This is a SlimJim inspired post, after reading his best books list, I thought I would add mine. Now please realize, that if I finish reading a book, it falls into my “best books” category since I tend to set aside books I don’t like. Although, I also have say that there are books that fall into the “best” category but I had to set aside for a while because there was a more pressing issue and I have not finished them yet. Here are four that I did finish for the year.
Best Book On Worship
This would have to be D.G. Hart and John R. Muether’s With Reverence and Awe. This book really helped lay out the Reformed position on worship by establishing the Regulative Principle of Worship as biblical, and by showing that the RPW keeps us from falling into the temptation of our own imaginations when it comes to worship.
“What drove the starkness of Reformed worship was the conviction that worship that included unbiblical embellishments was a violation of the regulative principle. As the Westminster Confession puts it, ‘the acceptable way of worshiping the true God is instituted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshiped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scripture’ (21.1).
Calvin described two advantages to worship regulated in this manner: ‘First, it tends greatly to establish [God’s] authority that we do not follow our own pleasure, but depend entirely on his sovereignty; and secondly, such is our folly, that when we are left at liberty, all we are able to do is to go astray’ (p. 148).”
By ignoring this principle, we end up with progressive pastors adding dancing men in tights to the worship service. We need the RPW just as much as we need God’s Law. It helps keep us from making the mistakes of Nadab and Abihu in our worship.
Best Church History Book
The two authors show how doctrine and the gospel have always been the core issues of the OPC. The denomination’s purpose was not to be another evangelical denomination. Evangelicals were born out of the Second Great Awakening, which was fueled by emotionalism. The founders of the OPC fought hard to make sure that the denomination was based upon sound doctrine, which is at the heart of the gospel and the beginning of the church. This makes for a healthier church because the center point is always the word of God.
Evangelicals have a tendency to base their beliefs on their feelings. They use the scripture to support their feelings and Christianity then becomes moralistic in nature. Those in the Reformed tradition have always fought against moralism and emotionalism. Not that they were stoic, and unemotional. But sound doctrine is what drives those in the Reformed camps, not cheap emotionalism
I know, I’m being harsh on evangelicals. That is because I feel the greatest threat to Christianity is emotionalism. It is how so many can walk away from the word, while claiming to cling to Christ. It’s what drives the ignorance of God’s Law. It’s why so many can see that which is sinful and declare it as good. It is why so many turn a blind eye to what Scripture truly says. They want a religion that makes them feel good, as opposed to the gospel which humbles us, empties us, and shows us we have nothing to offer God.
As for Fighting the Good Fight, it should be required reading for every elder and deacon in the OPC, and other Reformed denominations, as a reminder of what we are fighting for.
The Best Apologetic
I finally got around to reading J. Gresham Machen’s Christianity & Liberalism. In the following quote, he is showing that society cannot change without the gospel, because of the problem of sin in the hearts of its citizens:
It is upon this brotherhood of twice-born sinners, this brotherhood of the redeemed, that the Christian founds the hope of society. He finds no solid hope in the improvement of earthly conditions, or the molding of human institutions under the influence of the Golden Rule. These things indeed are to be welcomed…But in themselves their value, to the Christian, is certainly small. A solid building cannot be constructed when all the materials are faulty; a blessed society cannot be formed out of men who are still under the curse of sin.
Machen on paganism:
Paganism is that view of life which finds the highest goal of human existence in the healthy and harmonious and joyous development of existing human faculties. Very different is the Christian ideal. Paganism is optimistic with regard to unaided human nature, whereas Christianity is the religion of the broken heart.
Machen on faith:
To have faith in Christ means to cease trying to win God’s favor by one’s own character; the man who believes in Christ simply accepts the sacrifice which Christ offered on Calvary. The result of such faith is a new life and all good works; but the salvation itself is an absolutely free gift of God.
Machen on the importance of doctrine:
…the message of the resurrection was not isolated. It was connected with the death of Jesus, seen now to be not a failure but a triumphant act of divine grace; it was connected with the entire appearance of Jesus upon earth. The coming of Jesus was understood now as an act of God by which sinful men were saved. The primitive Church was concerned not merely with what Jesus had said, but also, and primarily, with what Jesus had done. The world was to be redeemed through the proclamation of an event. And with the event went the meaning of the event; and the setting forth of the event with the meaning of the event was doctrine. These two elements are always combined in the Christian message. The narration of the facts is history; the narration of the facts with the meaning of the facts is doctrine. ‘Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried”— that is history. “He loved me and gave Himself for me” — that is doctrine. Such was the Christianity of the primitive church.
Of course, it is David Allen Butler’s Field Marshal: The Life and Death of Erwin Rommel. You can read my review of it here.