Ten Books that Influenced Me in 2015

December 29th, 2015 / 3 Comments

Good books change our perspective on God, the world, or ourselves. Good books have changed my perspective in 2015.

The following is a list of good theology, philosophy, or science books, most of which were published in the last twelve months. This isn’t my list of the best books of 2015, however. I didn’t read enough books to feel qualified to make that kind of list.

I’m leaving some great 2015 books off my list. In fact, some not on my list are more profound or better written than some I’ve listed. The books I am including, however, influenced my thinking most.IMG_7077-3

I’m actually surprised that I read as many books as I did this past year. After all, I endured a great deal of anxiety and pain in my professional life. And I spent a good chunk of the year writing or promoting my own new book, The Uncontrolling Love of God. I guess this list shows that I was able to keep up my reading despite obstacles.

In no particular order, then, here are 10 — actually 12 — books that influenced my thinking this past year…

  1. Christ and Cosmos: A Reformulation of Trinitarian Doctrine, by Keith Ward

I have long felt uneasy with the view that the Trinity is social. While I liked the relational implications, the notion that three centers of consciousness with three wills has always struck me as tritheism. Ward has now convinced me I can be a Trinitarian theologian without accepting the social Trinity. This book uses philosophical theology in a powerful way.

  1. Science, Religion, and the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, by David Wilkinson

I’ve been thinking lately about what implications there might be if life is discovered outside our planet. While the search continues, I think theologians like me can help us prepare for the implications should life be discovered. Wilkinson’s book offers an overview of major ideas related to this project.

  1. The Singular Universe and the Reality of Time, by Roberto Mangabeira Unger and Lee Smolin

Too often, cosmologists think mathematical models tell us the truth of reality, even though such models cannot capture some fundamental features of existence. One such feature is the reality of the ongoingness of time. Unger and Smolin speak as philosophers and cosmologists to help us think about the universe as a whole, including the ultimate reality of change.

  1. The Love of God: A Canonical Model, by John C. Peckham

I’m always eager to read new books on theologies of love. Peckham’s book is a particularly good one. He intends to keep a close reading of Scripture when sifting through various views of love. Of course, he has a particular reading or interpretation of the Bible, just like we all do. But I find myself agreeing with him on many things. And even on issues in which he tries to distance his view from my own, I think the implications of his view makes it not as distant from mine as he thinks it is.

  1. Renewing Christian Theology: Systematics for a Global Christianity, by Amos Yong with Jonathan A. Anderson

This is one of the most creative systematic theologies I’ve read in some time. Not only does Yong begin with Eschatology and end with a chapter on Scripture, he aims to draw from renewalist scholars (many of whom are Pentecostal or Charismatic) from around the world. In addition, Jonathan Anderson inserts images throughout and offers theological reflections of those images relevant to the topic at hand. Yong’s approach is mostly descriptive, but his prescriptive moves emerge near the end of each chapter.

  1. Bridging the Divide: The Continuing Conversation between a Mormon and an Evangelical, by Robert L. Millet and Gregory C.V. Johnson

Mormons and Evangelicals have been in dialogue for some time. At the lay level, that dialogue is often characterized by mistrust and misunderstanding. Millet and Johnson aim to offer their perspectives on faith in a respect but honest way. I’m finding that many common views about Mormons I hear expressed by Evangelicals don’t reflect well the Mormon doctrines affirmed by LDS leaders.

  1. The Not-So-Intelligent Designer: Why Evolution Explains the Human Body and Intelligent Design Does Not, by Abby Hafer

Not too many books begin with an account of why men’s testicles hang outside the body! But this one does, because Hafer’s intent is to show that many features of existence do NOT look designed. This book deals with the particulars to show problems in intelligent design theories that fail to account for random mutation.

  1. The Graphic Gospel: Preaching in Postliterate Age, by Jay Akkerman

Preachers are word experts. But what if they were also image experts? And what if a growing percentage of Christians are more informed and inspired by images than words? Akkerman invites preachers to consider the possibility of the power of images to communicate the gospel to a postmodern age.

  1. Renewing the Process of Creation: A Jewish Integration of Science and Spirit, by Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson

The ideas in this book are powerful, but most are not new to me. Artson explores various dimensions of science and his interpretation is influenced by process thought. But what was new to me was the profound ways Artson’s Judaism could inform the science and theology interface. I learned more about Judaism than I previously knew!

  1. Freedom Regained: The Possibility of Free Will, by Julian Baggini

The reasons you hear for why freedom is not real vary widely. Some point to neuroscience, others to genetics. Some point to addiction, others to psychological factors. Some philosophers offer arguments for why freedom is not real. In this accessible book, Baggini takes on all challengers and argues convincingly that freedom is real.

+ Two More

11. The HomeBrewed Christianity Guide to Jesus: Lord, Liar, Lunatic… or Awesome? by Tripp Fuller

I love the rhetoric of this book. Fuller writes in an interesting way, but he engages some of the most theologically sophisticated Christologies of the last century. It’s an awesome book!

12. The Love of God: Divine Gift, Human Gratitude, and Mutual Faithfulness in Judaism, by Jon D. Levenson

What does divine love look like, at least according to what Christians typically call “the Old Testament?” Levenson is a major Jewish scripture scholar whose work is world renown. I’m learning a great deal about love from this book.

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Jeff Wattles

I am indeed impressed with your reading this past year, given everything else you have been dealing with. I’m also grateful to be on your mailing list for such a blog post. But in this case I confess to ambivalence: these blurbs make me want to read most of these books, but realistically I know something of the limitations on my time for such reading. At the very least you’ve added some names and titles to my list. Thank you very much for taking the time to share this harvest.

Tom McCall

Ward’s book is interesting — though under-argued. He does need to learn to spell names correctly, however. 🙂


Tom – I just posted a quick review of Ward’s book. The blog is called “Rethinking Trinity.”

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