We’re building an annotated list of reading recommendations from some of our John Wesley Fellows.
Joy J. Moore
Associate Dean for African American Church Studies
and Assistant Professor of Preaching
Fuller Theological Seminary
- Craig Detweiler, iGods: How Technology Shapes Our Spiritual and Social Lives (Brazos, 2013). Trying to find a book on technology and faith that isn’t outdated when you download the e-book isn’t easy. Detweiler approaches this changing reality by pointing to the research others have done and applying the findings to identify the impact gadgets, applications, and gurus have on how we practice our faith and manage our lives.
- James Earl Massey, Preaching from Hebrews: Hermeneutical Insights and Homiletical Helps (Warner, 2014). Preaching is a practice born in the the study of Scripture and service to a Christian community. Massey provides a captivating look at the Book of Hebrews with an eye to pragmatic pulpit practices for a contemporary Christian witness.
- Wyndy Corbin Reuschling, Desire for God and the Things of God: Relationships between Christian Spirituality and Morality (Wipf & Stock, 2012). We live in a context that increasingly rejects Christianity and the church while seeking spirituality and justice. Reuschling counters such reductionist compartmentalization of faith and ethics by focusing on the witness to God and good revealed through Christian practices that seek for God and the things of God.
- Paul Wesley Chilcote, The Imitation of Christ: Selections Annotated and Explained (SkyLight Illuminations Series; SkyLight Paths, 2012). The new edition of a classic work of Christian devotion is based on John Wesley’s translation and offers commentary for life and practice.
- Paul Wesley Chilcote, John and Charles Wesley: Selections from Their Writings and Hymns (SkyLight Illuminations Series; SkyLight Paths, 2011). This volume provides a great entry point into the life and work of both Wesley brothers.
- Paul Wesley Chilcote, Recapturing the Wesleys’ Vision: An Introduction to the Faith of John and Charles Wesley (InterVarsity, 2004). This best-selling introduction to the Wesleys examines eight critical conjunctions in their theological vision that are of continuing importance for faith and practice today.
Assistant Professor of New Testament and Greek
Bethel College, Indiana
- James K.A. Smith, How (Not) to Be Secular: Reading Charles Taylor (Eerdmans, 2014). For those, like me, still trying to wade through Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age (or those needing a brief, insightful introduction), this book offers a succinct commentary while drawing out more explicitly the ecclesial and missiological ramifications of that larger treasure trove from a master contemporary philosopher.
- M. David Litwa, Iesus Deus: The Early Christian Depiction of Jesus as a Mediterranean God (Fortress, 2014). In the midst of the controversial narrative concerning the articulation of early Christian beliefs about Jesus by Bart Ehrman (How Jesus Became God [HarperOne, 2014]) — as well as the oft-sensationalist, reactionary response by Michael Bird, et al. (How God Became Jesus [Zondervan, 2014]) — Litwa’s book serves as a critical reminder that our Trinitarian faith is primarily (1) about the discursive practice of devotional worship to Jesus (2) alongside the one God of Israel (3) in the midst of competing cultural claims. It’s a timely challenge to simplistic and apologetic frenzy on both sides of the faith-dividing line.
- Michael Graves, The Inspiration and Interpretation of Scripture: What the Early Church Can Teach Us (Eerdmans, 2014). This book is a reminder of the complexity of ancient views regarding the inspiration of Scripture and the diversity of uses and interpretations of the sacred text in the first five centuries of church history. It (1) focuses on Christ as a unifying center and worship as a centering practice and (2) the community of believers in its quest to respond appropriately to the voice of God peering through the scrolls. Graves’s exploration also helps to warns us against forcing Scripture into a single epistemic mold, and that the modern Bible-as-Instruction-Manual approach is foreign to our ancient ancestors, who took Scripture no less seriously.
Matthew R. Schlimm
Assistant Professor of Old Testament
University of Dubuque Theological Seminary
- Susannah Heschel, The Aryan Jesus: Christian Theologians and the Bible in Nazi Germany (Princeton University Press, 2008). Heschel offers an incredible study of how theologians and biblical scholars responded to Nazism in Germany, focusing particularly on those who attempted to rid the Christian faith of its Jewish roots. This book is a great read for anyone interested in history, theology, or the Bible. It shows how academics – those supposedly committed to objective, rational, scientific study – in fact bent all manner of truth to try to gain Hitler’s favor.
- Karl Allen Kuhn, Having Words with God: The Bible as Conversation (Fortress, 2008). Few books dare to offer strategies for reading the Bible as a whole. Kuhn’s book does a remarkable job of providing ways of seeing the entirety of Scripture, even with its many tensions. He shows that the Bible is best understood as a conversation not only between God and believers, but also among fellow believers. Kuhn suggests that the Bible invites readers today to join this conversation with God and others.
- Phil Zuckerman, Faith No More: Why People Reject Religion (Oxford University Press, 2008). Many mainline denominations lament their declining membership, giving, and attendance. Faced with this problem, church leaders need to know why so many people today give up on religion. Zuckerman’s book offers several answers in an accessible format. Although Zuckerman sympathizes with the irreligious, this book can nevertheless inspire imaginative church leaders to dream about how to counter the flow of people out of the church.
Leicester R. Longden
Professor of Evangelism and Discipleship Emeritus
University of Dubuque Theological Seminary
Here are three suggestions for summer reading to get you out of ruts:
- Try reading a chapter a day from a new translation or paraphrase of the Bible, keeping track of phrases that break through your old familiarity with the text. I did this one summer with Eugene Peterson’s The Message, reading one Gospel and one epistle chapter a day. Not only was this spiritually refreshing, but I came away with a long list of new ideas for sermons and texts burning to be preached.
- Lamen Sanneh’s little book, Whose Religion Is Christianity? The Gospel beyond the West (Eerdmans, 2003), will delight and surprise. It will also expose and challenge all of your Western assumptions.
- Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead: A Novel (Picador, 2004) is meaty, deep, and full of wise reflections on ministry, aging, marriage, and the mystery of human relationships across the generations. It’s not exactly beach reading, but it can be read meditatively on long summer days. It’s the kind of book that fits one of Wesley’s rules for reading: All reading should be joined with meditation and prayer. Read a little, pray and meditate much.
L. Gregory Jones
SeniorStrategistfor Leadership Education at Duke Divinity School
and Ruth W. and A. Morris Williams Jr. Professor of Christian Ministry
Duke Divinity School
All three of the books I recommend have a focus on holiness. In contemporary culture, we tend to get too focused on beliefs or activities in ways that are disconnected from what it means to have our lives formed and shaped by the call to be holy before the Triune God.
- Gregory the Great, The Book of Pastoral Rule (ed. John Behr; trans. George E. Demacopoulos; St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2007). This text from the sixth century is a powerful meditation on the importance of holiness in shaping the lives of clergy.
- Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov (trans. Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky; North Point Press, 1990). Novels are often a powerful vehicle for Christian reflection, and this classic nineteenth century work offers, through the holiness of Alyosha and Father Zossima, the most compelling response to Ivan Karamazov’s protest atheism.
- Richard P. Heitzenrater, Wesley and the People Called Methodists (Abingdon, 1995). A powerful description of the Methodist movement and what can happen when people, set aflame by the Holy Spirit, cultivate holiness of heart and life.
Beth Felker Jones
Associate Professor of Theology
- Vincent Donovan, Christianity Rediscovered (Orbis, 2003). An older book that I read this year for the first time, Donovan’s account of bringing the gospel to the Maasai people is theologically astute and also quite moving. In a world in which the global nature of the faith is a fresh topic, Donovan has a lot of wisdom to offer.
- Sarah Coakley, God, Sexuality, and the Self: An Essay ‘On the Trinity’ (Cambridge University Press, 2013). If you’re interested in reading one of the most talked about, and likely influential, voices in contemporary systematic theology, this is your book. Coakley offers a thought-provoking, “Spirit-leading” account of the Trinity, one that will have repercussions for our lives as gendered and sexual persons. If you’re interested in my full review, you’ll find it here.
- George Saunders, The Tenth of December (Random House, 2013). It takes a lot to get me interested in a collection of short stories, but this one from Saunders is not to be missed. The cultural commentary here is priceless, and Saunders wrestles especially with questions about class that are very important for ministry.
Amy Laura Hall
Associate Professor of Christian Ethics
Duke University Divinity School
Greg Jones taught me years ago that teaching Christian ethics through novels is helpful. He introduced me to Tyler’s Saint Maybe and Kimmel’s The Solace of Leaving Early. I’d also recommend these three novels for seminarians and pastors thinking through what it means to reckon with holiness and healing today.
- Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye (1970)
- Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale (1985)
- Marilynne Robinson, Home (2008)
Professor of Systematic Theology
- Scott Anderson, Lawrence in Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East (Doubleday, 2013): A very well written and fascinating account of exactly what the sub-title claims. Needless to say, the topic is of great contemporary geo-political import.
- Walter Moberly, Old Testament Theology: Reading the Hebrew Bible as Christian Scripture (Baker Academic, 2013): Wonderfully clear examples of how to interpret and understand selected portions of the Christian Old Testament. His approach is very helpful, and reading through it should deepen biblical understanding and help strengthen biblical preaching and teaching in congregations and ministries.
- Sarah Coakley, God, Sexuality and the Self: An Essay “On the Trinity” (Cambridge University Press, 2013): A fairly readable presentation of a whole-body theological approach (theologie totale) by one of the most eminent of theologians active today. This book has already hit the theology blog pond. In it she defends the doctrine of the Trinity in terms of prayer, patristics, gender theory, desire, and religious experience. A fascinating theological odyssey.