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100 best Christian books: 51-100

26 September 2014

51. The Epistle to the Romans by Karl Barth

“It was so refreshing to read a commentary that moved from the text and the first century, to contemporary issues, with such boldness and coherence . . . It was a revelation and a shock, [and] set question marks against my own liberal theology.” Alan Billing


52. The Crucified God by Jürgen Moltmann

The Crucified God relates death, despair, and the dark side of the human condition to a liberating hope of redemption through divine agony and suffering.

“If I had to single out the work of 20th-century theology that has had most influence on me, this would be it.” Ian Bradley


53. Being as Communion by John Zizioulas

“This seminal text sets out a vision of creation, and human beings in particular, as intrinsically related to the Trinitarian God, drawing on classic patristic theology, but cast in a modern quasi-existential light.” Peter Forster


54. The Journal of John Wesley by John Wesley

“Wesley’s Journal is rich in detail, and the story of the evolving of a new and radical force in Christianity. As well as being an in- sight into his theology, pastoral priorities, and social concerns, this is by any standards an impressive record of human endeavour.” David Winter


55. Journal of a Soul by Pope by John XXIII 

From the age of 14 until his death at the age of 82, Pope John XXIII kept a record of his growth in holiness.

“One of my true spiritual heroes is Angelo Roncalli, the beloved Pope John XXIII, who died when I was on a visit to Venice with my parents. . . I recall walking across a wet St Mark’s Square, and pausing, as my father, seeing a black-edged newspaper and reading the front cover, started to cry.” Charles Middleburgh


56. Mystical Theology and Celestial Hierarchies by Dionysius the Areopagite

“Not as readable as The Cloud of Unknowing, though very short — but . . . has affected the whole subsequent tradition, and is today among the most frequently discussed of Patristic works by philosophers, as well as theologians.” George Pattison


57. The Rules and Exercises of Holy Dying by Jeremy Taylor

“His book . . . brought a small-c ‘catholic’ style of piety to a 17th-century English Church that was hungry for such nurture. His spirituality was essentially practical and plain-speaking, not overloaded with learning and references. . . I’d have it in my personal top ten.” Cally Hammond


58. Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners by John Bunyan

Grace Abounding is a sprituality autobiography — a genre which flourished in 17th century England, as anxiety over one’s spiritual state encouraged rigorous self-scrutiny and the sharing of spiritual experiences. “I have chosen Grace Abounding . . . in place of the more popular Pilgrim’s Progress. A comparison of the two shows the superiority of autobiography... over allegory in spiritual writing.” John Arnold


59. Five Theological Orations by St Gregory of Nazianzus

“The best representation of fine theological reasoning, combined — using intellectual rigour — with intense devotion and spirituainsight. It expresses the full understanding of the Holy Spirit in the Trinity as classically understood later.” Cally Hammond


60. Introduction to the Devout Life by St Francis de Sales

“St Frances de Sales was one of the most pastorally sensitive and empathetic writers ever; he doesn’t suffer from the clericalism that infects the writers of so many spiritual ‘classics’ and makes lay people feel guilty and inferior for having other things on their mind than God.” Alison Shell


61. The Peaceable Kingdom by Stanley Hauerwas

“The Peaceable Kingdom brings together the tradition of virtue ethics with a theological commitment to non-violence, showing why Jesus is foundational to both. It is perhaps the most accessible work in the field of ecclesial ethics.” Sam Wells


62. An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine by John Henry Newman

“The first work by an Englishman — at least since the day of William of Ockham — to shake the theological schools of Europe.” John Court


63. God of Surprises by Gerard Hughes

“An introduction to Ignatian spirituality that changed my prayer life.” Simon Jones


64. A Grief Observed by C. S. Lewis

“Here [Lewis] reveals his vulnerable side, in reflections on the death of his wife, Joy. Many bereaved people have found this among his most attractive works.” John Barton


65. God, Sexuality and the Self by Sarah Coakley

“Coakley argues that desire is the most fundamental and telling facet of human identity, and that the Christian God... calls us to desire the vision of ourselves as we are drawn into participation with the divine life. . . This searching book refuses to see theology as a purely cerebral activity.” Jane Williams


66. The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri Nouwen

“This is a powerful reflection on the parable of the Prodigal Son, especially as depicted in the painting by Rembrandt. We are encouraged to see ourselves as each of the protagonists and onlookers.” Jenny Monds


67. Old Testament Theology, Vol. I by Gerhard von Rad

“Von Rad injected new life into the study of Old Testament theology by using the tools of biblical criticism to identify not one, but several theologies in Israel’s salvation history — and ours.” John Saxbee


68. Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing by Søren Kierkegaard

“Kierkegaard’s brief but moving book can stand as a commentary on T. S. Eliot’s famous lines ‘a condition of complete simplicity (costing not less than everything)’. He describes the Christian life as focused on total attention to God.” John Barton


69. The Foolishness of God by John Austin Baker

“A comprehensive, very readable guide which deals with all the main aspects of Christian doctrine. It is hard to find a better book than this as an introduction to the Christian faith.” Barry Morgan Dr Barry Morgan is the Archbishop of Wales.


70. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

“The first-person story of the life of a Congregationalist minister in a small American town, told while he is dying. It is a subtle patchwork of ordinary life with all its small griefs, disasters, missteps, selfishnesses and generosities, and its pattern of human interdependence and unintended consequences.” Bernice Martin


71. The Descent of the Dove by Charles Williams

“It courses out the history of the Holy Spirit and the Church, but one of the most interesting things it does is say that the Holy Spirit is operating outside the Church, and teaching the Church. Malcolm Guite



72. The True Wilderness by Harry Williams

“Williams was one of the most original Christian thinkers since the war. He wrote at a certain stage in his life that he would only write about the truth about God as he had experienced it. . . The result . . . was a masterpiece, The True Wilderness, that rarest of things — a collection of sermons that became a bestseller.” Robin Baird-Smith


73. The Man Born to Be King by Dorothy L. Sayers

“It had a big influence in making people think about the humanity of Christ without losing track of the divinity. Very controversial in its time.” Malcolm Guite


74. The Go-Between God by John V. Taylor

“A masterly account . . . of the necessary presence of the Holy Spirit; fluent, grounded, intelligent, and measured. It caught the incoming tide of the Charismatic movement while balancing brain against the over-excitement that repelled some thoughtful people.” Martyn Halsall


75. The Stature of Waiting by W. H. Vanstone

“He describes Christ as a waiting figure, who, in his waiting, discloses the deepest dimension of the glory of God. This truth I experienced day by day at the bedside of those vulnerable people who became my theological teachers.” James Woodward


76. The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene

“Greene’s ‘whisky priest’, who knew at the end that ‘there was only one thing that counted — to be a saint’, is not only one of the most memorable characters in modern literature, he also gives all of us who know that we are failures the courage to go on.” John Pridmore


77. Complete Poems by Emily Dickinson

“Always the spider and never the fly, Dickinson’s poems — untitled, unsettling, and often undervalued — jump the heart back into pace.” Mark Oakley


78. Naught for Your Comfort by Trevor Huddleston

“[This was] the first book that made me aware of the cruelty of the practice of apartheid in South Africa. It also made me think about the religious life. Here was a priest, a member of a religious order, who had given his life to God, the Church, and the world.” Jonathan Ewer


79. Lux Mundi Charles Gore, editor

“If you look at the arguments of the day, it’s essentially that Lux Mundi was in a different key. . . It was huge; there were sort of violent riots and things. . . The phrase ‘liberal Catholicism’, which we now use a lot, finds its heart in Lux Mundi. Rupert Shortt


80. On Being a Christian by Hans Küng

“Hans Küng argues that, notwithstanding Christianity’s pre-modern origins, it is possible to be a Christian in the modern world. This is probably his most influential book: his sympathetic approach to current doctrinal dilemmas helped many Vatican II-type Roman Catholics — and others — to keep the faith.” John Saxbee


81. Paul and the Faithfulness of God by N. T. Wright

“A massive work by one of this generation’s outstanding biblical scholars. [He] sets out to marry history and theology in the teaching of St Paul, as he maps out the divine purpose in Jesus for Israel and for humanity. This is a readable but masterly work of scholarship.” David Winter


82. The Christian Faith by Friedrich Schleiermacher

“In Schleiermacher, Pietism met Romanticism, and bred a new approach to religion as a sense and taste for the infinite. Religious experience is more important than dogma, and Christianity is only the purest form of a range of religions. Schleiermacher had a huge influence on 19th-century theology.” Peter Forster


83. Principles of Christian Theology by John Macquarrie

“His achievement centres on a capacity to frame Christian orthodoxy as the answer to the deepest philosophical questions, and thus as both credible and relevant to the contemporary enquirer.” Rupert Shortt


84. Surprised by Joy by C. S. Lewis

“Lewis describes his journey of resistance to the inexorable force of God’s love, through bereavement, atheism, and military service.” Dana Delap


85. The Courage to Be by Paul Tillich

“I was very influenced by Tillich’s method of correlation . . . and inspired by his taking of art seriously, theologically. Though highly criticised by today’s academic trends, this book’s exploration of our deepest anxieties still stands.” Mark Oakley


86. Basic Christianity by John Stott

“The thing about John Stott. . . is he was a sea change for Evangelicals . . . in broadening their approach to social issues.” David Winter


87. Evil and the God of Love by John Hick

“Hick’s arguments have been deemed to be flawed by many critics, but many readers, myself among them, have found his affirmation of an Irenaean rather than an Augustinian theodicy both revelatory and liberating.” John Pridmore


88. Actes and Monuments by John Foxe (Book of Martyrs)

“This is not a good book; it’s a bad one — indeed, it’s a terrible book, in every sense. But it’s also incredibly important. Foxe’s Book of Martyrs was, of course, a foundational text for English Protestants in the 17th and 18th centuries, helping to shape their view and their fears of Roman Catholics.” William Whyte


89. The Stripping of the Altars by Eamon Duffy

“Written with both heart and head, this book laments the spiritual vandalism of the Reformation, and lovingly records practices of faith in an era supposedly free of dispute over the truths of faith.” Cally Hammond


90. Jesus the Jew by Géza Vermes

“There are problems with this book; indeed, virtually a whole industry exists to prove just that. Yet it is important precisely because it sparked such a critical debate. It also remains a wonderful introduction not just to Jesus the Jew, but Jesus the man.” William Whyte


91. Readings in St John’s Gospels by William Temple

“I have to confess that I venerate it, almost like the Gospel itself. Nothing else has ever brought St John to such vivid life, and I turn to it again and again for preaching, and for inspiration.” Stephen Cottrell


92. Peter Abelard by Helen Waddell

“Helen Waddell’s great novel, harrowing and heartbreaking, is a story of human and divine love. Her achievement . . . is to recover for us the recognition that the love of God and our human passions flow from a single fountain.” John Pridmore


93. Love Almighty and Ills Unlimited by Austin Farrer

“This is, quite simply, the best attempt yet at trying to hold together God’s love with the evil of the world. Farrer never forgets that God has given the world a genuine autonomy, and he never tries to draw easy consolation from suffering. On the contrary, the good things in life give rise to far more good than the ills ever can.” Richard Harries


94. Ninety-Six Sermons by Lancelot Andrewes

“Beautiful prose. Andrewes’s biblical exegesis draws the most out of every word, and makes the familiar illuminating.” Denise Inge


95. The Diary of a Country Priest by Georges Bernanos

“The Diary of a Country Priest is about the trials faced by a rural pastor. His life is not easy: the congregation do not respect him; he confronts one melancholy experience after another. Yet the story still feels uplifting when viewed with the eye of faith.” Rupert Shortt


96. The Vision of God by Kenneth E. Kirk

“The greatest account of Anglican moral theology in the 20th century.” Nick Holtam


97. Theology and Social Theory by John Milbank

“Milbank’s chief argument . . . is that the social sciences are themselves haunted by unacknowledged — and deeply questionable — theological assumptions. Although this thesis proved contentious, few doubt that it was a game-changer.” Rupert Shortt


98. The Gospel and the Catholic Church by Michael Ramsey

“This is very much a book of its time, reflecting the biblical theology that was in vogue in British universities in the 1930s. Nevertheless, it remains a classic piece of Anglican theological reflection.” Christopher Irvine


99. The Glass of Vision by Austin Farrer

“This book . . . says something utterly original about how we learn of God through scripture and the tradition, and, as with all of Farrer’s work, it is beautifully written.” Stephen Platten


100. The Need for Roots by Simone Weil

“This dense book was written by the French philosopher Simone Weil in 1943, looking for a regeneration of society after the War. She sees society as having been ‘uprooted’ from its real foundations, and shows how new roots could be established, politically, spiritually, and socially.” Robert Jeffery

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