Essential Texts for Theological Undergraduates

1. N.T. Wright: The New Testament and the People of God.

Christian Origins and the Question of God v. 1 (Christian Origins & Ques God 1) by N.T. Wright

“A must read introduction to an appropriate methodology for theological / biblical studies”

This is a landmark book providing a brilliant epistemological and methodological foundation for theological an biblical studies. This is the first volume in an incredibly provocative and challenging series. It may well mark NT Wright as the finest theologian of his generation. This book raises some very powerful questions on methodology and provides some intriguing possibilities for apologetic work at the same time.

2. Alister McGrath: Christian Theology: An Introduction by Alister E. McGrath

“McGrath provides a masterful historical survey of Christian theology”

McGrath provides us with a whistle stop tour of historical theology. It is fast pace and easy to read providing an excellent map of the terrain. You will never know where McGrath stands on some of the current debates but you do get a masterful survey.

3. Lesslie Newbigin: The Gospel in a Pluralist Society

“Provides a very useful and readable christian epistemology”

This book changed my life. Newbigin’s work provides an incredible mix of theology, philosophy and apologetic reasoning. As an astute cultural critic having spent 40 years in cross cultural mission contexts Newbigin combines both the wisdom of practitioner with the reflection of a scholar. If you only read one book this year….

4. David J. Bosch: Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission, Orbis

“The best single volume introduction to christian mission”

This is Bosch’s magnum opus. It combines shrewd biblical analysis with historical insight and then a prophetic challenge to postmodern mission. Unmissably good.


5. Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Is There a Meaning in This Text?: The Bible, the Reader, and the Morality of Literary Knowledge

“Vanhoozer provides an excellent engagement with postmodern literary criticism and the possiblity of reading the bible”

If there is only one book you read that engages with the challenge and the opportunities provided by Postmodern literary criticism and the way we read the Bible this should be it. It is surprisingly readable and yet is a no holds barred engagement with the philosophical issues at stake.

6. James K.A. Smith, Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism?: Taking Derrida, Lyotard, and Foucault to Church (Church and Postmodern Culture)

“excellent engagement with the postmodern thought from a christian perspective”

Too many books see Postmodernity as the moral enemy of christianity. This book redresses the challenge. With short readable chapters looking for the positive elements of key Postmodern thinkers and their usefulness as dialogue partners with the church.

7. Helmut Thielicke, A Little Exercise for Young Theologians

“a challenging little book about living devotionally and academically”

This book helps theological students to think about the impact of their subject for their own personal relationship with God. Worth the hour it would take to read this one cover to cover.

4 thoughts on “Essential Texts for Theological Undergraduates”

  1. I can recommend Vanhoozer’s “Is There a Meaning in This Text?” and Smith’s “Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism?” not just to theology students, but to anyone studying in the Humanities, where you’re certain to encounter postmodern thought. They were both really helpful to me in studying English Literature & History.

    I think “Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism?” is a good book to read to balance out Marcus Honeysett’s “Meltdown”, which is the book on postmodernism usually on CU bookstalls. It’s a good introduction, but rather simplistic in dismissing postmodernism as “a long fancy word for sin”, and has a rather naive view of epistemology that fails to fully take into account that we’re in a Fallen world. What postmodernism claims does in part come true to the extent that we reject God and sin damages our ability to know and to communicate reliably.

    Oh, and yay for having Cardiff’s Millennium Centre in your blog header. I now live in Cardiff, and it’s a cool building!

  2. I’d have added “A Biblical History of Israel” by Provan, Longman and Long, simply because it gives the tools needed to start engagement with OT scholarship, which is a noticeable gap in your list.

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