Books I’m going to (try to) read this year

Preston Sprinkle
Barth

I’ve never made up a “books I’m going to read this year” list. But this year might be different. I want to be more organized and disciplined in my reading, so I’ve been keeping a mental list of books I’m going to (try to) read in 2015. As you’ll see, the list is a strange blend of popular, academic, fiction, non-fiction, and is (still) dominated by books about sexuality, homosexuality, and gender. Here’s what I’ve got so far.

  • Kyle Harper, From Shame to Sin: The Christian Transformation of Sexual Morality in Late Antiquity
  • Megan DeFranza, Sex Difference in Christian Theology: Male, Female, and Intersex in the Image of God
  • Mark Yarhouse, Understanding Gender Dysphoria: Navigating Transgender Issues in a Changing Culture
  • Malcom Gladwell, Outliers: The Story of Success
  • Kevin DeYoung, What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality?
  • Chris Date, et al. Rethinking Hell: Readings in Evangelical Conditionalism
  • Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov
  • Stephen King, On Writing
  • Karl Barth, The Church Dogmatics, Vol. 4.1 The Doctrine of Reconciliation

I’m also going to try to read the New Testament four times. So far so good!

This may not seem like a very long list, but Dostoevsky and Barth are both 800 pages each, which is super overwhelming to me. I would love to hear any further recommendations you may have. Perhaps books that you feel are must reads that should be added to the list. I can’t promise you I’ll get to them, but I’d love to hear what you’ve got.

I’m probably most excited about (finally) reading through Karl Barth’s volume on reconciliation. I mean, uh, I’m most excited about reading the New Testament. And then I’m most excited about Barth. Anyway, I’ve always admired Barth from a distance. I’ve read through his Evangelical Theology when I was in Scotland, and bits and pieces of some of his other writings. But I’ve never waded through his beefy tomes in his Dogmatics.

I used to think that Barth was some raging liberal, even though I never actually read Barth. I think I was handed this view from some people in my tradition growing up, who, as it turns out, had never read Barth either. Come to find out, Barth was actually a raging fundamentalist in light of his context. He had the stones and brain power to call real liberals on the carpet for offending and denying both the word and Word of God. Karl Barth simply was the John Piper of Germany in the early 20th Century. I’m sure there will be a forthcoming blog about that one. Stay tuned.

In any case, when I arrived in Aberdeen, Scotland, for my doctoral studies in 2004, I heard that there was some Barthian scholar named John Webster at the university. I quickly found out that Webster was one of the greatest theologians alive (I was embarrassed that I had never heard of him), and he attracted a lot of doctoral students from America who traveled to Scotland to study Barth. One of these students became my good friend: Robert Price, now associate professor of theology at Talbot Seminary.

Long story short, all of Webster’s students (who were studying Barth) had to read through all the Dogmatics in the first year of their studies. That’s almost 10,000 pages folks! And as my friend Robert read through these works, I felt like I was reading over his shoulder with him, as we chatted about Barth over English tea in his second story flat. My appetite was quickly whet.

Shortly after, I had another Barthian encounter, again from a distance. About half way through my studies, I found myself resonating with Francis Watson’s interpretation of Paul (the subject of my own dissertation). Watson, come to find out, was sort of a Barthian Pauline scholar. After combing through Watson’s Paul and the Hermeneutics of Faith two times during my studies, I knew that he had nailed it when it came to Paul. His interpretation is just shy of inspired. I mean, like, Bible, then Apocrypha, then Watson, and then maybe Francis Chan. As it turns out, Watson thought that Barth had nailed it when it came to Paul.

So: Jesus – Paul – Barth – Watson. Needless to say, I became even more thirsty for some Barth, as he became the missing link in my chain of truth.

Knowing that I’d never have the time to comb through the Dogmatics, I asked my friend Rob which volume I should read if I could only read one. “Volume 4.1, the Doctrine of Reconciliation,” Rob said confidently. “It’s Barth at his best.”

That was 2005. And now, here I am. Turning to page 1 of Volume 4.1.

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