God, Freedom, and Evil by Alvin Plantinga. This little 112 page book truly hurt my brain. Plantinga comes from a strong philosophical background. The philosophy he employs is analytic and I have to say, if I had not had higher education this book would have been bear. It was a bear, but it was an enjoyable bear. His main objective is to show that atheists, and atheologians, are wrong in asserting that the evil in this world is contradictory, or proof, that God does not exist. Briefly, a theist is someone who believes in God, an atheist is someone who believes God does not exist, a theologian is someone who studies and teaches the ways of God, and an atheologian is someone who studies and teaches that God does not exist. I much appreciated his wisdom and insight in the discussion of freewill, God’s sovereignty, and the problem of evil, one particular phrase stuck with me, “there may be a very different kind of good God can’t bring about without permitting evil.” (29) If you have the time, energy, and will to read this book, I suggest you do. It is an Christian analytic philosophical argument to prove that God, Freedom, and Evil can all exist.
Always Obedient edited by J. Geertsema. This book is a collection of essays written about the life and work of Klaas Schilder, a Dutch Reformed churchman who battled the likes of Abraham Kuyper and Karl Barth. There are seven essays in this book and each one deals with a different topic. The chapter on “Schilder and the Covenant” is worth rereading weekly. In a sense, it has changed my mind and the way I view covenant theology. Other chapters include what Schilder wrote about heaven, the church, being a Christian in culture, and so on. This is a great piece to show how a Bible believing person can continue on in a world that increasingly dismisses the veracity of Scripture. Schilder held to the truth that Scripture is a divine revelation given to us from God and therefore must be adhered to. Schilder is often cited as saying that the Christian life is “all or nothing” and the more I learn and do, the more I agree with him.
What They Didn’t Teach You In Seminary by James Emery White. This is published by Baker Books, so if you live in Grand Rapids and would like to buy it come in to Baker Book House and you will get to see my smiling face 🙂 I was hesitant to start reading this book because I was expecting another self-help, all-you-need-is-positive-thinking mumbojumbo, but what I found was entirely different. James White not only went to seminary, but he was also the president of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and is the founding, and senior pastor, of Mecklenburg Community Church. Needless to say, his credentials drew me into the book. White gives 25 chapters of sometimes meaningful lightheartedness and other times serious wisdom from leading a church that has seven worship services. I may not agree with everything he wrote, but it is a book I recommend for those coming out of seminary, or have been pastoring for decades. For some pastors White’s advice may be a reminder and for some it may be new, for me it was a little bit of both as I am still a student under the mentorship of a pastor. This is also a great a resource for elders and lay leaders in the church. Here is my recommendation, buy a copy, if you like it, buy a case and give them to your leaders.
Preaching the Cross is a wonderful book. Here is a list of the contributors: Mark Dever, J. Ligon Duncan III, R. Albert Mohler Jr., C.J. Mahaney, John Piper, R.C. Sproul, and John MacArthur. I doubt if anyone could come up with a better list of American Evangelicals. This thin little book, just over 150 pages, is a resource I wish I could give to all my friends at seminary, and all the congregants who take church life seriously. This book is convicting for the pastor because it is a fresh reminder by some very prolific writers of the importance of service and the burdensome joy it is to be a pastor. I also think that this book is a great resource for the congregation because it will enlighten them on what exactly it is the pastor has on his shoulders. Most people know that pastors work more than one day a week (more than Sunday morning), but there is still a sizeable portion of people who think that religious studies is merely cute, or hardly well worth it. For example, I have been asked if I feel closer to God because I go to seminary, and not in a mushy God is-in-my-heart-sense, but closer to God and farther from people sense. I have also been asked if my halo was hiding under my hair. Others seem to assume that because we have the Bible in English already there is no point in learning Greek and Hebrew and that doing so is a waste of time. The ridicule continues. I have a question if you are one of those people. Would you go to a surgeon who has not studied his practice? Would you risk your life in the hands of someone who knows nothing about what he is doing? Religious studies has been undermined in this culture in such a way as to convince well meaning Christians that seminary is a non-issue. After 7 years of education, with a Masters degree, where every other profession receives a doctorate, pastors are the most underrated laborers in America. Would you trust the edification of your eternal soul to someone who does not know what they are doing? (Forgive my rant, but it is important)
This book is a healthy reminder to anyone who reads it what a pastor is, and does, by the power of the holy Word of God as the driving force for all his being.