Blogger: Michelle Ule
Location: Books & Such Main Office, Santa Rosa, Calif.
When I was in high school, I attended the local Lutheran church to play volleyball on Friday nights. Soon they invited me to Bible study, presented the gospel and encouraged me to read about Christianity. One of the kids recommended I start with Hal Lindsey’s The Late Great Planet Earth. Midway through, I prayed the prayer of salvation. I didn’t buy it all, but I sure didn’t want to be left behind if everyone was raptured and armed conflict broke out in the Middle East.
The pastor later recommended Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship, and I took a copy of that green paperback to Europe my second summer in college. From Bonhoeffer I learned what it means to be a follower of Jesus, and my life hasn’t been the same since.
Quite an extreme choice of books to read–and therein is the breadth of theological interest in the book-buying public. Guess which book has sold more copies?
I’ve come a long way in 40 years of mostly light-theological reading. While I appreciate the rigor a good book about God requires, my brain is not philosophical–I need more simple and concrete concepts–and theology is not my preferred reading material. Still, I’ve managed to keep up with classics like J. I. Packer’s Knowing God and C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity, almost always because some Christian I admire recommended them.
Which brings me to my major problem. How do you find quality theology books today for the simpler reader?
Christianity Today magazine regularly publishes a list of the best books published each year. This year I didn’t recognize a single title in the nonfiction category.
Publishing theology, with the possible exception of apologetics, is a small field in the Christian marketplace. While many theology readers exist, outside of seminaries and classes, it’s not a big mass market unless the author has a significant platform or publishes at a timely moment. What else would explain the success of Lindsey’s book which came out during an oil embargo in the Middle East?
If you are not a professional, how often do you read theology?
What elements draw you to a particular book?
Do you only read within your denomination?
Can you call it a pleasure read, or are you reading differently–for information?
And if you could write any sort of book with a theological theme–remember, theology means the study of God–what would you write about?