Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thanksgiving: Books (updated again)

Having been thoroughly disgusted by the AOL caption and images about "Movies to be Thankful For" (perhaps there are some, but not the pop/shlock ones they picked), here is a brief list of books for which I give thanks to God. There are ten items listed, but some specify several books by the same author. The books are not ranked in significant, except for the first: the Bible. May this list stimulate you to read these books and to consider what books have inspired you. And may it encourage everyone to give reading a treasured place in your life--contemporary insanity/illiteracy/vidiocy to the contrary.

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?


Ben Z said...

My main barrier to Christianity had originally been science, so I'm really thankful for a few books on science and Christianity (in no particular order):

1) Science and Christianity: Conflict or Coherence? by Henry F Schaefer

2) The Case for a Creator by Lee Strobel

3) For the Glory of God by Rodney Stark

4) The Wonder of the World by Roy Abraham Varghesse

5)The Hidden Face of God by Gerald L. Schroeder


6) Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview (read almost all of it) by William Craig and J. P. Moreland

7) C.S. Lewis's Dangerous Idea by Victor Reppert --if I wasn't sure naturalism wouldn't account for the world around me very well, now I was.

8) Miracles, Mere Christianity, The Problem of Pain, etc, by C.S. Lewis

9) Come Let Us Reason by Norman Geisler


10) 6 Modern Myths by Sampson

Timo_the_Osprey said...

Pascal's Pensee's makes my list too. Peter Kreeft put out a great edition with commentary called Christianity for Modern Pagans.

The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard. His Spirit of the Disciplines is fantastic too.

Selections from the Writings of John Wesley. If only Christians still talked (and lived!) like this.

And may I include a so-called "secular" book? Henry David Thoreau's Walden contains much of value for the thoughtful Christian. I carried it around in my pocket for years.

SK said...

You made my day with your list! I've been a closet Kierekegaard fan for years and now, thanks to your cover, I feel safe to announce my coming out!

My reactions to Sickness unto Death and Purity of Heart were similar to yours. I read them at UCLA as an undergraduate and both works pulled me toward, not away from, taking God seriously. SK's description of how to view the preacher changed how I listened to sermons forever. (SK said--to paraphrase--it is not the preacher on the stage acting while you, the listener, pass judgement on his performance. Rather, it is you who is on the stage while God sits watching to see how you do with what you here. The preacher is merely prompting you to act rightly before your judge. Ouch!)

However, I share your view about SK's apologetic: I'm not a feidiest either.

Great stuff--love your blog.

Soulcraft - East of Eden said...

Favorite books to be thankful for:

1)The Bible - TNIV

2)Women Caught in the Conflict by Rebecca Groothuis

3)Being Human by Ranald Macaulay & Jerram Barrs

4)No Place for Sovereignty by Robert McGregor Wright

5) Truth Decay by Douglas Groothuis

6) Soulcraft by Douglas Webster

7) A Passion for Christ by Douglas Webster

8) Jonathan Edwards by George Marsden

9) A Banquet in the Grave by Edward Welch

10) Religious Affections by Jonathan Edwards

Books that I am least thankful for:

1) Spiritual Authority by Watchmen Nee

2) Leaving the Fold by Marlene Winell

gimmepascal said...

1)Puritan Papers, Volumes 1-7. Edited by J.I. Packer and M.Lloyd Jones

2)Revival, collection of lectures by M.Lloyd Jones

3)Knowing God, by J.I. Packer

4)The Heart of the Matter, a novel by Catholic author Graham Greene

5)Lectures on Calvinism, by Abraham Kuyper

6)Lament For a Son, by Nicholas Wolterstorff

7)A Sickness Unto Death, by Soren Kierkegaard

8)Collected Poems of T.S. Eliot, by T.S. Eliot

9)Collected Short Stories of Flannery O'Connor, by Flannery O'connor

10)Orthodoxy, by G.K. Chesterton

There are so many. I'll stop here for now.

Paul D. Adams said...

Sadly, few seem to know of
Letters Along the Way: A Novel of the Christian Life
by D. A. Carson, John D. Woodbridge. I simply cannot recommend it enough. It contains an ongoing dialog (letters) between a wise, old pastor/scholar/seminary prof and a young disciple, Timothy who is finding his way in kingdom living. Truly one of the finest penned by these noble writers. In it you'll find outstanding exegesis, sound theology, creative apologetics and evangelism, rigourous calls to holy living, and insightful, philosophical reflections on culture and history.

Paul D. Adams said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ryan said...

Dr. Groothuis, I'm a relative newcomer to Christian apologetics, and I'm looking for a good introduction to comparative religions, particularly from a Christian perspective. To give a glimpse of my background in apologetics, I've read and particularly appreciated "Mere Christianity" and Craig's "Reasonable Faith". I'd like to start with something similarly introductory (rather than encyclopedic) if you might suggest an appropriate text. Thanks in advance.

Doug Groothuis said...

Harold Netland, "Dissonant Voices" and "Encountering Religious Pluralism."

Ajith Fernando, "Sharing the Truth in Love."