Build Your Eugene Peterson Library: It’s Worth It

There are sixty six books in the Protestant Bible — and hundreds more books written about that original set. How’s a truth-seeker supposed to keep track? We’ve asked Mike, a reader, teacher, writer, and sometimes preacher, to guide us through the shelves and sort the secular from the sacred.


Eugene Peterson compares writing about spiritual theology to trying to paint a picture of a bird in flight. The objective facts of the moment do not equal the actual experience:


“The very nature of a subject in which everything is always in motion and the context is constantly changing — rhythm of wings, sun-tinted feathers, drift of clouds, and more — precludes precision. Which is why definitions and explanations for the most part miss the very thing that we are interested in. Stories and metaphors, poetry and prayer, and leisurely conversation are more congenial to the subject, a conversation that necessarily also includes the Other.”


But despite — or perhaps because — Peterson knows his limitations, his writing on Scripture is almost unparalleled by contemporary theological writers. He’s most widely known as the translator of the contemporary Bible translation The Message, but he’s written several other books I reference frequently, including Leap Over a Wall, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, and Run with the Horses.


I admire all his work, but I feel he’s reached his summit in his five-fold series of conversations on spiritual theology. It seems to me that these writings are a continual critique on efforts to systematize theology or faith. This series runs deep and will require sustained attention, but if I had to limit my library to just ten books, these would be five of them.


  • Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places: A conversation on spiritual theology.
  • Tell it Slant: A conversation on the language of Jesus in His stories and prayers.
  • Eat This Book: A conversation in the art of spiritual reading.
  • The Jesus Way: A conversation on the ways that Jesus is the way.
  • Practice Resurrection: A conversation on growing up in Christ.




Michael Rollwagen holds a Masters of Divinity and has thirty years experience as a pastor and teacher. He strives to forget most of that, though, and concentrate on helping people. He writes a weekly blog, More Undignified, and runs a faith-based non-profit, WordWalk, in Pensacola, Florida.

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