As your children start to grow older one of the best gifts that you can give them is good theology. This should come in the way of good preaching, and teaching within the local church and the home of course. Yet one of the most helpful and lasting ways of doing this is by helping them to start building a good theological library. The idea would be to start purchasing 2-3 books a year, from the time they are 12 until about the age of 21, so that by the time they are an adult they have many wonderful theological resources at their fingertips to help them grow in grace and maturity. Below is a list of the top 28 book suggestion to start your young adult’s theological library.
- “Systematic Theology”- Wayne Grudem
This is a monster of a book. It isn’t one that you simply sit down to read from cover to cover, but more of a theological encyclopedia. It hits on every major theme and doctrine of scripture and provides a thorough Biblical explanation of each.
- “Christian Beliefs” – Wayne Grudem
This is the small and more digestible companion to Wayne Grudem’s larger Systematic Theology books. It is a palatable book that is meant to explain the 20 basic doctrines that every Christian should know.
- “Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life” –Donald Whitney
This is one of the most helpful books written within the last 50 years. It will help in building lifelong spiritual habits and disciplines.
- “Just Do Something” – Kevin DeYoung
As the book title says, it is “a liberating approach to finding God’s will.” It is simple, conscience, and practical, yet straight from scripture.
- “Knowing God” – J.I. Packer
We are told to “renew our minds” in Romans 12. One of the best ways to do this is by getting to know God more personally. This is what Packer’s book does . . . he helps the readers to know God on an extremely intimate level.
- “What is the Gospel?” – Greg Gilbert
Knowing the gospel and understanding the gospel is key for the people of God. It is a doctrine that we never graduate from. This little book explains the big truths of the gospel in a bit size way. It is wonderful recourse to read over and over again.
- “Father, Son, Holy Spirit” – Bruce Ware
This is the best and most practical treatment of the trinity written this decade. It is written from a pastoral perspective, and is invaluable in it’s applications.
- “9 Marks of a Healthy Church” – Mark Dever
Where a person attends church matters deeply. In this book Dever explains what a healthy church should look like. There are many “churches” out there, but this is a guide that will help your young adult to find a healthy one as they grow into adulthood.
- “The Holiness of God” – R.C.Sproul
This is the single greatest work that the late Dr. Sproul ever wrote. It is here where R.C. explains the true nature of God. You will not be able to walk away from this unchanged.
- “Chosen by God” – R.C. Sproul
The balance between man’s responsibility and God’s sovereign choice of sinners unto salvation has been a topic of debate for millennia. In this book Dr. Sproul explains the doctrine of predestination in a simple but biblical way.
- “Expository Apologetics” – Voddie Baucham
Expository Apologetics is written with the conviction that apologetics should be both biblical and accessible for the normal layman. This book is filled with real-world examples and practical advice. It will equip your young adult with the tools they need to think biblically and to give an answer for the “reason for the hope that is in you.”
- “Reason to Believe” – R.C. Sproul
R.C. works though 10 of the most common objections to the Christian faith. It is a short book (160 pages) but rather full when it comes to its content and helpful in cementing our belief in the Christian faith.
- “Scripture Alone” – James White
James White provides a thorough explanation of why the Bible is true, faithful, and completely trustworthy.
- “ESV Study Bible”
The English Standard Version is a faithful word for word translation. This Study Bible has over 12,000 helpful study notes for the reader’s enjoyment and study. It is good for every believer to have a robust study Bible.
- “Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary”
This is a helpful resource that can really make scripture come alive. It has more than 700 full color graphics, archaeological research, and canonical book summaries and outlines that will enhance the study of God’s Word.
- “Hymns of Grace”
This is the best hymn book on the market that provides both Christ-centered new hymns mixed with the older and traditional sacred hymnody. The songs have deep and rich theology put to music. It is a wonderful resource to just read at times and soak in the glories of our God and King through its wealth of truths.
- “The Valley of Vision”
This is a wonderful book to read devotionally. It is a book made up of Puritan prayers. Besides its poetic beauty, it also provides a peek into the prayer life of some our heroes of the past. Its aim is to cause us to worship and praise our Lord as we read and meditate on the words and even recite the heartfelt prayers as our own.
- “Foxe’s Book of Martyrs” – John Foxe
In 1563, John Foxe published an account of the life of Christian martyrs, beginning with Stephen and ending with the most recent martyrs of his day. This book is a faithful reminder of how God used figures such as John Wycliffe, John Huss, Martin Luther, William Tyndale, and so many others has given us our rich Christian heritage. It’s a book every Christian should own.
- “Pilgrim’s Progress” – John Bunyan
This is simply the greatest work of fiction ever written. It is an allegorical work that explains the pilgrimage from spiritual death unto spiritual life. C.H. Spurgeon said, “Next to the Bible, the book I value most is John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. I believe I have read it through at least a hundred times. It is a volume of which I never seem to tire; and the secret of its freshness is that it is so largely compiled from the Scriptures.” It is a classic that believers everywhere need to read at least once.
- “Shadow of the Almighty” – Elizabeth Elliot
This is a wonderfully moving biography of the life and ultimate martyrdom of Jim Elliot (and four other missionaries) at the hands of the Auca Indians in Ecuador, 1958. Elisabeth Elliot uses her late husband’s diaries to paint the full picture of Jim’s devotion to the Lord, his mission, and points to the complete majesty of the Almighty.
- “Through Gates of Splendor” – Elizabeth Elliot
This is the follow up book to Shadow of the Almighty. This details the events that occurred after the missionaries’ death. It shows how the sovereign hand of God would eventually save almost the entire village.
- “Don’t Waste Your Life” – John Piper
John Piper packs a real punch in this book. He challenges an entire generation to let their life count for something. He dares them not to live for themselves but to take godly risk for the sake of the Kingdom. It’s a convicting and possibly life changing book.
- “50 Critical Questions” – John Piper & Wayne Grudum
Piper and Grudum set out to answer 50 questions about the roles and responsibilities in both men and woman in light of a complementarian view of men/woman. It is a good book to read cover to cover, but it can also be used as a reference book like an encyclopedia as well.
- “50 People Every Christian Should Know” – Warren Wiersbe
This gives a basic overview of 50 different Christians throughout church history that have had major impacts on Christendom. Every biographical sketch is only about 5 pages long and is easily digestible.
- “Screwtape Letters” – C.S. Lewis
This is one of Lewis’ best and most unique works in my opinion. It is written from the perspective between an experienced demon and a demon apprentice. Wormwood (the apprentice) seeks help in securing the damnation of a young “believer.” Their correspondence offers interesting insights on temptation, pride, and the ultimate victory of faith over evil forces.
- “Radical Womanhood” – Carolyn McCulley (For Woman)
This is a book about learning to have genuine feminine faith in a feminist world. It is both scripturally sound and extremely practical. It speaks to everyone Christian woman at any age.
27. “Thoughts for Young Men” – J.C. Ryle (For Guys)
This is biblical, timeless and practical advice for all young men. What if we knew the solution to most of the problems within the church and the world — but did little to nothing about it? Pastor and author J.C. Ryle (1816-1900) asked a similar question more than a century ago in Thoughts for Young Men as he observed the spiritual condition of young men in the culture.
28. “Growing in Godliness: A Teen Girls Guide to Maturing in Christ” – Lindsey Carlson
This is written specifically for teen girls who have made a profession of faith in Christ. It is written as a type of “What’s next?” book to help girls grow in their faith.
There are so many other books that could have been put on this list. The thing about growing in grace and having wonderful resources is that it is a lifelong endeavor. It doesn’t start when you are 25, and this list doesn’t have to stop when a person reaches the age of 22. It is my hope that we will all want to be like Paul as we grow old, who in his last few years wanted his “books, and above all the parchments” (II Timothy 4:13). He wanted to study and write. He didn’t just want to live out his life and grow no longer. No, he wanted to “finish the race.” He wanted to keep the faith and finish well. The fact is, most teens are just starting their race. We should want to help them get a good start, and building their theological library is a good and proper way to start. It is a worthy investment. And parents, I hope that it is one that you will consider. You will not regret it.
Soli Deo Gloria,
Adam B. Burrell