Thanksgiving: Books (updated again)
1. The Bible. The Books of books: divinely inspired, completely true, dependable, endlessly challenging, and applicable to all of life for eternity. The Book that brings us Jesus Christ, Lord of the universe.
2. Francis Schaeffer, The God Who is There. Schaeffer's heart cry on reaching the lost with the truth of Christianity. It helped set the course for my calling as a Christian.
3. Blaise Pascal, Pensees. The unfinished masterpiece of apologetics by the 17th century philosopher and scientist. While not systematic and not even Protestant, the apologetic gems and general themes (particularly on the Christian account of the human condition and the stakes concerning Christian belief) continue to inspire and instruct me. Just last Sunday I preached a message called "Deposed Royalty: Christianity and Being Human" that drew considerable inspiration from his anthropological argument. For more on this, see the chapter, "Deposed Royalty" in my book, On Pascal.
4. Os Guinness, The Dust of Death. Having come out of the last vestiges of the counterculture (it hit Anchorage, Alaska, where I grew up, about five years late), Guinness's masterful Christian assessment of the roots, fruits, errors, and aspirations of the counterculture gave me a perspective I have not forgotten. Any book by Os Guinness is worthwhile. Read them all.
5. James Sire, The Universe Next Door. This contemporary classic on the nature and meaning of worldviews is now in its fourth edition. I first read it for a class in the late 1970s, and have taught out of every one of the editions. Sire is an excellent writer and is able to bring philosophical concepts to the general reader without condescension or dilution. He also gave one of the first explanations and critique of the New Age worldview (originally called The New Consciousness).
6. Soren Kierekegaard, The Sickness Unto Death and Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing. I do not appeal to Kierkegaard for apologetic method, since he was too much of a fideist. However, The Sickness Unto Death set forth a theological/psychological account of sin that exposed and arrested my rebellion against God when I first read it in 1976. Purity of Heart , which I read a few years after my conversion, is an arresting challenge to live the Christian life before the "audit of eternity." Everything matters before God and all must be done for his glory. This, along with The God Who is There, more than any other books (besides the Bible) helped give me direction for my calling (such as it is).
7. G.K. Chesterton. Orthodoxy. Endlessly witty, but never merely funny, Chesterton set forth this creed in unforgettable ways, deflating a host of philosophies that are still with us today, such as pragmatism, relativism, pantheism, and agnosticism.
8. C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, The Abolition of Man, Miracles. Of all Lewis's many books, these three gave me fundamental apologetic tools to use in my college studies and beyond. I have read The Abolition of Man at least seven times and benefit from every reading. I first read it as a sophomore or junior in college. I was stunned recently when two graduate students in a class of mine found it too difficult to read.
9. Carl F. H. Henry, God, Revelation, and Authority. Six volumes. I read volumes one through four (about 2000 pages) in the summer of 1981 before taking a summer course from Dr. Henry at New College, Berkeley. The set, which is a kind of systematic theology organized around apologetic and philosophical themes and concerns, is encyclopedic, rigorous in logic, deeply biblical, and philosophically and theologically rich. Reading the volumes is like a seminary education in theology and apologetics. Dr. Henry was a Clarkian presuppositionalist, who rejected natural theology. I now part company with him on this, but still am immensely grateful to have read these volumes and to have studied (albeit briefly) at his feet (as my African friends put it).
10. Walter Martin, The Kingdom of the Cults. This pivotal book, which helped launch the modern evangelical countercult movement, clarified the differences between Christian orthodoxy and the many varieties of heresy. It gave me the essential categories of theological discernment that I use to this day.
Of course, there are so many more, but this will suffice for my short list of books for which to be thankful. I read all of these books within the first four of five years after becoming a Christian in 1976. There have been hundreds more. What is on your list?