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The Book That… (3)

Category Articles
Date November 24, 2017

Mack Tomlinson, Gary Brady, and Gary Williams talk to us about books that have impacted their life and faith in this new series.

* * *

Mack Tomlinson is a pastor and author in Denton, Texas.

Gary Brady has pastor of Childs Hill Baptist Church, London, NW2, for thirty years.

Gary Williams is the director of Pastors’ Academy, London, a part of London Seminary.

* * *

The book I am currently reading…

M.T: I Shall Not Die But Live, Douglas Taylor. This is wonderfully pastoral, experiential, and devotional, and centers on seeing and knowing Christ in all things in life and when facing death.

G.B: That happens to be The Darwin Effect: Its Influence on Nazism, Eugenics, Racism, Communism, Capitalism & Sexism by an American, Jerry Bergman. I like to read some of the Creationist material that is around from time to time. Devotionally, I have just strated A Scribe Well Trained: Archibald Alexander and the Life of Piety put together by Alexander expert, James M Garretson (The Banner published Alexander’s Thoughts on Religious Experience, the source of this material). I love the Profiles in Reformed Spirituality series published by RHB. I had previously been reading the excellent Thomas Goodwin volume assembled by Joel Beeke and Mark Jones.

G.W: Thom Nataro, Van Til and the Use of Evidence; N.T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God; James Hamilton, Song of Songs.

The book that changed my life…

M.T: I have to mention two! The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer and Studies in the Sermon on the Mount by Martyn Lloyd-Jones; Tozer’s book directed me towards a God-centred life of desiring to know God personally, and the Lloyd-Jones book demolished my dispensational interpretation of the Lord’s mount sermon and made me see that Jesus was revealing what a true Christian is and how they live.

G.B: It is difficult to immediately think of a book that fits neatly into this category. I do remember, however, reading, as a teenager, the Banner edition of A.W. Pink’s The Sovereignty of God. If I remember correctly I read it once and simply accepted it as I accepted all the new teachings that came into my life through the preaching and from the age of 12 up. I then read it again as a university student and really struggled with it and recall hurling it across the room at one point (something I have only done twice in my life , the other time I was reading Jude the Obscure by the atheistic fatalist Thomas Hardy). It seemed to me that Pink was giving just too much power to God. It was as if he was sovereign over everything… which I now see is really the case.

G.W: I was converted through studying John’s gospel at A level, so it must be that. Apart from the Bible, Calvin’s Institutes. As an undergraduate theology student taught largely by old-fashioned liberals focused on higher critical issues, I learnt very little real theology. It was during my Master’s that I sat and read through the Institutes and found a biblical, clear, passionate theology. It was life-changing since my work since then has been theological and Calvin provided the door to the theology of the Bible for me.

The book I wish I’d written…

M.T: Either Redemption Accomplished and Applied by John Murray (one of my top favourites of all time) or The Gospel According to Jesus by John MacArthur, which shook the American evangelical world by exposing the falseness of non-Lordship salvation and has had lasting reformational effect on so many churches and Christians.

G.B: I have just discovered details of a new book called Steal Away Home: Charles Spurgeon and Thomas Johnson, Unlikely Friends ont he Passage to Freedom by Matt Carter and Aaron Ivey. Like most people reading this I have long been aware of the 19th Century preacher C.H. Spurgeon and about thirty years ago I became aware of Thomas L. Johnson, who once preached here in Childs Hill and whose fascinating autobiography is called Twenty-Eight Years a Slave, or the Story of My Life in Three Continents. I have written brief pieces on Johnson for magazines and blogs but this is a full length lightly fictionalised account that treats of both men and I would love to have had some involvement in it. Hopefully, it will prove to be far better than I could have hoped to have done with the material.

G.W: Writing books is rather hard work, so I am very happy to leave other people’s books to them! I would like to have written the book I have felt called to write since I was 18, a creative and faithful biblical, covenantal, and theological exposition of the atonement, framed by the gospel narratives and informed by historical theology.

The book that helped me in my preaching…

M.T: Most recently, The Supremacy of God in Preaching by John Piper.; simple, brief and clear, the book calls the preacher back to the romance and simplicity of what preaching truly should be. Also, on preaching the Old Testament narratives, Dale Ralph Davis’ book, The Word Made Fresh, greatly helped me in how to approach preaching difficult sections of the Old Testament.

G.B: I have found help on this in many places. The book that I have most often turned to for help is Dr Lloyd-Jones’ matchless Preachers and Preaching. It never fails to challenge. I also love Stuart Olyott’s Preaching Pure and Simple. Perhaps the book I have gained most practical help from, however, is Haddon Robinson’s Expository Preaching: Principles and Practice (IVP) which first came out three years into my ministry, in 1986, and has been described as a modern classic. It is a very practical book and sets out some very helpful homiletical material. Also helpful, slightly paradoxically, is Jay Adams’ book for hearers Be Careful How You Listen: How to Get the Most Out of a Sermon.

G.W: Most recently I have been helped by Bryan Chapell’s Christ-Centred Preaching with its idea of the fallen condition focus of a text and sermon, the thought that the Spirit intends by the text to address believers in a particular aspect of their fallen condition, and that the preacher should seek to bring home the message of the text to that condition.

The book I think is most underrated…

M.T: Thoughts on Religious Experience by Archibald Alexander; simply profound and deeply helpful in understanding the nature of true Christian experience.

G.B: Possibly Thoughts on Religious Experience. I would also mention two little books by the Westminster Seminary professor Edwin H. Palmer, best known for his work on the original NIV. Palmer sadly died from a heart attack in 1980 aged only 58. In his lifetime he produced two wonderful books. One on The Five Points of Calvinism and one on The Holy Spirit (Banner produces them both in Spanish too). They were obviously written some time ago and may have been superseded to some extent but it is a great shame that the volumes are not better known. They are very helpful indeed.

G.W: Not underrated in the sense of ill though of, but in this country underrated by being too little known: Richard Gaffin’s Resurrection and Redemption. This book is a rich exegetical and doctrinal feast on the deep soteriological significance of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Resurrection faith is at the heart of the gospel according to Paul, but so much British teaching on the resurrection struggles to get beyond apologetics or beyond the most basic theological points.

The book that made me say ‘amen’ as I  read…

M.T: For me, it has to be Revival and Revivalism by Iain Murray, simply because I was raised in a ‘revivalism’ culture and was trained in that setting, and this book opened my eyes fully to understand that what I was already seeing was a faulty system, and what revival was historically and theologically.

G.B: This may seem a strange choice but I will never forget reading the Biographical Memoir of J. Gresham Machen by Ned Stonehouse, currently kept in print by the Banner and originally published in 1954. At the time of reading I had many ideas of what the ideal Christian life might be like and reading this wonderful life helped to remove some of my more unrealistic and erroneous ideas and to show me how what in some ways was a remarkably unspectacular life can truly be for the glory of god.

G.W: Hugh Martins’ The Atonement, for its extraordinarily judicious and wise teaching on the atonement, its devastating critique of opponents of the truth of the doctrine, and the compelling, vivid way in which he writes about the magnitude of Christ’s work.

The last book that made me weep…

M.T: This is a hard one because the two volume life of Martyn Lloyd-Jones made me weep at times, but the one I read more recently that produced this effect on me is The Scots Worthies, a massive account of the lives of Scottish Covenanters who suffered so greatly in Scotland during the 17th century. Fair Sunshine is a smaller version with the same theme by Jock Purves that produced the same effect on me , real tears!

G.B: Not generally being given to weeping except for mere sentimental reasons, this is a hard question to answer. Perhaps the book that has most moved and challenged me in recent years is Al Martin’s You Lift Me up: Overcoming ministry Challenges (RHB) which looks soberingly, as the publicity puts it, at ‘Backsliding – a spiritual decline manifested first in the prayer closet, burnout – the erosion of one’s mental, emotional, psychological, and physical resilience and buoyancy and washout , the loss of credibility among the people.’

G.W: Weep is a little strong for an Englishman, but I welled up and shed a tear a few days ago as I finished reading Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings with our youngest. They weren’t tears of relief at getting to the end of the 1100 pages! The story is as much as anything else a story of friendship, and the parting of Frodo and Sam always moves me.

The book I’m most ashamed not to have read…

M.T: Martyn Lloyd -Jones’ Exposition on Ephesians; I’ve been reading other things and haven’t gotten around to them! That’s a poor thing on my part. Un-mined gold is sitting in my study yet untouched.

G.B: There are probably several in this category and I have often failed to finish sometimes good books as well as poor ones but the one that comes to mind in this context is Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure by Dr Martyn-Lloyd Jones, a series of sermons first published in 1964. I have often picked it up and begun to read but never got very far, which has not been my experience with other books of sermons by the same author. I heard George Verwer of OM once complain about the title and plead for it to be changed. Maybe he is onto something there.

G.W: I should have read, a long time ago, J.I. Packer’s Knowing God.

The book I most often give to new church members and young Christians…

M.T: This is an easy one for me; The Christian Life: A Doctrinal Introduction by Sinclair Ferguson. I think it can be the most helpful book a new or untaught believer can read.

G.B: At the moment I use a little booklet, now out of print, called The Real Thing? It was put together many years ago for Grace Publications Trust by Philip Tait. It really goes back to Jonathan Edwards’ 18th Century work, Religious Affections which was reworked in the following century by Gardiner Spring. In more recent times, Al Martin and Ernie Reisinger then John Appleby and Keith Davies simplified the work. The final redactor was Philip Tait.

G.W: There isn’t a single book I could settle on, but for getting them to think through the faith, Packer’s Concise Theology is a good way in.

The book I give to people thinking of becoming a Christian…

M.T: I would begin with John Blanchards’ small Ultimate Questions and then follow up with his book Right With God. Nothing better evangelistically than these two gospel treasures.

G.B: There are a number of good books available, thankfully. Like many reading this my go to resource in this area is still John Blanchard’s Ultimate Questions which is available in such a wide variety of formats and languages.

G.W: A single gospel, Mark or John.

The book I wish I were able to write, and want someone to write…

M.T: It would be titles this way: The Power of the Holy Spirit Among the Covenanters in Their Suffering and Persecution. There is phenomenal reality that those preachers and believers experienced by the ministry of the Spirit in those years of persecution because God was so real to them; He was so real to them because they so needed him as their present help and deliverer.

G.B: This would be a straightforward book on the priesthood of all believers. One or two contributions have been made to the subject but there is no obvious go-to volume that one could give with total confidence to the average church member. Maybe I will get around to it one day. I would also like to complete a potential trilogy of commentaries. I have written Heavenly Wisdom (on Proverbs) and Heavenly Love (on Song of Songs), available in the Welwyn Series. As I enter old age, I would love to tackle ecclesiastes. Heavenly Worldliness perhaps , Heavenly Earthliness might be better. There are many commentaries on Ecclesiastes but it seems to me that not many really capture the spirit in which Solomon wrote.

G.W: I would love to see someone else better qualified to write a book bringing out the perfection of Scripture by showing the extraordinary depth of intertextual connections across 66 books, written over so many centuries. A work of such diversity and yet connected coherence cannot be merely human.

The best book for children…

M.T: Two, 66 Books One Story by Paul Reynolds (by Christian Focus); this is a great devotional summary of all the books of the Bible for a family to use, or children who can read it can use it themselves. Also, Building on the Rock (5 Volumes), by Joel Beeke.

G.B: There are many good books for children these days, including the beautifully produced biographical books penned by Simonetta Carr. The Banner books on the early church fathers by Sinclair Ferguson are also very good. Top of my list, however, is the beautifully produced The Barber Who Wanted to Pray by R.C. Sproul, which tells the story of Luther and his barber, Peter (I recently discovered that Peter tragically later killed his son-in-law in a drunken rage, wisely not mentioned in this book, which keeps me from any mere sentimentality about this lovely story).

G.W: I don’t know that the best book is, but I think it really helps children to see how the bible fits together, so an accessible introduction to the Bible overview like Vaughan Roberts’ God’s Big Picture can be fruitful for young readers.

Other final comments:

M.T: Here’s another one you could add that has a different twist , The book  I would want every pastor, theological student, missionary, and Christian leader to read… My choice, Pentecost Today by Iain Murray.

Books to Make You Say Amen


    The Atonement

    In its relations to the covenant, the priesthood, the intercession of our Lord

    by Hugh Martin

    price From: $13.50
    Avg. Rating


    Mack Tomlinson, Gary Brady, and Gary Williams talk to us about books that have impacted their life and faith in this new series. * * * Mack Tomlinson is a pastor and author in Denton, Texas. Gary Brady has pastor of Childs Hill Baptist Church, London, NW2, for thirty years. Gary Williams is the director of Pastors’ Academy, […]

    Revival and Revivalism by Iain Murray

    Revival and Revivalism

    The Making and Marring of American Evangelicalism 1750–1858

    by Iain H. Murray

    price Original price was: $33.00.Current price is: $29.70.
    Avg. Rating


    Mack Tomlinson, Gary Brady, and Gary Williams talk to us about books that have impacted their life and faith in this new series. * * * Mack Tomlinson is a pastor and author in Denton, Texas. Gary Brady has pastor of Childs Hill Baptist Church, London, NW2, for thirty years. Gary Williams is the director of Pastors’ Academy, […]

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