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Ten Must-Read Books for the Thinking Christian

Jun 29, 2006

In the past several years many thousands of books have been published. Hundreds of those are important. Dozens are quite significant, at least from a Christian point of view. But with so many valuable recent titles out there, I thought I might list ten that I consider quite profound and deserving of our attention.

I have been rummaging through the many piles of books overtaking my floors, tables, desks, etc. The ten I have pulled from the toppling piles are all rich in insight, analysis and conviction. Many fall into the area of apologetics or ethics (my main areas of specialization). They mainly deal with where the church, and the surrounding culture, is heading, and what we can do about it. Salt and light stuff, in other words.

Remember leaders are readers. Part of the way we can make a difference is to have an informed faith. Thus I suggest that all of you consider getting and digesting some – if not all – of the following recent titles (listed alphabetically):

Guinness, Os, Unspeakable: Facing Up To Evil In an Age of Genocide and Terror. Harper, 2005.
The problem of evil and suffering is a perennial problem. This very important issue is addressed by a very important Christian thinker. He adds fresh insights into an age-old problem. Anything by Guinness is worth reading.

McGrath, Alister, The Twilight of Atheism. Doubleday, 2004.
It’s been assumed for some time now that God is well and truly dead. As it turns out, he is alive and well, and it is atheism that is suffering a chronic and fatal disease. McGrath documents the rise and fall of the anti-God movement. McGrath is always an important writer.

Nicholi, Armand, The Question of God: C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud Debate God, Love, Sex, and the Meaning of Life. Free Press, 2002.
One of the most popular courses at Harvest university is the course which this book is based on. Lewis was one of our great, recent Christian apologists, and his thinking and worldview stand in stark contrast to that of Freud. This is a great volume which contrasts the Biblical Christian worldview with the secular humanist.

Sider, Ron, The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience: Why Are Christians Living Just Like The Rest of the World? Baker, 2005.
I am not usually a fan of the religious left, of which Sider is a part. But he is rock-solid here in suggesting that Christians are for the most part living lives not much different from non-Christians. The credibility of the church is at great risk when our morality is not really distinguishable from those who do not profess faith.

Stark, Rodney, For the Glory of God. Princeton University Press, 2003.
Stark is a top-rate sociologist and historian of religion.. He makes no pretence to being religious, but his many books are some of the most penetrating defenses available of religion in general, and Christianity in particular. This volume looks at how Christianity is responsible for the rise of modern science, the end of slavery in the West, and many other achievements of civilization.

Stark, Rodney, The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism and Western Success. Random House, 2005.
In his newest volume, Stark argues that “Christianity created Western Civilization”. All the great blessings of the West (freedom, democracy, prosperity) are largely due to the Christian religion. A great defence of the faith from a secular source. Stark has written widely on this topic and his works are always stimulating and challenging.

Weigel, George, The Cube and the Cathedral. Basic Books, 2005.
Europe is in deep crisis. This is largely because it has forgotten (or rejected) its Christian heritage. Secularism in Europe is spelling the death of a once great continent, and the consequences look bleak indeed. A brilliant analysis by a Catholic thinker.

Wells, David, Above All Earthly Powers: Christ in a Postmodern World. Eerdmans, 2005.
Not only is Wells a very astute critic of contemporary culture, but he has the well-being of the church in his sights as well. Thus he has a theologian’s mind and a pastor’s heart as he assesses the mess modern culture – and much of Christianity – is in. This is the latest in a number of vital works by the American writer.

Wright, NT, Evil and the Justice of God. SPCK, 2006.
Another take on the issue of evil, this time from one of our premier New Testament scholars. The insights of his many heavy-weight theological tomes on the mission of Christ and the new Israel are brought to bear here on this important question.

Ye’or, Bat, Eurabia: The Euro-Arab Axis. Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2005.
The last volume, by a Jewish writer, offers a sobering look at where Europe is headed. Taken together with Weigel’s work, this book makes for grim reading, with the present trends appearing to lead to a totally de-Christianised Europe, and the Islamisation of the continent during this century.

Of course many other books could be mentioned in this list. If you think some other titles should be included, why not post a comment and share your suggestions with our readers.

Also, four of these books (those by Guinness, Nicholi, Weigel, and Wells) have been reviewed by me at length (see the book review section in this website).

Happy reading!

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22 Responses to Ten Must-Read Books for the Thinking Christian

  • Thanks for the great list Bill!

    I feel convicted that I’ve hardly touched any of these titles…

    There are perhaps two issues that stand out to me here:

    a) It’d be great to see a few more titles mentioned from reformed publishers. Maybe it’s just me, but I prefer to support publishing companies that won’t compromise the Gospel. Banner of Truth, Evangelical Press, Christian Focus and Covenanter Press.

    b) Churches need libraries! Not all of us can afford large book collections (not that a list of 10 is an overindulgence). If Churches don’t provide libraries with literature such as in Bill’s list, then the half-Churched will end up going to government-run libraries. The latter’s “religion” sections are hopelessly skewed towards a liberal or atheistic point of view.

    James Forsyth, China

  • Great list of books Bill. I will start getting my own library and a lot of these will be on my list

    Kindest Regards

    Colin Clifford, Melbourne

  • A good list, Bill. From what I’ve heard the “Triumph Of Reason” book is an excellent read.

    I’ve just finished reading Pat Buchanan’s “Death of the West”. It’s an excellent introduction into the ministry of apologetics and what and how we can face the secular humanism of today.

    Another book I’d recommend would be Marvin Olasky’s “The Religions Next Door”. Olasky discusses the main four non-Christian religions – Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam with a dual-chapter structure (one chapter on the basic concepts of the worldview and then one on how it differs from Christianity). Unfortunately the book doesn’t appear to be in any Australian bookstores, so Amazon might be worth a try.

    Anyway, keep up the good work. I always look forward to reading your comments and you’re a beacon of light to those like myself, who wish to be more active in defending our Christian faith.

    Andrew Dinham, Hope Valley SA

  • Thanks for the list Bill.

    Like Andrew, I have had difficulty getting my hands on at least some of these. I tried to get a copy of Armand Nicholi’s ‘ The Question of God” a year or so ago without success.

    The church library is a good idea for more than just economic reasons.

    Jeremy Peet, Melbourne

  • Thank you Bill for your good list. It really is hard for the average person, either in the regular work force or those working in missions and the church to get the time to read all they would like to read. There is a plethora of new books each month arriving on the bookseller’s shelves and who has the time to sort out what is good and what is fluff. Therefore such a service as you have offered here is of incredible value. Many times a precis is all that it takes to get me into another book. Thanks for this ministry.

    David Cummings, Melbourne

  • Bill, my most impacting books are:

    Under the Influence – Alvin J Schmidt
    Mind Siege – Tim LaHaye and David Noebel
    None of these Diseases – McMillen and Stern
    Slavery, Terrorism and Islam – Peter Hammond
    Australian Christian Life from 1788 – Iain H Murray

    God bless you in your good work for The King

    Ian Brearley, Canberra

  • Thanks Jeremy
    At least 6 of the 10 should be at a store like Koorong.
    Weigel, Stark and Ye’or can be obtained though amazon.com or perhaps Borders.
    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • I like your selection, Bill.
    They well document the fact that “Christianity created Western Civilization” and that the problems we face are due to the West’s departure from the faith.
    But they don’t isolate the reason why the West has departed from the Christian Faith.
    Take Jack Repcheck’s biography of James Hutton (1726-97) entitled ‘The Man Who Found Time’. It’s an excellent secular analysis of the change in thinking in the West over the last few hundred years. The dust jacket reads:
    “There are four men whose contribution helped free science from the straightjacket of theology. Three of the four—Nicholas Copernicus, Galileo Galilei, and Charles Darwin—are widely known and heralded for their breakthroughs. The fourth, James Hutton, has never received the same recognition, yet he profoundly changed our understanding of the earth and its dynamic forces. Hutton proved [no he didn’t] that the earth was likely millions of years old rather than the biblically determined six thousand, and that it was continuously being shaped and re-shaped by myriad everyday forces rather than one cataclysmic event [i.e. the global Flood of Noah].

    That precisely is our problem. The West has abandoned Christianity because it no longer believes it to be true. No amount of nostalgia for the good old days will bring back belief. As Richard Dawkins would say, “That’s tough. We just have to accept the truth.”

    So, if we want to win back the West we have to convince folk that Bible is true so that they can once again believe it.

    That means we have to refute the religious beliefs of of secular humanism—evolution over millions of years. And we have to defend the biblical worldview—creation in six days about six thousand years ago, etc.
    The huge problem for the Christian church in the West is that its leaders do not think these are issues, and they are not convinced themselves on the reliability of the Scriptures in these areas. So, if they don’t believe their own book themselves, how can they hope to convince anyone else? The fact is that they mostly don’t try. We need a new reformation in the church.

    So, I would recommend two essential books to reclaim the West:
    Refuting Evolution by Jonathan Sarfati
    The Answers Book by Dr Don Batten.
    Also this website http://www.creationontheweb.com as well as my own site about biblical geology http://www.biblicalgeology.net.

    Tas Walker

  • Your great list of books makes me realise how much MORE reading I need to do!
    I have been reading Alvin Schmidt’s book ‘How Christianity Changed the World’ (formerly ‘Under the Influence’) and think it is a must-read for Christians who want to know how Christians have influenced culture. On Islam, I have found Serge Trifkovic’s book ‘Islam- Sword of the prophet’ to be very enlightening, and would also recommend the best-selling Australian written book on Islam ‘Mosques and Miracles’ by Stuart Robinson.
    Lack of understanding of (and belief in) basic doctrines, the authority of Scripture, the history of the church and application of Christianity are major problems in the Christian church today. Church libraries are a great idea – but only if they have appropriate books!
    Jenny Stokes, Melbourne

  • Bill,

    There is no way I’m ever going to keep up with your reading… gladly I’m not trying.

    I’ve been reading a bit of Gordon Fee lately, and it’s been tremendous. And my determination for the remainder of 2006 is to get stuck into NT Wright. It is amazing how many key Christian authors/leaders/thinkers have been heavily impacted by him, and testify to that openly.

    Also discovered an Anabaptist guy from the UK called Stuart Murray who is really excellent. Currently reading his book “Church After Christendom” which is a very good analysis of our current situation… brief though it is.

    More power to ya, mate!

    Alister Cameron, Melbourne

  • Thanks Bill, I probably won’t get to read all ten of your list but I do have most of the ones suggested by Tas and Jenny and I also recommend them.

    Regards, Dawn McGregor, Sunshine Coast Qld

  • I couldn’t agree with you more there Jenny. Of course if Church libraries are housing Spong, Thiering and other material that mocks the Gospel or introduces liberal ideas then they are doing more harm than good.

    The number one question that someone in the acquisitions area of a library needs to ask is: “will God be glorified if we purchase this book?”

    James Forsyth, China

  • Thank you Bill for your list, I definitely will get some of those that I haven’t yet read, starting with David Wells’ book, Above all Earthly Powers. Another book I believe is God’s challenge to the church today is “Repenting of Religion – turning from judgement to the love of God” by Gregory A Boyd. Quoting Gilbert Bilezikian, he says of this book – “The local church is called to be God’s community of redemption rather than the exclusive clique of rejection it has often become. This is a prophetic call to repentance”. It is a very powerful and challenging book that speaks into the fundamental reasons why so many Christians are neither ‘salt’ or ‘light’ or reflect the life of Christ to a desperately needy and troubled world.

    Helen Esdaile

  • Great books! I will keep your recommendations. My list of essentials include these –
    ‘The Life and Religion of Mohammed’, by Rev. J. L. Menezes; old, but a great eye-opener.
    ‘The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades)’, by Robert Spencer (he lives in an unknown location; a real ‘nother eye-opener on Islam).
    ‘The Sword of the Prophet’, (another politically incorrect guide to Islam) by Serge Trifkovic.
    ‘Rediscovering the Kingdom’ by Dr.Myles Munro.
    ‘The Principles and Power of Vision’, Myles Munro.
    ‘America: to Pray? or Not to Pray?’, David Barton; to scare the Christian world into seeing how easy it is to apostasize.

    Elwyn Sheppard

  • Mere Christianity is a real great read, especially for a starter.

    Marella Berchy, Melbourne

  • I would recommend “Politically Correct Death: Answering the Arguments for Abortion Rights” by Francis J. Beckwith. His pure logic arguments from a Christian viewpoint demolish in completeness the pro-choice view. It is especially important for those who are moved by this new cult of Moloch that has reared its ugly head in modern society.

    Michael Mifsud

  • Thanks for the list Bill.
    A Jewish writer, a secular sociologist (twice), and a liberal from the Christian-left all in your 10. A good example of someone who recognises ‘all things are yours’, for engaging in authentic life and discussion.
    Many excellent books by mostly Australian authors, can be downloaded for free, if you know where find them. In this regard, I would like to recommend to browsers here, a book which will assist us to tackle what often appears to be an insurmountable mountain of difficulty for our nations, and societies. Try reading: “Love is the Spur” by Geoffrey C. Bingham. Some have said it is his best book. See:
    http://www.newcreation.org.au/books/covers/400.htm

    Trevor Faggotter, Tasmania

  • Sorry, Bill. I confess my ignorance, not having read any of the books, and not even having heard of most of the authors. I promise, however, to read Rodney Stark. Your list obviously reflects your interests, as any list of mine would reflect my interests. (This is not a very subtle link to giving you some of my ‘must reads’) Here are some that I have found particularly helpful:

    Pilgrim’s Progress – of course.
    Samuel Ruthefurd’s Letters.
    Mystery of Providence, by John Flavell.
    The Puritan Hope – one of the most encouraging books I have ever read.

    May I also mention primarily for the benefit of U.K. readers
    ‘Contender for the Faith’ by David Fountain, a biography of E.J. Poole-Connor. This is valuable because it traces the decline of Christianity from the mid-nineteenth century through the following one hundred years – almost the lifespan of the subject of the biography. I believe this is a very much-underestimated book.
    I agree 100% with James Forsyth’s comments on reformed literature and the contribution of Banner of Truth, Evangelical Press etc.

    Owen Milton, UK

  • Mr. Muehlenberg,
    I have noted your books to read. A book for consideration is the The Life and Religion of Mohammed the Prophet of Arabia. Written in 1912 by Rev. J.L Menezes. When I googled his name your web site was on the first page of sites. I would highly recommend the book as it seems he wrote it with very little bias to his own religion of Catholism.
    J. Horner

  • Dear Bill

    I am having trouble getting the book Slavery, Terrorism and Islam… The Amazon book site says it can’t ship it to my address, so I tried our PO BOX address …still no success..can you help?? Where can I get it in Australia?

    Thankyou
    Gaye Rush

  • Thanks Gaye
    But some of the booksellers who stock the book mentioned on the amazon site do seem to offer international shipping. So perhaps try again?
    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • I would also add Idols for Destruction by Herbert Schlossberg and anything written by Rushdoony.

    Joe Crews

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