Jan 16, 2015

My 10 Favorite Theology Reads of 2014

6 Min Read

Some people think it's somewhat narcissistic and arrogant to put together Top Ten Lists for others to read. "Why should anyone care what YOU think?" they ask. It's a fair question, I suppose, but I've never really looked at such lists in that way. I assume the people putting them together are like me in some ways. They are excited to share what they've enjoyed. If you don't mind recommending a good restaurant or a good hotel to a friend, there's no reason to get upset when people want to recommend good books.

I'm calling this article "My 10 Favorite Theology Reads of 2014" for a couple of reasons. First, it allows me to be completely honest about the subjective nature of this list. These are the books I read in 2014 that I enjoyed the most for one reason or another. Your favorites may be different. Second, it means that this list includes books I read this year. It doesn't necessarily mean the books were all published this year. My stack of "To be Read" books sometimes grows faster than I can read.

No attempt has been made to arrange these in any particular order.

  1. Jeremy Treat, The Crucified King: Atonement and Kingdom in Biblical and Systematic Theology (Zondervan, 2014)—I found this to be a thought-provoking book on the relationship between two concepts that are often treated as if they were unrelated: the kingdom of God and the atoning work of Christ. Herman Ridderbos spends about six pages on this topic in his The Coming of the Kingdom. Treat provides the necessary expansion that has been needed for a long time.
  2. Kara Tippetts, The Hardest Peace (David C. Cook, 2014)—The Hardest Peace was the hardest book for me to read last year, not because it is a bad book, but because it hit so close to home. Kara is the wife of a PCA church planter in Colorado. She was diagnosed with cancer, and this book is her story. At the time I am writing this, Kara Tippetts is in hospice. She will be seeing our Savior soon. Because of my own wife's diagnosis with cancer in the Fall of 2013, I couldn't read this book without breaking down at times. Kara's letters to her husband and children are beautiful but painful. Despite the pain, this is a hope-filled, encouraging book because it is a book that is focused on the One who will ultimately heal every disease and wipe away every tear.
  3. Franciscus Junius, A Treatise on True Theology (Reformation Heritage Books, 2014)—This book is one of the most important early Reformed treatises on subjects that usually fall under the heading of theological prolegomena (e.g. the nature, sources, and methods of theology). It was profoundly influential on the development of Reformed theology, but it has never, until now, been translated into English. A must-read for those interested in the early development of Reformed theology.
  4. Douglas Kelly, Systematic Theology, Vol. 2, The Beauty of Christ: A Trinitarian Vision (Mentor, 2014)—This is the second volume of a projected 4 volume systematic theology. I enjoyed this one so much that I rewrote the syllabus for my own Christology class in order to incorporate readings from it. I really appreciate that Kelly's work is grounded in extensive exegesis of Scripture and at the same time in constant conversation with the great exegetes and theologians of the past.
  5. Hans Van Loon, The Dyophysite Christology of Cyril of Alexandria (Brill, 2009)—Dutch academic publishers apparently buy their paper and ink from the elves of Lothlorien, and as a result this is easily the most expensive book on this list. However, for those who are interested in the development of Christological doctrine in the early church, it is an invaluable study. Given his theological influence over the councils of Ephesus, Chalcedon, and Second Constantinople, Cyril of Alexandria is easily the most important early church father that most Protestants have never heard of, and this study goes a long way in providing a better understanding of his thought.
  6. Amy Nelson Burnett, Karlstadt and the Origins of the Eucharistic Controversy (Oxford, 2011)—If you are interested in the doctrine of the Lord's Supper and the historical debates surrounding it, you will find this a most useful volume. After reading it, I can only hope that Burnett eventually completes her originally intended goal of writing a history of the entire Eucharistic controversy.
  7. Stephen C. Meyer, Darwin's Doubt (HarperOne, 2013)—I enjoyed Meyer's first major book, The Signature in the Cell, so I was looking forward to this one. Although more technical in many places, I was not disappointed. It is one of the most thoughtful critiques of neo-Darwinism that I have seen.
  8. John Williamson Nevin and Charles Hodge, Coena Mystica: Debating Reformed Eucharistic Theology (Wipf & Stock, 2013)—This book contains the text of one of the most fascinating theology debates in American history, the mid-nineteenth century debate between Charles Hodge and John Williamson Nevin over the Lord's Supper. This volume contains materials that have not been printed since the 1840s and which existed only in a handful of libraries. The editors of this series (The Mercersburg Theology Study Series) have done historians of American church history a great service by bringing these materials back into print.
  9. L. Michael Morales, The Tabernacle Pre-Figured (Peeters, 2012)—I cannot remember whether I read this in early 2014 or late 2013, but either way, it deserves mention. Dr. Morales served as a colleague at Reformation Bible College for four years, and this book is a reworking of his doctoral dissertation. In it, he examines the creation, flood, and exodus narratives in light of the cosmic mountain theme that runs throughout the Bible. A goldmine for students of biblical theology.
  10. James T. Dennison, Jr., ed. Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation, 4 vols. (Reformation Heritage Books, 2008–2014)—When the first volume of this collection of Reformed confessions came out in 2008, I could not wait to see it completed. I mention it here, not because I've read the entire set but because it is such a helpful reference work and because the fourth and final volume was published in 2014. This set is well worth the investment.

Dr. Keith Mathison is professor of Systematic Theology at Reformation Bible College.