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
_____, 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
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.
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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
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
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
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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.
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.
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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.
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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. 🙂
Though this is your past, still I’m surprised not to see Julian of Norwich and Traherne
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.
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.
I love these kinds of lists–mine is a work in progress, too…
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.
The big books by N. T. Wright have got to stop scaring you Fr. Aidan! Boo!
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. 🙂
Sorry Fr. Aidan: Where is Barth? and St. John Damascene? Geez. WTH.
Barth is right HERE. 🙂
Dumitru Staniloae : The experience of God . Orthodox dogmatic theology vol. 1-6
Super list. Super comments! Must keep this. Bravo!
No love for George MacDonald?
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. 🙂
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.
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?
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
Chris, I recommend two books for you: Met Kallistos Ware, The Orthodox Way and Fr Alexander Schmemann, For the Life of the World.
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?
NT Wright is wonderful. What, no Sproul, Piper and co (tongue firmly in cheek!)
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
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
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).
Also, I just love your blog. Keep saying great things!
How about AW Tozer and Matthew the Poor “Communion of Love” and “Orthodox Life of Prayer”?
I haven’t read them. Thanks for the suggestions.
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?
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.
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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!
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!
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
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.
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No St. George MacDonald?
This list definitely needs to be updated!
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”
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?
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.
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.
Khaled Anatolios is a Byzantine Catholic so is that necessarily East
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.