I remember my first quarter at Fuller back in 2006. I was just starting the MA in Theology, and after I purchased all of my books for the three classes I was taking, I started to panic. Seeing them all stacked up there on the table was overwhelming. I’m supposed to read all of this in just ten weeks?
You’d think that after 20 some MA in Theology classes, I would be used to the amount of reading you have to do for class, but I’m still not used to it. Last quarter, my first in the Marital and Family Therapy degree, I stacked all of my sixteen books on my desk and started to panic again. This amount of reading is just not physically possible in 10 short weeks!
I can’t say that all of the books I’ve read during the course of my two degrees at Fuller have been wonderful (or that I completely read all of them…), but I can say that several have been truly life changing. Here are five of the many that made an impact on me.
Note: for the sake of space (and to spare you incredible boredom), I’ll only give a few quick thoughts on each book instead of a full blown book review.
1. Hans Schwarz, Creation
Ah the age old theology vs. science debate. The Creationists work hard to make science fit the account of Genesis 1 and 2. Some Christians have leaned more toward the discussion of intelligent design to show that no matter what science discovers, they can’t deny the existence of an intelligent creator. Hans Schwarz knocks them all down with his incredible melding of all things science with a profound understanding of theology and God’s creative and miraculous power. I don’t know how else to explain this book. It’s way over my head, and at the same time, it digs deep into my heart by showing me the great expanse of God’s power and love.
2. Joel Green and Mark Baker, Recovering the Scandal of the Cross
I had the privilege of taking Joel Green’s exegetical class on the book of Acts during the last quarter of my MA in Theology degree at Fuller. To say this man is insightful is an understatement. In this book, he and Mark Baker tackle a complex issue: the atonement. Most of us use one metaphor to explain the way Christ’s sacrifice atoned for our sins: the penal substitution metaphor. God was mad at us and needed to punish us. He punished Jesus instead. Now we are free and justified. Yes, it’s much more complex, but that’s the gist of it. Green and Baker want to show us that this is just one metaphor used in scripture and by theologians throughout the last 2000 years to explain the mysteries of the atonement. To do so, they discuss varying metaphors from the Christus Victor model to thoughts from feminist theologians. Get this book, read it, and it will expand your understanding of the mystery that is Christ’s sacrifice for us.
3. Eric Johnson (editor), Psychology and Christianity: Five Views
This is a must-read for anyone considering a program in psychology from a Christian school. Not only does this book detail the integration approach to Christian psychology (Fuller’s approach), but it details four other approaches from the Levels-of-Explanation to the Biblical Counseling view. Different experts in each approach make their case for that particular approach, and each of the other authors are given a chance to critique the original author’s case. It’s pretty fascinating, and it really opened my eyes to the various approaches to Christian psychology that are out there.
4. Gerald McDermott, Can Evangelicals Learn from World Religions?
The first and probably most important point McDermott makes with his book is really more of a paradigm shift for classic evangelicals. He wants us to move away from thinking that other religions are evil and from the evil one to thinking that other religions are human responses to the true revelation of God. Yes, these religions may not be responding to the most pure revelation of God through Jesus Christ, but they are all making an attempt to respond to God. This shift in thinking will allow evangelicals to put themselves in a place to learn from other religions. Islam can teach us the importance of submission to God and charity to the poor. Buddhists can remind Christians that God is transcendent. And so on. We can learn a lot from other religions once we stop erroneously believing they are sent from Satan.
5. Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis
Go ahead. Judge me. I’m ok with it. And this is why: I read Velvet Elvis for the first time after completing my MA in Theology at Fuller. I had all these thoughts bouncing around in my head. I even contemplated writing a book full of the insights I learned at Fuller. You know, something easy to read and accessible, but something that really captured what a Fuller education is really like. I had no idea that particular book had already been written by Fuller MDiv grad, Robert Holmes Bell, Jr. He pretty much hit all of the topics I had pondered at Fuller. I was a little mad until I remembered that I am no author, and my attempt at my own Velvet Elvis would have been silliness.
There you have it! Five of the many books I’ve enjoyed through my time at Fuller. Ask me again in a few years what books I like, and you’ll probably see a lot more psych books on this list… and maybe one Peter Rollins book.