Byron's Favorite Partial Guide to the Best, Absolutely Must-Read, Gotta-Have Top Titles More-or-Less of All Time
Â Â Â Â Â Let me say it first and get it off my chest: the material presented in The Transforming Vision changed my life. As some of you know, Dr. Pete Steen, a 1970's era CCO staff lecturer who was affiliated with the Institute for Christian Studies in Toronto, taught (and Terry Thomas dragged us to) what Pete called "Perspectives" classes. Sadly, only the most stubborn endured Steen's barrages, but his legendary teaching left its mark; I am the man I am today partially due to Steen's radical critique of the underlying idols, "isms" and ideologies of the modern, humanistic world-view. Walsh & Middleton do a good job (an excellent job, actually) in coloring in the details of the "reformational vision" that we first heard in Steen's classes. It is one of the most important books I've ever read and certainly a seminal book in the history of the CCO.
Subversive Christianity by Brian Walsh. Radical stuff. Real important. I re-read these four short chapters often. Also, his booklet, Who Turned Out the Lights? The Light of the Gospel in a Post-Enlightenment Culture is splendid. I'm surprised we don't get orders for it it by the dozens!
Creation Regained by Al Wolters. Not as dry as some people say. Consider re-reading it, maybe with a friend. Al is a great asset to the reformational movement, careful and quite reasonable. Like The Transforming Vision without the cultural critique.
Taking Discipleship Seriously by Tom Sine. Challenging, exciting, short.
The Kingdom of God is a Party by Tony Campolo. A good Jubilee primer.
Thine is the Kingdom by Paul Marshall. Although it is about politics, the opening few chapters on the cultural mandate is the best thing written on God's call to be responsible over his world. A gem!
How To Read Slowly: Reading for Comprehension by James Sire. Everyone should have this and loan it out often.
A Dangerous Grace by Charles Colsen. An attractive hardcover of 365 readings. If one doesn't "catch the vision" from this, give up. The preface alone, two short pages with mention of Abraham Kuyper, is beautiful. His other books are great, too!
Your Work Matters to God by Doug Sherman & William Hendricks. Particularly good for conservative evangelicals, blows dualism away! Very down to earth.
The Monday Connection by William Diehl. Particularly good for mainline denominational folk or business people already in their career positions.
Art & the Bible by Francis Schaeffer. Two little essays. Vintage Schaeffer. Very nice.
How Should We Then Live? by Francis Schaeffer. An incredibly useful overview of the history of Western culture. Super for academic discipleship or as a reference tool.
Rainbows for the Fallen World by Calvin Seerveld. Probably my all-time favorite book, written in Seerveld's eccentric style. I just love it, although not everyone does. It is about God's call to aesthetic obedience (seen not just in the arts, but in a sense of creativity, what Seerveld calls allusivity or nuance). Such dramatic vision and biblical depth! When I read Seerveld, even when I have to struggle, I literally ache to know the Scriptures like he does. Few authors do that for me.
The Secular Squeeze by John Alexander. I did a three-part review of this two summers ago [August, September and October 1993] in these pages. Call the office for a reprint if you don't remember. This is one of the best books I have ever read, despite the rather disappointing ending. Hold on to your hat. Shades of Steen without the Dutch accent.
The Upside-Down Kingdom by Don Kraybill. A challenging study of the Sermon on the Mount and the radical call to the Jesus lifestyle. One well-read friend calls it the most important book he has ever read.
Until Justice & Peace Embrace by Nicholas Woltersdorff. This is not an easy book, nor is its content comforting. It is a masterpiece in its effort to explore shalom from a neo-Kuyperian worldview. Even those who disagreed with its conclusions (as did James Skillen, the Association for Public Justice political scholar) admit it was a magisterial work which is to be taken seriously.
One-Sided Christianity by Ron Sider. A mature, quite readable approach to holistic, incarnational discipleship. Very, very solid. The follow-up companion, Cup of Water, Bread of Life, is an inspiring collection of case studies of churches that have a fully holistic outreach, combining social witness and aggressive evangelism. Powerful.
Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger by Ron Sider. Even if you skip the chapters on global economics and hunger, this is still the best explanation of biblical teachings about poverty and justice in print anywhere. A must, must-have.
Decisive Issues Facing Christians Today by John Stott. The second half is a handbook of balanced evangelical perspectives on issues such as war, ecology, race, gender, homosexuality, work, human rights, abortion, marriage, poverty, etc. The brilliant first half gives a tremendously clear and solid framework, the need to engage the culture for Christ, think Christianly, develop biblical principles, etc. A remarkable resource.
The Contemporary Christian by John Stott. StottÃƒâ€¢s lifework in a not-too-small nutshell. Just about everything you need to know about the Christian life.
What Color Is Your God? by Columbus Salley & Ron Behm. Still the best critique. My heart is thrilled that some staff work on this issue, and God's heart breaks when we don't. See More Than Equals by Perkins & Rice for a substantial study of racial reconciliation. Two of the most important recent books are Race Matters by the leftist Cornel West and The Content of our Character by rightwinger Shelby Steele.
Community of the King by Howard Snyder. Snyder's books on the church are incredibly significant. Stunning in his biblical clarity and tremendous in his social understanding. Anyone concerned with the church should have this book! (His Models of the Kingdom compares different views of the Kingdom of God and is very insightful and, I would think, helpful in understanding and getting at what often keeps our students and sponsoring churches from fully appreciating our approach.)
Prayer: Finding the Heart's True Home by Richard Foster. Much easier to read than his classic Celebration of Discipline, this is absolutely the best guide to prayer I've ever read. While you're at it, get his Celebration of Simplicity and The Challenge of the Disciplined Life: Reflections on Money, Sex & Power.
Devotional Classics edited by Richard Foster. This is one of the most usable collections of the truly classic stuff from throughout church history. Helpful notes, introductions, bibliographies, etc.
Reformed Spirituality by Howard Rice. John Calvin, the Puritans, and the like and their particular view of piety.
Working the Angles: The Shape of Pastoral Integrity by Eugene Peterson. How and why to lead others into Scripture, prayer and spiritual direction. Incredibly important.
Where Your Treasure Lies by Eugene Peterson. A remarkable and colorful set of meditations on some of the more public Psalms and my favorite of his many wonderful books. Most people know (and have used successfully with students) his A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, which is also on some of the Psalms.
Using God's Resources Wisely: Isaiah and Urban Possibility by Walter Brueggemann. Steen turned me on to Brueggemann (The Land) and his many books of Old Testament scholarship are quite well known, particularly in mainline/liberal circles. This short collection of reflections are based on devotions he gave at a Presbyterian gathering. Very provocative. His commentary on the Psalms is also a good starting point, as is The Bible Makes Sense. The Prophetic Imagination may be his most important, although it requires a careful reading. He is someone you should definitely know about.
Clothed With the Sun: Biblical Women, Social Justice & Us by Joyce Hollyday. Fifty short chapters combining biblical and modern era women. One cannot read this without coming away moved and inspired, angry and encouraged.
Raggamuffin Gospel, The Signature of Jesus and Abba's Child by Brennan Manning. All three are treasures about GodÃƒâ€¢s passionate love and grace. Tender, fierce, unforgettable. What a story-teller!
The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul. The best book on the character of God I've ever read. If your students won't read it, rent the video or audio tape.
Christianity With Power: Your Worldview and Your Experience of the Supernatural by Charles Kraft. A compelling invitation to be open to the power of the Spirit-third wave style. See also Brad Long's sweeping Collapse of the Brass Heaven: Rebuilding Our Worldview to Embrace the Power of God. I love Tony Campolo's delightful How to Be A Pentecostal (Without Speaking in Tongues). The most helpful little book making a critique of the second baptism doctrine is Stott's Baptism of the Holy Spirit; if you've got charismatics on your campus, have a pile of them handy.
Basic Christianity by John Stott. A zillion-seller, although I find it boring. I like Josh McDowell's More Than a Carpenter better, I think.
The Fight by John White. How can anyone disciple others without this? (Why, imagine what Paul and Timothy could have done with such a resource!) Really, this is the best book on basic Christian growth I've ever seen. How to pray, read the Bible, share the gospel, deal with sin, know God's will, etc. Well done.
Out of the Saltshaker (and Into the World) by Becky Pippert. Every time I review this, I am blessed and challenged anew to share the gospel. Her Hope Has Its Reasons is also one of the really great books of recent times.
The Joyful Christian and The Visionary Christian by C.S. Lewis. Where to begin with Lewis?? These are two nice collections of readings, the first from Lewis' non-fiction, the second of his imaginative writing. These are nice ways to "dip in" a bit.
Listening To Your Life by Frederick Buechner. Likewise, how do you choose just one book from the prolific and influential Presbyterian novelist/essayist? This is 365 wonderful excerpts for the true fan or the beginner who wants just a taste.
Catholic & Christian by Alan Schreck. A very clear pro-Catholic presentation, calling Catholics to take their faith seriously. Also helpful is What Catholics Really Believe, Setting the Record Straight by Father Karl Keating.
Theology for Ordinary People by Bruce Shelley. The easiest intro to theology I've yet seen. Try Doing Theology With Huck & Jim for a nice attempt at doing theological education in a creative way.
Reformational Theology: A New Paradigm for Doing Dogmatics by Gordon Spykman. I didn't want to include scholarly works on this list, but it seemed to fit. If you have any students going off to seminary, or any serious religion majors, this is the one to get.
How Can I Be Sure I'm a Christian? by Donald Whitney. A tough-minded Calvinistic approach to the assurance of salvation. Not simple, but its clarity and brevity make it very useful for staff. Along similar lines, but written with an entirely different approach, is Os Guinness' brilliant book, Doubt. It is out of print, but we have a case of them!
How Can It Be All Right When Everything Is All Wrong? by Lewis Smedes. I'd read Smedes' laundry list if it was published. This is a very nice collection of sermons on coping with hard times. His book on forgiveness, too, is excellent; unfortunately, its title, Forgive and Forget, doesn't really capture the richness of his view.
As For Me and My House by Walter Wangerin, Jr. The tremendous writer of the powerfully creative Ragman has also given us a most poignant book on marriage.
Married for Good by Paul Stevens. A bit more prosaic, but just about the clearest and most insightful marriage book in print.
Sex for Christians by Lewis Smedes. Dumb title. Great book.
Sexual Character: Beyond Technique to Intimacy by Marva Dawn. There are so many great things I could say about this wonderful writer and her excellent, honest book.
Gender & Grace by Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen. Well worth working through. Her Creation/Fall/Redemption framework is impeccable even if you disagree with her conclusions. Every campus should be discussing these ideas-how are your students going to handle the issues of gender justice if they marry, raise children and try to work out their gifts and vocations in work and culture?
Dancing in the Dark: Youth, Popular Culture and the Electronic Media by Roy Anker, Bill Romanowski, et. al. No, Romo didn't put me up to mentioning this-it truly is a noteworthy and remarkable bit of social criticism. A serious and professional must-read for anyone in our line of work.
The More-With-Less Cookbook by Doris Longacre. Unless you eat every meal in the cafeteria, this should be in your kitchen and used often. A delight, easy to use and a great gift. The beautifully compiled sequel of international recipes, also compiled by the Mennonite Central Committee, is Extending the Table. Wonderful!