Books For An Introduction To Studying Bible and Theology

My housemate Chase and I were having lunch the other day and we started talking about important books that we would use if we were going to teach Bible and Theology students. Now granted we’re both from more of an Evangelical stream of Christianity so I recognize that some of these books may not appeal to all flavors of Christianity but this list does represent a number of viewpoints and would a number of individuals on here would certainly have a lot of critique for Evangelicalism (so don’t write it off either way).

NRSV with Apocrypha

Ecclesiology:
1. Resident Aliens – Stanley Hauerwas and Will Willimon
2.
Community of Character – Stanley Hauerwas (Anglican)

Philosophy:
1. Primer to Postmodernism – Stanley Grenz
2.
Reasoning and Rhetoric in Religion – Nancey Murphy (anabaptist)

Ethics:
1. Kingdom of Ethics – Glen Stassen (baptist)
2.
African American Ethics – Samuel Roberts

Old Testament:
1. Introduction to the Old Testament – Walter Brueggeman (United Church of Christ)
2.
Old Testament Theology: Israel’s Gospel – John Goldingay (Anglican)
3.
Israel’s Scripture Traditions – Willard Swartley – (Mennonite)

New Testament:
1. Introduction to the New Testament – Raymond Brown (Catholic)
2.
Politics of Jesus – John Howard Yoder

General history:
1. A People’s History of the United States – Howard Zinn

Church history:
1. Fundamentalism and American Culture – George Marsden
2.
A History of Christianity in the United States – Mark Noll
3.
Scandal of the Evangelical Mind – Mark Noll

Spiritual Formation:
1. Reaching Out – Henry Nouwen (Catholic)
2.
John Woolman’s Journal – John Woolman (Quaker)

Theology:
1. Across the Spectrum – Gregory Boyd
2.
Doctrine Systematic Theology – James McClendon

Culture:
1. Habits of the Heart – Robert Bellah
2.
Hidden Power of Electronic Media – Shane Hipps

Well this might be a bit ambitious for one class, but if we’re thinking introductions for a first year it might be a bit more attainable.

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Wess

...is the William R. Rogers Director of Friends Center and Quaker Studies at Guilford College in Greensboro, NC., PhD in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary, served as a "released minister" at Camas Friends Church, and father of three. He enjoys sketchnoting, sharing conversation over coffee with a friend, listening to vinyl and writing creative nonfiction.

13 thoughts on “Books For An Introduction To Studying Bible and Theology”

  1. Great idea for a post! I want to chime in.

    Ecclesiology: I love Hauerwas, but if I am going to introduce students to the theology of church, I will want to have more than a Hauerwasian perspective. Kevin Giles’ _What on Earth is the Church?_ is a good supplement.

    Philosophy: There needs to be something that touches on the strong influence of modern philosophy on the church. These two choices are of a postmodern flavor only. _Philosophy for Understanding Theology_ by Diogenes Allen is a good introduction.

    Ethics: I am not familiar with the literature, but I do wonder why an African-American ethics and not also other ethnocentric books.

    OT: These are great choices, as far as I know.

    NT: Great intro! I question Yoder’s book as one for a survey-like course. It is steeped in good NT scholarship but it is too narrow. It might be used as an example of how NT scholarship plays out on a particular theme. I would rather see a NT Theology or a book on NT interpretation, or at least one included along with Yoder and Brown. That’s just me though.

    General History: Why just a history of the US?

    Church History: Again, why just the US? The church had quite a long history before it reached America. It continued to have a history even after it arrived in the “New World.” Students should know about it, don’t you think?

    Spiritual Formation: Too many to choose. Your choices seem fine to me.

    Theology: Great choices, though I would say that one ought to be familiar with all three volumes of McClendon’s Systematic Theology (I: Ethics; II: Doctrine; and III: Witness). The interesting thing, by looking at titles alone, is that McClendon BEGINS his systematic theology with Ethics NOT Doctrine.

    Culture: Far too much published and the topic is ever-changing so far too much is obsolete in a week or two. Bellah has proved to withstand the test of time. I am not sure Hipps will, but it does seem appropriate for now.

  2. I’ll chime in with my suggestions for a few fields..

    Ethics- I would definitely recommend Hay’s The Moral Vision of NT.

    Church History- Pelikan’s stuff

    Spiritual Formation- Foster, some monastics, Willard.

    Theology- Ive really enjoyed Mcgrath’s intro stuff.

    Culture- Niebuhr’s Christ and Culture, as much as you may disllike it, its essential.

  3. @Peggy – geat idea I hadn’t considered Thoman Kelly’s book but you’re absolutely right, that should be included.

    @Chris – thanks for you input as well. I accept your additions though I am not familiar with some of the books you reccommend, such as the Giles book.

    I agree about the philosophy books, though Murhpy’s book definately covers the “effects” of modernism.

    As far as Ethics Goes, Dan’s idea about use Hay’s book is a great recommendation. One reason why I added the African American Ethics book is because it’s really good, and it’s something I think every white theologian needs to come to grips with. But also because I don’t know of other ethnocentric ethics books.

    I added Yoder because, like you said, it’s a great exercise in NT scholarship and its something that I think students need to be aware of early (I didn’t learn about it till late in my first year of my Masters). But I agree a good New Testament Theology book would be nice.

    The general history runs along the same lines as the African American Ethics book – first this specific history book is something I think all students should read in the early parts of their education and secondly I am not sure of a book like this that covers the rest of the world. Reading Zinn’s book will definately not leave one focused on America however, as his history focuses on many of the “untold” parts of US History (the not so fancy stuff).

    I totally agree with you about the church history point, it’s my short sightedness. I like Daniel’s recommendation with Pelikan – any others?

    McClendon’s three books are brilliant and a bit much. I think being aware of all three is a great idea but wouldn’t be all that important to get through all of them in the first year or two of undergrad. Maybe it would work better for short readings.

    @Daniel – you may be right about the Niebuhr book, it’s just hard for me to put it on the list (I will get over it I guess!). Foster and Willard are both powerhouses. And I don’t know much about McGrath – do you have one that would be really good for the theology section?

  4. Resident Aliens. That book seriously changed the way i looked at life and people. Thanks for posting a list of books. I for one as a current bible and theology undergrad will check into those.

  5. I am coming to the opinion that in studying theology one must look at the worship of the church also. To have a good grasp of the worship of the church is I think essential to understanding anything else. I think it is interesting that you have listed a lot of books on philosophy, theology, and biblical studies, but nothing on the worship of the church. Spiritual formation is key, but it is not the same as the worship of the church. Worship also undergrids the ecclesiology and the ethics of the church also. IF theology is not done doxologically it is not theology. Maybe a book on Christian worship should be added to this list?

  6. oh and Brueggeman belongs to the United Church of Christ, not the Methodists. and Hauerwas is now Anglican. 😀

  7. Wess, when you say “every white theologian” needs to come to grips with the African-AMERICAN Ethics book, I assume you mean white AMERICAN theologians. For American Bible and Theology students, you are probably right.

    The Yoder book in a NT class is a good idea, but I wonder if it would not be over the heads of most students until they had a pretty solid footing in NT introduction and exegetical methods. But, I like the creative thinking.

    Pelikan or Justo Gonzalez are both good church historians. I just think it is important for students to get an introduction to the whole life of the church. Too often students think the church existed only in the NT and only now in their eras. There is a lot of good stuff in between.

    I wonder how McClendon’s _Biography as Theology_ might work instead of one of the volumes of his trilogy. Also Grenz’s _Theology for the Community of God_ is not a bad option.

    Daniel, worship of what church? Quakers, Baptists, Methodists, Pentecostals, Catholics…? You are asking a lot to suggest a course on church worship. It might more easily be done from a historical perspective. In today’s climate, to do otherwise, you will have to specify: worship of the Methodist Church or Worship of the Anglican Church. I also think I would have to disagree and say that worship does not undergird ecclesiology and ethics, but rather worship is the outgrowth of ecclesiology, ethics, theology, and a whole lot more.

  8. I did not specify the type of worship because I know how fragmented Christian worship is.

    I will have to disagree. The worship of God is why theology, ethics, ecclesiology exists. Theology comes out of worship and prayer. Ethics is not a compartment of Christian doctrine but is completely intertwined with the God who we worship and reflect.
    Sorry, I have to disagree. Worship undergrids all of those things. I dont mean a style of worship, I mean the life of the church in joining the hymns of the cherubim and seraphim in crying out “Holy, Holy, Holy” to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

    but anywho..

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