I appreciate the idea of making New Year’s resolutions. Since we live such a short time on Earth, yearly reflection about life’s appropriate priorities seems prudent. And even if we fall short of our goals, which we often do, the striving often builds discipline and, sometimes, even character. Therefore, in welcoming the year 2008, I’m planning to exercise more often and consume a diet of healthier foods. Hopefully, this will contribute toward extending my stay on this planet.
However, there is another important sphere of life that requires reflection and discipline. Several years ago, Christian thinker and author Os Guinness wrote a provocative book entitled Fit Bodies Fat Minds: Why Evangelicals Don’t Think and What to Do About It. He effectively illustrated that there is a serious problem in today’s evangelical churches concerning intellectual ignorance and apathy. He argues that for many Christians there exists a chronic laziness of mind. Thus, many believers could undoubtedly benefit from intellectual exercise and a healthier consumption of good books. After all, the Lord Jesus Christ called his disciples to love God with all of their being, which includes the gift of the mind (Matthew 22:37).
I have found that reading good quality books is to the mind what exercise and a good diet are to the body. Personally, I strive to read at least three hours per day. Of course, working as a research scholar at Reasons To Believe affords me much time to read, think, and respond to apologetics-related issues. Still, I’ve held to this practice for most of my adult life. Naturally, there have been many days when I couldn’t reach my goal, but on average I’ve done pretty well. Usually, I set my sights on reading 100 books a year (on average, that’s two books a week).
I understand that most people aren’t going to be able to read for multiple hours per day, but what about a goal of reading six challenging Christian books per year (that’s one book every two months)? If you are adventurous enough to make this one of your New Year’s resolutions, then let me recommend six excellent books to consider for the upcoming year.
Six Classic Christian Books to Read in 2008
These books are considered classics because they have stood the test of time over Christian history. Some of them even make the list of literary classics of Western civilization. Fortunately, most of them are fairly short and can be purchased as inexpensive paperbacks. However, because of their robust content few of them can be read and digested quickly. So my motto, “Life is short, read fast!” may not apply to these literary treasures.
1. Confessions by St. Augustine
Considered a Christian and literary classic, this is one of the most important Christian books ever written. In this biographical work, Augustine tells the amazing story of his journey from paganism to Christianity. Augustine of Hippo is widely considered one of the greatest Christian thinkers of all time. I recommend the Penguin Classics edition (1961) translated by R. S. Pine-Coffin.
2. On the Incarnation by St. Athanasius
This superb book about the person and nature of Christ was written by one of the wisest and most heroic figures in Christian history. I recommend you select the edition that includes the introduction written by C. S. Lewis.
3. Cur Deus Homo (Latin: Why the God-man?) by St. Anselm
This is a powerful theological work on why Jesus Christ had to have been both God and man in order to have redeemed sinful humanity. Unfortunately, it’s sometimes difficult to find in paperback.
4. On the Bondage of the Will by Martin Luther
This is one of the most important theological works of the Reformation era written by the Father of the Protestant Reformation himself.
5. Pensées by Blaise Pascal
This work is considered by many to be a masterpiece of Christian thought written by one of the founding fathers of modern science. The word “pensées” is French for “thoughts” or “reflection.” I recommend the Penguin Classics edition (1995) translated by A. J. Krailsheimer.
6. Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis
This was the first Christian book that I ever read. Many consider it a modern Christian classic. I appreciate its clear presentation of Christian doctrine and apologetics.
Each of these books has deepened my understanding of Christianity and challenged me to devote my life more passionately to God. May they do the same for you.
Happy New Year! And here’s a toast (with low-calorie cider) to a fit Christian mind.
For more on the importance of pursuing the life of the mind to the glory of God, see my book, A World of Difference: Putting Christian Truth-Claims to the Worldview Test, especially chapters 3 and 4. For a modern guide to building reading skills and comprehension, see Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren, How To Read A Book.