Where the world comes to study the Bible

Books For Growing Christians

Related Media

(Updated & Revised, July, 2004)

Bringing good Christian books into your home is like inviting godly, wise Christian leaders to share their insights with you and your family. It’s a worthwhile investment. I recommend that you budget money to purchase good Christian books. If you spend money for cable TV or videos & movies, why not budget some money for books to help you and your family to grow in Christ? I usually purchase books rather than borrow because I can then mark them and write comments in the margin as I interact with the authors. I also set goals on how many books I want to read each year to help me keep at it. I try to vary my reading between devotional (often sermons from the godly men of the past), biographical (I have a separate book list entirely on this), and theological.

I usually buy books either used or at a discount. One source: Christian Book Distributors, Box 7000, Peabody, MA 01961-7000. Phone: (800) 247-4784. Web: www.christianbook.com Another source for some harder-to-find, but solid books: Cumberland Valley Bible Book Service, P.O. Box 613, Carlisle, PA 17013. Phone: (800) 656-0231. Web: www.cvbbs.com Even with shipping costs, you can usually beat retail prices. Also, try www.Amazon.com Go to www.campusI.com to compare prices on books.

This list is selective. There are many other worthwhile books. I’ve listed some that have helped me. Being on this list does not imply total endorsement. Read critically and prayerfully, comparing everything with Scripture! I have tried generally to list them in order of priority for purchase (or my favorites first) under each section. You can get free Bible software (donations requested) at www.freeBibleSoftware.com

Reference Works, Bible Study Aids

Note: You can now purchase many of the following works in various combinations on CD-ROM for your computer. Generally, you can get far more books for your buck this way, if you don’t mind having them in this form. You will have to search around and determine what best fits your needs.

  1. New American Standard Bible. It is the most literal translation, although sometimes not smooth. Get the updated version.
  2. English Standard Version Bible. This is a literal translation also, attempting to be a bit smoother than the NASB.
  3. New International Version Bible. For alternate reading & study; less literal than the NASB, but easier to read. The New King James Version is a modern update of the popular old version. Generally the Greek text behind the KJV & NKJV is not as authentic as the text behind the NASB & NIV (although this is hotly debated!).
  4. Exhaustive Concordance to the NASB. A concordance lists every word in the Bible and where it occurs, so you can locate a text if you can remember one word from the verse; or do a theme or word study by tracing every occurrence of a word in the Bible.
  5. The New Bible Dictionary.
  6. The New Unger’s Bible Handbook.
  7. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, 12 vol. Best evangelical, multi-volume commentary set. This set has been abridged into the two-volume NIV Bible Commentary, Kenneth Barker & John Kohlenberger III, eds. If you purchase this shorter set, you could also purchase vol. 1 of the Expositor’s set, which contains some very helpful articles.
  8. The Bible Knowledge Commentary Old Testament & New Testament (2 vols.). Brief commentary on the whole Bible (dispensational perspective, written by Dallas Seminary faculty).
  9. Calvin’s Commentaries. Expensive and does not cover whole Bible. But he is devotionally as well as exegetically good. You can find these on the web (www.monergism.com).
  10. The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible (5 vols.).
  11. Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, W. E. Vine. Word studies for students who don’t know Hebrew or Greek.
  12. The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Colin Brown, ed. (4 vols.). More scholarly word studies than Vine, but you can use it even if you don’t know Greek. There is also a one volume edition of Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament.
  13. Any good Bible atlas.
  14. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, Walter Elwell, ed.
  15. The New International Dictionary of the Christian Church, J. D. Douglas, ed.
  16. Eerdman’s Handbook to the History of Christianity, ed. by Tim Dowley.
  17. Unlocking the Scriptures, Hans Finzel (principles of inductive Bible study; or, there are several other good books that help you learn to study the Bible on your own).

Theology/Doctrine

Don’t be scared off by this section! Christian families used to teach their children through catechisms, which are great summaries of biblical truth. American Christians need sound doctrine! In addition to the specific works listed below, I highly recommend that you read any of the Puritans. Also, men like Jonathan Edwards, Spurgeon, J. C. Ryle, and Martyn Lloyd-Jones have many sermons in print that combine solid theology, devotion to God, and practical application.

  1. The London Baptist Confession of 1689 (this is now available from Cumberland in a modern version called A Faith to Confess: The 1689 Confession in Modern English).
  2. The Westminster Confession of Faith (along with the Longer and Shorter Catechisms; I don’t agree with their position on baptism and the Sabbath, but it is an excellent summary of solid doctrine).
  3. Institutes of the Christian Religion, John Calvin (buy the edition by J. T. McNeill, translated by Ford Lewis Battles, which is more up-to-date than the Beveridge edition). While some sections are hard to read, others are outstanding (the section on prayer is great)! Next to the Bible, Calvin’s Institutes is far and away the most profound book I’ve ever read (twice at this date)!
  4. Calvin: An Introduction to His Thought, T. H. L. Parker (synopsis of the Institutes).
  5. Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudem. Contemporary, Reformed on salvation. I do not agree with his charismatic leaning. A condensed version of this book is called, Bible Doctrine.
  6. Systematic Theology, Charles Hodge (get the one-volume abridged edition; Hodge was a solid Reformed professor at Princeton in the 19th century).
  7. The Works of Jonathan Edwards (2 vol.). Edwards is difficult to read, but immensely rewarding. He knew and loved God as few men have.
  8. The Bondage of the Will, Martin Luther (a classic; a modern English edition is available from Cumberland called “Born Slaves”).
  9. Faith Works, John MacArthur, Jr. On “lordship salvation.”
  10. The Holiness of God, R. C. Sproul.
  11. Knowing God, J. I. Packer.
  12. The Doctrines of Grace, James Boice & Philip Ryken (on Calvinism).
  13. Chosen by God, R. C. Sproul. Clear, convincing, and practical.
  14. Still Sovereign, ed. by Thomas Schreiner & Bruce Ware. A collection of essays on the vital subject of God’s sovereignty. Some are very helpful.
  15. The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God, D. A. Carson. Short, but provocative.
  16. The Love of God, John MacArthur.

Spiritual Life/ Devotional

  1. Any of Spurgeon’s sermons (many are available in paperback). They’re a bit wordy, but devotionally meaty. Worth the effort! (Also, check out the great Spurgeon web site: www.spurgeon.org
  2. Any of John Bunyan’s sermons or devotional writings. The Acceptable Sacrifice and Come and Welcome to Jesus Christ are now available from Banner of Truth. Both a wonderful!
  3. The Saints’ Everlasting Rest, Richard Baxter (a Puritan, hard-to-find, but a wonderful exposition of the fact that our hope is in heaven, not in this life). This is one of the top five books I’ve ever read!
  4. A Quest for Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life, J. I. Packer. (Packer isn’t easy to read, but this is a great book. I’ve read it three times so far.)
  5. Spiritual Disciplines of the Christian Life, Donald Whitney. A study guide is also available.
  6. Don’t Waste Your Life, John Piper. I wish this had been available when I was in my 20’s.
  7. Desiring God, John Piper. Provocative and life-changing.
  8. The Pleasures of God, John Piper. What God delights in.
  9. God’s Passion for His Glory, John Piper. The first half is Piper’s introduction to Jonathan Edwards. The second half is Edwards’ difficult, but rewarding essay, “The End for Which God Created the World.”
  10. Sin and Temptation, John Owen (a condensed, modern English version is, What Every Christian ) This is the best treatment of how to deal with temptation. I’ve read it at least 4 times. Owen, a 17th century Puritan, is meaty, but very hard to read in his original works.
  11. Practical Religion, J. C. Ryle (a 19th century Anglican, but contemporary and solid; read anything of his you can find. This work is now in a modern, condensed version titled “Walking With God,” available from Cumberland).
  12. Holiness, J. C. Ryle. A classic.
  13. Expository Thoughts on the Gospels, 4 vol., J. C. Ryle. Great devotional insights on every paragraph in the gospels. This makes for great daily devotional reading as you read through the gospels.
  14. Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan. Get a modern English version. Read and reread it yourself & to your kids. Spurgeon read it through yearly!
  15. Revival, Martyn Lloyd-Jones.
  16. The Sermon on the Mount, Martyn Lloyd-Jones (incisive analysis of Matthew 5-7). All of Lloyd-Jones’ books of sermons are devotionally rich.
  17. Our Sufficiency in Christ, John MacArthur, Jr. Attacks the modern intrusion of psychology & pragmatism into evangelical circles.
  18. The Ultimate Priority, John MacArthur, Jr. (on worship).
  19. A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life, William Law (18th century, get a modern English abridgement if you can). A bit out-dated, but it shows you the solid spirituality of these godly men of the past in comparison with the flimsy spirituality of today.
  20. From Pride to Humility, Stuart Scott. A short booklet, excerpted from The Exemplary Husband. Every Christian should read this booklet repeatedly! It is really good and practical.

Church History/Biography/Missions

(I have benefited much from reading in this area. I have a more extensive biographical bibliography available. Some of these are of more interest to preachers, but would benefit any believer. I’ve listed them separately below.)

  1. George Muller, Roger Steer (Muller was a giant in faith and prayer).
  2. George Muller of Bristol, A. T. Pierson. An older treatment. This book profoundly influenced me.
  3. Hudson Taylor, Roger Steer (recent treatment of this great pioneer missionary to China).
  4. Hudson Taylor and Maria, John Pollock.
  5. From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya, Ruth Tucker (great, moving historical biography of missions).
  6. Bruchko, Bruce Olson. Exciting story, great for reading to family.
  7. The Tapestry, Edith Schaeffer. Life of Francis & Edith Schaeffer, a real‑life drama of how God leads as we walk with Him.
  8. Worldly Saints, Leland Ryken. A great book on the Puritans; it will surprise you!
  9. To The Golden Shore: The Life of Adoniram Judson, Courtney Anderson. Life of the pioneer missionary to Burma. Judson is a phenomenal example of endurance in spite of overwhelming obstacles.
  10. Shadow of the Almighty, Elisabeth Elliot. Life of Jim Elliot, martyred husband of the author.
  11. Through Gates of Splendor, Elisabeth Elliot. Story of five missionaries martyred in Ecuador.
  12. Peace Child, Don Richardson. Couple goes to stone age, cannibal tribe with the gospel. Fascinating.
  13. Lords of the Earth, Don Richardson. If this were a movie, you’d swear it couldn’t be true. But it is true!

Especially for pastors, those interested in preaching:

  1. Walking With the Giants and Listening to the Giants, Warren Wiersbe (short biographies of great preachers).
  2. John Calvin, T. H. L. Parker (best biography, by leading Calvin scholar).
  3. Calvin’s Preaching, by Parker (Great book! Calvin’s emphasis on expository preaching).
  4. Spurgeon, Arnold Dallimore (best shorter biography of this giant).
  5. Autobiography of C. H. Spurgeon (2 vol., [Banner of Truth]).
  6. D. M. LloydJones, 2 vol., Iain Murray. Lloyd‑Jones is called the best preacher in 20th century. (Vol. 2 is 800 pages, but worth it! I was sad when it ended.)
  7. Jonathan Edwards, Iain Murray. Colonial New England revival preacher and theologian.
  8. Revival & Revivalism, Murray. Insightful history of American evangelicalism from 1750-1850, showing how modern American evangelicalism got this way. I’ve read it twice.
  9. The Puritans, Martyn Lloyd-Jones.
  10. Knowing the Times, Lloyd-Jones.

Evangelism / Missions / Apologetics

  1. The Soul Winner, C. H. Spurgeon. Meaty, but nourishing. I come back to it often.
  2. Concentric Circles of Concern, W. Oscar Thompson, Jr.
  3. The Master Plan of Evangelism, Robert Coleman.
  4. How to Give Away Your Faith, Paul Little. The basics on how to witness.
  5. Evangelism Explosion, D. James Kennedy.
  6. The Case for Christ, Lee Strobel. I don’t like his chapter on psychology, but the rest of the book is a solid presentation of the evidence for the faith. Use it in your witness.
  7. Evidence That Demands a Verdict, Josh McDowell. Wealth of information on the resurrection.
  8. Darwin on Trial & Defeating Darwinism, both by Phillip Johnson (a bit technical at times, but excellent attacks on evolution).
  9. Kingdom of the Cults, Walter Martin. A good reference work on the major cults.
  10. Jehovah’s Witnesses Answered Verse by Verse, by David Reed. Helpful if you’re witnessing to a JW.
  11. The Fatal Flaw & Answers to Roman Catholic Claims, both by James White. His web site is www.aomin.org
  12. Operation World, Patrick Johnstone & Jason Mandryk. A wealth of statistics and prayer needs for every country in the world. Get the most recent edition.
  13. Eternity in Their Hearts, Don Richardson. Fascinating stories of how God prepares people groups for the gospel.
  14. Let the Nations be Glad, John Piper. Not easy to read, but worth the effort!
  15. Mission Frontiers, U.S. Center for World Mission (1605 Elizabeth St., Pasadena, CA 91104). Not a book, but a monthly journal that keeps you informed on current mission issues.

(For further reading on Missions, see the numerous missionary biographies in my Christian Biography book list.)

The Church/Ministry

(See the above section for pastors.)

  1. Lectures to My Students, C. H. Spurgeon.
  2. An All-Round Ministry, C. H. Spurgeon.
  3. The Supremacy of God in Preaching, John Piper. Excellent!
  4. Preaching and Preachers, Martyn Lloyd-Jones. His lectures on the task of preaching. He was a master!
  5. The Preacher and His Models, James Stalker (probably out-of-print, but excellent).
  6. Ashamed of the Gospel, John MacArthur, Jr. Critique of the “market the gospel” approach and call for biblical methods.

Marriage And Family

Most of the current Christian books in this and the next two headings are badly tainted by worldly psychology, rather than based on Scripture alone, which is sufficient (2 Tim. 3:16) and our only source for God’s wisdom in these crucial areas. I have tried to select books that are not psychologically tainted (although note the comments below).

  1. Self-Confrontation, John Broger, chapters 9-15 (a study workbook, not a book to sit and read; see below under “Counseling”). Practical, loaded with Scripture references.
  2. What is a Family?, Edith Schaeffer. Now out of print, but a creative, warm approach to biblical family life.
  3. Reforming Marriage, Douglas Wilson.
  4. The Exemplary Husband, Stuart Scott. The best book for husbands that I’ve read.
  5. The Excellent Wife, Martha Peace. Same comment as #5.
  6. The Fruit of Her Hands, Nancy Wilson (I have not read it, but my wife thinks it is excellent for wives).
  7. Christian Living in the Home, Jay Adams.
  8. Love Life for Every Married Couple, Ed Wheat. Although tainted a bit by worldly “self-esteem” teaching, his overall treatment of biblical love and responsibility in marriage is excellent.
  9. Intended for Pleasure, Ed Wheat. A Christian medical doctor deals with the sexual relationship in marriage.

Child Rearing

(See comments and some titles under Marriage/Family.)

  1. Self-Confrontation, John Broger, chapters 16-17 (see below under “Counseling”).
  2. How to Really Love Your Child, by Ross Campbell. A lot of psychology needs to be filtered out, but Campbell has some helpful, practical insights into how to make your children feel your love.
  3. The Duties of Parents, J. C. Ryle.
  4. You and Your Child, Charles Swindoll.
  5. Leading a Child to Independence, Paul & Jeannie McKean. Although tainted by worldly “self-esteem” teaching, they have some helpful insights on setting goals in child rearing.
  6. Parents in Pain, John White. Although you have to filter out numerous psychological “insights” that aren’t based on Scripture, White has some helpful insights for parents of wayward children.

Family Devotions

I encourage families to get a modern catechism (see #1 under THEOLOGY/DOCTRINE) and work through it with your children. John Piper also has prepared a catechism. See www.desiringgod.org (Search = catechism)

  1. Global Prayer Digest. A daily prayer guide for unreached peoples, available from Mission Frontiers, 1605 Elizabeth St., Pasadena, CA 91104. We use it after our family Bible reading to keep our focus on the mission task.
  2. The Bible in Pictures for Little Eyes, Kenneth Taylor. Brief Bible stories for reading to pre-schoolers.
  3. The Muffin Family series, Gilbert Beers. Bible stories coupled with a short story which applies it. Good for 4-8 year-olds.

(There are probably many more resources now available, but since my children are grown, I do not keep up with them.)

Family Finances

  1. Master Your Money, Ron Blue.
  2. Your Finances in Changing Times, Larry Burkett.
  3. Your Money Matters, Malcolm MacGregor. It may be out of print; I like his humor.

Counseling/Emotions/Suffering

(Grouped somewhat topically):

  1. SelfConfrontation, John C. Broger (available from Biblical Counseling Foundation, P.O. Box 925, Rancho Mirage, CA 92270). A helpful, biblically based approach to personal discipleship and to helping others with their problems. Study workbook format.
  2. The Christian Counselor’s Manual, Jay Adams.
  3. How to Counsel From Scripture, Martin & Deidre Bobgan. They have since renounced their own book, but I think it has some helpful guidelines. Their web site is: www.psychoheresy-aware.org
  4. Christian Psychology’s War on God’s Word, Jim Owen (EastGate Publishers, Santa Barbara, CA 93110). Shows the harmful influence of “Christian” psychology.
  5. PsychoHeresy, Martin & Deidre Bobgan (EastGate Publishers). Hard-hitting, biblically sound critique of “Christian” psychology.
  6. 12 Steps to Destruction, Martin & Deidre Bobgan. Exposes the false teaching of the “Christian” recovery and “codependency” movements.
  7. Why Christians Can’t Trust Psychology, Ed Bulkley. I think that he is balanced in his approach.
  8. Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure, Martyn Lloyd-Jones. A spiritual classic.
  9. The Last Thing We Talk About, Joseph Bayly (on death & grief).
  10. Affliction, Edith Schaeffer.
  11. When God Weeps, Joni Eareckson Tada & Steve Estes.
  12. From Forgiven to Forgiving, Jay Adams.

Personal Management/Direction

  1. Ordering Your Private World, Gordon MacDonald.
  2. Strategy For Living, Edward Dayton & Ted Engstrom. On setting goals.
  3. First Things First, Stephen Covey, Roger & Rebecca Merrill. This is the only non-Christian book on this list, so read it with discernment. But I think they have a lot of wisdom on ordering your life according to your goals. Just make sure that your goals are biblical goals!

Contemporary Issues/World View

  1. No Place for Truth, David Wells. Not easy to read, but a great analysis of our culture and how the church has become worldly to the core.
  2. God in the Wasteland, David Wells. Sequel to the above. Calls for a return to God-centeredness.
  3. Losing Our Virtue, David Wells. Hits the worldly, market-driven American church.
  4. Recovering the Christian Mind, Harry Blamires.
  5. Worldly Amusements, Wayne Wilson. Hits Christians for their indiscriminate involvement with corrupt movies. Calls us to honor Christ in our entertainment choices. Every Christian should read this book!
  6. Lifeviews, R. C. Sproul. Easy-to-follow treatment of differing worldviews and philosophies.
  7. What You Should Know About Inerrancy, Charles Ryrie. Simple, brief treatment of an important theological issue.
  8. Men and Women in Biblical Perspective, James Hurley. Good on male and female roles.
  9. What Ever Happened to the Human Race? Francis Schaeffer & C. Everett Koop. Perhaps a bit outdated and maybe out of print, but God used it years ago to wake me up to the horrors of abortion.

Related Topics: Book Review, Christian Home, Christian Life, Discipleship, Library and Resources, Spiritual Life