As I wrote in part one of this series, only human beings are readers. The ancient 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 viewpoint, the idea of human uniqueness 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 exalted created nature.
12 Book Favorites
This is part two of a three-part series on some of my favorite books. (See here for part one.) 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:
5. Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis
In the preface of this work, Lewis presents the idea of “mere Christianity,” which reflects far more than a book title. This term refers to a group of essential and “agreed, or common, or central” Christian doctrines (such as the Trinity, the incarnation, and the atonement) that all branches of historic Christendom affirm. Thus, the book carefully explains and defends the central beliefs and values of common Christianity. Mere Christianity was the first Christian book that I ever read, and it powerfully impacted my thinking.
6. On the Incarnation by St. Athanasius
Athanasius’s book provides an explanation and defense of the historic Christian doctrine of the incarnation in the context of heretical attacks against it. Athanasius affirms that the essence of Christianity is found in the historic truth-claim of Jesus Christ being God in human flesh (a single person with both a divine and a human nature). However, during Athanasius’s lifetime, the incarnation would be directly challenged by the influential Arian heresy that denied Christ’s true deity. Athanasius is one of my favorite theologians and apologists, and this book is a masterpiece.
7. On the Trinity by St. Augustine
Augustine’s text is one of the greatest works about God’s triune nature. It is a long and systematic treatise on a unique and essential Christian doctrine. Augustine’s reflections concerning the Trinity deeply shaped Western Christendom. A unique feature in Augustine’s approach to the Trinity is his engaging use of psychological analogies. He argued that since the triune God created the world, one would reasonably expect to find “traces of the Trinity” in creation. And since human beings were made in the express image of the triune God (imago Dei), traces of the Trinity are likely to be found in human beings. This is one of Augustine’s greatest works, and I return to it often.
8. Pensées by Blaise Pascal
Pascal’s Pensées (pronounced pon-sayz and roughly translated as “thoughts”) is both a theological and philosophical masterwork. It was intended to be Pascal’s apologetics magnum opus (Latin for “greatest work”) until illness prevented him from finishing it. While Pensées is more of an outline or a series of short comments and essays than a complete book, it remains a very popular text in philosophy and in Christian theology and apologetics. I regularly read from the Pensées in my apologetics and devotional studies.
So these are four more of my favorite and most useful books. In part three of this series, I’ll discuss the final four on my list of a dozen favorite books.
From the Latin Tolle lege, I invite you to “take up and read”!
Reflections: Your Turn
Who are some of your favorite authors?
- For a more thorough introduction to Mere Christianity, see my article “Take Up and Read: Mere Christianity.”
- For a more thorough introduction to On the Incarnation, see my article “Take Up and Read: On the Incarnation.”
- For more about St. Augustine and his accomplishments, see my article “Christian Thinkers 101: A Crash Course on St. Augustine.”
- For a more thorough introduction to Pensées, see my article “Take Up and Read: Pensées.”