I share Joe Carter’s enthusiasm for both books and lists, and while I try to avoid participating in Internet memes there are some that are worthy of indulgence. Here are ten books that have influenced my thought and outlook on life and hopefully will be worthy of interest to the reader
Till We Have Faces by CS Lewis. Though one of Lewis’s lesser known works it artfully explores the theme of wanting to bring God to court. This ministered to me profoundly when I was wrestling with God over the question of whether he had withheld good from me, and I found comfort in both identifying with the main character’s feelings of contempt for God and her futility in trying to judge God. In the end she shows us how God leads us to a place of repentance and peace, in spite of ourselves, that is neither sentimental nor trivial.
The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky. I can not get away from this question posed by Ivan: “Tell me yourself, I challenge your answer. Imagine that you are creating a fabric of human destiny with the object of making men happy in the end, giving them peace and rest at last, but that it was essential and inevitable to torture to death only one tiny creature- that baby beating its breast with its fist, for instance- and to found that edifice on its unavenged tears, would you consent to be the architect on those conditions? Tell me, and tell the truth.”
The Sickness Unto Death by Soren Kierkegaard. Not an easy read by any stretch, but an insightful interpretation of sin in modern times: “Wanting to be yourself and not wanting to be yourself.” Wanting to be yourself means that you want to be an ideal version of yourself—not the person that God has established. Such a state is worse than death, or what Kierkegaard calls “despair.”
The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard. This book helped me see Jesus as a teacher and not merely a savior, dispelling the popular myth that Paul is the real teacher of Christianity, and that the good news of Christ (who is often treated as saying a lot of weird things no one really takes seriously) is that he died. I have been lead back again and again to the parables and the sermon on the plain to see that any gospel preached that does not have the kingdom of God in view is not one that has discipleship to Jesus in view.
The Story of Christian Theology and The Mosaic of Christian Belief by Roger Olson. A wonderful survey of the unity and diversity of Christian doctrine over the centuries that helped me worked through the problems of discerning which doctrines were essential, non-essential (though some of which still weighty), and heretical. Seeing the broad picture Olson paints was immensely helpful in understanding how other Christians different from myself think.
On Bullshit by Harry Frankfut. This is perhaps the most insightful philosophy essay I have ever read. It is both uproariously funny and a serious piece of scholarship that defends a commonsense idea of truth, lampoons postmodernism, and provides a revealing commentary on what passes for rational discourse in our culture.
Repenting of Religion by Gregory A. Boyd. This is by no means a perfect book, but it is one that I return to often to hear its central message, which is this: The essence of man-centered religion is to self-righteously prop oneself up through rule-keeping and judge others in order justify oneself. The essence of God-centered religion is to live in God’s love and reflect it to others in way that ascribes to them unsurpassable worth.
In the Name of Eugenics by Daniel Kevles. A history of the eugenics movement that revealed the inhumanity of modern medicine when fused with pseudoscientific interpretations of Darwinian Theory. This proved to me that concerns in bioethics present the greatest challenge to the values of equality, liberty, and the sanctity of life.
Women Caught in the Conflict by Rebecca Merrill Groothuis. A thoroughgoing analysis of the culture war between traditionalism and feminism that shows how one-size-fits-all descriptions of feminism do not do justice to the many varieties of feminist thought, some of which treat women as human and others in dehumanizing ways.