I LOVE TO READ, AND THAT MEANS I READ A LOT OF BOOKS. Some books have been personal mentors. Others have just been information. They have been long forgotten. But others are deeply valued friends that have changed my thinking radically and sent me on a new trajectory. I want to pay tribute to a few in this latter class.

The Puritan Hope, by Ian Murray was my first introduction to serious thinking about eschatology, i.e. the doctrine of the future. Murray notes that our Reformed forefathers, going back to the Reformation, were mostly post millenial. They believed that Christ, before he returns, will conquer in time and space through his church. Because dispensational pre-millenial pesimissm has been the trend for the last hundred years, Murray spent several chapters explaining this theological system, how it originated, and where it came from. I found it an invaluable and fascinating read that I have recommended to many friends.

Two books from the early eighties also deeply impacted me—The Institutes of Biblical Law, by R. J. Rushdoony and How Shall We Then Live, by Francis Schaefer. Both men were influenced by Cornelius Van Til, and therefore, they were my first introduction to presuppositional apologetics. Everyone has presuppositions. They are mostly subconscious, and are held by faith. That means whether theist or atheist we live mostly by faith, not facts. Few will confess or admit to this, however.

Rushdoony’s Institutes was a deep dive into the Ten Commandments and their applicability to modern life. Schaefer’s book was a survey of the intellectual history of Western Culture. Through these books I learned the importance of ideas. Ideas always have consequences. History is the story of ideological warfare. Biblical faith and presuppositions have wonderful consequences that lead to life and human flourishing. Everything that contradicts the Bible, though, leads ultimately to death.

For a birthday in my thirties, Judy gave me Intellectuals, by Paul Johnson. Johnson, one of my favorite secular historians, argues that the modern intellecutal has replaced the clergy of the past. The secular intellectual is the Western Worlds contemporary priesthood, but the failure of this priesthood is cataclysmic. Johnson devotes chapters to men like Rousseau, Tolstoy, Marx, Ibsen, and George Bernard Shaw. In each case personal hypocrisy was the rule. They loved the world, but treated those close to them like animals. They had no capacity to love those they lived with. For example, Rousseau took a mistress, who bore him many children. After each birth he forced her to take the child to the orphange. He was a moral monster. By their fruits you will know them.

In my mid thirties I also bought the two volume Works of Jonathan Edwards. I first read his A Dissertation On The End For Which God Created The World, his opus magnus, the center of all of his thought. The thesis is that God does everything to display, and delight in, his glory. This book blew up my worldview, which was trite, man-centered, and built on a small god. It was a radical change. That was thirty-five years ago. I have been on Edward’s theological trajectory ever since.

Edwards’ Works led me to his delightful biography by George Marsden, Jonathan Edwards. I followed that up with Religious Affections, and put this most valuable book down with a completely new understanding of conversion and the work of the Holy Spirit. I also devoured about fifty of his sermons as well as Edwards other fundamental theological works, but these two left the profoundest long term influence on my thoughts.

The Puritans by Martyn Lloyd-Jones and In Quest of Godliness by J.I. Packer introduced me to the Puritans. I followed those up with biographies of Oliver Cromwell, John Bunyan, John Owen, Richard Baxter, and other 17th century heroes.

About the same time I stumbled across another 17th century book, A Harmony of the Divine Attributes, by Puritan, Dr. William Bates. For years I had seen the wrath of God and the love of God in the Bible. How to reconcile them—that was the question? Bates argued that the cross reconciles, amongst other things, God’s love and God’s wrath. It was a water shed in my thinking. The result was that I was no longer embarrassed by God’s wrath.

I want to close with three significant biographies. American Saint, Francis Asbury, by John Wigger is the first. Francis Asbury established the Methodist faith in North American. He was Wesleyan, so we have some theological differences. What impressed me though was the power of Asbury’s example. He was not a good preacher, nor a profound theologian. He was apostolic. He trained leaders. He initiated and nurtured church plants up and down the Atlantic seaboard betweeen 1780 and 1815. It was the power of his saintliness that impacted me and those who succeeded him. His numerous disciples imitated his heroic dedication. The result was that by the American Civil War, the Methodist denomination was the largest in America.

The second biography is the two volume set on George Whitefield, by Arnold Dallimore. Whitefield, like Asbury, was a saintly man. His legacy was one of stupendous spiritual power—a supernatural power that attended his preaching in a remarkable way. The only way to describe and understand it is to read this bio and pray for the same today.

The third biography were the two volumes on The Life of Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, by Ian Murray. My wife’s testimony says it all. When finished she was so moved by his life that she wept profusely. Once again, it was the story of the Holy Spirit moving a flawed man toward saintliness and great spiritual power and authority.

I could go on and on listing impactful books, but the above all had an especially notable effect on my personal life. I am writing this post with the hopes that you will read some of these yourself.