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THEOLOGY
1. R.C. Sproul, The Holiness of God
This will go down as one of the classics of the twentieth century. God is other, and this little book will navigate you through the trauma of encountering a holy God and finding peace with him through Jesus Christ. "What is significant about [Christ's calming of the storm] is that the disciples' fear increased after the threat of the storm was removed. The storm had made them afraid. Jesus' action to still the storm made them more afraid. In the power of Christ they met something more frightening than they had ever met in nature. They were in the presence of the holy."

2. Edwin Palmer, The Five Points of Calvinism
Palmer was Executive Secretary of the New International Version of the Bible (NIV). While Sproul's Chosen By God gives a better presentation of the concepts surrounding the doctrine of predestination, Palmer's book has a much more thorough treatment of the biblical passages that touch on the matter. This is a must read for any Christian who longs to better grasp the power of God's grace.

3. A.W. Pink, The Attributes of God
Pink was filled with a passion for God, as displayed in this collection of essays from the first half of the twentieth century. There are a few points where I don't agree with his applications, but he gives a faithful presentation of God's self-revelation in glory and grace.


THE CHURCH & HER MISSION
4. Philip Graham Ryken, The Communion of Saints
"Church has become a place to go rather than a community to which we belong. Yet the truth is that there is no such thing as private Christianity." In a consumer-driven culture that makes churches and worship services into products to be evaluated based on their ability to "meet my needs," American Christians desperately need to learn to give themselves to the church.

5. John Piper, Let the Nations be Glad
"Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn't." This book places the church's mission on its proper footing. It's not all about us. It's not even ultimately about saving souls. It's about God calling out a people to praise him. "The most passionate heart for God in all the universe is God's heart." If you haven't had the pleasure of reading Piper, you're missing a lot. It's like reading Jonathan Edwards, only in contemporary English. His books are God-intoxicated and filled will concern for the affections and their proper resting place in God.

6. C. John Miller, Outgrowing the Ingrown Church
Jack Miller, formerly of Westminster Theological Seminary, is perhaps best known for his Sonship course. This, however, is Miller at his best. No church leader can read this volume without a deep repentance for unbelief and a renewed sense of Christ's missionary power and presence among us. Miller writes, "The local church was intended by Jesus to be a gathering of people full of faith--strong in their confidence in Him--not a gathering of religious folk who desperately need reassurance.... After Spain I saw the introverted church no longer as partly out of line with the divine will, but radically disobedient to it... At bottom, this is unbelief based on a secularized ignorance of the Spirit's power."


THE CHRISTIAN LIFE
7. Jerry Bridges, Transforming Grace
"My observation is that most of us tend to base our personal relationship with God on our performance instead of on His grace." Bridges combats the same tendency Martin Luther observed--which Paul also combats in his letter to the Galatians--the tendency to start the Christian life by grace through faith, then continue in it in reliance upon our works. This book is pure freedom for the soul enslaved to the performance treadmill.

8. Jerry Bridges, The Pursuit of Holiness
Lest you think that Jerry Bridges is promoting cheap grace, you should know he wrote the proverbial book on holiness. Targeting the shallow and wrong belief that we should "stop trying and start trusting" in our quest to live in obedience to God, Bridges gives an excellent discussion of sin's tactics in us, our new life in Christ, and the call to "put to death" the misdeeds of the body. His exegesis of Romans 6 is particularly helpful for new creatures in Christ who struggle with the abiding power of indwelling sin. (That would be all Christians, by the way.)

9. Michael Horton, The Law of Perfect Freedom
Horton writes, "If God really is in charge, there is no 'perfect will' we step in and out of, depending on how good we are at reading tea leaves or discerning 'signs' of God's leading.... To those seeking God's will for their life, the prophet Micah replies, 'He has shown you, O man, what is good.'" This meditation on the Ten Commandments also includes an opening chapter on interpreting the Old Testament Mosaic law, including the distinction between moral, ceremonial and civil laws and the three uses of the law for Christians today.


APOLOGETICS
10. Francis Schaeffer, He is There & He is Not Silent
In the late 1960s, Schaeffer went back to the most basic of our human assumptions to present Christianity as the sole answer to the human dilemma. Academic philosophers may quibble about his interpretation of Kierkegaard, but Schaeffer wasn't trying to philosophize. His goal was evangelism, and his argument is one I've followed ever since I first came across the book a decade ago. He spoke in the language of the non-Christian, and is still being heard. If I had my way, everyone raised in a Christian home would be required to read this book, just so they'd know how to communicate Christianity to people who don't already accept "The Bible says so" as an answer.

"The dilemma of modern man is simple: he does not know why man has any meaning. He is lost. Man remains a zero. This is the damnation of our generation, the heart of modern man's problem. But if we begin with a personal beginning and this is the origin of all else, then the personal does have meaning, and man and his aspirations are not meaningless....

"There is only one philosophy, one religion, that fills this need in all the world's thought, whether the East, the West, the ancient, the modern, the new, the old. Only one fills the philosophical need of existence, of being, and it is the Judaeo-Christian God--not just an abstract concept, but rather that this God is really there. He really exists. There is no other answer."


BEING A CHRISTIAN IN OUR CULTURE
11. J.I. Packer, Hot Tub Religion
This collection contains ten of the best articles ever written, including chapters on guidance, pleasure, church reformation, depression, God's plan, and physical health. Packer opens by comparing the work of a theologian to sewage treatment. The theologian is God's sewage treatment plant for the church. If this is so, then Packer treats a lot of sewage in these short chapters.

12. Greg Johnson, The World According to God
If I didn't think you should read it, I wouldn't have taken the time to write it. Here's a quote from the final chapter: "We aren't going to heaven. Heaven is coming to us.... God isn't going to annihilate his favorite planet. When Jesus said the meek would inherit the earth, he wasn't promising them a heap of ashes (Mt 5:5). Of course, if they really were meek, they'd be content with ashes, but that's not the point."

Sample Chapters:

If I could start over from scratch as a new Christian with just twelve books (other than the Bible), these would be the twelve. Imagine that, starting over without the false teaching, man-centered emphasis, self-reliance or separatism. There are alternatives to zero-content "Christian" books and all those awful little truisms that aren't really true. In these little books you'll find authentic Christianity with biblical balance, historical insight, and contemporary relevance.

I'm not selling these, but eleven of the twelve are available at Amazon.com.
the reading list
If I could start over from scratch as a new Christian with just twelve books (other than the Bible), these would be the twelve. Imagine that, starting over without the false teaching, man-centered emphasis, self-reliance or separatism. There are alternatives to zero-content "Christian" books and all those awful little truisms that aren't really true. In these little books you'll find authentic Christianity with biblical balance, historical insight, and contemporary relevance.

I'm not selling these, but eleven of the twelve are available at Amazon.com.
THEOLOGY
1. R.C. Sproul, The Holiness of God
This will go down as one of the classics of the twentieth century. God is other, and this little book will navigate you through the trauma of encountering a holy God and finding peace with him through Jesus Christ. "What is significant about [Christ's calming of the storm] is that the disciples' fear increased after the threat of the storm was removed. The storm had made them afraid. Jesus' action to still the storm made them more afraid. In the power of Christ they met something more frightening than they had ever met in nature. They were in the presence of the holy."

2. Edwin Palmer, The Five Points of Calvinism
Palmer was Executive Secretary of the New International Version of the Bible (NIV). While Sproul's Chosen By God gives a better presentation of the concepts surrounding the doctrine of predestination, Palmer's book has a much more thorough treatment of the biblical passages that touch on the matter. This is a must read for any Christian who longs to better grasp the power of God's grace.

3. A.W. Pink, The Attributes of God
Pink was filled with a passion for God, as displayed in this collection of essays from the first half of the twentieth century. There are a few points where I don't agree with his applications, but he gives a faithful presentation of God's self-revelation in glory and grace.


THE CHURCH & HER MISSION
4. Philip Graham Ryken, The Communion of Saints
"Church has become a place to go rather than a community to which we belong. Yet the truth is that there is no such thing as private Christianity." In a consumer-driven culture that makes churches and worship services into products to be evaluated based on their ability to "meet my needs," American Christians desperately need to learn to give themselves to the church.

5. John Piper, Let the Nations be Glad
"Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn't." This book places the church's mission on its proper footing. It's not all about us. It's not even ultimately about saving souls. It's about God calling out a people to praise him. "The most passionate heart for God in all the universe is God's heart." If you haven't had the pleasure of reading Piper, you're missing a lot. It's like reading Jonathan Edwards, only in contemporary English. His books are God-intoxicated and filled will concern for the affections and their proper resting place in God.

6. C. John Miller, Outgrowing the Ingrown Church
Jack Miller, formerly of Westminster Theological Seminary, is perhaps best known for his Sonship course. This, however, is Miller at his best. No church leader can read this volume without a deep repentance for unbelief and a renewed sense of Christ's missionary power and presence among us. Miller writes, "The local church was intended by Jesus to be a gathering of people full of faith--strong in their confidence in Him--not a gathering of religious folk who desperately need reassurance.... After Spain I saw the introverted church no longer as partly out of line with the divine will, but radically disobedient to it... At bottom, this is unbelief based on a secularized ignorance of the Spirit's power."


THE CHRISTIAN LIFE
7. Jerry Bridges, Transforming Grace
"My observation is that most of us tend to base our personal relationship with God on our performance instead of on His grace." Bridges combats the same tendency Martin Luther observed--which Paul also combats in his letter to the Galatians--the tendency to start the Christian life by grace through faith, then continue in it in reliance upon our works. This book is pure freedom for the soul enslaved to the performance treadmill.

8. Jerry Bridges, The Pursuit of Holiness
Lest you think that Jerry Bridges is promoting cheap grace, you should know he wrote the proverbial book on holiness. Targeting the shallow and wrong belief that we should "stop trying and start trusting" in our quest to live in obedience to God, Bridges gives an excellent discussion of sin's tactics in us, our new life in Christ, and the call to "put to death" the misdeeds of the body. His exegesis of Romans 6 is particularly helpful for new creatures in Christ who struggle with the abiding power of indwelling sin. (That would be all Christians, by the way.)

9. Michael Horton, The Law of Perfect Freedom
Horton writes, "If God really is in charge, there is no 'perfect will' we step in and out of, depending on how good we are at reading tea leaves or discerning 'signs' of God's leading.... To those seeking God's will for their life, the prophet Micah replies, 'He has shown you, O man, what is good.'" This meditation on the Ten Commandments also includes an opening chapter on interpreting the Old Testament Mosaic law, including the distinction between moral, ceremonial and civil laws and the three uses of the law for Christians today.


APOLOGETICS
10. Francis Schaeffer, He is There & He is Not Silent
In the late 1960s, Schaeffer went back to the most basic of our human assumptions to present Christianity as the sole answer to the human dilemma. Academic philosophers may quibble about his interpretation of Kierkegaard, but Schaeffer wasn't trying to philosophize. His goal was evangelism, and his argument is one I've followed ever since I first came across the book a decade ago. He spoke in the language of the non-Christian, and is still being heard. If I had my way, everyone raised in a Christian home would be required to read this book, just so they'd know how to communicate Christianity to people who don't already accept "The Bible says so" as an answer.

"The dilemma of modern man is simple: he does not know why man has any meaning. He is lost. Man remains a zero. This is the damnation of our generation, the heart of modern man's problem. But if we begin with a personal beginning and this is the origin of all else, then the personal does have meaning, and man and his aspirations are not meaningless....

"There is only one philosophy, one religion, that fills this need in all the world's thought, whether the East, the West, the ancient, the modern, the new, the old. Only one fills the philosophical need of existence, of being, and it is the Judaeo-Christian God--not just an abstract concept, but rather that this God is really there. He really exists. There is no other answer."


BEING A CHRISTIAN IN OUR CULTURE
11. J.I. Packer, Hot Tub Religion
This collection contains ten of the best articles ever written, including chapters on guidance, pleasure, church reformation, depression, God's plan, and physical health. Packer opens by comparing the work of a theologian to sewage treatment. The theologian is God's sewage treatment plant for the church. If this is so, then Packer treats a lot of sewage in these short chapters.

12. Greg Johnson, The World According to God
If I didn't think you should read it, I wouldn't have taken the time to write it. Here's a quote from the final chapter: "We aren't going to heaven. Heaven is coming to us.... God isn't going to annihilate his favorite planet. When Jesus said the meek would inherit the earth, he wasn't promising them a heap of ashes (Mt 5:5). Of course, if they really were meek, they'd be content with ashes, but that's not the point."

Sample Chapters:

Twelve months.


Twelve hours.


Twelve tribes.


Twelve apostles.


Twelve gates.


Seems a motif.





Try twelve books.

Try these twelve.


St. Louis
Center for

Christian
Study