When I was in seminary there were two books that I read that had a huge impact on me. At the time, they were both books that really fired me up and helped me to begin to see a way forward through the overwhelming array of options that faced me as a student.

This week I am rereading both of these books. My hope is that I will rediscover some of the insights I had when I first read them. Maybe I will even pick up a train of thought that got pushed aside as I struggled to finish my Credo for Systematic Theology. God willing, I will even experience again some of the personal renewal that I felt the first time I read these two books.

Which two books? The first one that I read was The Moral Vision of the New Testament: A Contemporary Introduction to New Testament Ethics by Richard B. Hays. This book provided a sense of immediacy for why one should read and study, not just the New Testament, but the Bible – in order to know how we as Christians should live in the present in order to be faithful. I found Hays’ method to be very helpful and it renewed my passion for living and spreading scriptural holiness. I also felt that in the last part of the book that Hays modeled a way to actually suggest answers to controversial and even painful issues that it sometimes felt like in seminary there were no real solutions to.

The second book that I read was for a directed study on Wesleyan Applications for Ministry, the book was Responsible Grace: John Wesley’s Practical Theology by Randy L. Maddox. My first thought after reading this book was: You should have to read this book if you are going to become a United Methodist pastor! Seriously. And I still feel that way. Responsible Grace really helped me to put the pieces of Wesleyan theology together in a way that helped me to see the contribution that Wesleyan theology has to make to the contemporary church. There are other great resources on Wesleyan theology, but this one was a watershed in my growth in understanding our Wesleyan tradition as United Methodists.

I am happy to say that 50 some pages into both books, I am finding that they are just as good as my memory told me they were. If you have not read either book, I would highly recommend them both!

Which leads me to ask, what were the two most important books that you read in seminary?