Reading More, Reading Fewer

I find myself often driven to read more books each month. On a low month, I might get 4 or 5 read. On a good month, I might get 8 to 10 read.

But I have committed myself to reading some books that I am duty bound as a book reviewer to read, but they are heavy, long books. They will damage the monthly quota. Meaning, I have a tendency to enjoy reading the book that can be easily read in a week or less. “Look at how many books I have read this month!” I tell myself.

There are more than enough short or medium length books lying around for me to read. But I have neglected the heavy weightlifting challenges in my perilous stacks of books surrounding me. I am now on a mission to read fewer books but to not neglect the huge books that demand some attention.

The Whole Counsel of God, Volume 3, God’s People in the Western World by Richard C. Gamble is published by P&R Publishing.

Several years ago, I bought volume 1 of this series. I think I got it because it was on sale, and since I had volume 1, I felt it necessary to get the second volume. In typical Ben House fashion, I put these two hefty volumes on a shelf and let them stand.

Volume 3 arrived some months ago with the command “Read and review.” I experienced a number of starts and stops in reading at, near, from, sort of in the book. But as June was coming to a close, I resolved that this book would be read from daily all the way through to the 1100 plus page ending.

This book is something of a survey of Western Civilization from a theological perspective. From the Greeks to the present, it gives summary accounts of the leading thinkers, issues, and events. While it is a massive book in itself, it can only graze over the surface of the topics.

All of that is to say that this is exactly the kind of book I tend to love and need. Pastors, teachers, and students need lots of surveys, lots of summaries, lots of bullet points, and lots of exposure to vast areas of knowledge. Just today, I finished the chapter on Augustine. I am neither an expert nor a total novice when it comes to Augustine. Some parts of the chapter were a recitation of details in his life and thought that I already knew, but the chapter went on to a relatively detailed account of his development of the doctrine of the Trinity and related issues.

My method of tackling this huge whale of a book is to attempt to read a whole chapter or at least 20 pages each day. Typically, the deeper I get into a book, the more I am prone to read.

I assume that one would be better off reading the previous volumes on the Old and New Testaments before tackling volume 3. But the last volume is a worthy stand-alone read.

I also assume that many students in Bible colleges and seminaries (especially those in the Reformed tradition) will be assigning Gamble’s trilogy so as to produce good minds and strong biceps. But for those of us whose seminary and Bible studies are located in our nearby bookshelves, this whole set is a worthy collection and challenge.

A Theology of Paul and His Letter by Douglas J. Moo is published by Zonervan Academic.

I received this review book somewhere back near the Christmas season. I have dipped into it on occasion and found tidbits to help along with whatever Pauline writings I was going over.

This book consists of lengthy studies into the theological views of Paul (to no one’s surprise). Pauline studies are a major field in theology. I don’t even begin to think that I can wade into the vast and richly rewarding field. I mainly try to collect some books and read things to supplement my own Bible readings and teaching opportunities.

The other large portion of this book consists of chapters devoted to the various epistles Paul wrote. One could read these as brief commentaries and overviews.

As I have already indicated, this book is a useful reference tool. Later this year, I do hope and plan on reading it from cover to cover.

The Klaas Schilder Reader: The Essential Theological Writings, edited by George Harninck, Marinus DeJong, and Richard Mouw is published by Lexham Press.

Some years ago, I stumbled into the Netherlands and discovered a world of wonder. I was not unfamiliar with the land and its history nor its theologians before those years, but it was only then (around 2005) that the depth and height and width of Dutch theology and philosophy began to unfold before my eyes. I had a few major opportunities to lecture on some of the great Dutchmen. Very soon, I was garnering everything I could find by and about Groen van Prinsterer, Abraham Kuyper, and Herman Dooyeweerd. Pursuing any one of those men’s works is challenge enough. But more Dutchmen kept showing up at my door and hinting at insights they had into God’s World and Word.

I had already heard of Klaas Schilder. R. J. Rushdoony mentioned how grand and eloquent Schilder’s writings and sermons were. I acquired his famous three volumes on Christ in sufferings, trial, and death. I have, alas, used these volumes all too little.

I found myself feeling giddy when I first learned last fall that Lexham Press (a favorite publisher) was putting this volume out. It seemed like forever before it arrived.

Of course, the biggest delay in unfolding the treasures of the Netherlands is the time needed to translate the works into English. Herman Bavinck is becoming something of a theological rock star in Christian, particularly Reformed, circles. Geerhardus Vos is getting a wider and wider reception. The beloved trio of Groen, Kuyper, and Dooyeweerd have their ardent followers, students, and commentators. The Dutch-to-America transplants like Louis Berkof, Herman Hoksema, and Cornelius Van Til have their strong supporters, along with weirdly bitter critics. And I have to throw in the name of H. R. Rookmaaker with this all star cast.

With this volume, I think many more will become acquainted with Schilder. For those who are totally unfamiliar with the list of names I have been spouting off, I will guess you may be familiar with Corrie Ten Boom and her great story found in The Hiding Place. Men like Schilder, Rookmaaker, and Dooyeweerd were all dodging the Nazi Gestapo and trying to pursue their academic missionary callings in the worst of times. The Third Reich perished–praise God–and the Dutch Christian witness pressed on.

It may be that these Dutchmen will have a greater impact in these lands across the pond than they did in their own times and places.

The Wonderful Works of God by Herman Bavinck is published by Westminster Seminary Press and distributed by Westminster Bookstore.

Speaking of Dutchmen and Herman Bavinck, this book, one of many now available by Bavinck, is a real treasure. I started reading it a year or so ago. I suppose it got sidetracked by one of about 15 major crises that engulfed our lives here, starting with Covid.

I was really enjoying the book, but for reasons I can’t explain, I put it aside, intended to read more, covered it with layer upon layer of other books, moved it to another room and bookshelf, then moved it again, and again, and again.

Blame the reader, not the book. I do remember how the book was beautifully and gracefully unfolding systematic theology. A few weeks ago, I was preparing a sermon to preach on Trinity Sunday (June 11). I was combing through some systematic theologies for strengthening my own understanding. I decided to jump into the chapters in Bavinck’s work that deal with the Trinity.

This chapter, Chapter X “The Divine Trinity,” was pure gold. It was balm from Gilead. It was refreshing cool waters. It was a green pasture to lie down in. I didn’t preach the chapter for my sermon, but it was the preaching to the preacher that enabled me to preach a far less rich message.

This book is part of an on-going series from Westminster called The Westminster Seminary Press Set. I have all five volumes. These are reprints and updated versions of theological treasures in the Reformed tradition. If you don’t have any of them, buy them as a set. Otherwise, just complete your incomplete collection.

Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith, Second Edition, by Douglas Groothius is published by InterVarsity Press.

Defending the faith is vital for the Church. I have long been reading and teaching Christian apologetics. The recent overturning of Roe v Wade brought many attacks from unbelievers to the forefront. While apologetics is a tool often used for students in Christian schools or perhaps for pastors, I am convinced that it is needed for the people in the pews.

In many cases, the individual believers will not know or remember how to answer some of the endless objections brought against the Christian faith. I typically try to comfort people by reminding them they need not panic. With over 20 centuries of battling unbelief, Christianity is no rookie in the ring. Someone, usually a bunch of someones, has answered the objections previously. This is not a new game.

I have yet to dig into this book, but it certainly looks and sounds like a winner.

Hopefully, I will be posting more updates on these books in the coming months. And, I hate to admit it, but I still have several other huge books that I need to at least start scanning and skimming.

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