Vacation each year is always an important time of reading and reflection. This year was a little different, because of an ongoing project that required some work, but still I managed to finish some books I had started and read a couple of others.
First off, I finished up Andrew Thompson's biograpahy on John Owen, which is found in Volume 1 of Owen's Works, but can also be purchased separately. This is an older biography which follows the chronology of his life with interspersed comments on Owen's writings, particularly the circumstances which gave rise to them. Not much is known of Owen's personal life, as he didn't leave behind diaries or many letters. But what we do know is marked with tragedy: he had eleven children, all of whom died before Owen did - ten of them before adulthood. Yet, it was during the years of these many painful losses that Owen penned some of his most helpful and practical works. No doubt, Owen is difficult for people to read. But once you've given him a chance and get used to his cumbersome prose, your soul will be deeply fed. Along with Owen's biography, I'm continuing to work through Volume 1 of his Works.
A second book I read was Ben Patterson's Deepening Your Conversations with God: Learning to Love to Pray. In contrast to Owen, Patterson is very easy to read - and his book was a real delight. It is a pity that he is not better known. His books have a rich literary quality that is rare for most contemporary Christian writings. This particular book was one of the best on prayer I've read, born out of Patterson's honest struggles and difficult life lessons. I was nourished and encouraged. This was the book that helped pull me out of an early vacation fog of discouragement.
I followed that up with another biography - this time on Calvin. Thea b. Van Halsema's This Was John Calvin was excellent! It is written on probably a high school level - not at all a critical biography weighted with footnotes! (Though I like those too!). This was the first full-length biography on Calvin that I've read and the main thing that struck me about his life was his suffering (similar to Owen) - and his faithfulness through it. Thanks, Lord for his example.
I also finished a couple of other books previously started: a collection of essays on Owen, called John Owen: The Man and His Theology (these were written by several different authors and are of uneven quality, but the ones by Carl Trueman and Sinclair Ferguson were worth every minute!) and C. S. Lewis's Prince Caspian (on which, see the post below).
Finally, I started several books that I'm still working on: Paul: An Outline of His Theology by Herman Ridderbos - which is magisterial!; Dynamics of Spiritual Renewal: An Evangelical Theology of Renewal by Richard Lovelace - which, though dated in its comments on the contemporary scene (at least in the edition I'm reading), is still very perceptive in its analysis of historical renewals and revivals of the church; and Created in God's Image by Anthony Hoekema, which is a good summary of the Reformed doctrine of man, though the writing is not particularly great.
I have found this blog of yours and it does seem you perhaps might be more Reformed Baptist?? This seems evident in regards to all the great works of Calvin, etc. that you read and according to your Amazon.com book reviews.
Your book reviews have been very helpful to me. In response to this post, I am wondering if you have read Owen's "Duty of Pastors and People Distinguished?"
I am from Michigan....quite close to Niles. Blessings!
Hi Anonymous :-)
It depends on what "Reformed Baptist" means in your mind! I pastor a baptist church (small "b"!) and have sympathies with much "Reformed theology," but do not uncritically embrace the entire system. I certainly like Calvin, Owen, and others, but again, do not read them uncritically. Instead of accepting the label "Reformed Baptist," I'd prefer to speak to more specific doctrines, issues, or (better) texts and then say what I think or how I lean.
I've not read the book you mentioned by Owen, but I've got it and plan to some day.
Blessings to you as well - since you live close to Niles, you should visit us sometime. Be sure to tell me your name when you do!
I have read that book by Hoekema.
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