Recommended Reading: Books for Seminary

A seminarian’s life is a life of reading.  Throughout a seminary degree program, you will read thousands of pages.  In this series, “Recommended Reading,” we have selected some of the best books and articles assigned in seminary classes throughout North America.

Every Friday, we will feature five books in a variety of subjects, such as Old Testament, New Testament, Theology, Church History, among others.  When possible, we will highlight special discounts and promotions of free books, as seminarians are always looking to save a few bucks on books.

This Week’s Recommended Books

Old Testament: An Introduction to the Old Testament (Longman and Dillard)

Synopsis: A standard, easy-to-read introduction to each Old Testament book.  A useful resource for starting research on or reviewing a book of the Old Testament.

An Introduction to the Old Testament
An Introduction to the Old Testament

An Introduction to the Old Testament, by Tremper Longman III and Raymond B. Dillard, is a standard introductory text to Old Testament books.  It is written from an evangelical point of view yet deals fairly with critical scholarship.  Emphasizing a special introduction to each book, the introduction focuses on the content of the book, although it also considers the historical and cultural setting that each book was written in.  This is helpful for understanding the historical setting, literary aspects, and theological meaning in any Old Testament book.

An Introduction to the Old Testament is assigned reading in many Old Testament classes at both seminaries and Bible colleges.  We’re purchasing it, because it will be a useful reference during ministry in the years to come.  It is available on both Kindle and as a hardcover book.

New Testament: The Expositor’s Greek Testament, vol. 5 (Nicoll)

Synopsis: An old, but still useful commentary on the Greek text of the New Testament.  Logos is offering volume 5 for free during July 2013, so why not download it?

The Expositors Greek Testament, vol. 5
The Expositors Greek Testament, vol. 5

The Expositor’s Greek Testament, by W. Robertson Nicoll, is one of the most thorough commentaries from the 19th Century.  As you might guess from its name, it goes phrase-by-phrase through the Greek of the New Testament.  Therefore, it will be most useful to those who know Greek.  If you don’t know Greek, you might be better off passing on this one – unless you want it for free and plan on learning Greek sometime.

Admittedly, this is an old commentary.  There have been many advances in New Testament Studies since it was published, and it will not address the current debates among New Testament scholars.  Nevertheless, this is still a commentary worth having – if it is free, at least.  D.A. Carson gives it his endorsement, saying, “The five volumes of the old Expositor’s Greek New Testament are still worth owning and reading, along with more recent works.”

We don’t recommend shelling out the $199.95 that Logos wants for all five volumes of the set, but we’re definitely going to download volume 5 for free.  Those who don’t have Logos Bible Software can download the Logos 5 engine for free, which will let them read The Expositor’s Greek Testament.

Theology: Reformed Dogmatics (Herman Bavink)

Synopsis: An advanced articulation of the reformed tradition; a must-own resource for pastors of reformed churches.  It should be read after reading an introductory Systematic Theology book.

Reformed Dogmatics
Reformed Dogmatics

Herman Bavink’s Reformed Dogmatics, a four-volume work, continues to be one of the best articulations of the Reformed Tradition.  Richard B. Gaffin, a professor at Westminster Theological Seminary, has only praise for Bavink’s work: “Arguably the most important systematic theology ever produced in the Reformed tradition – I have found it to be the most valuable. “

Reformed Dogmatics is not easy to read, but those who labor in it will be blessed.  Those who have not read a rudimentary Systematic Theology book before may want to wait before diving into Bavink’s volumes.  Anyone who is being trained in the Reformed Tradition, though, will come back to this work time and again.

We’re reading Bavink’s four-volume work, as this is the edition typically assigned in seminary classes.  Those who want a condensed version, however, might want to purchase the much less expensive abridged, one-volume edition.

Apologetics: Orthodoxy (G.K. Chesterton)

Synopsis: Orthodoxy is a classic Apologetic work by G.K. Chesterton.  It can be found free online or on Amazon’s Kindle.

Orthodoxy by G. K. Chesterton

Orthodoxy is one of G.K. Chesterton’s most well-known works.  In this apologetic for Christianity, Chesterton presents the faith as the “answer to a riddle,” rather than an objective fact.  This is a remarkable tact for his day, when science and technology were generally regarded as the answer to the world’s problems, before the World Wars.  It is also a strategy that rings true in today’s postmodern culture.

Chesterton wrote Orthodoxy to “attempt an explanation, not of whether the Christian faith can be believed, but of how he personally has come to believe it.”  That is an apologetic that any Christian can follow, and any reader can connect with.

Orthodoxy is a pleasure to read and a classic.  We’ll be reading it on Kindle, but it can also be read at Project Gutenberg.

Practical Theology: Called to the Ministry (Edmund Clowney)

Synopsis: Should be required reading for anyone considering attending Bible college or seminary.

Called to the Ministry by Edmund Clowney
Called to the Ministry

Edmund Clowney’s Called to the Ministry should be required reading in your first semester of your theological training.  Clowney argues against an emotionally based sense of calling, stating that the call of the Lord is clear, distinctive and personal.  He also strongly encourages readers to begin ministering where they currently are, for the opportunities they have are where they are being called right now.

We’ve read this book, and highly recommend it to anyone considering going to a theology school.  It is a short read, and will help you discern your specific calling.


Have a book to suggest?  Let us know in the comments below.

Q&A: Do Pastors of Non-Denominational Churches Need Seminary Degrees?

non-denominational pastors with degrees
Do non-denominational pastors need degrees?

Non-denominational churches do not have a denominational body that governs their decisions; they are “independent” churches.  Therefore, whether their pastors need accredited seminary degrees is entirely up to each individual church.  Read on to see the theological, pragmatic, and positional considerations independent churches weigh when answering this question.

Seminary Degrees are Preferred

Theologically, very few churches – especially non-denominational churches –require a seminary degree for ordination.  After all, Jesus never attended a modern-day seminary.  Seminary is simply the most common, and often most efficient, means that churches have to train pastors.  Therefore, most churches will say applicants to an open pastoral position will need an accredited seminary degree, but they would not turn down a stellar applicant who received his or her training in an unorthodox fashion.

The Location of the Non-Denominational Church

Pragmatically, most churches in and near cities have the luxury of only considering applicants who have a seminary degree.  Non-denominational churches in rural settings, however, may not be able to attract a seminary-trained minister, even if they would prefer someone with a master of divinity degree.  Small, rural churches may be forced to consider applicants whose training is not as extensive as a seminary curriculum.

The Pastoral Position in Question

Finally, the specific degree required usually depends on the position in question.  Non-denominational churches may require their senior pastor to have a seminary degree yet hire a youth pastor in their church who only has a bachelor’s degree from Bible college or is currently attending seminary.

If you would like to pastor a non-denominational church, these non-denominational seminaries may be the ideal place to earn your degree.

(This is the first post in a new series we are doing at SaBC, Q&A.  In each post, we will provide a brief answer to a specific question we are asked.  To submit a question, leave a comment below or contact us.)

Free Book Friday: ESV Bible, The Saint and His Saviour and More

Purchasing books quickly becomes expensive, which is why we’ve started Free Book Friday.  Every Friday, we will feature a few free Christian books.  These may be available on a Bible software platform, an eReader or in the public domain, and they will cover a range of Christian subjects.  You might not be interested in every book, but hopefully you will find some worth reading.  Here are this Friday’s free books.

(Be sure to follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook to get updates every Friday on the latest free books).

The ESV Bible (free for Amazon Kindle)

The ESV Bible Free for Kindle
The ESV Bible Free for Kindle

Summary: A contemporary, literal translation that is great for reading through the Bible.

The ESV Bible (English Standard Version) is a contemporary, literal translation.  Based on the 1971 edition of the Revised Standard Version, the ESV Bible is used in seminaries and churches throughout the U.S.  (In Great Britain, the Anglicized ESV is more common).

This free Bible for Kindle is great for reading through the Bible, but its search function is not easy to use.  Readers can easily navigate to a specific book of the Bible, and finding a chapter within a book only takes a moment.  When searching for a phrase in the Bible, though, users will have to wade through numerous results.  The search results include each occurrence of each word in the phrase entered.

Note: Although some ESV Bibles contain the Deuterocanonical, or Apocryphal, books, this Kindle Bible does not.

The Saint and His Saviour (free from Logos Bible Software)

The Saint and His Saviour by Charles Spurgeon
The Saint and His Saviour

Summary: A classic book on how the Holy Spirit works in a Christian’s life.

The Saint and His Saviour was written by Charles Spurgeon, a famous Baptist preacher from the latter half of the 19th century, as an allegory for how the Holy Spirit works in a believer’s life.  Although it was written over a century ago, this classic Christian work continues to be read today.

Through the end of June, Logos Bible Software is offering Charles Spurgeon’s The Saint and His Saviour free.  The book can be downloaded here, but users will have to have Logos Bible Software installed to read it.  (Those who do not have Logos can purchase a hardcopy of this work from Amazon).

Theology at the Movies (free from John Frame)

Summary: A book from one of today’s leading Reformed thinkers on Christians and cinema.

In Theology at the Movies, John Frame looks at how film, culture and Christians interact.  The opening chapter is titled “Should Christians Go to the Movies?”  The latter half of the book contains reviews on over a dozen movies, so it is easy to guess how he answers that question.  Anyone interested in how Christians should interact with the culture around them should consider looking at this work.

We included John Frame’s and Vern Poythress’ website, where visitors can find many books for free, in our list of 45+ Free Online Resources for Seminary StudentsTheology at the Movies is worth a specific mention, though, because films have such a profound influence on modern culture.

Do you know of a free Christian book that you’d like us to include in an upcoming Free Book Friday post?  Let us know by leaving a comment!

A Typical Seminary Semester: How They All End

Seminary Studies
Studying for Seminary

8,000 pages.  7 papers.  4 exams.  All in 16 weeks.  This was going to be a typical semester in seminary. 

I would have to read 116 pages a day to finish everything on time.  That would give me three weeks to write my papers (three days a piece), and 10 days to study and take four exams.  If I stayed on top of everything, I could even relax on Sundays – at least until the end of the semester.

An Avalanche of Academic Assignments

This has been how all my semesters at seminary have started.  The reading has varied by a few hundred pages – last semester it was as little as 7,200 pages of reading!  The papers vary in number, but the total pages I end up writing always seems to be in the range of 40 to 60 pages.  The exams have varied the most; in some semesters I’ve had as few as two exams, and in others I’ve had as many as six.  (In addition to these assignments, I usually have 200 to 300 verses of Greek and Hebrew texts to translate each semester).

Seminary is the Only Responsibility, Right?

Of course, none of this includes the other obligations I have that do not end when seminary begins.  I must still try to love my wife, earn an income to pay the bills, and lead a service weekly – in addition to my academic responsibilities.  Oh, and I’m supposed to fit a rich devotional life in there somewhere – yea, about that.

Always a Crash Landing

A semester at seminary is a lot of work, but they always come to an end.  Every semester of seminary ends in an existential crisis where I contemplate the meaning of life.  (Perhaps this is related to the lack of devotional life seminary provides).  Some semesters have ended well after the deadlines had passed by, but they all ended.  None of them were pretty, but they all ended.

Exhausted from Just Thinking About a Semester at Seminary

This post was going to detail what I try to do during the summer to prepare for the upcoming fall semester, but I’m too exhausted from reliving the end of my previous semester and thinking about the next one.  Look for what I do in the summer to prepare for my fall semester at seminary in the next post.  Another series will look at the effects of seminary on family, work and spiritual life.

Am I the only one whose seminary experience has been like this?  How have your semesters at seminary ended?  Let us know in the comments below!