The following is a list of my top Mockingbird theology books of 2012 (in no particular order).
- Glorious Ruin by Tullian Tchividjian
Tchividjian does it again. Thoughtful, provocative, and deeply encouraging, “Glorious Ruin” places suffering at the heart of the Christian life and what we understand about God, but probably the biggest virtue of this book is its personal and accessible tone. Suffering is never spoken of in cold abstraction from its down-to-earth reality. It’s no wonder this book has gotten so much attention on this site.
- Justification Is for Preaching edited by Virgil Thompson
A much needed book for preachers and teachers of the gospel. Justification is for Preaching is an impressive collection of essays from the likes of Gerhard Forde, Stephen Paulson, Mark Mattes, and others: a sort of “who’s who” of radical Lutheranism. Rather than an occasional, polemical doctrine or a “subsidiary crater” of theology, this places justification at the heart of the ministry of the church with fresh vigor. See in particular the essays by Bayer, “Justification as the Basis and Boundary of Theology”, and Forde, “Forensic Justification and the Christian Life”.
While this isn’t so much a theology book as a musings on Christianity within modern skepticism, it is certainly a book which regular readers of Mockingbird will nevertheless thoroughly enjoy. See in particular his concept of sin, or HPtFtU (The Human Propensity to [Mess] things Up). For more info, check out his essay in the Guardian from a few months back. The book isn’t readily available in the US, but hopefully this will be remedied sooner than later.
Not just for Alcoholics! Please forgive this shameless Mockingbird self-promotion, but this book is worth its weight in gold. Using the 12 steps of AA as an outline for the Christian life, John Z has written an insightful resource for the ‘weary and heavy-laden’ in us all. For a short excerpt, click here.
- Cross Theology: The Classical Theologia Crucis and Karl Barth’s Modern Theology of the Cross by Rosalene Bradbury
Anything that brings together the Karl Barth and Martin Luther is a winner by me, but this book does so through Luther’s “Theology of the Cross” – and with strong sympathy for Gerhard Forde to boot. Cross Theology helpfully defines Luther’s concept of the theologia crucis in conversation with its many diverse proponents throughout history and Karl Barth in particular. If you love Luther but remain skeptical about Barth, this is the book for you.
- A Contemporary in Dissent: Johann Georg Hamann as Radical Enlightener by Oswald Bayer
Not for the faint of heart! A newly translated book from probably the most important Lutheran theologian today. The book itself is dense, engaging the work of little-known 18th century philosopher Johann Georg Hamann and his dissent with enlightenment thinkers Kant and Hegel. Hamann touches upon a number of important issues of relevance today, especially in his suggestion of the indissoluble link the divine universality and particularity. God has acted in the particular person and history of Jesus and therefore cannot be spoken of in universal abstraction.
- Rudolf Bultmann: a Biography by Konrad Hammann. An engaging and detailed biography of probably the most important 20th century NT scholar.
- This American Gospel: Public Radio Parables and the Grace of God by Ethan Richardson. A very fun and interesting book, but two Mockingbird publications on a ‘year end’ list seemed a bit much.
- Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City by Tim Keller. Out of the five(!) books Keller has published this year, this is probably the most significant.