A “Must-Read” Booklist for Those Who Want to Study Theology (Part 2)

Read Part 1.

I said in the last post that I would continue where I left off, so let me say something about books covering other aspects of Systematic Theology first.

The doctrine of man and sin require some strong representation in these days. Since the books by Ryrie, Stott. Lightner and Boice already mentioned treat these issues well I shall not add any other books to the list with the exception of Martyn Lloyd-Jones’s The Plight of Man and the Power of God, and Jeremiah Burroughs’s The Evil of Evils. Yes he’s a Puritan, but he is one of the easiest Puritans to read so there’s no excuse. Thomas Watson (another Puritan!) wrote a small book called The Mischief of Sin which I also recommend. For those who want to think through the craziness that is gender and body politics today and want to be grounded in truth I recommend Nancey Pearcey’s Love Thy Body.

What about the Church? I don’t much care for Mark Dever, but his little book on The Church is good. If a person wanted one book on the doctrine of the church I would direct them to Robert Saucy, The Church in God’s Program.

Now we get to the End Times!!! I am a Dispensational premillennialist so my bias is towards books which teach a literal seven-year Tribulation followed by a literal thousand-year reign of Christ, after which comes the Great Judgment and then the New Heaven and Earth. I also believe that Israel and the Church are distinct entities or peoples, who together with the Nations will comprise the one and many people of God in eternity. That was a mouthful, but the following works aren’t. Robert Lightner’s The Last Days Handbook and Paul Benware’s Understanding End Times Prophecy both fit the bill very well.

I said last time that I would include some books on the Christian Life, Biblical Studies, and Apologetics, and so I shall. My picks for the Christian Life are C. H. Spurgeon’s Morning & Evening , Arthur W. Pink’s Practical Christianity or Life of Faith. J. C. Ryle’s Holiness or Practical Religion and William Wilberforce’s Practical Christianity. I do not recommend everything Pink wrote because of his early habit of emphasizing things like types and ‘law of first mention’, and also his overly strident Calvinism and sometime tendency to criticize, but he is a great author. Perhaps balance him with J. Sidlow Baxter’s His Part and Ours. Ryle is brilliant and practical; Wilberforce is fervent and sensible.

There are many other great books on the subject, but there are a truckload of plain awful ones too. one more I would put in there for those who experience struggle in their sojourn is Martyn Lloyd-Jones’s ill-titled Spiritual Depression. None of these books are particularly easy reading, but neither should they be. All are read-able.

Up next are a few books in the broad category of biblical studies. Here are several books on diverse subjects: first I think Michael Vlach’s He Will Reign Forever is a must. It is a grand tour through the storyline of the Bible. It will repay your effort. Then there is Creation and Change by Douglas Kelly, which is an excellent defense of six day creation. Of course, one must add to that a work like Thousands not Billions edited by Donald DeYoung. but I’m getting into Apologetics now, so let me briefly draw back long enough to recommend Peter Lewis’s The Glory of Christ, Understanding Spiritual Gifts by Robert Thomas. and, believe it or not, 40 Questions About Heaven and Hell by Alan Gomes.

And so to Apologetics or the defense of the Christian Faith. I think the first thing I want to say is that it is wise to watch out for the perspective of the apologist. What I mean is that you should ask yourself whether the author is writing from the position where the divine nature or Scripture is presupposed or not. As a Christian you have been saved from the darkness and transferred to the light. It is unwise to think as though that has not happened to you. Therefore, while commending them, I will indicate below by an (<) where the author steps out of a Biblical outlook to argue back into it. Anyway, here goes:

For the right apologetics approach I recommend Greg Bahnsen’s book Always Ready. It is invaluable. I ought to include here that Bahnsen’s lectures are all now available for free through Covenant Media Foundation. While I do not subscribe to his Covenant Theology or his views on the Law, I think Bahnsen’s skills as a Christian apologist and philosopher are first rate. Get busy! Two books by J. P. Moreland (<) are Scientism and Secularism and Scaling the Secular City. Then the British publications Genesis For Today by Andy MacIntosh and Hallmarks of Design by Stuart Burgess are warmly recommended. J. Warner Wallace’s (<) Cold-Case Christianity and James R. Edwards’ (<) Is Jesus the Only Savior? are both good (Edwards’s book is somewhat challenging), and James Spiegel’s (<) The Making of An Atheist is very good. Speaking of Jesus, it may be written by a Roman Catholic but I really like The Case for Jesus by Brant Pitre (<). Something like Ron Rhodes’s (<) Big Book of Bible Answers is a worthwhile compendium of “facts.”

To finish off this post I want to put in a punt for Jason Lisle and his book The Ultimate Proof of Creation; a first class orientation to thinking from the Bible while defending it.

Next time I shall say something about Worldview, including thoughts on Francis Schaeffer and C. S. Lewis. I shall then end the proceedings by turning to Church History and biography.

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There are 4 Comments

josh p's picture

Enjoying this series Paul. Are you placing Vlach's book above McClain at this point? 

Paul Henebury's picture

For this list Vlach has to come before McClain because it's a "beginners" list.  Overall I think Vlach has written a better book than McClain, mainly because McClain introduces dispensations as a main plank of his biblical theology. 

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.

TylerR's picture


I've peeked into Vlach's book several times, now. I bought it at Christmas 2019, but haven't yet read it. It looks to be better than McClain, in my opinion - but I admit I only read McClain once, and that was years ago. I think Vlach's tome will effectively replace McClain in dispensationalist circles.

I find it interesting that few people mention Pentecost's little book Thy Kingdom Come. Why did it never gain the cachet that MaClain's book did? 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government.

Paul Henebury's picture

You're right about Pentecost's book.  It is solely composed of Scripture and analysis without any references to scholars etc.  I would have included it above but Vlach is better.  That's because Pentecost puts dispensations ahead of covenants whereas Vlach doesn't rely on dispensations at all. 

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.

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