A Religious Liberal Blog

This site hopefully can provide some vehicle by which I can comment, complain, and once in a while praise the state of religion in this country and around the world from a liberal protestant perspective.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Significant Books

Friendly Atheist asks what books played a role in his readers thoughts about religion. In that vein, though I remain a theist, I figured I'd post a few books that were significant in my journey.

Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism by John Spong, gave me permission to have doubts and rethink things about my faith without feeling that I needed to leave the church. Even if one cringes at his thought, many folks have stayed in the church because of him.

Robert Funk taught me to value historicism in his book Honest to Jesus while Mortimer Adler in his book How To Think About God impressed on me that a God that is not an actuality and a faith that doesn't point to realities in this world could not suffice.

Mordechai Kaplan's The Meaning of God in Modern Jewish Religion and Gordon Kaufman's In the Face of Mystery spoke to me about God as those realities in the world that act to transform life for the better. Boenhoffer's Prison Letters taught me to locate God in this life.

Shailer Matthews' The Growth of the Idea of God and Victor Anderson's Pragmatic Theology argues that religious language and practices are responding to our experiences of the world thus providing a basis for public inquiry and discussion of religious ideas.

Gustafson's Ethics from a Theocentric Perspective, Josiah Royce's The Problem of Christianity, H. Richard Neibuhr's Radical Monotheism and Western Culture made an impact on me in helping to publicly translate religious ideas to tackle human problems.

Edgar Brightman's The Problem of God and William Ernest Hocking's The Meaning of God in Human Experience suggests the way that we can find rootedness in the particularities of our traditions while at the same time respecting the universal impulse in religion.

Which is to say that faith ought to push us to a more expansive vision of the world in a way which relativizes our own sense of things. And yet the platform it has to do this is all the particular rituals, practices and ideas of our respective traditions.

Rosemary Reuther's Christology and Cultural Criticism problematized Gnosticism. John Dewey's Common Faith broadened my sense of religious experience. Ok this list is getting too long and too many key folks are left out so what's on your book list?

7 Comments:

At 6:54 AM , Anonymous Tim said...

Interesting. I've read 3 Spong books - it's not so much his thoughts as his slightly angry style that gets to me. There's plenty of good in them.

You can add Funk+Jesus Seminar _The Five Gospels: what did Jesus really say?_ to the pile. Rather challenging going.

And quite a few of Marcus Borg's efforts: I read _The Last Week_ during holy week this year. Definitely inspired.

And of course, Holloway _How to read the Bible_. That had me laughing by page 2.

 
At 10:18 AM , Blogger andrew said...

Great suggestions so far -- I am enjoying reading them! I also started my theological studies due to the questions raised by Spong in _Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism_, along with Borg's _The God We Never Knew_. And, I also just read _The Last Week_ during Holy Week this year.

Some other books that I've found helpful:

* _Praying Like Jesus: The Lord's Prayer in a Culture of Prosperity_ by James Mulholland reminded me what prayer life should really be about;

* _The Heart of Christianity_ by Borg was a good reminder of what Christian life should really be about;

* _Theology for Liberal Presbyterians and other Endangered Species_ by Doug Ottati was helpful because it showed me that there is still hope for the Presbyterian Church (USA);

* _Christian Doctrine_ by Shirlie Guthrie was an absolutely wonderful overview of the Christian faith from a Reformed/Presbyterian perspective. I've referred back to this so many times I can't even count...

* _Thinking Through Our Faith: Theology for Twenty-First Century Christians_ by David C. Grant also helped me to relate my Christian beliefs back to advancements in science and philosophy;

* _Consider Jesus: Waves of Renewal in Christology_ by Elizabeth Johnson was an excellent introduction to the varying modern trends and paths in Christology;

* _Options on Atonement in Christian Thought_ by Stephen Finlan helped me to once again be comfortable with the atonement since I saw how varied the doctrines have been in church history (I grew up believing there was only one way to understand the atonement, and knew that way no longer spoke to me);

* _The Cross in Our Context_ by Douglas John Hall reminded me of what Theology of the Cross *should* be...

* _The Enduring Covenant: The Education of Christians and the End of Antisemitism_ by Padraic O'Hare helped me to better relate my faith to the faiths of others without having to see my own as better. It also was very valuable to me after having grown up in a tradition that believed it to be the full completion of an incomplete Judaism;

* _ A Passion for the Possible_ by William Sloane Coffin: I just love his writings, and this is a concise volume of what he believed the church should be;

* _The Phoenix Affirmations_ by Eric Elnes -- this book just gives me so much hope because I see this is the future of mainline Protestantism if we are daring enough to listen.

Sorry for the long post -- I guess I had more than I thought!

 
At 12:06 PM , Blogger Jay said...

Dwight,
I love your blog.
I have a blog too it's called : I used to be a Jehovah's Witness. Do you think you can take a look at it and let me know if you can add it to your list of other blogs.
Thanks
Jay
http://iusedtobeajehovahswitness.blogspot.com/

 
At 3:08 PM , Anonymous staticbrain.com said...

The one book that really made me think and opened my eyes was Tortured for Christ by Richard Wurmbrand, founder of the leading Christian persecution organization The Voice of the Martyrs.

I never realized there were so many Christians being persecuted around the world for their beliefs, or even really thought about what it would be like to to take a stand for Christ and then be punished for it.

Really eye opening material they have on their website too.

 
At 12:48 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

So you read and liked Spong and you're still a theist. But are you still a Christian theist?

 
At 12:47 PM , Anonymous Anthony McCarthy said...

Marilynne Robinson's book of essays, The Death of Adam as well as her long essay Mother Country have done more to change my thinking about religion than any books for a long time.

Crossan too, though in a different way. The little book, Taking Jesus Seriously by John Cowen is one I've recommended.

It's a program of action, a life to live, making words "actual with the form of motion", that's what it is for me. What is believed is nebulous and subject to change and decay, an unselfish act done in full demonstration of our mutual need for charity, that doesn't rot.

 
At 1:31 PM , Anonymous Marie said...

It is interesting to me how different people gather religious knowledge. Significant books on any topic show either perception of fact or truth - a clear and mental apprehension. While I appreciate good religious books... I have found my own profound inspirations by following a daily devotional entitled TRAIL THOUGHTS . On a nature walk through the Appalachian Trail - spiritual captivation will deepen any readers own mind..... thus the obvious becomes clear by the grace of God!

 

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