Best Theology Books for Normal People
My brother, a very bright and educated man who is a lawyer in the state of Washington, recently sent me an email with the following request:
“I'm looking for two (or more) books: one on prophecy/eschatology, and one on the Holy Spirit. I'm not looking for anything scholarly, but I would like something a bit deeper than The Late Great Planet Earth, and Billy Graham's The Holy Spirit. Do you have any recommendations?”
I loved the question. And it gave me even more intellectual respect for my brother than I already had. Here’s why:
…he had the humility to ask;
…he has a thirst for spiritual knowledge;
…he knew the “sweet spot” for an intellectual life – not academic tomes too often written to impress other academics, nor pop theology that has little depth.
I sent him some titles to consider, but it prompted me to suggest a few titles for every major area of Christian theology. The list isn’t exhaustive, but it is indicative. And also, hopefully, helpful to others who would like to hit the same “sweet spot” for intellectual life.
The titles might surprise you. Some are even booklets. But remember, I’m not offering the list to impress fellow academicians. I’m offering the list because these are the most helpful, accessible, balanced books on the seven major areas of Christian theology I know of. And yes, one or two of them are my own. But I’m done being self-conscious about that. I wouldn’t have written them if I didn’t feel they were needed.
You might also read the list with an eye to my own theological moorings. Yes, I’m an evangelical. Yes, I’m conservative. Yes, I have views on “hot” theological topics. But as a pastor and educator, my biggest bias is ensuring I recommend books that talk about things fairly and evenly – even in light of their own agenda.
Grenz, Stanley J. and Roger E. Olson. Who Needs Theology? An Invitation to the Study of God.
Thielicke, Helmut. A Little Exercise for Young Theologians.
White, James Emery. A Mind for God.
Bruce, F.F. The Canon of Scripture.
Bruce, F.F. The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?
Dockery, David S. The Doctrine of the Bible.
Stott, John R.W. The Authority of Scripture. (*booklet)
White, James Emery. Can We Trust the Bible? (*booklet)
Packer, J.I. Knowing God.
Sproul, R.C. The Holiness of God.
White, James Emery. Wrestling with God.
White, James Emery. Can We Believe in God? (*booklet)
Creation, Providence, Humanity
Friesen, Garry and J. Robin Maxson. Decision Making and the Will of God.
Lewis, C.S. The Problem of Pain.
Lewis, C.S. A Grief Observed.
Meilaender, Gilbert. Bioethics: A Primer for Christians.
Plantinga, Cornelius. Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be.
Wright, N.T. Evil and the Justice of God.
Yancey, Philip. Where Is God When It Hurts?
Person and Work of Christ
Erickson, Millard. The Word Became Flesh.
Klein, William W. The New Chosen People: A Corporate View of Election.
Olson, Roger. Arminian Theology.
Peterson, Robert A. and Michael D. Williams. Why I Am Not An Arminian.
Stott, John R. W. The Cross of Christ.
Strobel, Lee. The Case for Christ.
Walls, Jerry L. and Joseph R. Dongell. Why I Am Not A Calvinist.
Yancey, Phillip. The Jesus I Never Knew.
Person and Work of the Holy Spirit
Green, Michael. I Believe in the Holy Spirit.
Packer, J.I. Keep in Step With the Spirit.
Stott, John R. W. Baptism and Fullness: The Work of the Holy Spirit Today.
Colson, Charles. Being the Body.
Hybels, Lynne and Bill Hybels. Rediscovering Church.
Sumner, Sarah. Men and Women in the Church: Building Consensus on Christian Leadership.
White, James Emery. Rethinking the Church, Second Edition.
Erickson, Millard. A Basic Guide to Eschatology: Making Sense of the Millennium.
Bock, Darrel and Stan Gundry, Eds. Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond.
Next blog? In honor of it being the day of #CCConference2016 in the U.S., the 10 best books you can read – right now – on culture.
James Emery White
This list is one of the reasons why I am so passionate about Meck’s bookstore ministry, “The Grounds.” I’ve written before about the importance of church-based bookstores, and I believe in this now more than ever. Click here to find out why.
About the Author
James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, The Rise of the Nones: Understanding and Reaching the Religiously Unaffiliated, is available on Amazon. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church and Culture blog, visit ChurchAndCulture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.