Recommended Reading for Seminary: Paul, Divorce, Atonement and More

Every Friday, we come out with a list of recommended books for theology students.  Because theology – more importantly ministry – encompasses a diverse range of disciplines, we seek to include books on every aspect of the Christianity.  It is our hope that among these books, you might find one that either further encourages you in your study or broadens your training for ministry.  If you find this list helpful, please share it with friends.  If you have a book to recommend, please let us know if the comments section.

This Week’s Recommended Books for Theology Students

Church History: The Confessions of St. Augustine

St. Augustine's Confessions
St. Augustine’s Confessions

Synopsis: A classic narrative of St. Augustine’s life, written by the Church Father himself.  Great to read for personal enjoyment or to learn more about St. Augustine and the Early Church.

St. Augustine wrote his Confessions, which include both his faults before God and his praises to God, for others to read and God to hear.  Deeply personal, this classic work tells the story of St. Augustine’s struggles and joys.  It shows how a completely unrepentant sinner, by the grace of God, repented and praised the Lord.

We’ve read St. Augustine’s Confessions several times now, for both personal enjoyment and for class.  This is an excellent book for people who want a meaningful summer read.  The book is available online for free from many sites, including Georgetown University.

Old Testament: The Shadow of Christ in the Law of Moses (Vern Poythress)

The Shadow of Christ in the Law of Moses by Vern Poythress
The Shadow of Christ in the Law of Moses

Synopsis: A good introduction to typology in the Mosaic Law and how the Mosaic Law relates to modern society.

The Shadow of Christ in the Law of Moses by Vern Poythress (Westminster Theological Seminary) can be divided into two sections.  In the first section, Poythress looks at typology of Christ in the Mosaic Law, seeing how Christ is anticipated in the first five books of the Old Testament.  In the latter half of the book, Poythress explores how the Mosaic Law relates to us today.  This second section includes a critique of modern prisons, as well as a theological examination of how exactly Christ fulfills the Law.

The Shadow of Christ in the Law of Moses is a solid introduction to typology and the Mosaic Law.  Those unfamiliar with these topics would benefit from reading Poythress’ work.  The sixth draft is available free from John Frame’s and Vern Poythress’ website.

New Testament: Paul: An Outline of His Theology (Herman Ridderbos)

Paul: An Outline of His Theology by Herman Ridderbos
Paul: An Outline of His Theology

Synopsis: A thorough Biblical-Theological approach to Paul’s theology.  A difficult read, but those who wade through the book will be blessed by its insights.

Paul: An Outline of His Theology by Herman Riddrebos approaches Pauline Studies from a Biblical Theology perspective.  This book was originally published in 1975, so it does not take up any of the issues raised by the New Perspective on Paul.  Despite its age, though, Ridderbos’ work remains a standard in Pauline Studies.  He thoroughly examines the Scriptures and interacts with the scholarship of his day.

Reading Paul: An Outline of His Theology was difficult, but we are glad we persevered and finished the book.  Ridderbos is hard to read, but those who are already familiar with theological studies (not necessarily Pauline scholarship) should go through this book.

Practical Theology: Divorce and Remarriage in the Church (David Instone-Brewer)

Divorce and Remarriage in the Church by David Instone-Brewer
Divorce and Remarriage in the Church

Synopsis: A highly controversial book, Divorce and Remarriage in the Church proposes four biblical grounds for divorce.  David Instone-Brewer’s scholarship is excellent, and pastors should think through his argument for themselves.

Divorce and Remarriage in the Church: Biblical Solutions for Pastoral Realities is by far the most controversial book we have recommended yet.  In his book, David Instone-Brewer (Tyndale House at Cambridge) applies insights from his years of studying Rabbinic literature to the New Testament.  His thesis argues for four biblical grounds for divorce, which include reasons beyond the traditional ones that have historically been recognized by the Church.  Instone-Brewer’s scholarship is of the highest quality, and his arguments are well developed.  Pastors and students will have to read the book for themselves, to see if they are compelling enough to rethink divorce in the Church.

We greatly enjoyed Divorce and Remarriage in the Church, and believe that anyone who can interact with opposing views (regardless of one’s view on divorce) maturely will benefit from the challenges that Instone-Brewer presents.

Systematic Theology: The Atonement Debate (Tidball, Hilborn, and Thacker)

The Atonement Debate
The Atonement Debate

Synopsis: A collection of papers that address the nature of the atonement.  Previous knowledge of the various theories of atonement would help when reading this.

The Atonement Debate: Papers from the London Symposium on the Theology of Atonement, which was edited by Derek Tidbal, David Hilborn and Justin Thacker, is exactly what its title indicates.  This is a collection of papers that were presented by theologians on the nature of the atonement.  As with any book published after a conference or symposium, the work itself is somewhat disjointed.  There are several excellent papers on the atonement within this book though.  Readers will notice several different views as they read through the papers.

We found some of the papers given in The Atonement Debate more beneficial than others.  The ones that are most interesting to any given reader will depend on the reader’s theological bent and the issues he or she is reading.  We would recommend skimming all the papers and reading the ones that you find intriguing.

(For more books, check out the other Recommended Reading posts).

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