By Ethan+ Harrison, Associate Priest, Immanuel Anglican, Destin, FL
Here’s a good list of good reads for your summer reflection. These books will inform you, inspire you and, quite possibly, change you.
The Pastor as Public Theologian by Kevin Vanhoozer and Owen Strachan
Up until the Enlightenment, theology was something that was done in and for the church. But, with the slow migration of the doctors of the Church as doctors of the academic world, and the division of biblical studies and theology in academia, theology and the church became alienated from one another. Today, many theologians and pastors desire to see this fissure healed. One theologian who is doing a lot of work in this direction is Kevin Vanhoozer. In this book, he, along with Owen Strachan, casts a vision for all pastors to be theologians in the Church: to be pastor-theologians in and for the Church. Together, the authors offer extensive discussions of what a pastor-theologian is: “a generalist who specializes in viewing all of life as relating to God and the gospel of Jesus Christ”(pg.25), the biblical and historical warrant for pastor-theologians and the purpose and practices of pastor-theologians. His vision is particularly fitting for Anglicans with our shared emphasize on Scripture, worship and catechesis, and our long-held appreciation for theology as an essential part of the Christian life.
Addiction and Virtue: Beyond the Models of Disease and Choice by Kent Dunnington
In almost any ministry context, addiction is a present reality. Even if you don’t deal with addicts in the clinical sense, you are dealing with people who are addicted to their phones, the internet, pornography or approval (to name a few). Often, however, ministers struggle with how to care for either type of addict or help those who are struggling with habitual sin see their addiction. Additionally, as ministers of the gospel, we struggle with how the gospel connects to addiction because the narratives of addiction are confused: Is it a choice or a disease? Both categories seem to keep the gospel out of the conversation. These categories tend to blur our vision of how to pastor people dealing with addiction. Dunnington decisively clarifies the nature of addiction by arguing that it is neither a choice or a disease but a habit. He retrieves Aristotle’s and Aquinas’ understanding of habit and applies it to addiction. Further, he shows how the struggle with addiction can be illumined by the doctrine of original sin, worship and God as our final end. This book is somewhat philosophical, but that shouldn’t deter anyone from engaging it. The philosophical and theological clarity it brings to the nature of addiction will help pastors care for those with addictions, show how addiction is an aspect of everyone’s life and reveal how the gospel of Christ brings real concrete transformation.
Grounded in Heaven: Recentering Christian Hope and Life on God by Michael Allen
When I think about rest and taking Sabbath, often I feel a mix of shame and guilt. Shame because when I rest, I don’t rest well (Netflix?!); guilt because I feel like I don’t honor God in my rest (Netflix?). Rest takes discipline, boundaries; rest takes effort. But more than that, rest takes a vision for the purpose and goal of rest. And in Michael Allen’s Book, Grounded in Heaven, we are offered a vibrant image of that end goal of the rest that we are invited to participate in now: the beatific vision of God. This book might not help you with the discipline of rest, per se, but it will give you a vision for the eternal rest of life in the triune God that we are invited to have a foretaste of in the here and now through habits of rest in Christ through the Holy Spirit. By examining eschatology, the beatific vision and Christian asceticism, Allen offers just what the (theological) doctor ordered to alleviate our blurred vision of the hope we have in the heavenly rest in our triune God.
The Theology of Augustine: An Introductory Guide to His Most Important Works by Matthew Levering
As Anglicans, we enjoy the privilege of drawing from the Church fathers as essential voices that guide our reading of Scripture, inform our theology and lead us into a greater understanding of our triune God. As church planters and leaders, there is a lot we can learn from the men and women who studied Scripture intensely in those chaotic times and sought to faithfully preach and teach the good news of Christ in the face of heresy, schism and a crumbling society. But sometimes, we can feel overwhelmed by the strangeness of their writing or the sheer volume of it. And then we consider the writing of just one Church father, Augustine, and see that we could spend a lifetime studying him alone. Where do we begin? Let me recommend Matthew Levering’s book, The Theology of Augustine as an appreciative introduction and guide to reading some of Augustine’s most important works. Levering is a brilliant Catholic theologian who has written widely, especially on trinitarian theology and Thomas Aquinas. His book on Augustine introduces seven major works by Augustine, showing their basic structure, content, argument and significance. The strength of this book is that it gets you excited to read the primary sources. If you have ever felt lost while trying to read The Confessions or wanted to tackle The City of God or De Trinitate, but felt overwhelmed, Matthew Levering will be a helpful guide.
Ethan+ Harrison is the associate priest at Immanuel Anglican Church in Destin, Florida. He graduated from Trinity School for Ministry with his Master of Divinity and Master of Sacred Theology in Systematic Theology. He is passionate about theology, evangelistic discipleship and seeing all of life in light of Christ and his gospel. He spends time with his wife, Lindsay, and daughter, Maren, as they adventure outside, go bouldering and cook at home. They are excited to welcome their second little one who is expected at the end of September.