I try not to do the super geek thing here too often. I’m making an exception today. As I’m starting to wind down from seminary, I’ve been trying to process the total experience. Part of that processing is reflection about what books and authors impacted me the most as part of my seminary journey.
So, here they are (and they’re not in any particular order either… except that the first half were books from the library and the second half reside on my shelf).
Three Mile an Hour God and No Handle on the Cross by Kosuke Koyama: Koyama came up as a brief reference in my first systematic theology class back in 2012. Feeling curious, I dug a little deeper into his writing. In the process, I discovered an appreciation for Asian theology and challenges to my white middle class American perspective about God. He was a lifeline as I was trying to process my infertility journey my first year of seminary and was instrumental in my learning how to hope anew.
Choosing Life and Creative Disobedience by Dorothee Soelle. Soelle challenges my comfort and security; she reminds me that the Good News of Jesus does indeed have political ramifications. She also made me question my values of objectivity and non-partisanship. Her introduction in Creative Disobedience was a balm to my soul while I worked my gender roles project for my social ethics class; she made me realize that I’m not a lone crazy person in some of my objections to traditional Western male theology. I don’t always agree with her, but I respect her a lot.
The Crucified God and The Spirit of Life by Jurgen Moltmann. Jesus stands in solidarity with those who are suffering and brings their oppressors to repentance. In this way, Moltmann offers hope to both victim and oppressor.
The Silence of God by Helmut Thielicke. I loved this collection of sermons; they brought me hope and comfort as I fought for sanity after the ectopic pregnancy. They helped me white-knuckle it through that dark, dark season. (Also, I’m grateful for Dr. Lawrence introducing me to Thielicke through the required reading of A Little Exercise for Young Theologians, which proved comforting and formative as I came back to seminary in 2012.)
Exclusion and Embrace by Miroslav Volf. I read this based on a recommendation from Thorsten Moritz. I find Volf’s points about the willingness to embrace the one who is different than me and his approach to forgiveness come up again and again. It’s one of the books that I tend to recommend the most to other people.
Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin by Cornelius Plantinga. Plantinga offers a metaphor for sin that was new and quite helpful for me. Sin at its essence is a violation of the shalom that God intended. Sin isn’t simply law-breaking, but at its core is the destruction of relationship with ourselves, God, each other, and the world.
Living in Color by Randy Woodley. Woodley asks the question, “Do I have a responsibility to protect my brother’s culture?” It’s a question I’d never thought about and has haunted me since I read his book. His work challenged the way that I think about ministry and what it means to welcome people of different cultures — particularly in being creative and theologically intentional about adopting different forms of worship practice.
Unclean: Meditations on Purity, Hospitality and Mortality by Richard Beck. Beck scientifically articulates things that I intuited, but didn’t have language to describe. While I find his conclusion ultimately unsatisfying, he raises significant issues and questions that the Church should be addressing. This is a book that I highly recommend to everybody as his writing style is fairly accessible and the questions he raises are so critical!
The Gospel of Luke by Joel B. Green (from the New International Commentary series). Green’s narrative approach to interpretation in conjunction with Dr. Jeannine Brown’s teaching on Luke in the course I took with her were highly formative in the way that I approach the Bible. Hands down this is my favorite commentary on my bookshelf. (Though I should also admit, Luke is also my favorite Gospel, so I’m also already biased.)