Book List for Hilary Term 2017

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Oxford Study Centre
Book List for Hilary Term 2017

Our reading list changes a bit from term to term. New books are published, others seem less pressing, and there is a steady stream of articles and chapters on subjects that beg to be included. For the upcoming coming Hilary Term (January-April)—in addition to a selection of articles, essays, and other items—we are using the titles listed below. I have placed them roughly in the order we will read them. (I’ve provided links to Amazon for any who care to chase up the volumes.) Before getting to the book list, permit me a moment to explain the purpose of our course.

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I’ve lectured on the subjects of worldviews and apologetics for over two decades. I appreciate a variety of approaches—or, rather, I favor an eclectic approach. Rather than reducing the study of worldviews and apologetics to having the best answer to the hardest questions (and better answers are certainly preferred to the alternatives), I get the sense that at its heart, having a Christian worldview is coming to share God’s affections and aversions; that is, desiring what God desires and despising what he despises.

Naturally, there is a lot of intellectual work that goes into discovering God’s affections and aversions, though our journey simply mustn’t stop there. Rather, such convictions are to be embodied and lived out. Such convictions rightly are public, just as faith rightly is found in faithfulness. What we seek to cultivate in our course is an informed faithfulness


The Qur’an
 (500 pages) • paperback • Kindle

This is one version of the Qur’an that our students have appreciated (though we also insist that they explore one by Abdullah Yusuf Ali that effectively is a study edition, complete with explanatory footnotes). An alternative version of the Qur’an is one annotated by A.J. Droge, complete with a myriad of footnotes and cross references and scholarly interactions. Along with the Qur’an, students are assigned four hours of reading in the Hadith (brief narratives that present Muhammad’s judgments, opinions, and actions). One purpose here is to learn how to understand other worldviews through primary sources.

We ask our students to complete a reading of the Qur’an prior to arriving in Oxford. It is the most challenging reading of the term. We do not ask that they study it, per se, only that they have a developing familiarly with it and reference it accurately when they write their exploratory essays on Islam. We also meet with an Imam in Oxford each term, including an extended Q&A.


What Is Biblical Theology? A Guide to the Bible’s Story, Symbolism, and Patterns
, James Hamilton (120 pages) • paperback • Kindle

As we spend many hours with the Bible – closely readings texts, observing how arguments flow, pointing up how the Old and New Testaments relate – this volume introduces a host of valuable observations and insights. It is an accessible introduction and overview and refresher, providing a springboard to a number of biblical excursions we venture into throughout the term.


You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit
, James K. A. Smith (190 pages) • paperbackKindleaudio

This is a new volume in our course. I’ve been aware of  Jamie Smith’s works for some years now and have found them challenging, convicting, enlightening, and motivating (and, at times, a bit irritating). While each of us is formed by culture, who, what, how, and with whom we worship transforms us and our cultures. I’m looking forward to our conversations as we reflect upon this volume.

Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian ConvictionsGregory Koukl (200 pages) • paperback • Kindleaudio 

This is a wonderfully wise and practical volume that guides readers through the whys and hows of communicating Christian convictions with grace and clarity and logic and suasion. (It is an honor to have Greg as a member of the Oxford Study Centre’s International Advisory Board.)

The Question of Canon, Michael J. Kruger (200 pages) • paperback • Kindle

This volume is more scholarly in tone than most of the others. There are a lot of footnotes and some seemingly obscure engagements with other scholars. Even so, it is not inaccessible at all. I think it is effective, even exemplary, as a volume combining clear Christian convictions, scholarly rigor, rhetorical precision, and polemical restraint. (You can and should keep up with Kruger at his blog, Canon Fodder.)

Answering Jihad: A Better Way Forward, Nabeel Qureshi (173 pages) • paperbackKindleaudio

This is an excellent volume that provides a quick and punchy introduction, overview, and engagement with Islam. Qureshi is a seasoned communicator on this subject, being a former-Muslim himself. It provides us with a great foundation, as well as a number of points of critical engagement (e.g., Qureshi and I have rather different approaches to the question of whether Christians and Muslims worship the same God). (The only serious flaw with this book is its complete lack of documentation. Since I’ve researched this subject for over two decades, I’m confident with the content. But it is nearly shameful that the author and publisher would let this volume go to press without such documentation. Qureshi’s longer book does have such documentation.) 

Openness Unhindered: Further Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert on Sexual Identity and Union with Christ, Rosaria Champagne Butterfield (190 pages) • paperback • Kindleaudio 

Given the pressing nature of the issues surrounding sexuality and sexual identity, there is a need to expand our studies a bit beyond the issues swirling around marriage and into issues of orientation, identity, representation, repentance, and hospitality. There is no better resource for this than Rosaria Butterfield’s work on the subject.

The Quest for Cosmic Justice, Thomas Sowell (190 pages) • paperbackKindle

Justice is a central theme in our course (which is sort of unlike any other worldviews course I know of). Why? Because it is a prominent theme throughout the Bible, and, as I’ve mentioned, having a biblical worldview is, to my mind, coming to share God’s affections and aversions. This volume very ably helps us navigate our way through various conceptions of justice, noting that all justice is social (and thus there is no need to qualify justice with the term social). A large number of our students note how much they appreciate the clarity Sowell brings. I could not agree more.

The Founding Fathers and the Debate over Religion in Revolutionary America, Matthew Harris and Thomas Kidd (185 pages) • paperbackKindle

It often has been said that America is a Christian nation. What could that mean? What difference might that make? Is the claim even correct? This volume takes us back to the early days of our republic to witness the disputes about religion between the Founding Fathers. 

Shantung Compound: The Story of Men and Women under Pressure, Langdon Gilkey (272 pages) • paperbackKindle

Humans face a variety of moral challenges when confined and deprived of normal human community and the niceties and necessities of life. This memoir will provide an engaging opportunity to explore the dangers of despair, the fortitude of faith, and grace amidst forced destitution.

Additional Recommendations 

Students who are a bit shaky on the flow of the biblical storyline and the relations between biblical themes will find many of our sessions extremely challenging. In order to get a working overview prior to the term, I suggest reading The Drama of Scripture: Finding Our Place in the Biblical Story, by Craig Bartholomew and Michael Goheen. 

Second, if students would like to improve their writing skills prior to the beginning of the Oxford term, then I suggest they begin with the following small volume: The Writer’s Diet: A Guide to Fit Prose,  by Helen Sword.

• • •

As I mentioned above, we also read a few select chapters, several essays, and a selection of articles, as well as a selection of biblical books, chapters, and passages. All told, we’ll be reading about 2500 pages this term.

All of our readings are designed for exploratory conversations, for long discussions about important questions and convictions. But it is not all talk, mind you. Just as faith without words would be dead, so are good words in the absence of good works. Thus the biblical worldview is not properly found resident merely in our intellects but in our imaginations, our emotions, our actions, our habits. Having a biblical Christian worldview is coming to share God’s affections and aversions.

Happy reading! 

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