Books I Read in 2020

As many of you know, I love reading. So each year, I commit to reading as much and as widely as possible and (as a means of remembering everything I’ve read and holding myself accountable to my reading goals) I track the books I’ve read each year. (Click here to see what I read in 2019)

Now, a couple of notes before my list. First, I read a fair amount of churchworld and theology, so don’t read this as a “what you should read” list. Second, I continue to push myself to read more fiction, so those works are separated from non-fiction in my reckoning.

Third, please note a couple of special markers. My favorite books (and the one’s I recommend you consider reading) are marked with an asterisk and hyperlinked. Additionally, the books I’d read prior to this year but re-read are marked with a [re-read] notation.

Finally, my goal the past several years has been to read 150 books (~3/week). There were moments this year when I was not sure that was going to be possible (I worked more hours in 2020 than in 2019, at least in part due to COVID). However, I’m pleased to say that this year’s list of books read includes 170 titles completed.

So, without further ado, what I read in 2020 (presented in chronological order of reading):

Non-Fiction

  • Man’s Search for Meaning, Frankl
  • The Name of God is Mercy, Pope Francis
  • Crazy Busy, DeYoung*
  • Talking to Strangers, Gladwell*
  • How to Lead in a World of Distraction, Scroggins*
  • The Rise of Rome, Everitt
  • The Parables of Jesus, Jeremias
  • The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Kondo
  • Short Stories by Jesus, Levine
  • Something Needs to Change, Platt
  • The Benedict Option, Dreher*
  • Hope in the Dark, Groeschel
  • The Point of It All, Krauthammer
  • The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, Maxwell
  • Unfreedom of the Press, Levin
  • Color Outside the Lines, Hendricks
  • The Case for Jesus, Pitre*
  • The Infinite Game, Sinek
  • Cur Deus Homo, Anselm [re-read]
  • The Secret Lives of Color, St. Clair*
  • Preaching Parables to Postmoderns, Stiller
  • Our Father, Pope Francis
  • Who Was Jesus?, Morgan
  • Fifty Great American Places, Glass
  • Almost Everything: Notes on Hope, Lamott
  • The Joy of Discipleship, Pope Francis
  • The Parables of Jesus, Schottroff [re-read]
  • Speaking Parables, Buttrick
  • Preaching the Parables, Blomberg
  • A Diary of Private Prayer, Baillie [re-read]
  • The Devil in the White City, Larson*
  • The Right Side of History, Shapiro
  • Divine Direction, Groeschel
  • The Big Short, Lewis
  • You Are Not Special, McCullough Jr.*
  • Love Does, Goff
  • I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness, Channing Brown
  • Everything Happens for a Reason an Other Lies I’ve Lived, Bowler*
  • Purple Cow, Godin
  • The Liturgy of the Ordinary, Warren *
  • Erasing Hell, Chan and Sprinkle
  • How to Hide an Empire, Immerwahr*
  • K: A History of Baseball in Ten Pitches, Kepner
  • Parables for Preachers: Year A, Reid [re-read]
  • Out of the Treasure: The Parables in the Gospel of Matthew, Lambrecht [re-read]
  • Failing Forward, Maxwell
  • Sitting at the Feed of Rabbi Jesus, Spangler and Tverberg
  • Planting: Principles for Starting New Churches, Bustle and Crocker
  • Follow Me, Platt
  • The 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork, Maxwell
  • Charis: God’s Scandalous Grace for Us, Sprinkle*
  • Liar’s Poker, Lewis
  • Death on a Friday Afternoon, Neuhaus
  • Rooting for Rivals, Greer and Horst*
  • The Explicit Gospel, Chandler and Wilson
  • The Road to Character, Brooks
  • The 5 Levels of Leadership, Maxwell
  • Passion: The Bright Light of Glory, Giglio et al
  • Range, Epstein
  • The Bomb, Kaplan
  • 360 Degree Reading, Esler
  • The Oxford Handbook of Prayer, ed. Appleton
  • Boundaries: Updated and Expanded, Cloud and Townsend
  • The Clash of Civilizations, Huntington
  • Streams of Living Water, Foster
  • The Externally Focused Church, Rusaw and Swanson
  • Congregational Leadership in Anxious Times, Steinke
  • Euthyphro, Plato [re-read]
  • Apology, Plato
  • Seven Lessons for Leading in Crisis, George
  • Crito, Plato
  • Phaedo, Plato
  • Leading Change, Kotter [re-read]
  • The Twelve Caesars, Suetonius
  • 40 Days Living the Jesus Creed, McKnight
  • The Apostles’ Creed: Together We Believe, Chandler
  • The Creed, Bauman [re-read]
  • Finding the Right Hills to Die On, Ortlund*
  • Surprised by Scripture, Wright*
  • Call Sign Chaos, Mattis
  • A Little Book for New Preachers, Kim
  • The Lean Startup, Ries
  • Friendship, Denworth
  • The Lost Art of Scripture, Armstrong
  • To Be a Christian, Approved Edition*
  • Dark Agenda, Horowitz
  • The MVP Machine, Lindbergh
  • 1, 2, 3 John (NAC), Akin
  • Old Testament Legends, James
  • The Great Bridge, McCulloch
  • A Brief History of Time, Hawking
  • United: Captured by God’s Vision for Diversity, Newbell
  • 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus For Everyone, Wright
  • The First One Hundred Years of Christianity, Schnelle
  • Educated, Westover*
  • The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Douglass
  • Waco: A Survivor Story, Thibodeau
  • The Splendid and the Vile, Larson*
  • Inspired, Held Evans
  • The Next Evangelism: Freeing the Church from Western Cultural Captivity, Rah
  • Canoeing the Mountains, Bolsinger*
  • Jesus among Other Gods, Zacharias
  • The History Buff’s Guide to the Presidents, Flagel
  • Until Every Child Is Home, Chipman
  • You’ll Get Through This, Lucado
  • The Church of Mercy, Pope Francis
  • Gospel Allegiance, Bates*
  • Crossing the Ling: Culture, Race, and Kingdom, Burns
  • Just Mercy, Stevenson*
  • God is Not Great, Hitchens
  • The Drama of Scripture, Bartholomew and Goheen [re-read]*
  • Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living, Tippett
  • The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry, Comer*
  • The Screwtape Letters, Lewis [re-read]*
  • Compassion and Conviction, Giboney, Wear, and Butler*
  • Genesis: A Translation and Commentary, Alter
  • Happiness in This Life, Pope Francis
  • Genesis 1-15 (WBC), Wenham
  • The Shame and the Sacrifice: The Life and Martyrdom of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Robertson
  • The Soul of Science, Pearcey and Thaxton
  • An Unconventional God, Levison
  • Raising White Kids, Harvey
  • Boundaries for Leaders, Cloud
  • Recreatable, Scott [re-read]
  • Survive or Thrive, Dodd
  • The New Testament: A Translation, Hart
  • 3000 Questions about Me, Piccadilly
  • The Need for Creeds Today, Fesko
  • God Wins, Galli
  • Isaiah: Life Change, NavPress
  • Boomerang: The Power of Effective Guest Follow Up, Smith and Hofmeyer
  • Isaiah (TOTC), Motyer [re-read]
  • The Book of Isaiah, Young
  • Isaiah: NIVAC, Oswalt [re-read]
  • The History of the Ancient World, Wise Bauer
  • Letters to a Young Pastor, Peterson and Peterson*
  • Everyday Theology: How to Read Cultural Texts and Interpret Trends, VanHoozer
  • The Maxwell Daily Reader, Maxwell
  • The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, Butterfield*
  • The Forgotten God, Chan

Fiction

  • Of Mice and Men, Steinbeck
  • Dave Berry’s Greatest Hits, Barry
  • Thrawn: Alliance, Zahn
  • Lost Stars, Gray
  • Beowulf, trans. Gummere
  • Thrawn: Treason, Zahn
  • New Dawn, Miller
  • Tarkin, Luceno
  • Remembering, Berry*
  • Lords of the Sith, Kemp
  • Star Wars: Aftermath, Wendig
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Rowling [re-read]
  • Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt, Rice
  • World War Z, Brooks
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Rowling [re-read]
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Rowling [re-read]
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Rowling [re-read]
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Rowling [re-read]
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Rowling [re-read]
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Rowling [re-read]
  • The End of October, Wright
  • The Magician’s Nephew, Lewis [re-read]
  • The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Lewis [re-read]
  • Prince Caspian, Lewis [re-read]
  • The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Lewis [re-read]
  • The Horse and His Boy, Lewis [re-read]
  • The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, Collins
  • The Silver Chair, Lewis [re-read]
  • The Last Battle, Lewis [re-read]
  • A Song of Ice and Fire: A Clash of Kings, Martin
  • Till We Have Faces, Lewis

300 Books for the Educated Christian Mind

As a follower of Jesus, I believe it’s important to love God with all of who we are: our hearts, souls, and minds. Much has been said about this last aspect of our humanity, most of it better than I could say it here. But as I pursue veritas with my life and mind, some of my most constant and fruitful conversation partners have been good books.

The more I learn and experience, the more I’m convinced that you cannot know where you are or who are without knowing where you come from. To those ends, I find it absolutely vital to read, to engage with the great minds and thinkers of our world. So I’ve compiled a list (I’m big into lists) of key books for the educated Christian mind.

Before diving in, a couple of caveats: first, this is a specialized list, one tailored for a particular worldview that’s interested in the life of the mind. I don’t think that everyone should read all of these books (though there are quite a few that I think everyone would benefit from engaging). Second, this is a list for American Christians. As such, at points it touches on particular viewpoints or issues that are of particular importance in the context of contemporary American Christianity. Finally, this list takes seriously the great tradition of liberal arts and broad learning. Accordingly, while clear emphasis is given to particular realms of inquiry, the hope is that by completing the list, one will have both breadth and depth on many subjects.

One final framework before the list: there are three major influences on the creation of this list. First, there are the Great Books of Western Civilization. Scholars will continue to debate the canon and it’s ongoing relevance or evolution. Here, we’re interested in learning from the greats. The second influence are the Classics of Christian Orthodoxy. These are the great books and works of the Christian Tradition, of which there is certainly some overlap with the general Western canon, but which here includes a more intentional theological bent. And finally, there are some Key Contemporary Texts. These are works that, while they may not possess the staying power of the great traditions, nonetheless are informative and indicative for particular questions or topics facing the Christian mind today.

Those frames in mind, here’s my list of 300 Books for the Educated Christian Mind.

TITLEAUTHOR
1984George Orwell
20,000 Leagues Under the SeaH.G. Wells
A Brief History of TimeStephen Hawking
A Christmas CarolCharles Dickens
A Conflict of VisionsThomas Sowell
A Farewell to ArmsErnest Hemingway
A History of the English Speaking PeoplesWinston Churchill
A Little Exercise for Young TheologiansHelmut Thielicke
A Long Obedience in the Same DirectionEugene Peterson
A Tale of Two CitiesCharles Dickens
A Wrinkle in TimeMadeleine L’Engle
Against HeresiesIrenaeus of Lyons
AgamemnonAeschylus
Alice’s Adventures in WonderlandLewis Carroll
AlmagestPtolemy
An Experiment in CriticismC.S. Lewis
Analytical PsychologyCarl Jung
Animal FarmGeorge Orwell
AnnalsTacitus
Antiquities of the JewsJosephus
Apologia Pro Vita SuaJohn Henry Cardinal Newman
ApologyJustin Martyr
ApologyPlato
As You Like ItWilliam Shakespeare
BeowulfUnknown
Beyond Good and EvilFrederich Nietzsche
BoundariesHenry Cloud and David Townsend
Brave New WorldAldous Huxley
BreviloquiumBonaventure
Brothers KaramazovFyodor Dostoyevsky
Catch-22Joseph Heller
Catching FireSuzanne Collins
Celebration of DisciplineRichard Foster
Charlie and the Chocolate FactoryRoald Dahl
Charlotte’s WebE.B. White
Christ and CultureRichard Niebuhr
Christianity: The First Three Thousand YearsDiarmaid MacCulloch
City of GodAugustine of Hippo
Cloud AtlasDavid Mitchell
CloudsAristophanes
Commentary on the Our FatherTertullian of Carthage
ConfessionsAugustine of Hippo
ConfessionsJean-Jacque Rousseau
Consolation of PhilosophyBoethius
CosmosCarl Sagan
Crime and PunishmentFyodor Dostoyevsky
Critique of Pure ReasonImmanual Kant
CritoPlato
Das CapitalKarl Marx
David CopperfieldCharles Dickens
De AnimaAristotle
Democracy in AmericaAleix de Tocqueville
DialoguePope Gregory the Great
Discourse on MethodRene Descartes
DiscoursesEpictetus
Don QuixoteMiguel De Cervantes
DuneFrank Herbert
Early History of RomeLivy
East of EdenJohn Steinbeck
Ecclesiastical HistoryEusebius of Caesarera
Ecclesiastical History of the English PeopleVenerable Bede
ElementsEuclid
Emotional IntelligenceDaniel Goleman
Ender’s GameOrson Scott Card
Epitome IVJohannus Kepler
EssaysMichelle de Montaigne
EssaysRalph Waldo Emerson
EuthyphroPlato
Faerie QueenEdmund Spencer
Fahrenheit 451Ray Bradbury
FaustJohann Wolfgang von Goethe
Fear and TremblingSoren Kierkegaard
Finnegans WakeRunyard Kipling
Four Hundred Chapters on LoveMaximus the Confessor
Four QuartetsT.S. Eliot
Foxes Book of MartyrsJohn Foxe
FrankensteinMary Shelley
Go Down, MosesWilliam Faulker
Good to GreatJim Collins
GorgiasPlato
Great ExpectationsCharles Dickens
Guide for the PerplexedMaimonides
Gulliver’s TravelsJonathan Swift
HamletWilliam Shakespeare
HamletWilliam Shakespeare
Harry Potter and the Chamber of SecretsJ.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Deathly HallowsJ.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Goblet of FireJ.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood PrinceJ.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Order of the PhoenixJ.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of AzkabanJ.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s StoneJ.K. Rowling
HatchetGary Paulsen
Help, Thanks, WowAnne Lamott
HippolytusEuripides
HistoriesHerodotus
How Then Should We Live?Francis Schaeffer
How to Win Friends and Influence PeopleDale Carnegie
Huckleberry FinnMark Twain
Imitation of ChristThomas a Kempis
In Cold BloodTruman Capote
In Memory of HerElizabeth Schussler-Fiorenza
In the Name of JesusHenri Nouwen
Infinite JestDavid Foster Wallace
Institutes of the Christian ReligionJohn Calvin
Intellectuals and SocietyThomas Sowell
Interior CastleTheresa of Avila
Introductory Lectures on PscyhoanalysisSigmund Frued
Jane EyreCharlotte Bronte
Jesus of NazarethPope Benedict XVI
King Jesus GospelScot McKnight
King LearWilliam Shakespeare
Les MiserablesVictor Hugo
Letter from a Birmingham JailMartin Luther King Jr
Letters and Papers from PrisonDietrich Bonhoeffer
LeviathanThomas Hobbs
Life of AntonyAthanasius of Alexandria
Life of MacrinaGregory of Nyssa
Life of MosesGregory of Nyssa
Life TogetherDietrich Bonhoeffer
Little WomenLouisa Alcott
Liturgy of the OrdinaryTish Harrison Warren
LivesPlutarch
Lord of the FliesWilliam Golding
Love WinsRob Bell
Man’s Search for MeaningViktor Frankl
Mere ChristianityC.S. Lewis
MetaphysicsAristotle
MiddlemarchGeorge Eliot
Midsummer Night’s DreamWilliam Shakespeare
Misquoting JesusBart Ehrman
Moby DickHerman Melville
MockingjaySuzanne Collins
Nicomachean EthicsAristotle
Novum OrganumFrancis Bacon
Oedipus RexSophocles
Of Mice and MenJohn Steinbeck
On Christian DoctrineAugustine of Hippo
On DutiesCicero
On Faith and WorksCardinal Cajetan
On First PrinciplesOrigen of Alexandria
On InterpretationAristotle
On MusicBoethius
On Nature and GraceAugustine of Hippo
On the Development of Christian DoctrineJohn Henry Cardinal Newman
On the Freedom of the WillErasmus of Rotterdam
On the IncarnationAthanasius of Alexandria
On the Nature of ThingsLucretius
On the Revolutions of the SpheresNicholas Copernicus
On the Unity of the Catholic ChurchCyprian of Carthage
On WritingStephen King
OrthodoxyG.K. Chesterton
OthelloWilliam Shakespeare
Paradise LostJohn Milton
Peloponnesian WarThucydides
PenseesBlaise Pascal
PersepolisMarjane Satrapi
PhaedoPlato
PhaedrusPlato
Philosophy of HistoryFrederich Hegel
Pilgrim TheologyMichael Bauman
Pilgrim’s ProgressJohn Bunyan
PoemsGerard Manley Hopkins
PoemsJohn Donne
PoeticsAristotle
PoliticsAristotle
Pride and PrejudiceJane Austen
Prince CapsianC.S. Lewis
Principia MathematicaIsaac Newton
PrometheusAeschylus
ProslogiumAnselm of Canterbury
Ready Player OneErnest Cline
Relativity: The Special and the General TheoryAlbert Einstein
Rerum NovarumPope Leo XIII
Revelation of Divine LoveJulian of Norwich
Robinson CrusoeDaniel Defoe
Romeo and JulietWilliam Shakespeare
Screwtape LettersC.S. Lewis
Second Treatise of GovernmentJohn Locke
Sense and SensibilityJane Austen
SilenceShusaka Endo
Simply JesusN.T. Wright
Sir Gawain and the Green KnightUnknown
Sit, Walk, StandWatchman Nee
Slaughterhouse-FiveKurt Vonnegut
Social ContractJean Jacques Rousseau
SonatasWolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Song of Fire and IceGeorge R.R. Martin
SonnetsWilliam Shakespeare
Summa TheologicaThomas Aquinas
Surprised by HopeN.T. Wright
Swiss Family RobinsonJohann David Wyss
SymposiumPlato
Tarzan of the ApesEdgar Rice Burroughs
The AeneidVirgil
The BacchaeEuripides
The Blue ParakeetScot McKnight
The Book of Common PrayerThe Church of England
The Book ThiefMarkus Zusak
The Bridge to TerebithiaKatherine Paterson
The Call of the WildJack London
The Canterbury TalesGeoffry Chaucer
The Catcher in the RyeJ.D. Salinger
The Closing of the American MindAllan Bloom
The Complete Adventures of Sherlock HolmesArthur Conan Doyle
The Cost of DiscipleshipDietrich Bonhoeffer
The Count of Monte CristoAlexandre Dumas
The CreedMichael Bauman
The Cricket in Times SquareGeorge Selden
The Cross and the Lynching TreeJames Cone
The Dark Night of the SoulSt. John of the Cross
The DaVinci CodeDan Brown
The Decline and Fall of the Roman EmpireEdward Gibbon
The Diary of Anne FrankAnne Frank
The Divine ComedyDante
The Drama of ScriptureBartholomew and Goheen
The EnneadsPlotinus
The Epistle to the RomansKarl Barth
The Federalist PapersAlexander Hamilton
The Fellowship of the RingsJ.R.R. Tolkien
The Five Levels of LeadershipJohn Maxwell
The Four LovesC.S. Lewis
The Gift of FireRichard Mitchell
The GiverLois Lowry
The Gospel Comes with a House KeyRosaria Butterfield
The Grapes of WrathJohn Steinbeck
The Great DivorceC.S. Lewis
The Great GatsbyF. Scott Fitzgerald
The Great OdesJohn Keats
The Handbook of the Christian SoldierErasmus of Rotterdam
The Handmaid’s TaleMargaret Atwood
The Hiding PlaceCorrie Ten Boom
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the GalaxyDouglas Adams
The HobbitJ.R.R. Tolkien
The Horse and His BoyC.S. Lewis
The Hunger GamesSuzanne Collins
The IliadHomer
The Intellectual LifeA.G. Sertillanges
The Jungle BookRunyard Kipling
The Last BattleC.S. Lewis
The Life of Samuel JohnsonJames Boswell
The Lion, the Witch, and the WardrobeC.S. Lewis
The Living ChurchJohn Stott
The Long LonelinessDorothy Day
The Looming TowerLawrence Wright
The Magician’s NephewC.S. Lewis
The MartianAndy Weir
The Martyrdom of Perpetua and FelicityUnknown
The MessageEugene Peterson
The MetamorphosisFranz Kafka
The Mind of the MakerDorothy Sayers
The OdysseyHomer
The OresteiaAeschylus
The Origin of SpeciesCharles Darwin
The Phantom TollboothNorton Juster
The Politics of JesusJohn Howard Yoder
The Practice of the Presence of GodBrother Lawrence
The PrinceNiccolo Machiavelli
The Purpose Driven LifeRick Warren
The Red Badge of CourageStephen Crane
The RepublicPlato
The Resurrection of the Son of GodN.T. Wright
The Return of the KingJ.R.R. Tolkien
The Rule of Saint BenedictBenedict of Nursia
The Scandal of the Evangelical MindMark Noll
The Scarlet LetterNathaniel Hawthorne
The Seven Habits of Highly Effective PeopleStephen Covey
The Seven Storey MountainThomas Merton
The ShiningStephen King
The Silver ChairC.S. Lewis
The Sound and the FuryWilliam Faulkner
The TempestWilliam Shakespeare
The Things They CarriedTom O’Brien
The Three MusketeersAlexandre Dumas
The Twelve CaesarsSuetonius
The Two TowersJ.R.R. Tolkien
The Voyage of the Dawn TreaderC.S. Lewis
The War of the WorldsH.G. Wells
The Wealth of NationsAdam Smith
The Wind in the WillowsKenneth Grahame
Theological OrationsGregory Nazianzan
Theologico-Political TreatiseBaruch Spinoza
Three TreatisesMartin Luther
TimaeusPlato
Tinker Tailor Soldier SpyJohn Le Carre
To Kill a MockingbirdHarper Lee
Tom SawyerMark Twain
Treasure IslandRobert Louis Stevenson
Treatise of Human NatureDavid Hume
Two New SciencesGalileo
UlyssesJames Joyce
Uncle Tom’s CabinHarriet Beecher Stowe
UtopiaThomas More
Veritatis SplendorPope John Paul II
Walden PondHenry David Thoreau
War and PeaceLeo Tolstoy
Wars of the JewsJosephus
Watership DownRichard Adams
Winnie the PoohA.A. Milne
Wuthering HeightsCharlotte Bronte

Well, there it is. I’m about 76% percent of the way through, so there’s much more learning to be done. What about you: What else should be on this list? What are the great books that have formed you?

Orthodoxy and Relevance

Christians have long talked about life as a journey, whether as runners or pilgrims or travelers or something else. Journeys tend to involve forks in the road, decisions to make, and obstacles to overcome. Sometimes, the decisions of this journey are between light and darkness, holiness and sin, redemption and backsliding. In these instances, the follower of Christ is called to choose the path of faithfulness. Other times, however, the decisions we make along the way do not seem to be inherently good or bad—it’s not immediately clear whether one path is better than the other.

Such an image of journey has been on my mind lately as I’ve wrestled with what seems to be an increasingly common trope for contemporary Christians: the ongoing debate between orthodoxy and relevance.

Per Merriam-Webster, orthodoxy means “right belief, sound doctrine” and relevance means “the quality or state of being closely connected or appropriate.” Based on those definitions, you wouldn’t expect contemporary Christians to believe that orthodoxy and relevance are at odds with one another. But if you talk to many Christians, you’d be wrong. Let me explain. Continue reading

Book Review: The Old Testament Case for Nonviolence (Fleischer)

Did God command Israel to commit atrocities when conquering the Promised Land? Does He approve when people go to war in His name? Is the God of the Old Testament truly a homicidal maniac, as some have said?

In The Old Testament Case for Nonviolence, Matthew Curtis Fleischer tackles these questions—and much more—with a thorough and contextual reading of the Old and New Testaments. Fleischer marshals evidence that says no to these queries, at least in a nuanced sense. His chief argument in defense of God’s character is the concept of incremental revelation: that in order to best reveal Himself (in the person of Jesus for the work of the Church), God incrementally revealed His ethical expectations and character throughout the Old and New Testaments. Continue reading

A Proposal: When the Rubber Meets the Road

This post is part of a proposal for approaching theology from the perspective of history.

When the Rubber Meets the Road

The final step of this process brings the historical insights of what the Shepherd of Hermas indicates about the teaching authority of woman into conversation with contemporary conversations about women in the church. Here, several factors play out. First, we must recognize that the Shepherd is not canonical, but it was extremely popular for large swaths of early Christians. That is, this was not some one-off work of a heretic that stands merely as something for Christians to reject; many Christians have found this work insightful and (in some sense) useful for their own lives. Second, the Shepherd comes from Rome, where we know Paul’s letters to the Corinthians were well known, indicating that Hermas’s community (at least) held the call for Grapte to teach and Paul’s message in 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 in conjunction. Continue reading

A Proposal: Application

This post is part of a proposal for approaching theology from the perspective of history.

Women in the Apostolic Fathers

As an application of this approach, I want to quickly examine conceptions of women which appear in the early Christian writings known as the Apostolic Fathers. To keep this example as brief as possible, consider one instance where a female character appears in the apocalyptic account known as the Shepherd of Hermas (c. 100-150 CE).4 In Vision 2.4.3, Hermas records being told by an angel the following: “And so, you will write two little books, sending one to Clement and the other to Grapte. Clement will send his to the foreign cities, for that is his commission. But Grapte will admonish the widows and orphans. And you will read yours in this city, with the presbyters who lead the church.” Continue reading

A Proposal: History then Theology

This post is part of a proposal for approaching theology from the perspective of history.

History then Theology

Once our historiographical assumptions are clarified, we may then turn to the task of integrating historical insight and context into theology. I suggest three steps for this process. First, discern what Christian X says about topic Y, on their own terms and considering their own context. This is the chief purpose of history: to discover what a person (or movement) in the past did and thought, why they did or thought those things, and (in the history of the Church) how they interpreted and lived out the Scriptures and Great Tradition of the faith. Continue reading

A Proposal: Historiographical Models

This post is part of a proposal for approaching theology from the perspective of history.

Four Historiographic Models

When approaching theological concepts from a historical angle, the issue of historiography must be addressed as a matter of primary important.2 That is, before we make appeals to, for example, what Ignatius of Antioch’s Epistles say about bishops or Thomas Aquinas’s articulation of the beatific vision, we must first answer the question of how to best examine and understand the history of Christianity. Particularly helpful on this topic are the four historiographical models outlined by Kenneth Parker: successionism, supercessionism, developmentalism, and appercessionism.3 Continue reading

A Proposal for Approaching Theology Historically

Several months ago, I was privileged to present a paper at a regional meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society. There is nothing quite like the amassed scholarship of these conferences, the gathering of minds eager to pursue knowledge and discuss the finer points of theology, biblical interpretation, and Christian praxis. Of course, it would not truly be a meeting of evangelicals (evangelicals gathered at a Southern Baptist seminary, to wit) without some disagreement over the role that history plays in the tasks of theology. Continue reading