Monday, October 31, 2016

A top ten reading list for those new to "progressive" church

A direct quote from our inquirers class at church:
  • I'd love any suggestions for maybe one or two books to read. I have tried to look up some online but it was a bit overwhelming. A kind of reading list would be something I would be interested in.

So if you're new to "progressive" Christianity and you'd like some recommendations, here's my top ten.

10. Nadia Bolz-Weber, Accidental Saints. Let's face it. If people do read books, and they're looking for "progressive" Christian resources, and they end up at our church in Arkansas, there's a good chance they've read or at least heard of the Lutheran rock star in Colorado, Nadia Bolz-Weber. And for good reason. She tells great stories, she knows her Lutheran theology, and her books preach. 

9. Rachel Held Evans, Searching for Sunday. Which means they've probably also read, or about to read, a book by that great progressive evangelical blogger, Rachel Held Evans, also a great story-teller, and authentic Christian voice.

8. Rowan Williams, Being Christian. Although Christian memoirs are far-and-away the most common entry point for those new to progressive Christian faith, there are straightforward theological options. My favorites include Rowan Williams, formerly archbishop of Canterbury, both his Being Christian and now Being Disciples.

7. Liz Edman, Queer Virtue. Inevitably, if you're talking about progressive Christianity, people are going to want to learn more about the full inclusion of the LGBTQ in the life and leadership of the church. For this, you should go for Liz Edman's new book, and Justin Lee's classic.

6. James Cone, The Cross and the Lynching Tree. Most progressive Christians are working to unlearn some inherited biases. We're trying to be aware of what we don't even know we don't know. Liberation theology helps, and in particular, I recommend James Cone.

5. Jennifer Harvey, Dear White Christians. There are some peculiar dangers to being a liberal Christian, and one of those is lacking awareness of some of the weaknesses of the liberal Christian movement. As a way to repair this, I recommend Jennifer Harvey.

4. Clint Schnekloth, Mediating Faith. I guess I shouldn't avoid mentioning, if you want to think about progressive Christianity as it relates to media and faith formation, you might take a look at Mediating Faith.

3. Christian Wimer, My Bright Abyss. Life is hard, it's a struggle, and when people come to faith in the midst of struggle, especially if they are thoughtful and poets, pay attention. 

2. John Polkinghorne, Science and Religion. I guess another hot topic for Christians shifting to a more progressive perspective is science itself. So then it's best to read a scientist who also happens to be a theologian.

1. Marilynne Robinson, Gilead and Wendell Berry, Jayber Crow. I don't think we can finish this list up without a couple of novels on the list, so I suggest two as a tie for first place, one by Marilynne Robinson, the other by Wendell Berry. Take your pick.

I'm sure all y'all can add your own in the comments, and I welcome an expansion of this list. I would add one more thing. I intentionally didn't list "classics" from the Christian tradition. That would be another list. And I didn't list a specific Bible, although I have reviewed those on the blog in the past:


  1. Any of Barbara Brown Taylor's work but especially the more recent ones - Leaving Church and An Altar in the World.

  2. I know it is hard to limit your list to ten, but I would have included books by Diana Butler Bass, and Sarah Bessey. I also would have included the book Disquiet Time: Rants and Reflections on the Good Book by the Skeptical, the Faithful, and a Few Scoundrels, edited by Jennifer Grant and Catherine Falsani.

    Thank you for this list - especially the novels.