An Excursus on Theological Resources
Last time we looked at the second of three small habits that we might engage in to make our faith ours, the first being actually making a decision for ourselves that we were going to follow Jesus, and secondly, to read the Bible.
Large chunks of it.
I want to reiterate that once more, it is important that, if you are going to take your faith seriously, if you are really wanting to make it yours, that you take the time. You need to make sure that you put in the work when it comes to investigating the Bible, and wrestling with these issues. I would encourage you to read a lot of other books around the bible too. If you find something that you don’t understand, don’t just read it an move on, chase down the answer with a ferocious determination.
I also want you to make sure that you read books by people that you don’t always agree with, because we often learn the most when we are forced to articulate why it is that we believe as we do. Don’t just pick your favourite author and read all of their books and adopt all of their opinions, because then we’re back to square one, with a faith that belongs to someone else. I want to suggest some resources here in a minute, but I just want to say something about why you shouldn’t be afraid to read books with people that you disagree with.
Someone once said, and I can’t remember exactly where I heard this, but they said, “Truth has nothing to fear.” This was in the context of a debate around Hell, I think. They made the point that if you believe that your position is the superior one biblically or theologically, then why should you worry about what someone else says? Why shouldn’t you be okay with reading interacting with, and discarding what someone else has said that is different to what you believe?
One of the great ways to do this is through books that collect different authors’ opinions on a subject and then get them to interact with each other’s opinion. I have one on the Church and Israel, and it is an excellent discussion by wise and mature people. That’s the key though, you need to ask the right people about the different issues. Don’t just ask people who are looking as well, I’m not saying that you can’t ask those people, rather that you can’t just ask them. Ask people who have been on your faith journey a little longer, listen to different podcasts – not just the same ones – listen to different preachers, there are heaps of free online classes that you can listen to without having to do any extra work at all.
Here is a list of good, basic resources that you can have on hand to help you get started with some of the more difficult passages in the Scripture:
These were the first commentaries that I ever bought, and I still have them, they are very simple commentaries that give you a basic overview of what the passages are saying, and help you to get a handle of the overarching themes of a book or passage.
How to Read the Bible for all it’s Worth
This is a great introductory text on the different genre of the Bible, and how to go about interpreting each one. It also has some great summaries of each book of the bible.
Zondervan Illustrated Bible Dictionary
Bible dictionaries are great because they have articles on almost any topic that you could want to know related to the bible. It will also have a list of references for further research if you want to find out more on your own.
Holman Illustrated Bible Handbook
Another great resource that gives a more in depth reading of each of the different books in the bible, from how they are composed, when they were written, to what they might be saying in the original context.
This is another great place to look for help on different topics, you can read most translations of them for free at a wonderful website: Christian Classics Ethereal Library (ccel.org). The following are great authors to start with:
- St Gregory
- St Basil
- Thomas Aquinas
- Albert the Great
- Martin Luther
- John Calvin
- John Wesley
- Charles Spurgeon
- Karl Barth
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer
So there you have it – some great extra resources to get you started on investigating more of what the Bible has to say about various different issues.
Feel free to leave a comment, or ask a question!
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