The London Lyceum’s Top Books of 2021

Welcome back to our annual top books of the year post. Each year our board and fellows join together to submit their favorite book from the most recent year. Each book has a short synopsis on why it’s so great. You can find last year’s recommendations here. Happy reading! As a note: These may or may not have been published in 2021 but were at least read in 2021.

Lost in Thought: The Hidden Pleasures of an Intellectual Life, Zena Hitz

At a time when many students (and their parents) tend to reduce the value of study to its usefulness in the professional world, Zena Hitz’s Lost in Thought is a refreshing look at the value of the intellectual life independently of its usefulness. I found her extended discussion of Augustine’s Confessions especially illuminating—indeed, months later I am still thinking about the allure of spectacle and what Hitz calls the virtue of seriousness—but in general the book is a perfect mixture of personal autobiography with analysis of influential literature. A must read for anyone who teaches great books or who finds themselves in a position where they must defend the value of the liberal arts. – Taylor Cyr

The Same God Who Works All Things: Inseparable Operations in Trinitarian Theology, Adonis Vidu

This book is the gold standard for the doctrine of inseparable operations, appropriations, and missions of the Triune God. Vidu interacts with an impressive amount of Scripture, wisely engages with the rich Christian tradition on this doctrine, appropriately critiques scholars who hold a different view, and offers practical application for the worship of the one who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. – Gregg Allison

The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self, Carl Trueman

Trueman skillfully and winsomely explains the current cultural climate concerning the view of the self, especially in relation to the sexual revolution. In light of the work of Philip Rieff and Charles Taylor, Trueman maps out the historical foundations that led to where we are today, and offers thoughtful reflections on where we go from here. While valid critiques have been offered about Trueman leaving out important voices that nuance the narrative, Trueman has served us well by courageously engaging a sensitive and difficult conversation in an informed and thought provoking way. It’s worth the time! – Benjamin T. Quinn

The English Reformation: A Very Brief History, Alex Ryrie

In just 128 pages Alec Ryrie’s The English Reformation takes a creative and provocative approach to an oft-treated subject. Rather than constructing an ordinary narrative history, Professor Ryrie offers multiple impressions of the English Reformation, each presented from a different angle. In doing so, he effectively captures both the contested nature of the English Reformation and the various ways in which diverse interpretations of that history continue to impinge upon all sorts of contemporary matters. You may not agree with every conclusion drawn in the book, but it is sure to make you think afresh on the lasting legacy of this most significant period in English church history. – Matthew C. Bingham

Analytic Theology and the Academic Study of Religion, Bill Wood

Wood displays his notable virtues: he’s intelligent, wise, and irenic. Moreover, he’s clear, precise, and analytic. While it is semi-disappointing that such a book needs to be written–a defense of a particular method of theology as valuable to the secular university–I’m glad that it was written in the way that it was. From criticisms within the theological guild to criticisms from the religious studies academy, Wood evaluates and responds to all of them via arguments that are, to my mind, sound. They’re also important. Analytic theology, from the get-go, has been inundated with suspicion and, to be frank, misguided criticisms–criticisms that often betray ignorance of the field. This book, should one read it, will help clear away much of the confusion. Aside from this, it’s an engaging read. Not all academic books have that virtue. This one does. I’ll have much more to say about all of this in a review forthcoming in European Journal of Philosophy of Religion. – JT Turner

Exodus Old and New, L. Michael Morales

While Bible readers would already notice that Israel’s exodus from Egypt was a major redemptive event, Morales helps readers see the pervasive influence of the exodus. Echoes abound. Our understanding of the rest of the Old Testament, and especially the New Testament, is enriched as we consider the role and impact of the exodus. I heartily commend Morales’s beautifully written and biblically insightful work. – Mitch Chase

In Exodus: Old and New, Michael Morales offers a compelling and rich argument for how the theme of exodus and redemption are at the center of the storyline of the Bible. Morales provides the reader with many beautiful connections between the exodus motif and many passages in the Bible. Reading this book will enable one to see the way the story of the exodus can be seen from Genesis to Revelation. – Jake Stone

Divine Ideas, Tom Ward

This short Cambridge Element provides a stimulating account of divine ideas in order to understand creation ex nihilo. What does God think about the moment logically prior to creation? The divine ideas tradition responds, himself. Not only does Ward provide an account of creation but also fodder for understanding the centrality of God in all things—everything depends upon him. – Jason Allen

The Holy Spirit and Christian Experience, Simeon Zahl

If we are honest about the beliefs we hold, we will almost certainly acknowledge that some, if not a great many, of them came to be held for reasons other than pure intellectual assent. Perhaps the person presenting views we’ve rejected were particularly unlikeable; perhaps, the view we now defend rationally initially made us feel a great deal of comfort. Zahl explores these epistemic dynamics and situates them within a rich theology of the Holy Spirit and of the desires of the heart. He demonstrates that even the most classically protestant doctrines—justification and sanctification—have affective textures that cannot be reduced to merely intellectual factors. He reminds us that genuinely theological work is (and has always been) an endeavor of both head and heart, and that we ought to be deeply careful about the affective salience of the views we present. We might be entirely right, but if we are cruel about it, situated in toxic communities, arrogant, or any other problematic affective environment, then there is good epistemic reason for others to reject what we say. This is a powerful insight, and theologians (especially those of us of a confessional bent) would benefit from the greater awareness of non-cognitive dimensions of doctrine to which this book calls our attention. – Fellipe do Vale

The Missionary Fellowship of William Carey, Michael Haykin

If you’re interested in Baptist history and theology, this book is essential. Yes, it’s short, accessible, and informative, but, even more importantly, it’s inspiring. The soul-deep friendship between the men of the Baptist Missionary Society is what I see woefully lacking among many men in our generation, and I believe much that ails the church today could be helped by a renewal of godly friendship. – Garrett Walden

The End of the Christian Life: How Embracing Our Mortality Frees Us to Truly Live, J. Todd Billings

In his book, Lament for a Son, Nicholas Wolterstorff writes: “We are surrounded by death. As we walk through the grasslands of life it lurks everywhere—behind, to the left, to the right, ahead, everywhere in the swaying grass…All around me are the traces and memories of the dead. We live among the dead, until we join them.” These words remind us, as if we needed a reminder, that death is always present. Sometimes it’s the death of an old friend from school. Sometimes it’s the death toll of warfare or a natural disaster. Sometimes it hits closer to home. Death takes a parent. A spouse. A child. It’s always there, yet most of us are uncomfortable thinking about death. In his book, The End of the Christian Life, J. Todd Billings encourages us to think theologically about death. He encourages us to think about death in the context of redemption. In thinking about death, it may change how we live. We may even find hope when we need it most. The End of the Christian Life was, without a doubt, my favorite read of 2021. Some books teach me a lot of thought-provoking facts. Some books are interesting and fun to read. But some books are good for your soul, and this is one of those books. – Brandon Ayscue

Restoring the Reformation: British Evangelicalism and the Francophone ‘Réveil’, 1816–1849, Kenneth J. Stewart

I’ve spent the better part of 2021 researching the Francophone Réveil that took place on the continent—and more specifically in Geneva—in the early-to-mid-nineteenth century, and so I wanted to pick a book that was both helpful in my studies and quite accessible to the inquisitive reader. Kenneth Stewarts Restoring the Reformation was quite helpful in my research, and it has helped to paint a more holistic picture of the Francophone Réveil and its connection to the wider world, especially its connection with British Evangelicalism. This book is largely based on Stewart’s dissertation and it will prove useful for anyone who is interested in European Evangelicalism during the nineteenth century. – Jordan Senécal

Against the Darkness: The Doctrine of Angels, Satan and Demons, Graham A. Cole

Cole is as careful and well read a theologian as you’re going to find today. His treatment of this subject is thoughtful, insightful, helpful and, in some places, creative. He is not a speculative theologian, but a scholar who understands the Bible is the foundation upon which he stands. He is an example to all not only of how to do scholarship, but how to disagree graciously yet firmly with others. Anyone looking for a place to start on these topics would do well to start here. – David Hogg

It’s a very good introduction to the vast and varied views of the spiritual world that are needed to properly understand what is meant by 1 John 3:8b. This is the text that tells us the reason Jesus came was to defeat the works of the devil. The book is also a great primer for additional readings like Bonino, Thiessen, Heiser, Vonier, Danielou and the myriad of good papers that are available on the topic of angels and demons. – Corby Amos

The Death of Porn, Ray Ortlund

What I especially love about it is that it takes our sexuality seriously and yet doesn’t shame or scold–instead, it invites men to see the dignity and nobility of what they are called to in the gospel. And this is such an important issue in our time. I believe that this book will help many people find freedom and joy they never even thought possible. – Gavin Ortlund

Christ the Heart of Creation, Rowan Williams

This year I was focused on a project that led me to reflect upon the intersection of Christology, the doctrine of creation, and theological anthropology so you can imagine how excited I was to find a book titled: Christ the Heart of Creation. I try to read most of what Rowan Williams writes because his writings stretch my theological imagination all while digging my roots deeper in the “great tradition.” This book, which was actually published in 2018 lived up to my expectations. There Williams argues that the relation between the Word and the created nature of Christ described in the Chalcedonian formula—while being unique—is a model for understanding God’s relation to creation. This is a “non-competitive” relation because God is “not another thing” in the world. Weaving his way through the New Testament, Maximus, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, and Bonhoeffer, among others, he concludes that Christ not only is the heart of the doctrine of creation, but that Christ is the heart of creation itself. – Christopher Woznicki

The Metaphysics of the Incarnation: Thomas Aquinas to Duns Scotus, Richard Cross

Richard Cross is one of the few authors out there that I can promise that you should read whatever he writes. Cross is not always an easy read but the reward is always well worth it. His Metaphysics of the Incarnation is a perfect example. It’s an updated version of his dissertation and was published over 15 years ago now but it continues to be tremendous scholarship. It’s not too late to join the party. It illumines so many areas and is incredibly insightful. Yes, it’s dense. Yes, it will take you a lot of time to read. But it’s required reading in Christology. I nearly added Tim Pawl’s In Defense of Extended Conciliar Christology for this spot, but I’ve learned so much new information from this book from Cross that I couldn’t pass up recommending it. – Jordan Steffaniak

Biblical Philosophy, Dru Johnson

Recently, evangelicalism has seen a needed rise in philosophical interest. Various schools of thought have published their piece, advocating for one system over another. One particular presentation that has caught my eye is that of Dru Johnson in his volume “Biblical Philosophy”. In it he argues for a recognition of what he calls Hebraic philosophy, or the philosophical system that the Hebrews worked with within the Scriptures. Far from being an anti-philosophical people, or a people who merely adopted the systems of those around them, the Hebrews brought forward a particular way of thinking about the world that can be traced across the Scriptures. Such a system needs recognition and, in my opinion, retrieval in evangelicalism today. – Cody Floate

When Doctrine Divides the People of God: An Evangelical Approach to Theological Diversity, Rhyne Putman

Putman’s timely book speaks so well to the major questions related to the doctrinal differences that exist among Christians and among evangelicals in particular. With his background in theological method, he skillfully lays out the different ways that evangelicals approach the Bible and theology, at both the popular and academic level. But the book is not only descriptive. Putman puts forth a constructive proposal for how evangelicals can hold together on the essentials of the faith while leaving space for the many non-essential convictions that characterize the various groups under the broader evangelical umbrella. – Paul Sanchez

40 Questions About Typology and Allegory, Mitchell L. Chase

When it comes to typology and allegory, I’ve been asked in both local-church and academic circles questions such as, “Should we interpret the Bible like the NT authors? Are we allowed to act on typological intuitions, or make typological connections that are not explicitly mentioned by the biblical authors?” The search for a clear and accessible resource has come to a close. I’ve really appreciated the breadth and depth of Mitch Chase’s study on this topic. He observes the misuses and abuses of typology and allegory, and adequately traces its complicated history in a precise fashion. I think this book should be required reading for students enrolled in an Intro-level Hermeneutics course, and particularly for those desiring to further whet their appetite in NT use of the OT studies. Mitch Chase’s methodology is proof that one doesn’t need to eschew every form of typology and allegory in order to be faithful to the plain reading of Scripture. I highly encourage this book to be used by pastors attempting to magnify Christ in all of the Scriptures. – Aaron Pendergrass


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