By Ray Madrigal
Concerning the prolific publication of books, Solomon’ said long ago that “there is no end to the making of many books, and much study is a weariness of the flesh” (Eccl. 12:12). He sure had that right. It is certain that he was endowed with wonderful wisdom. Although this prince of peace could not possibly have imagined the archives of the Library of Congress or the cybernetic information high-way of the twenty-first century, Solomon confidently understood the human inclination to publish books. In these circumstances of tremendous information overload, wisdom would suggest the virtue of selection. We must choose what books are worthy of our attention and read accordingly. Such is the purpose of this survey.
What books are your all-time favorites? Which volumes have helped you most in your growth as a Christian or in your preparation for preaching the gospel? What reference sources do you consult continuously, as you strive for knowledge and wisdom as a disciple of Jesus? In other words, if you had to pear down your library to ten volumes, which ten would they be? I realize that this may seem almost impossible, especially for preachers like myself who have accumulated a personal library measured in hundreds, if not thousands, of volumes. But I must admit that I have made some unwise choices in the purchase of study materials, and as a consequence those books do little more than take up shelf space and collect dust. With money and time at a premium, doesn’t it make sense to select books that make for enlightening and edifying reading?
A Wide Open Field
With your response to and participation in this survey, I plan to compile an informative list of quality books that will help us make wise choices for ourselves and for those who seek our advice. Apart from the Bible, the Word of God itself, books are the tools of our trade as preachers, elders, teachers and growing Christians. The field is wide open. We certainly could compile a “Top Ten” list for different categories, such as “reference,” “Old Testament studies” or “apologetics,” for example. Yet for the purpose of this survey, I believe that it will be more helpful to leave the field open for volumes of any classification, even books that are normally described as “secular.” It may be that one of your most helpful tomes is an overview of world history or a classic on logic or literature. Perhaps one of your selections includes a book that was particularly influential in your “formative” years. I have heard several preachers praise the classical work on Miracles, by C.S. Lewis, for example, as a brief volume that provides many answers to the “problems” of supernaturalism. While many seasoned preachers studied through the controversies of institutionalism in the hard school of experience, many younger preachers have discovered The Arlington Meeting to be a textbook on that important subject. One of the books that helped me study out of the errors of denominationalism was The Certified Gospel by Foy E. Wallace, Jr.’
You get the idea? Send me your “Top Ten” list as soon as possible. Please include the essential bibliographical data, such as author, title, publisher and year of publication. A few brief comments explaining your choices may also be useful. So the next time you find yourself in a reflective mood, surrounded by your plentiful library, think about the books that have helped you most. Although your choices may never have reached the best-seller lists of the New York Times or be accessible through a modem code on the Internet, they may be enlightening to those who savor the world as salt.
‘Of course, the identify of Qoheleth and the authorship of the book of Ecclesiastes are not the subject of this article. I am convinced, however, that both internal and external evidence points heavily toward Solomon.
I am looking for a copy of this book in good condition, by the way.
Guardian of Truth XXXIX: 4 p. 10
February 16, 1995