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.


How to Baptize the Imagination

C. S. Lewis once said that George MacDonald “baptized [his] imagination.” I give no guarantee that these books will do the same, but they live in my heart, mind and soul. Most are fantasy and SF, so if this genre isn’t for you, give a few a try. You might find yourself being drawn in after all.  Great SF and fantasy starts with great stories.

Madeline L’Engle.  A Wrinkle in Time, A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Many Waters.  This entire series introduces us to the Murry family and other wonderful characters, combines science and faith in astonishing ways, creates images which transport my mind to other places, and soaks the spirit in the delicious wine of Christian thinking.

J. R. R. Tolkien. The Hobbit. The Lord of the Rings:  The Fellowship of the Ring (1)  The Two Towers (2), The Return of the King (3)  Anything brilliant that can be said about Tolkien has been said countless times.  Suffice to say that no other fantasy, Christian or secular, has ever gathered to itself such a deserved reputation of greatness, and that this series remains the book for my generation, and for those afterward.  Any fantasy author must deal with him.

C. S. Lewis. The Cosmic Trilogy: Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, That Hideous Strength.  Science fiction of the highest water-mark, gems scattered throughout, and conceptions that I have seldom encountered elsewhere.

C. S. Lewis. The Chronicles of Narnia. First time readers must begin with Lion Witch and the Wardrobe, no matter what publisher’s edition they may encounter, even if The Magician’s Nephew has a 1 on the cover.  The story is just better that way.  After that, read how they like—but read all seven.

Lew Wallace.  Ben-Hur:  A Tale of the ChristLloyd C. Douglas.  The Robe.  Henryk Sienkewicz.  Quo Vadis.  These three took me (as close as possible) to the first century, placed me in the first century mind, and heart, gave me a love of history and a feeling for the deep reaches of other times, and deepened my grasp of Scripture.

Chris WalleyThe Lamb Among the Stars:  The Shadow of the Evening, The Power of the Night (printed in a combined volume Shadow and Night), The Dark Foundations, The Infinite Day.  Christians in space—gloriously done, with unusual quirks that practically made me tear the pages, I wanted to read them so fast.  Great characters and fascinating vision.  Once I had the whole story, I wanted to read it again, and always will.

Kathy TyersFirebird, Fusion Fire, and Crown of Fire.  Compelling tale of a woman doomed to die, the enemy she grows to love, and the sacrifices they both make on a very distant planet.

Two others in the series I have not read yet:  Wind and Shadow and Daystar.

Gene WolfeThe Book of the New Sun:  Shadow of the Torturer (1), Claw of the Conciliator (2), Sword of the Lictor (3), Citadel of the Autarch (4).  Set in a far future so distant that it feels as if one reads ancient scrolls.  Followed by Urth of the New Sun.  I first read “Seven American Nights,” a short story, and knew that this was a master.  He never writes the same book twice.  The Soldier series is set in ancient times. The Book of the Long Sun and the Book of the Short Sun (all multi-book series) are also terrific.  Find anything by him, and revel in the wonder he sets before you. He can be dense, but keep reading.  You will reap a great reward. And yes, all the strange words  you’ll come across are real.  He did not make them up.

Cordwainer Smith.  Norstrilia.    His only novel. The Instrumentality of Mankind.  Short stories set in a universe so original, only Wolfe stands beside him.  Lush language, and classic tales unlike any others.  Smith’s short story skill exceeded his novelistic, but read everything.  This man’s work must be remembered.

George MacDonald.  Phantastes, Lilith.  I think it’s the language that captured me, for my memory of the stories is (at this moment) non-existent.  I must read them again.  The Princess and the Goblin, and The Princess and Curdie are for children, and I recall them much more.

G. K. Chesterton. Father Brown mysteries. Pictures a truly humble man solving crimes. The Man Who Was Thursday. Complex comedy, with many surprises.

Dorothy Sayers.  The Lord Peter Wimsey Series.  Wonderful mysteries in their own right, and an appealing detective.  Compares admirably with the Adam Dagleish series by P. D. James.

Dean Koontz.  Start with False Memory, Midnight, and Watchers.  He redeems the horror genre, but also dips into SF.  Innocence and The City are his latest.  He hasn’t slowed in the prolific creations he’s  wrought, after so many tales, and won’t.  Find the Frankenstein series, too.  It’s a magnificent re-working.

Look into the Kalaidescope!

You Tube has many videos with lovely kalaidescopic views:  “Liquid Indigo” by Herb Ernst, and “Oasis” by Kitaro are two of my favorites, but there are many more.   I’d put the vids here, but I’m still learning how to add things like videos and music, and don’t know how–yet. I’ll post them once I figure out how.  The music on both are amazing, too.  Treat yourself to some relaxation, and share your kalaidescope faves with me on the comment page.

A more primitive black and white kalaidescope video (also on You Tube) which Ernie Kovacks created was way ahead of his time!  What an unexpected pioneer!  The world is such an unexpected and marvelous place.  God surely must have touched the one who invented the kalaidescope, as He did Mr. Kovacks. Kalaidescopes also represent “the Great Dance,” from C. S. Lewis’ Perelandra in visual form.  Another reason to love them.

What’s in a Name? Everything!

Welcome to Loreguardian’s Kalaidescope: Namer of Wonders, where the Loreguardian muses about many things.  (LG hates the term “blog;” it’s ugly, and she refuses to use it.  What did we call such things, pre-Web?  Essays?)

You may wonder about the name “Loreguardian.”  Does it belong to a librarian?  No, though I adore librarians and celebrate their quiet, polite service.  They are truly “lore guardians.”  LG has been a scholar, a writer and I use this name because my purpose is to guard truth about lore of many kinds: lore of myth, history, political and religious discourse, science, literature, music, and countless other forms of knowledge.  The “oh-so correct” era in which we lives nibbles at truth, silencing many points of view and avenues of conversation, shutting down even the ability to speak and write about certain subjects, which effectively leaves silence the victor.  Debate ceases, and the prevailing view marches onward to the next topic, establishes its view there, then works to silence opposition again.  LG does not concede victory to cultural ghosts.  KNoW won’t be a political vehicle, but if it’s necessary to discuss truth that elites prefer to leave unmentioned, LG serves notice that KNoW is a free zone.  Guarding lore means revealing all aspects, popular or not.   With civility, of course, like those polite librarians.

Kalaidescopes are marvels of light, color, ever-shifting bits of glass which form amazing patterns.  Every time the viewer turns the scope’s tube, or the ring around the lens, the view changes.  Views differ, but the lens remains the same. Each view is delightful, gorgeous.  As one looks through the lens, however, one must have light.  Without light, the kalaidescope is useless.  We can look through light, but can never escape it.  C. S. Lewis  writes that we can look along light, but cannot step outside it, because light is the very thing that we need to see everything else.  The light I speak of is God-light, Christ’s, the kind that darkness cannot comprehend or overcome. LG’s a Christian, and writes from that worldview.  Yet KNoW welcomes other views and is willing to understand, if not accept them.  That is the meaning of the well-loved modern word people bandy about, but don’t truly practice: tolerance.  A Christian virtue.

The theme and the symbol I used the last time I served as the leader of my local Eastern Star chapter in 2012 was the kalaidescope.  I didn’t want to let the theme and symbol go.   Stained glass and illuminated medieval manuscripts, especially the carpet pages of Gospels which Celtic monks of Iona and Kells produced, carry vivid colors, vibrant hues filled with the light that flows through.  (How they can capture that light on vellum is beyond me.)  The kalaidescope has that same character.  Beautiful as they are, both manuscript and stained glass are static.  That’s part of their value, but the kalaidescope changes with even the smallest shift, offering new surprises with every turn.  That’s what LG wants to reflect in KNoW.

Why “Namer of Wonders?”  Well, the “Namer” came later.  It occurred to LG that Kalaidescope of Wonders, when abbreviated would spell KoW. LG figured she’d abbreviate the title a lot, because it is long.  KoW?  Somehow that’s not the ambiance LG wanted.  KoW is close to know. “Namer” was the first n-word LG thought of, because writers definitely name things.  But the first thought was Adam naming the animals in Genesis.  Madeline L’Engle writes powerfully about names and naming.  Naming wonders, so that others can share them with me, is exactly what KNoW is about. I hope to name them clearly, and without fear.

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