I recently met with one of our small groups for a theological pow-wow, and I must say, I came away from the discussion quite energized. It’s been awhile since I’ve had a chance to revisit some of the thoughts I’ve come to (and am still wrestling with) regarding the Bible, theology, and its relevance to the world, and I realize that I really like discussing these subjects!
Anyhow, I also recommended a few books to the group, and as I was explaining each book, I realized there are a few authors/thinkers who have really shaped my approach to theology, Scripture, and the world. I thought I’d share who these people are. I’m usually quick to read any books/articles/talks that come from these people.
Interestingly enough, I think the rest of our pastoral staff at NLF would have varying lists, a thought which brings me much consolation. Also, although they’re not included on this list, our pastoral staff (Pete, Geri, Rich, Jackie, Linda, Mike, Myrna, and Peter) challenge and shape my thinking in more ways than most!
This list is in no particular order
1. Christina Park – Yes, my wife. I’ve learned much about love, forgiveness, grace from her. She’s taught me to appreciate sci-fi, fantasy, and romantic comedies as well, even pointing out profound theological underpinnings in each.
2. Pete & Geri Scazzero – Pete’s my boss, so he’s on the list. But seriously, his books have certainly had the greatest influence on me in my formative years as a pastor. Geri has also lent wonderful insights regarding marriage, God, sexuality, and all that good stuff.
3. Howard Thurman – Thurman has quickly become one of my favorite theologians, especially because he’s so rooted in Scripture while having unique perspectives on justice, contemplation, and all sorts of things I’m passionate about. His Meditations of the Heart are some of the best stuff I’ve read recently, as well as his book Jesus and the Disinherited.
4. NT Wright – He’s a Biblical scholar whose perspectives on Israel, God’s Kingdom, the Victory of Jesus, and Paul’s message, have blown me away. I know there’s been some theological jousting between him and John Piper regarding justification, but I don’t think I’m sophisticated enough to see how they’re both not talking about the same thing from different angles. See, you couldn’t even understand that last sentence.
5. Richard Rohr – Every single work I’ve read from Rohr has been deeply profound and insightful. His thoughts on manhood, Scripture, spirituality, and grace are really astounding and cause me to ponder everything.
6. Ron Vogt – Ron’s a counselor whom I regularly see (now with Tina). He hasn’t published a book as far as I know, but his thoughts on the emotional world and its intersection with theology and humanity has been radically transformative for me.
7. Jay Feld – Doctor Jay is NLF’s Counselor in Residence, and I’ve learned a lot about grace, community, and wisdom from him. He’s speaking at our singles’ retreat, and I think you should be there if you’re a single person between the ages of 21-84.
8. Tim Keller (and his son, Mike) – It’s hard to find things to disagree with Keller about because he’s so thoughtful and winsome in the way he approaches faith, culture, and the gospel. Aside from being an amazing thinker/preacher, he also models a kind disposition toward those with differing opinions, which is quite frankly, really cool.
9. Paul Lim – One of my theology profs at Gordon-Conwell. What I really appreciate about him is the way he handles heady and heavy material with an edge toward orthopraxis. In other words, he is about the head, heart, and hands, and he had done a lot of thinking about God and real people in the real world. His stuff on theodicy and the problem of evil is pretty mind-numbing, as are his thoughts on the trinity.
10. Laura Speiller – Laura was the first one to introduce me to the contemplative tradition. I’ll never forget one of the ways she described contemplative prayer – an embrace without words. Deep.
11. Sean McDonough – Another one of my seminary profs, he modeled and taught me to approach the Biblical text systemically as well as meditatively. I can’t wait until he publishes some more stuff. He’s also a great sparring partner when it comes to sports predictions.
12. Leighton Ford – Leighton is like the godfather behind so many movements happening in today’s Christian world. I nearly cry every time he speaks or writes about something. He introduced me to a number of authors including Parker Palmer, who should also be on this list. I love Leighton’s breadth of learning – I think it’s shown me how to look for truth everywhere.
13. Dan Shin – A close friend and former staff member at NLF, we had (and continue to have) extremely stimulating theological debates. I love it. I must say, for a guy who doesn’t read much (Dan), he has a great philosophical and theological understanding of varying subjects.
This list is getting out of control, so here are some other folks whose perspectives I appreciate and seek out somewhat regularly.
Martin Luther King, Jr, CS Lewis, Parker Palmer, Henri Nouwen, Richard Lovelace, Gordon Fee, Doug Stuart, William Webb, Anne Lamott, Andy Crouch, Rob Bell.
I notice I’ve listed relatively contemporary people. I think the classical authors (Calvin, St. Teresa, Augustine, Jonathan Edwards, St. John of the Cross, Aquinas, etc) are too prolific for me to want to start following. Yes, that’s a lazy perspective, but one that I freely confess to.
Who are your theological influences? What are your thoughts about this list?
PS If you’re looking for recommended reading from our church, you can click here.