On My Shelf helps you get to know various writers through a behind-the-scences glimpse into their lives as readers. I corresponded with Tom Schreiner, professor of New Testament theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, about what’s on his nightstand, books he re-reads, his favorite fiction, what he’s learning about life and following Jesus, and more.
What’s on your nightstand right now?
I’m reading Ajith Fernando’s Reclaiming Love: Radical Relationships in a Complex World. Fernando’s a faithful expositor. He exposes my heart, so I’m always convicted reading him. I’m also reading Bonhoeffer’s Seminary Vision: A Case for Costly Discipleship and Life Together by Paul House. House is a fantastic writer, and his words about seminary life today illuminate and challenge me.
What are you learning about life and following Jesus?
I just preached a sermon on 2 Corinthians 12:1–10, and was reminded that I’m weak and not strong. I need the power of Christ every day, and his power is manifested through my weaknesses. In my flesh, I wish I were strong. The gospel, however, reminds me that the only life I have comes through death and resurrection in Jesus Christ.
What books have most profoundly shaped how you serve and lead others for the sake of the gospel?
When it comes to the gospel, it’s hard to surpass Martin Luther. His 1535 commentary on Galatians is full of comfort and strength. I’ve never read anyone who better understands the joy stemming from the forgiveness and righteousness that is ours in Jesus Christ. John Piper was my pastor for 11 years and has had a massive influence on my life. It’s difficult to select my favorite book of his, but Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ stands out at this point in my life. I so easily forget about God, but Piper’s work always reminds me of God’s centrality. As a young Christian, I learned a Keswick view of spirituality, but J. I. Packer and others helped me see its weaknesses. Packer’s book Keep in Step with the Spirit teaches a balanced and biblical view of the Christian life.
What books have most helped you teach others about Jesus?
The books that have most helped me teach others about Jesus are the books that have most helped me think biblically and theologically. I love John Frame’s Theology of Lordship Series and other works. I find Frame to be theologically rigorous and pastorally edifying. I also learned a massive amount in reading Herman Bavinck’s four-volume systematic theology. John Calvin’s Institutes continue to speak powerfully to my mind and heart. Augustine’s Confessions had a profound effect on me. When it comes to biblical theology, I’ve learned so much from Greg Beale’s A New Testament Biblical Theology, Peter Gentry and Steve Wellum’s Kingdom Through Covenant [review; review; review], and Jim Hamilton’s God’s Glory Through Salvation in Judgment.
What biographies or autobiographies have most influenced you and why?
I was gripped by Malcolm Muggeridge’s Chronicles of Wasted Time. He recognizes that he wasted most of his life and perceptively exposes the hypocrisy and evil often present in our hearts. I was also influenced by Rod Dreher’s The Little Way of Ruthie Leming. What a reminder that faithfully living out the gospel in a small town pleases God. Every act of love matters!
What are your favorite fiction books?
My all-time favorite is The Brother’s Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky. Dostoevsky has a profound sense of the depth of evil, but at the same time understands the power of the gospel. I also loved The Road by Cormac McCarthy. It reminded me that life is infinitely precious, judgment is real, and love never fails. I’m also a big Charles Dickens fan. The chapters in David Copperfield where the main character recounts his suffering and joys as a young boy are utterly unforgettable. Dickens’s characters in the book are also quite memorable (for example, Uriah Heep and Mr. Micawber).
What are your top five books on belonging to the body of Christ in the local church?
I’ve been a pastor for 17 years. Mark Dever’s work, in particular Nine Marks of a Healthy Church and The Church: The Gospel Made Visible [review], has helped me immensely. I also recommend Jonathan Leeman’s book The Church and the Surprising Offense of God’s Love [review]. Additionally, I’ve benefited greatly from Ed Clowney’s book The Church. The many small books produced by 9Marks are accessible and packed with wisdom as well.