Bible books theology

2024 Grawemeyer Award in Religion

I am incredibly honored to receive the 2024 Grawemeyer Award in Religion. It is a particularly significant honor for me because the previous recipients of the Grawemeyer have inspired and shaped my theological life through their imaginative and boundary pushing work. 

When I was a high school student growing up in Austin, Texas I dreamed of becoming a scholar of religion. At many points I doubted whether I had the ability to do it. I remember looking at the first winner of the Grawemeyer, E.P. Sanders—a fellow Texan—who shifted the study of the New Testament, and thinking that maybe I too could join The Great Conversation. 

The Grawemeyer winners that came after him are scholars whose books have set the standard of writing I have aspired to. Their ideas have changed my religious imaginary and formed the ways I move through the world. I never expected to win the Grawemeyer, but I am so appreciative of this recognition for A Human-Shaped God.

There are so many people I’d like to thank who made this work possible. In particular, my wife, Lori, who supported and encouraged me and this book in all ways. Daniel Braden, my editor at WJK, who believed in this book from the beginning and helped bring it to the world. And, all the folks at Louisville Seminary, the University of Louisville, and the Grawemeyer Award who read this book as part of this process.

books theology

3 Books that Changed My Theology

There are so many books that have changed my ideas, but three in particular have shaped the arc of my theological reflection. I’ve listed them here in the order I read them:

  1. A Theology of Liberation by Gustavo Gutierrez. I read this during my first or second year of seminary. Up to that point, I thought there was one, objective story the Christian Bible presented and I believed that the point of theology was to uncover this one, objective story. Gutierrez showed me that there are many stories one can produce from the Bible and that these stories are constructed purposes or goals. One can have the goal of liberating people from oppression. Or, one can have a goal of keeping the oppressive systems in place. Each of these goals will produce different different stories, different theologies, and different reading strategies. The real key to producing good theology is to identify and embody a good purpose or goal.
  2. Owning the Earth: The Transforming History of Land Ownership by Andro Linklater. There are two types of land ownership: private property and yet-to-be private property. That’s what I had assumed before I read Owning the Earth. Linklater showed me that the ways humans have related to the land has changed widely and diversely through the ages. He also showed me that something I regarded as a tautology–property is always private and has an owner–is actually a choice. Humans can and have chosen to relate to land differently. This caused me to understand that everything about human life and culture is a choice and we have the ability to make different choices.
  3. The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House” in Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches by Audre Lorde. Lorde showed me that we cannot use the same reading strategies and constructive approaches that were used to produce hierarchical theologies of exclusion to unwind this hierarchy and replace it with a better theology. We need new tools, new questions, and new ways of approaching Scripture.  If we keep using the same hermeneutics that brought us here, we will end up in the same place where we began.