Tag Archives: Roger Olson

The Essential Seminary Reading List

woman reading book in front of fire with cat loomingThis one for the bibliophiles amongst us…

Books and Culture blog has recently posted two somewhat interesting posts on books (a hardly surprising topic). First, The Essential Seminary Reading List. I like the opening story as much as the book suggestions, none of which I have actually read. The second post, 20 Books That Are Changing Ministry, surveys some popular evangelical authors for their suggestions. I have read some of these.

Both lists may be faulted, however, for neither includes that most excellent book by moi!

It got me thinking, however, about what I would recommend as essential reading for theological students (note the emphasis here! I am not making these suggestions for those majoring in biblical studies or practical theology, although they too would benefit from these suggestions, I think). Such lists are difficult to make since one can only recommend what one has read, and often what we have read is only a very narrow slice of what is available. My recommendations, therefore, are sometimes more in terms of categories than titles, though I do append a title for each category.

            What books have you found best? Which have informed, challenged, shaped             your life and thought? Leave a comment and let us know!

  1. A large one-volume systematic theology in order to get a comprehensive overview of the field of systematic theology. There are many choices here, but I will recommend either Erickson’s Christian Theology or Grenz’s Theology for the Community of God. Both are Evangelical-Baptist, both quite comprehensive, both widely regarded, both biblically oriented and philosophically aware. Erickson is a more conservative Evangelical, while Grenz was more progressive.
  2. Karl Barth, Evangelical Theology: An Introduction. How could I not include at least one volume by Barth? This was Barth’s “swan-song,” his final series of lectures and concern what it means to actually do theology and more particularly, what it means to be a theologian. The book is accessible and profound, and serves as a great introduction to this modern church father.
  3. Roger Olson, The Story of Christian Theology. Not only is it necessary to gain an overview of the content of the Christian faith, it is also necessary and helpful to gain an understanding of the progress and development of Christian theology through history. Olson provides a very readable narrative which leads the reader through “twenty centuries of tradition and reform.”
  4. A good history of the church. Not only is it necessary to get an overview of the history of theology, but church history itself, for theology never occurs in a vacuum. Rather, it is informed and shaped by the culture and events of the times in which it emerges. Besides, church history is both fun and infuriating, filled with incredible and inspiring characters as well as tragic events, decisions and moments. At Vose, we use Justo González, The Story of Christianity, Vols. 1 & 2, for an engaging and accessible introduction to the topic.
  5. A substantial volume on Christian ethics, especially one dealing with the task of moving from Scripture to ethics. The Christian faith is not simply about knowing or believing: it must be expressed in life. Stassen & Gushee’s Kingdom Ethics or Richard Hays’ The Moral Vision of the New Testament are both an excellent place to start. For those wanting to explore Old Testament ethics, see Chris Wright’s Old Testament Ethics for the People of God. Other, more systematic rather than biblical treatments, can be found in Grenz, The Moral Quest, Thielicke, Theological Ethics Vol. 1, or Ramsay, Basic Christian Ethics.
  6. At least one “classic” from the tradition: Athanasius’ On the Incarnation of the Word, or Augustine’s Confessions, Luther’s The Freedom of the Christian, Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion, Wesley’s Forty Four Sermons, etc.

Well, that’s a start. These are essentials. Other books that have meant much to me include Barth’s Church Dogmatics – those volumes, at least, which I have read. Hauerwas’ A Community of Character and Hannah’s Child; Eugene Peterson’s Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places; Lois Barrett et al., Treasure in Clay Jars: Patterns in Missional Faithfulness; George Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament; and so the list goes on…

Roger Olson on Authenic Christianity

OlsonRoger has posted a good little list on his blog about what constitutes authentic Christianity. The first item on the list is negative: that is, it stands as evidence against authentic Christianity…

The very first thing I look at is how much the church reflects the culture around it. I don’t mean in its facilities; I mean in its ethos. In America that means: To what extent does the church reflect consumerism, materialism, competition to “get ahead” of others, “success in life” as defining status, tolerance and self-esteem as goals, and “American exceptionalism?”

Another item on his list is certainly challenging:
True community manifested by sharing lives and property is another mark of corporate Christian authenticity. By “sharing property” I don’t mean communalism or collectivism but the practice of taking care of each other, hospitality, holding loosely to “personal property” so as to meet the genuine needs of others in the church.
What do you make of his list?

“No Worldless God!” – The Ghost of Twentieth-Century Theology

Hegel stampI have been enjoying Roger Olson’s The Journey of Modern Theology for the last few weeks. It has taken many, many hours so far and I am still 130 pages from the end. One thing that has struck me is how prominent the thought and influence of Hegel has been throughout the twentieth-century. At several points Olson refers to one or another theologian who has been influenced by, or sought to exorcise, Hegel’s “ghost.”

I have been accustomed to thinking of modern theology as deriving more from Schleiermacher and Ritschl, either accepting and extending their thought and approach, or alternatively, reacting against it. Olson’s account of the “journey” which is modern theology, suggests that twentieth-century theology owes much more to Hegel than I had previously acknowledged. In his discussion of Hans Küng, for example, Olson notes Küng’s debt to Hegel with respect to the doctrine of God (581-582):

In spite of large areas of disagreement with Hegel, who had also taught at Tübingen, Küng is clearly dazzled by the German philosopher’s overall vision of the dialectical unity of God and the world. …

In Hegel, God and the world—or God and humanity—are not “rolled into one.” Nevertheless, they are united in intrinsic, reciprocal unity-in-differentiation, so that Hegel’s God “is rarely described as a living, active person in an I-Thou relationship, but rather as a creatively present universal life and Spirit” (Küng, Theology for the Third Millennium, 133). …    

At the same time, Küng found much to embrace in Hegel’s concept of God and God’s relationship to the world. In contrast to the all too static and otherworldly God of traditional theism, Hegel’s God is living, dynamic and capable of suffering, and it includes its antithesis in itself, rather than standing aloof from the world’s history.

The historicisation of the divine being, the divine immanence and divine pathos: these are all the outgrowth of Hegel’s thought. Schleiermacher’s feeling of absolute dependence is a religious a priori which accounts for the shift in theological method which occurred in the nineteenth century, but Schleiermacher’s God was still utterly transcendent. True, it is a transcendence coupled with immanence: God is the “infinite, all-determining, supra-personal power immanent in everything” (144), but Hegel’s account of God deepened divine immanence, tying God necessarily to the historical process. God became dependent on the world for the realisation of his own being. In the twentieth-century, Barth developed the idea of a history in God, admittedly in very different directions to Hegel. Tillich, process thought, Moltmann and Pannenberg all echo Hegel in some aspect of their work.

Olson’s image of Hegel as a “ghost” is provocative, creative and stimulating—and probably quite true. It seems that we will be unable to understand twentieth-century theology without some understanding of Hegel.

Is that true of modern cultural sensibilities as a whole? Earlier this month our education minister, Christopher Pyne, walked away from the utilitarian views about postgraduate research he expressed while in opposition. Among his characterisations of “ridiculous” research projects was Hegelian philosophy. If Hegel’s ghost is as prominent in modern thought and culture as it has been in theology, there is nothing ridiculous in understanding him, even in cultural and secular contexts.

This Week’s Web

You’re Free to Toke Up, But…Image processed by CodeCarvings Piczard ### FREE Community Edition ### on 2014-02-13 11:07:07Z | http://piczard.com | http://codecarvings.comààÿûÛ;
The March editorial in Christianity Today acknowledges that the legalisation of marijuana in Colorado means that Christians can now choose to legally smoke the drug. But should they?

We at Christianity Today believe Christians are absolutely free to use marijuana (where legalized). And, when it comes to pot in our particular cultural context, we think it would be foolish to use that freedom.

When Jesus Said “Follow Me” Did He Mean “On Twitter”?
A lecture on Ethics and Social Networking by Roger Olson:

Like all technology, social networking technology, henceforth “SNT,” raises questions about what it means to be human, to be persons, to be good persons. The paradox of SNT is that it has the power to enhance community and to destroy community…. The ethical problems with SNT, including Facebook, lie not in the technologies themselves, of course, but in their subtle tendency to provide substitutes for real community and hospitality.

The Church and Civil Marriage
From First Things: Eight scholars and writers discuss whether religious institutions should get out of the marriage business.

This Week’s Web

The Shortest Commentary Ever on the Whole Bible

Ben Myer’s recently wrote the shortest commentary ever on the whole bible: one tweet for every book of the Bible, including the Deutero-canonicals. It’s fun and quirkly, and sometimes just hits the spot. For example:

Ruth: He wakes Bluebird Cartoonin the night to find a woman, a foreigner, touching his feet. He rubs his eyes. He had been dreaming of kings.

3 John: Oh my dear friend, I need to see you face to face to tell you what love means. Love can’t be sent by mail.



The Art of Confession

Michael Jensen has an interesting post on Confession at the ABC’s Religion and Ethics blog. Here is an excerpt:

“The second observation is this: because we hate to confess what are really like and to admit to what we have done, we live in a kind of inauthentic state. We perform our lives in public as carefully edited versions of our true selves. Partly this is because, at times, even we are at a loss to fathom our own actions. We feel that we sometimes are not truly ourselves, so we say “I was drunk” or “I was in a fit of rage” or “I was seduced” or “I am addicted” – which are all ways in which we separate ourselves, ever so slightly, from our actions. But who are we if we are not what we have done?”

Important Advice from Scot McKnight for this Time of Year

Roger Olson identifies The Most Pernicious and Pervasive Heresy in [Western] Christianity