By Marc W. Gibson
Sitting in a lonely prison, with only Luke still with him, the apostle Paul sent these instructions to young Timothy: “Bring the cloak that I left with Corpus at Troas when you come … and the books, especially the parchments” (2 Tim. 4:13). What these books were that Paul desired is a matter of speculation, but he did want them. Paul apparently was a man who enjoyed reading. He was well-read in the Old Testament scriptures (Acts 17:2), Jewish tradition (Acts 22:13; 26:5), and even the writings of heathen poets (Acts 17:28). No doubt this love of reading was impressed upon young Timothy. A desire to read needs to be a characteristic of a gospel preacher. But what the preacher reads can have a great influence upon his thinking and preaching. Especially is this true for the young preacher.
As the primary interest of any preacher, the Scriptures must be read and studied in order to understand the revealed mystery of the gospel of Christ (Eph. 3:3-5). This cannot be emphasized too much. Any method of teaching and preaching preparation that does not demand the full and intensive study of the text of Scripture will result in little growth and an in-ability to discern truth and error. Other religious literature will then come to the attention of the studious youngpreacher. This special issue “Good Books For Young Preachers” attempts to recommend some good books for the consumption of young preachers, with a young preacher doing a review of each book.
An immense amount of literature, both religious and otherwise, begs the reading and study time of the young preacher. Some of it is excellent, some is so-so, and some is just plain literary junk, even dangerous to the mind and soul. What books can be recommended as sound and excellent in their content? What books will richly reward the serious Bible student and will cause the reader to be a better and more knowledgeable person? A problem exists today in that the excellent books written by sound and faithful brethren are being passed over by many young preachers of my generation for the preferred writings of liberal and denominational authors who deny the plain teachings of Scripture. The devil could not have devised a more subtle plan to lead men into error. Do not get me wrong I am not saying we can-not get any profit from reading even denominational authors, but we should be first grounded in Scripture and in literature that respects the inspiration and authority of Scripture. We will then be able safely to discern between what is truth and error in other literature. It is prudent to be cautious (and I say this as a young preacher myself). We all need to reexamine our reading priorities.
Why have young preachers do the reviews of the books recommended for young preachers? It is a matter of taking advantage of a common perspective. Perhaps the attention of younger preachers will be perked if their peers are the ones reviewing and recommending these books. Many young preachers would gladly listen to the advice of an older preacher, but, sadly, some will not. This is a regret-table attitude and the problem must be addressed by other younger preachers speaking out. An article by Connie Adams is included that considers the matter of good reading from the viewpoint of a wise and experienced older preacher.
The question that will inevitably come to many minds is, “Why these particular books?” It was a difficult process to narrow down the choices to these few. There are many quality books available that have been written and published by our brethren and everyone will have his own list of favorites. I tried to choose older books that have been read for many years and have gained an overall good reputation among brethren, but are now in danger of being overlooked. I then tried to take a sampling from different categories of religious literature: commentaries, debates, history, biography, doctrinal, sermons, and hermeneutics. In the course of a review, the writer may recommend other good books in the same category. At the very least, the books reviewed on the following pages are a starting point for worthwhile reading. (The only extensive list of books recommended by one of our brethren was compiled by Hoyt H. Houchen in a series of ten articles in Vangaard magazine that began on September 22, 1977. It is still useful but does not include books published since then.)
The question of what is good reading material is an issue for every Christian. The books and magazines we read greatly influence our thinking. We must make good choices. Unfortunately, good books are not found in the homes of many Christians today. Therefore, the books reviewed herein are not just recommended for young preachers. Everyone can benefit from them. May our choices of reading material meet the standards of true excellence: true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous, and praiseworthy (Phil. 4:8). Choose carefully and wisely, joining the chorus of all who desire excellent tomes: bring the books!
Guardian of Truth XL: No. 23, p. 1
December 5, 1996