Friday, January 04, 2019

Reading Highlights 2018

Otium sine litteris mors est (“Leisure without books is death”)—Seneca

The beginning of 2019 brings a review of some reading highlights from 2018. Lots of reading last year, lots of articles sampled and dipping into a chapter here and there, but fewer complete books read or listened to. But here are ten highlights (in no particular order) and a few others:

1.    Garnet Howard Milne, Has the Bible Been Kept Pure? The Westminster Confession of Faith and the Providential Preservation of Scripture (2017): 322 pp.

Milne offers a compelling historical-theological argument in favor of the traditional or “confessional” text of Scripture based on WCF 1:8. The opening sentence in the introduction sets the theme: “The Protestant Reformation was essentially a dispute over religious epistemology” (22). My review article will hopefully appear in PRJ in July 2019.

2.    Augustine, The Confessions, Trans. Albert Cook Outler (Westminster Press, 1955: Dover, 2002): 303 pp.

This classic theological autobiography was one of the first books I read this year, and it gave me greater insights into and appreciation for Augustine.

3.    James E. Dolezal, All That Is In God: Evangelical Theology and the Challenge of Classical Theism (Reformation Heritage Books, 2017): 162 pp.

Nothing is more foundational to theology than the doctrine of God. Dolezal cogently defends “classical theism” and especially “divine simplicity” from modern evangelical trends toward “theistic mutualism.”

4.    Stanley E. Porter and Bryan R. Dyer, Eds., The Synoptic Problem: Four Views (Baker Academic, 2016): 194 pp.

This book got me caught up on the current state of Synoptic studies in the academy. The four views: Craig A. Evans: The Two Source Hypothesis (Markan Priority with Q); Mark Goodacre: The Farrar Hypothesis (Markan Priority without Q); David Barret Peabody (Two Gospel Hypothesis); and Rainer Riesner (Oral and Memory Hypothesis). The only thing missing: The Independent Development Theory.

5.    Robert Louis Wilkin, The First Thousand Years: A Global History of Christianity (Yale, 2012): 388 pp.

I went on a bit of a church history binge last year. Excellent study. I especially enjoyed the final chapter on “Christianity Among the Slavs” after my visit to Ukraine and Poland in 2017.

6.    David Bentley Hart, The Story of Christianity: A History of 2,000 Years of the Christian Faith (Querus, 2009, 2013): 356.

This is one of the best popular-level overview works on church history I’ve read. Hart is what Spurgeon would call a “racy” (interesting) writer. Lots of cool anecdotes and explanations from an “Eastern” perspective. I’ve recommended this book to many and put a copy in the hand of one of my daughters.

7.    Philip Jenkins, Jesus Wars: How Four Patriarchs, Three Queens, and Two Emperors Decided What Christians Would Believe for the Next 1,500 Years (HarperCollins, 2010): 328 pp.

Don’t let the ridiculous subtitle dissuade you. I found this book very helpful and lively retelling of the history of the Christological controversies and ecumenical councils that addresses them, especially as I was preaching last year through Christology in the confession.

8.    Austin Walker, The Excellent Benjamin Keach (Joshua Press, 2004; Second Edition, 2015): 449 pp.

I read the second edition of this standard Keach biography in preparation for doing a biographical message on him at the 1689 conference in Indianapolis. A treasure trove of information on all things Keach and a reminder of how Keach still evokes both admiration and consternation.

9.    Craig A. Carter, Interpreting Scripture with the Great Tradition: Recovering the Genius of Premodern Exegesis (Baker Academic, 2018): 279 pp.

This book on hermeneutics was much talked about and highly recommended to me. I appreciated the critique of the modern historical-critical method but was less sure of the advocacy of “Neo-platonism.”

10. Tommy Wasserman and Peter J. Gurry, A New Approach to Textual Criticism: An Introduction to the Coherence-Based Genealogical Method (SBL Press, 2017): 146 pp.

This book is supposed to be “The CBGM for Dummies” but after I read it I still felt pretty dumb. And it’s not a long book! The content is important, however, and the authors probably do their best in trying to keep it simple for Newbies, so I’ll probably need slowly to re-read this in 2019.

And others:

Reformed Baptist history and theology:

Pascall Denault, The Distinctiveness of Baptist Covenant Theology: A Comparison Between Seventeenth-Century Particular Baptist and Paedobaptist Federalism (Solid Ground Books, 2013): 167 pp.; Earl Blackburn, Covenant Theology: A Baptist Distinctive (Solid Ground Christians Books, 2013): 161 pp.; Jeffrey T. Riddle, ed., Of Effectual Calling: Keach Conference Papers (Trumpet, 2018): 52 pp; B. A. Ramsbottom, Stranger than Fiction: The Life of William Kiffin (Gospel Standard, 1989): 117 pp.; Benjamin Keach, The Glory of a True Church (1697; Free Grace Press, 2015): 86 pp.


Timothy George, Reading Scripture with the Reformers (IVP Academic, 2011): 268 pp.; Ryan M. Reeves & Charles E. Hill, Know How We Got Our Bible (Zondervan, 2018): 197 pp.; Mark Ward, Authorized: The Use & Misuse of the King James Bible (Lexham Press, 2018): 154 pp.; John Webster, Holy Scripture: A Dogmatic Sketch (Cambridge, 2003): 144 pp.

Theology and Philosophy:

John Anthony McGuckin, Ed. and Trans., St. Cyril of Alexandria, On the Unity of Christ (SVSP, 1995): 151 pp.; Paul Strathern, Hume in 90 Minutes (Ivan R. Dee, 1999): 91 pp.; Wilhelm Nisel, The Theology of Calvin (Westminster Press, 1956): 254 pp.; Paul Strathern, Berkeley in 90 Minutes (Ivan R. Dee, 2000): 83 pp.

Prayer and Spirituality:

Anthony Bloom, Beginning to Pray (Paulist Press, 1970): 75 pp.; Anthony Bloom, Living Prayer (Templegate, 1966): 125 pp.; Timothy Fry, Ed., The Rule of St. Benedict in English (Liturgical Press, 1982): 96 pp.


Ronald Knox, The Church on Earth: The Nature and Authority of the Catholic Church and the Place of the Pope Within It (Sophia Institute Press, 2003): 151 pp.; John C. Olin, Ed., John Calvin & Jacob Sadoleto, A Reformation Debate (Baker, 1966., 1976. 1984): 136 pp.; William Bush, The Heart of Orthodox Mystery (Regina Orthodox Press, 2003): 155 pp.; Andrew Louth, Ed., The Apostolic Fathers: Early Christian Writings (Penguin, 1987): 199 pp.

World Religions:

Rustom Masani, Zoroastrianism: The Religion of the Good Life (MacMillan, 1938, 1968): 136 pp. ; William Edward Southill, trans., The Analects, Confucius (orig., 1910; Dover, 1995): 128 pp.

Biography and Memoir:

Jurjen Beumer, Henri Nouwen: A Restless Seeking for God (Crossroad, 1999): 190 pp.; Herman J. Selderhuis, John Calvin: A Pilgrim’s Life (IVP, 2009): 287 pp.; Barbara Brown Taylor, Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith (HarperCollins, 2006): 234 pp.; Booker T. Washington, Up From Slavery (1901, via Librivox).

Essays, Literature, Poetry:

Czeslaw Milosz, Nobel Lecture (Farrar Strauss Giroux, 1981): 55 pp.; Charles Simic, That Little Something: Poems (Mariner, 2009): 73 pp.; John Foy, Night Vision: Poems (St. Augustine’s Press, 2016): 70 pp.; Robert Hass, Time and Materials: Poems 1997-2005 (HarperCollins, 2007): 88 pp.; Dorothy L. Sayers, Are Women Human? (Eerdmans, 1971, 2005): 69 pp; Sherwood Anderson, Winesburg, Ohio (1919; via Librivox); Ayn Rand, Anthem (1938, 1946; via Librivox); P. G. Wodehouse, My Man Jeeves (1919; via Librivox).

For past annual reading reviews look here:



Victor Leonardo Barbosa said...

Hi Jeff! I'm reading Carter's book, and there is much good things on it, but I would like to know more about His theological background. He deals very much with the "one single meaning view" from a strict high-criticism/19th century/liberal level, but He seems to ignore that many conservatives uphold this in a biblical, historical and theological manner. I think that is a little bit strange his "neo-platonist" approach also.

Anyway, his book is challenging in many ways. God bless you and have a happy 2019 with many christian books!

Jeffrey T. Riddle said...


Yes, some much good in it, but other parts I did not follow. You put your finger on some of this. There is a good discussion between Carter and Matthew Barrett on the Credo podcast you might like:

Thanks for the encouragement brother and blessings in the New Year.