Top 10 Books I’ve Read in 2021

The Year 2021 was a transitional year for me; from seminary academic setting to pastoral ministry. After finishing ThM in Dec 2020, I was called by God to become an Interim Pastor of UCBC in New Jersey.

Thus, my reading time was limited compared to 2020. In 2020, I was able to read 90 books; while in 2021, it was only 44 books out of 50 which was supposedly my aim. Nevertheless, I have gained much wisdom (if I may say) from reading books written by wise personalities and through the guidance of the Wise God.

Out of the 44 books that I have read last year, let me share with you my Top Ten (10) Books. *The list does not present the order of which one is the best.

1. Makoto Fujimura, Art and Faith: A Theology of Making (Yale University Press, 2021).

As a Digital Theologian, I have pondered upon the co-creating theology of Imago Dei. This thought was well thought by Stephen Garner who introduced me to the idea of participating in eschatological hope. Furthermore, Fujimura truly explored the “kintsugi” culture; he applied it as contextual theology of being part of the New Creation. Indeed, this book demonstrated how an artist can see “more” of the Text (John 11-12) in both exegetical and faithful imaginative ways to present his point to his readers.

2. Dane C. Ortlund, Deeper: Real Change for Real Sinners (Crossway, 2021).**

I followed Dane’s instruction to read it slowly; a chapter a day, devotionally. Very soothing. Each chapter is a pinch to my soul. My favorite chapters are despair, embrace, breathing, and supernaturalized. Like his Gentle and Lowly, this book has been a great help for my spiritual journey. I’ve been down recently. This book reminded me to “look to Jesus”— the perfecter of our faith, my loving Savior, my one and only Master, Lord, Redeemer, Friend, and Sustainer. My final point, Dane still pulled out some Puritanical references then tied it with contemporary solid faithful theologians.

3. Kate Bowler, No Cure for Being Human: And Other Truths I Need to Hear (Random House, 2021).

Many of you already know that I am a Church History major. Thus, I love reading biographies. Kate’s work is biographical but also devotional. This has no transcendent words, is from a realist perspective, and is purely personal. You’ll laugh and cry at the same time while reading each chapter of Katie’s journey in many philosophical–existential–questions about life. I love the ending; it was a happy one. I’m like watching a Netflix series with a good ending or I may say, a “beautiful unfinished ending.” She’s a church historian who survived the challenging trial of being a cancer patient.

4. Matthew Emerson, Christopher Morgan, and R. Lucas Stamps, eds, Baptists and the Christian Tradition: Toward an Evangelical Baptist Catholicity (B&H Academic, 2020).

A great book that was written by great authors of the great Baptist tradition today. Although written individually by authors, each chapter seems to build from the previous ones. The editors were able to weave all the chapters into a single thesis—Bapto-catholicity. A must-read for every Baptist pastor. You can observe the unique style of each author. Like, Haykin’s historian-ic style. All the best to the contributors. Others have reservations from minor doctrinal differences, are very honest, and open.

5. Michael A.G. Haykin, Giving Glory to the Consubstantial Trinity: An Essay on the Quintessence of the Christian Faith (Free Grace Press, 2019).

A good resource about the three major ancient issues concerning the heresies on the Trinity. I take delight in how Haykin structured his writing in a historical manner (of course he is a historian); still gave adequate theological information on each issue. The book started with the biblical basis of the Triune God then explored the Trinitarian heresies: Gnosticism, Arianism, and Pneumatomachi issues. In each heresy, Haykin included each personality who spearheaded, or main contributor, in battling the controversy. For Gnosticism, it was Irenaeus; for Arianism, Athanasius; and for Pneumatomachi issue, it was Basil the Great then crystallized by both Gregory of Nyssa and Gregory of Nazansius. Overall, each chapter is done with both careful historical and theological precision. Haykin is such a gifted writer. He even self-translated most of the primary sources that he used in the citations. Indeed, this work, even concise, is a comprehensive one.

6. Michael A.G. Haykin and Brian Croft, Being a Pastor: A Conversation with Andrew Fuller (Evangelical Press, 2019).

Andrew Fuller’s ordination sermons are full of pastoral wisdom. His words have conviction, evidently, because of his faithfulness to the Word of God and the work of the ministry. Two things have been his emphasis on his sermons, it seems a consistent pattern also; these are the essence of pastoral work and personal walk (personal religion). Furthermore, I love how he recommends reading pastoral biographies. Likewise, he called to prioritize shepherding our own family. Overall, I enjoy the quotations, perfect indeed. And the integrated chapters in historical (first part) and practical approaches (last parts).

7. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian Community (1954; HarperOne, 2009).**

Sooooo edifying. It gave a clear picture of the significance of corporate worship/ communion/ fellowship among the family of God. Bonhoeffer also said a lot on the importance of the Psalms; we pray, sing, and read with the entire body of Christ including both people in the past and the coming generation. Also, we participate in and with Christ (reading the Psalms Christologically). I have been re-reading this book for 3 years now. Each year, I discover new gems in it. Indeed, we never read the same book in the same manner.

8. Neil Postman, Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology (Vintage, 1993).

It speaks in its own time but many things are still relevant. I deem this as a classic for “digital theology”. A-must for those who are starting to understand the philosophical transition and history of digital technology, medical tech, invisible tech, and more. Very broad, full of cited materials, well-researched, and well-written. One of the books I’ve read that really benefits my knowledge. Wide range of thought-provoking topics. I rated it 3 stars on my Goodreads account because it is too broad that you’ll miss the main point. He is as well a self-confessed tech-pessimist.

9. William H. U. Anderson, ed., Technology and Theology (Vernon Press, 2020).

Personal bias but yes you need to read it. Great work! Anderson’s compiled edited chapters are relevant nowadays. Though some arguments on Theology and Technology in this book are not that fresh, still the research data behind the chapters are helpful and informative. Only a few chapters pushed for a deep Theology of Digitalism/ Technology (like Chapter 9, virtual baptism–somehow a biased review but check it out). Personally, chapters 1, 9, and 14 are interestingly wonderful. This work is not a typical theological reflection on technology nor a theology mediated thru technology; rather these chapters will make you ponder upon how technology shapes our understanding of who God is and his church.

10. Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth (1978; HarperOne, 1998).**

Classic. A must-read. Made me cry out to my “Abba, Father.” If you have not read it yet, then stop reading other books, stop mindlessly scrolling through your social media, and start picking up this book especially as you start this Year 2022. I first learned about this book through Dr. Bong Dela Fuente during our Arrow Leadership 2016 in Bacolod.

I hope you will at least take time to read any of the books that I recommend here. The ones with two asterisks (**) are the books I recommend UCBC members to read. God bless and enjoy reading! The next blog will be about “Why Pastors need to read?”


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Published by JP Arceno

A Mere Christian, no other religion, but Christian church, call me a Catholic Christian ~ Richard Baxter

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