Books you’ll want to read this year!

February 10, 2015

Editor’s Note: We asked some of our staff members to recommend books that have influenced them in the past or that they’re looking forward to reading this year. We hope you’ll benefit from these suggestions and find something to add to your reading list.

Tom Strode

The Pleasures of God by John Piper. This insightful book about the God-centeredness of God turned me toward more God-centered thinking when I read it in 1998. It can be an important book for every disciple of Jesus to read.

Trillia Newbell

Future Grace by John Piper is one of my all-time favorites and one I return to often. The subtitle is something like “the purifying power of the promises of God.” Future Grace reminds me that right now as I fight temptation there truly is grace available to me. I don’t fight alone. It’s not a lonely battle when we remember God’s promises.

Spiritual Depression is another wonderfully helpful book by Martyn Lloyd Jones. The Christian life isn’t always rainbows and sunshine. There are times of great desperation. At some point everyone will probably experience a dryness that they had not anticipated. This book is helpful for identifying the cause and problem and sharing solutions through God’s Word. It’s just helpful to know you aren’t alone.

Dan Darling

The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism by Tim Keller. If you haven't read this book, read this book. It's this generation's version of Mere Christianity. It's already, I think, a classic in that it tackles the most difficult arguments for the existence of God and the case for Christianity and answers them by making the skeptic lean on his own questions and in a way that is inviting to the story of Christianity. Do read this book.

The God Who Is There: Finding Your Place in God's Story by D.A. Carson I had the privilege of studying with Dr. Carson at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. His was this book on steroids. Or maybe a better way of saying it is that this book is that class encapsulated. At any rate, Dr. Carson traces themes throughout Scripture, putting the Bible together in a way that I had never heard before.

Created in God's Image by Anthony Hoekema This is one of the best theological books I've read on what it means to be created in God's image, on biblical anthropology. It's a textbook, not a beach read, yet it will prove to be one of the most rewarding books you have ever read.

Jordan Cramer

Matt Perman's What's Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done. The reason why I think it should be read is because it helps lay a foundation for “getting the right things done.” I believe it also helps us look back to “work” in general and move us forward with living out the gospel in our different vocations.

Sam Dahl

I am going to recommend a book I haven't read yet but am looking forward to reading in 2015. Jesus, Continued…: Why the Spirit Inside You is Better than Jesus Beside You by J.D. Greear is one of the top books on my list for the year. I am increasingly aware of my need for the Holy Spirit in everyday life, but don't feel like understand the Spirit well, or know how to consciously rely on him. J.D.'s books have been a great encouragement to me in the past, and I'm confident Jesus Continued will be as well.

Andrew Walker

I recently finished an older, shorter volume by Carl Henry called Toward a Recovery of Christian Belief. It's only available as a used book, sadly, but is an excellent, concise explanation into Henry's approach to theology and its application to the Public Square. Fair warning: It's not necessarily an easy read at all points (Henry rarely ever was!), but it's a shorter work that will help introduce the reader to the dean of evangelical theology. Evangelicals interested in ethics and public square issues would be well served to retrieve Henry's legacy—this book will help!

Jill Waggoner

The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement by David Brooks isn't a new book, but one I completed this last year. As a mom of two littles, my reading time is limited, and this book felt like I took a course in anthropology, economics, psychology and more. Brooks is one of my favorite writers, and he took a comprehensive look at the way relationships affect human flourishing. There are direct implications for social and economic policy, as well as the church. As the wife of a small groups minister, I found it fascinating how science supported what we know–that living in community with others enhances our lives in innumerable ways.

Daniel Patterson

What's Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done by Matt Perman: God has given each of us different responsibilities in life, and yet all of us are called to be good stewards of that with which we have been entrusted—not only our money and resources, but also our time and tasks and work—and all of us in Christ are to live lives for the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31). Matt Perman's book What's Best Next is a gift to the body of Christ that helps us to think about work and productivity with a gospel focus. This book is helpful, first, because it is not just a book on getting things done, but a book that frames productivity and work in the larger context of a the Christian life. The book is enormously helpful too, though, when it moves into the specifics of thinking through how to be more productive with one's time. Particularly useful are the ways in which Perman encourages readers to plan their week, to do so according to roles God has given each of us in life, and the way in which he outlines strategies for effective daily planning and execution. Not every person will adopt Perman's system comprehensively—I haven't—but I suspect there are very few Christians, regardless of vocation or life stage, that would not find something in this book from which they would benefit.

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24