Archives For Recommended Reading

The Reason for God by Tim KellerRead Keller’s outline for Part I of The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism. The chapter titles alone may motivate you to start reading:

  1. There Can’t Be Just One True Religion
  2. How Could a Good God Allow Suffering?
  3. Christianity is a Straitjacket
  4. The Church is responsible for So Much Injustice
  5. How Can a Loving God Send People to Hell?
  6. Science has Disproved Christianity
  7. You Can’t Take the Bible Literally

While reading The Reason for God I found myself thinking that I would easily recommend it over C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity. On the one hand, that is not surprising. Mere Christianity was the edited publication of lectures given during World War II. Whereas, The Reason for God was published in 2008. Lewis’s work is dated. On the other hand, it’s quite surprising given Lewis’s stature.

But a comparison of Mere Christianity with The Reason for God is silly in any case because Keller repeatedly acknowledges Lewis’s influence on his writings. Keller shares that it was a combination of three people who shaped his thought:

I also owe a deeper sort of acknowledgement to the three people to whom I am most indebted for the fundamental shape of my Christian faith. They are, in order, my wife, Kathy, the British author C.S. Lewis, and the American theologian Jonathan Edwards.

Lewis’s words appear in nearly every chapter. It would be wrong not to admit how much of what I think about faith comes from him.

Keller isn’t in competition with Lewis. He is standing on his shoulders and taking the discussion forward in the new millennium. If it’s true that Tim Keller advances C.S. Lewis’s thinking, and I think he clearly does, then The Reason for God is must reading.

Having said that, the best way to motivate you to read Keller’s book is to read the chapter titles.

Tomorrow, I’ll share some tips for reading The Reason for God with profit.

C. S. Lewis - A Life: Eccentric Genius, Reluctant ProphetOne of the final steps in C.S. Lewis’s conversion was for him to accept the truth that Christians can truly be united or “Bound Together” with Christ.

In his excellent new biography of C.S. Lewis, Alister McGrath does more than any other author to help us understand how C.S. Lewis came to faith in Christ. McGrath takes us a step forward in scholarship about Lewis by more accurately dating key events in Lewis’s life. McGrath goes so far as to point out where Lewis himself was wrong about some of the dates. You will have to read the book yourself to see if McGrath persuades you of his chronology. He convinced me.

In any case, McGrath shows that by 1931 C.S. Lewis was close to becoming a believer. Lewis had determined he was no longer an atheist. But he still had not given his life to Christ. Through interaction with Lewis’s letters, McGrath summarizes why Lewis still had reservations about becoming a Christian.

Lewis explained that his difficulty had been that he could not see “how the life and death of Someone Else (whoever he was) 2000 years ago could help us here and now.” An inability to make sense of this had been holding Lewis back “for the last year or so.” He could admit that Christ might provide us with a good example, but that was about as far as it went. Lewis realised that the New Testament took a very different view, using terms such as propitiation or sacrifice to refer to the true meaning of this event. But these expressions, Lewis declared, seemed to him to be “either silly or shocking.”

In the end, it was an evening with J.R.R. Tolkien that God used to tip the balance and for Lewis to finally put his trust in Christ. Lewis soon confessed faith in Christ and was united together with Him.

But how was it that Lewis accepted that Christ can help us here and now? Lewis gives his answer in The Problem of Pain published 9 years after Lewis’s conversion in 1940. Lewis explained how Scripture helped him come to understand that we are not so individual as we think.

Everyone will have noticed how the Old Testament seems at times to ignore our conception of the individual. When God promises Jacob that ‘He will go down with him into Egypt and will also surely bring him up again’, this is fulfilled either by the burial of Jacob’s body in Palestine or by the exodus of Jacob’s descendants from Egypt. It is quite right to connect this notion with the social structure of early communities in which the individual is constantly overlooked in favour of the tribe or family: but we ought to express this connection by two propositions of equal importance – - firstly that their social experience blinded the ancients to some truths we perceive, and secondly that it made them sensible of some truths to which we are blind. Legal fiction, adoption, and transference or imputation of merit and guilt, could never have played the part they did in theology if they had always be felt to be so artificial as we now feel them to be.

. . . the separateness – - which we discern between individuals, is balanced, in absolute reality, by some kind of ‘interanimation’ of which we have no conception at all. It may be that the acts and sufferings of great archetypal individuals such as Adam and Christ are ours, not by legal fiction, metaphor, or casuality, but in some much deeper fashion. There is no question, of course, of individuals melting down into a kind of spiritual continuum such as Pantheistic systems believe in; that is excluded by the whole tenor of our faith. But there may be a tension between individuality and some other principle. C.S. Lewis, emphasis added (page 83).

Lewis accepted that we are not isolated individuals. Rather, we are “bound together.” In my book, Bound Together, I call this, “the principle of the rope“: that is, we are not islands unto ourselves. The ultimate negative example of the principle of the rope is the doctrine of original sin. When Adam and Eve rebelled against God, their sin was imputed to all their descendents. And all inherited a corrupt nature from them. But the ultimate positive example of the principle of the rope is union in Christ. Those who believe in Christ are united together with Him as branches to a vine or bricks to a building.

As for McGrath’s biography of Lewis, in my mind it is now the best single resource on the life of C.S. Lewis. McGrath’s book and Alan Jacob’s wonderful book, The Narnian, are now the first two books to read on C.S. Lewis.

But first read C.S. Lewis himself!

Feel weak?

Chris —  April 16, 2013 — Leave a comment

Feel weak? Watch J.I. Packer on his forthcoming book.

Weakness is the Way by J. I. Packer from Crossway on Vimeo.

A Literary Quiz

Chris —  March 25, 2013 — 8 Comments

Literature is part of the “great conversation” in which authors interact with central questions. If you want a wonderful introduction to literature, then I recommend Tony Reinke’s book, Lit! A Christian Guide to Reading. You can read more about Tony’s book on his web site.

The below is not a definitive list of quotes. Some of my selection had to do with what was handy on my shelves.

You can check your answers here.

Feel free to humbly brag in the comments below.

Russell Moore:

I’ve found that most people who tell me that fiction is a waste of time are folks who seem to hold to a kind of sola cerebra vision of the Christian life that just doesn’t square with the Bible. The Bible doesn’t simply address man as a cognitive process but as a complex image-bearer who recognizes truth not only through categorizing syllogisms but through imagination, beauty, wonder, awe. Fiction helps to shape and hone what Russell Kirk called the moral imagination.

Read the whole thing here.

Twenty Two words shares the statement President Nixon was prepared to read if the moon expedition failed and the astronauts died. See here.

HT: Thom Rainer

If you have not read John Bunyan’s classic, Pilgrim’s Progress, you really need to do so soon. In the mean time, Voddie Baucham has written a much needed article reminding Christians that the narrow road is not always easy.

In John Bunyan’s classic The Pilgrim’s Progress, the Wicket Gate is a symbol for entrance into the Christian life. There, the main character, Christian, encounters the gatekeeper, Good-Will. Their encounter, like the rest of the book, is filled with layers of meaning to which modern pilgrims would do well to pay attention:

So when the pilgrim was fully inside, Good Will asked him, “Who directed you to come this way?”

CHRISTIAN: Evangelist exhorted me to come this way and knock at the Gate, just as I did. He further told me that you, sir, would tell me what I must do next.

GOOD-WILL: An open door is set before you, and no man can shut it.

CHRISTIAN: Now I begin to reap the benefits of my hazards.

GOOD-WILL: But how is it that you have come alone?

CHRISTIAN: Because none of my neighbors saw their danger as I saw mine.

The Battle Has Just Begun
As pilgrims on this journey to the Celestial City, we must recognize the fact that coming to faith in Christ is the end of our enmity with God, but it is in nowise an end of warfare. Obstinate, Pliable, the Slough of Despond, and Mr. Worldly Wiseman had all been obstacles on Christian’s journey to the Wicket Gate. However, in many ways, the worst still lay ahead. Similarly, our battle with the world, the flesh, and the Devil only intensifies once we have crossed from death to life. . .

Read the rest here.

HT: Carl Trueman

Ray Bradbury died yesterday. Watch this clip in which he shares the beauty and wonder of libraries.

See also All My Friends were on the Shelves Above

 

HT: JT

If you click to through the link, the last two paragraphs are especially important:

Nate (N. D.) Wilson is one of my favorite writers. He has given us some excellent fiction and non-fiction books. He knows what makes a story work.

Nate was in town recently, and we had a conversation about books, beauty, and bestsellers. Naturally, we talked about The Hunger Games. His take on it was too good to keep to myself, so I asked if I could share it here.

Why Hunger Games is Flawed to Its Core
N.D. Wilson

Almost everywhere I go, I’m asked about The Hunger Games (book, not film). The questions used to fly about Twilight and Potter, but Katniss and dystopic death-matches have taken over.

First, I completely understand why The Hunger Games took off. Suzanne Collins knows how to suck readers into a page-turning frenzy. The pace of the book grabs like gorilla glue and the kill-or-be-killed tension keeps fingernails nibbled short. She knows her craft, and I have to say that I’m grateful to her for expanding our mutual marketplace (in the same way that Rowling did). That said, Collins stumbles badly .  .  .

Read the rest here.

 

Don’t worry. This review isn’t going to tell you that you lost your salvation if you couldn’t put The Hunger Games down. Instead, it will show you how to ask the right questions about what you’re reading and it will help you think discerningly about different themes in the wildly popular series.

Read the review here.

HT: Challies