End-of-year lists are popular, and since I love reading theology, I wanted to commend my 10 favorites. The subjects and authors vary, and I don’t necessarily affirm every conclusion in them. My list also contains some books not published in 2011, but this year is when I read them, so they count.
I could give long explanations of why these books are insightful, edifying, and worth every penny. But I’ll simply state that they are and hope you believe me.
Not in any particular order, these were my favorite theology books in 2011:
(1) The Person of Christ by Donald Macleod
(2) The Resurrection of the Son of God by N. T. Wright
(3) Tempted and Tried by Russell Moore
(4) God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment by James Hamilton
(5) For the Fame of God’s Name edited by Sam Storms and Justin Taylor
(6) A New Testament Biblical Theology by G. K. Beale
(7) Sanctified Vision by John O’Keefe and R. R. Reno
(8) For Us and For Our Salvation by Stephen Nichols
(9) Gospel Clarity by William Barclay and Ligon Duncon
(10) Unpacking Forgiveness by Chris Brauns
A silent night? Maybe in one sense, since mankind went to sleep unaware of what was happening behind the scenes.
The incarnation of God’s Son was a declaration of war against the devil:
“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil” (Hebrews 2:14)
This spiritual war was millennia in the making. Before the first couple even left the Garden of Eden, God promised the serpent hostility between it and Eve’s seed: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15).
This conflict continued through the ages all the way to the cross. Through death, said the Hebrews author, Jesus defeated the devil. The incarnation made it possible to fulfill the promise of Genesis 3:15.
It seems intuitive that a warrior is victorious by avoiding death in order to vanquish his enemy. But God’s wisdom is higher and deeper and often counterintuitive. He sent his Son to battle the serpent, and through death the victory was won.
“It is finished,” Jesus said with his last breath. God’s wrath was satisfied, atonement was accomplished, and the head of the serpent could not bear the crushing weight of the Son’s mighty heel.
The manger and Mount Calvary are separated only by the years it took to get from one to the other, for Christ’s mission concerned both places.
“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death…” (Heb 2:14)
God’s Son was born in order to die. His mission was not derailed by the cross. The Place of the Skull was not “plan B” after a failed attempt at securing earthly rule and renown. The incarnation happened for the purpose of crucifixion.
The cross was always the point because on that tree he died. And he could only die if he was human. God’s Son was born outside Jerusalem, and he’d die outside that city too.
His bloody birth was the way to his bloody death. But there’s power in this blood. In it sinners are washed white as snow.
Growing up I used to wonder why God sent his Son to become a man. It’s an important question to ponder, and the Bible gives us the answer:
“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things…” (Heb 2:14a)
In other words, God’s Son became a man because the objects of his rescue (“the children”) were flesh and blood. The Word became flesh, entering our human experience. He laid aside his majesty and put on skin. He descended into time, becoming subject to aging, pain, and death.
The incarnation should leave us in awe. Jesus learned, developed, and obeyed. He grew a specific height, had a certain complexion, and weighed a particular number of pounds. He experienced weariness, hunger, and thirst. His walk, voice, and fingerprint were all distinct. He was fully human.
My third semester at Southern Seminary recently ended, so–as I did for semesters 1 and 2–here is a summary of the classes.
(1) On Tuesdays I attended “The History of Interpretation of the Gospels.” This doctoral seminar took students through the main eras of church history and examined the ways prominent and obscure people handled the Four Gospels. We had provocative and lively discussion. This class was stimulating, informative, and edifying.
(2) The “New Testament Colloquium” was on Wednesdays. Students and the New Testament faculty went through Brevard Childs’ Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments.
(3) Thursdays was dedicated to a class on “Romans,” one of my favorite books in the Bible. Students chose a Romans commentary to read and a Romans book to review. My choices were N. T. Wright’s commentary and Charles Cosgrove’s Elusive Israel, respectively. I enjoyed the first one but disliked the second.
(4) On November 28 there was a one-day “Old Testament Colloquium.” The theme was “Christ in the Old Testament,” and students were assigned books to read and then present to the class. I chose Sidney Greidanus’ Preaching Christ from the Old Testament, which I loved and found very insightful.
I wrote this during the 2-month break between the fall and spring semesters. It seems, though, that a break only means an early period to begin work on next semester’s assignments. Here’s to buckling down and getting ahead!