In a previous post I outlined several of the main theological disciplines for “doing theology.” I had a few questions regarding suggested books for these disciplines, so I’m going to mentioned a few books with brief explanations. There are numerous books out there on these topics, so feel free to mention others. I’m going to limit myself to 3-4 per topic (maybe!), and explain why I listed them.
The classic book on Greek (New Testament) exegesis is Gordon Fee’s New Testament Exegesis. Fee’s book examines the main components of exegesis when examining a particular text: structure, grammar, words, background, and other aspects of exegesis. Although Fee’s is the classic that has been used in New Testament studies, I really like the new book edited by Darrell L. Bock and Buist M. Fanning, Interpreting the New Testament Text: Introduction to the Art and Science of Exegesis. Go to the link and take a look at its table of contents. They explain exegesis and then provide various examples from different scholars. The counterpart to Fee’s book is Douglas Stuart’s Old Testament Exegesis. Walter Kaiser’s Toward an Exegetical Theology: Biblical Exegesis for Preaching and Teaching is a book that moves more in the direction of taking exegesis toward the goal of preaching and teaching. Finally, D. A. Carson’s Exegetical Fallacies teaches sound exegetical principles while warning about the various fallacies that are often committed in the process of exegesis.
The classic work of Reformed biblical theology is Geerhardus Vos’s Biblical Theology. This is a book everyone should read on this topic as it demonstrates the fundamentals of this discipline. More recently, Graeme Goldsworthy has contributed several helpful books to the topic of Biblical Theology. I would suggest According to Plan. He not only articulates the method of biblical theology, but he also provides a structure of Biblical Theology for the whole Bible. A smaller book that applies Goldsworthy’s method is Vaughn Robert’s God’s Big Picture. Goldsworthy has other books on Biblical Theology and preaching, prayer, and hermeneutics. I think The New Dictionary of Biblical Theology is a book that anyone interested in actually “doing” Biblical theology should own. It actually covers the topics Vos and Goldswrothy cover, and it provides other resources as well.
Where should I begin for this discipline? There are many great systematic theologies available. If you are new to systematic theology, try something like Bruce Milne’s Know the Truth, or Wayne Grudem’s smaller Bible Doctrine. Both of these books provide the large structure of systematic theological categories, but on a smaller scale than larger works. Louis Berkhof’s work Systematic Theology is still a Reformed classic because he covers everything in a traditional manner in one volume. Everyone should own this volume. For newer works, I really like Michael Horton’s Christian Faith. But my favorite systematic theology has now become Herman Bavinck’s four volume Reformed Dogmatics. If you could only buy one, and you wanted readability and a comprehensive treatment, spend the money on this one.
For a good basic work, take a look at Alister McGrath’s Historical Theology: An Introduction to the History of Christian Thought. A good recent work is Gregg Allison’s Historical Theology (this is actually something of a companion to Grudem’s large Systematic Theology). For those wanting more detail, Jeroslav Pelikan’s five volume The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine is the work to get. Here are the individual volumes:
- Volume 1: Emergence of the Catholic Tradition: 100-600
- Volume 2: The Spirit of Eastern Christendom: 600-1700
- Volume 3: Growth of Medieval Theology: 600-1300
- Volume 4: Reformation of Church and Dogma: 1300-1700
- Volume 5: Christian Doctrine and Modern Culture: Since 1700
This might not be a topic of interest to many, but it has been crucial for the development of doctrine, as well as the interface of Christianity and culture. One of the places to begin is with the author Diogenes Allen who has two helpful books on this topic that complement each other. Primary Readings in Philosophy for Understanding Theology provides just what the title says: readings from important sources in the development of theology, such as Plato, Aristotle, Hegel, Kant, and others. His other book, Philosophy for Understanding Theology, explains how various philosophers influenced the development of theology. For example, chapter 1 is titled, “Plato: The World is the Handiwork of a Mind.” I think his two books are a good introduction to the intersection of philosophy and theology. If this area is of interest and you want to move beyond these two works, be sure to search for some of the works on natural theology. Blackwell is about to come out with a paperback version of their Companion to Natural Theology, and Alister McGrath also has some recent books on the topic of natural theology as well. Also, take a look at The Oxford Handbook of Philosophical Theology, edited by Thomas P. Flint and Michael C. Rea.