unorthodox preaching practices rubbed people up the wrong way.

Fellow ministers, clergy, and other lay people developed a great dislike for Whitefield. Hundreds, if not thousands, of articles, journals, letters, and books were written against him and his beliefs. Throughout he continued to trust the Lord and pursue his ministry for the betterment of the Kingdom.

While hurt by many of his detractors, Whitefield had the courage to stand and proclaim the gospel.

Fifth, he was a man who sought unity rather than separation.

At all times, particularly in his relationship with John Wesley, Whitefield sought to find common ground first rather than polarise people because of their belief or practice.

In the end Whitefield had to separate from some relationships, but not after he had pursued unity, support, and friendship under the gospel. He was concerned for Christian unity while pursuing his single-minded goal of preaching the gospel.

Whitefield’s biography, and some of his writings, is a terrific read. Dallimore portrays his life wonderfully well, exposing the godliness and character of the man. I would highly recommend reading this book, and even dipping into Whitefield’s other writings too.

It will do wonders for your soul.

God Hears Our Prayers

“The Lord has heard my plea; the Lord accepts my prayer.” (Psalm 6:9)

Isn’t great that we can be safe in the knowledge that the Lord hears our prayers?

While reading Psalm 6 this morning this verse stood out to me. It gives me assurance of a God who listens to me, who hears me, and who accepts me.

Prayer can be a difficult and weary task at times. Our relationship with him may be rather dry, or it is difficult to speak to God when we are conscious of our own sin. However, the Lord is good and he hears our prayers and cries for help.

David, the writer of this Psalm, is troubled and knows he has done wrong. It seems he is conscious of his sin and is guilt-ridden because of it. He is crying out to God, desperate for his help.

It can be easy to resonate with David here.

How often are we in sin? How often have we done things we don’t want to do? How often have we gone against God and chosen the wrong path, the wrong words, the wrong actions toward others? Sometimes this leads to regret, to a knowledge of guilt, a knowledge of sin.

There is no worse feeling, I believe, than knowing you have sinned against the Almighty. He is an all-powerful, glorious, and magnificent God who knows all and is in all and is through all.

Here David rests in the knowledge that the Lord has heard his pleading, his cry for help, and his cry for mercy. What great assurance! To know the Lord has heard our pleas and heard our cries brings an assurance from above.

Yet, he not only hears them, he also accepts them! He is willing to accept what we say to him, hearing our anguished cry for forgiveness and for help. Through our Mediator, Jesus Christ, our cries are heard and accepted and we are made new once more.

Through the work of Jesus Christ upon that beautiful cross the Lord hears and accepts our prayers. But even more, he hears and accepts us! Us! With all our sin, foibles, and quirks he takes us into his loving arms and holds us in our time of need.

O what assurance, O what loving grace!

Leaders Who Will Last by Tim Hawkins

leaders who will lastTim Hawkins has been involved in youth ministry  here in Australia for many years. ‘Leaders Who Will Last‘ is his second book on the topic of youth ministry. His first, ‘Fruit That Will Last‘, was written in the late 1990s and is a foundational text for youth ministry practitioners, particularly here in Australia. Before reading Leaders Who Will Last I’d highly recommend reading his first. 

Leaders Who Will Last, published in 2002, is, as you can imagine, all about youth ministry leadership. I have just finished my first reading of it and would recommend it to anyone in the youth ministry field. However, this book is not only for those in youth ministry on a paid basis, but for anyone involved in a voluntary capacity–parent, youth leader, small group leader etc. 

Leaders Who Will Last is grounded in scripture and gives good advice for youth leaders. There are three main sections of the book; one on vision, one on character, and one on skills.

It is under vision that the main biblical foundations are set. The issues of calling, shepherding, and servanthood are rightly portrayed as important. The main characteristics of a leader are to be faithful, reliable, and a follower of those in higher authority, such as the senior pastor, youth pastor, or lead leader.

In terms of skills, the emphasis is on teaching the bible, whether at the main youth gathering or through a bible study. This I find is a bit light, I think there are more things a youth leader should also be across, not just being able to teach the bible. In fact, I think some leaders may not even be able to do that, but there are other skills that they may bring to the overall health of a youth ministry.

Hawkins also describes, in 16 points, the various aspects to youth work and the type of person a youth leader can be, i.e. a pray-er, an organiser, a counsellor etc.

Overall I thought the book was good. An area of improvement would be a deeper theological basis for youth leadership and youth ministry in general. While a biblical theology of youth ministry is not what this book is about I continue to search for such a work. They’re hard to find, even among all the youth ministry books at the theological college I attend. 

Much of what was written applies directly to me, particularly the issue of getting right with God and staying right. I must set my heart on his ways and his agenda. This book pushes me to pray more, I don’t pray nearly enough for my leaders, my peers, my kids, or my church.

And finally, it is a book that I will recommend to fellow youth leaders. There is so much information in this book that is helpful to any leadership position, but specifically to those in youth ministry.