In the several years that I’ve been compiling a yearly review of theology books I have to say that this past year has been the best of them all. Some publishing years come and go without much notice, but this one will likely be remembered for quite a while.
Sin Boldly!: Justifying Faith for Fragile and Broken Souls, by Ted Peters
This book is so good we keep. writing. about. it. Go back and look – DZ has been subliminally sneaking Peters quotes or allusions into almost everything he’s written for the past 6 months. For Peters, justification is not some abstract, subsidiary doctrine in the volcano of life; it is our only hope. Brimming with real-life illustrations and many surprising insights, this qualifies as a “must-read”.
Paul and the Gift, by John Barclay
The most important book on the Apostle Paul in the last 40 years (no joke). Offering a sweeping account of Paul’s theology of Grace in conversation with his fellow Jewish contemporaries, Barclay challenges the basic tenets of what has become known as the “New Perspective on Paul” (read: NT Wright, James Dunn, EP Sanders). What results is a forceful and very much contemporary reading of Paul that deeply sympathizes with the Augustinian and Lutheran traditions. In distinction from most of second-temple Judaism, the hallmark of Paul’s theology of grace is its incongruity, given to the ungodly and subverting all other categories of worth.
Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People, by Nadia Bolz-Weber
Attendees of the 2015 Mockingbird Conference were treated to a preview of this intimate and powerful compilation of stories and reflections on grace in everyday life. The rest of the book did not disappoint! See here for a full review of this from earlier in the year.
Reformation Readings of Paul: Explorations in History and Exegesis, Ed. by Jonathan Linebaugh and Michael Allen
At the risk of making this too New Testament-heavy, I couldn’t keep this book off the year-end list. This collection of essays examines all of the notable Reformers of the 1500’s and their readings of Paul. What results is a deep appreciation for both the theology of the Reformation and its understanding of Paul. Contributions include past Mockingbird speakers Ashley Null, Jonathan Linebaugh, and Mark Seifrid.
The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ, by Fleming Rutledge
An overwhelming study on the death of Jesus in theology and Scripture, this book teases out several predominant motifs into a comprehensive whole. Rutledge has spent many years mining the significance of Jesus’ death and this book is a welcome contribution. Resisting any single interpretation of Jesus’ death/resurrection, what emerges instead of a glorious symphony of metaphors, all told with the winsome and readable style of a great preacher and scholar.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t briefly mention these two fantastic Mockingbird books. As a brief, fresh take on an old theme, Law and Gospel is the best introduction on the topic since the early 1900’s. At over 300 pages and 40(!) essays, Mockingbird at the Movies is everything you’d expect from Mockingbird and then some!
The Road to Character, by David Brooks
Something of a follow-up to his more analytical The Social Animal, Brooks here offers a series of anecdotes and real-life testimonies on the path of wise living. Always enjoyable and never boring, there’s much to be learned here on how to have a meaningful life.
Being Protestant in Reformation Britain, by Alec Ryrie
For anyone who is a fan of Protestantism, Ryrie looks at the practices and emotions of the Anglican Protestants. As the title indicates, this book isn’t just on Protestant beliefs, but what it was like to actually be a Protestant from day to day.
W e I Missed Last Year:
Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, by Bryan Stevenson
A non-fictional account of a lawyer who advocates on behalf of a death row inmate. What results is both a gripping narrative and a much-needed story of the need for criminal justice reform and the triumph of mercy when given to the unworthy.
Gerhard O. Forde: A Life, by Marianna Forde
The beloved professor of Lutheran Theology was, for many, their introduction to God’s unwavering grace. This book, written by his wife of over 40 years, offers both a summary of Gerhard Forde’s main works as well as many autobiographical stories. Who knew he had attended in person the 1963 MLK “I have a dream” speech?
Sermons of Grace, by John A. Zahl
JAZ is a regular contributor to the blog and, in addition to being an outstanding DJ, he is a gifted preacher of grace. These are the texts of some of his sermons, given at his church in Charleston, SC. His illustrations and (most of) his jokes are first rate.