Thursday 20 October 2005

The value of small books

It is well known that many of the greatest theological books are big books. Just think of the hefty tomes of Thomas Aquinas or Karl Barth.

But something needs to be said as well for the significance of small theological books. Small books can have a tremendous impact in their own way: they can be assimilated quickly; they can be read and reread several times; they can express a single idea with penetrating insight.

Personally, some of the books that have impressed and influenced me most have been small books. Many of these books are so important to me (and so small!) that I reread them every year or so. Here are some examples:

Martin Luther, The Freedom of a Christian
Rudolf Bultmann, Jesus (also known as Jesus and the Word)
Rudolf Bultmann, Jesus Christ and Mythology
Friedrich Gogarten, Demythologizing and History
Karl Barth, Nein!
Karl Barth, Anselm: Fides Quaerens Intellectum
Karl Barth, The Humanity of God
Gerhard Ebeling, The Problem of Historicity in the Church and Its Proclamation
Gerhard Ebeling, Theology and Proclamation
Ernst Käsemann, Jesus Means Freedom
Eberhard Jüngel, God’s Being Is in Becoming
Robert W. Jenson, Alpha and Omega
Robert W. Jenson, Story and Promise
Thomas F. Torrance, Divine and Contingent Order


tchittom said...

What a great list! What a great idea! Freedom of a Christian, I love that "little book" so much that, like you, I go back to it over and over again. Kudos for the inclusion of Jenson's Alpha and Omega. Jenson has the best sense of the value of language. He holds words up and invites the reader to marvel at them a bit, as he does. Barth's book on Anselm suffers from an overabundance of nontranslated Latin. I can't really follow his argument despite my best intentions. Finally, most of the rest of these I have never read. I would probably add Moltmann's little book _Man_ to your prestigious list, as well as Athanasius' On the Incarnation and Augustine's _The Happy Life_. Thanks for such a great project, Ben.

Chris Tilling said...

Great list. I would have added one personal favourite: God Crucified by Richard Bauckham. Small, but more important than most books 30 times the size.

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