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My Top 20 Most Influential Books

Inspired by Ben Meyers over at Faith and Theology, here are my top 20 most infulential theological books. The only real difference is that I’ve allowed myself to post a author more than once if absolutly necessary. Newbigin, Bonhoeffer, and von Balthasar each make it into the list twice. And with good reason as far as I’m concerned!

Also, my list excludes most pre-modern sources. Part of this is due to the unfortunate fact that I have enagaged patristic and medieval sources far too much through modern interlocutors, I must admit. But for the present, thus stands my list.

20. Henri de Lubac, Catholicism
19. Kevin Vanhoozer, The Drama of Doctrine
18. Rowan Williams, Resurrection
17. Reinhard Hutter, Suffering Divine Things
16. Colin Gunton, The One, The Three, and The Many
15. John Zizioulas, Being as Communion
14. Miroslav Volf, Exclusion and Embrace
13. William Cavanaugh, Theopolitical Imagination
12. Bernd Wannenwetsch, Political Worship
11. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Ethics
10. Hans Urs von Balthasar, Love Alone is Credible
9. Lesslie Newbigin, Household of God
8. Thomas Torrance, The Christian Doctrine of God
7. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Sanctorum Communio
6. Robert Jenson, Systematic Theology, Volume 1: The Triune God
5. Hans Urs von Balthasar, Theo-Drama, Volume 5: The Last Act
4. Stanley Hauerwas, The Peaceable Kingdom
3. Alan Lewis, Between Cross and Resurrection
2. John Howard Yoder, The Politics of Jesus
1. Lesslie Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society


  1. a. steward wrote:

    I’ll give you ten:

    10. Philip Melanchthon, Loci Communes, 1521 Edition / Martin Luther, On Christian Freedom.
    9. Walter Brueggemann, The Land.
    8. Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov.
    7. Flannery O’Connor, A Good Man Is Hard to Find.
    6. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together.
    5. Søren Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling.
    4. Reinhold Niebuhr, Moral Man and Immoral Society.
    3. John Yoder, The Politics of Jesus.
    2. Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
    1. Raymond Carver, Will You Please Be Quiet, Please?.

    Thursday, November 2, 2006 at 4:32 am | Permalink
  2. byron wrote:

    Nice list. Many of these are on my ‘top read’ pile.
    Here’s mine.

    Thursday, November 2, 2006 at 12:10 pm | Permalink
  3. Halden wrote:


    “4. Reinhold Niebuhr, Moral Man and Immoral Society.

    Really? That’s kind of surprising to me.

    Thursday, November 2, 2006 at 4:12 pm | Permalink
  4. a. steward wrote:

    Yeah, that book was one of the most helpful things I’ve ever read for clarifying what I disagree with. Niebuhr is so important for laying out the nature of the problem. His response to the problem is completely unsatisfying and unbiblical. The way he presents the problem, i.e. “the ethic of Jesus offers no practical means for the societal neccessity of constraining evil” just begs for Mennonite Yoder, unconstrained by the myth of Christendom, to give a much more scriptural response.
    At any rate, it wouldn’t be on any list of books whose theses I aggree with.

    Friday, November 3, 2006 at 8:48 pm | Permalink
  5. a. steward wrote:

    Without any more provocation, I’ve been bothered the past day with the question of why I appreciate that book so much. I think what it is is that Niebuhr is just brutally honest with the social implications of the classical liberal picture of Jesus. Though he himself holds to that image of Jesus as a moral influence, what he sees Rauschenbusch and the rest doing with it is simply unacceptable. If the influence that that Jesus is supposed to have on us is one of establishing justice and care for the oppressed, then of course we can’t do what he tells us to. It is an incisive account of the logical conclusion of denying the Nicean and Chalcedonian confessions of who Jesus is.
    I put this book on my list because it was so impacting on me, so frustrating that Niebuhr sees no other options, being so blinded by Modernism. At any rate, when I get around to reading some more books, this one I’m sure will get the bump. Matter of fact, maybe Torrance will give him the boot. Thanks for recommending him to me – it was outstanding.

    Saturday, November 4, 2006 at 7:43 pm | Permalink
  6. Anonymous wrote:

    I was interested to see that you have included a book by Alan Lewis. He was the external examiner for my Ph.D. thesis.

    Sunday, November 5, 2006 at 12:54 am | Permalink
  7. Halden wrote:

    Yes, Alan Lewis’ book (which is the only major one he published) has made an indellible impact on me. Not only is it a beautiful and profound work of theology, it is amazingly well written. We really lost a great theologian when Lewis died.

    Monday, November 6, 2006 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

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