Book Review: Desiring God (Author: John Piper).

Cover of Desiring God
Cover via Amazon

John Piper is one of the great theological minds of our present day. He is (and has been for quite some time) senior pastor at Bethlehem Baptist Church while also finding
significant time to devote to numerous books and articles which form the basis for Desiring God Ministries.

One of his earliest books was Desiring God with the provocative subtitle of “meditations of a christian hedonist.” For those not familiar with the word – a hedonist is someone who pursues pleasure – as such the title seems antithetical to how many Christians (and non-Christians) perceive the Christian faith. Yet within the pages of this book one finds not a call to shallow living but a call to deeper living and a vision of a faith that stretches farther and deeper than many of us had previously imagined. Piper is extremely orthodox and conservative (in an evangelical fashion) theologically but his writings push readers to imagine and understand their traditional faith in deeper (not necessarily new) ways.

It took me several years to read John Piper’s Desiring God…and I am a fairly avaricious reader. The first several times I tried I threw the book down in disgust due to Piper’s heavily deterministic, predestinatory, Calvinistic/Augustinian bent, but at last I struggled through and found that he had much worthwhile to say even if his ideas in this one area were disturbing to me. But even from here, it would be another year or two until I finished this hefty volume – not because of its sheer length but because of its content. So many books are filled with fluff essentially regurgitating the same statements in different guises – each page of Piper’s Desiring God is filled with challenging, convicting, uplifting, need-to-think-this-over content…there is no fluff. This means that I would only read a few pages each day – there was just so much to chew on.

Whether you are a Christian or not I would recommend John Piper’s Desiring God. He does a great job at laying out an exciting vision of the Christian life.

Answers in Genesis?

I’m going to throw my respectability to the wind – at least in the eyes of many – when I suggest that Answers in Genesis is a great resource ministry. Why would that be? Because I am thereby endorsing at least the option of youth earth creationism. Yes, that most radical of all heresies (to the scientist) – above and beyond even those “pseudo-sciences” of old earth creationism and intelligent design.

Think I am hyperbolizing? Read Steven Pinker‘s introduction to What Is Your Dangerous Idea? – a tome that encourages scientists to verbalize hypotheses they have and believe will some day be established. Pinker argues for this freedom and yet at the very same time offers a damning condemnation of intelligent design.

The Creation of Adam
The Creation of Adam (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The idea that an intelligent person could look at the evidence and believe in youth earth creationism seems unfathomable to many scientists and the lambasting of individuals who do is rampant. So, anyways, I’m stepping out on a limb here. I’d like to think I am fairly intelligent. I also believe that I do not have a preexisting commitment to a six-day, young earth, creationist viewpoint. I find that such a commitment is not necessary to my personal faith (though Answers in Genesis would argue differently – suggesting that the abandonment of a literal six day creation has gravely negative results)…Still, I find myself more convinced (I like to think) on a scientific and logistical level by creationist/intelligent design theories than by evolutionary theories.

Answers in Genesis is one of the premier institutions if you want to learn about young earth creationism. If you need resources or are simply interested in exploring what those of us who are readily characterized as religious fanatics and ignoramuses think – AiG is a great resource.

AiG offers numerous resources online for free – including articles and ebooks. They have a massive collection of videos, books, and magazines available covering every aspect of this debate and resources that more generally address scientific and christian topics. They also have built a simply magnificent museum in Kentucky – one I highly recommend visiting.

So, go give them a look. I’m not going to say I agree 100% with everything they say – but I do think they are doing good work in trying to offer an alternative to evolutionary theory.

A Christian Library.

[This is a work in progress…Revision history now added at the bottom of this article.]

Introduction:

I’ve read a lot of books in my lifetime – some have been life-changing others time-wasting. The sheer volume of books being published each year is overwhelming – how do we choose what books to read? In this article I will attempt to create a constantly evolving corpus of volumes that might serve as a basic primer for individuals looking to progress in their personal and spiritual growth.

It will include, first and foremost, volumes which apply to all readers and which I would consider life-changing for any reader. It also includes more “niche” topic books – books which apply to a single gender or life situation – but the “niche” will be statistically significant (e.g. a good number of readers will either have experienced or will know someone who has experienced these situations). I don’t expect anyone to read all of these niche volumes – they are here primarily as a resource. I don’t know how many times I’ve been faced with difficult circumstances in my life or in my relationship with others and felt at a total loss for how to successfully travel through these dark days. Hopefully, these resources will provide some guidance.

Purchasing Note:

I’ve linked these books to Amazon – b/c I have an Amazon Affiliate account and get a percentage of the sales I send to Amazon. That said, some of these books can be found for cheaper through Christian Book Distributors (CBD). Ach, it pangs me to give up my referral fees. =)

Coding:

I’m building a library I hope others can use, but it is also a library I will use. As such there are numerous volumes herein which seem to me to be the best possible volumes on a subject – however this comes from appearances, from hearsay, from reviews, from popularity, and so on. Please feel free to suggest alternative volumes. Those volumes which I have personally read are noted with an * following the title. Titles not given a full reading but at least glanced at are marked by **. All others have no markings – indicating I have not read them. Should authors, publishers, or others stumble upon these pages and desire to see these volumes moved to a * or at least a ** status, I won’t argue with free copies of the books in question.

Bibles:

  • NLT (New Living Translation) Study Bible.*1I am a big fan of the NLT as a readable translation of the Bible. I have heard great things about what the Study Bible notes provides, but haven’t personally had the opportunity to read these notes. I’ve decided not to respond to the inevitable criticisms of reading a thought-for-thought translation here, but if you wish to bring up the challenge…I believe I have a good response. =)

Christian Living:

  • Metamorpha: Jesus as a Way of Life (Kyle Strobel).*2An extremely even-handed, readable volume written by a young author who balances the new trends of postmodernity with our historical and evangelical legacy. I especially appreciate his challenge to the new generations to not simply abandon the “old” churches which have hurt us and his extensive bibliography which provides a great jumping off point for further reading.
  • Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth (Richard Foster).*3Covers the spiritual disciples. One of the best books I have ever read on the topic – extremely practical in nature. Foster’s Quaker beliefs do place some of his writings outside of what many would comfortably define as fundamentalism. Foster also depends heavily on Quaker figures and mystical figures for his quotations and sources, which will be foreign to many.
  • Desiring God (John Piper).*4It took me three or four times to read this book…and then only a period of over a year. Piper is one of our brightest contemporary theological minds…yet, his pervasive Calvinism in the beginning of the book caused me to throw the volume down several times. Once one struggles past this (for those who struggle with Calvinism) the book is quite amazing.

Bible Study (General):

Beginner:

  • How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth (Douglas Stuart, Gordon Fee).*5If you only read a few books off this list, make this one of them. Stuart and Fee do an amazing job of enlightening our understanding of Scripture by helping us to understand the importance and role of history, culture, and literary form amongst other items as we read.
  • The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Old and New Testaments (John Walvoord, Roy B. Zuck, ed.).**6I read most of this volume during my undergraduate studies at Philadelphia Biblical University. While not extensive nor providing all views on the Scriptures it does provide a great quick reference on a book. In general, I imagine the studies will be acceptable to those in most evangelistic denominations with the exception of some prophetic materials which will be heavily dispensational in slant – something which many churches differ on.
  • The New Daily Study Bible (William Barclay).**7William Barclay is one of the best commentators I have ever read. I have never found a replacement for his DSB series of commentaries – which are written for the lay reader yet reveal insights for all. His ability to make complex truths simple, intimate knowledge of Koine Greek, deep historical and cultural knowledge – all make his commentaries timeless. Barclay does have fairly unorthodox beliefs but tends to maintain a more orthodox position within these commentaries.

Advanced:

Church History:

Evangelism:

Prayer:

Theology:

Personal Development:

Parenting:

Marriage:

  • The Five Love Languages, Secrets to Love that Lasts (Dr. Gary Chapman).13A perpetual best-seller, no personal experience.
  • Love & Respect (Dr. Emerson Eggerichs).**14Heard high praises from many and have read a good portion myself. At times is a bit redundant – but perhaps that is because we forget truths, especially in our most intimate relationships?

Finances:

Physical Health:

Mental Health:

College:

Sexuality (General):

Homosexuality:

Marital Infidelity:

Divorce:

Politics:

Abortion:

Leadership:

  • The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership (John Maxwell).*18John Maxwell is an excellent resource on leadership, has experience in both ministry and corporate leadership and writes in a very readable/enjoyable manner. His books are fairly concise as well.

Social Justice:

Disability:

Church:

  • The Purpose Driven Church (Rick Warren).*19I know, I know. Everyone hates the Purpose Driven Church…or at least a lot of people who frequent the circles I travel in…but I insist this is due to the misapplication of Warren’s principles rather than Warren’s principles in and of themselves. Warren repeatedly warns against cookie-cutting one’s church after Saddleback, and yet this is what has occurred in many situations and this is (largely) what people revolt against. Give it a chance – its still the best and most practical guide to “doing church” I’ve read.

Worship:

Classics:

Grieving:

Suffering/Pain:

Conflict:

Heaven/Hell:

Gender:

Worldview:

Youth Ministry:

Missions:

Biography:

Science:

Ongoing Reading:

  • Max Lucado – Facing Your Giants, Fearless*, It’s Not About Me, Cure for the Common Life, The 3:16 Promise, You! God’s Brand New Idea, The Applause of Heaven**, Just Like Jesus, Cast of Characters, In the Grip of Grace, 3:16–The Numbers of Hope, He Chose the Nails, In the Eye of the Storm, Come Thirsty, He Still Moves Stones, God Came Near, The Great House of God, Outlive Your Life, For the Tough Time, Six Hours One Friday
  • John Eldredge

Fiction:

  • Adam (Ted Dekker).
  • Demon: A Memoir (Tosca Lee).
  • The Oath (Frank Peretti).

Secondary Bible Study:

Secondary Theology:

Secondary Christian Living:

  • Inside Out (Dr. Larry Crabb).*21A challenging and insightful book by psychologist Dr. Larry Crabb. I don’t agree with everything Crabb says and find psychoanalytic theory (which seems to be appropriated) only a partial perspective…but still, worthwhile.
  • After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters (N.T. Wright). [HT: Evan Curry]

Secondary Church History:

Secondary Classics:

Research Sources:

Revision History:

  • 3/23/16 – Primarily behind the scenes work, updated code overall, removed unnecessary code, increased size of headers, and changed some Amazon links to short links.
  • 6/5/10 – Added additional footnotes. Added Obsessive-Compulsive Trap to Mental Health. Added Secondary Classics section and moved The Great Divorce (Lewis) to it.
  • 6/5/10 – Split Bible Study into Beginner and Advanced sections. Created Secondary Bible Study section, moved Jasper’s Hermeneutics, Enn’s Inspiration and Incarnation, and Walton’s Ancient Near Eastern Thought to secondary.
  • 6/4/10 – Installed WP-Footnotes and rewrote all footnotes using this technology, also, updated footnote content.
  • 6/3/10 – Added friends feedback on various worthwhile books.