Archive for the ‘Readings’ Category
Listed here are 50 writers whom I think for one reason or another, have had an indelible influence on me over the past ten years. Those names preceded by a diamond, indicate those whom I would identify as the 15 most influential authors.
Several important comments are in order here. First, the list is alphabetical, not in order of interest or importance. Second, there are other formative authors that have shaped me earlier in life; I have not listed them here, because the following list represents in contrast influential authors since around 2000. Click here to read that list. Third, my interest in a given author is not always through a book they have written; for some, I have only read articles they wrote, such as in theological journals. Fourth, I have managed to expand my interests quite widely; some authors here are from past ages, and some are from traditions quite different from my own. Fifth, these authors comprise several genres or subjects; some are quite theological, while some are more of a popular level. A few are quite philosophical, and a few reflect a mystical direction. Sixth, just because I list an author here, does not means that I necessarily endorse all that a given author writes or represents; but in such a case, while I may not be wholly sympathetic with a given author, I have managed to find some kind of salient insight or trajectory from him or her, that I found most helpful for me.
Finally, as earlier mentioned, I think all these authors have together, come to have an indelible influence on my current thinking, theological perspectives, and understanding of life and ministry.
50 / 15 most influential authors / writers:
♦ Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Jean-Pierre de Caussade
♦ Walter Brueggemann
G. K. Chesterton
♦ Terry Cross
Ralph Del Colle
♦ Murray Dempster
♦ Stanley Grenz
♦ Stanley Hauerwas
♦ Abraham Herschel
♦ Walter Hollenweger
♦ C. S. Lewis
♦ George Lindbeck
♦ Frank Macchia
♦ Clark Pinnock
Cecil M. Robeck
James K.A. Smith
♦ Robert Webber
♦ N. T. Wright
♦ Evelyn Underhill
“Reading plays a large part in our lives. . . . In the furbishing of the mind and the quickening of the spirit, a servant of God needs contact with the outstanding works accessible. . . . By our reading and meditation we are preparing ourselves for sacred ministry.” Ralph Turnbull, A Minister’s Obstacles
“Study plays an essential part in the life of prayer.
The spiritual life needs strong intellectual foundations.
The study of theology is a necessary accompaniment to a life of meditation.”
Following this brief essay, are some listings of books and articles which I think have been most impactful upon my Christian life, ministry, and life message, prior to the year 2000:
Most influential readings / Bible / Biographies / Christian Life / Devotionals / Hermeneutics / Leadership / Ministry / Theological / Other selected works
Importance of reading
I have sought to read widely, but not because “I am a reader.” I have heard enough, read, and observed that many really great preachers are widely read.
I’ve also observed that even outside the church world, world and national class leaders are also oftentimes widely read. Steve Jobs (Apple, Pixar CEO) is one recent example. Here in Singapore, many of the top government ministers, modeled foremost by the MM and the PM, are scholars and readers. All this confirms Warren Wiersbe’s dictum, “Readers are leaders.” (On Being a Servant). J. Robert Clinton (Making of a Leader) also identified the experience of being “widely read,” as a key leadership process, and core expression of a learning posture.
In his classic exposition, A Minister’s Obstacles, Ralph Turnbull says the “vice of sloth” is partly avoided through reading widely: “The horizon widens, and preaching is enriched in proportion as we learn to group all knowledge around the Name which is above ever name. Pity the minister who never reads anything and who has no passion for reading.”
Why preachers should read theology (albeit good theology)
“It is possible to render neutral and ineffective the vital truths of redemption by the vanity of cleverness.
“The Church has been tempted to dilute the message by throwing over dogmatic preaching to substitute nebulous meandering . . . We plead for a return to dogmatic preaching: not harsh . . . but gracious . . . Christ-centered preaching. . . . Deep theology is the best fuel of devotion; it readily catches fire, and once kindled it burns long.”
Ralph G. Turnbull, A Minster’s Obstacles
Finally, I’ll end with some thoughts about the reading of theology. I have come to believe that most modern evangelicals have unfortunately been led to believe that their “Evangelical” identity- is either a historical restoration, or a pure expression of biblical faith. This is partly due to how most Evangelicals unknowingly hold to the “fallen Church” view of church history (after Constantine’s Christianisation of the Roman Empire). I myself hold to it to some extent. The problem is that most Evangelicals lack the critical apparatus to discern and balance the view in tension with other reasonable paradigms.
What most evangelicals fail to appreciate, or are not aware of however, is that in spite of our strengths, we have weaknesses. One is the “anti-intellectual” residual which fell out of the mid 20th century Liberal-Fundamentalist conflicts, which left its indelible influence on modern Evangelicalism. This residual is usually expressed through “Bible only, no need for theology” expressions and mindsets. Well, as a Pentecostal, I appreciate a number of variables underpinning this conviction; perhaps I’ll engage this in another blog entry!
But for now, I refer to one penetrating analysis of modern evangelicalism by Mark Noll, Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., and David Wells (“Evangelical Theology Today,” Theology Today Vol. 51, No. 4 (1995). They recall how the great preachers and revival leaders of the 15th to 17th century Reformation were pastor-theologians, steeped in patristic theology. Luther, Calvin, Crammer, Edwards, and Wesley “were genuinely effective theologians. . . .
They had a deep grasp of the Scriptures, they steeped themselves in the enduring traditions of the Church, and they examined sensitively . . . the best thinking of their own day. The result was theology that communicated powerfully, theology that spoke with authority from the Scriptures to the world in which these theologians lived.”
Noll, Plantinga, and Wells then refer to the “corrupting influences of modernity,” within the modern Evangelicalism “where “anti-intellectual forces . . . [have been] mowing down the small prophetic protests raised against them. This is perhaps the heart of the contemporary evangelical tragedy.” I would say that a redeeming strength to Baby Boomer pragmatic Christianity, and its accompanying church growth movement, was its attempt to break down secular / sacred dichotomies, in its pursuit for contemporary relevance. But that pursuit is leading to the movement’s eventual implosion.
For again, the loss of theological depth has now created a scenario where “truth” in the local church is measured by what is “practical,” resulting in “a synthesis of Christianity with popular culture in order to survive in the marketplace.” (Mark Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind). Similarly, Mark Chan of Eagles Communication has identified the present “Mcdonaldization and Disneyization” of Evangelical churches (see the article in my list of readings).
Chan warns that while “all truth is God’s truth . . . the danger comes . . . [that When we accord the efficiency paradigm the last word, we risk the secularized captivity of the church.” Chan refers to a “dumbing down” amongst believers in Sunday worship services, where, “Preaching that demands the use of the mind- particularly expository preaching rooted in the biblical text- is increasingly seen as dated and irrelevant. Welcome to the world of McNugget preaching!” Harsh words but perhaps, there may well be a darker side to the present attraction towards “conversational style,” seeker-sensitive homilies. We should recall the story of King Rehoboam (1 Kings 14:26), who replaced the gold shields in the temple- taking by Shishak, for shields of brass. “All is not gold that glitters.”
Yet how do we preach out of the fullness of Christ in the power of the Spirit, with depth that simultaneously engages mind and spirit, and facilitates an encounter with the Holy Spirit, without- falling into the dreaded delivery of “doctrine,” information about God and mere Bible topics or, the mistaken passing of biblical exposition for myopic “over-analysis” of Bible texts? Again space does not here suffice. Yet I firmly believe that modern scholastic, conservative theology (and not just liberal theology) is largely responsible for a number of stifling, dead homiletical and hermeneutical paradigms, which have further lead to the present “anti-intellectualism.”
There is however, a fresh wind blowing. Movements are in motion, calling for a restored fusion of the mind, soul, and spirit, for a restored incarnational witness of Christian life. I call attention here to two helpful trends. First, Robert Webber drew attention to the “Younger Evangelicals,” whom in contrast to their pragmatic evangelical predecessors, are seeking out “wellsprings” of ancient but time-endured fountains of spiritual formation and expression. Second, there is an emerging appreciation and awareness that the Bible coveys truth primarily through its predominate genre of narrative. Through the medium of story paradigms, biblical truth can be preached that calls forth a transaction between the Spirit of God and the human spirit, even as it engages both the mind and soul.
Both trends point to a renewed call for theological breadth and depth, and thus the return of those who once led the Church as pastor-theologians. These emerging leaders will position themselves as conversant within both the local church and theological academy; for in fact, the two must become fused together.
Most enjoyable readings
The following list of books represent some of the most enjoyable readings or authors that I’ve come to enjoy in more recent years:
Blumhardt, Christoph, Action in Waiting.
Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. The Cost of Discipleship.
Brueggemann, Walter, The Prophetic Imagination.
Buber, Martin. On Judaism.
Buber, Martin. I and Thou.
Chesterton, G.K. Orthodoxy.
L’Engle, Madeleine. Walking on Water.
Greenleaf, Robert A. On Becoming a Servant Leader.
Heschel, Abraham J. The Prophets.
Hollenweger, Walter J. Pentecostalism: Origins and Developments Worldwide.
Lewis, C.S. The Weight of Glory.
Peterson, Eugene. The Jesus Way.
Macchia, Frank. Baptized in the Spirit.
Webber, Robert E. The Divine Embrace.
Most influential readings
I have selected 13 readings. First at the top is Elisabeth Elliot’s Shadow of the Almighty. I read the book as a new Christian at the age of 21. I purchased it while attending the Urbana 81 Missions Conference in Illinois, USA (Intervarsity Christian Fellowship). For several years after it left a profound influence on my life. It obviously led to my eventual departure from the States in 1989. Truly life changing. The next most impactful reading was Clinton’s Making of a Leader; I read it around 1993, while in Uganda. It spoke deeply about the relation between leadership and sanctification. Then in 1994, while in Ghana, my parents sent me a copy of Tarr’s Double Image. Its impact was on my reading of Scripture; it set the path towards a more dynamic understanding of the Bible and hermeneutics. About the same time I began reading devotional materials by Amy Carmichael. I was deeply attracted to the depth of her inner life, revealed through Gold Cord, which was actually a story about how she founded the Dohnavur Fellowship in India.
Oden wrote his Systematic Theology for preaching and teaching in the local church, seeking also to draw upon the best insights across the history and traditions of the Church. I read it a few years ago, and find it illustrative of what I am calling for in my preceding reflections. Another book is authored by Hollenweger, yet another is co-authored by him and another is a biography on him. These three books spoke deeply to me about Pentecostalism- my deep affinity with the tradition, its almost tragic failings, and my affinity with Hollenweger’s vision and proposals for its future. The works by Aker, Cross, Pinnock and Stronstad together have also decisively shaped my aspirations towards the Pentecostal message. Foster’s Streams of Living Water is a recent reading, but it has left an indelible longing to build a Pentecostal ethos, enriched with the best of the other great traditions.
Anderson, Allan H. and Walter J. Hollenweger. Eds. Pentecostals after a Century: Global Perspectives on a Movement in Transition. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic Press, 1999.
Carmichael, Amy. Gold Cord: The Story of a Fellowship. Dohnavur, India: Dohnavur Fellowship, n.d.
Clinton, J. Robert. The Making of a Leader: Recognizing the Lessons and Stages of Leadership Development. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1988.
Cross, Terry. “A Proposal to Break the Ice: What Can Pentecostal Theology Offer Evangelical Theology.” Journal of Pentecostal Theology 10, No. 2 (April 2002): 44-73.
Elliot Elisabeth. Shadow of the Almighty, The Life and Testament of Jim Elliot. HarperSanFransico, 1989.
Foster, Richard. Streams of Living Water: Celebrating the Great Traditions of Christian Faith. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers, 1999.
Hollenweger, Walter J. Pentecostalism: Origins and Developments Worldwide. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1997.
Oden, Thomas C. Systematic Theology. The Living God, Vol. 1 (1987); The Word of Life, Vol. 2 (1992); Life in the Spirit, Vol. 3 (1994). New York, NY: HarperSanFransicso; HarperCollins Publishers, 1987, 1992, 1994.
Price, Lynne. Theology Out of Place: A Theological Biography of Walter J. Hollenweger. London, UK; New York, NY: Sheffield Academic Press, 2002.
Pinnock, Clark H. “Divine Relationality: A Pentecostal Contribution to the Doctrine of God.” Journal of Pentecostal Theology 16 (2000): 3-26.
__________. Flame of Love: A Theology of the Holy Spirit. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996.
Stronstad, Roger. The Charismatic Theology of St. Luke. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1984.
Tarr, Del. Double Image: Biblical Insights from African Parables. New York, NY; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1994.
Carmichael, Amy. Gold Cord: The Story of a Fellowship. Dohnavur, India: Dohnavur Fellowship, n.d.
Elliot Elisabeth. Who Shall Ascend: The Life of R. Kenneth Strachan of Costa Rica. London, UK: Hodder & Stoughton, 1968.
Houghton, Frank. Amy Carmichael of Dohnavur: The Story of a Lover and Her Beloved. Fort Washington, PA: Christian Literature Crusade, n.d.
Kinnear, Angus L. Against the Tide: The Story of Watchman Nee. Bombay, India: Gospel Literature Service, 1973.
Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. The Cost of Discipleship. Rev. ed. New York, NY: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1963.
Brown, Rodney-Howard. The Touch of God. Milton Keynes, UK: Nelson Word, 1995.
Chambers, Oswald. Not Knowing Wither: The Steps of Abraham’s Faith Retraced. Haunts, UK: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1975.
Chesterton, G.K. Orthodoxy. New York, NY: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1908; New York, NY: Doubleday; Image Books, 2001.
Kendall, R.T. The Anointing: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow. London, UK: Hodder & Stoughton, 1998.
Lewis, C.S. Mere Christianity. Scribner; Simon & Schuster Inc., 1952.
__________. The Weight of Glory, and other Addresses. New York, NY: HarperSanFransico; HarperCollins Publishers, 1949, 1980.
Monk Kidd, Sue, When the Heart Waits: Spiritual Directions for Life’s Sacred Questions. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers; HarperSanFrancisco, 1990.
Nee, Watchman. Changed into His Likeness. Ed. Angus Kinnear, Kingsway Publications, n.d.
__________. What Shall this Man do? Watchman Nee. Ed. Angus Kinnear. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1971.
Solomon, Robert M. Fire for the Journey: Reflections for a God-guided Life. Singapore: Genesis Books, Armour Publishing, 2002.
Sasser, Sam. The Potter’s Touch: Consecrated to Servanthood. Destiny Image Publishers, 1991.
Sorge, Bob. The Fire of Delayed Answers. Canandaigua, NY: Oasis House; Bob Sorge Ministries, 1996.
Warner, Rob. Prepare for Revival. London, UK: Hodder & Stoughton
Willard, Dallas. The Great Omission: Reclaiming Jesus’ Essential Teachings on Discipleship. Oxford, UK: Monarch Books, 2006.
Carmichael, Amy. His Thoughts Said . . . His Father Said . . . Middlesex, UK: Dohnavur Fellowship; Penn, US: Christian Literature Crusade, 1971.
Chambers, Oswald. My Utmost for His Highest. Toronto, Canada: McClelland and Stewart, 1935.
Kempis, Thomas A. The Imitation of Christ. Trans. by E. M. Blaiklock. Great Britain: Hodder and Stoughton, 1979.
Leadership / Ministry
Chan, Mark L. Y. “The Cross Between the Golden Arches and Mickey Mouse: Discipleship in an Age of Mcdonaldization and Disneyization.” In Truth to Proclaim: The Gospel in Church and Society. A Trinity Theological Journal Supplement. Ed. Simon Chan. Singapore: Trinity Theological College, 2002.
Greenleaf, Robert K. On Becoming a Servant Leader. Eds don M. Frick and Larry C. Spears. San Fransisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1996._________. Servant Leadership: A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness. Mahwah, N.J.: Paulist Press, 1977.
MacDonald, Gordon. Rebuilding Your Broken World. Nashville, TN: Oliver-Nelson Books, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1988.
Roberts, Randal. Ed. Lessons in Leadership: Fifty Respected Evangelical Leaders Share Their Wisdom on Ministry. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1999.
Turnbull, Ralph G. A Minister’s Obstacles. Revell’s Preaching and Pastoral Aid Series. Westwood, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1959.
Aulen, Gustav. Christus Victor: A Historical Study of the Three Main Types of the Idea of the Atonement. Trans. by A. G. Hebert. London, UK: SPCK, 1931.
Banks, Robert. Paul’s Idea of Community. Rev. Ed. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1994.
Barth, Karl. The Doctrine of the Word of God. Vol 1.1 of Church Dogmatics. Trans. by G.W. Bromiley. Edinburgh, UK: T. and T. Clark, 1975.
Brueggemann, Walter. The Prophetic Imagination, 2nd ed. Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress; Fortress Press, 2001.
Brunner, Emil. The Christian Doctrine of God. Vol. 1. Trans. By Olive Wyon. London, UK: Lutterworth Press, 1949.
Grenz, Stanley J. Renewing the Center: Evangelical Theology in a Post-Theological Era (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic; BridgePoint Books, 2000.
Lewis, C. S. The Weight of Glory, and other Addresses (New York, NY: HarperSanFransico; HarperCollins Publishers, 1949, 1980.
Macchia, Frank D. Baptized in the Spirit: A Global Pentecostal Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2006.
McGrath, Alister E. The Mystery of the Cross. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House; Academie Books, 1988.
Menzies, William W. and Robert P. Menzies. Spirit and Power: Foundations of Pentecostal Experience. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House; HarperCollins Publishers, 2000.
Menzies, William W. “The Holy Spirit in Christian Theology.” In Perspectives on Evangelical Theology. Papers from the Thirtieth Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society. Eds. Kenneth S. Kantzer and Stanley N. Gundry. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, n.d.
McGavran, Donald A. Understanding Church Growth. 3rd ed. Ed. C. Peter Wagner. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1990.
Pinnock, Clark H. Most Moved Mover: A Theology of God’s Openness. Carlisle, UK; Paternoster Press; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2001.
Webber, Robert E. The Divine Embrace: Recovering the Passionate Spiritual Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006.
Aker, Ben. “New Directions in Lukan Theology: Reflections on Luke 3:21-22 and Some Implications.” In Faces of Renewal: Studies in Honor of Stanley M. Horton. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1988.
Bradt, Kevin M. Story as a Way of Knowing. Kansas City, KA: Sheed & Ward, 1997.
Heschel, Abraham. The Prophets. New York, NY: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1962; HarperPerennial Modern Classics, 2001.
Stronstad, Roger. The Charismatic Theology of St. Luke. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1984.
Talbert, Charles. H. Reading Luke: A Literary and Theological Commentary on the Third Gospel. New York, NY: Crossroad, 1982.
Other selected readings
Buber, Martin. I and Thou. 2nd Ed. Trans. By Ronald Gregor Smith. New York, NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1958.
___________. On Judaism. Ed. Nahum N. Glatzer. New York, NY: Schocken Books, 1967.