In all, I probably read some thirty books in 2011. Many of them deserve mention, some of them for how profoundly terrible they are. However, my top five reads for 2011 are as follows:
Anatheism: Returning to God After God, Richard Kearney
After the introduction, I could hardly read more than a few pages without breaking into tears. This work is having a profound impact on my thinking. Anatheism might become my new designation/identity especially if this term starts to find broader use. I love that anatheism, in Kearney's use and in my own developments on the term, allows for atheism, in fact, it embraces atheism as both a necessary and ameliorating intellectual and moral conclusion. I will be writing with reliance on this work for some time, and I apologize in advance for the likelihood that much of my writing will reference this work for the foreseeable immediate future.
Adventures in the Spirit: God, World, Divine Action; Philip Clayton
This work is an important contribution to the development of a truly progressive, science-positive, pluralistic theological method. It explores questions of theological method with a healthy emphasis on the need for inter-religious dialogue. Clayton fairly and informatively develops the historical and contemporary interplay between classical theism, deism, atheism, open theism, panenetheism, and process theism. He develops and defends what he entitles open kenotic process panentheism—a paradigm that I find religiously compelling.
Erotic Justice: A Liberating Ethic of Sexuality, Marvin M. Ellison
Written in the early 1990's, Ellison writes as a gay Christian academic and ethicist prior to the justice advancements for LGBTQ rights in the last twenty years. His context as a sexual minority gives him an insightful perspective on the cultural hegemony of white, patriarchal, monogamous, heterosexual normalcy. He makes sexuality into a justice issue and shows how it operates as a barometer of inequities prevalent in society. Ellison seeks to promote a sex-positive, body friendly (“at-homeness”) sexual ethic that moves beyond both power, possession, and control. This is an excellent read in social justice from a unique perspective. This also seems to be an under-appreciated resource for those interested in constructing an empowering ethic of non-monogamy and/or polyamory.
Old Testament Ethics for the People of God, Christopher Wright
Wright's work tops the works on biblical studies that I read in 2011. Wright's approach to ethics in the Pentateuch and the Hebrew Prophets begins with a reconstruction of the social settings (the sitz im leben) that form its ethical frameworks. He shows how Old Testament civil-social ethics are inherently situational and contingent on particulars of historical-cultural setting. Against such situational contingencies, Wright then shows how Old Testament ethical assumptions such as the priority of justice, humanity, and compassion can still inform and inspire ethical systems today. He is not an inerrantist who believes that the Bible has to be always correct on matters of morality; instead, he takes an accommodationist approach in which biblical ethics are limited by the ethical imaginations of the biblical authors. Hence, Wright does not give biblical ethics unbridled authority today—they must be understood for their bedrock moral assumptions rather than, as fundamentalists are wont to do, making particulars into universals.
Omnipotence and Other Theological Mistakes, Charles Hartshorne
This work, by Hartshorne, is a brief, cogent presentation of Hartshorne's philosophy and theology. In it he dispels and critiques some of the more damning assumptions and dogmas of traditional theisms such as the idea that revelation or scripture must be inerrant, the idea that God is all powerful, and the idea that immortality must be personal as conscious life after death.