Christmas Shopping List for the Amateur Theologian

theologian trading cardsSo the Christmas shopping season is fast approaching. Black Friday followed by Electronic Black Monday etc. And if you’re reading this blog, you are likely the sort of person who is very hard to shop for.

I mean, you are far more interested in a good conversation about double predestination than new socks or monogrammed hankies. You’re probably male (or so says Google Analytics, and Google can’t be wrong), and men are hard to shop for unless they are golfers or hunters — and even then they have to pick out their own stuff. Right?

So I thought I’d offer some suggestions that you can email your wife, husband, children, significant other, or congregation.

    1. No, Theologian Trading Cards are not a serious suggestion. Well, maybe for a few readers. Now, if they’d make a card game out of it, like Magic, where you get philosophy points and such, maybe. For guys much younger than me. But otherwise, I think not.
    2. Books. Your theologian friend loves books, and there have been some great ones published in the last year or so. Ask whether your theologian friend prefers Kindle, hardback, Logos, or another form. Or at least buy from Amazon so he or she can buy the electronic version for $1.99 and have both.
      1. Andrew McGowan, Ancient Christian Worship: Early Church Practices in Social, Historical, and Theological Perspective. Fascinating telling of the story of the evolution of Christian worship practices from biblical times through Constantine and later. The author is not a restorationist and so writes more as a historian than a theologian. Highly recommended for those of us with a Restoration Movement heritage.
      2. N. T. Wright, Simply Good News: Why the Gospel Is News and What Makes It GoodWritten at a very accessible level and perfect for a small group or Bible class study.  Rich with insights.
      3. Richard B. Hays, The Moral Vision of the New Testament: Community, Cross, New Creation–A Contemporary Introduction to New Testament Ethic. A scholarly work from 1995, but recently referenced by N. T. Wright as the best work on the pastoral implications and scriptural ethics of homosexuality, although the book covers far more topics. Do I agree with all his conclusions? No. Was my time spent wrestling with his discussions on abortion, divorce, gay marriage, etc. well invested? Without a doubt.
      4. Scot McKnight, Kingdom Conspiracy: Returning to the Radical Mission of the Local Church. Kingdom theology, well written. All elders and church ministry staffs should study this text together.
      5. Patrick Lencioni, The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In BusinessSimply the best book on leadership in an organization where teams are everything — like church.
      6. Stanley Hauerwas and William Willimon, Resident Aliens: A Provocative Christian Assessment of Culture and Ministry for People Who Know that Something is Wrong. One of those books that every Christian should read.
    3. I’ve recently posted recommendations on several Bible study resources. Not many theologian-types would be disappointed to receive a great study Bible. The main question is whether to buy the electronic version that goes with their favorite software, a paper version to carry to church, or even both.
      1. How to Study the Bible: Picking a Bible

      2. How to Study the Bible: Study Bibles

      3. How to Study the Bible: Authors

      4. How to Study the Bible: Restoration Movement materials

      5. How to Study the Bible: Commentaries

    4. Nowadays, Bible software is the way to go with commentaries, theological dictionaries, Greek and Hebrew language studies, and such like. There are three good choices:
      1. BibleWorks 10. $389. The price is pretty much all inclusive. You could toss in BDAG (Greek lexicon) for another $150. Group discounts are available. There is no smartphone version, but the price includes unlimited installations on personal computers owned by the same person — your laptop, your work computer, your home computer — so long as just one person is using all copies.
        1. I keep BibleWorks open constantly as I write. I copy nearly all Bible passages from it.
        2. It has excellent Greek and Hebrew resources.
        3. It is perfect for finding the Septuagint background of NT passages — which I find immensely helpful.
        4. It’s biggest shortcoming is a lack of upside. It’s weak on commentaries, Bible dictionaries, and the like. It’s not a replacement for a theological library. But it’s an incredibly powerful tool for digging into the original languages.
        5. And it’s very reasonably priced. (I find it indispensable.)
      2. Logos 6. $294.95 and up (nearly without limit).
        1. Logos has by far the most extensive resources that can be bought for Bible software. You have to pay for the upgrades, but there’s very nearly no limit on the library you can build, and Logos frequently runs sales. And you can buy from other Logos users for a $25 transfer fee — meaning that extensive libraries frequently can be had at substantial discounts for the patient bargain shopper.
        2. Logos is such a huge, sprawling program that you need a pretty decent computer to run it. I highly recommend a solid-state hard disk, preferably internal.
        3. This is unquestionably the optimal program for a full-time preacher. I’m not, never have been, and likely never will be a full-time preacher — but I can appreciate the value of the sermon prep and video resources.
        4. There’s a free iOS app that allows access to your entire library on your iPhone or iPad. It’s not as powerful as the desktop version, but it has remarkable power.
        5. As is true of BibleWorks, you may install extra copies on your laptop or home computer at no additional charge.
        6. The biggest downsides are —
          1. The learning curve. You can actually attend multi-day training camps on Logos and your time will be well spent. There’s a LOT to learn. But you can also self-teach with videos on site and on YouTube — for free.
          2. The temptation to buy more stuff. I just SO want to type in my Discover card and buy more and more stuff. I resist (to a degree) by taking great pride in waiting on sales. I bargain hunt, I’m patient, and I enjoy getting free stuff. They actually give away a pretty decent commentary per month, plus a second for $1.99. For $24, you can have 24 solid commentaries a year just by hitting “Like” on their Facebook page.
          3. The speed. You have to be careful to close resources you aren’t using or else the software hogs computer resources and slows to a crawl. But if you have a solid-state hard disk, it runs plenty fast enough.
      3. Accordance 11. $299 and up. Accordance was long the favorite of Mac users, but has now been made available for us Windows users. It’s kind of in-between BibleWorks and Logos. It has a very extensive library of resources to buy, but not as much as Logos — but far more than BibleWorks. It’s much easier to learn than Logos, but not as simple as BibleWorks. It has a very intuitive interface — meaning that it guesses how you’d like your information displayed and does it well.
        1. It runs fast.
        2. It also has a free iOS app that works very nicely and is getting better with each version.
        3. And like the others, you may install free copies on other computers that you use.
        4. I find Accordance far easier than Logos for reading commentaries side by side. In Logos, the default is to open one commentary at a time, whereas the Accordance default to place them side by side — really nice if you have a large enough monitor or multiple monitors.
        5. The biggest downsides are —
          1. Know what commentaries and resources you want. Accordance doesn’t offer the same scope as Logos, but the only resources that matter are the ones you plan to buy. And Accordance has an excellent set of commentaries etc. to buy.
          2. There’s the same temptation to keep buying more stuff as with Logos, but Accordance isn’t quite as aggressive in its marketing — but then again, it doesn’t give away as much free stuff nor is there the ability to buy used resources from retiring preachers. That is, it’s harder to find bargains. But for most people, Accordance will offer far more than you’ll ever need.
    5. My wife doesn’t like me playing my music while she watches TV. My “man cave” is insufficiently acoustically isolated from her favorite TV watching chair. Therefore, I like to listen through noise-canceling headphones.
      1. Bose makes the best, of course (Bose QuietComfort 20 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones, Apple Devices, Black), but I’ve been very pleased with the much less expensive AudioTechnica ATH-ANC33iS QuietPoint Active Noise-Cancelling In-ear Headphones.
      2. When she’s not around, I crank it up with Harman Kardon Soundsticks III 2.1 Channel Multimedia Speaker System with Subwoofer, modestly priced and so pretty there’s a set displayed in New York City’s Museum of Modern Art. Tell her it’s an objet d’art.
    6. For a popular Bible class teacher, a great lapel mic that works with an iPhone could be a great gift. This is only $19.00, and you just plug it into your smartphone, turn on the Voice Memo app, and talk. Great for recording a Bible class or other presentation at minimal cost and great sound quality.
    7. Music taste is extremely personal and hard to predict. But anyone interested in contemporary Christian music would enjoy the Passion albums. These are annual concerts of the best of new congregational worship music. Chris Tomlin, David Crowder, etc. Great for any worship leader or anyone who enjoys contemporary Christian music.
      1. Even So Come
      2. Passion: Take It All (Live)
      3. Passion: Let The Future Begin
    8. Free music is even better.
      1. Sign your friend up for Noisetrade emails. You get daily offers of free music from all sorts of artists, even major artists such as Nathan Ruess of FUN and Allison Krauss.
      2. And you can focus on Christian/gospel music. Josh Garrels recently gave away all his previously released music and then gave away his newest album — all for voluntary tips and to build attendance at his concerts.
      3. And it’s all free — with a tip requested but not required. (I’m a softie and almost always leave a tip, but not always as much as they recommend.)
Profile photo of Jay Guin

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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3 Responses to Christmas Shopping List for the Amateur Theologian

  1. Profile photo of Kevin Kevin says:

    Speaking of sales, eBooks of the NIVAC commentaries are on sale for $4.99 each until 7 Nov.

  2. John Randy Royse says:

    Get Josh Garrels and enjoy his music. Simply fantastic words and music. His latest CD, Home, is great. And he is well worth seeing live if you get the chance.

  3. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    I meant to also mention plane tickets to one of the lectureships.

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