On My Shelf: Life and Books with Denny Burk

On My Shelf helps you get to know various writers through a behind-the-scenes glimpse into their lives as readers.

I asked Denny Burk—president of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, professor of biblical studies at Boyce College, and author of What Is the Meaning of Sex? [interview]—about what’s on his nightstand, the importance of keeping up with current events, his favorite fiction, and more.


What’s on your nightstand right now?

Secular identity theory seems to be exerting an enormous influence on Christian discussions about gender, sexuality, and justice, so I’ve been trying to find authors who look at the issue from a biblical perspective. Right now, that has me reading Known by God: A Biblical Theology of Personal Identity by Brian Rosner. Also, I just received an advance copy of Ryan Anderson’s new book, When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment. This isn’t a Christian book per se, but it is does advance a natural-law view of maleness and femaleness that resonates deeply with the biblical framework.

Ever since the Trinity debate of 2016, I’ve been eagerly awaiting Retrieving Eternal Generation, edited by Fred Sanders and Scott Swain. The whole book is important, but Lee Irons’s essay is worth the price of the volume for me.

What are your favorite fiction books?

Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry

Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien

The Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling

What is the role of keeping up with current events and broader cultural shifts in Christian discipleship?

Because I write a lot about gender and sexuality from a biblical perspective, it plays a critical role. Moreover, no pastor can be unconcerned about the influences that are shaping the minds of God’s people, and there’s no question that revisionist views on gender and sexuality are pushing against faithful Christian discipleship. Ordinary Christians are having to face these questions, and they’re looking for biblical answers.

Following the news isn’t everything, but it’s a part of “understanding the times” that the people of God ought to do (1 Chron. 12:32). I do read the news daily. I subscribe to The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Christianity Today. I rarely watch cable news anymore, but when I do it’s usually CNN or MSNBC. I’ve never been a Fox News guy.

What are some books you frequently re-read and why?

The most frequently re-read books for me are commentaries. I’m preaching through 1 Corinthians in my church right now. I use a number of commentaries to prepare for this, but the main one I use is Richard Hays’s First Corinthians in the Interpretation commentary series. I’m finding my previous footprints all over this book in the form of underlining, comments, and so on. I disagree with him at numerous points (most notably his egalitarian views), but I still find his commentary to be helpful.

What’s the last great book you read? 

I have about 15 pages left to read in On the Holy Spirit by St. Basil the Great. As far as fiction goes, I just finished listening to Mansfield Park in late 2017.

What’s one book you wish every pastor read?

The Religious Affections by Jonathan Edwards was an epoch-making book for me. Edwards argues that “true religion” lies in the affections. To be without an untransformed heart and mind is to be without the gospel altogether. The gospel that saves me changes me, or it hasn’t yet saved me.

What are you learning about life and following Jesus?

That I’m not nearly as awesome as I thought I was 20 years ago . . . or 10 years ago . . . or one year ago. Every year brings fresh revelations of ways I need to change—to put off the old and to put on the new. It never ends. And neither does the Lord’s mercy.


Also in the On My Shelf series: Vermon Pierre • Jake Meador • Russ Ramsey • Jason Allen • Jason Cook • Mack Stiles • Michael Kruger • Robert Smith • Tony Merida • Andy Crouch • Walter Strickland • Hannah Anderson • S. D. Smith • Curtis Woods • Mindy Belz • Steve Timmis • David Mathis • Michael Lindsay • Nathan Finn • Jennifer Marshall • Todd Billings • Greg Thornbury • Greg Forster • Jen Pollock Michel • Sam Storms • Barton Swaim • John Stonestreet • George Marsden • Andrew Wilson • Sally Lloyd-Jones • Darryl Williamson • D. A. Horton • Carl Ellis • Owen Strachan • Thomas Kidd • David Murray • Jarvis Williams • Gracy Olmstead • Matthew Hall • Drew Dyck • Louis Markos • Ray Ortlund • Brett McCracken • Mez McConnell • Erik Raymond • Sandra McCracken • Tim Challies • Sammy Rhodes • Karen Ellis • Alastair Roberts • Scott Sauls • Karen Swallow Prior • Jackie Hill Perry • Bruce Ashford • Jonathan Leeman • Megan Hill • Marvin Olasky • David Wells • John Frame • Rod Dreher • James K. A. Smith • Randy Alcorn • Tom Schreiner • Trillia Newbell • Jen Wilkin • Joe Carter • Timothy George • Tim Keller • Bryan Chapell • Lauren Chandler • Mike Cosper • Russell Moore • Jared Wilson • Kathy Keller • J. D. Greear • Kevin DeYoung • Kathleen Nielson • Thabiti Anyabwile • Elyse Fitzpatrick • Collin Hansen • Fred Sanders • Rosaria Butterfield • Nancy Guthrie • Matt Chandler

Browse dozens of book recommendations from The Gospel Coalition’s leaders and sign up your church at Hubworthy.

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