The signs that December is upon us have arrived—lit Christmas trees, eggnog, wrapped presents, dogs in sweaters they obviously prefer not to be in, and end-of-the-year best book lists.
The last item on this list is cause for joy. Here at For the Church, we delight in few things like a good book. Indeed, we exclaim, with the great Jane Austen, that most enjoyments come up wanting when compared with the pleasures of time well-spent, in a book well-written. We affirm her dramatic expression, “I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.”
It has been a year of joy for us, then, as 2019 has afforded a number of great volumes. No doubt, this particular year has brought about the turning of thousands of pages. In fact, our commitment to books has led us to revitalize priority on book reviews late this year, a feature you will see increase in the coming days on the site.
It is out of this profound love of books that we are glad to present the third-annual For The Church Book Awards. As in years past, a selection of judges from our council, editorial staff, and seminary contributors each recommended a 2019 title that impacted them personally and/or represents a significant contribution to the Church and her pursuit of a gospel-centered faith.
Congratulations to the winners of the 2019 For The Church Book Awards. They are as follows:
DR. ALLEN’S PICK
"The 21st Century has brought with it a Pandora’s box of experimentation and innovation on the most essential aspects of human identity and expression, sexually and otherwise. Evangelical Christians are being inundated with questions about human identity, sexuality, and experience. Answering these questions with biblical and theological truth is essential for a faithful Christian witness.
Playing off Charles Taylor’s work, Strachan proves up to the challenge in Reenchanting Humanity:A Theology of Mankind. Strachan sets forth not just a treatise on moral expectations, but an informed argument, martialing the full complement of Scripture and theology. On the doctrine of anthropology, Strachan is one of this generation’s most gifted thinkers and convictional spokespersons. Reenchanting Humanity is a gift for the church; a gift the church should receive and employ."
- Dr. Jason K. Allen, President of Midwestern Seminary and FTC Editor in Chief
Runner-up: Leadership in War: Essential Lessons from those Who Made History by Andrew Roberts
"This book chronicles the city of Oxford through the many literary giants that inhabited the 'City of Dreaming Spires' during the early twentieth century—and does so with a creative eye using the fictional character Jay Gatsby as a guide. The result is an introduction to a city of phenomenal importance for the shaping of modern literature, and Christian literature as well. Through Snyder’s clever prose, the reader encounters Oxford first as the medieval 'community of masters and scholars' that grew to be known as the 'little city of learning and laughter,' 'the most beautiful thing in England,' and a city where 'books seem to be so thoroughly native of the place.' Walking with this book, for pedestrians navigate Oxford best, the Christian reader encounters Wyclif, Cranmer, Ridley, Latimer, Lewis, Tolkien, and Sayers—but these make up just half of all the literati presented in Gatsby’s Oxford. The only thing better than Snyder’s book is a visit to the city that John Keats called, 'the finest in the world' for oneself."
- Dr. Jason Duesing, Provost of Midwestern Seminary and FTC Editorial Council Member
Runner-up: The Story of Creeds and Confessions: Tracing the Development of the Christian Faith by Donald Fairbairn and Ryan Reeves.
"I always cringe when someone says 'I’m not creative.' In one sense, I know exactly what they mean: they prefer spreadsheets to sonatas. But Scripture tell us that Man is made in the image of a creative God and is therefore called to a life of creativity. If this is true, creativity is not only something we do, but also is something we are. In his book Adorning The Dark, Andrew Peterson explores this reality, helping Christians understand and cherish the glorious reality of creativity."
- Charles Smith, Vice President of Institutional Relations at Midwestern Seminary and FTC Editorial Council member
Runner-up: The Common Rule: Habits of Purpose for an Age of Distraction by Justin Earley
“This latest work from Smith is an incisive ethnography of the heart of Western Christianity and at the same time a stirring cartography of the individual human soul. I found the book both intellectually stimulating and emotionally moving. The chapter on Fathers is alone worth the price of the book, but the whole thing is a journey worth joining. I read it in one sitting and loved every mile.”
- Jared C. Wilson, Assistant Professor at Spurgeon College and FTC General Editor
Runner-up: Who is an Evangelical?: The History of a Movement in Crisis by Thomas S. Kidd
"In this collaborative work, 27 different women of color walk through all of Psalm 119, expounding on the psalm and its truth. There are poems, stories, and sound exegesis woven throughout this work. Given that the voices of women of color are historically forgotten or ignored in the church, this rich work puts a megaphone in front of many of them and it is well worth a listen. I was encouraged by the reminder on every page of this book that God’s Word exists not just to give us knowledge, but to change our lives. We desperately need His Word, and I am thankful for the hard work of these women to herald that truth through this book."
- Allyson Todd, FTC Editorial Assistant
Runner Up: Humble Calvinism by J.A. Medders
"As believers, we deal fundamentally with truth. When it is not present—that is, when falsehood or the possibility of it abounds—we engage in the pursuit of truth for the glory of God and the good of others. Placed along the way, in this pursuit, is a mile-marker in the form of Who Is An Evangelical?—an expert-level, historically-thorough, convicting, and motivating volume that arrives at just the right time. Not doubt you've heard of "evangelicals," but who are they really? Thomas Kidd unravels the mystery, identifying the factors that have contributed to the popular identification of evangelicals according to strict ethnic and political markers. Come looking for a definition-of-terms and find much more. This is a brilliant take on where evangelicals came from and have been, where they are today, and what's in store for the future."
Mike Brooks, FTC Associate Editor
Runner-up: Confronting Christianity: 12 Hard Questions for the World’s Largest Religion by Rebecca McLaughlin
"There is much to love about Kevin Vanhoozer’s theological ministry. Year after year, he has aided the church in tearing down false dichotomies between doctrine and practice, in knowing our roles in the theodrama, in seeing in the mirror of Scripture, in interpreting the Bible theologically, and in being administers of reality. The amazement of Hearers and Doers is found in the reality that all these themes, and more, are present in just 296 pages. In this brief volume, Vanhoozer hands the tools of doctrine and Scripture to the pastor in order to make his people spiritually fit. The overwhelming takeaway for the reader is the realization that the distance between their mind and their heart might not be as far as they once imagined and that doctrine aids our role-playing in God’s grand theatre."
- Ronni Kurtz, FTC Managing Editor
Runner-up: The Care of Souls: Cultivating a Pastor’s Heart by Harold Senkbeil
"Herein we have doctrine, devotion, and doxology and to the point that while reading None Greater, one hardly knows when he is in which distinct but inseparable reality! One moment Barrett has you up at the altitude of divinity where your faculties begin to break down and then, in the next moment, you are rushed into hearty, bracing, and praise evoking truth that the Godhead is not like you and that that is a good thing."
- Sam Bierig, Dean of Spurgeon College
Runner-up: Reading Scripture Canonically: Theological Instincts for Old Testament Interpretation by Mark Gignilliat
"Evangelicals are known for many things, but the Doctrine of God is not one of them. With the reformed resurgence has come a renewed zeal for the doctrines
of grace and the sovereignty of God. Ironically, that resurgence has also exposed our negligence of theology proper. We claim to have recovered a big view of God, but when tested on its basic trinitarian tenets we come up short. As a result, the ghost of orthodoxy past haunts us, revealing our inability to discern Trinity drift. Without realizing it, we sometimes are far more indebted to modernism’s social trinitarianism than we are to an orthodox, Nicene trinitarianism. This was not always the case: the reformed tradition that followed the Reformation was prolific and its doctrine of God exemplified the retrieval of orthodoxy. Praise God (!) that we live in a day when post-Reformation reformed scholastics are being resurrected, fresh translations and all. This year the second volume of Petrus Van Mastricht’s Theoretical-Practical Theology hit the shelves: Faith in the Triune God. This Dutch theologian will (re)introduce evangelicals to doctrines like eternal generation, which used to be basic to an articulation of Christ’s deity, and recover attributes like God’s simplicity and immutability, which evangelicals have for too long modified or abandoned. In the process, this Dutch pastor will bring you into communion with the triune God much as he did his own congregation. Dig in!"
- Dr. Matthew Barrett, Associate Professor of Christian Theology at Midwestern Seminary
Runner-up: Revelation and God, Vol. 1 of Reformed Systematic Theology by Joel R. Beeke and Paul M. Smalley
"Before his tragic death in 2017, Michael Ovey established himself as one of the preeminent theologians of our time. This new book, released after his death (with minor editorial work by Ovey's very gifted friend, Mark Thompson), shows the strength of Ovey's theological program. A dogged biblical exegete, Ovey combs texts penned by Luke to compile a doctrine of repentance. Ovey does not leave his interpretation disconnected, however; in scythe-like sentences, he applies the truth he is harvesting, noting at one point the danger of unrepentant men taking pulpits: an unrepentant minister 'will simply preach a gospel void of repentance' (37). A hair-raising thought, this."
In addition, Ovey's book succeeds in critiquing the conception of gospel proclamation proferred some time ago by N. T. Wright. The declaration 'Jesus is Lord' is gloriously true, but does not occasion repentance in the way that the biblical announcement of the sinner's inexhaustible legal condemnation surely does. This is, like all Ovey's writings, a very short but very potent book that every ministry leader should carefully ponder."
- Dr. Owen Strachan, Associate Professor of Christian Theology at Midwestern Seminary
Runner-up: Leadership in War: Essential Lessons from Those Who Made History by Andrew Roberts