Comments: opinion

I'm not an admirer of the "100 best" list craze, but the Church Times have done a pretty creditable job of attempting the impossible. Certainly there's not much to argue with (or to cause too much excitement) in the first dozen or so.

But what an Anglophile list it is - 8 Britons in the top 20 (I'm going to count TS Eliot as British for our purposes), 14 in the top 30, and 24 in to top 50! (Again, counting Anselm as British rather than Italian). As a list of all-time Christian greats it seems a bit insular in more ways than one. Maybe they could have afford to have dropped one of the five (!!) C.S. Lewis books they include in the top 100 Christian works ever written. I admit I'm no great admirer of the old boy, but I doubt that even his biggest fan would argue that his theological output was more significant than that of Athanasius or Origen, or more influential than Eusebius or St Francis of Assisi.

Posted by rjb at Sunday, 12 October 2014 at 3:04pm BST

The list of Christian books would be better if each author was allowed only one title.

Posted by Spirit of Vatican II at Monday, 13 October 2014 at 6:08am BST

I agree: it is an extremely impressive list. Time was when these books would have been standard texts for those training for ordination; but I suspect it is far from true for over half of those in training now. This list surely provides an excellent starting point for a research project. If these are the books deemed by a distinguished group of Anglican theologians to be core texts, how many of our training institutions cite them as core texts (or even have them in their libraries); and how many of them appear in the bibliographies for Common Awards? It could be one means of helping us to address the low levels of theological literacy among the clergy (and some bishops, too!).

Posted by Simon R at Monday, 13 October 2014 at 10:54am BST

I think expecting all ordinands to read the whole of the Summa and Church Dogmatics is quite an ask!

Agree that 5 by CS Lewis is excessive. How many of those will still be classics and on this list in 1000 years? In 100 years?

Posted by Alastair Newman at Monday, 13 October 2014 at 2:15pm BST

There are some poetry books from the Top 100 list I'll be trying to track down.

Posted by Pam at Monday, 13 October 2014 at 9:50pm BST

I'm not sure I said I was expecting all ordinands to read all 100. I was expressing the hope that all ordinands might (a) be aware of the existence of these books for starters; (b) may have some grasp of their over-arching argument; (c) understand how they contribute to the development of the Christian faith 'as the Church of England has received it'; and (d) use them as theological resources in the exercise of their ministry (of which study is one requirement of the ordinal). They can only be encouraged to do this if a syllabus and reading list actually cites them. The alternative, of course, is more of what we're currently subjected to from the sort of books which are not on the Church Times list!

Posted by Simon R at Tuesday, 14 October 2014 at 9:42am BST

Since a number of those entering ordination and Reader training don't know the Bible (and sometimes don't seem to read it much...), reading Barth or Aquinas is something we get to eventually though not in the first term!

I have to say that this lack of Biblical engagement is not the fault of the students - their churches don't seem to foster Bible reading. Students lap up the training for this reason alone. And they like reading the 'great texts' though I tend to get them reading Moltmann and Tillich...

Posted by Charles Read at Tuesday, 14 October 2014 at 10:05am BST

The list is very Anglophone as has been said, but then it does appear in an English and Anglican paper - which makes all the more surprising the omission of Hooker, Joseph Butler, William Law . . .

Posted by John Scrivener at Tuesday, 14 October 2014 at 12:04pm BST

In response to SimonR: in both places where I've taught Anglicans (Cranmer Hall and the Eastern Region Ministry Course), we do list most of these on the reading lists so be reassured!

Interestingly, when I taught at the Elim Pentecostal training college they did too! Any minister of any denomination needs to engage with these writers.

Posted by Charles Read at Tuesday, 14 October 2014 at 4:48pm BST

I must say I am disappointed about the absence of Hooker from the list.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Tuesday, 14 October 2014 at 5:22pm BST

And I am disappointed there is nothing liturgical or about liturgy on the CT list. Perhaps that's one of the reasons why there is so little concern for liturgical formation. What one liturgical item would I choose? Difficult: but the influence of Gregory Dix's 'The Shape of the Liturgy' is surely undeniable.

Posted by Simon Kershaw at Tuesday, 14 October 2014 at 8:35pm BST

Yes ! Dom Gregory Dix a must.

Posted by Laurie Roberts at Tuesday, 14 October 2014 at 10:18pm BST

'Hear, hear' for Simon Kershaw's highlighting of liturgical absence from the CT list. Not so sure about Gregory Dix as a starting point, though. Do we still hold to his historic method and his identification of the four-fold shape? Nonetheless, here's an ideal project for the Thinking Liturgy blog: the 100 best liturgical books - especially if it can demonstrate that liturgy is foundational to Anglican ministerial and missionary formation.

Posted by Simon R at Wednesday, 15 October 2014 at 10:49am BST

Thanks Simon R -- I did in fact start just such a topic on Thinking Liturgy yesterday. And I had also made some further comments on Dix's magnum opus, which are broadly aligned with what you say here Simon.

Posted by Simon Kershaw at Wednesday, 15 October 2014 at 1:44pm BST

Dix was ground-braking in his time and a classic held in affection.

Posted by Laurie Roberts at Friday, 17 October 2014 at 9:24pm BST
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