A Hieropraxis Gift Guide to Books (Part 1: Apologetics Books)
The Hieropraxis gang got together (virtually – we’re geographically scattered) to come up with a Gift Guide full of interesting book recommendations for gifts – suitable for birthdays and un-birthdays, too.
Here goes! This first list focuses on apologetics, culture, and philosophy, and features suggestions from Mario Alejandre and Ken Mann.
The Screwtape Letters, by C.S. Lewis.
I can still remember reading this book for the first time about 13 years ago. I was a 25 year old who was recently coming out of a very rough season in life and was desiring to take matters of faith and conscience seriously. This book opened captured my imagination to the realities of the type of spiritual tension we can face as humans. After all these years, the letter that read, “My dear Wormwood…Cards is no less glorious than murder if cards will do the trick…Your affectionate uncle, Screwtape” has had as much influence on my spiritual journey as much as anything else.
The Wounded Healer, by Henri Nouwen
For anyone who has struggled with their own sense of loneliness in Chrisitan ministry, Nouwen gives a brief, albeit dense, journey into the constructs of the modern person. Nouwen rightly suggests that man’s new quest for immortality is one that is “dislocated” from the idea of a God who was present in the past, available to us in the present and will vindicate us in the future. In addition, Nouwen reminds the Christian minister that the ability to articulate the inner life, critique culture meaningfully and move with compassion will act as a point of clarification for those who desire to love freely, but are presently captive. Nouwen points to Christ, himself wounded, as the one who redeems our own hurts for something glorious.
The Moral Vision of the New Testament by Richard B. Hayes
After You Believe by N.T. Wright
These two books are great reads for understanding how the intersections of theology, philosophy and eschatology express themselves in terms of the ethical life under the governance of the Kingdom. While it can be challenging, reading about ethics founded on the economy of the Kingdom as expressed in scripture can be life-giving. Both these books, taken seriously, will enable the Christian thinker to consider approaches to contemporary ethical dilemma’s that avoids the rhetoric that can often lead us down rabbit trails as well as formulate a more robust vision for the person as an ethical being. A picture of the ethical is developed that in centered on wisdom and character, the role of the church in relationship other world systems and a desire to embody God’s Kingdom with love, grace, truth and integrity.
Stark is a fantastic sociologist whose work often challenges assumptions that are often thought to be supported by the historical record. This book, which reads like a really good story, is no exception. This book, along with the other in this two-volume set, One True God: Historical Consequences of Monotheism, reminds the reader that people have often engaged culture “for the glory of God.” Those actions have consequences, good and bad. Some are rightly criticized, but the good is often overlooked and understated. Stark’s assessment of monotheism includes analysis of the three Abrahamic faiths. While Stark’s own faith commitments are well known, his academic work gives a fair treatment to the subject and should be included on your bookshelf, if these topics are of interest. (Also recommended: The Rise of Mormonism, The Rise of Christianity and Cities of God).
Foolishness to the Greeks, by Leslie Newbigin
Newbigin writes, “There can never be a culture-free gospel. Yet the gospel, embodied in culturally condition forms, calls into question every culture, including its own.” A take on the relationship between culture and the gospel from a pastoral and academic perspective is what Newbigin offers to the reader. Drawing on his own work as a missiologist, Newbigin points out possible blind spots that can often impede our work in promoting the gospel with our lives. You’ve heard the saying “Think global, act local,” this book is one way to understand this idea as it relates to evangelism.
Mind Your Faith by David Horner
I was attracted to this book because of its subtitle, “A Student’s Guide to Thinking & Living Well.” In reality this book can impact the life of anyone. Dr. Horner has that powerful combination of a depth of experience in ministry and a comparable depth as a philosopher and theologian. His writing is simultaneously pastoral, intellectual and practical. While the audience is college students, I defy anyone of any age or even worldview not to be challenged by this book.
Thinking About God by Gregory Ganssle
Philosophy is a seemingly forgotten and simultaneously indispensable tool for living. It is forgotten because it is shrouded in confusion as an impenetrable realm of academics. It is indispensable in that the questions it answers are important to everyone in nearly every arena of life. This book is far and away the most effective introduction to philosophy I have read. It is accessible without being shallow. A deeper relationship with God can be found via the mind and philosophy is God’s best tool for opening the mind.
A Meaningful World by Benjamin Wiker and Jonathan Witt
Does the world have purpose and design? In stark contrast to the reductionism so prevalent in society today, the authors employ philosophy, literature, mathematics, cosmology, biology, and chemistry to show there is meaning in the universe. All of these fields are addressed in a manner that is engaging to the scientist and non-scientist alike. The authors use fields as diverse as the history of the periodic table and the literary structure of Hamlet to make a positive case for meaning and a negative case against the reductionism that dominates science today.