Category Archives: Christian Literature

10 Influential Theological Books, Part 2

In part one of this series I listed five theological books that have exercised an enduring influence upon not only myself as an avid reader, but also upon generations of Christians—and even Western civilization in general. Here are the remaining books that made the list. Again, the works are listed in alphabetical order by author.

6. Saved By Grace by Anthony Hoekema

Hoekema (1913–1989) was both a Reformed systematic theologian and an apologist to non-Christian cults. This book explains salvation by grace in a powerfully clear and magnanimous way. Hoekema’s work helped me to explain my Reformed views to Christians of other theological traditions. If you have ever wondered what Calvinists believe concerning salvation, read this book first.

7. Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis

This contemporary classic from C. S. Lewis (1898–1963) explains and defends the historic Christian faith by exploring essential doctrine and values. This is the first Christian book that I ever read and it influenced my early thinking about the faith.

8. Essential Christianity by Walter Martin

Martin (1928–1989) was both a theologian and a bold Christian apologist. This work clearly explains the central doctrines of the Christian faith. I worked for and with Walter Martin in the late 1980s at the Christian Research Institute. This book strongly shaped my basic understanding of Christian doctrine.

9. Pensées by Blaise Pascal

Known as a mathematical and scientific genius, Blaise Pascal (1623–1662) was also a uniquely gifted apologist. While this work is more of a collection of Pascal’s thoughts on various subjects, it is truly a classic of Christian theology and apologetics. Reading and meditating on Pascal’s writings has made me forever a Pascalian at heart.

10. Our Triune God by Peter Toon

The doctrine of the Trinity is arguably Christianity’s most distinctive belief. Peter Toon (1939–2009), a conservative Anglican theologian, explained and defended this doctrine in his writings. This particular book stands as the best modern treatment of the Trinity. Toon’s work helped me to see that the Trinity is the foundation of all Christian theology.

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The influence these ten theological texts have had on me and the way I understand theology testifies to their enduring relevance. I recommend them to you in this new year for your reading reflection.

 

10 Influential Theological Books, Part 1

Happy New Year!

Now that the hectic holiday time has passed, it’s time to set resolutions for 2013. Healthy eating and exercise frequently make the list, but mental and spiritual fitness should, too. To encourage your intellectual growth in the New Year, I offer up this two-part list of great theological works.

Influential educator Mortimer J. Adler defines a “great book” as one that continues to challenge the reader no matter how many times the book is read.1 The Bible surely stands as the greatest of all great books—no one can exhaust the enduring truths of sacred Scripture. But the following ten theological books have had an enduring positive influence upon generations of readers—myself included. I list the books in alphabetical order according to author. I’ve included comments on each text and how it has impacted me. This list encompasses both centuries-old books and contemporary texts.

1. On the Incarnation by Athanasius

In this early Christian classic, one of the great theological heroes of the Eastern church attempts to explain the doctrine of the Incarnation (Jesus Christ as God in human flesh). Athanasius’s (c. AD 296–373) work inspired me to think deeply about the doctrine that stands at the theological heart of Christianity and to seek to defend it in my apologetics ministry. The edition I recommend contains an introduction by C. S. Lewis.

2. Confessions by Augustine

Considered a classic of both Western civilization in general and of Christian literature in particular, Confessions is St. Augustine’s (AD 354–430) autobiographical account (the first of its kind) of his—and every human’s—soul search for God. Augustine is arguably the greatest Christian thinker outside of the New Testament and this amazing book made me forever an Augustinian in my theological thinking and faith journey.

3. The City of God by Augustine

Augustine’s magnum opus, this classic work sets forth the first Christian philosophy of history by introducing the reader to two representative “cities”—namely, the City of Man and the City of God. This work presents the Christian worldview in light of its pagan competitors. Knowing that one of Western civilization’s greatest thinkers and writers was a passionate follower of Jesus Christ has always inspired me.

4. Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther by Roland Bainton

This is a modern work on the life and thought of the Protestant Reformer Martin Luther (1483–1546). Church historian Roland Bainton skillfully tells the tale of Luther’s journey toward discovering the doctrine of justification by faith and how that doctrine lit the torch of the Protestant Reformation. Reading this book shaped my Protestant theological ethos.

5. Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin

John Calvin’s (1509–1564) classic theological work succeeded in changing the world forever. An often-misunderstood theological genius, Calvin is at heart a biblical scholar. This work set forth a Reformed Protestant theological system and it served to focus my Protestant theological orientation.

Check back next Tuesday for the continuation of this list of influential theological books.

Endnotes:

1. Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren, How to Read a Book (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1972), 343.

Blaise’s Best Bet, Part 4: Pascal for Today

For the last several weeks, I’ve been reflecting on French thinker Blaise Pascal (1623–1662). I’ve discussed his life, his achievements in science and mathematics, and his conversion to Christianity and work as an apologist. Though Pascal lived centuries ago, I believe his writings on theology and apologetics remain important for Christians of the twenty-first century. Continue reading

Blaise’s Best Bet, Part 3: a Bold Apologist

Last week, I highlighted the remarkable mathematical and scientific accomplishments that distinguished the short life of French thinker Blaise Pascal (1623–1662). His ideas and inventions rightly earned him the title of “the first modern man.” But science and math weren’t the only fields Pascal impacted—his writings on theology and apologetics remain a treasure of historic Christian literature. In this post, I’ll describe Pascal’s conversion experience and involvement in the church. (See part 1 for an introduction to Pascal.) Continue reading

Three Christian Classics

When I get a little money, I buy books. And if there is any left over, I buy food. —Desiderius Erasmus, Dutch Renaissance scholar and theologian

Reading books has been an obsession of mine since my conversion to Christianity as a college sophomore. I sensed my mind really mattered in serving the Lord; so I began a serious pursuit of the “life of the mind” to the glory of God. Today I have a personal library of between 3,000 and 4,000 books. Continue reading

Top Ten Quotes from Augustine’s Confessions

Considered both a literary and a Christian devotional classic, Augustine’s Confessions is one of my favorite Christian books. I’ve read the book numerous times yet, like all great books, it continues to challenge me intellectually, morally, and spiritually. Continue reading

Ten Historic Christian Theological Texts

Throughout history, these theological books have impacted both the church and the world. I chose these works in order to provide a broad scope of historic Christian thought, although I do not necessarily agree with every point these authors make. But whatever your branch of Christendom or denominational attachment, I do encourage you to consider these books for your theological reflection. In historical order only: Continue reading