The books that have most influenced Tom Ascol:
Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan
Bunyan knew more about human psychology than Freud, Maslow and Skinner combined. Everyone is found in this classic book. I return to it time and again to help creatively express theological insights in the language of a story. The ever-present vision of heaven and the dangerous journey that gets us there is faithful to Scripture and dramatically portrayed.
The honesty and passion of Augustine have helped me evaluate my own life--my inner life--before the Lord. It is theology on display as it works itself out in human personality.
Bondage of the Will by Martin Luther
This is the most important book written in the 16th century. Luther shows that the question of sin's effect on the human will is indeed the hinge on which everything else soteriology turns. If man's will is enslaved by sin then salvation must be a work of sovereign grace. Luther makes this argument very forcefully.
The Mortification of Sin by John Owen
The necessity of putting remaining sin to death is one of the most important truths a believer can learn. Owen not only convincingly argues this point, he also very helpfully outlines what is required to carry out the task.
Charles Spurgeon's Autobiography
I use the 2 volume Banner of Truth edition. Spurgeon's life is inspirational and it was gospel-driven. Spurgeon accomplished so much for the kingdom of God and did so despite incredible hardships and discouragements. We don't all have his gifts but we do have His God. His doctrinal convictions as well as his love for people challenge me as I pursue my calling to be a pastor.
Preaching and Preachers by Martyn Lloyd-Jones
This is the best book on preaching that I have ever read. Lloyd-Jones focuses on the nature, purpose and substance of preaching. It is a theology of preaching written by one of the finest preachers the Lord has ever given the church. With all of misunderstanding of preaching along with the denigration of it in favor of other "methods of proclaiming the Gospel," this book calls us back to the biblical emphasis on the priority of this sacred task.
God's Words by J.I. Packer
I have never understood why this book was not better known or appreciated. It is basically a popular systematic theology that takes its headings from 17 biblical words. Each is defined and succinctly explained and applied with typical Packeresque clarity.
Biography of Martyn Lloyd-Jones (2 vols.) by Iain Murray
God used the first volume of this work to keep me in the ministry during a particularly difficult season of life. The vision of the work of a pastor that Lloyd-Jones had and personified is a wonderful illustration of the biblical emphasis on that high calling. Murray is a master story teller and Lloyd-Jone's story is definitely worth telling. I was so moved by volume one that I was very hesitant to read volume two when it came out. I just knew I would be disappointed, confident that the standard that was set in the first was so high it could never be matched. What a pleasant surprise to find the second volume equally valuable to the first, although it is considerably different in its approach. Volume two reads like a historical theology of middle to latter twentieth century evangelicalism. Lloyd-Jones lived through--and participated in--some key developments and controversies of that movement. I find his insights into them invaluable today.
No Place for Truth, by David Wells
This book is the first of 4 in Wells' project to analyze the seduction of evangelicalism by postmodern culture. It is a watershed book that shows how evangelicals lost their center through the ravages of modernity. Truth, while not completely forsaken, has been marginalized. Well's argues for a recovery of truth-based, truth-driven ministry in the evangelical church. The chapter on ministers ("The New Disablers") is worth the price of the book.
Evangelicalism Divided by Iain Murray
Murray looks at the fragmentation of evangelicalism in the last half of the twentieth century and traces it through the the lives of some of the key leaders of that era. In the pursuit of influence and relevance evangelicalism largely lost its way and will only be recovered by rediscovering the nature of the Gospel, the church and biblical Christianity.
Trusting God, Even when Life Hurts by Jerry Bridges
This is one of the best pastoral-theological books that I have ever read. The church I serve has given away thousands of copies since it first appeared. Bridges shows that accurate knowledge of the true character of God as loving, wise and sovereign is the foundation for muscular faith. It is simply written and profound, and can be confidently placed into the hands of any sincere follower of Christ or one who is open to the claims of Christ.