Posted by: Billy Marsh | May 4, 2009

My Personal Theological Canon: An Introduction to Christian Theology

BooksA few weeks ago I had one of my students tell me that he had chosen Charles H. Spurgeon’s The Soul Winner for the book he was going to read and review for the Extra Credit assignment I allowed in the two college Greek courses I teach at The College at Southwestern. After talking a few moments about the book, he told me that he was going to read others on the list I had provided for the assignment on his own. He had given the list to his parents this past Christmas and told them just to buy him a good handful of works from the ones I had recommended. As I walked away from the conversation, I was both blessed and terrified.

I felt blessed and encouraged that the Lord had let me have this kind of influence on this student. I have a heavy heart for helping beginning theologians whether at school or in the church to be challenged to read books that they might otherwise pass over, especially those ones that have been monumental in my own walk with the Lord. On the other hand, I was terrified over the same principle. Immediately I saw myself in that student. I have entered every course in my Christian education with an empty hand and a hungry belly, longing to be fed. I’m the guy who takes seriously personal recommendations from professors. In fact, many of the literary pillars in my life are the result of hurriedly writing down the last name of an author and an abbreviated book title in chicken scratch on a sheet of loose-leaf notebook paper during class, and later finding it online or in the bookstore, buying it, and then reading it to forever be changed. So taking a step back and realizing that all of a sudden that role had just been reversed was both very humbling and frightening. I take comfort, however, knowing that the Lord will be faithful in using these writers in a powerful way in his life just as they were in mine.

Following that encounter, it struck me to expand my recommendation list and to do something which I have been wanting to do for awhile. So I put together a theological bibliography that covers the major aspects of Christian theology. Its format is based off the Systematic Theology Ph. D. canon that I received for being a part of that program at SWBTS; however, I have both added and taken away from it in some areas. I have a love for the academy for certain and a desire to play a role in it for the kingdom, yet, my heart is constantly yearning to be used of the Lord for those just beginning in their Christian education and for the everyday layman. Since entering North Greenville College as a Christian Studies major, I have had a brokenness for the theologically deprived church goers, who would have a love for deep, rich theology if only someone would reach out to them and be used of the Lord to arouse within them a passion for the knowledge of God. It is sad to say, but without careful guidance, most Christians who are unfamiliar with orthodoxy and what should and shouldn’t be read, they are going to walk out the door of their local Christian bookstore with something that should have never been put on the shelves. These books always do more harm than good.

The list I have compiled has further explanation on the page I created for it. I won’t go into any more detail in describing it here than to say three things: (1) It is not meant to be exhaustive or overly academic; (2) It was made for laymen and beginning students of Christian theology; thus, the list should serve as a guide and introduction to the authoritative works, old and new, in each respective field; and (3) Although made for others, the list is a reflection of me. With that in mind you’ll see the appearances of my own theological biases and my favorite authors. For instance, I’ve added a section on Christ and Culture which is a field that I have great interest in, however, I took out the section on Political Theology simply because I have not really read in that area.

Feel free to download this list, to pass it on, to make suggestions, or to use it to build your own. The link below is to the exact same one I made available for my students. I pray that in some way God will see fit to use this very brief and limited bibliography to aid the body of Christ to “attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God (Eph 4:13a).”

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Responses

  1. Voof! I am now 127 yrs behind in my reading. My only recommendation to add would be under the Systematic Theology texts you ought to consider James P. Boyce’s Abstract of Systematic Theology. It is hugely important for the formation of Southern Baptists and is a sound and delightful book.
    Bryan

  2. kudos for having Chesterton’s Orthodoxy on the list! What a great book.


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