We reached out to some of our favorite scholars & theologians asking them what their top books of 2020 were.
We also asked them “What has been a chief blessing of belonging to Christ this year?” Below are their responses.
– Paul’s Works of the Law in the Second Century – Matthew Thomas
– Galatians – Jarvis Williams
– Signposts – N.T. Wright
– Reading Romans with Eastern Eyes – Jackson Wu
– The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother – James McBride
-Work and Worship: Reconnecting our Labor and Liturgy – Cory Wilson & Matthew Kaemingk (haven’t received it yet; looks promising!)
This has been a hard year for productive reading. Many months in lockdown spent homeschooling children whilst trying to work online have not been ideal circumstances for fruitful reading. I haven’t even tried to keep up with all the most high profile new books to come out this year, so this is very much a personal top five.
This autobiography by the Welsh surgeon David Nott is a frank (and in places, startling) series of reflections on his life as a medic drawn to scenes of warfare and catastrophe: Sarajevo, Syria, Afghanistan, Haiti. His own reflections on why he has made a career as a war doctor, as well as on his own Christian faith, were fascinating.
It’s hard to think of a more irenic contemporary theologian than Rich Mouw. This book is almost a piece of theological autobiography (structured as a book on the doctrine of common grace), and as such it is a delight to read.
This is a superb and creative theological work. It is quite unique. I hope others follow Covolo in bringing theology and fashion into closer conversation.
This book is a remarkable piece of pastoral theology. I can’t remember the last time I read a book that handled such consequential material about Jesus’ own persona (‘I am gentle and lowly in heart’) with such a beautifully light touch.
This new Dutch biographical work on Abraham Kuyper – not a conventional birth-to-death biography, but rather a series of seven studies on neglected aspects of Kuyper’s life – is outstanding. Biographical research on a figure like Kuyper is hard because Kuyper was an extremely complex (and thoroughly documented) figure. The degree of technical skill shown in Snel’s book is impressive. By showing us Kuyper as an alpinist, globetrotter, celebrated speaker, scholar, activist, journalist, and statesman, Snel has achieved something major. This book needs to be released in English.
– My all-time favorite book of the last decade is Sinclair Ferguson, The Whole Christ (Crossway), but I see that it was published in 2016; so by now, alas, it’s practically ancient history. (Well, it does concern the Marrow Controversy in the eighteenth century.) But if it has not appeared on your annual “top five” list in previous years, it’ worth bringing to everyone’s attention.
– I am also looking forward to Michael Reeves, Rejoice and Tremble: The Surprising Good News of the Fear of the Lord (Crossway, 2021), which is due for release January 26, 2021, since I have benefited so much from his Delighting in the Trinity (IVP Academic, 2012) and Rejoicing in Christ (IVP Academic 2015).
– The Beautiful Community – Irwin Ince
– The Wonderful Works of God – Herman Bavinck (because it was technically published this year, in updated format, but obviously also published a while ago!)
At the risk of being self-referential, I would recommend the only book I know that is a major challenge to the new anti-racism which has become its own religion. The majority of its contributors are people of color who insist that religion is essential to healing our land of its racial conflicts, but not in the ways promoted by the mainstream narrative.
– Uncommon Ground: Living Faithfully in a World of Difference – Tim Keller & John Inazu
– Reimagining Apologetics: The Beauty of Faith in a Secular Age – Justin Bailey
– The Oxford Handbook of Reformed Theology – Michael Allen & Scott Swain Eds.
– An Introduction to Theological Anthropology: Humans, Both Creaturely and Divine – Joshua Farris
– When Narcissism Comes to Church: Healing Your Community From Emotional and Spiritual Abuse – Chuck DeGroat
– On Theology: Herman Bavinck’s Academic Orations – Bruce Pass
This is a tour-de-force in thinking on divine action and historical events, particularly the Israelite exodus from Egypt and the Sinai theophany. Bartholomew’s work is fundamental to get us thinking critically on divine action in history and how others have thought about the possibility and impossibility of such a proposition. Scholarly, insightful, careful, and fresh.
MacCaulley’s work, I believe, will be fundamental for ecclesial interpretation of Scripture. Rooted in exegesis of biblical texts and grounded in a dialogue between Black experience and the Bible, I have found this to be illuminating, challenging, and rewarding.
Pennington’s work is always rich and especially so here. He helps us see how Jesus presents not cold theology but actually a way of life–wisdom–that opens the door for what may be called “the good life.” It is accessible, informed and a must-read.
OK, not 2020…but I HAD to include this one. No one has attended to the doctrine of Christ’s descent to the dead as has Emerson, who is my colleague here at Oklahoma Baptist University. He helps us all see that the descent clause in the Christian creed is not a throw-away platitude but rather a theological peak from which we can see the expansiveness of Christ’s work on our behalf. I cannot say enough about how powerful this work is for the Christian faith. If you haven’t read it, then don’t wait any longer.
The doctrine of creation is taken as a given for many followers of Jesus, but unfortunately many do not adequately understand the significance of the doctrine of creation for the Christian life. This monumental dogmatic exploration follows the contours of the Christian creeds to formulate a Neo-Kuyperian dogmatic account of creation. This volume has the capacity to be a theological classic. It presents close engagement with ancient and modern Christian thought and insodoing, Ashford and Bartholomew offer a fresh, constructive, and thoroughly biblical presentation of God and the totality of the created order. If you want to know what life is about in relation to God the Creator, then you MUST read this book.