This is the season for giving and receiving presents, and one of the best presents of all is a really good book. Tonight I want to recommend a few books to read, and maybe to give away to a friend. What my recommendations have in common is that they were all written by Tenth authors—writers who either preach or worship at Tenth Presbyterian Church.
This week World magazine released its list of the 100 best books of the century. Included in the list—right between Allan Bloom and Dietrich Bonhoeffer—was our own Senior Pastor, James Montgomery Boice. Although Dr. Boice has written many fine commentaries, the work singled out for distinction in this case was his four-volume commentary on Romans (Baker, 1991-95). Reading that commentary, especially the second volume, is one of the best ways to learn Christian theology.
Briefly, I want to mention two other books by members of our pastoral staff. In order to help Christians understand Islam and reach their Muslim friends with the gospel, Missions Pastor Bruce McDowell has written a useful book called Muslims and Christians at the Table (Presbyterian and Reformed, 1999). And if you need a gift for a colleague at work, or maybe even for your boss, you might consider The Heart of an Executive (Doubleday, 1999) by Richard Phillips, which contains leadership lessons from the life of King David. Incidentally, Rick has received several invitations to speak to executives at major corporations like Boeing and Servicemaster, so please pray for God's blessing on his ministry.
So much for the pastoral staff. What few people realize is that Tenth has a number of other distinguished authors. One of them is Hughes Oliphant Old, who is a member of the Center of Theological Inquiry at Princeton, and is one of the world's leading authorities on the history and theology of Christian worship. Dr. Old's greatest achievement is probably his wonderful five-volume history of The Reading and Preaching of the Scriptures in the Worship of the Christian Church (Eerdmans, 1998—). The first three volumes have been released and would make the perfect gift for the seminary student on your shopping list. If you're not in seminary, but want to learn how to worship in the biblical way, you might take a look at a little book by Dr. Old called Themes and Variations for a Christian Doxology (Eerdmans, 1992). Reading it will greatly enhance your understanding of each element of the worship service.
Perhaps you have noticed that in our sermons we often quote from the Puritans. This is because the Puritans were devout Christians who had a passionate love for God and his Word. One good way to learn more about the Puritans is to read Puritan Profiles by William Barker (Christian Focus, 1996), who teaches church history at Westminster Theological Seminary. Puritan Profiles contains nearly 50 short biographies of the men who helped write our own Westminster Confession of Faith. In it you will meet pastors like Edmund Staunton, who was said to “pray like an angel,” and little Herbert Palmer, who was so short that when he first entered his pulpit to preach, he heard an old woman say, “Alas! what shall this child say to us?”
Another Tenth author is Howard F. Vos, who has had a distinguished career as a professor of history, theology, and archaeology. (By now, you are probably getting the impression that most of our authors are scholars, which is true; however, nearly all the books I am recommending are for ordinary Christians.) Dr. Vos has written a great many commentaries and books on theology and Bible customs. One of the most helpful things about his books is that they are written in clear, simple language that is easy to understand. If you have ever wanted to get a basic introduction to church history, you should read his book Exploring Church History (Thomas Nelson, 1994). Besides all the maps and charts, Exploring Church History has short, easy-to-read summaries of the major people, places and events in the last 2000 years of church history.
Here is a book for our artists. It is called Taking Note of Music (SPCK, 1986), and it was written by William Edgar, who is Professor of Apologetics at Westminster Theological Seminary. From time-to-time Dr. Edgar worships with us on Sunday evenings, and has both spoken and played jazz piano here at Tenth. This short book presents a Christian approach to music, although many of the issues it addresses have implications for other forms of art.
I have one more book to recommend by one of our occasional visitors. The book is called The Christian Life (Banner of Truth, 1989), and it was written by Dr. Sinclair Ferguson, who is now the Minister of St. George's Tron Church in Glasgow, Scotland. I want to recommend it because it is one of my favorite books. In fact, I think every Christian who wants to grow spiritually ought to read it. It contains short, biblical, practical chapters on topics like faith, repentance, justification, and the glories of heaven.
I have one last recommendation. If you are looking for a “stocking stuffer,” the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals has produced a series of booklets dealing with “Today's Issues.” One written by Dr. Boice is called What Makes a Church Evangelical? (Crossway, 1999). These booklets are ideal for college and high school students. They provide a basic introduction to orthodox, biblical, Reformation Christianity.
There are many other books I could recommend; perhaps we can discuss some of them during our question and answer session after the service. If you take the time to read any of the books I have mentioned tonight, then the next time someone asks if you have read any good books, you will be able to say, “Yes, as a matter of fact, I have!”
[Most of these books are available through either the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals (1-800-956-2644) or the Westminster Campus Bookstore ]