Thursday, May 11, 2006

An Introductory Guide to TheoSource

TheoSource is a site designed to make available the fruit of a project I have enjoyed since 1998. On this site you will find a number of book recommendation lists covering the gamut of Christian theology (general reference, commentaries, special works, theology, philosophy, biography, etc.). More specifically, you will find lists that compile specific recommendations from a wide variety of sources.

Brief History
Having searched for books and websites that provide Christian book recommendations, I came to own a large stack of individual lists that are impossible to use efficiently. I immediately desired to consolidate the lists I was collecting (and still am), and began building lists using spreadsheets.

Beginning with somewhat of a "wish list" of books for which to keep an eye out, my first list began. As the list grew the need to categorize the list arose, and as the categories increased the need to sub-categorize the list emerged. As the lists continued to grow, the idea of retaining as much bibliographical information came to mind. So, the lists were reformatted with columns for Author, Title, Edition, Volume Number, Publisher, Original publish date, Most recent publish date, and Notes. I soon realized that it would be even more helpful to note the sources from which I had found recommendations (my pastor, a friend, a book of recommendations, etc.).

In time, the spreadsheets were incorporated into a database and I was able to run reports to create various lists. Each bit of information (author, editor, title, series, etc.) was segregated into a separate field and queries were written to join and sort fields. The result is not perfect for a true bibliography, but it is the closest I can come to a proper bibliographic citation at this point. For now, I use the citations as a source of reference. Check your style guide for the proper format.

Criteria for Inclusion

The criteria for inclusion is fairly open at this point. I consider myself to be a conservative, evangelical, however, my idea for the book lists is to be as comprehensive as I can. My desire is not to perpetuate or to recommend erroneous theology. On the contrary, I desire to be a serious student of the Word, taking nothing (or as little as possible, humanly-speaking) for granted, be willing to wrestle with the Scriptures and various theological interpretations.

These lists are being constructed by feeding into a database as much bibliographical information as I can find on books recommended by noted scholars. To build these lists I have cited recommendations from theological textbooks, commentaries, published recommendation lists, and a few unpublished recommendation lists. As much as is possible, I try to include only titles that the source is recommending.

Some sources qualify their recommendations by indicating which titles and authors should be considered as the student's first choice. I have tried to indicate this with an attached note.

Some commentators include lists of the best commentaries on the book in question without any indication as to the theological slant of each book. Whether conservative, moderate, liberal, or any mixture of the above, the titles listed are ones with which the serious student ought to be familiar. I am very concerned to know the theological position of each commentator I use so I am working hard to fill in this information as I learn it. For the time being, some of this information is absent. As I am able, I will fill in what is lacking.

Some titles appear in the list without any recommendations. These titles have been found referenced in various sources but the sources do not give full-out recommendations of these titles. The student will want to be aware of these titles. In most cases these titles will not be the students first choice. (For instance, E. J. Young includes a vast bibliography in his monumental commentary on the book of Isaiah. I have included most of the titles he cited and attempted to note which titles he recommends as being the most helpful.)

On another note, I have not refrained from including non-English titles. This falls in line with my desire to be comprehensive. I want to include as much as is possible in these lists. (I envision having a complete list of recommended titles in German. I will let you know when I get this finished.) Recommendations are cited from conservative and liberal sources from both dispensational and covenantal schools by Protestant and Catholic churchman in English, German, French, Latin and other languages. To me the result of this approach has not only been fascinating, but also very informative.

As always, "Consider the source."

Please remember that these lists are a work in progress. I understand that some information may be lacking. I will fill in these gaps as time permits. My desire has been to make the lists that have been compiled available to the public so that they may be used and so that I may receive constructive criticism and suggestions for improving them.

If you have any questions or comments about the lists, please send me and email.

What do the lists now contain?The lists include the following information:
  • Classifications based on a slightly modified version of the Dewey Decimal Code (DDC). The lists are sorted primarily by the DDC. Along with the DDC is a summary of what all the numbers mean.
  • For commentaries, I have sub-divided those that are generally considered to be "technical" from those that are generally considered to be "non-technical." "Non-technical" titles will appear first and then "technical" titles second.
  • A "rough" bibliographical entry of at least 3,000 titles.
  • Notes regarding the title, if any.
  • A list of recommendation sources with notes, if pertinent.
What lists are available?
Currently, the following lists have been started and although they are always considered to be "under construction" the available contents are made available to you:

Old Testament Commentaries

New Testament Commentaries

Other Lists
Church History Works (under construction)
Philosophy (under construction)

What is TheoSource?TheoSource is the name I have come to use for this project. The original idea was to unify a number of recommendations for theological titles. Thus, the plan is to have ONE comprehensive source of theological titles with quality recommendations from noted theological schools and scholars.

Note that I have purposefully refrained from using myself  as a source for recommendations. Rather, I am seeking seminary recommendation lists, published recommendations lists, and recommendations found in other commentaries and theological works.

You can help!
Interested in having access to information like this? If so, please let me know your thoughts. I am eager to receive as much feedback as possible. If you are computer savvy and have suggestions as to how to make these lists more useful, or know how to make the database searchable via the internet PLEASE LET ME KNOW.

Vision for TheoSource Blog
There are scores of other great theological blogs that exist on the internet, but this site will focus primarily upon books – book recommendations and book reviews. Help will be solicited in this endeavor, and your comments are welcomed.

May the Lord of Glory be honored in all that is said and done via this site!
[Updated on 11/10/2011]