Books that strongly influenced me:
After book (1) below, it is an impossible question for me to answer exactly. Many books have influenced me at different times. Here are eleven that influenced me quite early in my Christian life (all but #3 and #10 and #11 while I was still in college, before I went to seminary), plus #12, which influenced me many years later.
(1) The Bible, far beyond all other books combined.
(2) John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion
(3) Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology
(4) J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism
(5) Cornelius VanTil, The Defense of the Faith
(6) D. M. McIntyre, The Hidden Life of Prayer
(7) John Murray, Principles of Conduct
(8) John Murray, Redemption: Accomplished and Applied
(9) B. B. Warfield, The Plan of Salvation
(10) B. B. Warfield, The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible
(11) Geerhardus Vos, Biblical Theology
(12) John Wimber, Power Evangelism
My first recommendation is Jay Richards’ excellent book, Money, Greed, and God: Why Capitalism is the Solution and Not the Problem (New York: HarperOne, 2009). In addition, see my annotated list of other helpful (and not so helpful) books on economics here:
- 1. David Landes, The Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Why Some Are So Rich and Some So Poor. (1999). Landes is professor emeritus of economics at Harvard and also taught at George Washington University. This is a masterful survey of the history of economic development in the entire world, by region, over the last 500 years.
- 2. Lawrence E. Harrison, The Central Liberal Truth: How Politics Can Change a Culture and Save It from Itself (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 2006). Argues in extensive detail that culture makes all the difference in economic development, and explains how cultures can change. Pp. 88-89 give a table showing vastly greater per capita GDP in Protestant-background countries than for any other religious group: the rest are, in order: (2) Jewish, (3) Catholic, (4) Orthodox, (5) Confucian, (6) Buddhist, (7) Islam, (8) Hindu.
- 3. Hernando De Soto, The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else. An excellent, insightful book about the need for people to have the right to own property and relatively easy access to obtain a publicly documented title to that property, in order for an economy to grow and people to overcome poverty.
- 4. William Easterly, The Elusive Quest for Growth (he has also written The White Man’s Burden more recently but I have not read it yet). Why aid to Africa has never really solved the problems of poverty in Africa.
- 5. P. T. Bauer, Equality, the Third World, and Economic Delusion. Bauer died in 2002. He was emeritus professor of economics at London School of Economics and a specialist in development economics. He tells in detail why all the British aid to African countries over decades did more harm than good: It distorted local economies and entrenched corrupt governments in power, and had many other negative consequences.
- 6. Robert Guest, The Shackled Continent (anecdotal; written by Africa editor for The Economist). He describes in vivid detail the barriers to economic development in Africa.
- 7. Brian Griffiths, The Creation of Wealth (taught at London School of Economics and was adviser to Margaret Thatcher; now in House of Lords). Gives principles for a Christian perspective on how economies grow.
- 8. Bjorn Lomborg, The Skeptical Environmentalist . Lomborg shows that we are not running out of any natural resource, and we won’t run out in the future. But the world is short on knowledge of true facts about the state of natural resources. (Lomborg is a professor of statistics from Denmark.)
- 9. Several writings of Julian Simon, esp. The Resourceful Earth, and The State of Humanity, and The Ultimate Resource II. (Simon was a professor of business and economics in Maryland.)
- 10. Dambisa Moyo, Dead Aid: Why Aid is Not Working and How There is a Better Way for Africa (2009). Moyo is from Zambia, has a MA from Harvard and a Ph.D. in economics from Oxford. She was a consultant for the World Bank and then worked at Goldman Sachs. Her argument foreign aid has done more harm than good for Africa and has trapped nations in poverty: It entrenches corrupt African governments in power, provides “fungible” money that funds profligate lifestyles, creates internal conflicts for control of vast wealth, removes government accountability to the citizens of a country, creates a mentality of dependence, prevents beneficial investment, and has never brought any African country out of poverty. But she wrongly believes that if foreign aid is stopped, good governance “will naturally emerge” (p. 143.).
B. Here are some books on economic systems in general, and the great flaws of socialism and government control:
- * 11. Jay Richards, Money, Greed, and God: Why Capitalism Is the Solution and Not The Problem (HarperOne, 2009). This is now my #1 recommendation for people who want to understand economic systems from a Christian point of view.
- 12. Arthur Brooks, The Battle: How the Fight Between Free Enterprise and Big Government Will Shape America’s Future. (Basic Books, 2010). Brooks argues that what gives people genuine satisfaction in the economic realm is not to be given money but to achieve “earned success” – the opportunity to have a responsibility (even if small) and to do well at it.
- 13. Friedrich Hayek, The Road to Serfdom. Hayek was Austrian and fled from Hitler. He became an economics professor at London School of Economics. He watched with dismay as socialism grew in England. He explains how government control expands inch by inch until it takes over all of life. This is an all-time classic that was written in 1944, with a 50th anniversary edition released in 2004.
- 14. Henry Hazlitt, Economics in One Lesson. Hazlitt was a long time editor at the Wall Street Journal. This book was first published in 1946 and has become a classic. It is a wonderful book that explains how every action in the economy has more than one consequence, and when we realize this we can understand better how an economy works.
C. Here are two books that I found unpersuasive (or wrong) in terms of explaining why nations become wealthy:
- 14. Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs, and Steel (I found this unconvincing because it was completely materialistic and deterministic, from an entirely evolutionary perspective, allowing no role for human choice and decisions and initiative. He thinks physical geography determines everything!)
- 15. Jeffrey Sachs, The End of Poverty (I found this unconvincing for the most part, because I heard him saying that we have given X amount of money in the past but that has not solved the problem so the solution is that we need to give X + 1 or even 2X the amount and that will solve the problem). Sachs is an economics professor but he also has another job advising the United Nations how to give such money away.
This is a great disappointment and a direct challenge to the moral standards taught in the Bible, which I believe to be the Word of God.
I cannot think of another instance where an American president has declared himself to be in such direct contradiction to the moral teachings of the Bible (see Romans 1:26-27).
The institution of marriage is a way for society to decide what kind of relationship it will promote by calling it “marriage” and giving it numerous legal and financial benefits. For centuries, societies have decided that they will promote marriage between one man and one woman because that is by far the best relationship for raising the children of the next generation, and also the best protection for women against abandonment and the best way to encourage men in socially beneficial pursuits. Society has a strong interest, therefore, in promoting marriage between one man and one woman. We should treat homosexuals with love and kindness, but government should not promote such relationships by calling them “marriage.”
But in this announcement, President Obama has given a clear signal of his agenda if he wins reelection. His administration will continue to actively promote (through laws and policies) a sexual relationship that is contrary to the Bible, contrary to most people’s moral instincts (according to how they consistently vote, even if they aren’t willing to tell that to pollsters), contrary to the way God designed our human bodies to function, and, sadly, harmful to the parties involved, harmful to the next generation of children, and harmful to the nature of marriage itself as understood through all societies in previous human history. (See the discussion in my Politics — According to the Bible, chapter 7.)
In addition, supporters of same-sex “marriage” have already shown that they will promote social and economic ostracism and sometimes even criminal penalties (for “hate speech”) against anyone who expresses public opposition to their view. Such conduct significantly threatens freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and freedom of religion in our nation.
What does this mean for President Obama’s future? The Bible also says that God is sovereign over the affairs of nations. “The Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will” (Daniel 4:25 ESV). Also, “it is God who executes judgment, putting down one and lifting up another” (Psalm 75:7 ESV).
I will watch carefully for the next several months to see whether this sovereign God will bless or frustrate the plans of a national leader who takes the stand President Obama has taken. I do not expect that God will bring blessing to a president who has taken such a stand.
I have discussed this issue at some length in a recent podcast in Minnesota. KTIS radio podcast – Minnesota
I see that you endorsed John Piper’s book, This Momentary Marriage. Does this mean that you agree with Piper’s view that remarriage is never justified after a divorce?
No, I do not agree with my friend John Piper on that matter. But I thought I could endorse the book anyway because there is so much excellent material in it.
My own view of divorce and remarriage is expressed well in the article on marriage, divorce, and remarriage in the ESV Study Bible (pp. 2545 – 2547), and also in the ESV Study Bible notes on Matthew 5:31-32; Matthew 19:3-9; Mark 10:2-12; Luke 16:18; and 1 Corinthians 7:15.
In brief, my own view is the mainstream evangelical Protestant view since the Reformation, the position which is also represented in the Westminster Confession of Faith (1646). In brief, that position is that marriage is a life-long commitment, but that divorce is morally justified, and is not sin in God’s sight, if the other spouse (a) has committed adultery, or (b) has abandoned the marriage and all attempts at reconciliation have failed.
In such cases where divorce is morally justified, it is allowed by God but not necessary, and, if possible, reconciliation and attempting to preserve the marriage should be the first choice. But when a divorce has occurred for one of these reasons, then the marriage no longer exists, and the spouse who obtained a divorce because of such a reason is viewed as a single person in God’s sight and is free to marry someone else. (See the ESV Study Bible notes referenced above for further explanation).
The short answer is that I moved because of my wife Margaret’s health. That is explained in this article:
But now after several years I can see that God had additional purposes for this move, because the time here has been wonderfully blessed by God through fellowship with faculty colleagues, through relationships with students, through Scottsdale Bible Church, and through many other circumstances that have made it possible for me to be very productive in my writing projects (see books section).