Trip, you are a writer, and so of course you’re a reader, so I want to ask, outside of the pages of Scripture, who are the most influential theologians — or most influential books by theologians — that have shaped your life and ministry?
That is a really hard question for me, because I love reading and really books have been huge in my life. That is part of why I wanted to write, just like with music. Music impacted me. I wanted to do mu-sic to impact people. The same thing with books. But a couple I think I could point out.
Knowing God by J.I. Packer. That was a book that was recommended to me when I was about 15 and 16 years old. And I was passionate about Jesus, but I hadn't read any really good books yet. You know? And I didn’t know how to even find good books. I was just reading whatever. And a guy who was discipling me at the time recommended that to me and let me tell you, it changed my life, because I had never read a book with such a big view of God. You know, I knew God was big and he was good, but when I read that book, just the depth of doctrine and theology rooted in Scripture and all with kind of the context of a relational knowledge of God. It really changed my life.
There have been so many Piper books that have been deeply helpful for me. Probably my favorite is When I Don’t Desire God, because for me it came at a crucial time when I was really just trying to think. In my day to day, how do I really fight for joy in God? And, you know, I want to desire God. I understand that is a part of God sanctifying me, but how do I do it? And that book was just so good and helpful for me in giving me a good, kind of, world view for that. So that book was huge.
Arnold Dallimore’s biography of Spurgeon just called Spurgeon was huge for me, because I love Spurgeon. I read a lot of this stuff and have been really encouraged by it. And I love reading biographies, because you just get to see God’s providence in the life of a man and especially extraordinary men.
It can be discouraging when you read about Spurgeon, because you are like: What in the world am I? He had so much. And like how was he this amazing? He was a pastor at 19 and the Lord was using him in incredible ways and he read all these books and did all this stuff and the orphanage and pastor’s college and all of that. But it is re-ally cool to see God’s providence in his life, because as much as you want to look at him and say, “Man, he is amazing,” it is still really clear that the amazing one is God, because he has orchestrated all these things. And that happens when you read so many biographies of Christian men and women over history. And I can name a trillion more books, but those are three that have really influenced me deeply.
To repeat, those books are:
- Knowing God by J.I. Packer
- Spurgeon by Arnold Dallimore, and
- When I Don’t Desire God by John Piper, which you can download entirely for free right now at desiringGod.org (see above link).