Last year and this, staff members of the Cornwall Alliance have opened windows on our lives by telling a bit about the favorite books we’ve read over the past year. I’m finding that more than a little difficult. How does one pick favorites from a list of 58 books—particularly when one also typically reads five to twenty articles a day, and dips into scores of other books throughout the year?
So here I’ll pick just a few of my favorites, and then give you the full list of books I read last year—mostly in whole, but some that I’m still working through. These few favorites are listed in no ranking of priority.
- William Cronon, Nature’s Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West (1992).
Cronon is one of America’s foremost thinkers on ecology—not just biological ecology, but also social ecology. This classic book combines the two into a fascinating historical discussion of how the growth of the city of Chicago from the early 1800s to the mid 1900s affected the social and biological ecology of the entire American West. I “read” this by listening to it, twice, on AudioBooks, while doing bike rides for exercise, and it was simultaneously illuminating and entertaining.
- Martin Chemnitz, Examination of the Council of Trent, 4 vols., trans. Fred Kramer (1971).
For forty years and more I’ve had enough interest in the differences between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism to keep reading more books on the subject. Recently a variety of factors raised that interest more, and I began reading assiduously for the first time through this late-Reformation classic theological, historical, and exegetical critique, by one of the greatest Lutheran theologians of the period, of the Roman Catholic Church’s Council of Trent. I’ve owned the set since the late 1970s but had only dipped into it from time to time before. This sustained reading—which continues—has impressed me with the tremendous erudition, weight, yet clarity of Chemnitz’s response to Trent. It’s also made me all the more grateful for the five great Reformation solas: sola Scriptura (Scripture alone is the supreme authority for all doctrine.), sola gratia (Grace alone is God’s attitude toward sinners in His saving work.), sola fide (Justification—forgiveness of sin and being declared righteous in God’s sight and therefore reconciled with Him—is received by faith alone, not merited by faith plus a combination of one’s own or others’ works.), solo Christo (Christ alone is Savior, not Christ plus oneself or the church or the saints or anything else.), and soli Deo gloria (All the glory for everything—from creation through consummation, but especially for salvation—belongs to God alone.). By the way, at the same time that I think Chemnitz clearly demonstrates that the Council of Trent was wrong on many issues—especially the meaning and means of justification—I also think many Protestant critiques of Roman Catholicism and its history are badly mistaken, including many claims of Roman Catholic atrocities in history, so don’t miss Rodney Stark’s, Bearing False Witness: Debunking Centuries of Anti-Catholic History (2016), which I also read last year and which earned this inclusion among my favorites.
- Michael Hart, Hubris: The Troubling Science, Economics, and Politics of Climate Change (2015).
I’ve read about 50 books on the science, about 30 on the economics, about a dozen on the politics, and about 10 on the combined science, economics, and politics of anthropogenic global warming. Hart’s is a tour de force of the last variety, an extraordinarily learned, clearly written, well-documented discussion of the main scientific, economic, and political arguments pro and con. Hart’s long experience in upper echelons of Canadian government foreign policy apparatus equips him particularly well to examine the politics, ethics, conduct, and consequences of national, international, and global climate policy formation and implementation—a process that is incredibly messy. Hubris has quickly made its way to my short list of the “must read” books on the controversy.
- Johnny Wei-Bing Ling, The Nature of Environmental Stewardship: Understanding Creation Care Solutions to Environmental Problems (2016).
Most evangelical books on environmental stewardship line up firmly on one side or the other of controversial issues like global warming, agricultural chemical use, genetically modified organisms and foods, etc., and most also are marked by heavy emphasis on good intentions but little acquaintance with the hard empirical and the theoretical scientific and economic questions that must be answered in order for good intentions to beget truly helpful actions. Johnny Wei-bing Lin (Ph.D., physics; former professor and now affiliate professor of physics and engineering at North Park University and senior lecturer and director of undergraduate computing education at the University of Washington Bothell) brings together outstanding scientific understanding with deeply thoughtful theology and ethics in this absorbing study of differing perspectives (which might be represented in shorthand as the Cornwall Alliance versus the Evangelical Environmental Network) built around case studies of hypothetical interactions among members of a hypothetical church who represent the varying positions. Lin is totally even-handed in describing competing views and presenting, and critiquing, their arguments. This gets my vote as the best evangelical book on environmental ethics so far in this century.
- Chris DeRose, Founding Rivals: Madison vs. Monroe, the Bill of Rights, and the Election that Saved a Nation (2013).
I love history, political philosophy, and biography, and this volume on these two giants of the American founding era was simply fascinating and reminded me how grateful we Americans should be for God’s gift of such men to shape what continues to be, with all the difficulties in living it out, the best constitution of government in human history.
- John Calvin, The Gospel According to St. John, 2 vols., trans. T.H.L. Parker, ed. David W. Torrance and Thomas F. Torrance (1553; 1975); Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, vol. 6, part 4, An Exposition, with Practical Observations, of the Gospel According to St. John, (1721; n.d. reprint); R.C.H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. John’s Gospel (1943); and Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (1886; 1976).
Most of the time over the years I’ve taught an independent home Bible study, and starting last spring I began teaching through the Gospel of John. (Our next session will finish chapter 7.) I read a number of commentaries and sermon collections in preparation, some of which are in the list below. These four sources, though—three commentaries and one history/biography of Christ—are probably (along with Martin Luther’s, Augustine’s, and Chrysostom’s sermons on John, all listed below) my most valuable resources.
So, there are a few favorites. Half a dozen or more of the others could have made the list equally easily, but then the meaning of favorites would get pretty watered down. Below is the whole list of books I read in whole or (as with the works on the Gospel of John) am continuing to read as part of a larger study. One caution: Inclusion doesn’t imply agreement or even recommendation. Many are excellent; some are okay; a few poor (e.g., the poor historical scholarship of the two by Frank Viola).
- William J. Murray, Utopian Road to Hell: Enslaving America and the World With Central Planning (2016)
- Michael Hart, Hubris: The Troubling Science, Economics, and Politics of Climate Change (2015)
- Theodore Dalrymple, Zanzibar to Timbuktu (2012)
- Mitch Hescox and Paul Douglas, Caring for Creation: The Evangelical’s Guide to Climate Change and a Healthy Environment (2016)
- Bradley J. Birzer, Russell Kirk: American Conservative (2016)
- David A. Stockman, Trumped! A Nation on the Brink of Ruin … and How to Bring It Back (2016)
- Rodney Stark, Bearing False Witness: Debunking Centuries of Anti-Catholic History (2016)
- Anne Bradley and Art Lindsley, For the Least of These: A Biblical Answer to Poverty (2015)
- Colin Bell and Robert S. White, ed., Creation Care and the Gospel: Reconsidering the Mission of the Church (2016)
- Edward C. Krug, Environment Betrayed: The Abuse of a Just Cause (2012)
- Patrick Allitt, A Climate of Crisis: America in the Age of Environmentalism (2015)
- Alex McFarland, 10 Issues that Divide Christians (2014)
- William Cronon, Nature’s Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West (1992)
- Stephen Moore and Kathleen Hartnett White, Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (2016)
- Mary Eberstadt, It’s Dangerous to Believe: Religious Freedom and Its Enemies (2015)
- James K. A. Smith, Imagining the Kingdom: How Worship Works (2013)
- David Kupelian, The Snapping of the American Mind: Healing a Nation Broken by a Lawless Government and Godless Culture (2015)
- Robert Bryce, Smaller Faster Lighter Denser Cheaper: How Innovation Keeps Proving the Catastrophists Wrong (2014)
- Frank Viola and George Barna, Pagan Christianity? Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices (2012)
- Frank Viola, Reimagining Church: Pursuing the Dream of Organic Christianity (2008)
- Jay W. Richards, Infiltrated: How to Stop the Insiders and Activists who Are Exploiting the Financial Crisis to Control Our Lives and Our Fortunes (2013)
- John D. Wilsey, American Exceptionalism and Civil Religion: Reassessing the History of an Idea (2015)
- Chris DeRose, Founding Rivals: Madison vs. Monroe, the Bill of Rights, and the Election that Saved a Nation (2013)
- Johnny Wei-Bing Ling, The Nature of Environmental Stewardship: Understanding Creation Care Solutions to Environmental Problems (2016)
- Steven G.W. Moore, Maxie D. Dunnam, et al., eds., Cultivating a Thoughtful Faith (2005)
- Paul E. Miller, A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World (2014)
- Thomas J. McCaffrey, Radical by Nature: The Green Assault on Liberty, property, and Prosperity (2016)
- Anthony J. Sadar, In Global Warming We Trust: Too Big to Fail, rev. ed. (2016)
- Mark R. Stoll, Inherit the Holy Mountain: Religion and the Rise of American Environmentalism (2015)
- John Stott, The Radical Disciple: Some Neglected Aspects of Our Calling (2012)
- Rodney Stark, The Triumph of Faith: Why the World Is More Religious than Ever (2015)
- George Nash, Crusade Years, 1933–1955: Herbert Hoover’s Lost Memoir of the New Deal Era and Its Aftermath (2013)
- Alistair Young, Environment, Economy, and Christian Ethics: Alternative Views of Christians and Markets (2015)
- Deirdre N. McCloskey, The Bourgeois Virtues: Ethics for an Age of Commerce (2007)
- Thomas Fuller, The Lukewarmer’s Way: Climate Change for the Rest of Us (2015)
- Michael Novak, Social Justice Isn’t What You Think It Is (2015)
- Jason Scott Jones and John Zmirak, The Race to Save Our Century: Five Core Principles to Promote Peace, Freedom, and a Culture of Life (2014)
- Freeman Dyson, Dreams of Earth and Sky (2015)
- Sam Storms, Kingdom Come: The Amillennial Alternative (2015)
- Paul E. Miller, A Loving Life in a World of Broken Relationships (2014)
- George W. Bush, Decision Points (2010)
- Kelly Monroe Kullberg, Finding God Beyond Harvard: the Quest for Veritas (2006)
- F. Westcott, The Gospel According to John: The Authorized Version with Introduction and Notes (1881; 1971)
- William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Exposition of the Gospel According to John, 2 vols. in 1 (1953; 2007)
- Bruce Milne, The Message of John (1993)
- Clifton J. Allen, ed., The Broadman Bible Commentary, vol. 9, Luke-John, part 2, William E. Hull, John (1970)
- John Calvin, The Gospel According to St. John, 2 vols., trans. T.H.L. Parker, ed. David W. Torrance and Thomas F. Torrance (1553; 1975)
- Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, vol. 6, part 4, An Exposition, with Practical Observations, of the Gospel According to St. John, (1721; n.d. reprint)
- C.H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. John’s Gospel (1943)
- Robert Jamieson, A.R. Fausset, and David Brown, A Commentary, Critical, Experimental, and Practical on the Old and New Testaments, vol. 3, part 1, Matthew–John (1976)
- Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (1886; 1976)
- Augustine, Homilies on the Gospel of John, in A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, ser. 1, vol. 7 (1978)
- Saint Chrysostom, Homilies on the Gospel of St. John, in A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, ser. 1, vol. 14 (1978)
- Martin Luther, The Complete Sermons of Martin Luther, 7 vols., trans. John Nicholas Lenker et al., ed. John Nicholas Lenker, (2000) (selected sermons on the Gospel of John)
- Martin Chemnitz, Examination of the Council of Trent, 4 vols., trans. Fred Kramer (1971)
- Richard Bennett and Martin Buckingham, eds., Far from Rome, Near to God: Testimonies of Fifty Converted Roman Catholic Priests (1997)
- Alister E. McGrath, Iustitia Dei: A History of the Christian Doctrine of Justification, 2nd (1998)
- Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd ed. (1995)