Summer Reading List

The Controversial First Evangelical | Ken Keathley’s Summer Reading Recommendations

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As summer begins, we want to help you craft the perfect Summer Reading List. We asked Southeastern Seminary professors what books they would recommend, and we’ll share their recommendations in coming weeks.

Today, Center for Faith and Culture Director Ken Keathley recommends three books for your summer reading list.


The First American Evangelical: A Short Life of Cotton Mather
By Rick Kennedy (Eerdmans, 2015)

Keathley: Mather was one of the great Puritan preachers in colonial America. He achieved a remarkable feat: he managed to be condemned for being simultaneously both too superstitious and too scientific! He played a significant behind-the-scenes role in the Salem Witch Trials, and he was an early proponent of the (then) controversial practice of getting smallpox inoculations. How controversial were the inoculations, you may ask? Enough that someone tried to blow him up by throwing a grenade through Mather’s living room window.    

Original Sin: A Cultural History
By Alan Jacobs (HarperOne, 2009)

Keathley: Few doctrines cause as much controversy or confusion as the doctrine of original sin. Jacobs shows that, despite all its problems, the doctrine is still necessary in order to understand the human condition. Jacobs is an essayist rather than a theologian, but he is a well-informed one, and he writes with an engaging style that this theologian can only envy (which is a sin that I’m going to blame on Adam).

2084: Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Humanity
By John C. Lennox (Zondervan, 2020)

Keathley: Do you sometimes hear terms such as AI (Artificial Intelligence) or Transhumanism, and wonder what they are about? Lennox, an evangelical Christian and Oxford mathematician, explains both in this brief little book. He shows how Transhumanists are motivated by the desire to transcend humanity. They envision a future in which humans fuse with technology in such a way that makes them, quite literally, immortal. In the end, Transhumanism is an updated version of an ancient heresy called Gnosticism.

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Ken Keathley

Senior Professor of Theology and the Jesse Hendley Chair of Theology

Ken Keathley is Senior Professor of Theology and the Jesse Hendley Chair of Theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina where he has been teaching since 2006. He also directs the L. Russ Bush Center for Faith and Culture. He is the co-author of '40 Questions About Creation and Evolution' (Kregel, November 2014). Ken and his wife Penny have been married since 1980, live in Wake Forest, NC and are members of North Wake Church. They have a son and daughter, both married, and four grandchildren.

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