How to Judge a Book by its Cover: Slightly Advanced

February 15, 2010 — 2 Comments

I thought it might be helpful to extend the original post, especially after New Growth Press (who got a favorable recommendation) twittered about it later in the week. Here is an extended list of authors, followed by some other hopefully helpful things to do when evaluating a book.

Categorically, here are some more authors I would recommend:

Dead Guys named John:


Practical Theology

Old Testament

  • Bruce Waltke
  • John Walton
  • Christopher Wright
  • Jack Collins
  • Gordon Wenham

New Testament

  • Darrell Bock
  • G.K. Beale
  • Vern Poythress
  • Douglas Moo
  • Thomas Schreiner
  • N. T. Wright

Again, this is not an exhaustive list, but rather authors I have found to be solid in their writing. They will disagree among themselves on some topics so it would be wrong to assume that everyone I’ve presented is in complete agreement on what they think theologically. They are all however evangelical, most are under the Reformed tradition, and outside of the “dead guys named John category,” a recommendation by one of these authors on another book can indicate that it is a pretty solid book as well


Moving on from the examination more authors then, there are a few other things you can do to get a better grasp of a book before reading it. Look at the credentials of who wrote the book. This is not always a good measure, but it can help you evaluate the author’s vantage point on the topic. A book about the Biblical covenants for instance will be very different if written by a professor at Dallas Seminary, versus say, a professor at Westminster Seminary. This requires though knowing a bit about the various theological schools in the country and their various theological vantage points.

While it is hard to really tell about the school that the author received his degree from, you can tell a bit about where the professor currently teaches. If a professor teaches at any of the following schools, I would consider his work solid, as again, just a general rule of thumb. Doesn’t mean everything they say is golden, but does mean they are probably theologically on track for the most part. Realize too that professor that do not teach at the following schools can also be theologically on track, this is just a list to get you started.

  • Dallas Seminary
  • Westminster Theological Seminary
  • Southern Baptist Seminary
  • Southeastern Seminary
  • Reformed Theological Seminary
  • Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
  • Wheaton (graduate or undergraduate)
  • Talbot Theological Seminary

Digging Inside a Bit

This about exhausts what you can reasonably know about a book without cracking it open, so what follows is just some general guidelines for scanning inside a book to get an idea of the contents. Knowing the institutions can be helpful, but so can perusing the table of contents (TOC) and the index.


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2 responses to How to Judge a Book by its Cover: Slightly Advanced

  1. I’d learn tons from Bahnsen , but i’d hesitate to say he was VT’s best student. It certainly open to debate whether he’s VT’s best expositor (I can see how that is probably true in certain senses. His apologetic is more in line with what Van Til advocated). But, on the other hand, his unique contribution to theology (theomomy) is, to my mind at least, mistaken. Of course, that’s all contingent on what you had in mind by “best.”

    • I mean “best” just in the sense of best expositor and practitioner of VT’s apologetic method. Theonomy is definitely a misstep in his thinking, and thankfully, that didn’t come from VT!

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