Only human beings read. The great Greek philosopher Aristotle thought the distinguishing feature of people is their ability to use language. And humans use their unique language ability to think, speak, write, and read.
From a historic Christian perspective, the idea of human exceptionalism is grounded in the biblical truth that people are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26–27). This imago Dei endowment makes people capable of hunting and gathering truth. And since Christians affirm a propositional (words, statements) revelation from God in the Bible, they join with the Jewish tradition as People of the Book. Thus, reading is a great gift and privilege, but one may also argue that it is a responsibility according to our profound created nature.
12 Book Favorites
This is part one of a three-part series on some of my favorite books. The topics cover theology, philosophy, apologetics, and education. I also note how the books have been helpful to me. The books are listed in alphabetical order, not order of preference:
1. Confessions by St. Augustine
This is St. Augustine’s most famous book and one of the most important Christian books in history. Augustine’s autobiography actually created the genre of biographical writings in Western civilization. Thus, this book is both a Christian and literary classic and it appears in all the great books reading programs. The title, Confessions, is understood in a triple sense: confession of sin, confession of a newfound faith, and confession of the glory of God. When I read this book, I benefit from Augustine’s great wisdom as a Christian philosopher and theologian. But personally, I feel I’m reading the words of an empathetic Christian friend and counselor.
2. God and Reason by Ed L. Miller
This book is a thorough introduction to the topic of philosophical theology. Miller explores the traditional arguments for God (cosmological, teleological, ontological, moral), religious experience, faith and reason, the problem of evil, the soul and immortality, and God and language. Miller, though a Christian by conviction, presents a fair and objective discussion of all topics. God and Reason has been a very helpful work to me as I have taught and written on various issues relating to God and philosophy.
3. Handbook of Basic Bible Texts by John Jefferson Davis
In this book, Christian theologian John Jefferson Davis takes every critical Scripture passage for the study of Christian doctrine and divides them according to the categories of systematic theology. This book thus contains all of the key passages that address basic Christian theological topics. Davis’s book is the most helpful work I’ve used in my research and study of Scripture and theology. When I write and speak on biblical and theological topics, I always use this very helpful volume.
4. How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren
This book is a best-selling contemporary classic on the topic of reading. It explores all phases of reading, including elementary, skimming, analytical, and syntopical. It provides guidance in reading all kinds of books. How to Read a Book revolutionized my understanding of reading and became one of the most important books that I have ever read. I learned so much from this work that I return to it yearly for continuous review and study of the art and science of reading.
So these are four of my favorite and most useful books. In part two of this series, I’ll discuss four more on my list of a dozen favorite books.
From the Latin Tolle lege, I invite you to “take up and read”!
Reflections: Your Turn
What are some of your favorite books?
- For a more thorough introduction to Confessions, see my article “Take Up and Read: Confessions.”
- For another fine work by Ed Miller, see my article “Take Up and Read: Questions That Matter.”
- For a more thorough introduction to Handbook of Basic Bible Texts, see my article “Take Up and Read: Handbook of Basic Bible Texts.”
- For a more thorough introduction to How to Read a Book, see my article “Take Up and Read: How to Read a Book.”