A proper theology library

May 19, 2010

I got a new camera, so I’m playing with it. I am treating all the theology nerds who read my blog to this picture of my larger bookcase. Click to enlarge.

Please note: I have my Calvin, Thielicke, Newman, novels, and much else on the other bookcase.

And here is the corner of my desk. Old man Barth keeps me straight!

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10 Responses to “A proper theology library”

  1. mshedden said

    Nice Kevin,
    Here is what happened to my books after Barth came:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/mshedden/3508753252/sizes/l/

    How is Webster’s book on Barth? I find most of those books not as helpful as I would like and feel like I missing some of the debate between Barth scholars for one opinion. Although I hear good things about Webster.

    I am more than disappointed to see that you are a man of the ESV.

    • Kevin said

      Wow, you could use some feng shui!

      My favorite translation is still the NIV, so that should probably disturb you even more. I used the RSV throughout my undergrad and postgrad work (crosschecking with the NRSV), but I’ve come to appreciate some of the textual updates to the RSV in the ESV. Plus, my church uses the ESV.

      I really liked Webster’s book on Barth, but it is certainly no substitute for Barth himself. I think Barth’s Evangelical Theology: An Introduction serves as a better entry into his thought than any secondary study. Webster’s Barth has two great advantages: (1) He largely sticks to the Church Dogmatics. Most of the book is a survey of the CD and is not overly concerned with Barth’s controversies with other theologians or movements. (2) Webster is unmatched in his ability to capture Barth’s prose. Webster himself is probably the greatest prose writer in theology today (though Vanhoozer has the greater wit, and Rowan Williams has some remarkable passages).

      • mshedden said

        I don’t mind reading the ESV but I have a hard time accepting a translation that had no women on any of its committees (of course for poor theological reasons) and doesn’t even footnote recent scholarship around “the faith(fullness) of Jesus Christ” (for poor theological reasons). Top it off with providing a back section in its study edition on why we don’t need to be non-violent and it gets moved pretty low.

        I use the TNIV most often which is most likely more disturbing.

        Thanks for the thoughts on Webster’s book. I might need to pick that up.

      • Kevin said

        I can’t argue with your points, though I don’t own the ESV Study Bible so I didn’t know about the section on non-violence. From the comparisons that I’ve done, the Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible is far better than the ESV Study Bible, even for those who don’t agree with classical Reformed theology.

        I like the TNIV, but I’m waffling on the whole issue of gender neutral language. For both linguistic and aesthetic reasons, I currently lean more on the traditional side of the debate. I especially do not like, in gender-neutral translations, how all of Jesus’ statements using the singular “he” is made into “they.” Thus, where the individual is the focus, a corporate focus is forced on the text. So, I like the ESV’s moderate (if inconsistent) use of gender neutral language.

  2. mshedden said

    Good points on TNIV (although I have never noticed it.) I am looking forward to both the Common English Bible being relased as well as the new NIV.
    But given the TNIV being marketed toward evangelicals they are always going to take “they” and turn it into “me”.

    • That last sentence is especially funny because that’s precisely one of the arguments that I heard in favor of the TNIV (i.e., as a corrective against evangelical individualism). Of course, accuracy of translation is more important, so I stick with the NIV. I, too, am anxious to see what comes about with the new NIV. My guess is that they’ll follow the ESV with a very moderate use of gender-inclusive language. I like all of the textual updates and footnotes in the TNIV, so I assume that will carry over into the new NIV.

  3. From what I can see of the number of volumes and titles you’re a very disciplined buyer of books, Kevin…either that or you’ve lived near good theological libraries all your life!
    For the last 12 months I’ve actually been trying to whittle down my library; it is a difficult and painful task, but how does that saying go: “a good book read many times is better than many books read once” or something like that?

    • Yeah, you could say that I’m a very disciplined buyer. I have high standards — so, for example, I ignore the vast majority of current publications unless the author is genuinely building on the work of those who have gone before. I expect certain authors in the index, depending on the topic. Plus, I read excerpts, when I can, before I buy.

      I actually got some amazing deals on most of the books in my library, especially from used bookstores online. Plus, the Half-Price Books in my town has had some great buys (like Barth’s book on 19th century Protestantism for $6, Tillich’s 3-volume systematics for $10, Troelsch’s 2-volume social history of the Christian churches for $13, and more). By perusing online book stores (www.bookfinder.com), I got some great deals on Brunner’s Dogmatics and Weber’s Foundations.

  4. I thought that was Tillich’s Systematics in the bottom right-hand corner! I’m a bargain-hunter too, but periodically I also weed out books I think I don’t need anymore because I’m a minimalist at heart. Barth has taught me a lot, btw (even though I’m Lutheran). His work on 19th C. Protestantism is a must read, and his Roemerbrief was one of the first theological books I read and blew me away…but then, come to think of it, I haven’t returned to it since – I think it’s a book to be read once, but his dogmatics, on the other hand…

    • I couldn’t agree with you more about Barth’s Römerbrief. It’s essential to read once, but I really don’t know if I could handle a second reading — honestly, I never even got through it all the first time! It lacks the positive-constructive vision, delight, and repose of his other works.

      Yep, I’ve got Tillich, and, even though I’ve relegated him (with Troelsch) to the bottom shelf, I still highly appreciate his insights. He had a troubled soul and some serious errors, but his comprehensive clarity was astounding.

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