Bookstall on Holiness

I’m compiling a reading list for the bookstall on our church conference (camp, house party or whatever you call it!) on the topic of holiness and santification.

Here’s what I’ve listed, but what would you add?

Readers of this blog will remember that I want to make sure the positional aspect of holiness – in Christ – is not marginalised by solely focussing on the progressive aspect. So I’ll make sure books by our speaker, David Peterson, are there:

But these are academic works, and most congregation members won’t read them. So where to begin?

I’d start with Chappo, and his simple, biblical, inimitable style!

  •  A Sinner’s Guide to Holiness (Matthias Media, 2005) – it defines holiness simply, beginning with God and his distinct set-apartness, and including its moral aspect, and how comes through Christ, before moving on to progress and fulfilment. 
  • A Foot in Two Worlds (Matthias Media, 2009) – subtitled “The Joy and Struggle of the Normal Christian Life”, it deals briefly with the new creation as “an environment  perfect for holy people”, talks of “the Holy Spirit – our helper and guarantee”, grapples with the tension between now and not yet, and warns of pitfalls like claims for “entire sanctification” now.

Both Chappo’s books are short, clear, and straightforward in a gospel-driven way. (Sorry to use such the cliche, but it’s true!)

I think I’d also stock a couple of Jerry Bridges’ titles, also very readable and biblical, but a little longer than Chappo’s titles.

  • The Pursuit of Holiness – first published back in the 80s. Although this book focuses very helpfully and scripturally on making progress in holiness (the title comes from Hebrews 12:14), it does not neglect a basic foundation of holiness based in God himself and secured in Christ. One small critique is that in this book, Bridges tends to establish our holiness in Christ more in terms of justification language than in the equally biblically positional sanctification language (that I outlined in the article mentioned earlier).
  • The Discipline of Grace – Bridges wrote this title almost two decades later to make even more clear the critical role of God’s grace in making holiness and its pursuit possible. Wonderfully refreshing. Preach the gospel to yourself!

And lastly, slightly tangential, but still relevant to the topic of holiness, I’d stock

  • Engaging with the Holy Spirit (Apollos, 2007) by Graham Cole, which looks at six commonly asked questions about the Holy Spirit, including how we can resist him or quench him or grieve him, and positively how he fills us. 

I’m sure there are other excellent and accessible books worth recommending on holiness and sanctification, but I’d like you to do the work now.

What do you suggest and why? (And please let me know whether or not your suggestion only or mainly speaks of sanctification in progressive terms.)

14 thoughts on “Bookstall on Holiness

  1. On Facebook I’ve had these suggestions. Firstly…

    JC Ryle, Holiness. Challenging read.

    My reply: It certainly is a classic.

    My worry is that Ryle really reinforces that standard (but misleading, even erroneous) impression that justification is start of Christian life, and then sanctification is the catch-all for Christian growth and progress. This marginalises a key part of what the Bible teaches about holiness and God’s gift of it to us, and has the potential to undermine the place of grace in progress. Am I being too harsh?

    • My friend replied

      Ryle will challenge our laziness in treating God’s grace as cheap. We too easily absorb the standards of our world and lack a depth of desire for personal holiness. Must go back and read it again with your comments in mind!

      My colleague at church also urged us to stock Ryle’s Holiness, so I think that will do me.

      • My colleague wrote:

        I think Ryle is trying to keep both ideas of sanctification together. He certainly spends much of his volume discussing what we might call progressive sanctification but he doesn’t neglect the other. So in chapter 2 (sanctification) he teaches that “Christ undertakes the sanctification, no less than the justification, of His believing people” (16) He argues that “Sanctification … is the outcome and inseparable consequence of regeneration” (17) etc.

        […] Ryle insists that the believer begins the Christian life sanctified, “that [sanctification and justification] proceed originally from the free grace of God” (29) but that the Christian grows over time, similar I suspect to Grudem.

        I agree that Ryle doesn’t say everything as I’d like it to be said but he does challenge me to not neglect growth in Christlikeness. The beauty of Ryle is that he doesn’t have a distinction between two types of sanctification – he is trying to wrestle with all the evidence without categorisation.

  2. Secondly…

    I’ve heard of ‘The hole in our holiness’ by Kevin DeYoung, but I’ve not read it and can’t speak for it’s quality.

    Sandy Grant: Yep, I really like KDY and his work.

    However, the book he edited on basic evangelical theology and practice from some younger reformed guys, “Don’t call it a comeback” had a chapter on sanctification which just gave us the systematic theological use and was quite weak on how the Bible actually uses the term: all progress, no position.

    And I seem to have picked up in the back of my mind that KDY’s a little locked into the default systematic theological use of the term (as growth in holiness) himself. But I can’t footnote that just now and may be wrong.

    I wonder if anyone else knows.

  3. The Doctrine and Practice of Holiness by Erroll Hulse (EP) may be worth a look. I’ve not read it, but do know him and would expect it to be helpful.

  4. DeYoung’s book is excellent and should be carried. The first part of the book deals with positional sanctification focusing on union with Christ. It is only after that is established that he moves on to the pursuit of holiness, as it were. It is short, accessible, theological, and helpful.

  5. The Enemy Within: Straight talk about the power and defeat of sin by Kris Lundgaard is excellent. It’s practical and readable borrowing from John Owen’s classic Sin and Temptation.

  6. A Quest For Godliness by J.I. Packer is very good as Packer helps the reader to rediscover how generations before us have pursued holiness.

  7. We recently had Kevin visit us here in South Africa. He preached a sermon based out of his book The Hole in our Holiness which was very powerful. I ended up buying the book and can thouroughly recommend it. Covers both the positional and progressive aspects in a biblical manner. Also it is a compact well written little book. Grant Hazell – Durban South Africa

    • Thanks Samantha, in passing I still think Sproul’s Chosen by God is so excellent on predestination discussions for the same reason!

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