Little Books that Pack a Punch
I always appreciate an author that can say more with less. Let’s be honest, it looks really impressive to walk around carrying a 1,500 page theology text book, but if you want to finish a book within the next decade, it’s probably best if you strive for a more manageable goal. The great news is, you don’t have to sacrifice solid teaching for a shorter read. Below is a list of eight impressive books, all of which contain less than 200 pages (most have significantly less, and not all the pages have writing). My gift to you… enjoy!
The only aspect of God’s character the world still believes in is His love. His holiness, His sovereignty, His wrath are often rejected as being incompatible with a “loving” God. Because pop culture has so distorted and secularized God’s love, many Christians have lost a biblical understanding of it and, in turn, lost a vital means to knowing who God is.
The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God seeks to restore what we have lost. In this treatment of many of the Bible’s passages regarding divine love, D. A. Carson not only critiques sentimental ideas, but provides a compelling perspective on the nature of God and why He loves as He does. Carson blends his discourse with discussion of how God’s sovereignty and holiness complete the biblical picture of who He is and how He loves.
God is love, “John writes in his first letter (4:8, 16). The biblical writers treat the love of God as a wonderful thing, wholly admirable and praiseworthy, even surprising when the objects of his love are rebellious human beings. But what does the predication “God is love” actually mean?
At our core, every human has the desire for happiness. We want to experience true, lasting joy. Some try to satisfy it with relationships, accomplishments, sexual exploits, sports, television, and drugs. Yet the longing remains… Why?
In The Dangerous Duty of Delight, John Piper turns our heart toward the one true object of human desire, happiness, and joy: God. He shows us that fulfilling our duty and delight in God reveals our very purpose in life. And as we delight in God, our attitudes toward worship, relationships, material goods—and everything will change into what God has called them to be.
I hope I become clear when I say: If you try to abandon the pursuit of your full and lasting joy, you cannot love people or please God. If love is the overflow and expansion of joy in God which gladly meets the needs of others, then to abandon the pursuit of joy is to abandon the pursuit of love!
3. Holiness by John Webster (105 pages)
It is rare in our generation to see a book on holiness. Perhaps what is more rare is to see one that is both theologically profound and captivating. Through Webster’s explanation of a Trinitarian understanding of God’s holiness, we can understand the gracious and salvific work of God for his people. Holiness calls us to acknowledge God for what he is: Holy.
‘Holiness’ and ‘freedom’ are correlative terms: my sanctification is my emancipation. How is this so? Holiness is consecration by the work of the triune God in which I am set apart for service. By God’s sanctifying grace I am rescued from the clutches of sin and death, and restored to live with the holy God. Holiness is restored covenant fellowship. That restored fellowship is, we must now see, both the root and the context of liberty. In fellowship with God, in the saints’ communion with Father, Son and Spirit, we are given the strange gift of evangelical freedom. And in fellowship with God we are to exercise the freedom for which, according to the gospel, Christ has set us free.
4. The Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer (117 pages)
What is the nature of God? How can we recapture a real sense of God’s majesty and truly live in the Spirit? The Knowledge of the Holy illuminates God’s attributes—from wisdom, to grace, to mercy—and shows through prayerful insightful discussion, how we can more fully recognize and appreciate each of these divine aspects.
It is the way we see the works of His hands, but not the way we see him. He is above all this, outside of it, beyond it. Our concepts of measurement embrace mountains and men, atoms and stars, gravity, energy, numbers, speed, but never God.
5. The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis (128 pages)
The Great Divorce is a classic tale set on a bus ride from Hell to Heaven. Lewis’s descriptive powers of good, evil, grace, and judgment are woven into the story causing us to think differently about the concepts of Heaven and Hell. The Great Divorce communicates theological truth through a brilliantly written fiction narrative that explains man’s proclivity for self-importance and self-deception.
“Milton was right,” said my Teacher. “The choice of every lost soul can be expressed in the words ‘Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.’ There is always something they insist on keeping, even at the price of misery.
If God is in control of everything, can Christians sit back and not bother to evangelize? Or does active evangelism imply that God is not really sovereign at all? J. I. Packer shows in this study on evangelism how both of these attitudes are false. In a careful review of the biblical material, he shows how a right understanding of God’s sovereignty is not so much a barrier to evangelism as an incentive and powerful support for it.
The desire to oversimplify the Bible by cutting out the mysteries is natural to our perverse minds, and it is not surprising the even good people should fall victim to it. Hence this persistent and troublesome dispute. The irony of the situation, however, is that when we ask how the two sides pray, it becomes apparent that those who profess to deny God’s sovereignty really believe in it just as strongly as those who affirm it.
7. Washed and Waiting by Wesley Hill (153 pages)
As a celibate gay Christian, Hill gives us a glimpse at what it looks like to wrestle first hand with God’s “No” to same-sex relationships. What does it mean for gay Christians to live faithful to God while struggling with the challenge of their homosexuality? What is God’s will for believers who experience same-sex desires? Those who choose celibacy are often left to deal with loneliness and the hunger for relationships. How can gay Christians experience God’s favor and blessing in the midst of a struggle that for many brings a crippling sense of shame and guilt?
Weaving together reflections from his own life and the lives of other Christians, such as Henri Nouwen and Gerard Manley Hopkins, Hill offers a fresh perspective on these questions.
A sexual orientation is such a complex and, in most cases, it seems, intractable thing; I for one cannot imagine what ‘healing’ from my orientation would look like, given that it seems to manifest itself not only in physical attraction to male bodies but also in a preference for male company, with all that it entails, such as conversation and emotional intimacy and quality time spent together.
John Murray’s Redemption Accomplished and Applied systematically explains the two sides of redemption: it’s accomplished by Christ and its application to the lives of believers.
In Part I, Murry considers the necessity, nature, perfection, and extent of the atonement. In Part II, he offers careful expositions of teachings about calling, regeneration, faith and repentance, justification, adoption, sanctification, perseverance, union with Christ, and glorification.
In this discussion we are thinking, however, of redemption as a finished accomplishment on the part of Christ. When redemption is viewed in that more restricted sense there are two aspects of sin which come into distinct prominence as those upon which the redemptive accomplishment of Christ bears. They are the guilt and power of sin. And the two effects issuing from this redemptive accomplishment are respectively: (1) justification and forgiveness of sin and (2) deliverance from the enslaving defilement a