There are some books that I have read that have influenced my thinking on various matters that you may not expect to have done so. This is made evident by how often I find myself thinking in terminology and categories that I would not have encounter otherwise. This is my list of those books:
10. Peter Enns, Inspiration and Incarnation
While many evangelicals denounced Enns because of this book–especially the further right side of the movement–I found it very helpful. I appreciated his emphasis on inspiration occurring in the language and world-view of the time in which Scripture was written because if God waited for human knowledge to reach its pinnacle before revealing anything there would have been no revelation. Also, he was very helpful when it comes to reading Old Testament quotations in the New Testament. I admit that to this day I think Westminster Theological Seminary embarrassed evangelicals by making such a fuss over such a helpful little book that was well within the circle of orthodoxy.
09. Anne Lamott, Traveling Mercies
I was raised around the type of Christianity that was essentially equated with Republican politics. While there is much in this book with which I disagreed it was helpful to hear the voice of a female on the other side of evangelicalism speak from a vantage point of faith that differed so much from my own. I met her in San Francisco some time later and I have always said I think she would be an awesome aunt to discuss theology with at a family reunion.
08. Ravi Zacharias, Recapture the Wonder
While my interest in philosophy and apologetics was short lived this was one book that has impacted me even to today. In fact, it may be one reason why I don’t feel obligated to have follow the epistemological rabbit trail ad nauseam. It allowed me to embrace the fact that there are some things I will never know, some thing I don’t even have the capacity to understand, and some things I simply don’t have time to try to figure out if I am going to actually live life.
07. Peter Rollins, How (Not) to Speak of God
This is the balance to my enjoyment of the Nicene and post-Nicene Fathers. While I rather read Athanasius than Rollins any day, and I have not read anything Rollins has written since, this book allowed me to embrace the beauty of apophatic theology to some extent. One thing that I gained from this was the importance of orthopraxy. I think Rollins under appreciates the need for orthodoxy at times, but I learned that to think about the many believers whose Christianity is valued by how it is lived because the type of education that has been made available to someone like me is not available to everyone. If their “knowledge” of orthodoxy was an end all many of my brothers and sisters in Christ would not be able to fully know Christ. Thankfully our knowledge of God goes beyond doctrinal facts.
06. Harvey Cox, Fire From Heaven
I have had a love-hate relationship with the Pentecostalism of my youth for years now. I love what I think it could become but sometimes hate what it is. One thing Harvey Cox’s book allowed me to do is appreciate the global significance of the movement. It allowed me to see how valuable it has been as a form of Christianity for so many people in the world. It opened my eyes to the fact that my own experience with the movement is not the full extent of the movement while also showing me there may be some forms that are even worse than what I experienced!
05. Craig Koester, Revelation and the End of All Things
The Book of Revelation has been very confusing to me for a very long time. For many years I was taught eschatology from the “Bible in one hand; newspaper in the other” approach. When I picked up Koester’s book it was a breath of fresh air. I read through it in a single day. While there are some things he wrote that I didn’t adopt it was an eye opening read.
04. Eugene Peterson, Reversed Thunder
Oddly enough the one book on Revelation that I enjoyed even more than Koester’s was Eugene Petersons’. He focuses upon “last” themes like worship, politics, and evil that show how this apocalyptic book envisions the end. It captivated me by allowing me to focus on the big picture without getting too lost in the often confusing imagery.
03. Brian McLaren, A Generous Orthodoxy
I know of people from the Reformed tradition that think Catholics are a disgrace to the name of Christ; Anglicans that think Baptist are too back-wood; and so forth and so on. One thing McLaren’s book did was help me value each denominations contribution to the church. I didn’t like his dealing with Pentecostals and Charismatics since it sounded too much like the snobbery he was criticizing. Nevertheless, one thing I did gain was the realization that any denomination who thinks they have it altogether is cute, but misguided (even Rome; sorry Benedict).
02. Leland Ryken, Words of Delight
After graduating from Bible college my approach to Scripture was mostly about doctrinal proof-texting. During my first year of seminary Dr. Gary Tuck had us read this book in our hermeneutics class on the literary approach to Scripture. I knew I should read an epistle like and epistle, a gospel like a gospel, and so forth and so on. This book made that assertion make sense. I started paying attention to themes, characters, motifs, literary structures. It changed everything and it enriched my reading of Scripture.
01. Mortimer J. Adler, How to Read a Book
Another book Dr. Tuck has us read was titled How to Read a Book. I know this sounds funny, but it is the best book I have ever read on how to get the most out of books. It improved my reading of Scripture as well as my ability to do research using other books. Now that I think about it that hermeneutics class was really important to my formation.