What better way to end off the year and give you ideas on how to put that Christmas gift money or Amazon gift cards you got to good use than a list of awesome books!
As you probably know already, I love to read! And although this year I’ve fallen behind my reading goal of 50 books in the year (adopting a baby sorta played into that a bit… and also the fact that a few of the books I read this year were 500+ pages… haha!), I was blessed to have read some really amazing books. Many of them God used to help me grow, refine and shape my thinking on many different topics. It’s hard to choose only a few as my top books, but here’s my list – hoping that you’ll find some great materials to also challenge and help you grow. I’d challenge you to make it your goal to read through some or all of these books next year… it’s totally doable with a little planning and intentionality (plus far more rewarding than binge-watching Netflix).
One thing to note: of the books on this list I don’t necessarily agree with every point of everything that is written (I seldom find books like that!), but we should be willing to read books that we even disagree with or that hold slightly different positions to us so that we can be sharpened in our own perspectives. The reason why they make it on this list is that they’ve challenged me to think more deeply, consider positions and arguments I’ve never considered before, and really sharpened my understanding.
If you want the TL:DR, here is my list…
- The Mission of God: A Manifesto of Hope for Society
- It’s Good to Be a Man: A Handbook for Godly Masculinity
- Standing on the Promises: A Handbook of Biblical Childrearing
- Cynical Theories: How Activist Scholarship Made Everything about Race, Gender, and Identity—and Why This Harms Everybody
- Masculine Christianity
- When a Nation Forgets God: 7 Lessons We Must Learn from Nazi Germany
- Slaying Leviathan: Limited Government and Resistance in the Christian Tradition
- He Shall Have Dominion: A Postmillennial Eschatology
- Killer Angel: A Biography of Planned Parenthood’s Margaret Sanger
- The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy
Continue reading if you want my reasons why you should read them.
#1 The Mission of God: A Manifesto of Hope for Society
This book is a must-read… for every Christian, but especially if you’re in church ministry.
The Mission of God: A Manifesto of Hope for Society had long been on my to-read list but I had put it off because it is a tome to get through, weighing in at 674 pages. However, it is one that is well worth the effort and will richly reward those who plow its depths. The first 3 or 4 chapters may feel like a slug as Dr. Joseph Boot lays the groundwork, but every subsequent chapter gets better and better.
Dr. Boot has written a masterpiece in what is his Magnum Opus to date. It is a much-needed clarion call to the Church to recover the fullness of the mission that God has given to her, especially in the wake of much of the truncated understandings of the faith common in Evangelical churches today. Dr. Boot shows how the Lordship of Jesus Christ extends to every area and sphere of life: family, education, evangelism, church, law, politics, entertainment, etc. He provides a helpful corrective to the deficient view of the Kingdom of God, how it is manifest in the world and why it matters today.
This book will challenge every reader in many helpful ways to wrestle with Boot’s arguments and sharpen how one sees the application of their faith to all of life. At times Boot reads like a modern-day prophet, though he wrote the book in 2014, his insights have proven true over the years. He poignantly illustrates the truth that our social order cannot remain stable and flourish if the foundation of God’s Word is kicked out for both private and public life.
I cannot recommend this book highly enough, it has significantly influenced my thinking and will definitely be one that I come back to again and again.
#2 It’s Good to Be a Man: A Handbook for Godly Masculinity
This book is controversial, but perhaps also sparking a conversation in the Evangelical church that is much needed today. It is sort of like the combination of the frank, direct admonitions of Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life meets Reformed Theology with the tough love of a well-meaning uncle without a filter.
It’s Good to Be a Man: A Handbook for Godly Masculinity by Michael Foster and D. Bnonn Tennant will definitely ruffle some feathers, and that may not be a bad thing. This book may not be a book for all times, but it is a book for this time (as the authors themselves admit). It is responding to the lack of clear Biblical masculinity and the effects of a culture saturated in feminism and the emasculation of men. Foster and Tennant aim to call men to rise above the cultural moment that breeds passivity, impotence and effeminacy. They recognize that many men today are lost, without father figures and male guides, confused about what to do with their masculinity and turning to the Jordan Petersons of this world who are actually telling them that their masculinity is not toxic.
This book reminds men that their natural aggressive instincts, their strength, emotional disposition, psychological makeup and more are part of God’s good design for the differences between the sexes and are meant to be used for the Kingdom. It also challenges the modern doctrine of “complementarianism” (which was largely in response to Evangelical feminism in the early 20th century) with the concept of Biblical Patriarchy – that God designed men to rule in the church, in their families and in society. It is full of practical and direct advice, like: “The formula is simple: Find a church that will disciple you. Submit yourself to it. Grow up.” Men today need such direct communication instead of the wishy-washy feel-good TedTalks that pass for sermons these days. I have no doubt that there is much material in this book that many will stumble at or find hard to swallow (the authors aren’t exactly subtle or nuanced… lol), such as: “Patriarchy is inevitable. It is not whether men will exercise dominion, but which ones, and how. Choose this day to be such a man and to rule in the stead of your Father God.” But, I also think that wrestling with this book will be a healthy exercise for every Christian man.
This is definitely a book that will continue to generate waves, but one that I hope will stir the church up to once again help men to step into their godly callings and reject the lies of our culture. If you’re a man who can appreciate direct and punchy prose that challenges you to think about your manhood, then get this book.
#3 Standing on the Promises: A Handbook of Biblical Childrearing
Family is so important. It is the foundational building block of society. As the family goes, so goes the rest of society and any society that has weak families is doomed to failure. This is much of the reason for the decline in the West with the rise of single-parent homes, a lack of true discipleship in Christian homes and unintentional parenting devoid of practical Biblical principles.
Standing on the Promises: A Handbook of Biblical Childrearing by Douglas Wilson helps readers to see that each family is a culture with its own traditions, language, assumptions and habits. Thus, the culture of a family will significantly shape the children who are raised in it and it is the duty of fathers particularly (together with their wives) to be intentional about directing the family’s culture according to Biblical wisdom. Pastor Wilson, in his unique style and wit, helps to unpack in practical terms what that might look like. His writing is immensely practical and helps to flesh out what a household ordered according to God’s design from His Word might look like. His basic premise is that God has given us very precious promises in His Word concerning the rearing of children which He has vowed to bless. So why not take Him at His Word? Are we to expect that if we faithfully do all that He has commanded us to with regard to our children that He would not bless those efforts and curse our children to rebellion and apostasy? That does not seem like the character of the God of the Bible and that sort of distrust does not come from a heart of faith. Instead, we should assume God’s faithfulness and willingness to bless obedience.
I highly recommend this book, even as a credobaptist (Wilson is a paedobaptist)! It is also well paired with reading Wilson’s other book, For a Glory and a Covering: A Practical Theology of Marriage as a practical companion with much down-to-earth wisdom for married couples. You may not agree with every point of Wilson’s theology, but he is a great conversation starter and good fuel for thought. Also, C.R. Wiley’s book, The Household and the War for the Cosmos is an excellent short read that helps you understand how the family is the fundamental building block of societies and one of the most important parts of God’s plan. With how much our modern culture disregards the importance of the family, this is also a great companion read!
#4 Cynical Theories: How Activist Scholarship Made Everything about Race, Gender, and Identity—and Why This Harms Everybody
This one is a bit of a more dense read but also an important one to understand some of the fundamental worldview issues of our current cultural moment. If you’ve ever heard that language is violence and that science is sexist or that being obese is healthy, that there is no such thing as biological sex, or that only white people can be racist, then you need to read this book.
Cynical Theories: How Activist Scholarship Made Everything about Race, Gender, and Identity—and Why This Harms Everybody by Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay unpacks the evolution of the core ideologies behind much of the craziness our modern Western cultures are going through today. It traces how dogmas from Postmodernism, Marxism and various secular philosophers have morphed into today’s activist academics, cancel culture, and popular woke culture. In this book, the authors explain how we got to the point we’re at today where men can identify as women and people are confused about the binary of sexuality. It examines how these Critical Theories frame everything in terms of oppression and power dynamics, and that language is a dangerous tool. It shows how these ideas if left unchecked, threaten our liberal democracies and freedoms and will lead to the ultimate breakdown of our society.
While Pluckrose and Lindsay are atheists/agnostics, their analysis is very insightful and the history of thought they laid out is extremely helpful in understanding where we find ourselves today. However, due to their non-Christian worldview, their prescriptions are often not fully in line with Biblical Christianity. But the discerning reader will find much to glean from their analysis even if their prescription is inaccurate. This is a book to read if you want to make sense of today’s madness.
#5 Masculine Christianity
Another book on Christian masculinity? Yep! Why? Because it’s needed… that’s why! Now, be a man. Do the right thing and read this book! (lol)
Masculine Christianity by Zachary Garris (who holds both a theology and a law degree) is a tightly argued case for a consistent Biblical view of gender roles in the church, home and society. Garris’s main case is that the Western church has gone feminist and rebelled against God’s design for distinct roles for the two sexes. Modern Evangelicalism has been co-opted by the “mutual submission” argument that led to rampant Egalitarianism in the pulpit and pews. He shows how the complementarian movement, in seeking to respond to this, actually compromised on several historic Christian teachings and failed to root gender roles in the differing natures of men and women. Thus, the modern church has become effeminate and weak. It has also restricted God’s teaching on the design for the gender roles mainly to the church and family, disregarding its implications on the ordering of public life and society.
In this book, Garris uses his expertise as a lawyer and a theologian to lay out an air-tight case for a Biblical vision of God’s design for the genders and Christianity. His careful exegesis and argumentation were very compelling and helpful for me and something I think every single Christian pastor and congregant needs to read and wrestle through. Very highly recommended read!
Garris also runs the website Teach Diligently, a wealth of resources for Christian Education and homeschooling.
#6 When a Nation Forgets God: 7 Lessons We Must Learn from Nazi Germany
When a Nation Forgets God: 7 Lessons We Must Learn from Nazi Germany by Erwin W. Lutzer was written in 2016 but feels very pertinent to our situation in a post-COVID world that has been devastated by government overreach by godless states on dechristianized populations. Lutzer lays out seven similarities between the situation in Nazi Germany and America (and the rest of the Modern West) today which ring eerily close to home. In only 141 pages, Lutzer uncovers how much of the German church stood by complacently as the Nazis took over and implemented their horrendous plans while the church coddled itself with self-affirmations of their own virtue for only concerning themselves with ‘spiritual’ things.
I think it may be a bit ironic that Dr. Lutzer may not have intended to be quite so prophetic to our situation today when he wrote this book – but I’m glad he did. By pointing out the compromise that is already happening in the church today (back in 2016 and continuing increasingly to today), Lutzer calls the church to repentance and to wake up to the reality of the danger of repeating history once again. In a short space, this book is able to unpack the relevance and lessons from history we must take to heart today and is well worth the read. By learning from the conditions which gave rise to the terror of the Third Reich, hopefully, Christians today can be on the alert and not check out of engagement in the public sphere. Hitler said to the German churches, “You confine yourself to the church. I’ll take care of the German people.” Many in the church today have voluntarily retreated to the ecclesiastical sphere and embraced the Nanny State – losing their saltiness and hiding their lamp under a basket.
If you’d like a preview of some of the content in this book, you can also listen to my podcast episode: 8 Lessons Christians Must Learn from Nazi Germany
#7 Slaying Leviathan: Limited Government and Resistance in the Christian Tradition
If there is one topic which the previous 2 years of COVID tyranny have exposed, it is that the Evangelical church in the West needs to go back and study the topics of limited government, Christian resistance, interposition and the Biblical role of Civil Government in God’s ordering of society. Slaying Leviathan: Limited Government and Resistance in the Christian Tradition by Glenn Sunshine is a fairly easy read (192 pages) that unpacks the history of Christian resistance to tyranny. Sunshine clearly demonstrates how there is a long tradition of Protestant Resistance Theory which we can draw from and learn how to apply it today as Biblically faithful citizens. He helps the reader to understand how we got here to enjoy many of the freedoms and prosperity we take for granted in the West and answers important questions by giving historical examples of when Christians did it well and not so well. The book also lays out a clear understanding of Sphere Sovereignty – an important concept – where God has ordained three main spheres: the family, the church and the civil government – each with their own jurisdiction and authority which must be kept distinct in a free society.
I highly recommend this book for those who were confused during the lockdowns as to why some churches (e.g. John MacArthur’s church) chose to defy government mandates in service of Christ. As our societies continue to turn away from Christ and reap the fruits of their rebellion, these doctrines will become more and more important for Christians to understand as we endure and also seek to rebuild from the ruins. Another great book which unpacks more of God’s design for Civil Government is Ruler Of The Nations: Biblical Blueprints For Government by Dr. Gary DeMar. You can download the PDF or listen to the audiobook version for free via the link.
#8 He Shall Have Dominion: A Postmillennial Eschatology
It should be no surprise to many that I’m a Postmillennial guy – especially if you’ve been reading my blog or listening to the podcast. Dr. Kenneth Gentry has been one of the most helpful authors in my journey to understanding the optimistic eschatology of Postmillennialism and answering a lot of the objections I had. He Shall Have Dominion: A Postmillennial Eschatology by Dr. Kenneth Gentry is a masterful 618-page thorough Biblical exposition of Postmillennialism. In it he shows how it helps to better make sense of the Bible’s narrative arc and the consistency of the system. He refutes many arguments against Postmillennialism commonly levied and shows through detailed and consistent exegesis how it makes the best sense of the text. From Genesis to Revelation, Dr. Gentry seeks to lay out an air-tight and compelling case for Postmillennialism.
While many Evangelicals today are worried about who’s going to be Left Behind in the fictional Rapture, Postmillennialism gives a Biblical vision for what Jesus promised – that the gates of Hell would not withstand His Church’s advance. In the difficult days in which we live that are filled with so much negativity, people are longing for hope and a plan for the future. What if that hope and plan for the future were already in front of our eyes in the pages of Scripture? If a 600-page book on Eschatology seems a bit daunting, you could also check out his short 155-page introductory overview – Postmillennialism Made Easy. Either way, I’d highly encourage you to at least give a fair reading and consideration of the position and the best arguments for it.
One of the things which have struck me about many Postmillennial authors is their commitment to providing their resources free also because they really do believe that their theology could change the world if people laid a hold of it. That’s commendable at the very least. You can find a FREE PDF of this book on Dr. Gary North’s site. I read this on my iPad via an app where I could write notes on the PDF (GoodNotes). So, why not check it out for free and see if you find it compelling – you’ve got nothing to lose!
#9 Killer Angel: A Biography of Planned Parenthood’s Margaret Sanger
In this short biography of Margaret Sanger (128 pages), George Grant lays bare the grotesque figure of the character of the woman who is the founder of Planned Parenthood and the modern abortion industry. I had already been committed against abortion due to my Christian convictions on the sanctity of life from womb to tomb, however, this chilling biography helped me see the demonic and dark origins of our modern-day practice of child sacrifice. Far from being the patron saint that our liberal media can portray Sanger as this biography exposes the evil works of darkness (Eph 5:11). Grant shows her vile home life, the promiscuous sexual lusts that drove her, the demonic ideologies she held to (such as Malthusian eugenics, racism, and Marxism) and the twisted circles she courted. This book exposes the true origins of the abortion industry that needs to be known – that it was racist and anti-human and anti-Christ from the start.
You can listen to my podcast episode based on this book: Abortion’s Killer Angel – The Dark Story of Planned Parenthood’s Margaret Sanger. You can also find a FREE PDF version of this book via Gary North’s site.
#10 The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy
While Thomas Sowell is not a Christian (or at least not overtly so if he is), I have benefitted much from his writings and insights as a world-renowned economic thinker. In The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy he gives a devastating critique of the arrogant mind-set behind many of the global elites who set have set failed social policies for the past three decades. He points out that this is not accidental but rather a result of a warped vision of reality and wrong-headed ideologies which end up leading to more crises in education, crime, family and politics. The global elites and politicians fancy themselves to be an “anointed” class who know better for the common man and take liberties to make decisions on his behalf. However, they are often so detached from reality that their inane policies never affect them as they pontificate about their own virtue in their ivory towers. Sowell brings a sledgehammer to break up those delusions and help people see what is happening.
This is an important read for those who want to understand why our societies are so messed up and many of our political leaders seem so out of touch. Another great book that I read by Thomas Sowell last year that deals with the question of accusations of systemic racism in the US was Discrimination and Disparities. It is also a worthy read for anyone wanting to wrestle honestly with the facts.
BONUS: Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All
Well, if you’ve been reading my blog for any amount of time, you know that I can’t stick to number limits on lists… lol
Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All by Michael Shellenberger was a last-minute add to this list of a book I just recently finished on audio. It was very well-researched and full of stories exposing the corruption behind much of today’s Climate Alarmism. This is interesting coming from Shellenberger who is himself a lifelong environmental activist who has been fighting for a greener planet. He comes out of the extremist end of the Climate debate, having once also bought into the alarmism of the global climate apocalypse which is peddled by many in mainstream media (e.g. Greta Thunberg). Shellenberger shows by laying out the facts that the media decides to ignore and many remain ignorant of that carbon emissions are not as big a deal as we’ve been sold and have actually been on the decline in most developed nations. He critiques the insane policies of Climate Alarmists, such as the “net zero” goals of the Green New Deal and shows how it is a distraction from the real issues we should be focused on – such as poverty – and how these policies end up hurting the most vulnerable. He also exposes some of the ideologies behind these misdirected goals – such as a commitment to depopulation based on Malthusian thought. He gives a hopeful outlook for the future of our planet and proposes reasonable solutions (such as nuclear power) to the actual climate and environmental problems.
While this book is not written from a Christian worldview, I did find its analysis and data helpful in understanding the issue more. I think that this topic will become more and more important for Christians to become educated on since it seems like the global elites of the WEF are set on making it the next “scamdemic” to seize more control. Regardless though, even if not, it is something that has already been making its way into our political policies, carbon taxes and laws, and many companies which have ESG systems. Christians would do well to read up on the issue and become more informed in order to reflect Biblically on the topic.
Well, I hope that you’ve found some helpful suggestions here!
If you’re able to, please consider donating to help continue to grow the ministry of THEOTIVITY as I seek to provide helpful resources and equip Christians to live out their faith through creativity and culture.