Top Ten Books Ryan Read in 2012 (Because Most of Them Were Assigned by Vanhoozer)

Old-books-on-shelves-001Here are ten books I read this past year provided in no particular order, with no pontificating on the nature of lists and the subjectivity of literary experience.

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1433513152_2007_generalThe Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything by Fred Sanders was an appropriate read in light of the questions regarding the contemporary and practical relevance of the doctrine of the Trinity that were raised by the fiasco of ER2 earlier last year.  This text was assigned by Dr. Kevin Vanhoozer for our Systematic Theology class this fall at TEDS.  Sanders argues that evangelicals have wrongly limited the doctrine of the Trinity to a matter of intellectual assent for purposes of club membership.  He suggests that evangelicals are Trinitarian people, but we have denied the doctrine of the Trinity it’s true power, keeping it isolated from the gospel.  He maintains that the gospel itself has a trinitarian size and shape, and, therefore, the doctrine has import for “practical” matters of life and gospel. This is a must read for all evangelicals, and this book is especially helpful for those seeking to understand why the failure to explain and defend the necessity of Nicaea/Constantinople at ER2 was so significant at a practical, gospel level. 5/5

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king-jesus-gospel1The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited by Scot McKnight  What is the gospel?  You think you know, but how do you know you know?  McKnight argues that despite evangelical concern to preserve the “original” meaning of biblical terms, evangelicalism’s current understanding of the gospel reflects the values of the Western Enlightenment more than that of 1st century Jewish/Christian understandings.  We fail not in what we affirm, but we fail in what we do not affirm.  In other words, we fail to root our understanding of the gospel as the climactic piece in the narrative of Creation and Israel.  By demythologizing the gospel in this way we have redefined the gospel to fit Modernity’s categories of individualism, universalism and propositional truth. This is a non-academic book that is a must read.  5/5

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The-New-Testament-and-the-People-of-God-Volume-1-9780800626815The New Testament and the People of God: Christian Origins & the Question of God by NT Wright.  This book is still the most critical, intellectual investment deposited in the last century for the understanding of the New Testament, and it continues to pay out massive dividends, funding numerous contemporary, theological projects.  While I read a good portion of this book for various projects related to my degree at Wheaton, this year I was able to sit and read this book through as a whole.  For serious students of scripture and pastors this is a must read.  NT Wright is the most prolific evangelical scholar of our time, and a lack of familiarity with his work (agree with him or not) presents as a significant hole one’s engagement with biblical theology. 5/5

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Vanhoozer_First_TheologyFirst Theology: God, Scripture and Hermeneutics by Kevin Vanhoozer not assigned by Dr. Vanhoozer for our class, but as the class was covering the introductory topics of hermeneutics, scripture and God, I took him up on his recommendation to read this one before the class.  Dr. Vanhoozer is the most creative, evangelical systematic theologian writing today, and this offering does not disappoint to deliver the theological and philosophical goods on the big questions surrounding God, Scripture and hermeneutics in our postmodern condition.  His discussion of scripture has been incredibly helpful for me, and any serious student of theology should pick this one up.  5/5

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brother to a dragonflyBrother to a Dragonfly by Will Campbell is a coming of age tale about two brothers who grew up in rural, poor Mississippi prior to Roosevelt’s TVA.  Will tells his own story about how he became a Yale educated member of the clergy and realized the necessary connection between the gospel and the 1960’s civil rights movement.  But we also journey down a darker and ultimately tragic road with his older brother, Joe, who followed the logic of a drug and alcohol addiction.  Every year I try to stretch my linear, deductively orientated brain by following Dr. Vanhoozer’s advice to all theologians and pastors . . . “immerse yourself in narrative.”  3.5/5

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1325529753faithThe Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way by Michael Horton is an excellent textbook introduction to Christian theology for our time; and it was another part of our assigned reading in Vanhoozer’s class.  Horton is a clear writer, making the complex understandable without gross reductionism.  He engages the hard questions of epistemology and hermeneutics that our postmodern age bring to the task of Christian theology, and he answers well without being overly technical and academic.  If you are looking for a solid introduction to Christian Theology from a contemporary Reformed perspective this is the volume you want to pick up.  4/5

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file_22_130Words of Life: Scripture as the Living and Active Word of God by Timothy Ward is the third book to make the list that was part of Vanhoozer’s course this past fall.  This book helped me to become far more comfortable with the term inerrancy at the philosophical and hermeneutical level, but don’t take that to mean this is a heavily academic text.  Ward has a readable and accessible style as he unpacks the benefits of contemporary speech act theory in helping us to gain insight into the nature and function of God’s word.  5/5

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perspective.god-frt

Perspectives on the Doctrine of God: Four Views edited by Bruce Ware , along with the other aforementioned texts, was part of my class reading for Vanhoozer.  The book presents a range of views on the questions stemming from the doctrine of God.  It presents differing theological views from four authors on the question of divine determinism and human freedom.  After each essay the other authors provide their own critique of the essay’s position.  The essay on Classical Theism is the least helpful for truly understanding the best that position has to offer, so this is a less than perfect presentation of the issues.  3.5/5

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PrintThe End of Evangelicalism? Discerning a New Faithfulness for Mission: Towards an Evangelical Political Theology by David Fitch is a unique look at contemporary, American evangelicalism as a political culture and not as a theological movement.  He uses the tools established by Slavoj Zizek, a political philosopher, and his social critical framework that were developed to analyze political ideologies, particularly how they function to rally and unify a group of people.  He uses this template to analyze evangelicalism as a political culture.  He goes on to suggest that as a political culture (not theological movement)  evangelicalism uses certain theological hallmarks as fixtures in a system of ideology (symbols around which we politically unify): “the inerrant Bible,” “the decision for Christ,” and “the Christian Nation.”  His writing is clear, and his argumentation is mostly persuasive.  If you want to understand how and why so many Christians are not mourning the death of evangelicalism then you need to read this book.  4/5

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story of theologyThe Story of Christian Theology: Twenty Centuries of Tradition and Reform by Roger Olson is an excellent introductory, single volume for historic, systematic theology.  He weaves the dramatic tale of theological development throughout the Christian era in such a way as to make it feel more like a narrative than a piece of propositional exposition.  Thus it is an easy, non-academic read on the topic of historic theology.  He does, however, spend a disproportionate amount of time on the early Church, which is not in and of itself a problem, but this editorial choice overly limits the coverage of the Modern era.  4/5

 

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3 Responses to Top Ten Books Ryan Read in 2012 (Because Most of Them Were Assigned by Vanhoozer)

  1. All that reading and you did not read MAD?

  2. rainbowmn says:

    What is MAD?
    Yikes.

Comments are closed.