Today I thought I'd list the top ten books that I have read that have profoundly influenced me. These are books that have shaped my thinking in areas like theology, life, church, and hermeneutics. So without further adieu, here is my top ten in descending order.
10. The Quest for the Radical Middle: A History of the Vineyard, by Bill Jackson
I just finished up this one last week and loved it! Jackson takes the reader almost literally step-by-step through the Vineyard Movement's history from its background in the 1960s to 1999 when Todd Hunter led the Vineyard. My only complaint is that this book is long overdue for a revision. It only goes up to 1999 and other significant themes have impacted the Vineyard since like Bert Waggoner taking over for Todd Hunter, the emerging church, and the egalitarian controversy. It still is an excellent book and every Vineyard church member should read it.
9. End Time Delusions, by Steve Wohlberg
This book is key to my transition from the pre-tribulation rapture view to the post-trib view. It also opened me up to the possibility that futurism and preterism aren't the only interpretive options for biblical prophecy and the book of Revelation. One knock on the book is that Wohlberg is apparently a Seventh-Day Adventist and he takes a bit of a hostile tone toward those who disagree with him, particularly dispensationalists, almost consigning them to hell. That is not an overstatement. Also, while dismantling both futurism and preterism, his historicism is regrettably not a better alternative. But it did open me up to eventually embracing idealism.
8. The Cross-Centered Life, by C.J. Mahaney
This is a classic, and a very quick and easy read. Mahaney very deftly deals with issues that many Christians face like legalism and condemnation by taking us back to the cross. This is reformed soteriology at its best.
7. Some Messianic Jews Say: Messianic Judaism is Not Christianity, by Stan Telchin
This book was another quick and easy read. Telchin basically said in that book what I had been thinking for quite some time. He lays out some of the problems in the Messianic movement (legalism, elitism, divisiveness, etc...)while still appreciating its strengths. Although Telchin apparently has some serious family problems that have opened up questions as to his credibility, this is none-the-less an excellent critique of Messianic Judaism written by a former insider.
6. Messianic Christology, by Arnold Fruchtenbaum
Ironically next on my list is this one written by a Messianic Jewish believer. This book deals with messianic prophecies fulfilled by Jesus' first advent. He self-consciencously does not deal with second-coming prophecies (which is good because Fruchtenbaum is a dispensationalist), and shows that only Jesus of Nazareth fulfills the requirements of being Israel's Messiah. Some of the chapters also lay a very solid foundation for the Hebraic basis of Trinitarianism. I highly recommend this one especially for those interested in messianic prophecy.
5. Decision Making and the Will of God, by Gary Friesen
This was another paradigm shattering book for me. Friesen's thesis is that Scripture does not teach that God has an individual will for each believer. That is, I am not necessarily supposed to marry so-and-so or get such-and-such a job. He shows that taken to consistecy, I may have put on the wrong pair of socks this morning! Friesen then suggests that Christians should use wisdom given in Scripture to make life decisions.
4. The Word and Power Church, by Douglas Banister
I stumbled upon this one at my employer's sale rack and grabbed instantly. Banister does a fantastic job showing how both solid exegesis and expository preaching go hand-in-hand with praying for healing and receiving prophetic words. He details his own journey from being a good evangelical pastor to managing charismatic gifts in his church. He also shows how a good word and power church should function living in the tension. His overview of charismatic gifts in church history isn't bad either. Every reformed charismatic guy should read this one.
3. Convergence: Spiritual Journeys of a Charismatic Calvinist, by Sam Storms
This is one in the same vein as Banister's book. I actually met Storms earlier this year and got this one signed. Storms spends the first part of the book detailing his own journey similar to Doug Banister's from a cessationist Bible church pastor to Metro Vineyard staff member, to Wheaton college professor, to president of Enjoying God Ministries. This guy actually rubbed elbows with Mike Bickle, Paul Cain, John Wimber, and others among the Kansas City Prophets and leadership of the Vineyard movement. The second part of the book deals with the divide between word-oriented cessationists and the more experiential Pentecostal/Charismatics. He ably shows how both word and spirit (or word and power) compliment each other. Another classic in the burgeoning Reformed Charismatic world.
2. Abraham's Four Seeds: A Biblical Examination of the Presuppositions of Covenant Theology and Dispensationalism, by John G. Reisinger
This was my introduction to New Covenant Theology and what an intro it was! Reisinger shows how both Dispensationalism and Covenant Theology have hermeneutical starting points that don't mesh with scripture. He capably shows that as he puts it, "The nation of Israel was not the 'Body of Christ,' even though the Body of Christ is indeed the true 'Israel of God.' I believe this is one of the most true statements of theology I've ever read. The only knock on it is that Reisinger spends, in my opinion anyway, too much time defending believer baptism (he is a Baptist, so I guess it's understandable). The other complaint is that I think he spends most of his energy critiquing Covenant Theology and too little on Dispensationalism. Even still though, I think one of his most positive contributions is in the realm of hermeneutics. That is, I think he shows very well that the OT is to be interpreted by the NT. Very good and stimulating reading.
1. Surprised by the Power of the Spirit: Discovering How God Speaks and Heals Today, by Jack Deere
This book is a landmark achievement in articulating a sound exegetical basis for continuationism. As with Banister and Storms, Deere tells his story of going from cessationist to continuationist including a stop at the Vineyard Christian Fellowship of Anaheim with John Wimber. Deere shows how miraculous gifts did not cease with the apostles and that it was not only the apostles who could do miracles. He gives fascinating and emotional anecdotes to compliment his exegesis, which is exemplary. Also, he has some good chapters on cultivating intimacy with God that challenge me even today. Deere is easily one of the most influential figures among evangelical continuationists and reformed charismatics. This book easily deserves to be number one on my list. I would recommend it to anyone!
Well there you have it. These are the books that have been the most influential to me in my Christian life. Other books could have made the list, but I thought ten was a good number. I also have a huge list of books that I have yet to read. Maybe as time goes on, I'll modify my list, but for now, these are the best.
In Christ Jesus,