Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A Classical Christian Beginning List

These are books that I have read and have found helpful (or not helpful).  There are other fine works that I have not yet read that should be good.  Anything by Thomas Oden and Christopher Hall should be read if it is already not on this list.  

Why should we pursue a Classical Christian Conversation?

In short, for all of the problems and inadequacies in the Fathers, the fact remains that if you want to learn early liturgics and the Trinity, you have to sit at their feet.  Further, whatever galling problems we may see in the Fathers, the same symptom is in us:  are we self-critical?  Can we stand outside our own understanding of the world?  It’s not so easy, isn’t it?  Reading the Fathers allows us to stand outside our own position and ask, “Why would someone believe this so firmly?”

Ancient Christian Commentary Series.  There are some limitations to this series (inevitable arbitrariness in selection; insane prices--though I understand why), but it succeeds in what it sets out to do:  it gives you substantial commentary on the Scriptures and it offers superior translations than the common Schaff volumes.

Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures.  Not all of these will be equally persuasive, but it is a nice summary of Ante-Nicene and Nicene thought.  The lectures on antichrist and the end times are really fun.  Yarnold has released a new edition of Cyril and though incomplete, it should provide a welcome introduction and better translation than what is found in the Schaff series.

Hall, Christopher.  Reading Scripture with the Church Fathers.  There are two others in this series (Worship and Theology) that are probably excellent, but I haven’t read them.  Also see the lectionary cycle put out under Hall’s aegis.  

Oden, Thomas.  After Modernity...What? A mid-point update of Oden’s pilgrimage out of liberalism and into a patristic theology.  

Webber, Robert.  Who Gets to Narrate the World?  This was really good.  Imagine a short and up-to-date statement of City of God.  He even points out the dangers of Wahabbist Islam, though he doesn’t point to the American financial backers.

Read, but Beware

The following works are thoughtful and suggestive, but deeply problematic in many important areas.  Pastors should be familiar with them since many parishioners, especially history majors on a college campus, will be reading and asking questions.

Webber, Robert.  Ancient-Future Faith.  Much of it is good and a breath of fresh air compared to the 40 Days of Sexual Silliness too often found in the Evangelical world.  Unfortunately, while Webber is rightly critical of modernity, postmodernity seems to get a free pass.  Further, he is appreciative of Rome in ways that he does not realize Rome’s claim to totality.  

--------------.  Ancient-Future Worship.   This is actually outstanding.   Worship is the public re-enactment of God’s narrative.  Brilliant. Unfortunately, he allows for some silliness at the end.

-------------.  Ancient-Future Time.  I didn’t care for it, but that’s not the problem.  Anyone who wants to say we are under a certain “calendar” based on seasons needs to own up to Paul’s warning that we are no longer under the Stoichea.  

----------.  Evangelicals on the Canterbury Trail.  Larger arguments of what is permitted in the worship service aside, this book is both interesting and incomplete.  He does rightly capture why Evangelicals are wanting more than “3 songs and a lecture,” and even probes that we need to give good outlets for this, but this book was written before the ECUSA declared open war on God, his people, and his word.


  1. Can you make the text of your blog lighter? The background is dark, which makes it harder to read.

    I love the bit in After Modernity, where Oden tells about a meeting where he confronted and challenged various individuals- a social worker, a Catholic priest, a Protestant pastor and others. Pointing out the value of Catholicism as a counterpoint to Protestantism, challenging the hypocrisy of the social worker and accusing the Protestant pastor of selling out his theology for church growth. The only thing that bothered me was that he didn't challenge the feminism of the female seminarian in the group. He seemed to let her off too lightly.

  2. yeah, I had copied and pasted from my google documents and that's why it looks like that.