I was asked a few months back by one of our young guys at church to recommend some resources on theology that are not really difficult and not really boring for him to check out. I’ve thought hard about that question. I do, of course, think it’s incredibly valuable to read good theology, but I also know that not everyone is all that interested in digging into deep theological academic works. So what might I recommend that is accessible, fun, and yet solid literature for the non-theology reader. Here’s the list I’ve composed:
1) Death by Love: Letters from the Cross by Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears
This is an incredibly gritty volume on the doctrine of the atonement, or a book about what Jesus accomplished when he died on the cross. In the book Mark Driscoll discusses how the gospel applies to the various dark and startling scenarios of the people in his congregation. How does the gospel apply to a girl tormented by demons, a man whose father was abusive, a child molester, an adulterer. These are letters written from a pastor’s heart to people in need of the gospel, but they are also rich in theological truth. Application and abstract thought abound in this rare volume. Check out my full review of it here.
2) Dallas and the Spitfire by Ted Kluck and Dallas Jahncke
More of a moving tale of two friends who are struggling to follow Jesus than a “theology book,” but don’t let the story fool you. This is living-theology. This is a work all about the call to follow Christ and help others do the same. Check out my recent review of this book here.
3) Tempted and Tried by Russell D. Moore
This was easily my favorite book last year. Moore is a compelling, engaging, and accessible writer. This is a book about our ongoing struggle with sin and how we can fight temptation by means of the gospel. Moore is Dean of the School of Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, but don’t let that scare you. He is incredibly funny, creative, and easy to read. If you want help addressing your struggle with sin check out this book. Read my review here.
4) What is the Gospel? by Greg Gilbert
This small, simple, and yet focused explication of the good news of salvation is very helpful. It doesn’t delineate every aspect of the gospel, but it does a great job of outlining essentials for us. Gilbert, my former pastor, has a heart for communicating truth clearly which makes this book easy to read. The content is also clearly important as so many people are targeting implications of the gospel as the gospel itself. Gilbert does a great job of differentiating the one from the other.
5) Christian Beliefs by Wayne and Elliot Grudem
This is systematic theology light. The 28 basics that every Christian should know are summarized in three or four pages. Elliot Grudem has done a great job of condensing his father’s major work into something simple and accessible, but he has done it without losing any of the clarity and Biblical support. This is a great starting place for introducing yourself to bigger doctrines.
6) God’s Big Picture by Vaughan Roberts
One of the most essential places to begin as you start to try to study theology has to be in understanding what the storyline of the Bible is all about. Vaughan Roberts has given us an incredibly useful and non-academic friendly resources in this small book. Covering the content of the storyline from Genesis to Revelation Roberts unpacks what God’s plan for our redemption was, how Jesus fits into that play from eternity past to future reign, and how the key stories of Scripture bring that plan into reality. It is a great read and a tremendous resource for me even still today.
7) A Book You’ll Actually Read Series by Mark Driscoll
The three volumes in this series are short, simple, and easy to read. They address the major questions in of theology in a concise fashion but without all the jargon. I applaud pastor Driscoll for undertaking this task of writing a series of theology books for the non-theology reader. Check out On Who Is God?, On The Old Testament, and On The New Testament.
8) Radical by David Platt
In this New York Times Best Seller, David Platt dismantles the American Dream piece by piece as he calls us to embrace the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the call to concern for missions. It is an easy read, but with an incredibly challenging message. He focuses on the picture of Jesus in the Gospels, and the call that Jesus makes on our lives and then demonstrates how that call is at odds with the American Dream. It is definitely worth the read!
9) The Dangerous Duty of Delight by John Piper
This pocket-sized book is packed with big theology. It’s a short simple read, but Piper won’t allow you to rush through it. The message needs careful consideration, sometimes multiple readings. But the effort you put into reading this short book will be deeply rewarding. Essentially, Piper communicates to us that if we do not delight in God then we have not actually obeyed God! Joy in God is not merely icing on the obedience cake it is part and parcel of what it means to bring him glory and honor. This book was incredibly formative in my young theological life. It’s worth reading carefully.
10) Why We’re Not Emergent by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck
In this witty, winsome, and informed book the authors trek us through the deficiencies of the Emergent theology and its more sound alternative. Covering everything from Postmodernism to the authority of Scripture, to the importance of theology. Each of the authors writes differently. DeYoung is a young a PCA pastor and writes as a theologian (though his writing is very accessible). Kluck is a sports writer and his writing often comes with a bit of tongue in cheek. The interplay of the two styles makes this a great and informed read, not just about Emergent theology, but about being a young Christian.
For our folks at Rev.: If there is a book on that list that you think you might like to read, talk with me and we will see about getting you a copy.