Time to Read image

Time to Read

As a little light relief over the festive period, we asked some of our bloggers to give us an insight into the ‘real’ lives of theologians. The first question we asked was “What is on your Christmas reading list?”

Liam Thatcher:
That depends somewhat on whether my family take the hints and buy me the books I’ve asked for! Assuming they do, I shall be reading David Bentley Hart’s The Beauty of the Infinite (whilst listening to some new music and sipping a good single malt… hint, hint!) and Douglas Coupland’s Life After God. Failing that, I have a few others I’ve started and have been meaning to pick up again, including John Maxwell’s Developing the Leader Within and Ben Witherington III’s The Indelible Image.
Emily Woods-Abraham:
With Christmastime upon us, we are sure to be confronted many times with various interpretations of the Nativity scene. But whether they are pictures, displays or children’s plays, there is always the familiar, common scene: baby Jesus in a manger, all alone in an isolated, smelly stable with his parents, some shepherds, some men who are perhaps “wise” or kings or both, and a few farmyard animals.
But what if I was to tell you that this miraculous scene of the birth of God incarnate did not take place in a lonely stable, but rather in a peasant’s home, with women who would have helped Mary with the birth of Jesus…?


This, as well as the whole scope of events throughout Jesus’ life, is covered in the weighty book Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes: A Cultural Study on The Gospels. It is written by Kenneth E. Bailey, an expert in Middle Eastern New Testament studies who has spent 40 years living in the Middle East, and gives a wealth of rich historical information and detailed cultural explanation for some of the most misunderstood and overlooked aspects of Jesus’ life and ministry – everything from Hebrew styles of writing, to the cultural significance of Jesus’ parables, to the radical way Jesus related to women.
I read this a couple of years ago when I first bought it and now my husband and I have begun reading it together – perfectly timed with Christmas. And to be honest, I really don’t know how to describe how excellent this book is without writing an essay! All I will say though is read it for yourself and be prepared to know God better, be moved to deeper levels of worship and be more confident of your faith. And that, I think you’ll agree, is well worth it!

Matthew Hosier:
What is on your Christmas reading list? That is assuming a higher level of Christmas planning than is actually the case! I felt quite inspired by Carl Trueman’s reading list but mostly hope one of my kids buys me something that makes me laugh.
Ruth Preston:

I have two different reading lists. One list is for a theology course that I am currently studying, and the other is a personal reading list:
Study Reading List: I am finishing a module on the New Testament, and need to complete an essay on the apparent contradiction between Paul and James’ theology in regard to justification by works. From there, I’m moving on to study a module on Islam. Therefore the books I will be reading, or more likely just referencing, are as follows:
Justification by Works by R. T. Kendall
Unity and Diversity in the New Testament by James Dunn
Islam in the world by Malise Ruthven
Islam the Straight Path by John Esposito
Having said that, as Christmas is a time for relaxing, I may not be doing too much of my course reading! But the intention is there…
Personal Reading: I love reading novels and watching films. I find fictional dramatisation of a concept, relationship or ethic extremely powerful. I appreciate all genres of films and novels, and split them into two categories in my mind. Firstly, the ‘idealistic’, which would constitute stories that are extraordinary and usually quite unrealistic. Secondly the ‘realistic’, which attempt to enlighten the viewer to a greater understanding of human nature, morality, history…etc. This Christmas I am focussing on the idealistic. I find that these types of stories often try and depict perfect people who do right, even in the face of considerable opposition. Really, these ideals are the result of a deep desire in the human heart for the perfection of God, and the renewal of humanity to what God originally intended. I find this fascinating. Anyway, the book that I am currently reading is The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanders. It is a great story of human sacrifice and determination in the face of unimaginable evil. Extremely inspiring.       
Chine Mbubaegbu
I’m guilty of having an over-ambitious and ever-expanding reading list. There are so many great books to read and not enough holidays to read them in. This Christmas, I’ll be reading The Screwtape Letters as I’m trying to read through CS Lewis classics – short but packed with great truth and witty insights. I’m also finishing off Sister by Rosamund Lupton and hope to finally read A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving and Wild Swans by Jung Chang as it’s a Christmas present from last year!
Adrian Birks
Well, that depends on what you mean. Do you mean “what will I read over Christmas?” or “what books do I hope Santa brings?”
My holiday reading includes Sticky Church and Sticky Teams by Larry Osborne which I’ve just started and both seem fascinating reads since they challenge much conventional wisdom about why churches grow and what our priorities should be as church leaders. For instance, healthy things (including churches) grow indefinitely, and in order to grow numerically we should preach to those who aren’t there, and, in order to grow the church needs to be better organised, better at advertising, host better events with better speakers and so on. I love books like this even if I don’t agree on every point because they expose my blind spots and presuppositions, and Osborne is not speaking defensively as one who leads a small church but as a mega-church leader in the US so he writes from experience. Such a book is not easily dismissed!
Books I hope Santa brings include The White Spider which is Heinrich Harrer’s epic story of the early climbs on the North Face of the Eiger. I had a copy years ago when I was into climbing myself (although never at this level!) and loaned it out never to be returned so thought it was time to get a replacement. My other passion is guitars and I’ve asked for The Complete History of Fender Guitars which should keep me busy and quiet for hours!
St Stuffed Shirt:
Benjamin Disraeli famously said, “When I wish to read a book, I write one.”
I’m sure you will agree that one can all too easily waste one’s time by reading unworthy literature, and I am a firm believer in only devoting time to books that with exponential edificatory potential. For these reasons, I shall spend Christmas re-reading my own weighty tome: Puffed Up: A Theology of Arrogance. Never before have I found a book that I can read repeatedly, discovering such nuggets of profundity with each new reading.

And if I happen to finish that before the holiday season is over, I have the new Grisham to dig my lutrine teeth into.

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