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What I am Reading in Theology

Feb 14, 2008

Every once in a while I am asked about what I am currently reading. For those interested in such things, I occasionally put out an article describing some new books which I am devouring which others might be interested in. I here do the same, but I have narrowed this one down to some of the theological works I have been perusing lately.

I of course realise that I am on real shaky ground here. Shaky because my subject matter guarantees a minuscule audience. You see, I am talking about theology. To speak about theology is not exactly a great way of winning friends and influencing people.

Indeed, few will even read beyond this paragraph. That is because only a fraction of the world’s population is Christian. And only a fraction of that Christian minority takes seriously the things of the mind. And only a fraction of that group has an interest in hard core theology. I am here, in other words, alienating perhaps about 99 per cent of the world’s population, if not more!

But for those who are part of that one per cent who are still with me, let me tell you about what theological works I have been reading of late. I do so simply because I have found these volumes to be quite worthwhile, and as is often the case, when one finds something of value or pleasure, one likes to share it with others. And I do so because this is my blogsite, and I can write about what I like. (Or in the words of an old 1963 Lesley Gore tune, it’s my party and I can cry if I want to. I now betray both my age and frivolity.)

Of course theological works, for all their unpopularity, still pour from the presses at an amazing rate. Many hundreds of titles at least appear each year. I here list some of the recent works of theology and biblical studies which I have been reading in the past few years and have found to be rewarding and fruitful.

These volumes may not be the best works in theology to recently appear, or the most significant. They just happen to be some of the titles which I have found to be quite stimulating and beneficial. Of course I have piles of theological books around the home which I am wading through at the moment. But the following volumes make a good start at a recommended reading list of new works in theology.

For those wishing to obtain these volumes, all can be purchased in Australia at Koorong Books, among other places. I present them in no particular order. The first three just happen to be sets, and incomplete sets at that.

Goldingay, John, Old Testament Theology. IVP, 2003, 2006.
This is really a magisterial effort. Only two-thirds done, the final volume should appear in a year or two. But the first two – comprising over 1800 pages – are simply superb. Goldingay is just utterly steeped in the Old Testament, and has done a superlative job of elucidating its themes, its theology, its vision, its grandeur, and its contents. Mind you, I find myself disagreeing with the author on a regular basis, but I am nonetheless fascinated by what a superb work this is. If you get only one Old Testament theology, get this three volume work (hopefully complete by 2009, if not sooner).

Brown, Michael, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus. Baker, 2000, 2000, 2003, 2007.
This is a five-volume series, of which the first four have been penned. It might seem like a rather narrow focus. But whenever one writes about how to reach a certain group with the gospel, one must deal with their many objections and criticisms. And Judaism, like Islam, or atheism, or the cults, has plenty of questions and objections. To answer these many challenges, one must have a very good grasp of what the orthodox Christian faith is all about. Thus these volumes are quite helpful indeed. In dealing with Jewish objections to the Gospel, they nicely help to lay out the biblical case for the trinity, the deity of Christ, the nature of salvation, and so on. It is perhaps the most comprehensive response to date to Jewish criticisms of the Christian faith.

Wright, N.T., Christian Origins and the Question of God. Fortress Press, 1992, 1996, 2003.
What can one say about this series? N.T. Wright is arguably one of our finest New Testament scholars today. That does not mean that he says things which are never controversial or debatable. But he is pioneering new ground in our understanding of Jesus, the New Testament, and the biblical message. The third volume, for example, The Resurrection of the Son of God, is perhaps the finest treatment of the subject yet penned. (The first two volumes are entitled, The New Testament and the People of God, and Jesus and the Victory of God.)

Three volumes (of a projected 6-volume set) are already available. Given that each new volume is larger than the preceding one (the first three combined amount to over 2000 pages), the next volumes might be very massive indeed. The fourth volume should be on Paul. It is a magisterial series and a massive undertaking, well worth the somewhat expensive price of each paperback volume.

Piper, John, The Future of Justification. Crossway Books, 2007.
Now just in case you’re thinking that Wright can do no wrong, there are of course various elements of his theological system which have been of concern to others. His view on justification, for example, has left many unconvinced. That does not mean he is necessarily wrong here, but he is certainly challenging the traditional Protestant understanding here, as part of the “New Perspective” on Paul. Piper provides a detailed rebuttal of Wright’s view of justification in a courteous yet solid fashion.

Husbands, Michael and Daniel Trier, eds., Justification: What’s at Stake in the Current Debates? IVP/Apollos, 2004.
Given the importance of this topic, it is worth including another volume on this issue. The essays contained in this volume also address the whole debate on justification, with a few dealing directly with Wright. Various theological perspectives are represented here, resulting in diverse discussion and a lively debate. Authors include Robert Gundry, D.A. Carson and Paul Molnar.

Beale, G.K., and D.A. Carson, eds., Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament. Baker, 2007.
This massive (1240 page) reference work is a very significant achievement and long overdue. For some years now there has been a burgeoning interest in how the NT writers made use of OT materials. This exhaustive volume covers all the citations or allusions used in each book of the NT of OT works. As such it is part commentary, part encyclopaedia. Many of our leading NT scholars are featured, including Blomberg on Matthew, Watts on Mark, Marshall on Acts, Towner on the Pastorals, and Carson on the General Epistles. A wealth of insight, information, theology and textual discussion is contained here, making it an invaluable resource.

McGrath, Alister, Christianity’s Dangerous Idea. HarperOne, 2007.
Another English theologian who seems to be almost as prolific as Wright is Alister McGrath. When he is not tackling the likes of atheist and biologist Richard Dawkins (McGrath also has degrees in science), he is back to his other area of expertise, historical theology. This important new volume looks at the Protestant Reformation and its impact since then. It examines the Reformation in terms of its history, its theology, its expression and its impact. A nice, compact (450 page) overview of the revolution that was the Protestant Reformation.

Wright, Chris, The Mission of God. IVP, 2006.
Finally, another volume on the Old Testament. Chris Wright is a leading English OT scholar who has penned numerous fine volumes on the OT, including some very helpful commentaries (his NIBC volume on Deuteronomy is really very good indeed). In this volume Wright seeks to lay out the heart of the OT message, indeed, the heart of the Biblical story. The central focus of God and his word is mission, and Wright nicely demonstrates how this theme is diffused throughout the OT as well as the NT. One need not agree with every aspect of this work to appreciate its scope and emphasis.

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15 Responses to What I am Reading in Theology

  • Just so you know someone else is reading this!
    I have a vested interest as a theologian; nonetheless you are really going for the longest and heaviest stuff around! Good authors though!
    Jon Newton

  • Thanks Jon
    Hey, that’s 2 out of 6 billion. We’re off to a good start! Anyone else in the universe who enjoys theology?
    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Yes, Bill & Jon, I love theology, “the queen of the sciences.” I have enjoyed John Piper’s writings and I imagine that I would be siding with him in his debate with N.T.Wright on justification.
    Spero Katos, Caulfield

  • Thanks Spero
    Hey we’re up to three!
    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Thanks for the list, Bill! Wish I had more time to read such books, but I think Alister McGrath’s “Christianity’s Dangerous Idea” seems like a perfect and interesting place to start.
    Mathew Hamilton

  • Maybe I should start reading some theological books sometime. I think in particular it would be quite interesting to read McGrath’s book. The Protestant Reformation is quite an interesting period.
    Matthew Mulvaney

  • Heck I’ll put my hand up.

    Right now I am working through Graeme Goldsworthy’s Gospel & Kingdom. He begins his preface; ‘This book has grown out of a deep concern for the recovery of the Old Testament as part of the Christian Bible.’ It’s a breath of fresh air compared to the apologetics stuff I normally read.

    Thanks for posting on some of the other stuff out there Bill.

    Duane Proud

  • ‘Gagging of God’ is a great book. I recently read David Wells, ‘ Above All Earthly Pow’rs’. In the middle of Piper/Edwards; ‘God’s Passion for his Glory’.

    I’m glad God is interesting.

    Simon Kennedy, VIC

  • Thanks Bill, great list of authors. I must admit however that I am quite fond of classic authors such as Spurgeon, J Edwards, G Whitfield, John Gill et al.
    I especially love reading some of the debates between these classical theologians, Whitfield / Wesley etc, quite interesting and soooo proper.

    Must admit though, I went from reading very superficial modern authors (those of the Charismatic/Emergent bent) to these classics and find it hard to even get into the deeper ones (of the reformed leaning traditions) of today. Much seems to be missing today.

    When I am finished these guys, I may get onto some you suggest……but it could take a while.
    Thanks for all the effort you put in & God Bless

    Edi Giudetti

  • Now you’ve done it Bill. All your regular readers are going to have to make a contribution here just to prove they’re part of the one percent!

    Actually Michael Brown is one of my favourite Christian authors. I haven’t read Answering Jewish Objections but I’ve read most of his other books many of which deal with the subject of revival.

    Ewan McDonald, Victoria.

  • Bill, I guess it’s time for me to own up also that I’m an avid reader of theology.

    Currently, I’m reading:

    Tom Wright, “Thomas, the Other Gospel,”
    Kevin Vanhoozer, “First Theology,”
    Paul Rhodes Eddy & Gregory A. Boyd, “The Jesus Legend,”
    Craig A. Thomas, “Fabricating Jesus,”
    J. Ed Komoszewski, M. James Sawyer & Daniel B. Wallace, “Reinventing Jesus,”
    N. T. Wright, “The Resurrection of the Son of God,” and
    Marcus J. Borg & John Dominic Crossan, “The Last Week” (of Jesus’ life) [not recommended for the orthodox].

    Sounds like there are a few of us out here who take seriously the theological challenges of today.

    Spencer Gear, Hervey Bay, Qld.

  • Ah reading theology! Good idea Bill.
    And theodicy, is always a good topic to pursue, too.

    “The Justification of God”, by P.T. Forsyth is a book written in 1917, and reprinted in 1988, and still being read in 2008. Forsyth’s comment seems vindicated: “Theology simply means thinking in centuries”.

    Trevor Faggotter

  • Bill, Right Now I am reading “Rediscovering the Kingdom”, by Dr. Myles Munroe, a book from 2004 that I purchased at Koorong today (Monday). As the title suggests this book is designed to help the reader learn about the Kingdom of God. So often in the Bible we read about the Kingdom of God, particularly in the Gospels, but do we really understand what a kingdom is like? Sure we live in a constitutional monarchy, but this hardly represents what God’s kingdom is like. As we rediscover God’s kingdom it brings the scriptures alive, giving a whole dimension of understanding of the scriptures, of how they all fit together, of what God’s like, his purpose for mankind, how awesome God is, that I can never remember having before.

    I would have to say that this is one of the best books I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. I hope you can find time to read it.

    Sorry about the long comment. I couldn’t think of how I could give this book justice by just saying a few words.

    Matthew Mulvaney

  • Bill – Just stumbled upon your site while reading stuff about Islam. Scrolling through your topics what do I find but Theology?!? I am duly impressed. I have had the priviledge of hearing Michael Brown. He speaks as well as he writes. He has also debated orthodox Rabbis (Brown is a Messianic Jew, as am I, thus his specific focus.) This may be my first visit but it will not be my last. I’ll also share it with some Bible Study friends.
    Bill Stafford

  • Thanks Bill
    Welcome aboard. Good to have your company.
    Blessings,
    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

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