The Ten Theological Resources That I Find Helpful (and one more)

Russell Fuller

For Personal Devotion

For prayer I enjoy Matthew Henry’s A Method for Prayer. Henry interrupted his writing of his famous Bible commentary to write about prayer. Its a method of praying the Scriptures. He arranges verses of the same topic in five categories: adoration to God, confession of sin, petitions and request, thanksgivings for mercies, intercessions for others. I recommend praying one section in each of the five categories daily. The remaining chapters deal with special occasions for prayer such as morning and evening prayers, prayers before meals, when leaving on a journey, funerals, and other occasions. Also he covers conclusions of prayer, a paraphrase of the Lord’s prayer, and some general forms of prayer, such as prayer based on catechisms, children’s prayers, family prayers. This work will help you with ideas to pray through sections of Scripture on your own.

My other book for prayer is The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions. This work draws on the prayers and devotions of such Puritans as Thomas Watson, Richard Baxter, John Bunyan, Issac Watts, and Charles Haddon Spurgeon. These prayers and devotion, usually a page or two in length, express the godly desires and aspirations of these dedicated saints. They model Isaiah’s charge (64:7) “to stir up yourselves to take hold of God.” Their prayers show a profound work of the Spirit of grace in their lives.

For devotionals, I enjoy Voices from the Past. These one page devotionals are excerpts from Puritans, such as John Owen, John Flavel, Thomas Manton, and Thomas Brooks among many others. Each volume has one devotion for each day of the year. These volumes furnish an excellent introduction to the Puritans for those unfamiliar with the Puritans. These men have meditated on the Scriptures, lived by the Scriptures, and became mighty in the Scriptures.

For a book that encourages us in our Christian walk, John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress is without parallel. Bunyan, writing in allegory, relates a dream of a man named Christian and his escape from the City of Destruction (this world) to his arrival at the Celestial City (heaven). Bunyan emphasizes Christian’s salvation from sin and the difficulties of the narrow path that Christians must walk. Because the book captures the Christian life so well, you may think that you have met some of the characters in real life. There are many editions of this work and many free editions online. I recommend The Works of John Bunyan from Banner of Truth.

For Systematic and Biblical Theology

There are many good systematic and biblical theologies. My personal favorite is Francis Turretin’s Institutes of Elenctic Theology. This work is technical and not reader friendly. I suggest, therefore, a more concise work that summarizes the biblical storyline and precisely defines essential biblical teachings: The Westminster Confession. This work provides the texts of the Westminster standards: the Confession and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms. Moreover, scriptural proof texts are fully presented with the relevant words of the verse italicized. Most of the associated historical documents are also included, to mention three, The Sum of Saving Knowledge and the directories for worship: for the Public Worship of God and Family Worship. The Westminster Standards furnish the foundational documents for the Baptist Confession of 1689.

For commentary on the Westminster Standards, I turn to three resources. For the Confession of Faith, I find A. A. Hodge’s work to be exceptional, The Confession of Faith. Hodge briefly elucidates the Confession, often contrasting it with other viewpoints: Roman Catholic, Arminian, and Socinian. For the Larger Catechism, the most underrated and underused of the Westminster Standards, I recommend Johannes G. Vos’s outstanding work, The Westminster Larger Catechism: A Commentary. Vos, the son of the Geerhardus Vos, professor of Biblical Theology at Princeton Seminary, explains and applies the Large Catechism for daily life. For the Shorter Catechism, I look to Thomas Vincent’s The Shorter Catechism Explained from Scripture. Vincent, who risked his life preaching during the Great Plague of London, was a catechist at Christ Church Oxford and later a pastor. Many Puritans have recommended this outstanding work on the Shorter Catechism, including John Owen, Thomas Manton, Thomas Brooks, and Thomas Watson.

For Specific Theological Issues

Other theological works that I find edifying include J. C. Ryle’s Holiness. Ryle’s work on sanctification remains an important contribution. He refutes the errors concerning holiness of his day, many of which have current alterations, such as the “the higher life movement” and various forms of perfectionism. Ryle clearly explains the biblical doctrine of holiness and its importance for the Christian life. I recommend the books of J. C. Ryle, but this one may be his best.

The doctrine of inspiration needs to be emphasized in every generation. Edward J. Young’s Thy Word is Truth clearly expounds what the Scripture teaches about itself – that it is the very word of God, completely infallible and inerrant. He refutes modern theories concerning the inspiration of Scripture, answers objections to the biblical doctrine of inspiration, and demonstrates the accuracy and trustworthiness of the Scriptures. This is one of the best books on this vital subject.

And finally, there are many false gospels in the world today. These are often worldly philosophies unnaturally fused with the Scriptures to create a Christianity for the spirit of the age. J. Gresham Machen’s Christianity and Liberalism explains how these false philosophies and vain deceits, masquerading as consistent with the gospel in some manner, take many captive. Christianity and Liberalism reads like a template for understanding and countering today’s false gospels: social justice, Critical Race Theory, B-Side Christianity, and others. Of course, these modern heresies contain much of the same genetic material of the liberalism that Machen observed a century ago. Liberalism has continued to mutate since Machen’s day, yet Christianity and Liberalism even now furnishes the corrective to these modern scourges. That a liberal publisher would still publish this strongly conservative work demonstrates its importance and popularity (and for Eerdmans, its profitability). You cannot have a solid theological book list without this one.

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