How to Renew the Christian Mind

Here are some books that every Christian should read (in my non-humble opinion) to deepen their walk, and steep their minds in Christian thought-patterns.  Of course you could always suggest your own list.  I’d love to read them.

The Bible.  So many Christians claim to read it, but don’t.  Or they may skim a chapter, but don’t go into deep study.  Biblical knowledge is rare these days, especially among the young. There are hard verses, parts that read easy but are hard to live out, verses that convict, challenge and poke, and ones that give comfort.  A library, not a single book, it contains many kinds of reading:  law, fiction, prayers, love story, parables, poetry, history, wisdom, prophecy, and genealogies.  It runs the gamut between rough prose to elegant.  Even the four Gospels tell different versions of the same events (my favorite is Luke.)  The Bible yields fruit even after the zillionth reading.  You’ll meet fascinating people, warts and all, who struggle, run away from God, come back, endure shipwreck, lose their children, plot, harangue, rejoice, work hard, lie, rule and essentially, show the total range of divine and human.  There’s no other book that offers so rich a banquet, so extraordinary a menu, yet so firm a guide for life, heart and soul. But, of course, as a Christian, I believe its Author is God Himself, inspiring many human scribes over long periods of time.

Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart. How to Read the Bible for All It’s Worth.  Those new to Bible study and old hands will find treasures here on how to study the Bible with depth and care.  If you do all they recommend, you’ll be busy for a while.

C. S. Lewis. Mere Christianity, Miracles and The Screwtape Letters. The essential trinity of Lewis’s nonfiction, these are master apologetic works, which bolster faith, explain essentials, refresh the mind, and delight with clarity and verve.  The Abolition of Man purports to deal with an educational text, but does far more.  It foresaw the advent of deconstruction (though not under that name) and modern intellectual snobbery, discusses the need for truth, and also the need to connect mind to heart.  The issues he deals with pop up in every age in slightly different forms; it’s a book for every generation.  Don’t stop with these.  I started with Screwtape, then for years didn’t know that other books by Lewis existed, because my edition lacked a list of his other works.

Madeline L’EngleWalking on Water.  So many Christians, especially in more conservative churches, fear art.  Any Christian should read this to learn the struggles and joys of creativity and artistic endeavor.  L’Engle joyfully links art to faith in ways that surprise, gives glimpses of wonder, shows how  Christ baptizes art and how art enriches faith, mind and heart.  (L’Engle’s fiction is on my other list.)

Pair this with Dorothy Sayers’ Unpopular Opinions.  Much more than the creator of Lord Peter Wimsy, Sayers is witty, mentally sharp, and writes on a variety of issues that still resonate.   Both are slim volumes and fast reads.  Sayers also wrote The Mind of the Maker  and translated Dante’s Divine Comedy.  Read these, too.

Annie DillardPilgrim at Tinker Creek.  An atheist friend recommended this to me.  I will be forever grateful.  Dillard is a wonderful observer of nature, who ties these miracles to faith and writes prose clear as water and as refreshing.  I’d like to read more of her.

Francis SchaefferHow Then Shall We Live?  Schaeffer examines the decline of Western culture and what we can do about it.  He combines clear-eyed rationality with depth of faith.  Anyone should read this man because we need him now more than ever.

____________.  Trilogy:  The Three essential books in One Volume.  The God Who is There, Escape from Reason and He is There and He is Not Silent are his three essentials in a single volume.

Nancy R. Pearcy and Charles ThaxtonThe Soul of Science: Christian Faith and Natural Philosophy.  A cogent argument for understanding how science flowed out of Christian faith.  Long thought enemies, Pearcy and Thaxton discuss how this idea took root, and ways to look at both science and theology that link, rather than create a wall of separation.

Nancy Pearcy and Phillip E. JohnsonTotal Truth:  Liberating Christianity from its Cultural Captivity.  Religious faith is not merely a private comfort but a true connection to reality.  Pearcy and Johnson contribute tight arguments for why leaving faith in a back-water of the mind is dangerous, and how to form a well-thought out worldview.

Mark A Knoll.  The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind.  An extraordinary examination of how evangelicals sank into intellectual vapidity—and how they can renew their minds into tough, real-world contributors to a people who need their faith and power more than ever.

Ravi ZachariasJesus Among other Gods.  One of the best of Ravi’s works, though any of them are excellent, he examines what is unique to Jesus’ teachings, argues that every religion is exclusive, and that Christianity is more inclusive than any other worldview, even as we proclaim that Jesus is the only way to eternal life—because that’s the claim He made.

Timothy Keller.  The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism.  Arm yourself (and your young ones long before they hit college, where they will surely meet with mocking professors).  Atheism is more militant than ever, but Keller is a great guide as Christians confront their confusing charges.  You’ll want more common sense from Keller;  seek him out.

Eric Metaxas.  Dietrich Bonhoffer.  An excellent biography of a bold Christian who lived in very dark times, but allowed his light to shine beautifully.  Follow this up with Corrie ten Boom’s The Hiding Place.

Rodney Stark.  The Triumph of Christianity:  How the Jesus Movement Became the World’s Greatest Religion.   Another pearl of great price, he explains controversial moments in Christian history.  Stark is one of our most readable and eminent historians.

Paul Johnson.  The History of Christianity and The History of the JewsTwo thick, but excellent histories of Christianity’s honorable predecessor, the faith tradition of both Jesus and Paul.  Then Johnson traces Christianity’s history in balanced, well-chosen scholarship.  Well worth their place on any shelf.  Any new Johnson book is worth a reader’s time.

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