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Barrett’s Book Notes: Chrysostom, Calvin, the Psalter, Angels & Demons, and so much more

I am a voracious reader, in part because I enjoy reading, in part because I believe reading is essential to maturing theologically and as a Christian. Lately, I was asked to read and endorse a number of books. Here they are and why I think you might just enjoy them:

Preaching the Word with John Chrysostomby Gerald Bray (Lexham)

Today, so few Christians know the church fathers, let alone have read their writings. We have cut ourselves off from one of the most important voices in the history of the church. So, I am ecstatic to see Gerald Bray retrieve a father like John Chrysostom, that golden-mouth preacher. Chrysostom not only defended the deity of Christ against Arianism, but he also modeled sound biblical interpretation. Leaving us over six hundred sermons, pastors today will benefit by examining Chrysostom’s rhetorical approach—especially in our day when rhetoric has been exchanged for visual stimuli. But pastors and scholars alike will be also humbled by Chrysostom’s refusal to preach the scriptures in a clever, sophisticated style, as if Christianity is only for elites. Chrysostom exemplified his Savior, as well as the apostle Paul, by preaching the scriptures with clarity. In doing so, Chrysostom imitated our incomprehensible Creator, who accommodated himself, even to the point of incarnation, to make his grace known. Read Bray on Chrysostom, and then go read Chrysostom for yourself!

Stand Firm by John MacArthur (Reformation Trust)

There is nothing better than following Christ, but there is also nothing harder than following Christ. With the care of a shepherd, MacArthur takes us back to scripture and instructs us how to be a Christian all over again. But he does so by invigorating us with a holy joy, a selfless love, and a sturdy humility. He takes us to our knees in prayer, not only to commune with the living God but to equip us with the grace needed to finish the race. Whether you are ready to begin the race or exhausted from running, MacArthur is ready to run by your side—even carry you to the finish line if he must—so that together you hear those words, Well done, my good and faithful servant. If you want to know how to run like a Christian, then let this book be your coach.

John Calvin: For a New Reformation, Edited by Derek Thomas and John Tweeddale (Crossway)

“If I only have one chance to influence the minds of my students with a voice from the past, I turn to John Calvin. No one marries biblical knowledge to systematic theology with an eye to Christian piety like Calvin. Unfortunately, Christians today have never read Calvin. As a result, their theological house is built on sand. Do not fear, John Calvin: For a New Reformation equips Christians to withstand the storms of theological compromise. By introducing Calvin’s theology, this book provides the church with a biblical and theological foundation that will not be shaken. Read this book, and then run to read Calvin himself. In doing so, you will discover an exegetical ally, a theological father, and a Christian friend whose life, teachings, and ministry will guide you into Christian godliness.”

Against the Darkness: The Doctrines of Angels, Satan, and Demons, by Graham A. Cole (Crossway)

We live in a culture that pretends the spiritual realm does not exist. Reducing that which is real to that which can be seen and touched, our culture catechizes its pupils in a worldview that dismisses angels and demons. It laughs at those who believe in the devil and his hell. So, when we act disinterested in angels, Satan, and demons, we invite this secular outlook to control the biblical narrative. Although we profess faith in a God who has overcome the evil one, in reality our indifference reveals us to be practical atheists. Graham Cole exposes this blind spot, demonstrating that our theology of angels, Satan, and demons is not irrelevant but takes us to the center of the gospel itself. For if Christ has suffered for our sins and risen for our justification, then Satan no longer has power and victory over us. Read Against the Darkness and discover how God has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son.

Bible History ABCs, by Stephen J. Nichols (Crossway)

Moms and Dads, here is a book that will tell your littles ones the story of the Bible in a way that not only will understand but enjoy. Filled with humor, laced with truth, Bible History ABCs should be by your child’s bedside. In no time at all, they will learn about God’s mighty acts in history and how this good God has rescued rebel sinners through his Son Jesus Christ. I read it to my four children, and they loved it, begging me to keep reading!

Grace Worth Fighting For: Recapturing the Vision of God’s Grace in the Canons of Dort, by Daniel Hyde (Davenant Press)

Daniel Hyde’s Grace Worth Fighting For may be the most thorough exposition of the Canons of Dort to date. Through careful exegesis and attention to the historical context, Hyde not only explains what these canons mean but why they are biblically grounded and theologically essential. One of the best features of Hyde’s scholarship is his refusal to detach the doctrines of grace from pastoral ministry and Christian piety. A careful reading of the Canons knows that this marriage between theology and doxology is original to Dort, contrary to common caricatures. Hyde also busts every myth—and there are a lot!—surrounding Dort, removing the centuries of stereotypes to present readers with Calvinism in pure form. This book is indispensable for students of Reformed theology and irresistible to its skeptics.

The Missionary Fellowship of William Carey, by Michael Haykin (Reformation Trust)

There has been a terrible misreading of modern missions and it’s this: our heroes on the mission field were lone rangers, pulling themselves up by their spiritual bootstraps to take the gospel to the lost. Finally, that caricature has exploded thanks to Michael A.G. Haykin who demonstrates that the founder of modern missions himself, William Carey, not only depended on God but on close friendships to bring the good news to unreached peoples. Through the art of biography, Haykin reminds Christians today that fellowship is not only key to the Christian life but is essential to the Christian mission. The devil can take down a solo Christian, but he cannot penetrate a band of Christian brothers who link arms to advance the gospel.” 

Reformed Systematic Theology, Volume 1Revelation and God, by Joel R. Beeke and Paul M. Smalley (Crossway)

Some people think Reformed theology is all about doctrine and has little to do with doxology. Joel Beeke and Paul Smalley have proved otherwise. Chapter after chapter of their Reformed Systematic Theology not only takes readers into the depths of our triune God but then shows what these great truths have to do with the Christian life. C. S. Lewis once said he felt far closer to God while reading a rigorous piece of theology with a pencil in hand than he ever did reading the endless books on Christian living. No contemporary systematic theology will bring the reader to a greater understanding of how theology blossoms into doxology than this one. Prepare not only to have your mind renewed by a theology grounded in Scripture, but your heart moved and warmed by a Reformed orthodoxy that is practical, meant to shape the character of every Christian and the worship of every Church.

Reforming Joy: A Conversation between Paul, the Reformers, and the Church Today, by Tim Chester (Crossway)

We live in a world that tells us to look within ourselves to find joy and lasting happiness. Problem is, looking within leaves us empty handed, hopeless under the weight of our own unrighteousness. But Tim Chester has a message of remarkable hope. True joy is found in Christ and Christ alone. With help from the apostle Paul and the Protestant Reformers, Chester challenges the church today to return to the scriptures, for they are the swaddling clothes of Christ. There we will hear the call from Christ himself to put aside our worthless merit and trust in him alone for a righteousness he alone can provide. Only then will we rediscover joy that will not disappoint.

 Anthems for a Dying Lamb, by Philip Ross (Christian Focus)

To be a Christian is to believe and trust in the atoning sacrifice of Christ. Yet what few Christians realize is that this passion of Christ, even the very words Christ prayed during his agony, are drawn from the psalms, specifically Psalms 113-118. With pastoral care and sobering conviction, Philip Ross reveals why these psalms became our Savior’s dying anthem. The reason why should move every reader to his or her knees in worship, praising God for the salvation he has accomplished through his Son, the Lamb of God.

Matthew Barrett

Matthew Barrett is Associate Professor of Christian Theology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, as well as the founder and executive editor of Credo Magazine. He is the author of several books, including Canon, Covenant and Christology: Rethinking Jesus and the Scriptures of Israel; None Greater: The Undomesticated Attributes of God; 40 Questions About SalvationGod’s Word Alone: The Authority of ScriptureReformation Theology: A Systematic SummarySalvation by Grace, and Owen on the Christian LifeHe is the host of the Credo podcast where he engages top theologians on the most important theological issues today.

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