Favorite Theologians & Philosophers


So many books, nonfiction and fiction, have influenced my theological and spiritual reflection over the past forty-five years. This is the list of my favorites. With a couple of exceptions, I have not mentioned titles written before the year 1500. That’s for another page. As I survey this list, I realize that I have not included books by “biblical” scholars (N. T. Wright being a notable exception). I find that a bit surprising, given the number of such books that I have read over the years. The only explanation I can offer is that as I became more and more aware of the provisional nature of such scholarship (what, for example, did the Apostle Paul really teach about justification by faith), the less interesting this kind of scholarship has become for me.

My favorite Eastern Christian titles:

Hilarion Alfeyev, Christ the Conqueror of Hell

_____, The Spiritual World of Isaac the Syrian

Khaled Anatolios, Retrieving Nicaea

John Behr, The Nicene Faith (2 vols.)

_____, The Mystery of Christ

John Breck, Scripture in Tradition

Sergius Bulgakov, The Bride of the Lamb

_____, The Burning Bush

_____, The Holy Grail and the Eucharist

Nicholas Cabasilas, The Life in Christ

Paul Evdokimov, Orthodoxy

_____, In the World, Of the Church

David Bentley Hart, The Experience of God

_____, The Doors of the Sea

_____, The Hidden and the Manifest

Andrew Louth, Introducing Eastern Orthodox Theology

John Anthony McGuckin, The Orthodox Church

John Meyendorff, Byzantine Theology

Alexander Schmemann, The Eucharist

_____, For the Life of the World

_____, Of Water and the Spirit

Kallistos Ware, The Orthodox Way

John Zizioulas, Being as Communion

_____, Communion and Otherness

_____, The Eucharistic Communion and the World

My favorite Western Christian titles:

Hans Urs von Balthasar, Dare We Hope “That All Men Be Saved”?

_____, Love Alone is Credible

Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics: The Doctrine of God (II/2)

David B. Burrell, Freedom and Creation in Three Traditions

_____, Aquinas: God and Action

_____, Faith and Freedom

Stratford Caldecott, The Radiance of Being

W. Norris Clarke, The One and the Many

_____, Explorations in Metaphysics

Robert Farrar Capon, Hunting the Divine Fox

Milton Crum, Manual on Preaching

Dom Gregory Dix, The Shape of the Liturgy

Stephen J. Duffy, The Dynamics of Grace

T. S. Eliot, The Four Quartets

Gerhard Forde, Justification by Faith

_____, Theology is for Proclamation

Etienne Gilson, Christian Philosophy

_____, God and Philsophy

Piet Fransen, The New Life of Grace

Robert W. Jenson, The Triune Identity

_____, Systematic Theology: The Triune God

_____, Systematic Theology: The Works of God

_____, Story and Promise

_____, Lutheranism

_____, Visible Words

Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love

Aidan Kavanagh, The Shape of Baptism

C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

_____, The Great Divorce

_____, Chronicles of Narnia

_____, The Space Trilogy

George Lindbeck, The Nature of Doctrine

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works: Word and Sacrament III (vol. 37)

_____, The Freedom of a Christian

E. L. Mascall, Christ, the Christian and the Church

_____, He Who Is

_____, Analogy and Existence

Herbert McCabe, God Matters

_____, God Still Matters

_____, Faith Within Reason

_____, God, Christ and Us

Hugh J. McCann, Creation and the Sovereignty of God

John Henry Newman, Lectures on Justification

_____, An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine

Lesslie Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society

Michael Ramsey, The Gospel and the Catholic Church

Joseph Ratzinger, Eschatology

_____, Introduction to Christianity

Robert Sokolowski, The God of Faith and Reason

Richard Swinburne, Revelation

Thomas Talbott, The Inescapable Love of God

Kathryn Tanner, God and Creation in Christian Theology

Martin Thornton, Christian Proficiency

Thomas F. Torrance, The Trinitarian Faith

_____, Space, Time and Resurrection

_____, Theology in Reconciliation

Denys Turner, Thomas Aquinas: A Portrait

Robert Wilberforce, The Doctrine of the Holy Eucharist

Charles Williams, Descent into Hell

_____, The Greater Trumps

N. T. Wright, The New Testament and the People of God

_____, Jesus and the Victory of God

_____, The Resurrection of the Son of God

50 Responses to Favorite Theologians & Philosophers

  1. Josef Pieper was regarded as a philosopher rather than a theologian, but his works exemplifies the best of the 20th century’s achievements in Christian philosophy. His treatises on faith, hope, and love are little masterpieces of the Thomistic tradition.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Father Gregory says:

    In no particular order all these have made a real and lasting impact on my life. Most of them (not all) I keep on coming back to:

    Origen: On First Principles
    Contra Celsum

    Sergius Bulgakov: The Bride of the Lamb
    The Burning Bush
    The Holy Grail and the Eucharist
    The Friend of the Bridegroom

    John Behr: The Nicene Faith (series)
    The Mystery of Christ

    St. Benedict: The Rule

    N T Wright: Surprised by Hope

    Hilarion Alfeyev: The Spiritual world of Saint Isaac the Syrian

    Laurence Paul Hemming: Worship as a revelation

    Henri de Lubac: Catholicism
    Medieval Exegesis

    John J O Keefe / R R Reno: Sanctified Vision

    Eric D. Perls: Theophany

    Earthen Vessels: Gabriel Bunge

    Mark Julian Edwards: Origen against Plato

    Josef Pieper: Guide to Thomas Aquinas

    C S Lewis: Till we have faces

    George Lindbeck: On the nature of doctrine

    Augustine Casiday: Evagrius Ponticus

    Khaled Anatolios: Athanasius the coherence of his thought

    Alexander Schmemann: For the life of the world

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Ben says:

    No Florovsky?


    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      I have read some of Florovsky’s essays and have benefitted from them, but I cannot say that he has influenced my faith in any significant way–at least not yet.


  4. Dapper Dan says:

    I recently read The Orthodox Way by Kallistos Ware and really liked it. It was my first introduction to the Orthodox faith so it gave me a lot to think about.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Dale Coleman says:

    I would think such a list would include Michael Ramsey’s The Gospel and the Catholic Church, Wolfhart Pannenberg’s simply wondrous Systematic Theology, George Steiner’s Real Presences, Cavafy’s poetry, and Yeats! The Canadian film Small Town Murder Songs is one of the most luminous films I’ve ever seen about the work of the Holy Spirit.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      You are absolutely right about adding, Archbishop Michael Ramsey (which I have just done). As far as the others … it sounds like you need to write your own list, Dale. 🙂


  6. Cyranorox says:

    Though this is your past, still I’m surprised not to see Julian of Norwich and Traherne


  7. We seem to go to Favorite Theologians but it occurs to me that perhaps of equal if not more value might be a list of Favorite Saints, Doctors of the Church, Martyrs, Blessed Elders, etc. In other words, I wonder whether there isn’t a story in our favorite Saints Lives… of equal or more interest.


  8. Fr. John B. (Romania) says:

    I highly recommend Archim. Vasileios’ wonderful book – Hymn of Entry: Liturgy and Life in the Orthodox Church. I consider it a life-changing book, which made me to see all things in the light of the Divine Liturgy, the very wellspring of life and theology.


  9. Rick Fries says:

    Fr. Aidan, I wonder if you have read any of the writings of Matthew the Poor. Coptic Orthodox. The Communion of Love is exceptional.
    Rick Fries, new follower.


  10. dale Coleman says:

    The big books by N. T. Wright have got to stop scaring you Fr. Aidan! Boo!


    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      Well, I’ve read three of the big books, Fr Coleman, and I respect Wright a great deal and recommend him heartily; but he’s just not one of my favorite theologians. I doubt he’s losing any sleep about that, though.

      Oh, Wright is also a brilliant dinner companion. 🙂


  11. dale Coleman says:

    Sorry Fr. Aidan: Where is Barth? and St. John Damascene? Geez. WTH.


  12. Caj Ilotuuli says:

    Dumitru Staniloae : The experience of God . Orthodox dogmatic theology vol. 1-6


  13. Charles Twombly says:

    Super list. Super comments! Must keep this. Bravo!


  14. Rebecca Carp says:

    No love for George MacDonald?


    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      Good question, Rebecca. There are specific unspoken sermons that I particularly like, and several of his fairy tales, but I just didn’t think about including him in this list. I guess I should give this some more thought. 🙂


  15. Hi Fr. Aidan.
    What are the two best books you would recommend for me to read? This may be overlapping but who is your favorite theological writer?

    Thanks in advance – Chris C.


    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      Chris, that’s an impossible question for me to answer. What do you want to read about? What theological books have you read in the past?


  16. Hi Fr. Aiden
    I mean the best Eastern Orthodox Scholar and book? Is Alfeyev or Bulgakov the best or somebody else? I am an Evangelical with strong Eastern Orthodox leanings and theology with a strong bent for the mystical.

    Thanks – Chris


    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      Chris, I recommend two books for you: Met Kallistos Ware, The Orthodox Way and Fr Alexander Schmemann, For the Life of the World.


  17. Thanks Fr. Aiden,
    I have read both of these books (both are good). One book caught my attention was somebody mentioned HYMN OF LITURGY by Archimandrite Vasileios? I ordered HIS BROKEN BODY by Laurent Cleenewerce that deals with the RC and EO schism. Lastly, what do you think of Pierre Teilhard Chardin?



  18. Simon says:

    NT Wright is wonderful. What, no Sproul, Piper and co (tongue firmly in cheek!)


  19. j1943 says:

    You probably already know about this one, but anyway. In the “Introduction” of this book: S.J. Wright,Dogmatic Aesthetics: A Theology of Beauty in Dialogue with Robert W. Jenson, there is a comparison between the concepts of beauty of DBH and Jenson. Parts of the book can be read online:

    Click to access 9781451465594Toc.pdf

    Click to access 9781451465594Introexcerpt.pdf

    Click to access 9781451465594Chapter1excerpt.pdf


  20. You have got to read Jürgen Moltmann sometime. He wrote:
    – The Crucified God
    – The Coming of God (which contains one of my favorite meditations on universalism)
    – Jesus Christ for Today’s World
    – The Ethics of Hope
    – The Trinity and the Kingdom
    – The Spirit of Life
    – etc.


    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      I have read The Crucified God twice. I often turned to it especially during Lent. I have also read The Trinity and the Kingdom. I do hope to read The Coming of God sometime during the next year.


      • That’s awesome! 🙂 Yeah, The Coming of God is great! I’m not as well-read theologically as you are, but The Coming of God has the single best meditations on universalism, death, dying, and the dead that I have ever read. He includes some cosmic themes from Orthodoxy that are fascinating, too! His exploration of “divine eschatology” is also stunning.

        I need to read “The Trinity and the Kingdom!” I’ve heard he cites Joachim of Fiore favorably! I’m all for finding the good in those who are traditionally labeled as heretics (e.g. Origen).


  21. Also, I just love your blog. Keep saying great things!


  22. Basem says:

    How about AW Tozer and Matthew the Poor “Communion of Love” and “Orthodox Life of Prayer”?


  23. Fr. Aidan,

    I am an inquirer into the Roman Catholic Church. Since I enjoy reading about theories of universal reconciliation, I sometimes scan the evangelical universalist forum. While I was reading the forum recently, a noticed a comment that appeared to come from you to the effect that the universalism of Gregory of Nyssa and Isaac the Syrian is “dogmatically” rejected by the RCC.

    I was not aware of this. I am familiar with the Councils of II Constantinople, Florence, and V Lateran. I am also cognizant of the Papal Bull “Unam Sanctam.” However, I have been under the impression that the statements do not condemn universalism proper. (If they did, then the Balthasarian hope would also be condemned, since one after all cannot hope for something that is impossible.)

    If I may be so bold as to ask, what evidence led you to conclude that the universalism of Gregory of Nyssa and Isaac the Syrian has been condemned by the RCC?


    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      Gandalf, I suggest you explore the authoritative Catholic teaching on the particular judgment and the eschatological consequence of dying in a state of mortal sin. As Pope Benedict XV writes in Spe salvi: “With death, our life-choice becomes definitive—our life stands before the judge.” It’s precisely this dogmatic consideration, among others, that inhibited Balthasar from affirming apokatastasis. The loophole he grabs onto is the fact that we do not in fact know if anyone dies in a state of mortal sin. Perhaps the risen Christ converts all at that moment of death. We do not know … but perhaps we can hope. That is how the matter has been explained to me by a Catholic theologian who knows his stuff.


      • Thank you for the great response, Fr. Kimel! Do you have any blog posts where you describe your conversion to Orthodoxy, or is that too private a matter for inquiry from readers? As I am in the process from converting from post-evangelical liberal Protestantism, I think I would benefit from seriously considering the Orthodox faith as well as that of Roman Catholicism.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

          I have shared a tiny bit on my blog, here and there, but I have not addressed the matter at length. I have learned my lesson about such things.


          • I can respect that!


          • Basem says:

            Fr Aidan blog is a great resource for all seekers. He, in humility, sees the Grace of God, in the spiritual experiences of all Christians even the ones formally outside the Eastern Orthodox Church. I know I am making him uncomfortable but he is a modern-day counterpart of St Isaac the Syrian!


  24. John Stamps says:

    I absolutely love Olivier Clement’s Roots of Christian Mysticism. Strange title for a magnificent book. All Clement does is offer his wise reflections on various theological and spiritual sayings of early Christians. He’s such a gifted and beautiful writer. But of course he is. He’s French! https://www.amazon.com/Roots-Christian-Mysticism-Patristic-Commentary/dp/1565480295


  25. Mark says:

    I’m wondering if you should move Swinburne to the Eastern Christian section? He was actually co-chair with David Bradshaw of the head of the natural theology section at IOTA this year and several scholars interacted positively with his natural theology while somewhat critiquing his Trinitarian views. It’s evident to me he is really trying, even after a very fruitful career to move his theology in a more Orthodox direction. He even used the essence/energy distinction in his paper at IOTA.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Bilbo Baggins says:

    No St. George MacDonald?


  27. Michael Nelson says:

    Terrific list with some titles I had not heard before. A few titles I’ve enjoyed:

    Edward Feser: “Five Proofs of the Existence of God”
    Brian Davies: “The Reality of God and the Problem of Evil”
    Josh Rasmussen: “How Reason Can Lead to God”
    Josh Rasmussen and Alexander Pruss: “Necessary Existence”


  28. Hello, I’ve been a fan for a couple years now, and have continued to dig into researching Christian Universalism. One thing I have not really found yet, and I wonder if they even exist, but are there any commentaries that are written from a Christian Universalist perspective?


  29. Fr Aidan Kimel says:

    I am unaware of contemporary commentaries written from a universalist perspective (I consider this a high priority, if universalists ever hope to persuade biblical Christians), but you might want to look at the commentaries of Origen.


  30. Alexander Roman (Dmytrovych) SICH says:

    I would like to echo and emphasize Fr. Gregory’s recommendation by C.S. Lewis: “Till We Have Faces.” In my humble opinion, this is hands-down Lewis’s best work–in a pantheon of great Lewis works. Overstated? Perhaps. Nonetheless, a slow, meditative, carefully reading of this book will touch you deeply. Don’t read any commentaries on it until you have finished the book yourself. Then, read some of the excellent summaries and commentaries on it (Peter Kreeft’s comes to mind). Then, re-read it. The metaphor of why we don’t have faces as a result of turning away from the Light and running into our own shadows is alone worth the time and effort of reading the book.


  31. KopyKat Powerpenguin says:

    Khaled Anatolios is a Byzantine Catholic so is that necessarily East


  32. KopyKat Powerpenguin says:

    Also, you have a lot of Thomist authors and books dealing primarily with Thomas Aquinas, so it is a shock that he is not mentioned at all. Also, you have a peculiar liking for Luther which I find intriguing as you are an Eastern Orthordox priest. But anyways, a fine list.


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