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Top 10 Theology Books Your SBL, ETS Book Bag Will Crave

Categories Theology

Yes, it’s that time of year again: the gauntlet of AAR/SBL and ETS plenary sessions, lectures, meetings, and receptions.

We know it can be an overwhelming and stressful season. On top of adding that final polish and flair to your presentation, you’ve got to pack your suitcase “just so,” so that you have room for the bounty of books you know you won’t be able to resist. So we thought we’d lend a helping hand by charting a course for your book-buying adventure.

Below are the top theology resources your book bag will crave this season, and for which your carry-on will probably resent you.

They represent the latest, cutting edge research and scholarship in Reformation studies, biblical theology, dogmatic theology, and historical theology.

So print this list and take it with you. Your book bag will thank you for it!

Holy Spirit (New Studies in Dogmatics)

The Holy Spirit by Christopher Holmes

In The Holy Spirit Christopher Holmes fills a crucial gap in evangelical dogmatic scholarship on the Third Person of the Trinity by providing concrete answers about the Holy Spirit’s identity, origin, and acts. It is the inaugural volume in the new New Studies in Dogmatics series that aims to retrieve the riches of classical Christian doctrine for the sake of contemporary theological renewal.

Leveraging insights from Augustine, Aquinas, and Karl Barth, Holmes crafts a contemporary, cogent volume that “unfolds the divinity of the Spirit in relation to the Father and the Son in the inner life of God” and attends to the “works of God and of God’s Spirit [that] come from that inner life.” (29)

“With its scriptural alertness,” writes John Webster of Holmes’s work, “its generous appropriation of elements of classical Christian thought, and its dogmatic intelligence and scope, this is a rewarding study of the lordly and life-giving Spirit.”

A Theology of Mark’s Gospel


A Theology of Mark’s Gospel by David Garland is the latest volume in The Biblical Theology of the New Testament series. It covers both major Markan themes and sets forth the distinctive contribution of Mark to the New Testament and the canon of Scripture.

“Given the history of the interpretation of Mark’s gospel,” Garland wonders at the outset, “one might justifiably wonder, why write a book on Mark’s theology?” Why a theology of Mark’s gospel? Because traditional readings have not given enough credit to its “theological profundity.” (41)

Though Garland contends Mark wasn’t meant “to be a vessel of theological truths waiting to be quarried,” its theology is “unfurled through narrative development” in which Jesus is the central figure of the story. (42)

Garland’s resource aptly explores this unfurled tapestry, providing readers with an in-depth and holistic grasp of Markan theology in the larger context of the Bible.

Faith Alone and God’s Glory Alone (The 5 Solas Series)

Faith Alone

Does sola fide still matter today? Is the notion of justification by faith alone merely a relic of past doctrinal debates?

Tom Schreiner addresses these questions and more in his new book Faith Alone, one of five new resources exploring the five sola rallying cries of the Reformation. It offers a historical, biblical and theological tour of the doctrine of justification, and concludes with contemporary challenges to it.

He believes sola fide “should continue to be taught and treasured today because it summarizes biblical teaching…” (15) Schreiner tours how the church has understood this teaching, beginning with the early church. He then pivots to several sola fide themes in Scripture, because “as Protestants we believe in sola scriptura. We must, in the end, turn to what the Scriptures say and cannot simply rely on tradition or interpretations from the past.” (97)


David VanDrunen continues the series by exploring the majestic heart of Christian faith and life in God’s Glory Alone. In commemorating and celebrating the 500-year legacy of the Reformers, VanDrunen extols their “magnification of Christ, grace, faith, Scripture, and God’s glory,” all five of which “suffused their theology and ethics, their worship and piety.” (14)

Soli Deo Gloria is an especially noteworthy sola, because it is “the glue that holds the other solas in place, or the center that draws the other solas into a grand, unified whole.” (15) VanDrunen explores this cornerstone by walking the reader through the glory of God made evident in Reformed theology, Scripture, and contemporary application.

The 5 Solas series helps readers understand what the Reformers taught and why it still matters, in order to recover our theological bearing and find spiritual refreshment.

People to Be Loved


Gay marriage and sexual orientation are the zeitgeist’s issues du jour, both inside and outside the church. And yet they aren’t, because homosexuality isn’t just an issue. It’s about real people with real stories. And Preston Sprinkle is asking us to take them seriously.

In his crucial new book ripe for our contemporary sexual discussions, Sprinkle eschews thin arguments and trite, tweetable answers. He also sets aside our traditional and preconceived notions in order to let God’s Word provide the ultimate guidance: “I am quite eager to let the Bible challenge tradition…all evangelical Christians agree that the Bible stands over tradition as our ultimate authority.” (18)

People to Be Loved will challenge, inform, and inspire both sides of the debate to think about and engage Scripture deeply, mining its depths for what it has to say about gender and sexuality, in order to love more deeply.

Five Views on the Church and Politics


As a former congressional staffer with the United States Senate and interested citizen anticipating next year’s election, I was keen on the new release of Five Views on the Church and Politics and the varying contributor’s perspectives. They don’t disappoint.

Like other “views” books, this one offers five traditions in conversation to help us consider the relationship between Church and State, and Christian civic participation. Voices include: the Anabaptist, separationist view by Thomas Heilke; the Lutheran, paradoxical view by Robert Benne; the Black Church, prophetic perspective from Bruce Fields; the Reformed, transformationist perspective by James Smith; and the Catholic, synthetic view by Benestad.

Editor Amy Black provides a sturdy introduction to this necessary conversation. She invites us to "explore these different frameworks, looking for points of agreement and disagreement that can help shape your own understanding of the relationship between church and politics.” (17)

Locating Atonement

Locating Atonement, Edited by Oliver Crisp and Fred Sanders

Recently there has been a groundswell of attention paid toward the ancient doctrine of atonement, and also something of a sea-change. As Oliver Crisp and Fred Sanders reveal in their new edited volume, Locating Atonement, “modern literature has been directed toward denying that there is any single account or model” that completely or adequately explains Christ’s work. (13)

Though modern engagement has centered on whether one type of atonement is more adequate than others or a combination of motifs is more appropriate, this book takes the conversation in a different direction, asking: "How does the redemptive work of Christ relate to other load-bearing structures in dogmatic theology?" (14)

The twelve essays engaging this question that sprang from the Los Angeles Theology Conference examine the relationship between atonement doctrine and others in Christian theology. I’m sure you’ll appreciate the compelling, innovative approach they offer not only to atonement theory engagement specifically, but theological engagement generally.

I (Still) Believe


Most of us have been deeply affected by one professor or another. Whether in person or in print, they have made us who we are as teachers and scholars. Imagine spending an extended session with them to hear what has affected their faith.

That’s the premise of a new collection of life stories by a diverse group of prominent theologians presented by editors John Byron and Joel Lohr, I (Still) Believe. The result is a deeply personal, at times surprising extended conversation with eighteen leading biblical scholars, including Walter Brueggemann, Beverly Gaventa, Richard Bauckham, Edith Humphry, Scot McKnight, and James Dunn.

This inspiring book reveals the components, challenges, and personal influences that shaped the faith and scholarship of the voices who’ve shaped us—giving those who’ve struggled, wrestled, been discouraged, lost hope, and have wanted to give up cause to still believe.

Awakening the Evangelical Mind

awakening the evangelical mind

Forty years ago Newsweek declared 1976 as the year of the evangelical. My how things have changed. What’s happened?

One reason, perhaps, is that evangelicals have forgotten the intellectual roots and model of intellectual engagement that gave rise to the influence they had enjoyed for nearly half a century. In his insightful new book Awakening the Evangelical Mind, Owen Strachan insists it’s time to reclaim this forgotten memory and model.

With a firm grasp on the history and personalities of so-called neo-evangelicalism, Strachen traces the intellectual lives of its foremost fathers, including Harold Ockenga, Billy Graham, and Carl Henry. He insists Ockenga in particular “must be reevaluated and restored to the position of prominence he enjoyed,” because he offers “a model, however flawed, how Christians…may honestly and passionately engage their culture.” (23, 25)

I trust Strachan's retelling of their inspiring story will freshly awaken the evangelical mind, as much as your own.

Luis de Molina

Luis de Molina by Kirk MacGregor

Molinism and the doctrinal equivalent of scientia media (middle knowledge) is perhaps one of the more fruitful Reformation-era theological thought-systems that’s largely unknown.

Yet Kirk MacGregor reveals in his new book Luis de Molina that “Molina’s thought is quite relevant to Christians of all theological stripes, whether Protestant, Catholic, or Orthodox.” (12) In fact, middle knowledge is “one of the four principal views on divine providence and omniscience, alongside Calvinism, open theism, and simple foreknowledge.” (13)

MacGregor’s seminal work in Molinism studies charts the man and his middle knowledge, the belief that God knows not only everything than does or will happen, but what his free creatures would choose in all possible circumstances. The result is an engaging, revealing book that will expand your theological vision of divine providence as much as your appreciation for God and his knowledge of and participation in the world.

Character Formation in Online Education


Online education is quickly become a standard outlet for contemporary instruction. How does theological instruction fit into this new education model? How can online instructors help shape the kinds of people that excel inside and outside the class?

In Character Formation in Online Education, Joanne J. Jung provides the kind of guidance you need to navigate these pedagogical changes. Rooted in the assumption that character formation is grounded in Christian values, borne by belief in a triune God, Jung provides actionable advice for customizing your online courses and improving your pedagogical methodology, for any discipline.

“As the reach of online education expands,” writes Jung, “so do the opportunities to effect real character formation.” (9) She will help you rise to the challenge of shaping online learners, offering specific elements you need to form the character of your online students and build better learning outcomes.


While your carry-on loathes me saying it, there are plenty of other titles sure to satisfy your book bag's appetite for solid scholarship and inspiring reads. Stop by the Zondervan Academic booth at ETS and SBL to say hello and to stock up on the latest must-have theological resources.

Context is Essential - An Excerpt from Locating Atonement
Context is Essential - An Excerpt from Locating Atonement Much has been written of late on the doctrine of atonement. At the beginning of Locating Atonement, the editors explain ...
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