Here are the top 10 books that influenced me (not necessarily my favorite books). I know, it’s a little Bible-theology heavy, and I do lament the absence of fiction. Also, there aren’t many classics in here. Maybe after I finish graduate school I can turn my attention to this!
1) The Bible. Why should this book be exempt? It’s true! I grew up reading Bible stories and in my teen years fell in love with the Jesus of the Gospels and the God that Paul proclaimed.
2) Jesus According to Scripture by Darrell Bock. During my faith-crisis stage, the introduction in this book helped re-ignite my trust in the reliability of Scripture, even if it meant shedding certain wooden approaches to solving contradictions and historical problems. Reading this also coincided with my call to ministry.
3) The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard. I was fortunate enough to be introduced to this work early in my walk—in 9th grade to be exact! Sure, it was tough to wade through in that teenage Sunday School class, but it helped lay an important foundation that moved past the gospel of “sin management.”
4) The Pursuit of God by A. W. Tozer. This is a book I come back to every couple of years. It’s where I go when I need to be reminded that what matters most should matter most to me—God. It’s a spiritual classic I commend to anyone.
5) The Cambridge Companion to St. Paul. This book introduced me to higher critical issues concerning the apostle Paul. Most entries weren’t written by evangelicals, but the closing chapter by Ben Witherington rounded things up nicely and squarely.
6) A Concise Introduction to Logic by Patrick J. Hurley. I’ve taken several courses in logic, but this textbook in particular is well written and its content has remained with me in a profound way. I believe one logic or critical thinking course should be required of all seminary students. Really, I believe one logic course should be part of high school curriculum.
7) Beyond Foundationalism by Stanley Grenz and John Franke. This book helped me shake off my aversion to postmodern theory, and I’ve generally come to accept its thesis. But I’ve since come to appreciate some of analytic philosophy’s critiques of the continental tradition.
8) Grasping God’s Word by J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays. This book was used in my undergrad and helped me learn and appreciate the historical-grammatical approach to understanding the Bible. That means we try to understand a passage’s meaning by looking at the grammatical composition and the historical context of the passage in question. I think getting this skill right is important before venturing out into theological, allegorical, or other forms of interpretation.
9) Paul in Fresh Perspective by N. T. Wright. How could a top 10 list of a biblical studies major be complete without a little Wright? This is one of the first books I read by Wright and it opened my eyes to reading Paul in an new way, especially being attuned to the inseparable relationship between the church and what God means by salvation.
10) The Paul Quest by Ben Witherington III. This book helped launch me into an awareness of the church’s first-century context, especially the Greco-Roman side. Ben does a great job of re-constructing Paul’s world in a way that sheds light on much of the biblical text. The chapter summaries at the beginning of each chapter are excellent, by the way.