Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Best Reads in Church History | Idea for Clergy to Publish Seasonal Reading List

A clergy friend of mine recently wrote:

Dear Friends and Colleagues,
So it's my custom to have a suggested reading list each year for my parish. I have stepped it up this year with a seasonal reading list (4-5 suggestions ranging from devotional to heady), beginning this Lent.
For Eastertide, I would like to give a suggested that's focused on Church/Christian history. do any of you have suggestions of books that you would suggest that range from "good entry point" to "may be considered a technical and academic - but accessible".
I respect you all, and your insights, and know you may know of texts outside my sphere of contact.
To which I responded:

1. The Churching of America, 1776-2005: Winners and Losers in Our Religious Economy, Revised and Expanded Edition, Rodney Starke. I've never learned more about American church history than from this book. This book rocked my world.

2. A Secular Age, Charles Taylor, for the truly heady in your midst. For a book of history and philosophy, it has been very widely read, and Taylor's concept of the social imaginary is going to be critical for future scholarship.

3. How Religion Divides and Unites Us, Robert Putnam, it's on my reading list but I haven't read it yet. It doubles as history and important sociology of religion analysis.

4. Christianity: The First Three Thousand Year, Diarmaid McCullouch. Maybe the best new one volume Christian history.

5. Early Christian Mission (2 volumes), Eckhard Schnabel This is a study in early church history, specifically the period of the apostles themselves and a history of how they did mission.

6. Dietrich Bonhoeffer 1906-1945: Martyr, Thinker, Man of Resistance, Bernard Schlingensiepen This recent biography of Bonhoeffer is the best current offering out there.

7. The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity, Philip Jenkins If you're from North America or Europe and want to know what God is up to worldwide, this is the book.

8. The Missionary Movement in Christian History: Studies in the Transmission of Faith, Andrew Walls I'm a sucker for the history of Christian missions, and this is one of the best.

9. How to Read the Bible, James Kugel. Although technically a work in the history of exegesis, this study comparing how the early church and rabbis read Scripture compared to how modern historical critical scholars read scripture is shocking and informative.

10. Phyllis Tickle, The Great Emergence: How Christianity Is Changing and Why (emersion: Emergent Village resources for communities of faith) I'm not sure her analysis has convinced me, but she does an excellent job of describing the situation we're in and offers pointers on where we are headed.

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