Aaron has put up a short post on CT’s The Top 50 Books That Have Shaped Evangelicals. I was going to respond with a comment, but my comment ended up being much longer than the original post. So here you go, my reflections on spiritually significant books. I have kept CT’s numbering, and have skipped some entires, so you wil notice that my numbers are kinda whacky.
1. Prayer: Conversing With God
I’ve never even heard of this book, but I suppose historically in the 50 years of evangelicalism, it may have been significant. But I can think of other books on prayer which have affected me more, including:
- The Hour that Changes the World (Eastman) – If you have one book on prayer, it should be this one. It’s worth many readings.
- With Christ in the School of Prayer (Murray)
- Revival Praying (Ravenhill)
- Could You Not Tarry One Hour? (Lea) – This book has formed my prayer life more than any other.
- The Fourth Dimension – Pastor Cho created a church of over 800,000, and his prayer life (4 hours a day) is part of his success.
2. Church: Understanding Church Growth
Modern church growth books abound, but the one that stands head and shoulders above the rest for me is
Another book I’ve never heard of, but regarding church growth, I highly regard
- Where Do We Go from Here?: A Guidebook for the Cell Group Church (Neighbor) – this guy almost single-handedly birthed the modern cell group movement
3. Apologetics: Mere Christianity
I have to say, though I’ve read this book and The Weight of Glory, I am not a big Lewis fan. However, I’ve heard that this basic apologetic has affected many people. I think that this book is actually eclipsed in some ways by Lee Strobel’s books in their reach and effectiveness. But Stroble certainly hasn’t had the chance to endure through time as Lewis has. Strobel’s worthy books include:
4. Sociology: The God Who Is There
Yep, Francis was the man, and has had a huge impact on Christian intellectualism. No argument here at all. However, who else stands up tall in this arena? I have to say that his disciple, Nancy Pearcey, has admirably, if not verbosely, reiterated the teachings of Schaeffer for a new generation in Total Truth, one of the best books I’ve read in years.
5. God: Knowing God (Packer)
No argument there. Awesome book, same category as the Tozer book (#49, Knowledge of the Holy), in my mind. Asking us to be serious about getting to know God.
6. Bible: The Living Bible
I have to say, I LOVE the LB. After my NKJV, it is the most read. I have yet to find a paraphrase that is as accurate and accessible as this one (not even the TNLB). What I particularly enjoy about this book is that you can still pick it up in used bookstores in “The Way” edition, published during the Jesus Movement of the 70’s – it has lots of “hip” pictures of young Christians in bell-bottoms, flowered shirts, and sporting big lamb chop sideburns.
8. Productivity: Managing Your Time
Never read this one either, but I respect Engstrom. However, in this vein, I think they missed the book that should be the real winner – Ordering Your Private World by MacDonald.
This book also affected me greatly and made me realize that a well-tended INNER life is really what makes one strong. And even though they are not about time management, MacDonald’s other books, including Renewing Your Spiritual Passion and Rebuilding Your Broken World (after moral failure – he was a pastor who stepped down from ministry after an affair) are life changing and worth re-reading. I have not read his latest, A Resilient Life.
9. Missionary Bio: Through Gates of Splendor
While this book has had a huge influence and deserves to be listed, I’d have to mention four other books which have affected me more with respect to missions. Glad also to see that #37 – God’s Smuggler was included – it really ignited a desire in the Western church to help those in persecuted countries. I’ll have to check out #43 – Operation World.
- Bruchko (Olson) – one of the most inspiring and unbelievable stories in missions ever told.
- From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya (Tucker) – This chronological history of missions work from the first century until now is very readable and engaging. Must have for those interested in missions.
- Eternity in Their Hearts (Richardson) – this book shows that all men and cultures have the vestiges of the Biblical history of the world and the gospel buried in their cultures, and all we have to do is bring them Jesus. Awesome book.
- Perspectives on the World Christian Movement : A Reader (Winter) – While this is a long and intimidating book, for those interested in World Missions, this is the definitive reader.
11. Disciplines: Celebration of Discipline (Foster)
Yep, this book, along with Dallas Willard’s help, has brought the spiritual disciplines back, and we need them! Too bad the Fundies hate them because they see them as New Age. However, also of note, and more acceptable to fundies and evangelicals alike is
- The Pursuit of Holiness (Bridges) – powerful, must-read for all Christians. This will inspire you to seek God with all of your heart, and with discipline.
12. Evangelism: Power Evangelism
Yep, Wimber et al. definitely changes modern Christianity by continuing the contemporary worship movement, and by emphasizing believing God for the miraculous. The Vineyard churches are a testimony to his life. However, I think #21, The Master Plan of Evangelism deserves to be ranked higher. I have actually never read Kennedy’s book (#10, Evangelism Explosion), but have no doubt it has been effective.
13. Apologetics: Evidence That Demands a Verdict
Another total classic. This reference book has arguably done more for helping Christians understand and defend the faith than any other, even Little’s book (26. Know Why You Believe), which is more practical for small group study by beginners. In fact, outside of Strobel’s books above, I don’t know of any other apologetics book worth mentioning.
22. Creationism: The Genesis Flood
The late Henry Morris has probably done more for modern creationism than any other modern author. Phil Johnson’s book is a classic (40.Darwin on Trial), but the books that most influenced me and undermined my confidence in evolution are:
- Evolution: The Fossils Say NO (Gish) – this is one of those books at Amazon that has a 3-star rating because most people rate it based on their ideology – either 1 or 5 stars, not based on its content. But there is no arguing that this “creationist polemic” has been effective.
- Scientific Creationism (Morris, Ed.) – This book compares the two models to see how well they incorporate the facts, and how well they predict future discoveries. This approach really meant something to me, since this is really how you evaluate scientific models.
- The Biblical Basis for Modern Science (Morris) – A classic introduction to a Biblical view of all of the sciences. Morris’ logic is sometimes unimpressive in it’s oversimplicity, but it does present the Biblical view of a testable science pretty well.
- Bones of Contention (Lubenow) – Despite his few oversights, this book about the human fossil record is compelling and makes a strong case against evolutionary interpretations of the human fossil record.
25. Relationships: Boundaries
Boundaries was one of the first widely accepted books based on a Christian psychology. Even today, fundies reject psychology, preferring to rely solely on scripture and God’s work of sanctification. However, a few other books stand out to me as significant in the realm of Christian psychology.
- Healing for Damaged Emotions – this book really helped me heal from childhood wounds and mature.
- Putting Away Childish Things – the one chapter in this out of print book on “Childish Views of Self and Self-Denial” delivered me from the unbalanced, unbiblical, and extreme version of self-denial taught in most fundy churches – the one that says any focus on self is selfish, as opposed to differentiating between healthy self-knowledge and stewardship v. self-aggrandizement and pleasure seeking. Though this individual title is out of print, you can get four of Seamands’ books (including the two mentioned here) in one volume.
- Transformation of the Inner Man (Sandford) – long, but very very good, foundational volume on how God heals us deeply, and how that is achieved.
- Victory over the Darkness (Anderson) – this book introduced evangelicals to some of the principles of inner healing, mostly practiced by Charismatics and Pentecostals before this time. Simple but safe and effective if taken properly.
34. Fiction: This Present Darkness
This book almost singlehandedly not only introduced most Christians to the idea of spiritual warfare, it created and legitimized, in the eyes of modern evangelicals, the Christian Fiction market almost overnight. I’m not much of a fiction reader, but this book was very engaging, despite what in retrospect is written in an unimpressive, simplistic and not very artful style. Still, it is significant. However, regarding xian fiction, I just picked up Ted Dekker’s Thr3e, and find that he is probably one of the better modern xian fiction writers.
With all of that said, I’ve got a lot of books to add to my Amazon list (now over 200).