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Books for Beginning Theology

July 2, 2012

A few weeks back I put together a reading list for a friend of mine who is interested in theology and is considering attending seminary. I decided to blog this list in case it might be helpful for others.

It begins with “popular books with the ‘seeds’ of theology”—most of these books are not academic books (they are written for a more general audience). However, they might be a good place to start for anyone with little to no academic theological learning.

This list is not intended to be in any way definitive or exhaustive. It is simply a starting place. If anyone has suggestions for this list, please write it in on the comment section. Please, keep in mind this list is intended for beginners.

Books for Beginning Theology

Popular books with the “seeds” of Theology:

  • Velvet Elvis and Sex God, Rob Bell – understanding Jesus in his Jewish context, leaving behind “enlightenment/modern thinking”
  • Many C.S. Lewis books are good beginning places for thinking theologically
  • The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, (recovering discipleship, Sermon on the Mount)
  • Any popular book from N.T Wright such as “Simply Christian”

Light to Medium Level Theology

  • Beginning Well, Gordon T. Smith – theology of conversion
  • The Gospel of the Kingdom, George Eldon Ladd – theology of the kingdom of God
  • Surprised by Hope, N.T. Wright – theology of resurrection, Jewish origins of Christianity (anything from Wright is great reading. some of it is heavy, so I would avoid his larger, heavier works for now)
  • When the Kings Come Marching In: Isaiah and the New Jerusalem, Richard Mouw – intro to Neo-Calvinism and Christ transforming culture

Biblical Studies

  • How to Read the Bible for All its Worth. Gordon Fee
  • Seized by Truth, Joel B. Green
  • The Cambridge Companion to The Gospels. edited by Stephen C. Barton
  • The Shadow of the Galilean. Gerd Theissen. (this is a historical fiction that is designed to explain to help understand the cultural and socio-political setting of the gospels)
  • NT Wright’s “For Everyone” commentary series
  • The IVP New Testament Commentary Series. One great way to go deeper on the bible is go deeper on a single book. You could do this by reading a commentary on any book that you want to go deeper on. The writings of Paul would be a good place to start. The IVP commentary series is easy to read, so I would recommend starting there.

Systematic Theology (Textbooks)

  • Christian Theology: An Introduction, Alister McGrath (the 3rd and 4th editions can be bought used for under $10 on Amazon). This is a widely used text and very helpful. It does a good job of providing a historical perspective. Only weakness is that it has a slight Calvinist bias at the expense of the traditional (Catholic/Arminian) view.
  • Theology for the Community of God, Stanley J. Grenz (Grenz provides historical/ecumenical views as well as constructive theology.)
  • The “multiview series” from IVP is really good. Each book has 4 or 5 different views on various theological topics. This is a great way to learn what distinguishes various Christian traditions and also which ones you agree most with.
    Here is link to various titles.
  • Flame of Love: A Theology of the Holy Spirit, Clark Pinnock (this is great book about systematic theology from the perspective of the Spirit)
  • Essentials of Christian Theology, edited by William Placher (collection of essays on systematic topics. See table of contents on Amazon)

Christian History

Church Fathers

The Church Fathers

(most of these can be read online at http://www.ccel.org/ or found in any library)

  • Ignatius of Antioch – I think everyone should read Ignatius of Antioch’s Epistles (not because they are so profound, but they are Christian writing from the first generation after the Apostles
  • Clement of Rome – We should read his epistles for the same reasons as Ignatius above
  • Adversus Haereses or Against Heresies – Irenaeus of Lyon
  • On the Incarnation ­– Athansius
  • Justin Martyr – writes a lot of good stuff. Good insight into early Christianity

 

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One Comment leave one →
  1. July 2, 2012 8:05 pm

    That is a great list. Thanks for sharing. I have not heard of a few of those and I can’t wait to check them out.

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