Other Books (Part 2 of Growing “Systematically”)


In my last post I talked about how “other books” can be helpful to Christians in their process of spiritual growth. In particular, I pointed out Grudem’s Systematic Theology. But, what about books that are completely “secular” or written by non- Christian authors? Should we read them? Are they helpful? Can they help us grow?

One thing we have to recognize is that the Bible is unique literature. It is inspired of God, inerrant, infallible, and a pure means of grace (as is prayer and the the work of the Holy Spirit). It is fully reliable, authoritative, and sufficient (2 Timothy 3:17, 17; 2 Peter 1:21), and as the Reformers would say, “sola Scriptura” (scripture alone). There is no equal. But, this does not mean that God does not work His grace in our lives and cause us to grow through people, circumstances, or even other books—sacred or secular. It is just that all of these other works must be subordinate in our thinking to God’s Word.

All “other” literature is impacted by the fall of man. It is, and should be carefully scrutinized. I have heard people say, “I don’t agree with everything Grudem says.” My response is, “does anyone agree with everything you say?” Any earthly writing will require us to “eat the fish and spit out the bones.” The answer is not to censor all other works, but to grow in our biblical discernment, teach it, and practice it. There is a difference between developing a discerning spirit and developing a critical spirit. A discerning spirit will strengthen the church, a critical one will tear it apart.

In particular, pastor’s have also asked me about reading secular business and leadership books. I am thinking of books like Good to Great by Jim Collins and Peter Drucker’s classic, The Effective Executive. I have found many of these to be extremely helpful in the pastoral ministry. My admonition is to keep reading books—sacred and secular! Read them and interpret them through the lens of scripture, and grow!

Growing “Systematically”

Growing Systematically

There are many ways we grow in our Christian faith and one of the most significant ways we do this is through the thoughtful reading of good books—often beginning with the Scriptures. Not only are the Scriptures the very words of God, true and authoritative in every way, they go beyond giving us just an intellectual knowledge of God to bringing us into a relationship with Him through His Son. This work is supernatural and transformational. Because of this fact, many believers make an effort to read their Bibles daily. Few, however, expand beyond this to other Christian literature. Over the past two decades of ministry I have become more and more convinced that the study of other literature is an invaluable resource. In this post I want to talk about the benefits of studying “systematic theology.”

Systematic Theology - GrudemTo quote Wayne Grudem, “Systematic theology is any study that answers the question, ‘What does the whole Bible teach us today?’ about any given topic.” The reason it is so beneficial is that it helps us answer our questions by looking at the whole of scripture. So where should we start? In the past, I have somewhat hesitated to recommend some of the best volumes to the average reader because they can tend to be a bit heavy and academic. A number of years ago, however, I came upon Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology and was thrilled with what  I found. Not only has his work become a personal favorite of mine, it is what I recommend to every Christian—whether young or mature in the faith. I am reading it now again for the fourth time.

Here are a few of the reasons I recommend the book:

  1. Grudem is faithful to the text of Scripture and uses it to support his points.
  2. He uses language that is clear and understandable to the average person without giving up the richness of theological terms.
  3. He is practical. He brings the teaching to where we live and makes helpful application.
  4. He writes with both humility and conviction (a rare blend today).
  5. He informs his readers of the differing views. He does this with respect and not a condescending rhetoric.
  6. Each chapter ends with “Questions for Personal Application.” These are also helpful for group discussions.
  7. He has an expanded bibliography at the end of each chapter which can direct reading from different viewpoints (i.e.. Anglican, Arminian / Methodist,Baptist, Dispensational, Lutheran, Reformed / Presbyterian, Charismatic / Pentecostal, Roman Catholic, etc.
  8. He recommends verses to memorize at the end of each chapter.
  9. He also references a historic hymn at the end of each chapter (coinciding with the doctrine covered).

This is a reference book, but it is more than a reference book. It is the kind of work that you can read devotionally—a little each day if your prefer. A shorter version written by Grudem and his son, Elliot, can be used in group studies, Christian Beliefs: Twenty Basics Every Christian Should Know.

Either of these books will help you as you study God’s Word and explore’s its teaching. We love to live in the “practical,” but everything we do in life will find its way back to what we believe or don’t believe about God. Our view of God is the ground upon which we stand, the security in which we rest, and the future to which we hope.

My Visit to Southeastern

This past week business took me to Raleigh, NC where I was able to spend some time with my good friends Ken and Kathy Coley. Ken is a professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest. I was also able to see my nephew Wesley Davey who is enrolled in a Ph.D. program there and who works in an office right across from Ken! Later in the day I was able to spend some time with Southeastern president, Danny Aiken.

It was my first time to be on the campus of Southeastern, but I have followed its history with great interest over the past couple of decades. Robert D. Crowley, my former pastor at Montrose Baptist Church in Rockville, MD, was the chairman of the board during those “resurgence” years (late 80’s and early 90’s). Something happened at Southeastern that many said could never take place. But it did. While Pastor Crowley was always larger than life to me as a boy, he was also a mentor. After this visit I only admire him more.

During my time with Danny Aiken I saw that he is passionate about three things: theology, the church, and missions. These are the the things he likes to talk about. He gave me a copy of his recent book Ten Who Changed the World.

Russell Moore said, “Reading any page in this book can kindle a fire in your bones.” I just started it and it is already doing that in me.

I would love to connect with you! If you have any questions or would like to connect please use the contact page.

Teach Them Responsibly

Here is a quote I recently came across:

Sadly, although our intentions are good, we leave kids without the tools to self-regulate. This is why the average college student is in touch with his or her mom or dad eleven times a day. Or why 80 percent of students plan to return home after college. They are unable to be autonomous adults. They usually want the autonomy, but they may not be ready for the responsibility. Once again, they’ve been overexposed to data but underexposed to real-life experiences. It’s all virtual—or artificial—maturity.

Read more from Tim Elmore in his book, Artificial Maturity.

The Gospel Changes Everything

Here is another quote from Tim Keller from Center Church. It is hard to say it much better than this.

The gospel is not just the ABCs but the A to Z of the Christian life. It is inaccurate to think the gospel is what saves non-Christians, and then Christians mature by trying hard to live according to biblical principles. It is more accurate to say that we are saved by believing the gospel, and then we are transformed in every part of our minds, hearts, and lives by believing the gospel more and more deeply as life goes on (see Rom 12:1 – 2; Phil 1:6; 3:13–14).

I would love to connect with you! If you have any questions or would like to connect please use the contact page.

Embracing Obscurity | A Review by Trevin Wax

Yesterday Trevin Wax posted a review about an anonymous book, Embracing Obscurity: Becoming Nothing in Light of God’s Everything. This book looks to be a helpful reminder that we are nothing compared to God. God is so much bigger than who we think we can be and we must be content to be in that place. Check out Trevin’s post over at The Gospel Coalition site for his review and consider picking this up to read.

I would love to connect with you! If you have any questions or would like to connect please use the contact page.

Some of the Top Preaching Books I’ve Read

I get these types of questions all of time…what are the best books you’ve read or what are the books that impacted you the most on the topic of __________.

Here is a short list of some of the better books on preaching I’ve read, with a few that I haven’t read that have been well reviewed.

  • Christ-Centered Preaching by Bryan Chapell (Purchase)
  • The Supremacy of God in Preaching by John Piper (Purchase)
  • Between Two Worlds by John Stott (Purchase)
  • Preaching and Preachers by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (Purchase)
  • Lectures to My Students by Charles Spurgeon (Purchase)
  • Toward an Exegetical Theology by Walter Kaiser (Purchase)
  • On the Preparation and Delivery of Sermons by John Broadus (Purchase)
  • Biblical Preaching by Haddon Robinson (Purchase)

What do you think? Are there others you would add to this list? Let me know here.

I would love to connect with you! If you have any questions or would like to connect please use the contact page.

Around the Web (July 1-6)

Sally Lloyd-Jones | Teach Children the Bible is Not About Them

Here are some good thoughts about teaching children the Bible.

Christianity Today | Should Churches Display the American Flag in Their Sanctuaries?

This is an interesting opinion piece with three contributors. It has also generated some other discussion on some other websites.

Kevin DeYoung | Where and How Do We Draw the Line

This is an article I mentioned a couple of weeks ago. It is now available in full text from Ligonier’s website.

Ron Edmondson | 8 Most Dangerous Leadership Traits

“There are no perfect leaders…except for Jesus. For the rest of us, we each have room for improvement. Most of us live with flaws in our leadership. Good leaders learn to surround themselves with people who can supplement their weaknesses.”

I would love to connect with you! If you have any questions or would like to connect please use the contact page.

You’re Not Special

On a trip this past week I picked up Time Magazine and read an article about David McCullough, Jr. and the high school commencement address he gave, “You’re Not Special.” While probably writing and speaking from a secular point of view, this teacher has identified the condition of this generation. You can read the address at the MyFoxBoston website and view some commentary on it at the Time site.

If this address resonates with you, you might also enjoy Tim Elmore’s book, Generation iY, which is from a Christian point of view. While pointing out a number of positive qualities, he describes the “iY Generation” as; overwhelmed, over-connected, over-protected, and over-served.

If we want to help the next generation to grow up to love Christ and serve Him through the church is is becoming increasingly important that we understand them.

I would love to connect with you! If you have any questions or would like to connect please use the contact page.

The Christian & Politics

This past Wednesday I was able to meet Wayne Grudem for the first time. He was speaking at Immanuel Bible Church in Scottsdale, AZ, where our son-in-law serves as an associate pastor. It was a rare treat! I have always been a huge fan of Grudem and have recommended his Systematic Theology over all others. We also use many of his published works at Northland in our Biblical Manhood and Biblical Womanhood classes.

On this particular occasion Grudem was speaking on politics from a biblical perspective—a very relevant topic for today. His lecture was outstanding and he certainly gave me a thirst for more. You may be familiar with his recently published book  Politics – According to the Bible:  A Comprehensive Guide for Understanding modern Political Issues in Light of Scripture.

I really did enjoy my conversation with him after the service and left with gratitude to God for this gift to the church. As this is an election year, I would recommend you pick up his book, read it, and then pass it on to someone else.