February 2, 2016

John MacArthur’s Top 5 Books On a Deserted Island

by Jordan Standridge

Stephen Nichols, President of Reformation Bible College, Interviewed John MacArthur on his 5 minutes in church history podcast, and asked him if he were to be stranded on an island which five books would he bring with him?

Here is the transcript of the interview.

Stephen Nichols: Today, we are returning to our deserted island, and we have a very special guest with us. Our guest today is Dr. John MacArthur. Dr. MacArthur, welcome.

John MacArthur: Thank you so much. It’s great to be here.

SN: This is an interesting deserted island. It’s a very theologically rich deserted island. Someone has left it stocked with Augustine and the works of Jonathan Edwards, as well as the works of the Reformers John Calvin and Martin Luther. So you’re going to have quite a library for your stay on the deserted island. But in addition to those books, what five books would you take with you for your stay on the deserted island?

JM: It’s always hard to narrow them down to five, but I think the first book—and I say this because it had such a profound impact on me—would be Steven Charnock’s The Existence and Attributes of God. I didn’t grow up in a Reformed environment. When I discovered Reformed theology, it was in Charnock. I didn’t know it was possible to have that many thoughts about God.

SN: That book will keep you busy.

JM: It is inexhaustible. And at the same time, I was anchored down by B.B. Warfield’s The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible. Those are influential books that I would want to go back to. I think I would want to have Charles Hodge’s Systematic Theology. Is that OK? Does that pass muster?

SN: I think it’d be great to have the original Princetonian there. If you’ve got Warfield, we need Hodge too.

JM: That’s exactly right. I’m assuming there is a Bible.

SN: There is a Bible.

JM: OK, good. I just want to make sure.

SN: I think there’s actually a MacArthur Study Bible.

JM: On the island?

SN: Imagine that.

JM: Well, we’re home free. We can forget the rest of the books. Pinning me down on other books is hard because I’ve been so widely influenced. I think a couple of missionary biographies. I have been profoundly affected by studying William Carey. I think it is good for us to compare ourselves against those who really made monumental sacrifices.

SN: And Carey’s perseverance is just remarkable, the hardship he endured throughout his life.

JM: Years and years of work and it all burned up. Unbelievable. I need that kind of modeling and that kind of example. Those are some the books that I would want.

SN: You’ve written a number of books yourself. When we have authors visit our island, we always ask if they wouldn’t mind leaving a book behind for the next guy who gets stuck there. So, which of your many books do you think you’d like to leave behind?

JM: It would probably be The Gospel According to Jesus.

SN: I was hoping you would say that.

JM: When I came out of seminary, I knew I would be fighting battles on issues such as inerrancy and inspiration, the authority of Scripture, and sanctification. But I never really believed that I would spend so much of my ministry trying to defend the gospel inside the church. From the very beginning of my ministry, I was aware that churches were full of people who didn’t even understand the gospel.

SN: That book was a big part of the controversy that came to be known as the Lordship Salvation Controversy. And we’ll talk about that another time. Thank you for being with us, Dr. MacArthur.

Posted by permission from the 5 minutes in church history podcast. You can listen to the interview here.

Jordan Standridge

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Jordan is a pastoral associate at Immanuel Bible Church in Springfield, VA, where he leads the college ministry. He is the founder of The Foundry Bible Immersion.
  • Dan Trabue

    Wow. Nothing personal against Dr MacArthur, but that seems an incredibly boring and limited set of books. No fiction? No current affairs? To each his own. I guess he just enjoys reading theological treatises all along the same general lines, go figure.

    I prefer diversity in reading material as in life.

    And choosing one of your own books to read on a desert island..? Really? To what end?

    • GinaRD

      A deserted island without anything by Charles Dickens is a deserted island that I want no part of. 🙂

    • Angel

      I guess it is down to personal preference. Isn’t it? I read and love to read books on theology too. It is hard for me to move out of the theological genre because I want my mind to be influenced and informed by the Word of God and not by anything else…be it fiction or current affairs or sports…these are all temporal. They will soon pass away but the Word of God abides forever.

      • GinaRD

        But if God gives us all kinds of good things to enjoy, then surely there’s room for the good, the true, and the beautiful in fiction to help shape our minds as well. It’s all from His goodness and for His glory.

    • Jordan Standridge

      Friend, this is an embarrassing comment. I’ll delete it if you ask me to once you re-read the post. He’s on a church history podcast so of course his answers will be about historic works that have to do with the church. Also he was told as a joke that the MacArthur study bible was already on the island, and he was asked which of his books he would like to leave on the island for the next guy.

      • Dan Trabue

        Okay, fair enough. I get the point, now. My fault. Delete if you’d like.

  • 4Commencefiring4

    If I thought I’d be be stuck on the island the rest of my life, I don’t think I’d take commentaries on a Book. I’d just take the Book and make my own commentaries. There’s plenty of time to study and come to my own conclusions. The other four would be something entirely different, like how to make ocean-worthy rafts from raw materials, and what’s safe to eat on the island.

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