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Stebbing, Great Dunmow, Essex, United Kingdom
The occasional blog of an Anglican priest in rural Essex

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Bible Books meme

I have been tagged by Sam. This is how it works


1. Name the five books (or scholars) that had the most immediate and lasting influence on how you read the Bible. Note that these need not be your five favourite books, or even the five with which you most strongly agree. Instead, I want to know what five books have permanently changed the way you think.

2. Tag five others.

My five are not necessarily books specifically about Scripture, but all of them have deeply impacted how I read the Bible, and some go further, having influenced the whole of my life and faith. Significantly they are all books I read during my ordination training, but I wouldn't want you to think I haven't read anything since then.

1. "Truth is Stranger than it used to be"; J Richard Middleton and Brian J Walsh SPCK 1995.

At the time in training when everything was up in the air, this book was one that helped me catch things as they came back down to earth; things like "What is reality and how do I perceive it", as well as introducing me to words like "meta-narrative". The cover carries a quote from Tom Wright; "All thinking Christians should read this book". Of all the books I read at college this was the one I didn't actually mind reading all of, even though I didn't have to! I re-read it every couple of years, though it's getting a bit dated.

2. "The Post Evangelical"; Dave Tomlinson SPCK Triangle 1995. He wrote this when he was pastoring "Holy Joes", a church that met in a pub. My brother was going to it at the time, indeed DT spoke at my brother's wedding. I don't think I am a Post evangelical (if there ever was such a thing outside London), but I remain influenced by Tomlinson's take on atonement theories, and I particularly warm to his IKEA flat-pack vs Meccano metaphor. Now that he's an Anglican minister, I expect he'd describe himself as an Affirming evangelical, but some would just say he's a liberal.

3. "God's Empowering Presence; the Holy Spirit in the letters of Paul"; Gordon Fee 3rd Edition 1995. This is the only one that is purely and specifically about the text, being a systematic and comprehensive treatment of Paul's references to the Spirit. In that sense, it's not really a book you read from cover to cover; it lives next to my copy of Brueggemann's Theology of the Old Testament, and so is classified really as a reference book or Bible dictionary type thing. Sounds a bit dry, but its impact was that it was the first book from a charismatic perspective that I found that told me there are other authentic, faithful ways of reading Paul on gender roles than what Grudem says.

4. "The Prophetic Imagination"; Walter Brueggemann Fortress 1978. I could have put "Texts under negotiation" or "Biblical perspectives on Evangelism". All had a big impact on the way I studied Scripture academically while also going through big changes in my own life and faith. Best thing about these - they're short!

5."God's Home Page"; Mike Riddell BRF 1998. Less academic, more fun and more relevant to where I found myself the year it came out - about to start in ministry. Next week is the 10th anniversary of my priesthood, so I probably ought to read it again, along with Pete Ward's "Mass Culture."

A lot of influence on how I read the Bible actually came from people and places, not just books. For example the single greatest influence was a pilgrimage to the Holy Land; another huge thing was doing a course based around the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius of Loyola. Naturally also the greatest influence on how I read and interpret Scripture is the place in which I am reading and preaching it. That doesn't mean I am simply recontextualising Biblical Truth, it just means as I seek to understand the Bible here, here is unavoidably a huge influence on how (but not always what) I understand.

So I tag Michael W, Kurt, Malcolm, AnneDroid and Howard.



  1. Thanks for that! I'll need to give it some thought but will get round to it. Thanks for the plug the other day, too :)

  2. It looks as though I am it!!!!!! ha ha ha ha ha! I will do what I can to get to this in the next couple days! Thanks Tim! Also, I will have to check out some of your books!


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