Now and again I have used this space to offer some recommended reading. And today I do so again. But before I list the books, can I also just urge upon you the practice of reading, period? I know we are a visual culture, with easy access to videos of every kind. A family of five could conceivably spend an hour in the same house, watching five different videos, on five different devices, in five different rooms. But much of what we watch will be frothy. And almost all of our watching is passive – meaning that, even if we are watching something helpful, film does a lot of the thinking for us. But books require us to engage our minds more intently (since they are not accompanied with moving pictures). Books require some imagination. And serious books will take the time to delve deeply into issues in ways that film often can or will not. So, while my mind is drawn to moving pictures as much as the next guy (and while there are films and videos well worth watching), I want to discipline myself to put my eyes, more often, on the written page … and I urge you to do the same.
Buy good books. Borrow good books. And, if you're local, make use of our church library that is getting better by the year. “Bring … the books” as Paul said it! Below are a few recommended offerings (some of which I have recommended before, but which bear repeating at the present time):
The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul. This book is a modern-day classic, reminding us of just how wholly other God really is – and the effect that otherness has when men and women encounter God for who He really is. Written in a contemporary style, Sproul (Sproul’s God, really) will challenge your vision of God without challenging your perseverance with drab prose. Highly recommended, especially as a follow up to our recent sermons on Exodus 33-34.
Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman. Postman’s book, written for the TV generation (but all the more applicable in our world of multiplied screens), explores the way in which the format of our media affects our ability to assimilate the ideas, facts, and news that it communicates. How, for instance, has the advent of the television, with its short segments and soundbites, impacted what sort of thoroughness we expect from our politicians? A thought-provoking question in the middle of this election season, I’d say!
The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert by Rosaria Butterfield. I wrote a full article about Butterfield’s book last September, but let me remind you again that it has been one of the most gripping books I have read in a long time – for its display of the power of God in the gospel; for the way in which it demonstrates the effectiveness of a persistent and loving gospel witness; and for the reality that conversion, when a person gets ‘the real thing,’ can sometimes be like “a train wreck” – but one, to borrow from Sproul’s book above, that ends in peace.
Human Nature in its Fourfold State by Thomas Boston. This book is the magnum opus of my historical hero, who walks his reader through the story of redemption by focusing on the journey of mankind from his state of innocence in the garden, to his state of corruption after the fall, to his state of re-creation by the gospel, and finally to his final state of either glory or damnation. It is a long book by today’s standards, and written in the language of the 18th century … but Boston will both challenge and help you with his ready command of the scriptures, and his Christ-like ability to demonstrate God’s truth with illustrations from daily life. One of the classic theological volumes ever written in the English language, it would be a great read form someone wanting to really dig in and think high thoughts about God and His gospel!
And one more word on Boston’s book … to convince you that you really can and should read much more than many of us often do. Reaching to 450-plus pages in its modern reprint, the Fourfold State was yet one of the most read books by the common Christian folk of 18th century Scotland – not just pastors, but farmers, shepherds, and so on! So you can do this!