Although the complaint “Nobody reads anymore” is often heard in this age of television, Florida vacations and ski-weekends, books are said to be selling in greater numbers than ever and there are those who are turning twentieth-century affluence into the development of a personal library as well as into outboard motors and a second car.
As Editorial Committee for Reformed Fellowship, Inc., charged with the duty of publishing this magazine, we have decided to recommend certain books to our readers. This is just a start and is limited by the rather arbitrary number of twenty-five. When undertaking a project of this kind, one realizes that at least a hundred books ought to be mentioned, but practical considerations compel one to stay within certain limits. If your favorite book is not included in the list that follows, stay with us—we intend to publish additional lists in the future.
In making our recommendations, we have taken into consideration certain guidelines:
1. Only books published in the English language are to be recommended.
2. The books must reflect a Reformed point of view.
3. The books must be available in bookstores.
4. The books must be readable for the Christian of average intelligence.
5. Commentaries are to be excluded.
6. Recommendation is not to be construed as unqualified approval.
The following books are arranged, not in the order of importance, but alphabetically, according to the names of the authors or editors.
1. Augustine, Confessions (available in many editions). This work gives profound insights into the life and the very heart of one of the greatest Christian thinkers of all time. It is truly a classic. The emphasis throughout is on the sovereign grace of God, the theme being a desperately poor sinner and an infinitely rich Savior.
2. Harman Bavinck, Our Reasonable Faith (Eerdmans). A compendium or synopsis of Bavinck’s four-volume Reformed Dogmatics. The translation from the Dutch was made by the late Henry Zylstra. In twenty-four chapters the prince of recent Reformed theologians sets forth the basic doctrines of the Christian religion.
3. L. Berkhof, Systematic Theology (Eerdmans). This 784-page volume expounds and summarizes the teaching of Holy Scripture on theological subjects. It is especially useful for the purpose of reference. Berkhof’s Manual of Reformed Doctrine is a fine condensation of his Systematic Theology, and his Summary of Christian Doctrine is a summary of the Manual. Even beyond Reformed circles Berkhof is highly regarded as a theologian.
4. Gerrit C. Berkouwer, The Conflict with Rome (The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company). This book, although written prior to the recent Vatican Council, yet offers an up-to-date treatment of the issues of the Protestant Reformation. The reader does well to remember that Rome lays claim to infallibility and therefore may progress but cannot change. Like Berkouwer’s works generally, this one is marked by great competence, meticulous fairness and penetrating insight.
5. John Bunyan, Pilgrim’s Progress (available in many editions). Subjective religious experience is often exalted above the objective Word of God. Not so in this delightful seventeenth-century allegory by “the immortal dreamer of Bedford jail.” It is highly esteemed as a classic throughout the Christian world.
6. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion ( Westminster Press, 2 volumes). This work is somewhat harder to read than are most on this list, but it has to be named because, outside of the Bible, it is perhaps the greatest hook ever written. The whole of it is based squarely on the Bible as the infallible Word of God. Calvin was pre-eminently a theologian of the Word.
7. William Hendriksen, Bible Survey (Baker). A wealth of information in simple language on Bible history, principles of interpretation and the various hooks of the Bible.
8. Cornelius Jaarsma, Fundamentals in Christian Education (Eerdmans). Forty gems by seventeen Dutch and American educators on the basis, aims and organization of Christian schools.
9. D. H. Kromminga, The Christian Reformed Tradition (Eerdmans). The late Professor of Church History at Calvin Theological Seminary offers a survey of the background in The Netherlands and the founding and development in North America of the Christian Reformed Church. This book should be found in every Christian Reformed home.
10. B. K. Kuiper, The Church in History (Eerdmans). Every Christian should have some awareness of the history of tile Church, marred as it is by human frailty but directed by divine providence and the Holy Spirit. This survey by a teacher who knew how to make history live tells that story from the apostolic age to the present day and, in the light of prophecy, even to the end of time.
11. R. B. Kuiper, The Glorious Body of Christ (Eerdmans). By and large the Christian Church is not highly thought of today. Not everything that calls itself a church is deserving of that name, but the true Church of Christ is indeed glorious. This presentation covers all aspects of the doctrine of the Church and excels in clarity, vigor, balance, relevance and, most of all, Scripturalness.
12. J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism (Eerdmans). This book was a leading factor in the battle of the twenties between Orthodoxy and Modernism in the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. A great defender of the faith, valiant for truth, demonstrates convincingly that Modernism is not Christianity but another, a false, religion.
13. John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied (Eerdmans). The doctrine of redemption requires precise definition, and Professor Murray of Westminster Theological Seminary furnishes just that in this book. Murray’s theology is thoroughly Biblical and for that very reason emphatically Reformed. Such teaching is a powerful antidote to the man-centered emphases of our day.
14. J. I. Packer, Fundamentalism and the Word of God (Eerdmans, paperback). A scholarly and uncompromising defense of the infallibility of the Bible by one of the foremost British Calvinists of our day.
15. Klaas Runia, I Believe in God (The Inter-Varsity Press). This booklet of 77 pages concerns itself with “Current Questions and the Creeds.” The Australian author is familiar with the theological trends of the day and evaluates them in a way demanding respect. The reading of this booklet is refreshing in such a time as this, when the great creeds of Christendom, products of the guidance of the Church into the truth by the Holy Spirit, are said by many to be outdated and outmoded.
16. Evan H. Runner ed., The Bible and the Life of the Christian (Groen Van Prinsterer Club, Calvin College). A 73-page booklet on the Calvinistic world-and-life view, covering such subjects as government, marriage, labor unions, education and economics. An excellent introduction to a distinctively Reformed but little understood subject.
17. Ned B. Stonehouse, J. Gresham Machen, A Biographical Memoir ( Eerdmans). A life of J. Gresham Machen, one of the founders of Westminster Theological Seminary, Professor of New Testament Theology, early leader of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, prolific writer and indomitable fighter for truth. In effect this book is a grave warning for any denomination on which theological liberalism is making inroads.
18. J. K. Van Baalen, The Chaos of Cults (Eerdmans). Spiritism, Theosophy, Rosicrucianism, Christian Science, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormonism and many other errant cults are described. Extensive quotations from the writings of these groups authenticate the author’s evaluations. There are also chapters on the Bible, the basic tenets of the Christian Faith and the proper approach to cult adherents.
19. F. Vanden Berg, Abraham Kuyper (Eerdmans). A very readable biography of a Reformed genius in theology, education and politics. The reader is bound to make a thorough acquaintance with the Calvinistic world-and-life view.
20. G. J. Vande Riet ed., Reformed Evangelism (Baker). This symposium announces itself as “A Manual on Principles and Methods of Evangelization.” Nineteen chapters by seventeen writers cover both the theory and the practice of evangelism on a Reform ed basis and in a Reformed manner.
21. H. Van Riessen, The Society of the Future (Baker). A Christian approach to current social and political problems. Decidedly relevant in this age of state totalitarianism. An earnest warning is issued against the “planned society.”
22. Cornelius Van Til, The Defense of the Faith (The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company). In this work the distinguished Professor of Apologetics at Westminster Theological Seminary upholds the Reformed Faith in his characteristic scholarly, and withal courageous, fashion, not only over against its deniers, but also over against those who distort it by compromise.
23. Henry R. Van Til, The Calvinistic Concept of Culture (Baker). Culture is defined as “that activity of man, the image-bearer of God, by which he fulfills the creation mandate to cultivate the earth, to have dominion over it and to subdue it.” A fine treatment of an important but neglected subject.
24. Benjamin B. Warfield, The Plan of Salvation (Eerdmans). That illustrious American Calvinist was a voluminous author. After his death many of his writings were collected and published in ten large volumes, which every minister should have in his library. By the way, John E. Meeter, now pastor of the Englewood, New Jersey, Christian Reformed Church, had an active part in that momentous project. But Warfield’s most outstanding work is the 142-page book here recommended. It sets forth most lucidly the Scriptural, hence Reformed, doctrine of salvation by sovereign grace over against Pelagianism, Arminianism, Roman Catholicism and Universalism.
25. E. J. Young, Thy Word Is Truth (Eerdmans). The most crucial issue for present-day Christianity is that of authority. The Professor of Old Testament Theology in Westminster Theological Seminary sets forth in scholarly, yet plain, fashion the inspiration and consequent inerrancy of the Bible. He stedfastly refuses to compromise with either the old or the new Modernism.