David Dickson, The Elder and His Work (P&R, 2004). Written by a long-time lay elder serving in Scotland in the 19th century, this book is full of practical wisdom and inspiration. In the almost nine years I’ve been at URC, this was one of the top two or three most helpful books our elder board has read together (Biblical Eldership by Strauch also comes to mind). Pastors, take your elders through this book. It’s short, personal, and loaded with godly good sense.
Michael Novak, On Two Wings: Humble Faith and Common Sense at the American Founding (Encounter Books, 2002). Against secularists who want to make the American founding a thoroughly Enlightenment affair, Novak makes a compelling case (irrefutable actually) that Christian faith played an indispensable role as well. The “two wings,” according to Novak, were plain reason and humble faith. While the founders held to varying degrees of Christian orthodoxy, it is certainly the case that they took virtue and religion very seriously and treated them both as necessary components for a flourishing republic. The downside to this book is a horribly chosen typeset which puts block quotes in a different font and makes the normal font look like it’s in bold.
Jeffry H. Morrison, John Witherspoon and the Founding of the American Republic (University of Notre Dame Press, 2005). This is a richly detailed scholarly look at Witherspoon’s instrumental role in the founding of this country. Morrison is to be commended for writing an academic work that is interesting, judicious, careful, and not overly long. This is the best monograph available on the political thought of one of our most forgotten founders.
L. Gordon Tait, The Piety of John Witherspoon: Pew, Pulpit, and Public Forum (Geneva Press, 2001). Not as impressive as Morrison’s volume, but still learned and helpful, Tait looks beyond the realm of politics to explore Witherspoon’s views of preaching, pastoral ministry, and piety. Tait is sympathetic to Witherspoon, but at times strains to read him through his own mainline lens (e.g., the last chapter tries to connect Witherspoon with Barth, Tillich, Kathleen Norris, and Barbara Brown Taylor). Appendix B on “A List of Books of Character as Collected by Dr. Witherspoon” is a great resource.
Constantine R. Campbell, Paul and Union with Christ: An Exegetical and Theological Study (Zondervan, 2012). A few years ago I had planned to write a book on union with Christ. At the time, it seemed like a hot topic that wasn’t receiving enough attention. My project morphed into The Hole in Our Holiness instead. I’m glad I didn’t go with my original idea, because in the last few years a number of excellent studies have been published on union with Christ. This latest one by Constantine Campbell, senior lecturer at Moore Theological College in Sydney, is an exhaustive treatment of union with Christ throughout Paul’s writings. Use it as a reference work and get it on your shelf.
Michael Horton, Pilgrim Theology: Core Doctrines for Christian Disciples (Zondervan, 2011). Don’t let the copyright fool you, this is a new book. Well, actually, a re-worked book. This is Horton’s slimmed down version of The Christian Faith. Mike is a brilliant guy, so I’m thankful to see his brilliance get placed in the cookie jar a few shelves lower than before. I hope many seminaries, churches, and aggressive discipleship programs will use this volume for their theological training. It’s more academic than Grudem (which may be a plus or minus in your opinion), but still doable for Christians who are eager to learn.
As a bonus this month, let me encourage you to look at a number of little books that may be just what you are looking for.
Rebecca VanDoodewaard, Uprooted: A Guide for Homesick Christians (Christian Focus, 2012). Important topic in our transient world. Awesome last name.
J.V. Fesko, A Christian’s Pocket Guide to Growing in Holiness (Christian Focus, 2012). In 70 short pages, Fesko takes a look at sanctification defined, applied and undermined. The last section is especially helpful.
Guy Waters, A Christian’s Pocket Guide to Being Made Right with God (Christian Focus, 2012). With a book on Federal Vision under his belt and one on the New Perspective, Waters is well-suited to write a well-grounded explanation of justification by faith alone.
Randy Alcorn, Why Pro-Life: Caring for the Unborn and Their Mothers (Hendrickson, 2012). An easy to use resource you could consult or distribute.
John Ensor, Answering the Call: Saving Innocent Lives One Woman at a Time (Hendrickson, 2012). Suggests ways you can be involved in the pro-life movement.
John Ensor and Scott Klusendorf, Stand for Life: A Student’s Guide for Making the Case and Saving Lives (Hendrickson, 2012). Title says it all.