Sunday 5 February 2006

Easier things to read before college

The other day I posted a list of things to read before commencing theological study. There were some excellent comments in response, and some people felt (quite rightly, I suppose) that the texts listed were really too difficult for pre-college readers.

So here is a supplementary list (in alphabetical order) of “easier things” to read before college. In this list I’ve tried to incorporate some of the suggestions made in the comments on the previous post. But I’m still very uncertain about this list, so let me know if there are any really good (or more recent) introductory books that I’m failing to mention.

* Karl Barth, Evangelical Theology: An Introduction
* Emil Brunner, Our Faith
* Justo Gonzàlez, The Story of Christianity
* Alister McGrath, Christian Theology: An Introduction
* Alice Parmelee, A Guide Book to the Bible
* G. Ernest Wright and Reginald H. Fuller, The Book of the Acts of God: Contemporary Scholarship Interprets the Bible
* N. T. Wright, The Challenge of Jesus
* N. T. Wright, What Saint Paul Really Said
* Frances Young, The Making of the Creeds

Update: See also Paul Whiting’s list, the Pontificator’s list, and Mike Bird’s list for New Testament students.


Chris Tilling said...

I purchased a second-hand copy of Brunner's Unser Glaube for just a few euro not so long ago, so I'm glad this was mentioned.

Apart from that, a great intro to the NT texts is the one by deSilva. That would be on my list, at least.

Ap said...

I thought Borg/Wright The Meaning of Jesus was a good introduction on the debate of the historical Jesus.

Anonymous said...

Two books on "the historical Jesus" come to mind: Gerd Theissen's The Shadow of the Galilean is a very engaging way to enter the subject, while E. P. Sanders' The Historical Figure of Jesus is an excellent primer.

On Paul, Günther Bornkamm's Paul remains a good companion to his Jesus of Nazareth.

And Hans Küng's On Being a Christian remains a formidable introducion to, well, "on being a Christian".

Anonymous said...

A book on Ecclesiology would be nice. I suggest Rodney Clapp's A Peculiar People.

Brunner's Our faith is a good choice indeed.

::aaron g:: said...

Helmut Thielicke's A Little Exercise for Young Theologians (with an intro by Martin E. Marty) is an excellent -- and brief -- essay on the spirit of the discipline as well as the pitfalls. A more recent text, Elouise Renich Fraser's Confessions of a Beginning Theologian accomplishes much the same thing as Thielicke's text.

I'd also add Marcus Borg's The Heart of Christianity to the list.

Something on practical theology (Browning's A Fundemental Practical Theology perhaps) would be a good addition.

Anonymous said...

NoT Wright ..... cringgggggggggge!

T.B. Vick said...

This is a good list of books. The only book (or rather books since this is a set) I would add would be Jaroslav Pelikan's The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine five (5) volume set. This would give the student a wonderful grasp of the history of doctrine and how it actuallu did develop in and through Church history and Tradition. Moreover, it is a fairly easy text to read.

Ben Myers said...

I agree, TB: Pelikan's Christian Tradition is brilliant, the best of its kind. Still, this is meant to be an "easy" list, so I think anything 5-volumes-long is disqualified!

Similarly, Küng's On Being a Christian is probably the best work of its kind -- but any book over two inches thick gets disqualified from the "easy" list as well.

But I should have thought of Thielicke's Little Exercise for Young Theologians. And Theissen's Shadow of the Galilean is an excellent choice -- if only more theological and biblical scholars could write novels like this!

Ben Myers said...

By the way, Steph: I can tell from the strength of your cringe that you're really just trying to repress a very deep love for N. T. Wright. :-)

T.B. Vick said...

Make 'em read the first volume of the set then!

They've gotta have some type of historical theology text to keep them well rounded.


Michael F. Bird said...

Ben, glad to see NTW got two entries. Poor, poor Steph.

Anonymous said...

How about the edited compilation Essentials of Christian Theology? It is a much better (and broader) introduction to contemporary theological debate than McGrath's.

Ben Myers said...

Hi Joshua. I must admit, I didn't even know about this compliation until now. I've just taken a look at it, and it looks like an excellent introduction, with a very diverse range of contributors. I'll have to get a copy -- thanks for the tip!

Kyle said...

He's typically a bit dense, but I found Paul Fiddes' book on the atonement, Past Event, Present Salvation to be quite accessible and a very good overview of theories through history as well as an argument in its own right.

Paul W said...

Hi Ben,

This is certainly an "easier" list than your last one. But I wonder if many of your commentors still assume far too much of their intended readership for these books, pre university/college 18-19 yos mostly. In my experience, it is an achievement to get many of them to read a book! With such a list, I think it's best not to duplicate likely course texts and to leave it to a class to introduce the likes of Pelikan and Fiddes.

A certain form of "forgetting" seems to be a corollary of progress in the academic field. I am amazed at the number of tutors who have nothing but contempt for stage 1 students, or who have completely unrealistic expectations of them, even though these tutors were in stage 1 relatively recently.

Yes, the likes of McGrath's _Christian Theology_ is not a profound or particularly innovative work of theology, but it is excellent at teaching content that will be foundational to further study.

Anonymous said...

You big Aussie bullies, beating me up with the NTW virus!!!

Anonymous said...

oh and Mike - I dare not look at your blog for fear of infection! I know it's already got spots of NTW....

Ben Myers said...

Actually, I think N. T. Wright has got more than just a few "spots" over on Mike's blog.... :-)

Anonymous said...

I know!!! Poor Mike.... I had to go and swim a few miles in the sea to cleanse and heal myself after looking last. Mind you - oh dear - NTW will be spoiling the beautiful Brisbane air please be careful Ben.

Anonymous said...

Ben: Following up on Paul W and based on my own experience with University students, albeit limited as it is so far, here's my list of things for students to read:

(1) A reference guide to English grammar and spelling and writing essays!!! Please!

(2) On a regular basis... the world events section of a major newspaper, preferably more than one.

(3) The syllabuses for their courses.

(4) Then if they've incredibly managed to accomplish this before university, I'd also appreciate they read the Bible or at least a significant portion of it, preferably with an open and inquisitive mind. This is especially important for them to do before they tell the class what they think it says.

Ben Myers said...

Very well said, Ken. I can see that you're approaching this whole topic far more realistically than I am!

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