So Ben Myers has posted a top 20 list of the books that have most influenced him… so I thought I’d come up with my list of top 20 most influential books. I am going to exclude the bible from the top 20, not because it hasn’t influenced me but rather because it’s in a whole different category
- Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics – IV/1-2 (These two books completely shattered my world during my first two years of seminary as they opened my eyes to a whole new way of thinking theologically)
- Tony Jones, Postmodern Youth Ministry (The best book on Youth Ministry as it doesn’t offer a model, but rather things to think about as one does ministry)
- Andrew Purves and Charles Partee, Encountering God (I’ve only read it once but given that I took a total of 10 classes in seminary from the authors their thoughts have shaped how I think)
- Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics III/4 (While not as influential as IV/1-2 this volume on ethics helped me understand how ethics can be intensely situational yet rooted in the command of God. It also reinforced my belief that in ministry its more important to teach people how to think, rather than what to think)
- Andrew Purves, Reconstructing Pastoral Theology (I took the man for six courses… need I say more?)
- John Franke and Stanley Grenz, Beyond Foundationalism (I read this book during my last year of seminary and I finally felt that I had found my place in the theological spectrum. This book also helped me understand how eschatology integrated into the day to day life of the church as the “orienting principle” for the church’s mission)
- John Franke, The Character of Theology (Similar to the book above, this prequel of sorts helped me get a grasp on how to think about the theological task in a postmodern world)
- Jurgen Moltmann, The Crucified God
- Jurgen Moltmann, The Trinity and the Kingdom
- Jurgen Moltmann, Theology of Hope (I didn’t discover Moltmann until late in my seminary career, but two of the professors who I learned the most from in seminary were shaped by him. While often at odds with Barth, I found him challenging and enjoyed the fact that he stretched me to think of categories in different ways)
- NT Wright, The New Testament and the People of God (I’m actually in the midst of reading this one, but while I was in seminary and dating Renee long distance I used to spend hours in my car driving back and forth. NT Wright has more free audio available online than anyone else I know so I used to listen to his lectures off of my iPod. Wright helped me get inside the bible the world of the bible and to better understand Jesus’ intensely political message without simply collapsing it into either left wing socialism or right wing moralism)
- Jerry Bridges, The Discipline of Grace (I read this book at the end of my time in college and while now I probably wouldn’t get much out of it, I remember really be challenged and yet refreshed by the concept of the discipline of living in grace)
- Doug Fields, Purpose Driven Youth Ministry (I’ve read this book twice – first while I was just out of college and again while I was in seminary. While Doug and I aren’t on the same page on everything, it’s given me a helpful way to think about ministry
- Athanasius, Against the Arians (I haven’t read the whole thing, but read significant parts for classes and papers. Really shaped my understand of the atonement as Christ’s whole life, not just his death)
- Cornelius Plantinga, Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be (I only read a short except from this book, but it’s a phrase that I’ve found so apt at describing the world that it’s become a hallmark in nearly every sermon I preach or lesson I teach)
- T.F. Torrance, The Christian Doctrine of God (I feel bad putting Torrance down this low on the list because he should be higher, but alas. This book was my first serious attempt at working through the Doctrine of the Trinity)
- John Calvin, Institues of the Christian Religion (Ditto for Calvin, he shouldn’t be down this low. Once I left seminary I realized how much his understanding of the church and it’s sacraments had shaped my own)
- David Bosch, Transforming Mission (Read this book for Missiology and am still being challenged by it)
- Lesslie Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society (This book should be required for every person planning to do ministry in at least the United States)
- Brian McLaren, Generous Orthodoxy (McLaren, like Wright, has shaped me more through his lectures that I’ve listened to than his writing, but I read this book in the midst of seminary and came to a greater understanding of how he thought
- Stanley Grez, A Primer on Postmodernism
- Alister McGrath, Scientific Theology
- Dan Kimball, Emerging Worship
- The Book of Confessions of the PC(USA) – Particularly The Barmen Declaration and The Confession of 1967
So there you have it. The numbering isn’t really right – Bosch and Newbigin would definitely be higher on the list. But, what this list proves is that I’m (1) A total dork (2) Shaped heavily by the Post-Conservative/Neo-Orthodox Reformed tradition
So my recording was successful – quite successful I’ll add. We figured out how to make garage band record more than 40 minutes of music and we captured the whole thing, including the message. This message was entitled, “Why I Have Hope”. You can find the audio here…
In many ways this sermon is an on-going dialogue in my head between Jurgen Moltmann and Karl Barth. I have been shaped a great deal by Barth (given the title of my blog that’s not surprise) and to a lesser but still important extent by Jurgen Moltmann. In part because I see Moltmann going where Barth didn’t into the areas of redemption and eschatology. (In fairness to Barth, the Church Dogmatics was never completed and that area was the projected fifth volume). Despite the sharp differences between Barth and Moltmann, especially in their development of the Trinity I find them both to be extremely helpful to read, especially side by side. I’ve internalized the language of Barth better, so I think he comes through more in my preaching and writing, but I think the thought forms of some of Moltmann’s work in Theology of Hope come through.
On a related note, I managed to lose my copy of “Theology of Hope”, so until I pick it up from my dear friend who recovered it for me, I’m switching to William Stacey Johnson’s “The Mystery of God: Karl Barth and the Postmodern Foundations of Theology”. While I’m interested in Johnson’s argument I don’t think I’ll try to engage it in this forum. However, I have on order my own copy of “Barth for Armchair Theologians” which I plan to read as soon as it arrives. Written by my friend John Franke my review will in no way be objective. I am however hopeful that this resource will be one that I can recommend to people, both lay people at those in seminary, as a resource for being introduced to Barth and his thinking.
and when you get a chance check out the new turningpoint website
Christ is risen and beyond the reach of death, yet his followers are not yet beyond the reach of death, but it is only through their hope that they here attain to participation in the life of the resurrection. Thus resurrection is present to them in hope and as promise
– Jurgen Moltmann, Theology of Hope, Pg 161
Ever since last week my life has been a non-stop blur. Monday and Tuesday I spent the majority of my time getting caught up on everything I had missed the week I was on the mission trip and getting ready for Wednesday’s trip to Cedar Point. Yesterday I finally had a chance to slow down and relax, and last night I slept for over eight hours: today is my day off.
I am really enjoying my new MaBook Pro. It’s been literally years since I’ve used a Mac on a day-to-day basis but it has come back to my quicker than expected. The 15.4 inch glossy screen is simply to die for and the speed, especially when running optimized applications is incredible. Perhaps most interesting is Parallels Desktop Software, which allows me to run Windows inside of Mac OS X. But unlke past emulator programs, like Virtual PC, this one (because the processor inside the machine is an Intel) is really really fast – in fact, it’s the fastest PC I’ve ever used. However, the Intel Core Duo processor is also exceptionally hot – so the machine itself feel like a brick that has been in the fire for a while.
My reading has taken a hit in the past couple weeks as I’ve gottten busier. I had hoped to finish Jurgen Moltmann’s Theology of Hope before August 6th and I may still make it, but probably not. I continue to be impressed by Moltmann’s ability to work through Hebrew thought forms and New Testament Scholarship, particularly the work of Earst Kaseman, in developing his theology.
Today I am going to finally replace a light in our kitchen that has not been working right and hopefully get in a run.
So of late I’ve concentrated a fair amount of my reading on the Trinity. My final term in seminary I took a course on the Doctrine of the Trinity in which we read Moltmann’s The Crucified God and The Trinity and the Kingdom. Now, I’m current reading Barth’s Church Dogmatics 1.1 (the later part) where Barth develops his doctrine of the Trinity. At the same time, I’m reading Hilary of Pointiers On the Trinity (which as you might have guessed is his development of the doctrine of the Trinity)
What has been most interesting is to see where all three of these authors start their development of the Trinity. Moltmann starts with Jesus Christ being identified as the “Son” of the “Father” and proceeds from there. Not suprisingly, Moltmann emphasizes the “threeness” over the “oneness”. Barth starts by identifiying God as being “One” and then develops from there into the doctrine of the Three “modes of being”. Finally, Hilary starts with a doctrine of God the Father by defining God by what we are not. (Omniscient, eternal, etc.) and then develops the doctrine of the Son by expounding the “Christological passages” of the New Testament (John 1, “I am in the Father and the Father is in me”, etc.)
What has been most interesting is to see the three different approaches and what I see as their strengths. From what I can tell, Moltmann is correct in his assessment of the dangers of developing a doctrine of God from classical theism – by saying that God is everything we are not (as Hilary does) because it can end up being a stretch to connect that image of God to the image of God presented by Jesus Christ. Barth and Moltmann start in similar places, but Barth’s insistence on starting with God as one leads him toward his modalistic tendencies, while Moltmann’s starting with the three leads him toward his tritheistic tendencies.
What has been perhaps the most interesting is the realization that Barth rightly critiques the use of the word “person” given the post-enlightenment context in which he wrote. While Moltmann tries to explain how he is defining “person” I think he ultimately fails because the word just carries too much baggage. While I’m not sure the phrase “mode of being” (in English – this is one time I wish I knew German) is a great alternative Barth’s development of it has calmed some of my fears about the direction in which he was headed.
Well, that’s enough mindless musings for tonight. I have a feeling this is one of these posts that makes little to no sense, but it helps me sort things out in my head.
In today's lectionary readings that I did this morning two verses were matched that are quite interesting.
Both Psalm 42 and Numbers 11 contain a significant series of complaints against God. Psalm 42 contains those famous lines: "My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me continually, "Where is your God". Where Psalm 42 differs from other laments Psalms however is that the Psalmist tries to reassure himself, with lines such as "Why are you cast down, O my soul, any why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God". The author here is in essence saying to himself, "Look, you know better, you know you shouldn't feel this way – put your trust in God and all will turn out okay".
Moses on the other hand in Numbers 11 offers no such self-reassurance. He, after the people have been complaining about not having meat, offers this lament. "If this is the way you're going to treat me, put me to death at once – if I have found favor in your sight – and do not let me see my misery". Here Moses is saying, "Look, do me a favor and kill me now – I'll be better off if you". What is sort of troubling about Moses' statement is that it bears a close parallel to Elijah's complaint when he is being pursued by Jezebel. What does it say that the Lord's chosen often face affliction so hard in the service of God that they ask God to kill them now?The other reading this morning was from Romans 1, where Paul argues that "For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he made. So they are without excuse;" I for one, given my Barthian leanings, am highly suspect of natural revelation. This verse is often pointed out as one (along with Psalm 19) as making the case for a natural theology. However, as Moltmann points out this verse is actually a strong argument against natural theology. While in fact God's divine nature and eternal power can be seen through the things that God has made, humanity has consistently gotten it wrong and misunderstood. I think, as Alister McGrath argues that the only place for a natural theology (if there is one) is within faith. As one of my former youth group kids pointed out one time, for people who already have faith the use of nature as a devotional means is quite acceptable because you know by faith that God has created all things, thus you can see God's power and nature through what God has made.
Finally, in what I find to be one of the "weirdest" passages of the Gospels, is Peter's response when asked if his teacher (Jesus) paid the temple tax (which Jesus did). What does it say that Jesus paid taxes? Well, first of all it gives us no excuse not to pay taxes (sadly :(). However, I want to argue that this is a case of Jesus being a faithful subversive.
If there is one part of Jesus' mission that can be clear is was his intention to subvert the temple system. On his final journey to Jerusalem, the event that likely sealed his fate was his cleansing of the temple. So clearly Jesus wasn't a fan of the temple, yet he paid the temple tax. Why? Well, Jesus was Jewish and he was fulfilling his duty. He was being faithful to an institution while actively trying to reform and transform it.
In my own life I've found that the role of the faithful subversive fits me best. Recently I was appointed to the board of directors at PTS. I love PTS and will always remember fondly my time there and wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to anyone. However, there are things about PTS that I think need to change. My goal in going on the board is to remain faithful to an institution that has given me so much and to work for solutions to meet the changing face of the church for the good of PTS.
… of Modern Systematic Theologians!
Yes sports fans, today may in fact be the opening game for our dear ole USA against the Czech Republic, but there is another World Cup going on that is worthy of our attention.
The World Cup of Modern Systematic Theologians is being hosted by Patrik Hagman. Hagman set up the brackets and then posts polls which his readers vote on that comprise the "matches". So you too can participate! Round 1 is already under way with the first two days seeing some close matches.
My personal choice, Karl Barth, was disqualified from the start for illegal use of "wissenschafftliche Assistentin." I for one can openly admit that I have no idea what that is, and am somewhat embarassed that there is a piece of Barth trivia that I don't know. Barth was also disqualified to "make the tournament more interesting" which I translate as "If Barth is in the running, is it even worth having a tournament?"
However, some of my other favorites are in the competition and doing well, including Jurgen Moltmann and T.F. Torrance. So join in!