Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Where to Begin: Books for Budding Theologians - Introduction to Theology

Some time ago I came across a list of 25 theological books composed by Bruce Ashford he believes young theologians should read and invest in. I share my enthusiasm for most on his list and would recommend his post (you can read it here) but felt that for those brand new to the study of theology, many of the writings would be overwhelming and perhaps not the best place to start. For example, Augustine's City of God is a classic but is also an academic work that is over 1,000 pages with a unique historic context. I would not recommend a new theologian to begin there.

With that in mind, I want to compose my list of books for young theologians in various categories of theology of mostly modern books for young, budding theologians that I believe may be easier to understand. They are not classics, but I do believe they will be helpful resources to sink your teeth into.

Before moving forward, one should note that this list does not include historical or biblical theology. Perhaps in the future, I will include a survey of great books in those categories. 

We begin with a list of book introducing us into the field of theology.

  • Kelly Kapic, A Little Book for New Theologians: Why and How to Study Theology -Perhaps you should start here.
  • Karl Barth, Evangelical Theology: An Introduction - Though I do not agree with everything Barth wrote, I did enjoy this helpful introduction to theology. It is as much about the theologian as it is about theology.
  • CS Lewis, Mere Christianity - One of the most influential writers of the 20th century. Though dead, he still speaks. In this book, Lewis introduces us to theology and why it matters. I particularly like the image he uses for theology: a map. He writes: "Theology is like a map. Merely learning and thinking about the Christian doctrines, if you stop there, is less real and less exciting than the sort of thing my friend got in the desert. Doctrines are not God: they are only a kind of map. But that map is based on the experience of hundreds of people who really were in touch with God--experiences compared with which many thrills of pious feelings you and I are likely to get on our own are very elementary and very confused. And secondly, if you want to get any further you must use the map."
  • Charles Colson, The Faith: What Christians Believe, Why They Believe It, and Why It Matters - The late Chuck Colson was a great writer and in this book he offers both a somewhat classic approach to theology with emphasis on cultural engagement and living as a Christian in a secular society.
  • Carl Trueman, Creedal Imperative - One cannot separate theology from creedal statements. Though we ought to affirm sola scriptura, what we believe the Bible clearly states is best declared in historic creeds and confessions. This practice is being lost and Trueman makes the argument that it must be recovered.
  • Gerald McDermott, The Great Theologians: A Brief Guide - We are are standing on the shoulders of giants and in this helpful volume, McDermott walks us through a number of the greatest theological giants.
  • Joshua Harris, Dug Down Deep: Building Your Life on Truths That Last - This is a helpful book for those new to theology and new to the language. Harris doesn't spend his time defining terms and interacting with deceased theologians and old controversies. Rather, he shows that we are all theologians and theology matters in our daily lives.
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