5 Theological Books Meme

Came across this meme on Scotteriology. I wasn't actually tagged... Scott Bailey its author wouldn't know me if I bit him... but a number of things about this meme set me thinking. First, I've been doing far too many Facebook "5 of" quizzes recently (I'm weaning myself off), but this involves a bit more thought. Second, the word meme was devised by Richard Dawkins to describe an idea that develops a reproductive life of its own, and given his well know antipathy to religion, I thought that the fact that this meme is about theological books was particularly ironic.

The rules to this particular meme were originally that you should name the five books that had the most immediate and lasting influence on how you read the Bible. Note that these need not be your five favorite books, or even the five with which you most strongly agree, but what five books have permanently changed the way you think. After this the idea was to tag five others.
But, as appropriate with memes (as with genes) they mutate en route and Mr Bailey made a slight modification, asking for five books that have affected both biblical studies AND theology –as separate entities. So here are my five in each category (in no particular order), both of which are influenced by the fact that I come from what is a relatively conservative evangelical backwater... So those books that were radical to me in my formative years are the equivalent of the Ladybird Book of Biblical Studies!

1) In the Shadow of the Galilean by Gerd Theissen: an exploration of the search for the historical Jesus in a form that appealled to my pseudo-artistic side.

2) Poet and Peasant/Through Peasant Eyes by Ken Bailey: a real eye-opener on the parables in particular and the socio-historic locus of all Biblical studies in general.

3) 5 Smooth Stones for Pastoral Work by Eugene Peterson: Helped me locate the liturgical context of these OT texts as well as their practical/pastoral application.

4) Binding the Strong Man by Ched Myers: my introduction to reading the gospels politically.

5) The Social Setting of Pauline Christianity also by Gerd Theissen: a sociological analysis of the NT, especially the Corinthian community. Helped me to understand that the social structures of the ancient world helped shape the scriptures.

1) Surprised by Hope by Tom Wright: a revolutionary rearticulation of the doctrine of the resurrection and its importance for all Christian endeavour, including social engagement.

2) The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer: the title says it all.

3) For God and his Glory Alone by ECONI: little more than a pamphlet, which helped me to see that my call to ministry WAS more than saving souls and burying the dead.

4) The Gravedigger File by Os Guinness: my first encounter with someone articulately engaging with modern society from a Biblical perspective.

5) The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis: a children's book that is none too subtle in its eschatology, but which at the age of 14 woke me up to both the underlying metaphor of the Narnia tales (I'm a bit slow at times) and C.S. Lewis' other life as a theologian. Some of my theology hasn't progressed much beyond the Last Battle!

Honourable mentions should also go to the Radical Wesley by Howard Snyder, the Peaceable Kingdom by Stanley Hauerwas and (if I am totally honest) What's So Amazing About Grace by Yancey.

So that's it, for what it's worth... Even in this image-dominated, technological world in which we live, I am still a bibliophile, and although I read a lot on the web, I must have at least 1 book on the go at any one time, usually 3: 1 theological, another factual book, and another to relax to. Because of my love of books, I've tried to encourage others in this, by establishing a "Good Book Group" this year at church. It is small, but good craic... And so to the lists above, let me briefly add the 5 books that we have studied as a book group this year. I've written about them all elsewhere (see the sidebar or fb if you must) so I won't go into too much detail here:

1) Simply Christian by Tom Wright: essentially a well written, readable, modern reworking of C.S. Lewis's Mere Christianity...

2) Jesus - Safe, Tender Extreme by Adrian Plass: a piece of badly written and worse editted personal therapy.

3) The Shack by William Young: it's all been said elsewhere, but as I have also said elsewhere, neither worth the hype (including by Eugene Peterson) nor deserving the description of heresy.

4) Fuelling the Fire by Dennis Lennon: a welcome ray of light among a lot of dross... it isn't quite as described a "fresh" look at prayer, but a welcome reminder of what prayer could and should be.

5) Living the Resurrection by Eugene Peterson: doesn't quite do what it says, but tries to look at the spiritual disciplines of sabbath observance, baptism and communion as means of helping us on the daily working out of the doctrine of resurrection. I thought that this would chime well with some of Tom Wright's themes, but it was such a slight and badly reasoned book that it didn't impress the group.

Any suggestions for our group next year? I tag Crookedshore, Jools, Revmac, Cherylwonders and Mark Russell. Go do your worst...

ps it has also spread to: TWIMC (in a suitably mutated form) and Why Not Smile
pps. In a weird way, every time I re-edit this post, while it is loading up blogger keeps posting an ad for Richard Dawkin's latest opus... Curiouser and curiouser...


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