21 June 2007

everything you ever wanted to know...

...but didn't learn in seminary.

I was talking to a seminary student yesterday who asked me a question along the following lines, "Knowing what the curriculum is like at the seminary and what sorts of holes and gaps might exist in it, what would you recommend as required reading to fill in those holes and gaps?"

That's a really good question. No single educational institution can do everything or be equally strong in all areas. So the question of supplementary reading naturally arises. I'm not sure I'm entirely qualified to answer it fully, but I'll give some of my suggestions and ask if you might have any to add.

It seems to me that most Reformed seminaries are very solid in at least two areas: biblical studies and dogmatics. And that's terrific.

The most important areas of competence a Reformed seminarian can cultivate theologically are to be well-grounded in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments and to have a good working understanding of the basic contours of standard Reformed theology as that shows up in a variety of classic texts: Calvin, Turretin, Hodge, Bavinck, Berkhof, Berkouwer, Barth, as well as the Reformed confessional documents.

But that's a starting point - not a complete and well-rounded theological education.

It seems to me that there are at least several areas in which Reformed seminaries, on the balance, are probably weakest: moral theology, ecclesiology, worship, sacraments, missional theology, and ecumenical theology. There are, of course, exceptions to these generalizations (e.g., Calvin and Erskine seminaries are both fairly strong on worship).

Allow me to provide an admittedly idiosyncratic list of suggested books to read in each of these categories, attempting to limit myself to four or five texts in each category with some bent towards Reformed authors. There may also be some significant overlap in each category, for instance, there's probably no reason to read Guroian, Hauerwas, and Hays.

Moral Theology

    Paul D.L. Avis, The Church in the Theology of the Reformers (WJKP 1981)

    Tod E. Bolsinger, It Takes a Church to Raise a Christian: How the Community of God Transforms Lives (Brazos 2004)

    Henri de Lubac, Catholicism: Christ and the Common Destiny of Man (Ignatius 1988)

    Geddes MacGregor, Corpus Christi: The Nature of the Church According to the Reformed Tradition (Westminster 1958)

    Lesslie Newbigin, Household of God: Lectures on the Nature of the Church (SCM 1957)

    H.J. Wotherspoon and J.M. Kirkpatrick A Manual of Church Doctrine according to the Church of Scotland, revised and enlarged by T.F. Torrance and R.S. Wright (Oxford 1965)

    John Zizioulas, Being as Communion: Studies in Personhood and the Church (St Vladimir’s 1985)

    Mark Earey, Liturgical Worship - A Fresh Look: What It Is, Why It Matters (Church House 2002)

    Marlea Gilbert, Christopher Grundy, Eric T. Myers, and Stephanie Perdew, The Work of the People: What We Do in Worship and Why (The Alban Institute

    Todd Johnson, editor, The Conviction of Things Not Seen: Worship and Ministry in the 21st Century (Brazos 2002)

    William D. Maxwell, A History of Worship in the Church of Scotland (Oxford 1955)

    Hughes Oliphant Old, Worship: Reformed According the Scriptures (WJKP 2002)

    Richard Paquier, Dynamics of Worship: Foundations and Uses of Liturgy (Fortress 1967)

    George W. Sprott, The Worship and Offices of the Church of Scotland [available at Google books] (Blackwood 1882)


    Donald M. Baillie, The Theology of the Sacraments (Scribners 1957)

    Alexander Schmemmann, For the Life of the World: Sacraments and Orthodoxy (St. Vladimir's 1997).

    Leonard Vander Zee, Christ, Baptism and the Lord's Supper: Recovering the Sacraments for Evangelical Worship (IVP 2004)


    Robert Bruce, The Mystery of the Lord's Supper (Christian Focus 2005)

    Horton Davies, Bread of Life and Cup of Joy: Newer Ecumenical Perspectives on the Eucharist (Eerdmans 1993)

    Keith Mathison, Given for You: Reclaiming Calvin's Doctrine of the Lord's Supper (P&R 2002)

    Max Thurian, The Eucharistic Memorial, two volumes (John Knox 1960)

    Geoffrey Wainwright, Eucharist and Eschatology (Oxford 1982)

Missional Theology

Ecumenical Theology
    Carl E. Braaten, Mother Church: Ecclesiology and Ecumenism (Fortress 1998)

    John M. Frame, Evangelical Reunion: Denominations and the One Body of Christ (Baker 1991)

    Lesslie Newbigin, The Reunion of the Church: A Defence of the South India Scheme (SCM 1948)

I should hasten to add that I expect seminaries already assign some of the standard classic texts in the relevant areas (Aquinas is, for instance, axiomatic for Christian ethics) as well as more recent texts (such as John Murray's Principles of Conduct or Edmund Clowney's The Church). My suggested texts are meant to be supplemental, for those who want to dig deeper.

So, that being said, any surprising inclusions? Glaring ommissions? Suggested additions?