Monday, October 16, 2006

You are what you read, No. 2

A friend of mine recently surveyed a number of pastors and professors regarding the three most valuable books for their ministry. Most of these men were Presbyterian and Reformed in orientation. Nineteen people responded and here is the quite eclectic list with which they came up:

Calvin's Institutes (8)
Dynamics Of Spiritual Life, Richard Lovelace (2)
Saved by Grace, Anthony Hoekema (2)
Religious Affections, Jonathan Edwards (2)
Knowing God, J.I. Packer (2)
Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan (2)
The Contemplative Pastor, Eugene Peterson (2)
Charity and Its Fruits, Jonathan Edwards
The End for Which God Created the World, Jonathan Edwards
Five Smooth Stones for Pastoral Work, Eugene Peterson
The Art of the Commonplace, Wendell Berry
Jayber Crow, Wendell Berry
Puritans, Martyn Lloyd-Jones
Knowing the Times, Martyn Lloyd-Jones
On Christian Doctrine, Augustine
Confessions, Augustine
Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility, D.A. Carson
Ancient-Future Faith, Robert Webber
The Shattered Lantern, Ronald Rolheiser
The Hidden Lives of Congregations, Israel Galindo
The Complete Works, Francis Schaeffer
Christianity and Liberalism, J. Gresham Machen
Defending the Faith, D.G. Hart
The Christ of the Covenants, O. Palmer Robertson
Ordering Your Private World, Gordon McDonald
Apostolic Preaching of the Cross, Leon Morris
Christian Apologetics, Cornelius Van Til
Collected Writings, John Murray
Structure of Biblical Authority, Meredith Kline
Christopher Wright's books on OT law
A Bunch of Everlastings, Frank Boreham
Institutes of Elenctic Theology, Francis Turretin
The Unfolding Mystery, Edmund Clowney
The Message of Acts, John Stott
The Imitation of Christ, Thomas a Kempis
Desiring God, John Piper
Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis
According to Plan, Graeme Goldsworthy
Not The Way It's Supposed To Be, Cornelius Plantinga
Missionary Methods, Roland Allen
Outgrowing the Ingrown Church, Jack Miller
Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Augustine of Hippo, Peter Brown
Holiness, J.C. Ryle
The Wounded Healer, Henri Nouwen
Decision Making and the Will of God, Garry Friesen
Peacemaker, Ken Sande

This list is fascinating for a number of reasons. The first is how doctrinal it is compared to the Top 50 influential evangelical books that Christianity Today recently complied. But the second is how eclectic it is--everyone from Augustine to Wendell Berry, Jonathan Edwards to Henri Nouwen; not exactly a reading list that we would probably recommend to most potential PCA ordinands.

Or is it? One of the things that strikes me is how God uses all sorts of books and all sorts of people to do his work in his people's lives. Sometimes it is a book that I don't care for (such as Garry Friesen's Decision Making) that God uses to push an individual forward in his will. Sometimes it is a book that many other people wouldn't read (like Wendell Berry's Jayber Crow) that convinces us about the wonder of regular life doing good work in a small place.

I think, if anything, it indicates that the Spirit of God can use all sorts of things to do his good work in our lives. Such a reality should make us as ministers and authors both humble and hopeful.

No comments: