Theology is for every Christian — not just pastors and ministry leaders. It is my belief that, if accompanied by prayer and obedience, the discipline and practice of studying theology will be one of the primary means of sanctification in your life. But with so many books available on the subject— and many of them tough to read — where do you start?
I’ve got a list for you. This list is by no means exhaustive. I’m sure you (or someone else) could add a few more books or change some of the books I have selected and it would still be worth perusing. I put the number “seven” in the title but there are a few extra books sprinkled in, too. And while the word “beginners” made the title, these books can benefit any Christian, no matter how far along the road you are.
If you haven’t read much theology and you’d like to start, below you can find the best theology books for beginners.
The Best Theology books for Beginners
In no particular order:
A marvelous work of theology. I have the version with the larger and shorter catechisms and Scripture proofs. The sentences in the book are beautifully crafted and have served the church well for hundreds of years. While I take a few exceptions (i.e., I don’t agree with everything in it), few books are more enriching than the Confession. The book is both meaty and edifying, two things that don’t always go together. (You may want to read it along with Confessing the Faith: A Reader’s Guide to the Westminster Confession of Faith).
2. Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament by Christopher J.H. Wright
In a day where an increasing amount of people question the reliability and necessity of the Old Testament canon, the need for more good books on the OT today is vital. There’s too much suspicion toward the OT — even amongst Christians — and it shouldn’t be this way. Confusing at times? Yes. But the frequency at which its relevance is questioned is startling.
Wright to the rescue. This book is excellent — one in which he shows how the OT points to Jesus. Remember: the Old Testament is what Jesus read, studied, quoted, and obeyed. If you’re tempted to question its use, look to our Lord’s example. (Wright’s, The Mission of God’s People, is excellent, too).
3. Far as the Curse Is Found: The Covenant Story of Redemption by Michael D. Williams
The subtitle of this book gives you a better understanding of what this book is about (although the title is beautiful, one that borrows from a famous hymn). It’s a book about the covenants in the Bible and how they build and relate to other covenants in the Bible, and to the rest of Scripture. The theme of covenant is important in Scripture and one that you would do well to grasp.
4. The Attributes of God by A.W. Pink
My favorite dead guys are John Calvin and Charles Spurgeon. But I love me some Pink, too. I read this book back in, I think, undergraduate school. Man, did it make me fall in love with God more. The more knowledge I have of God, the more readily I am able to love and obey him. That’s one of the reasons why studying theology is so important. Nowadays, all the cool kids are writing books on God’s attributes, but no doubt they have borrowed and are indebted to Pinks’s work published many moons ago.
5. Bible Doctrine: Essential Teachings of the Christian Faith by Wayne Grudem
This is the smaller version of his Systematic Theology and the bigger version of his Christian Beliefs (which is the first theological book I ever remember reading, one that gave me a deeper thirst for the knowledge of God). I love Grudem. His prose is remarkably clear and engaging, something you can’t say for every theologian. This book (and the two others mentioned that are similar to it) have been foundational theological books for many Christians, but especially Reformed Baptists.
6. Knowing God by J.I. Packer
I believe this book started out as a series of essays by Packer. Years later, this book has sold over a million copies (and counting). I saw a guy on vacation last year reading it as he and his family waited to be seated at a restaurant. “That’s a great book,” I told him. Or something like that. I don’t remember my exact affirmation, but I wanted to encourage him. I got the sense that he was either a skeptic or a new Christian and my desire was for him to read and consume the book in its entirety. That’s my desire for you, too. I just re-read four of the chapters the other day and was reminded again why this book resonates with so many people. (You may also want to refer to Packer’s Concise Theology).
7. The Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer
I’ll let Randy Alcorn persuade you on this one. In Alcorn’s words:
I remember having lunch a couple of years ago with Gerry Breshears, a theology professor at Western Seminary, and Bruce Ware, who teaches theology at Southern Seminary. We were there with another friend.
Bruce asked me the question, “Randy, of all books besides the Bible itself, what book has had the greatest influence on your life?” And I said, “That’s easy to answer. Without a doubt, it’s A. W. Tozer’s book The Knowledge of the Holy.”
Bruce looked at me and said, “You’re kidding. That’s the book that has had the biggest influence on my life.”
And then Gerry Breshears said, “I’m not kidding! That’s the number one book for me.”
Could it be your new number one, too?
You may also like: