Thursday, November 02, 2006

Twenty Theological Books Which Have Influenced Me

I decided to follow the lead of Ben Myers over at Faith and Theology and publish my top twenty theological books which have shaped me. I should note that, as befits a theological amateur, I've included some more popular works for the simple reason that they have been influential in the way I think about and, more importantly, practice my faith. So, here we are, in no particular order (ranking was simply beyond me tonight), but with a little commentary. I've followed Ben's rule of citing only one work per author.

St. Augustine of Hippo, Confessions
I first read the confessions as I was becoming a Christian, which is
a bracing way to convert.

St. Irenaeus of Lyons, On the Detection and Refutation of the Knowledge Falsely So-Called
This was my entry into patristics way back in my fourth year BA,
when I was working on a paper dealing with the canon and the
Gnostics. I just keep coming on back to Irenaeus and the Gnostic

Stanley Hauerwas, Peaceable Kingdom
One of the two major works which convinced me to be a Christian
pacifist. Besides, Hauerwas is a great read!

John Howard Yoder, Politics of Jesus
The other Christian pacifist work which has profoundly influenced
my thinking on the subject.

Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue
I ran into MacIntyre's critique of modernity years before I read him
firsthand. If I had read him earlier, perhaps my major field paper
(in Classics) wouldn't have been such a debacle.

William Cavenaugh, Torture and Eucharist
Cavenaugh really highlighted to me the potential for challenging the
powers of this world with his contention that the Eucharist was a
radical weapon against political dictators looking to divide and
rule their subjects.

Chistopher Hall, Reading Scripture With the Church

I ran into this book in a large book chain of all places and bought
it on a whim. The result was I got excited about the Fathers and
wanted to start studying them.

N.T. Wright, The New Testament and the People of God
I had to include Bishop Wright. Nobody can eviscerate anyone quite
so elegantly or explain Scripture so clearly.

Eusebius of Caesarea, Ecclesiastical History
What kind of church historian would I be without a bow to Eusebius?

Ephraim Radner, The End of the Church. A Pneumatology of Christian Division in the West
Radner is largely responsible for keeping me in the Anglican Church
because of his willingness to criticize the church as it is now
and his unwillingness to go into schism. Don't expect easy answers
with Radner, or simple sentences.

Brother Lawrence
Not a theological work per se, but this 17th century monk taught me
as much as I know about seeking the presence of God in the present.
I'm not sure I'm good at it, but I'm trying.

Henri Nouwen, Reaching Out
Also not a theological work per se, but Nouwen has been important in
working out other areas of my life, so he deserves his place in the

C.S. Lewis, Narnia Chronicles (Okay, I'm cheating)
I keep coming back to the Narnia Chronicles when I'm sick or just
want a reminder of a simple, but deep faith. Besides, I like lions.

Way of the Pilgrim
I first ran into the Way of the Pilgrim through J.D. Salinger's
Franny and Zooey. Reading him first hand didn't send me into my room
mumbling the Jesus Prayer, but it did teach me about humility and
the importance of prayer.

Kathleen Norris, Cloister Walk
I read and re-read Kathleen Norris when I'm having an anxious night.
She simply relaxes me with her sane, if not particularly rigourously
theological, insights on faith.

George Lindbeck, The Nature of Doctrine
Can we say the 'grammar of theology' folks? Of course, we can. For
that metaphor alone, Lindback deserves a place in this list.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship
The contrast between cheap and costly grace is what caught my
attention with Bonhoeffer.

Tertullian, de spectaculis
Perhaps this is an odd choice within the oeuvre of Tertullian, but
the de spectaculis first gave me the idea of trying to connect a
Father with what is happening now. What does Hollywood have to do
with Jersusalem?

Justin Martyr, Apologies
These intrigue me because of their form as forensic speeches in
defence of Christianity. They are a gold mine for anyone interested
in how being a Christian changes our relationship with the power-
brokers of this world.

Robert Farrar Capon, The Supper of the Lamb
A theological treatise disguised as a cooking book, The Supper of the
Lamb teaches about the sacramentality of everyday life. Besides, I
quoted it a couple of weeks ago when I decided to change course into
patristic blogging.

1 comment:

byron said...

I had to include Bishop Wright. Nobody can eviscerate anyone quite
so elegantly or explain Scripture so clearly.

Nicely put.