If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away---Henry David Thoreau

Friday, September 5, 2014

My 10 most Influential Theology Books

I limited my list of influential books to "theology" books (including biblical studies and homiletics) since a list that would include my interests in peace studies, literature, art, and music/drumming would be much too long. These books span four decades of reading and study and mark different degrees of shifts in my theological formation.

1. Worthy is the Lamb, Ray Summers

I read this book around 1974 not long after discerning a call to ministry and entering California Baptist University. It opened up an alternative eschatology (historical/amillenial) from my fundamentalist, premillennial indoctrination.

2. The Social Setting of Pauline Christianity, Gerd Thiessen

I spotted this book in a seminary friend's library around 1977 and had to read it. It opened up the world of the social-science approach to reading of biblical texts.
3. Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger
I came across this book after seminary and my eyes were opened to the enormous problem of hunger and the disparity of poverty and wealth. I led me to get involved in Project Understanding, a community-based social justice project in Ventura County, CA, and to do hunger education.
4. Thy Will Be Done: Praying the Our Father as a Subversive Activity, Michael Crosby
I was introduced to liberation theology in the early 80s by an atheist that worked with my wife, Iris. For some strange reason, he had an interest in the movement of liberation among Catholics in Latin America. This book, along with Gustavo Guttierez' classic Theology of Liberation, were a doorway into liberation theology and emancipatory readings of the Bible.
5. Black Theology of Liberation, James Cone
Being a pastor near Berkeley, CA I had access to the Graduate Theological Union bookstore, where I encountered more radical readings in the early 80s (I visited there recently and it had been closed for 5 years!). Cone's book was another dimension of liberation theology that connected me to issues of race and its impact on theological construction. I have to mention Delores Williams Sisters in the Wilderness as my later intro to womanist theology.
6. Sexism and God-Talk, Rosemary Radford Reuther
With a path opened into liberation theology in the early 80s, I stepped into feminist theology. This book was not my introduction to feminist theology. That was from a reading of Mary Daly's radical Beyond God the Father. What struck me about this book was its comprehensive look at traditional Christian theology through a new lens. A similar book for biblical study was Elizabeth Schussler Fiorenza's In Memory of Her.
6. Christianity and Revolution, Lowell Zuck
I was introduced to Anabaptism through the influence of James Wm. McClendon, Jr., an (ana)baptist theologian who was a member of a congregation in Alameda, CA where I was pastor (1983-87). He taught a class on Anabaptist history at the Episcopal Divinity School at GTU Berkeley. He used this book in his GTU class. The social justice elements of Anabaptists involved in the Peasant's War and their pacifism drew my attention. 
7. The Nature of Doctrine, George Lindbeck
Another book from one of Jim's classes at GTU that gave me a handle on understanding various approaches to theology was this seminal book by Lindbeck. It was my introduction to a cultural-linguistic approach and post-liberal theology, which I saw as having connections to Anabaptism.
8. Homiletic: Moves and Structures, David Buttrick
With my experience, study, and writing focused on homiletics, I had to include something on homiletics. I plowed through this massive book in the 90s. Although highly theoretical it also gave me a practical and structural way to approach constructing my sermons at that time.
9. Jesus and the Spiral of Violence, Richard Horsley
Horsley is one of my favorite socio-political readers of the Bible (along with my friend, Ched Myers). This book introduced me to his work by connecting the themes of peace, politics, and empire in biblical studies (an area I continue to delve into). Can't get enough of Horsley.
10. Asian Biblical Hermeneutics and Postcolonialism, R.S. Sugirthirajah
This book from 1998 was one of my first introductions to postcolonial theology and biblical studies. It was a move beyond liberation theology, a well I was deeply drinking from, and in some ways a critique of that project.
This list takes me up to near 2000. It is but a small slice of my readings, but reflects major influences on my present theology and hermeneutical interests.  

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