Mere Orthodoxy put together a list of of 23 book recommendations for the end of 23. I was honored to be asked to recommend a book that was published before 2005, and opted for G. C. Berkouwer’s Faith and Justification. The whole list of recommendations is good.
Much of my reading project over the last four years has been devoted to targeted reading in the deep and diverse well of the Reformed Catholic tradition. I’ll continue to do so in other avenues, but in 2022 year I wanted to intentionally read outside my tradition. Specifically, I want to read outside the white, European-descended Presbyterian tradition. Instead of focusing on the works of an individual author, I am going to read a variety of works mostly representing theological perspectives of the “Majority World”. The Majority World is a term used to describe the majority of the global population that resides outside of the Western World (Australia, Europe, New Zealand, North America). I also be reading a few books on the African American Christian experience; of course Black Americans are part of the Western world and tradition, but the African American church represents a distinct theological approach within that tradition for which I have done very little direct reading, to which I want to devote time.
The most important work in this reading is Majority World Theology: Christian Doctrine in Global Perspective. It has six parts, each containing a series of essays, with each part having been previously published as individual volumes. Below is the rough schedule I plan on following…
“Now faith is unwavering assent to what is heard [from Christ], in full assurance of the truth of what is proclaimed by the grace of God. This was shown by what what was testified to Abraham, that ‘he did not waver in unbelief, rather he was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and was fully assured that what he promised he is able to do.’ But if ‘the Lord is faithful in all his words’ and ‘all his commandments are faithful, established unto ages of ages, made in truth and uprightness,’ it is a clear indictment of abandoning the faith and of arrogance either to supplant anything that is written or to introduce anything not written. For our Lord Jesus Christ said, ‘My sheep hear my voice,’ and before this he said likewise, ‘A stranger they will not follow but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers.’ And the Apostle, using an example from human affairs, more emphatically forbids adding or subtracting anything in the God-breathed Scripture, which he has in mind when he says, ‘Though a covenant be confirmed by human agency, no one denies it or makes addition to it.”
-St. Basil the Great, ‘On the Faith’, page 73 in his On Christian Ethics. Similarly, §26.1 of Basil’s ethics, “That it is necessary to confirm every word or matter with the testimony of the God-breathed Scripture, so that the good is established and the evil reproached.” He cites Matthew 4:3-4 and Acts 2:12-17ff for this latter rule.
This is not only sola scriptura, but the regulative principle. Faith in Christ includes faith in his words, which cannot be subtracted from or added to in faith or practice without modifying faith in Christ. Ethical conduct in faith demands that all faith and practice (word or matter) be ruled by God speaking in scripture: the Bible is the norming norm, because “It is necessary not to be fixed on one’s own reasonings to the rejection of what is said by the Lord, but to understand that the words of the Lord are worthier of belief than one’s own convictions” (§8.3). This is the practice of faith.
I started a tradition in 2018 of selecting a theologian and reading all (or at least most of) his works over the course of the subsequent year. My hope is that this allows me to not only to become familiar with important figures and texts, but to also get into his theological mind over a large body of work. This year I picked to a group of theologians: the Cappadocian Fathers.
The Cappadocian Fathers are three hugely influential, 4th-century theologians and churchmen who wrote and ministered in Cappadocia, what is now central Turkey. They are Basil the Great (330-379), the bishop of Caesarea; his younger brother, Gregory of Nyssa (~335-395), who was bishop of his namesake; and their friend, Gregory of Nazianzus (or Gregory Nazianzen; 329-389), who was briefly bishop of Nazianzus before becoming bishop of Constantinople…
I started a tradition in 2018 of selecting a theologian and attempting to read most of their works over the course of a year, as well as reading some commentaries on their work. Last year I got ambitious and selected two theologians. But in 2020 I’m scaling back to one, and am selecting someone more modern: G.C. Berkouwer.
Berkouwer (1903-1996) was Dutch Reformed theologian who taught systematic theology at VU Amsterdam, holding the same chair previously occupied by Herman Bavinck. He was a prominent interlocutor of Karl Barth, and was a formal observer of the Second Vatican Council. His 14 volume (in English) dogmatics remain very influential…