good theology

So a while back I posted on the art of magic in fiction.  I asked readers what they recommended for some good fantasy reads, and the result was a pretty long list of suggestions, and an offshoot list from Will.  Not bloody bad, if I do say so myself.  So now I’m returning to the podium to ask for a different sort of read altogether: good theology.  I’m looking for authors, books, essays, websites – whatever.  Also good histories of religion, the Church, etc.  (Philosophy counts.)

Much thanks.

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33 thoughts on “good theology

  1. While it isn’t strictly responsive to your request, I’ll recommend C. S. Lewis’s “The Screwtape Letters,” which I’ve recently finished re-reading. Lewis wrote for a popular audience, and the result is as clever and timeless as the better known “Narnia” series, though more explicitly religious in nature. For those who haven’t read it, the letters are a series of essays from the Undersecretary of the Department of Temptation, a very senior demon, to his nephew Wormwood, a novice demon, on how best to guide his “patient” to “Our Father’s House.” The letters touch in their acidic fashion on belief and disbelief, morality, and divine grace. And they’re very funny in the blackest of humor. The Philip Pullmans of the world, who paint Lewis as some sort of evangelist, tend to ignore this work, which discusses in its way how Lewis arrived at faith through reason.

    The collected Screwtape Letters are probably one of my ten favorite books, and I say that as an agnostic who hasn’t reached Lewis’s conclusions about God, and who doesn’t believe in the devil either.

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  2. When i was in college some of my history professors really liked us to read primary material from the period. I would recommend two works;

    Historia Ecclesiastica

    The Rule of St. Benedict

    The first one is a bit hard to get through, but it’s an important work. The second one isn’t too bad. Both are very insightful into the history of the early church.

    And of course there are St.Paul’s Letters which are the most instructive parts of the Bible (IMO) regarding the organization of the early Church.

    Lastly, I’m a big fan of Thomas Merton. He’s the Thoreau of the theological world.

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  3. [If we are talking Christian theology…]

    Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Letters and Papers from Prison

    MLK, Jr.: Letter from a Birmingham Jail

    Paul Tillich: A History of Christian Thought

    Karl Barth: Humanity and God

    Anything by Hans Balthasar (tough to read but off the charts genius).

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  4. In terms of mystical theology:

    St. Maximus (mentioned by Nathan)

    St. John of the Cross: Ascent of Mount Carmel and Spiritual Canticle

    Meister Eckhart’s Sermons (translated by Matthew Fox–ignore his commentary I would say however).

    Hadewijch of Brabant (in the Classics of Western Spirituality series)

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  5. Walter Kaufmann. _Faith of a Heretic_.

    I don’t want to say that this is the greatest book ever or anything like that because that always comes off as hyperbole. I’ll just say that reading it felt like a love letter.

    http://faculty.plts.edu/gpence/html/kaufmann.htm

    That’s the essay he wrote for Harper’s in 1959… and he wrote the book as an expansion of the essay.

    http://www.amazon.com/Faith-Heretic-Walter-Kaufmann/dp/0385066511

    Two used and new from $30! That’s a bargain, if you ask me… but if you read the essay and shrug and say “eh”, you’ll have saved yourself some cash. If you are me, however, you’ll buy another copy so that you can give it away (again).

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  6. I’ve read Maximus and some John of the Cross, Mike. My undergraduate program expected it of me.

    Teresa of Avila, too; Julian of Norwich.

    Niebuhr’s good for a very good liberal Christian assessment of the America.

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  7. I’m gonna second on Tillich’s history of christian thought and buber’s ich und du. Two of my all time faves, most definitely. Tillich’s systematic theology I and II are also worth your time, despite their length and imposing titles.

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  8. I’m going to make an out-of-left-field pitch: They’re not theology, but they’re, in a manner of speaking, theological: Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead and Home. Were I a more capable, sincere writer than I am, I should discourse ceaselessly on the importance of faith, home, family, and place in these works, but I can merely commend them to you, to all interested. Incomparable profundity, that’s what Robinson offers (even if her religious background, liberal Protestant, isn’t exactly my cup of tea).

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  9. The Humility of God by Ilia Delio
    On Religion by John D. Caputo
    The Gift of Death by Jacques Derrida
    Figuring the Sacred by Paul Ricoeur
    History and Truth by Paul Ricoeur
    Theology and Sanity by Frank Sheed

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  10. Mysticism and Space, Camel Bendon Davis….I reviewed it and she’s brilliant.
    The Philosophy of Revelation, F. Schelling….just now reading a critique of it; this is a seminal book related to God, being and Infinite Being. Can’t find an English translation…if anybody knows of one let me know!
    Finite and Eternal Being, Edith Stein…..there’s a reason the Catholics made this Jewish girl a saint, she touched the face of God.

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  11. Pavel Florensky, The Pillar and Ground of the Truth. The greatest work of philosophy or theology ever written (and yes, that includes the Republic, the Summa, etc.)

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  12. Boethius, Consolation of Philosophy
    (I really like this description of the work, from, admittedly, Wiki:

    Boethius sought to answer religious questions without reference to Christianity, relying solely on natural philosophy and the Classical Greek tradition. He believed in harmony between faith and reason. The truths found in Christianity would be no different from the truths found in philosophy. In the words of Henry Chadwick, “If the Consolation contains nothing distinctively Christian, it is also relevant that it contains nothing specifically pagan either…[it] is a work written by a Platonist who is also a Christian, but is not a Christian work.”)

    St. Anselm, Proslogion

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  13. The Bible ;)
    Calvin’s Institutes
    The Four Cardinal Virtues by Joseph Pieper
    Leisure, the Basis of Culture by Joseph Pieper
    Pollution and the Death of Man by Francis Schaeffer
    The God Who is There by Francis Schaeffer
    Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton
    The Bondage of the Will by Martin Luther
    anything by C.S. Lewis or Henri Nouwen

    hoo boy, there is so much more, but that is off the top of my head.

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  14. Oh yeah, Veritatis Splendor by John Paul II is very good if I recall correctly.

    And for mystical theology, John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila are great, though I do not agree with everything, no longer being Catholic.

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  15. Agree with much of the above, especially Taylor. If you grok Orthodoxy, check out Chesterton’s biographies of Saints Thomas and Francis.

    For less classical, more recent stuff, Frederiek Depoortere’s “Christ in Postmodern Philosophy” is fun and has a very complete bibliography.

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