In preparation for the release of my first book in 2008, I decided that it was time to check out this new fangled internet site called “Facebook.” I didn’t really want to join, but the publishing magazines I’d been reading said, “Authors have to join Facebook and then everyone will buy all of the books and you’ll be an amazeballs bestseller overnight!!!”
So now I’m on Facebook for better or worse. I didn’t become an overnight amazeballs bestseller. In fact, very few authors became bestsellers thanks to Facebook. However, I at least managed to follow through on publishing that book, which remains my best-selling and most popular book with readers and reviewers.
I started the book with this simple question: How do Christians determine what they believe?
It wasn’t all that easy to answer.
After reading a good deal of scripture, philosophy, and theology, I wrote a readable little book called Coffeehouse Theology: Reflecting on God in Everyday Life that remains popular with college students and Sunday School classes.
Beginning with the relationship of cultural context and theology, Coffeehouse Theology roots the study of scripture in the church’s mission to advance God’s Kingdom. Far from dividing the church, theology unites the church in a dynamic dialogue about the presence of God, his revelation in scripture, and the wisdom of the historic and global churches.
We all want to read the Bible faithfully and responsibly, taking into account the ways its original context collides our contemporary context today and the traditions we’ve inherited. Coffeehouse Theology can help you do that—at least Scot McKnight said so in the Forward, so take it up with him if you disagree (and yes, I just named-dropped but it was terrifying to ask him to write the Forward as a new author, so there).
I was terrified that Coffeehouse Theology would immediately become a relic of its time and that readers who picked it up in, say, six or seven years would struggle to relate. I worried that I was writing a book that fit purely into the moment, a fad that I would never mention in the years to come.
I’ll admit, there’s a chapter or two that feel a little dated when I peek at them lately, but overall, I’m still really proud of this book. The central ideas still resonate with me:
- If we aren’t aware of our context or the original context of the Bible, we will be at their mercy.
- Theology should bring us together in order to learn and grow rather than to engage in battles over who is “right.” (This was the “coffeehouse” part of the book.)
- Good theology should lead us to action and deeper spiritual formation.
- We overlook the wisdom of the global and historic churches to our detriment.
Of course this book may not be your cup of tea. I admit, for as many readers who have enjoyed its accessibility, there’s no escaping the fact that it’s a theology book that deals with lots of ideas. If you’re new to theology, it will be a stretch. If you’re a veteran of theology, it will leave you wanting more.
However, for many of us who want to be aware of how we shape our beliefs without reading a mountain of books with tiny fonts and enormous words, Coffeehouse Theology is a good first step that I’m still proud to have written. For all that has changed (and failed!) since I entered Christian publishing, it’s nice to know that my first book wasn’t a complete waste of time!
Best yet, Coffeehouse Theology is $2.99 on Kindle for the first time ever this week.
Can you help spread the word?
Here’s a sample tweet for the Twitters:
And while we’re at it…
My second-most-popular book A Christian Survival Guide: A Lifeline to Faith and Growth, is on sale this week as well for $.99 on Kindle.
Do you have another theology book that has been meaningful or accessible for you? If I had to list a favorite contemporary theology book, I think it would be Renewing the Center by Stanley Grenz.