***List updated December 2018
I initially made this list back in 2013 and since then I often find myself sharing it as a resource for others. As I continue to read, I also continue to refine my list. Below are my top fifteen recommendations for theology books.
These are not the deepest theological books you’ll ever find or even books you are likely to find in a Bible college setting. Instead, these books serve as great examples of practical theology that is approachable enough for anyone to understand (as is not the case with most theology books). Taken as an entire list, they cover a wide variety of topics that I think the typical Christian should be familiar with in at least a basic sense. As such, I’d highly recommend this list to anyone looking to deepen their understanding of Scripture and how God interacts with His people.
I can assure you that you won’t agree with all that you read on this list (I don’t myself), but I can also promise you they will cause you to ask new questions, think new thoughts, and walk away with a stronger grasp of your faith.
- Cross Vision by Greg Boyd – What if the harshest aspects of God in the Old Testament actually help us see the most beautiful aspects of Jesus on the cross? This book will show you how to read the Bible with fresh eyes and cause you never to see God the same way again. Easily one of the best and most transformative books I’ve ever read.
- What is the Bible? by Rob Bell – Rob is still a polarizing name, but I think this might be his best book yet. It will allow you to read the Bible with a fresh energy and give you a wider paradigm to understand it.
- The Naked Gospel by Andrew Farley – Understanding how Christ’s death invites us into a new covenant changes everything. This book will free you from much of the legalism of cultural Christianity.
- A Farewell to Mars by Brian Zahnd – Zahnd breaks down our need and dependence upon violence, especially the subconscious hold it has over us. This is a tough sell for Christians in America as I’ve personally experienced in the process of changing my own views on this the last couple of years.
- The Cross and the Lynching Tree by James Cone. This book rocked me. Cone unpacks the nature of the cross in light of America’s history of lynching. It is amazing how it moves you back and forth between tears and a renewed hope for what God wants to do through us.
- The Myth of a Christian Nation by Greg Boyd – Every now and then I’ll read a book that will so challenge my ideas that it causes me to rethink things that I’ve long ago concluded. This book articulates a tension that I’ve lived with for years now but have struggled to navigate. For any Christian in America that wonders how their faith should impact their political involvement, this is a must-read.
- A Faith Not Worth Fighting For by Tripp York and Justin Bronson Barringer – I wish you knew when you were about to be completely rocked by something. This book was that type for me. Often a book like this with a collection of essays from multiple authors feels disjointed and repetitive. Not so with this. I was amazed how the chapters seemed to tackle all of the questions I had going into this book and how well the authors painted a mural of perspective.
- God of the Possible by Greg Boyd – This book addresses what to do with all of the passages in the Bible that talk about God changing His mind, or God being surprised, or God laying out possible scenarios for people. It challenges the classical view of God’s foreknowledge and will ignite your experience with God and will unleash your prayer life.
- Unclean by Richard Beck – This book rocked my world. This is a more heady read, so it may be tough depending on how disciplined you are as a reader, but it gives plenty to chew and reflect on. It will forever change how you view the world around you.
- The Prophetic Imagination by Walter Brueggemann – Brueggemann explores the role of the prophetic voice throughout the scriptures and invites the church to continue living out this role in any culture today. A much-needed read for the American church.
- Benefit of the Doubt by Greg Boyd – Greg does an excellent job challenging the supposed value of certainty in our faith. Around chapter nine the book really kicks it into overdrive. He explains that all of Scripture must be read and understood through the lens of the cross. It will change the way you read the Bible.
- Half the Church by Carolyn Custis James – James does a terrific job showing the value of women both Biblically and practically, as well as showing the injustices that have been done to them. As you might have guessed, she also points out the obvious reality that women are half the church.
- People to be Loved by Preston Sprinkle – Few topics are as contentious these days as a Biblical view of sexuality (especially homosexuality). Sprinkle takes an objective look at what the Scriptures say about sexuality and how we can apply it today.
- Strength to Love by Martin Luther King Jr. – One of the most quotable books I’ve ever read. Looks at the big picture of King’s theology and how he encouraged others to live out their faith as well.
- Her Gates Will Never be Shut by Brad Jersak – The best book on hell I’ve ever read. Jersak does an amazing job arguing for the three dominant Biblical views on hell and offers a way to make sense of them.
As always, you can see my current reading list with ratings for each book (see: Reading List).