A former student recently asked me to give him: “a list of Christian books that have significantly shaped your theology and thinking.” I took the task seriously, particularly because the young man in question is a very smart and extremely mature high school senior. It was fun thinking through the different books that either shaped me into or simply reflect my “flavor” of Christian theology and so I thought I would share. Here is the list I came up with along with a quick explanation for each book that made it on the list:
#1: The Politics of Jesus by John Howard Yoder
This is the book that got me thinking about taking the Gospel’s messages seriously, particularly Jesus’ ethic of nonviolence.
#2: Surprised by Hope by N.T. Wright
A great synthesis of biblical Christian eschatology – emphasizing the resurrection & new creation, in a world full of vague hopes for heaven, Left-Behind & Harold Camping.
#3: The Bible Made Impossible by Christian Smith
I read this after losing my faith in “biblicism” – but it is an enjoyable read and a clear presentation of all that is wrong with claims to biblical literalism.
#4: Resident Aliens by Stanley Hauerwas and William Willimon
Like Yoder’s book, this is the book that got me thinking seriously about the church and its proper role in the world.
#5: The Doors of the Sea: Where Was God in the Tsunami? by David Bentley Hart
This is a beautifully written book addressing the problem of evil through the lens of The Brothers Karamazov and the Asian tsunami in 2004. Interesting fact: I disagreed with most of the book when I first read it in an undergrad course. But, I’ve re-read it almost 10 times since then and each time I find it more powerful.
#6: Jesus Have I Loved, But Paul? (A Narrative Approach to the Problem of Pauline Christianity) by J.R. Daniel Kirk
Like Smith’s book on the Bible, I came across this book long after being convinced of the importance of Jesus & the Gospels in any New Testament Theology. However, this is a good read that synthesizes Paul and Jesus with a satisfying theological vision.
What about you?
What book would you recommend to a young person who asked you for a challenging and significant Christian text?