>I have been tagged by Jonathan Norman of The Ivy Bush to put in my “two cents” in creating an Internet compilation of books that might be considered the Best in Contemporary Theology done in blogging meme style. If you are like me and this is a new to you (how does a person get tagged via the Internet?) than it may be helpful to click each of the words above! Here are the rules, which I find confining, but will attempt to abide by.
Jesus and Community by Gerhard Lohfink.
There are a lot of reasons I consider this book to be “off the charts” good, not least of which is because it prohibits any serious Christian from traveling down the road of supersessionism, Marcionism, anti-Semitism, and any other heretical form of Christianity that does not take Israel and the Old Testament seriously.
The Gospel in a Pluralist Society by Lesslie Newbigin.
Here I am not just “going along to get along” with other bloggers who voted for this one, I am just agreeing with them that this book is most definitely on the short list. I would add that any book by Newbigin belongs in the pastor’s/theologian’s library, but this one is particularly adept at addressing the serious questions of our post Enlightenment, post-modern age with clarity of thought that is both searing and persuasive. Want a work that addresses the heady stuff like public/private split? Election? Epistemology? Gospel relevance in our culture and across cultures? Faith as fact or fiction? How Christians should relate to the other religions? It is all there in 244 short pages.
Freedom for Ministry by Richard John Neuhaus
Ok, so this may not be what the meme folk who started this thing are looking for in terms of systematic theology per se, but it remains the most compelling account of Christian ministry I have read to date. Ready to drop the whole idea of the “church” in favor of a personal relationship with Jesus and an individualistic faith? Before you do, you will need to read this book which keeps words like “ministry” and “ecclesiology” forever linked.
Honorable mentions that don’t meet the criteria for this theo-tag game:
The Politics of Jesus by John Howard Yoder
There is no such thing as a non-political gospel or a non-political Jesus. Jesus announces and embodies a new politics and does so in a clear enough way that this gospel of peace, forgiveness, and grace can either be accepted or rejected.
Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
A book I have read, reread, and plan to read again. Also – take another gander at the final chapter on confession (especially for us Protestant types). His Cost of Discipleship is another must read.
A Theology of Liberation by Gustavo Gutierrez
The good news of Jesus is good news to the poor, news of release to captives, news of recovering of sight to the blind. When the Bible is read with the world’s poor, such familiar Scriptural passages cannot be easily spiritualized away into a false gospel that tries to avoid history rather than redeem it. Gutierrez is the father of liberation theology and a faithful parish priest – how many of the naysayers out there have really read him? If so, they might want to focus less on his use of Marxist analysis (as helpful as that can be to our carte blanche acceptance of capitalism as a new Christian virtue) and more on his exegesis, ecclesiology, and Christian witness. After all, how many know his classic work on liberation contains gems like: “Eucharist is the first task of the Church”?