Here is my list on the best Christian books for pastors published in 2016. It includes books on various topics: New Testament Greek, major theological issues, practical theology, apologetics, and Bible commentaries.
1. Going Deeper
This new intermediate Greek grammar replaces Daniel Wallace’s Greek Grammar Beyond Basics as my favorite second year New Testament Greek grammar for self-study. I still use Wallace as my reference intermediate grammar, but Kostenberger’s Going Deeper is an updated intermediate grammar that is more accessible, especially for non-seminarians doing self-study.
2. The Cradle, The Cross and The Crown: An Introduction to the New Testament (2nd Edition)
This is the 2016 revision of the New Testament Introduction originally published in 2009. It has become my favorite introduction to the New Testament, surpassing those written by Donald Guthrie (1990) and D.A. Carson and Douglas Moo (2005).
3. The Message of the Twelve
Richard Alan Fuhr and Gary Yates have written the best overview of the 12 minor prophets I have ever read. The scholarship is sound, and they tease out the key messages pertinent to the modern reader. I recommend this book to anyone planning to read through the minor prophets.
4. The Inerrant Word: Biblical, Historical, Theological and Pastoral Perspectives
This book is a collection of articles written by evangelical Christians on the important topic of inerrancy. Contributors include John MacArthur, Mark Dever, Alistair Begg, Iain H. Murray, John Frame, Al Mohler, William Barrick, Sinclair Ferguson, Steven Lawson, and Michael Vlach.
5. A Peculiar Glory: How the Christian Scriptures Reveal Their Complete Truthfulness
John Piper remains one of the most impactful Christian authors in the 21th century. His latest book addresses the question, “Is the Bible completely true?” Piper walks the reader through various Bible passages, showing that Scripture attests, reveals, and confirms God’s peculiar glory.
6. God’s Word Alone: The Authority of Scripture
Written by Matthew Barrett, God’s Word Alone completes the final volume of the Five Sola series. The book defends the challenges, both past and present, hurled on Scripture as our final authority. The book devotes three chapters on Scripture’s role in redemptive history, and four additional chapters summarize the Reformed doctrine on Scripture as our final authority.
7. The Historical Reliability of the New Testament
Following up on his excellent treatise, Historical Reliability of the Gospels (2014), Craig Blomberg authors a new book that presents the objective evidence on the reliability of the New Testament text. He devotes 3 chapters on the Synoptics, 2 chapters on John’s gospel, 2 chapters on Acts, and 4 additional chapters on the epistles and book of Revelation. Blomberg devotes the final 3 chapters on the canon, transmission, and the problem of miracles. This book gets my highest recommendation to give readers a conservative overview on the reliability of the New Testament.
8. God the Son Incarnate: The Doctrine of Christ
Stephen Wellum continues the strong tradition of the Foundation of Evangelical Theology published by Crossway. This systematic theology series is the finest evangelical theology series of our modern era. God the Son Incarnate covers the doctrine of Christology.
Wellum covers the contemporary issues threatening the evangelical doctrines of Christ. He outlines the importance of biblical epistemology and the authority of Scripture. He then provides a thorough discussion on the deity and humanity of Christ. He walks through church history and how orthodox Christology has been preserved. The latter part of the book covers the kenosis of Christ, Trinitarian relations, and the incarnation of Christ.
Wellum’s God the Son Incarnate has become my primary reference on the doctrine of the personhood of our Lord Jesus Christ.
9. The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance – Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters
The topic of Sinclair Ferguson’s masterpiece appears esoteric. The Marrow controversy was a dispute by a small group of theologians. The issue was whether or not a person must first forsake his sins in order to come to Christ.
Although this issue may seem trivial, it has profound implications. Can repentance, which is a fruit of grace, become a qualification of grace also?
I do not normally recommend books on esoteric points of theology to the general Christian reader. But this book is a must–read for all pastors, and it is a worthy read for all Christians.
10. The Love of God
This book is the latest volume in the Theology in Community series published by Crossway. This book contains ten articles written by ten different contributors. The goal of these articles is to help the reader grow in their understanding of the meaning that “God is love.” Highlights in this book include D.A. Carson’s chapter on the problem of distorting God’s love, Andreas Kostenberger’s chapter on Jesus’ teaching on God’s love, and John Mahoney’s chapter on love within the Trinity.
11. The Extent of the Atonement
Whether you agree with David Allen’s final conclusion or not, the Extent of the Atonement is complete and thorough. Allen, using 848 pages, covers in meticulous detail all the major theologians through church history and Baptist tradition who have written on this topic. Allen cites many of the important Reformed theologians who argue for a strict limitation view. He analyzes the key verses, and he argues from Scripture and church history that the orthodox view has always been a classic moderate Calvinist view: Christ suffered for the sins of all mankind, but he had an unequal intent to save the elect. Today, you cannot study this doctrinal issue without referencing Allen’s magnum opus.
12. Conscience: What It Is, How to Train It, and Loving Those Who Differ
Andy Naselli’s book on the conscience is my favorite practical Christian living book in 2016. The book is accessible to all Christians. Naselli wrote this book not for Bible scholars but for us.
This 162 page book is the most complete book on the topic of the conscience. Naselli covers every instance that the word “conscience” is used in the Bible. He dispels common myths, and his explanation of the biblical texts are extremely clear. Special attention is given to Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8-9. This book has permanently impacted how I relate to others, especially when addressing issues when our conscience differs.
13. What About Free Will? Reconciling Our Choices with God’s Sovereignty
Scott Christensen’s book is not the first book seeking to tackle to tension of God’s sovereignty and man’s free will. However, with clarity, fairness, and gentleness, he discusses the important issues to compatibilism, the view that God’s sovereignty and human freedom and responsibility are compatible.
The reason I recommend this book is that this book addresses several practical questions:
- Why pray if God’s plan is already fixed?
- How can I avoid fatalism if everything is predetermined by God?
- How can I harmonize election with the freedom of grace?
Overall, Christensen’s book summarizes the Reformed works of spiritual giants like Jonathan Edwards, but his writing is more accessible to the average Christian reader.
14. What Happened in the Garden?
As a Christian, I have always understood Genesis 1-3 literally. God created the universe in 6 literal days. He created the universe including Adam ex nihilo. Adam and Eve, as the only two living people, sinned and brought sin into the world.
Today, this teaching is challenged in the Christian church. This book compiles articles to revisit what the Bible teaches in Genesis 1-3, and it explains its implications. Written by contributors from the Master’s University, this book is not a technical, scientific defense of the historical, literal Adam. It does succeed in acknowledging the debate as a whole and defend the soundness of the Genesis account of creation and the fall.
15. Women in the Church: An Interpretation and Application of 1 Timothy 2:9-15
The original edition of this book was written in 1995. It was revised 10 years later. In 2016, a third edition has been released. This update includes several new contributors, and all chapters have been updated or rewritten. This work remains the best starting place to understand exegetically the meaning of 1 Timothy 2:9-15 and its implications on our local church and its relationship with our society.
16. Habits of Grace: Enjoying Jesus Through the Spiritual Disciplines
David Mathis has written a worthy complement to Donald Whitney’s Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life. I still reference Whitney’s work most, but this book has two important features that distinguish itself from Whitney’s.
- Habits of Grace is only 242 pages, and it is an easier read. Spiritual Disciplines of the Christian Life is 353 pages.
- Instead of defining 10 or 11 individual spiritual disciplines, Habits of Grace groups them into three categories: God’s voice (Word), God’s ear (Prayer, and God’s people (Fellowship).
I love the simplicity of Mathis’ categorization. The Christian life and our habits of grace are simple. For Christians intimidated by longer, complicated books, I recommend Habits of Grace as an alternative to Donald Whitney’s Spiritual Disciplines.
17. None Like Him
Written by Jen Wilkin, None Like Him takes the incommunicable attribute of God that I have always known and connects them to my heart, stirring my soul to worship. In ten short chapters, Wilkins expounds on ten of God’s attributes. But justaposing God to man, Wilkins helps the reader understand our true position next to our infinite God. Each chapter closes with an exhortation to meditation and prayer. Written from a women’s point of view, this book is highly recommended for all Christians, male and female.
18. Making Sense of God
I do not auto include books by Tim Keller. Making Sense of God makes this 2016 list based on genuine merit. The Reason for God, published in 2008, was written by Keller to help readers address their doubts about the Christian faith and walk through the implications of true Christianity.
Making Sense of God is written as a precursor book. It is written to readers who may not have any current interest in considering Christianity. But comparing Christianity with secular views, Keller helps the reader reach a logical conclusion: only Christianity answers the questions and concerns that all people experience universally.
One of Keller’s strengths is his unique ability to emphasize with the doubter and skeptic. This connection allows Keller’s “incremental apologetics” to guide skeptics on the soundness of Christianity — rationally, emotionally, and culturally.
19. Romans Commentary (NIGTC) by Richard Longnecker
Written by Richard Longnecker, the NIGTC Romans commentary should be an auto–include for any pastor planning to teach through the book of Romans. This commentary has leapfrogged to the top of my list as best technical commentary on Romans. It is available in hardcover and in electronic form for most Bible software programs like Logos and Accordance.
20. Ephesians: Exegetical Guide to New Testament (EGNT) by Benjamin L. Merkle
The Exegetical Guide to the New Testament series is my favorite exegetical guide series, surpassing Baylor’s Handbooks on the New Testament and the SIL Exegetical Summary series. Merkle’s volume on Ephesians continues the high standard of the series.
21. Zechariah Commentary (NICOT) by Mark J. Boda
To simply read the minor prophets for understanding, I still recommend starting with Message of the Twelve (listed at #3 earlier). But for a detailed study of Zechariah including more discussion on exegetical and theological issues, look no further than the newest volume to the NICOT. Mark Boda’s commentary is 936 pages, and while it acknowledges the modern critical issues, it remains firmly evangelical.