Jesus Creed Books of the Year

Jesus Creed Books of the Year January 1, 2012

An article in The Atlantic on writers and their books, an article well worth your read, sets the right tone for our annual list of Books of the Year. That article in The Atlantic appeared on one of the days I was clearing out my library. I’ve already packed up more than fifteen boxes of books — and some of these boxes are big honkin’ boxes — and probably have another fifteen to go. I came to this conclusion: for nearly every book that gets put on a shelf one has to be taken off. But this post is about Books of the Year.

These are my choices, and I have no claim to have seen even all of the most important books or to have read adequately in all fields, so go ahead and make your own recommendations. I’m woefully unread this year on Old Testament books, so nominate some books.

At the end of this post (after the jump) I will announce my Book of the Year.


J.J. Collins, D.C. Harlow, The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism
Timothy George, gen. ed., The Reformation Commentary on the Bible

New Testament:

N.T. Wright, The Kingdom New Testament
James D.G. Dunn, Jesus, Paul, and the Gospels
Morna Hooker, Holiness and Mission
J. Beilby, Paul Rhodes Eddy, Justification: Five Views
Craig Keener, Miracles
Rodney Reeves, Spirituality according to Paul


Hans Boersma, Heavenly Participation: The Weaving of a Sacramental Tapestry
M. Volf, Allah: A Christian Response
Theresa Latini, The Church and the Crisis of Community
Roger Olson, Against Calvinism, and Michael Horton, For Calvinism
Alan Padgett, As Christ Submits to the Church


The Cape Town Commitment


Eugene Peterson, The Pastor: A Memoir. [Kris and I were gone for a week and I haven’t “checked” my list for some time, but somehow I forgot to put this book on the original list. This book was my rival to Christian Smith’s book for Book of the Year.]
Kara Powell, Sticky Faith
John Dickson, Humilitas
The Collected Sermons of Fred Craddock

Church History:

Michael McClymond, Gerald McDermott, The Theology of Jonathan Edwards
John Fea, Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?

Science and Faith:

Richard F. Carlson and Tremper Longman III, Science, Creation and the Bible
Karl Giberson and Francis Collins, The Language of Science and Faith
Deborah B. and Loren D. Haarsma, Origins: Christian Perspectives on Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design (This is a new version of their book reviewed a few years ago, now aimed at a general Christian audience.)

Current Trends:

D. Fitch, The End of Evangelicalism
Brad Wright, Upside: Surprising Good News About the State of Our World
Christian Smith, Lost in Transition

World Issues:

Carolyn Custis James, Half the Church
Lee Camp, Who is My Enemy? Questions Christians Must Face about Islam and Themselves


Rob Bell, Love Wins

Jesus Creed Book of the Year

Christian Smith, The Bible Made Impossible: Why Biblicism is not a Truly Evangelical Reading of Scripture. In spite of being panned by a few notable evangelicals, Smith is one of America’s finest scholars of evangelicalism, knows theology, and has poked populist evangelicalism in the eye — both eyes in fact. He has laid down a challenge that must be met: How to read the Bible in a way that does not lead to pervasive pluralism but leads to conclusions on which we can agree enough to say “Thus saith the Lord.” Until that happens, we’ve got too many lone rangers claiming “Thus saith the Lord.” What good is it to say we’ve got the very Word of God if we can’t agree on what the Word says?

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  • JoanieD

    Thanks for your book list, Scot. I at least read one book on that list…Love Wins. And though I did not read the N.T. Wright book you listed, I read others of his. I note that at Amazon they show a HUGE amount of pages from his Simply Jesus book. I think I will have to read that one.

    Happy New Year!

  • Clay Knick

    Thanks for this, Scot. Happy New Year!

  • TSG

    Mark Lynas, “The God Species”

    Ecology should be on our lists. Planetary boundaries(his theme) crystalizes ecological issues that matter. Is controversial to greens, religious, politicos, and mixtures.

  • Nate Yoder

    Great choice Scot for the book of the year. All pastors should read Smith’s book and take it seriously. Have a wonderful New Year!

  • J Williams

    Could I suggest you incorporate a bio/memoir category as well? Additionally I’d be interested in any novels/stories you read that were particularly inspiring.

  • Clay Knick

    I have loved reading Fleming Rutledge’s sermons on the OT: “And God Said to Abraham.” It came out in November. A rich feast of theological sermons. Wonderful.

  • Your book, Scot, “The King Jesus Gospel” most definitely should be listed with the theological books, and merits consideration for book of the year. It seems to be in the same category of importance as Christian Smith’s ground moving book.

    I’ve read them both, and I am tempted to say they should both be books of the year!

    Shouldn’t “The Pastor: A Memoir”, by Eugene Peterson been included?

    I also would like to mention one of our pastor’s books, which I think is brilliant in what it does and how it does it, in showing the impact that the spiritual disciplines can have in the lives of people in varying kinds of brokenness and sin, Sharon Garlough Brown’s “Sensible Shoes”. A fast moving, well written novel, but more than a novel, a wonderful teaching tool, I think.

  • ….teaching tool not quite the right note struck. It teaches and challenges me, the reader. More along the line of wisdom literature I would say, put in story form.

  • Currently finishing up the “The Collected Sermons of Fred Craddock.”I’ve been moved, mentored, convicted and changed– couldn’t stop turning pages, late at night. Thank you for linking to an article about Mr. Craddock’s earlier in the year, Scot — from the article, I tracked down his sermons — and had wanted earlier to thank you for this excellent nod in his direction.

    Reading Jesus Creed for Students as a family has been a top book of the year for us here.

    Thanks upon thanks…

  • 2010 on our Pastor Sharon’s book. My apologies.

  • Thanks for starting the list, Scot.

    Within my circles, a number of friends would rate “One Thousand Gifts” by Ann Voskamp high on their list of touching texts from this year. A number of NT Wright’s could fit here, and Peterson’s “The Pastor” has certainly been impacting too. I’d likely add Timothy Keller’s “King’s Cross” as well.

  • David

    Great list. Will have to check out smiths book.

    Interesting category for Love wins

  • AHH

    The Haarsma’s book is, IMO, the best general introduction to science/faith issues (particularly “origins” issues) there is. Great for any pastor wanting a sound overview of that area, and a great resource to recommend to interested congregants.
    Deb Haarsma was also one of the people behind a good web resource that was recently developed:

  • Terry

    I’m in agreement with Ted @ 7, The King Jesus Gospel must be on that list; The Pastor would be a nice addition.

    Although KJG had a greater impact on me personally (unavoidable praise), Scot you are right to give accolades to Christan Smith’s very, very fine book, on a very necessary topic..

  • For me Peterson’s bio is a top pic. Will definitely pick up Christian Smith’s book now. Thanks Scot!

  • Great list of books. I’m interested in Love Wins. I’ll have to look that up and check it out. Thanks for sharing!

    God bless,


  • EricW


    Your review/recommendation/mention here of The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism prompted me to purchase it in Logos the other day as part of their Christmas promotion. I got it at a good price as well as a credit for future purchases equal to 25% of what I paid for it and several other books. Thanks and Happy New Year to you and Jesus Creed!

  • Bob Smallman

    Your comment about boxing up your books brought to mind an experience I had a dozen years ago when our church was going through an expansion. I had to abandon my office for about a year and move into a “closet.” That meant packing up about 90% of my books and storing them for that year. It was, I thought, an impossible task — how would I ever do without all my “friends” for such a long time.? In fact, I survived quite well! It was then that I realized how much “chaff” I had accumulated. So I told our contractor to install about half of the shelving that I previously had, gave away about half of my library, and forced myself to get rid of one book (or at least bring it home!) for each new one I acquired. I’ve never regretted it.

  • scotmcknight

    Bob, great story. If I had unlimited space, I’d not worry about this … but I’ve “de-shelved” now over 1000 books, most of them are in boxes here in the basement, but I will be getting rid of them and will be following your policy — or close to it.

  • Scot, for OT books, I don’t have too many suggestions (you already mention several books on faith and science, which primarily focus on Genesis). A lot of people appreciated Copan’s Is God a Moral Monster (published 2011, although I got my copy in 2010), addressing many of the same issues I address. CT gave C. John Collins’ book Did Adam and Eve really exist? an award of merit.

  • RJS


    I did a long series of posts centered on C. John Collins’s book Did Adam and Eve Really Exist?. They can be found through the science and faith archive page on the side bar. This book is a nice contribution to the overall discussion, but there are pieces of it that I find a little troublesome, especially the reasoning that if Paul thought Adam was historical we should too … as a matter of respecting inspiration. I just don’t think that the logic here makes sense – if Adam is historical, the reasons for holding the position must be more substantive than this.

    Bottom line – In my opinion it is a good book, worth reading and discussing. I would recommend it (and have recommended it) to people in many circumstances. I wouldn’t put it on a books of the year list though. Make it an honorable mention.

  • RJS, I completely agree about Collins. I read several of your posts on him and found your insights helpful. I was just mentioning that CT liked it enough to mention it. I like Longman/Carlson and Walton on creation/science more.

  • Daniel An

    How about Peter Rollins – ‘Insurrection’?

  • Amos Paul

    My only question is–Simply Jesus?

  • When my library was beginning to dictate too much about space and carpentry (about 20 years ago) I began the practice you note – with one other twist. During Lent I peruse the shelves – remembering, praying, imagining – while I pull the number of books that I had purchased in the preceding year. I am grateful for learning, ministry opportunities, and people who come to mind as I see titles. (I am also grateful for forgiveness, second chances, and the wonder of corrections and graces.) So I commend this practice, especially for those of us prone to enlarging book barns for professional reasons!

  • Hi Professor McKnight,

    I learned about your list of notable books in 2011 from Eerdmans’ blog post “Best of the ‘Best of’ Lists.” They also mentioned my list which you may care to check out:

    Christopher Benson

  • Chris Smith


    I just saw this. What an honor! Many thanks.

    My vote for book of 2012 is Brad Gregory’s The Unintended Reformation (Harvard). Is truly fantastic. Absolute must read to understand our world.

    I trust everyone knows to send their used theology books to TBN: Great organization.

    Happy New Year!

    Chris Smith