5 Books That Changed My Life: Levi Berntson

Posted On January 17, 2024

Books can play a significant role in shaping who we are and how we view the world. We recently asked Rev. Levi Berntson, our assistant professor of theology, to share five books that have been formative in shaping his life and ministry.

You have heard that it was said, “You are what you eat.” But I say to you, “You are what you read!” For centuries—even millennia—men and women have grown in their knowledge of God through reading Scripture and great works of theological depth. This is no less true today. Here are five simple but influential books that impacted me very early in my theological studies.

1. R.C. Sproul, Chosen by God This was the first theological work that I ever read. After hearing part of the corresponding teaching series on the radio, I found a copy of this book in my father’s library. I asked him if I could borrow it and mark it up, which he allowed, and so began my journey in understanding the doctrines of grace. It was R.C.’s presentation of the overwhelming realization of God’s grace and my sinfulness in this book that set me on a life-long trajectory of theological discovery.

2. Martin Luther, The Bondage of the Will Shortly after beginning my theological journey, I began reading widely in Martin Luther’s works. Luther was the first theologian I spent a great deal of time reading, and The Bondage of the Will was by far the work of his that impacted me the most. Luther took my understanding of God’s grace and salvation to an even deeper exegetical level because his exposition of Scripture helped me see an expansive biblical account of God’s graciousness to sinners, even me.

3. T. Desmond Alexander, From Eden to the New Jerusalem Alexander’s work was my first introduction to the discipline of biblical theology, which I had never heard of before. In this book, Alexander explains the grand story of the Old and New Testaments by describing the first temple of Eden, God’s plan for humanity, and the greater Eden of the New Jerusalem to come.

4. Gary Pratico and Miles Van Pelt, Basics of Biblical Hebrew Yes, this is a Hebrew grammar, but don’t roll your eyes just yet. I used to wake up at 4:00 each morning to study this volume for one very important reason: it made Scripture come alive to me. As I learned Hebrew, my first biblical language, I began to fall in love with the text of Scripture. Familiar passages from youthful memorization were suddenly made fresh, strange, and pregnant with new depth. Even today, it is still an exciting part of my daily life to study Scripture in the original languages of Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek.

5. Bruce Shelley, Church History in Plain Language While growing up, I never understood why my church recited creeds and confessions. More than that, I didn’t know whence my church had come. However, my shallow view of ecclesiology was deepened when I began studying church history, and Shelley’s work was my first introduction to these matters. This easy-to-read overview of the history of the Christian church showed me how the church came to where it is today, and I was captivated by the story and wanted to be a part of it. In other words, understanding what the church is, where she came from, and what she underwent in the past made me want to become a churchman in the present.

What will you read?