Thursday, January 22, 2015

Read This First

My author icon at ThinkTheology.
Cool or dorky, you decide.
I am a regular contributor to Thinktheology, which has been challenging, encouraging, and frankly, a whole lot of fun.

The email and video conversations between all of us can get pretty lively at times, because we represent something of a spectrum of thoughts and opinions, but I enjoy the friendship and camaraderie, and the push to think deeper and more reflectively.

One of our regular writers, A.J. Baker, challenged the rest of us to compile a "must-have" book list -- books that serve as resources in our writing (and preaching, for those among us who are pastors), and in some way have shaped, encouraged, challenged, and sharpened our understanding of the faith.

My list is more skewed towards "books I'd love every pastor/leader -- young or old, veteran or newbie --  to invest in".
  1. The Presence of the Future, by G. E. Ladd. This is the best resource for a thorough understanding of the Kingdom of God as "already and not yet" (inaugurated eschatology).
  2. A Theology of the New Testament, by G. E. Ladd. You will be reading a classic that demonstrates why Biblical Theology is such an important field.
  3. A History of Christian Thought, by Justo Gonzalez. The formerly three-volume set has been condensed into a single volume, and is invaluable for tracing how theology has grown and developed over the centuries.
  4. Christianity in Culture: A Study in Dynamic Biblical Theologizing in Cross-Cultural Perspective, by Charles Kraft. When we seek to faithfully contextualize the gospel into our post-modern culture, our best resource -- and approach -- should be that of missiologists. (Kraft's Anthropology for Christian Witness is another excellent resource.)
  5. Mere Christianity, by C.S. Lewis. A classic that not only has stood the test of time, but speaks to the issues of our century in almost prophetic fashion.
  6. The Screwtape Letters, by C.S. Lewis. Brilliant insights into the topic of spiritual warfare without all the gobbledy-gook.
  7. Signs, Wonders & the Kingdom of God, by Don Williams. One of the best "hidden gems" on Kingdom theology to address what the late John Wimber called "power evangelism".
  8. How to Read the Bible for All its Worth, by Gordon Fee. The best single source for preachers, teachers, bloggers and authors on reading the Bible in context, with attention to genre, audience, and all the things that make for solid, biblical communication.
  9. Paul, the Spirit, & the People of God, by Gordon Fee. An excellent, and invigorating exploration of the role of the Holy Spirit in the already/not yet of the Kingdom. I couldn't recommend this one more highly.
  10. Listening to the Spirit in the Text, by Gordon Fee. If you've ever thought that the term "charismatic scholar" was an oxymoron, you need to read this book. An excellent and invigorating resource on being Spirit-led and Biblically-literate.
  11. The Knowledge of the Holy, by A.W. Tozer. A brilliant book on the attributes of God, which -- like Mere Christianity -- actually deserves and lives up to the descriptor: timeless.
  12. The Message of the Sermon on the Mount (formerly titled "Christian Counter-Culture"), by John R.R. Stott. Jesus' teachings in the Sermon on the Mount have often been referred to as "the ethics of the Kingdom of God". Stott does a masterful job of unpacking and applying the Sermon to today's culture.
  13. Much as I typically loathe blatant self-promotion, if you're in any way involved with, leading in, recovering from, or interested in pursuing a more "Spirit-filled"  life and ministry (sorry, I know that term sounds obnoxious to some), then please read Post-Charismatic 2.0: Rekindle the Smoldering Wick, by yours truly. Think Theology's own Kenny Burchard wrote a great review/overview, and across the Pond in the UK, Thomas Creedy adds his own review.
So, there you have it. It was surprisingly hard to choose which books I'd recommend most, but I'd start here.

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