Reinke, Tony. Newton on the Christian Life. Theologians on the Christian Life. Edited by Stephen J. Nichols and Justin Taylor. Wheaton: Crossway, 2015.
This book warms one’s heart and stirs a desire to love and life for Christ. By that measure, it is the best book that I finished in 2016 (though I read most of it in 2015).
Pennington, Jonathan T. Heaven and Earth in the Gospel of Matthew. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2007.
This book is tightly argued and utterly convincing in overturning some widely held assumptions about several themes and phrases in Matthew. But Pennington is not just being iconoclastic. The better analogy is that of a restorer of masterworks who must remove paint in order to reveal the original masterwork. Pennington’s work further reveals the glories of Matthew’s theology.
Robertson, O. Palmer. The Flow of the Psalms. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2015.
Pslams is a big book, and Robertson helps one better hold the whole in one’s head by showing how the individual Psalms fit together in larger groups. The flow that Robertson observes also illuminates the theology of the book.
Gerhard, Johannes. On the Nature of Theology and on Scripture. Theological Commonplaces. Edited by T. G. Mayes. Translated by Richard J. Dinda. Saint Louis: Concordia, 2009.
Protestant scholasticsm has long had a bad name (now being cleared by Richard Muller and others). This volume is a primary source vindication of Protestant scholasticsim: detailed, careful, orthodox, reverent. Thus, valuable.
Grimm, Harold J., ed. Career of the Reformer I. Luther’s Works, ed. Helmut T. Lehmann. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1957.
For someone looking to read some Luther on the 500th anniversary of the promulgation of the 95 theses, there is hardly a better book than this one. It includes: “Disputation against Scholastic Theology,” “Ninety-Five Theses,” “Heidelberg Disputation,” “Preface to the Complete Edition of a German Theology,” “Explanations of the Ninety-Five Theses,” “Proceedings at Augsburg,” “Two Kinds of Righteousness,” “The Leipzig Debate,” “The Freedom of a Christian,” and “Why the Books of the Pope and His Disciples Were Burned.” If my memory serves, these are all writings of 1517 and 1518.
I found especially beneficial Luther’s observation in the “Heidelberg Disputation” that good works done in the hope that self-righteousness will secure salvation are actually damning sins:
The person who believes that he can obtain grace by doing what is in him adds sin to sin so that he becomes doubly guilty. [p. 40]
8. By so much more are the works of man mortal sins when they are done without fear and in unadulterated, evil self-security.
The inevitable deduction from the preceding thesis is clear. For where there is no fear there is no humility. Where there is no humility there is pride, and where there is pride there are the wrath and judgment of God, for God opposes the haughty. Indeed, if pride would cease there would be no sin anywhere.
9. To say that works without Christ are dead, but not mortal, appears to constitute a perilous surrender of the fear of God.
For in this way men become certain and therefore haughty, which is perilous. For in such a way God is constantly deprived of the glory which is due him and which is transferred to other things, since one should strive with all diligence to give him the glory—the sooner the better. [p. 47]
I deduce the following corollary: Since there is no righteous person on earth who in doing good does not sin, the unrighteous person sins that much more when he does good. [p. 59]
Bolt, John. Bavinck on the Christian Life: Following Jesus in Faithful Service. Wheaton: Crossway, 2015.
Bavinck is interested in how Christian faith affects every part of life, but he does not lose sight of the inner piety that must be at the heart of the Christian life.
Thornbury, Gregory Alan. Recovering Classic Evangelicalism: Applying the Wisdom and Vision of Carl F. H. Henry. Crossway, 2013.
Thornbury does an excellent job of capturing the value of Henry’s theology for the present and of summarizing that theology
Gregory of Nyssa, On the Making of Man.
Gregory inlcudes some rich meditations like this one about God stating what he will do prior to his actually making man:
O marvellous! a sun is made, and no counsel precedes; a heaven likewise; and to these no single thing in creation is equal. So great a wonder is formed by a word alone, and the saying indicates neither when, nor how, nor any such detail. So too in all particular cases, the æther, the stars, the intermediate air, the sea, the earth, the animals, the plants,—all are brought into being with a word, while only to the making of man does the Maker of all draw near with circumspection, so as to prepare beforehand for him material for his formation, and to liken his form to an archetypal beauty, and, setting before him a mark for which he is to come into being, to make for him a nature appropriate and allied to the operations, and suitable for the object in hand. [III.2]
Or this on why man, the ruler, seems weaker than the beasts he rules:
…but man alone of all is slower than the beasts that are swift of foot, smaller than those that are of great bulk, more defenceless than those that are protected by natural arms; and how, one will say, has such a being obtained the sovereignty over all things?
2. Well, I think it would not be at all hard to show that what seems to be a deficiency of our nature is a means for our obtaining dominion over the subject creatures. For if man had had such power as to be able to outrun the horse in swiftness, and to have a foot that, from its solidity, could not be worn out, but was strengthened by hoofs or claws of some kind, and to carry upon him horns and stings and claws, he would be, to begin with, a wild-looking and formidable creature, if such things grew with his body: and moreover he would have neglected his rule over the other creatures if he had no need of the co-operation of his subjects; whereas now, the needful services of our life are divided among the individual animals that are under our sway, for this reason—to make our dominion over them necessary.
3. It was the slowness and difficult motion of our body that brought the horse to supply our need, and tamed him: it was the nakedness of our body that made necessary our management of sheep, which supplies the deficiency of our nature by its yearly produce of wool: it was the fact that we import from others the supplies for our living which subjected beasts of burden to such service: furthermore, it was the fact that we cannot eat grass like cattle which brought the ox to render service to our life, who makes our living easy for us by his own labour; and because we needed teeth and biting power to subdue some of the other animals by grip of teeth, the dog gave, together with his swiftness, his own jaw to supply our need, becoming like a live sword for man; and there has been discovered by men iron, stronger and more penetrating than prominent horns or sharp claws, not, as those things do with the beasts, always growing naturally with us, but entering into alliance with us for the time, and for the rest abiding by itself: and to compensate for the crocodile’s scaly hide, one may make that very hide serve as armour, by putting it on his skin upon occasion: or, failing that, art fashions iron for this purpose too, which, when it has served him for a time for war, leaves the man-at-arms once more free from the burden in time of peace: and the wing of the birds, too, ministers to our life, so that by aid of contrivance we are not left behind even by the speed of wings: for some of them become tame and are of service to those who catch birds, and by their means others are by contrivance subdued to serve our needs: moreover art contrives to make our arrows feathered, and by means of the bow gives us for our needs the speed of wings: while the fact that our feet are easily hurt and worn in travelling makes necessary the aid which is given by the subject animals: for hence it comes that we fit shoes to our feet. [VII.1-3]
Hamilton, James M., Jr. With the Clouds of Heaven: The Book of Daniel in Biblical Theology. New Studies in Biblical Theology. Edited by D. A. Carson. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2014.
Though disagreeing with Hamilton regarding structure, typology, and Daniel’s 70 weeks, I neverthless found the book full of insights and fill my notebook on Daniel with quotations from this book.
Gentry, Peter J. and Stephen J. Wellum. Kingdom through Covenant: A Biblical-Theological Understanding of the Covenants. Crossway: 2012.
Again, despite some disagreements, I neverhtless filled my notebooks with observations and insights from this volume. It’s certainly a valuable work, and I think the title “Kingdom through Covenant” marvelously captures the relationship of these two major biblical themes. Even though I’m only listing a “top ten,” here I should also note Oren Martin’s Bound for the Promised Land. Again, despite disagreeing with aspects of his thesis and argumentation, there is also significant insight.