Top 10 books I’ve read in seminary

I’ve been mentally working on this post for a while, but two recent happening encouraged me to actually write it.

First, over Christmas break, Jenny went off on a diatribe about how Americans are getting dumber by the day because we spend substantial amounts of time glued to computer screens and smart phones, mindlessly surfing social media instead of reading books. She has a valid point. Sometimes I’m guilty. Even when I’m free from the tyranny of syllabi, I’m going to work to develop a discipline of continuous reading…and I’m going to encourage the development of this discipline in my children’s lives as well.

Second, I’m in a weekly Bible study through Genesis made up of women from all different denominations and backgrounds. During our small group time, we all openly share our answers to the study questions we’ve been working on throughout the week. Recently, after our group time, one of the ladies in my group grabbed my attention. She said, “I notice that you’re always talking a lot about finding your significance in Christ versus circumstances and learning to find your hope, joy, and peace in who God is rather than in what he has to offer us (loving the Giver rather than the gifts).” She told me that the things I typically share during group are pretty new concepts to her and said she realizes  she isn’t putting these things into practice in her life. She asked if I could suggest any good books for her to read. . .

So, without further adieu, here are a list of books that God has really used to shape my thinking and grow my faith over the last few years. Keep in mind, these are not what I like to call “beach reads.” I mean, you can certainly read them at the beach :), but most of them are “thinking” books. These are books filled with and based upon biblical truth, books that will stretch you and teach you new things. There will be sentences or paragraphs in these books that you will have to re-read several times. There will be things in these books that you won’t like…things that your flesh will resist and rage against. It is my prayer, though, that God will use this list of resources to grow and bless you in your faith walk with Him.

1. The Attributes of God (Arthur W. Pink)

Attributes of God A problem in our culture is that many people say they want to know God, but they don’t really want to know and worship the true God of the Bible. They want to know and worship a God who they’ve created in their own minds and, ultimately, made in their own image. But that God doesn’t exist. This book will help you develop a biblical view of the one true God, based on His attributes and character, and you will grow to love Him more through it.

2. According to Plan: The Unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible (Graeme Goldsworthy)

imgresIf I had to choose, I would probably say this is the most helpful book I’ve read in seminary. According to Plan will help you understand God’s grand, overarching story as portrayed in Scripture. Many of us are extremely familiar with isolated passages and Bible stories, but we lack an understanding of how all these things connect. The Bible becomes alive to us as we begin to understand how each individual part of Scripture points to the overarching theme: God’s redemption of sinful humanity through Christ. Then, we can begin to see how the Bible applies to us…how our little stories fit into God’s big one!

3. God’s Greater Glory: The Exalted God of Scripture and the Christian Faith (Bruce Ware)

imgres-1This book is heavy. In fact I’ve only read the first 100 pages or so. However, it was really helpful to me in working through some the biblical and mysterious truths about God’s total sovereignty,  human responsibility, and how the two are compatible . I’ll post a brief synopsis written by Ligon Duncan:

In God’s Greater Glory, he (Bruce Ware) sets forth a positive biblical proposal for a robust doctrine of God’s sovereignty and providence in relation to human freedom and responsibility. Pastors, seminarians, and intelligent church members will all benefit from Ware’s clear and accessible articulation of a mindbending but pastorally important subject. Rather than attempting to tame and limit the doctrine of God, as so many have done in our time, Ware is determined to let the Scriptures set the table for our understanding of God.

4. Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream (David Platt)


I’m guessing a lot of you have read or at least heard of this book. If you haven’t yet, you should read it. It’s convicting to the core, but it will take you back to a biblical view of what it really means to be a disciple of Christ. American Christianity (particularly in the South) has become a watered-down, cultural tradition. But Christ calls us to so much more than just occupying our pew space once a week. He calls us to radical sacrifice and commitment, flowing from an all-consuming love for Him.

5. The Lost Letters of Pergamum: A Story From the New Testament World


This book is historical fiction. Longenecker writes a fictional series of letters between Antipas (a wealthy benefactor of Rome whose character is based on the life of a Christian martyr mentioned in Revelation 2:13) and Luke (a physician and author of the Gospel of Luke). These letters detail Antipas’s radical conversion and give a historically accurate picture of what life was like for the first century church. This book was SO fascinating to me and gave me such a clear understanding of the persecution that followers of Christ faced during that time period. PERSPECTIVE.

6. How People Change (Timothy S. Lane & Paul David Tripp)

imgres-7There is so much in this book that it’s hard for me to give a general synopsis. So here is an excerpt from the book:

From the time we come to Christ until the time we go home to be with him, God calls us to change. We have been changed by his grace, are being changed by his grace, and will be changed by his grace. What is the goal of this change? It is more than a better marriage, well-adjusted children, professional success, or freedom from a few nagging sins. God’s goal is that we would actually become like him. He doesn’t just want you to escape the fires of hell—though we praise God that through Christ you can! His goal is to free us from our slavery to sin, our bondage to self, and our functional idolatry, so that we actually take on his character! . . . The Word and Spirit work together, enabling us to see Christ in all his power and mercy. This leads to heart change at the level of what we worship and cherish at any given moment. This kind of radical heart change reorients me vertically—person to God—and I repent of what I have cherished in place of Christ. This vertical change then leads to new behavior on the horizontal, person-to-person, plane. An approach to change that only focuses on external behavior is never enough. Biblical change is so much more!

7. Counseling the Hard Cases: True Stories Illustrating the Sufficiency of God’s Resources in Scripture (Edited by Stuart Scott and Heath Lambert)


This book makes a great case for the effectiveness of biblical counseling, and it will build  your faith in the complete sufficiency of God’s Word to adequately address any problem a person may face in this life. It’s also a really interesting read. Scott and Lambert compile true stories of real counseling cases in which the truths of God’s Word were used to bring hope and healing to those suffering from some of the most intense psychiatric diagnoses such as bipolar disorder, dissociative identity, obsessive compulsive disorders, postpartum depression, panic attacks, addiction, issues from childhood sexual abuse, homosexuality, and more.

8. Adopted For Life: The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families and Churches (Russell Moore)

imgres-9Confession: I haven’t actually finished this book yet. I’ve read a good chunk of it, though, and it’s a perspective-changing book. Russell Moore weaves the story of his adoption of two boys from Russia into the story of our adoption by Christ as children of God. He demonstrates that adoption {or orphan care} is a vital part of the Great Commission mandate and that it also pictures the Gospel of Christ.

9. The Excellent Wife: A Biblical Perspective (Martha Peace)


This book is a long one. It’s more of a study actually. It’s also extremely counter-cultural and flies in the face of what our society tells a woman/wife she should be. However, this book is extremely biblical. Almost every sentence Martha Peace writes is backed up by Scriptural truth. This book takes us back to God’s {not this world’s} beautiful purpose for a wife. I really, really wish I had read this book before I got married and learned some of these truths earlier. Great book to go through when discipling engaged young women, new wives, or really wives of all ages. If you don’t have time to go through every chapter, I would particularly recommend chapters 7-12 which cover issues such as Christ, home, love, respect, intimacy, and submission.

10. Mere Christianity (C.S. Lewis)

imgres-11It’s a Christian classic and C.S. Lewis’s forceful and accessible doctrine of Christian belief. If you haven’t read it, you should!

*{Also, two parenting books on my list to read are Shepherding a Child’s Heart (Tedd Tripp) and Give Them Grace (Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson). I’ve heard excellent things about both of these.}

One thought on “Top 10 books I’ve read in seminary

  1. Great ideas Sarah — although I bet I don’t have the stamina you have! Here are some that have had an impact on my life: Boundaries, Telling Yourself the Truth, Streams in the Desert, From Bondage to Liberty — Dance Children Dance. Truthfully, not very many people will get as DEEP into the gospel as you and your seminary friends. I am grateful that God gives us the simple but lavish gift of salvation, even when our understanding is limited and shallow. Thanks for your recommendations. I especially want to read “Counseling the Hard Cases.” Because I find myself so inadequate and so often called upon for this!

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