A List for Pre-Seminary Summer Reading

A friend of mine and regular reader and commenter on this blog is about to enter seminary at Gordon-Conwell this fall. I wanted to send her a list of books for some good pre-seminary summer reading. I tried to think of interesting books that will be somewhat challenging, offer new vocabulary that will help in seminary, shape ideas about theology and the church. Plus they’re books that I find just exciting to read. I also wanted big picture books, not with actual pictures (who ever heard of such a thing?!), but books that can help get a little bit of perspective over what’s going on in the culture and church. The first five, are the five picks I sent to my friend, the next few are really good and if you have the extra time they should be read.The references are just an added bonus, they may be helpful when you need to figure out a question about a word, person, or when you’re working on papers (I threw the Quaker book in there for good measure). There’s a glaring omission in this list, I wanted to find a good feminist book that would be entry level but I am sure which one would suffice. Are there any suggestions? There is one book that looks really good and I’m willing to recommend it now even though I haven’t finished reading it, it’s called, “Saving Women From the Church: How Jesus Mends a Divide,” by Susan McLeod-Harrison. So if you do want to get a book that deals with woman issues as it pertains to the church and ministry this is one I’d suggest for now.

The Reading List

Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism? By James K. Smith
–>A really good big picture of some major philosophical questions that pertain to contemporary culture and the emerging church. I love this book.

Body Politics By John Howard Yoder
–>One of Yoder’s simple yet profound works. It looks at five practices the church needs to engage in to be a witness to the world, will also being faithful to the Gospel. This book is great for ministry, theological reflection and thinking about how all this connects with everyday life.

The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind by Mark Noll*
–>Mark Noll is one of my favorite Evangelical historians (George Marsden you’re in there too!) and this book is perfect for putting the pieces together on what Evangelicalism is, and some of the problems its run into in recent times. It’s a fun read and it helps to put seminary education into context.

The Younger Evangelicals by Robert Webber*
–>This book picks up on where the previous one leaves off. It’s aimed at the young people (think emerging-church-minded people) within Evangelicalism. It shows the shaping of this group’s practices, thoughts and what it means for the future of church.

An Introduction to Ecclesiology by Veli-Mati Karkkainen*
–>Karkkainen is a systematic theologian at Fuller and all his stuff is excellent. This is a great book that will introduce you to some of the main theological thinkers and their ideas about what the church is, and what it ought to be. He even gives space for ‘radical’ theologians like my favorite James McClendon. This will help you get familiar with some important names, ideas as well as give you a vision for what the broader church is doing in the global context.

Extra Reading

Jesus and Community by Gerhard Lohfink
–>A great book done by a Catholic NT scholar who looks to put Jesus in the context of his culture and show just how important Jesus message and his practices were to his original audience. It also has direct implications for the church today. This is one of my absolute favorite books I read in Seminary.

The Shape of Things to Come by Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch
–>A superb introduction to missional church, culture and the practices behind this influential and important movement.

How to Think Theologically By Howard W. Stone and James O. Duke
–>A book that will help prepare you for what’s in store, some of the ideas behind theological thinking, etc.

A Few Good References For Seminary:

NRSV Pocket Bible by God (and Oxford Press)

Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms (Pocket Dictionary) by Stanley Grenz

20th Century Theology by Stanley Grenz (a dictionary-like book on some key theologians in the past century)

Modern Theologians By David Ford

A Writers Manual by Kate Turabian

The Quakers: A Very Short Introduction by Pink Dandelion

How about the rest of you, what are your 5 or 6 books you’d recommend as good preparation for seminary?