The Year in Books
I have always enjoyed recommending books, and for the final “Beyond the Wicket Gate” column of 2010, I thought it might be helpful to share some of the significant books that have been published so far this year, books that you may not have heard about but should consider reading. This list is not exhaustive. I have not seen all of the books published this year, and even if I had, it is humanly impossible to read them all. It is inevitable, therefore, that there will be great books missing from this list. Furthermore, since I am writing several months before this column will be published, I will miss some of those books published later in the year.
The year 2009 was a good year for Reformed believers because it was the 500th anniversary of John Calvin’s birth, and this anniversary prompted the publication of numerous books related to Calvin and Calvinism. The flow of such books did not cease in 2010. Reformation Heritage Books published Piety’s Wisdom: A Summary of Calvin’s Institutes by J. Mark Beach, a professor at Mid-America Reformed Seminary. The same publisher also released Calvin: Theologian and Reformer, edited by Joel R. Beeke and Garry J. Williams. This volume contains seven brief chapters dealing with the life, the work, and the theology of Calvin. A much larger volume was published in the Calvin 500 Series by P&R Publishing. This work is edited by David Hall and is titled Tributes to John Calvin. It is a collection of twenty-three academic papers presented at an assembly gathered in Geneva to celebrate the anniversary of Calvin’s birth.
This year seems to have been a slow one thus far for exceptional commentaries. There are exceptions, however. The Pillar New Testament Commentary series published by Eerdmans and edited by D.A. Carson continues to compete with Pixar Animation for the longest continuous series of great releases. Early this year, Eerdmans added a substantive 600-page commentary on Hebrews by Peter T. O’Brien to its Pillar series. This one belongs in every pastor’s library. By the time this column is published, Eerdmans will have also added a commentary on 1 Corinthians to the Pillar series. There are a number of other commentaries that should be available by the time this column is published. Baker Academic is adding a commentary on Ephesians to its Baker Exegetical Commentaries series. Eerdmans is adding a commentary on Hosea to its New International Commentary on the Old Testament series and commentaries on the Gospel of John and the Epistle of James to its New International Commentary on the New Testament series. Both New Testament commentaries are replacing older works in the series.
Two must-reads related in one way or another to Christianity and culture are David VanDrunen’s Natural Law and the Two Kingdoms and James Davison Hunter’s To Change the World. VanDrunen’s work traces the development of the doctrine of natural law and the “two-kingdoms” concept in Reformed thought from the sixteenthcentury to the present. Hunter’s work analyzes the failure of the common Christian view of its world-changing task and criticizes the tactics of the Christian right, the Christian left, and the neo-Anabaptists before offering an alternative proposal. Neither book will convince every reader, but both publications make important contributions to the discussion of culture among Christians.
Several significant works for students of systematic and historical theology were released this year. Christian Focus published a small book that should become required reading for every seminary student. The Trials of Theology, edited by Andrew J.B. Cameron and Brian S. Rosner, contains several essays by luminaries such as Augustine, Luther, Spurgeon, and Warfield on how to navigate the dangers of theological study. It also contains several essays by contemporary authors such as Carson, Carl Trueman, and Gerald Bray focusing on specific areas of theological study.
Reformation Heritage Books published the second volume of Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation. This volume contains translations of thirty-five Reformed confessions written between 1552 and 1566. Some, such as the Belgic Confession, are well known. Others, such as the Confession of Piotrków, are not. By the time this column is published, Reformation Heritage will also have published the works of the great Reformed theologian Herman Witsius. This five-volume set will include a reprint of his classic work on covenant theology, The Economy of the Covenants Between God and Man, and his commentaries on the Apostles’ Creed and the Lord’s Prayer.
Students of the early church and patristic theology welcomed the second edition of Frances Young’s From Nicaea to Chalcedon, one of the most helpful introductions to the writings of the fourth and fifth centuries. Finally, InterVarsity Press has published Shapers of Christian Orthodoxy, a collection of essays on several important early and medieval theologians, from Irenaeus to Aquinas. For Christian bibliophiles, it has been another very good year.