About June 2004

This page contains all entries posted to Hearts & Minds Books in June 2004. They are listed from oldest to newest.

May 2004 is the previous archive.

July 2004 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

June 2004 Archives

June 1, 2004

Reading Widely, Thinking Hard and Naming the Elephant

Those that know us are aware of our conviction that it is a good thing to read widely. We often find ourselves encouraging customers to read books that they disagree with, maybe that we disagree with, learning the best arguments of those whom they may tend to otherwise dismiss.

This is certainly important in theology where different traditions within the Body of Christ often fail to appreciate genuine insight and high quality work in traditions outside their own comfort zone. What a joy it would be, we think, if those with hard-headed Calvinist leanings drank deeply from the streams of the contemplative tradition; it would be especially appropriate and helpful, we believe, if those aligned with liberal traditions in the mainline churches paid closer attention to the remarkable scholarship and wise writing found on evangelical publishing houses such as InterVarsity Press or Baker Books.

And everyone, of course, should read N.T. Wright. His impeccable scholarship, irenic spirit, and passion for living out the implications of God's reign over the disarray of our culture are just the sort of thing from which all movements within the church could benefit.


And, for a delightful walk into another world that too few of us understand, read At The Corner of East and Now: An Modern Life in Ancient Christian Orthodoxy by Frederica Mathewes Green (Harper, $13.95) or other great memoirs or discussion by her such as Facing East: A Pilgrim's Journey Into Ancient Orthodoxy (Harper, $23.95, hardcover only). What a great, great writer she is! Nearly everyone with any opinions about gender roles will be stretched, challanged and encouraged to reconsider by spending some time in her wonderful collection of essays, Gender: Men, Women, Sex & Feminism (Conciliar Press, $15.95). I still wish she would come down closer to, say, Eastern University prof and noted author, Mary Stewart Van Leuween, whose work we love, but Frederica's prose is hard to put down, her stories compelling and her logic is significant. No matter what church tradition you are
a part of (if any) and no matter where you stand on gender issues, she is a woman to read.


Just to further illustrate, let me note some books that illustrate this kind of generous and realist ecumenical approach. Richard Foster, long a favorite here, has been rightly honored with a Gold Medallion Award for the wonderful and very insightful book Steams of Living Water: Celebrating the Great Traditions of the Christian Faith (HarperCollins, $15.00). What a great introduction to the strengths of each of the major traditions within the church universal. What stimulating and gracious reading. Foster importantly suggests that each denominational tradition brings a particular strength — the monks teach us contemplation, evangelicals remind of the written Word, the social justice tradition calls us to action, charismatics who have experienced the extraordinary power of the Holy Spirit bring us an invitation to empowerment and praise, the rich liturgical tradition reminds us of so much, not only about worship, but of a sacramental sense of G
od's presence in the ordinary. It doesn't do to try to summarize like this, but we invite you to consider this great paperback. And not only to read this particular book, which we love, but to honor its overall vision and contribution — a call to read widely and think ecumenically. This book helps us do this, gleaning the best of all that God's people have offered.

In this same spirit, we are happy to announce two new titles that are substantial, fair and satisfying for the conservative theological mind (both by IVP, $14.00). More liberal folk would do well to dip into either of these, too, sensing the passion and desire for truth and serious theological reflection that evangelicals are doing. Unlike Foster, though, this isn't a love-fest affirming the best of all traditions, but a legitimate bit of debate and critique. Check out Why I Am Not a Calvinist by Jerry Walls & Joseph Dongell and Why I Am Not an Armenian by Robert Peterson. Both of these are exceptional pieces of theological discourse, and while this surely isn't all that needs to be debated, they are good examples of what I'm reflecting on this month. Why not buy one, and get the other to read later? Or read one with a friend and discuss them both, and then swap, of course?


*NOTE: IF YOU ORDER BOTH OF THESE WE WILL SHIP THE SECOND AT 25% OFF. Just mention when you email or call that you saw this offer at the Web site. How’s that for some encouragement to read widely?


I shiver a bit as I prepare to make another suggestion along these same lines. It is one which might help us fulfill our tongue-in-cheek mission statement to carry books with "something to offend everyone." We are willing to risk that, since we do believe God would have us honor the best thinking on various sides of various issues and that reading generously is a virtue. Doesn't the biblical proverb "as iron sharpens iron so one person strengthens another" imply the need for trusting relationships where rigorous challenge and learning, even in hard ways, can happen as we intend to learn from one another?

Surely in the debates about homosexuality, LGBT inclusion in the church, and same-sex unions there is way too much misinformation (and sometimes ungodly nastiness) about both liberals and conservatives, ugly shouts and accusations from both camps. Bigots! Homophobes! Relativists! Antinomians! (Well, okay, not too many say that last one, but that's what they mean.) Further, I am sure that such a bi-polar continuum isn't particularly useful anyway. My own serious journey of a decade of reading widely in this area has taught me that people's views are not neatly categorized and their methodologies are often at odds with their own intentions and claims. For instance, there are those who advocate traditional sexual ethics who exhibit crummy Bible knowledge and hold these classic views for rather shallow theological reasons. And there are those who come down upon pretty unconventional places gleaned from fairly traditional biblical and theological reflection. I know rare evangelica
ls who quote chapter and verse for creating space for gay rights and I know theological liberals who are oddly queasy about homosexuality for what appear to be merely cultural reasons. Sorting all this out is a bit slow going and demands hard heads and soft hearts, I think.


In a Sunday school class I taught a few years back on various views of this topic, I observed that I tend to find greater spiritual solidarity with those with whom I disagree who came to their views by serious biblical study rather than those who hold views with which I agree who hold them for non-Christian ideological or cultural reasons. There: I've tipped my hand considerably — as an evangelical, I am convinced that we must struggle with the texts of Scripture, wherever they lead us. Therein, I'll admit, lies a whole host of issues that need gracious and serious-minded work, too, of course, but it is to God's revelation (in Word, world and supremely in Christ Jesus) that we must necessarily turn. Reading widely there, too, in hermeneutics (interpretation), cultural studies and Holy Scripture study is essential.


For a helpful and really potent little reminder of that, I just love Will Willimon's brief powerhouse of a book, Shaped by the Bible (Abingdon, $5.95). Or, similarly, Walter Brueggeman's evocative and provocative The Bible Makes Sense (Westminister/John Knox, $10.95), a favorite that I haul out regularly to remind me to have my very imagination shaped by the biblical world. For those needing a deeper study, the second half of Walsh & Middleton's work on postmodernism, Truth is Stranger Than It Used To Be (IVP, $16.00) is essentially a culturally contextualized retelling of the biblical story. Trust me -- it will make you think, and will draw you into the Scripture.

And may I once again commend Calvin Seerveld's odd little book that is a masterpiece of this idea of understanding and thinking through (and finally offering critique of) various schools of thought? (You can find an earlier review of it a few months back in this monthly column.) How to Read the Bible to Hear God Speak (Dordt College Press, $12.50) is truly a rare little find, a book which takes a specific passage -- the Balaam story from Numbers -- and shows how different schools of interpretation read and understand it. After offering a gracious and yet judicious explanation of each approach, he explains his own "reformational" reading. Such reading, he claims, is not only most appropriate -- attending to the best insights of the other limited views (such as the historicity of the text, the literary stylings, the doctrinal significance) -- but finally of
fers a more fruitful reading for the Kingdom of God. Left, right or center, Bible scholar or lay person, I encourage a serious engagement with Seerveld's thesis.


To wit, back to the topic of homosexuality and Christian sexual ethics: I suggest three examples of this important work of generous reading and hard thinking, discerning and working out the implications of our hopes for a Christian perspective worthy of the name.


Caught in the Crossfire: Helping Christians Debate Homosexuality by Sally B. Geis & Donald E. Messer (Abingdon, $13.50). This collection is a good resource for churches or study groups wanting a fair-minded discussion of what various Christians think. Chapters are arranged in a conventional pro-con kind of format, with point-counterpoint, with topics such as the biblical and exegetical questions, ordination standards, the role of psychological studies and so forth. The study questions are fair and helpful and, even if your mind is clearly made up on this topic, it is for most of us healthy to revisit such things, hearing well what our "opponents" think and say.

Homosexuality and the Bible: Two Views by Dan O. Via & Robert A.J. Gagnon (Fortress, $13.00). Here is a slim and feisty debate on the biblical material. Both bring serious study and deep passion to the topic, and the format is great for adult education. Granted, one slim volume can't really do this justice, but it is the best brief debate text out there. I highly recommend it for church libraries and resource rooms.


To Continue the Dialogue: Biblical Interpretation and Homosexuality edited by C. Norman Kraus (Pandora, $23.95). Well-reasoned and passionate calls for all who care about biblical interpretation and how to discern a way forward, this wonderful and serious collection is specifically written within the Anabaptist tradition (so is especially important for Mennonites), but I would beg readers not to dismiss it if they are of other faith traditions. This collection is wide and thoughtful and the publishers even invited a small handful of Mennonite members to react to the very notion of the discussion and how it has been conducted in this volume -- what a helpful little appendix, to remind the scholars of the folk in the pews who struggle with this specific issue and the broader questions of biblical authority, interpretation and fidelity.


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Several evangelical presses have done books that are designed to debate various topics with a four-views approach. In these, the approach is complex but exceedingly useful for in-depth study: the first scholar offers his or her chapter, and the other three writers briefly reply back. Then the second view is presented and, again, the other three writers reply back. By the end of the book, you've seen not only four views, but also the critiques of each view by each of the other three. In one book you have each view's strengths and weaknesses, critiques and rebuttals.

One of my early favorites in this style has been out of print for nearly 20 years, and has recently been re-issued (same cover and all!) by a small publisher in Winona Lake, Indiana. War: Four Views edited by Bob Clouse (originally done by IVP and now re-issued by BMH Books, $10.99) is an absolute must-have these days. Two of the writers are convinced of the traditional just-war theory, even as they parse it differently and give somewhat different criteria for what constitutes a justifiable war. Similarly, the other two authors are both committed to biblical nonviolence, although they disagree a bit about the whys and hows of Christian pacifism. A really useful collection for those willing to grapple with the options.


For the record, if anybody cares: as an odd Reformed evangelical committed to biblical nonviolence, I am not particularly satisfied with either of the pacifists in this four-way collection. For the best brief articulation of my view, I think I'd commend Ron Sider's Christ & Violence (Wipf & Stock, $14.00). Other collections on peacemaking with bunches of pieces by a variety of authors abound. Call or email us.


A smaller book, by the way, that could be noted in this call to read widely and fairly is written by one author who strives to be fair-minded and clear as he describes the three classic views of war within the church -- that it is sometimes a good thing, to be done for God, that it is a bad thing, but sadly necessary in a limited way in this fallen world, and that it is a bad thing, not to be engaged in by the redeemed who follow Christ. In these days of even Christians using jihad language, and the just-war theory in the daily news, this little volume is brief, inexpensive and helpful. Call us about War: A Primer for Christians by Joseph Allen (Southern Methodist University Press, $5.95).

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The Zondervan publishing house has done some very useful work in a whole series of "four views" books — they have covered everything from various views of creation and evolution to a book of four opposing understandings of the wars of the Old Testament (Tremper Longman helped with that one). This series includes topics such as various views of the fate of those who have not heard the gospel, the role of women in the church, the end times, the nature of hell, and a thoughtful one on the proper perspective on apologetics (that one has five views!). Last month we recommended the newest, which actually has six different views on the nature of worship, a book I am slowly savoring; it is very nicely done. Call us for a full list.


InterVarsity started this approach, I think, in the 1970s with the influential -- and still in print -- Meaning of the Millenium: Four Views edited by Robert Clouse (IVP, $15.00). Skip Left Behind and check this out!

Two recent ones in this format by IVP that I find especially helpful:


Psychology & Christianity: Four Views edited by Eric Johnson & Stanton L. Jones, with contributions by Gary Collins, David Myers, David Powlison, Robert O. Roberts (IVP, $15.00). Here, four Christians who are professional counselors agree that there is a relationship between faith and psychology. The questions, of course, are what is the nature of the integration, how does a biblical view inform psychological studies and what really is "Christian counseling"? A very helpful collection, sure to be a beneficial read for layfolks and professionals alike. Which view best captures your stance?


Science & Christianity: Four Views edited by Richard Cahrlson with contributions by Wayne Frair & Gary Patterson, Jean Pond, Stephen Meyer, Howard J. Van Till (IVP, $16.00). Like the title listed above, this is a great resource to hammer out just what we mean by a Christian perspective on science, or thinking "Christianly" about this field. Deeper than the evolution-creation debate, this is a foundational question of how we ought to think about the integration of faith and science. Who knows, you may not agree with any of "˜em, but it would be hard not to learn a whole lot. Highly recommended.

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Anytime I invite someone to critical thinking, reading diverse stuff, introducing "safe" readers to the adventures of reading widely, it becomes an opportunity, too, to invite serious thinking about the nature of worldviews. Any and every author has a bit of deeply held bias, are rooted within their own ideology and set(s) of presumptions. In other words, one sometimes has to learn to discern not just what the author overtly says, but what she means. Not only must we think critically about the clarity and truthfulness of the book, but how that author's underlying worldviews have shaped the arguments. We have to learn to read "between the lines" for worldviewish discernment.


Here are two essential tools for just that. These are very important books to us here.


How To Read Slowly: Reading for Comprehension by James Sire (Shaw, $12.99). This is a fabulous, fabulous resource, a book we talk about and recommend often. Sire (whose classic study about different worldview options, The Universe Next Door, is just now out in a revised fourth edition!) is himself very widely read — he gives illustrations from all sorts of literature and poetry and really makes the discernment of worldviews into not only a joyous discovery, but a keenly felt duty for Christian formation. What a great book!

Naming the Elephant: Worldview as a Concept by James Sire (IVP, $14.00). I have said in this very column (years ago, now) that I found Sire's body of work — as incredibly important as it is — to not have adequately explored the very nature of the idea of worldviews that he so often discusses. For him, it just seemed fairly given that everyone has a "mental filing cabinet" and set of cognitive ideas about the world which of course shape how they lean into life. He has now, in the preface to this book, duly noted that some critics have found his notion of worldview undeveloped (at best) and he has set his heart and mind to thinking this through. Alas, he has given us a brilliant little book, now only surpassed by the magisterial tome, Worldviews: The History of a Concept by David Naugle (Eerdmans; $26.00). If Naugle's brilliant work tells you more than perhaps you ever imagined you wanted to know, Sire'
s new paperback leaves us hungering for more; it is that good! He has considerably revised his view of what constitutes a worldview and his wide and considered reading is obvious--from the expected Walsh & Middleton to Herman Dooyeweerd (a philosophic descendant of Abraham Kuyper) to modern critical studies scholars (can you say Michel Foucalt?).


What a joy to see an author take up a topic and work on it, reflecting, quoting others, explaining, asking questions, revisiting those questions. This itself is a work of art. Here, Sire deftly asks, "What, really, is a worldview, anyway? How is it different than a philosophy of life, or a set of theological truths? Are they self-conscious? Which comes first, heart or mind? In what ways do our faith-like worldview level assumptions effect our daily behaviors? In what way should we be engaged in 'worldview-level' thinking? Why is any of this important anyway??" This is really great stuff — especially so for campus ministers or those in academia — and I am so happy to get to promote it here. Truly, I praise God for this book and for the Hearts & Minds friends that he cites — from Al Wolters and Paul Marshall to Os Guinness and Steve Garber. This topic is one that helps guide what we here at the bookstore do and if customers have any appreciation
for us at all, they will realize that this is important to us. This book is a must-read. I hope it doesn't speak unfavorably of my worldview, but I will say it again, with feeling: this book is a must-read.

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I could write another column, I suppose, about another usage of the phrase "reading widely." Instead of using my above advice — read stuff that makes you think, take on opposing views and try to decide for yourself (and in community with others) just where you stand, learning all the while to be gracious to those with whom we disagree — we could just as easily invite you to read various genres. In that sense of reading widely (wildly?), we can ask — why not take the summer to read an extra novel or two (if you are a nonfiction fan) or pick up a volume of poetry? (Last month we exclaimed about Luci Shaw, as one good place to start. And the often-mentioned Wendell Berry's stories and poetry are surely as important as his critical essays.) Listen to some fiction on tape in the car this summer, or check out juvenile fiction (like recent Newberry Award winners, for instance).


And if you are a Christian romance lover, or historical fiction buff, why not try real-life memoirs or biographies for a change? If you appreciate the fantasy of C.S. Lewis, commit yourself to the edifying task of reading through Mere Theology: A Guide to the Thought of C.S. Lewis by Will Vaus (IVP, $20.00), which is garnering rave reviews among Lewis aficionados. Or conversely, if The Abolition of Man or The Weight of Glory are your bedtime reading, why not give The Chronicles of Narnia a try? Or, the brand new fantasy phenom, Shadowmancer by G.P. Taylor (Penguin, $16.99) which we are very excited about. Not only is it written by a solid Anglican pastor, it is, as they say in England, "Hotter than Potter!" Skip the collector's item galleys selling for $1,000 on ebay, and order the handsome hardcover from us.

I know friends that use the dog days of summer as an excuse to hide out in air-conditioned movie theatres or to get caught up on home video watching. Why not supplement viewing with a faith-based study on film? You know -- you must know unless you're new to this column -- that we love Bill Romanowski and his immensely useful Eyes Wide Open: Finding God in Popular Culture (Brazos, $12.99), which lays excellent groundwork for thinking about film, music, TV and such. A recent collection of good Christian movie reviews is called How Movies Helped Save My Soul: Finding Spiritual Fingerprints in Culturally Significant Films by Gareth Higgins (Relevant Books, 13.99). Maybe you'll read theologically about a movie you disliked, or maybe will learn to be more spiritually discerning about a film you enjoyed. Either way, you'll learn and grow. And that is rewarding in itself.


Now is a great time to read widely — from various perspectives and in various genres. Check out our old reviews at our Web site and pick up a serious study you've put off. Have some fun with a beach book. Whatever you choose, keep reading, keep discussing, keep growing. As that old ad for historic black colleges used to say, "A mind is a terrible thing to waste." Have a good -- and widely-read — summer.

June 15, 2004

From High School to College: Book Recommendations

As CCO workers, we sometimes minister to high school-age students. Some staff even recruit college-age students to work with high school kids, or link some of our leaders to Young Life or other sorts of youth groups. And, of course, we partner with church camps. At the very least, we surely encourage our home churches to pay attention to students going off to college.

Increasingly, church leaders are paying attention to the transition from high school to college. Churches should offer pastoral support for young adults in this time of transition, and we, of course, are always eager to have students who are mature in Christ (or at least eager to grow) hit our campus. Recently, a writer for the Center for Parent and Youth Understanding (directed by CCO-alum and youth culture author Walt Mueller) asked me to develop a brief bibliography for those interested in that key window of opportunity.


Here are some suggestions — a few are general categories of books and a call for churches to attend to this kind of ministry (that is, reading together with more mature high school students and helping young Christians be proactive about their upcoming college career).  Besides three general sorts of books I suggest, I highlight a few specific choices.  Fell free to pass this on to folks at your own church, helping them prepare high schoolers for the transition to college and mentoring them into habits of Christian reading.

1. Firstly, every church kid going off to college, it would seem to me, ought to have read a bit in the basic nature of the Christian faith, and maybe owning a good study Bible or having a Bible handbook or biblical overview. Of course, most high school kids don't read that much, let alone books from the Christian bookstore or church library. Their exposure to Christian books are mostly likely limited to an inspiration book sent their way by Aunt Tillie upon graduation (and it may be just as good that they most likely ignored it) or something recommended by a youth pastor or Young Life leader or such. Could be cool, maybe not. 


Either way, most haven't been well-grounded in the basic Christian convictions, what we believe and why. I don't think they have to have read C.S. Lewis or Augustine, but something to assure that they have the basics down and have begun to develop the habits of devotional and informational reading about the faith. Paul Little's little books, Know What You Believe and Know Why You Believe are ideal for just this purpose. I recommend the Life Application Study Bible (which comes in a variety of translations) because the thematic overviews of each book of the Bible are clear, the practical study notes are usable and helpful, and the character studies and charts are designed to maximize practical application. I think it best shows why a study Bible is useful with notes that are usable, interesting and edifying.

Depending on the seriousness, level of Biblical literacy and the denominational connections of the student, we could, of course, suggest lots of very useful and colorful guides to Christianity 101 and/or intro to the Bible. Feel free to call us. I wish more parents, youth workers or volunteers would pursue this. I think it is a shame that too few youth have been mentored into the habits of reading books together and, except for the most rigorous of churches, have not been systematically taught (and enculturated) into basic Christian doctrine.


It is further my sense that this is one of the great strengths and attractions of campus ministry — young 18-year-olds are exposed often to a level of biblical study, introduction to Christian teaching and an experience of vibrant spirituality (often contemplative or charismatic) that they haven't often gotten in their own home churches. Add to that the sense of adventure, radical discipleship and missional vision that campus ministries often share, and it is no wonder that many churched kids find themselves wondering if their home church is even preaching the same gospel. It would be great if churched kids, in other words, were discipled a bit better in the intellectual foundations of the faith so they don't have to be in remedial programs with para-church groups their whole first year of college. Even a brief little book like John Stott's classic Your Mind Matters  would be a great tool.

By the way, for a semi-scholarly look at the role of the local church in youth ministry, written by solid mainline denominational folks, see the new and very significant  Choosing Church: What Makes a Difference for Teens by Carol Lytch (Westminster/John Knox, $24.95) and Practicing Passion: Youth and the Quest for a Passionate Church by Kendra Creasy Dean (Eerdmans, $20.00). She is the author, of course, of the seminal God-Bearing Life: The Art of Soul Tending for Youth Ministry.


2.  Next, I think that it is urgent that perhaps their senior year of high school and especially over the summer before college, as youth are making that transition developmentally and seeing themselves as entering a new phase in life, that we "exploit" that window of opportunity and capitalize on this natural eagerness to see themselves as more mature by preparing them for more intentionally Christian discernment of life and times, offering resources that would help build into their worldviews not only an imagination of what God may do in their lifetimes, but just how important it is to "think Christianly" and be intentional about developing a Christian world and life view. 

I think stuff as diverse as Camplos' little youth book — four very good sermons entitled, You Can Make a Difference to the newly re-issued Susan Schaeffer Macaulay's fun How to Be Your Own Selfish Pig, or Os Guinness's oh-so-important, serious classic, The Call, would be useful. There is even a little Jabez-sized small hardback which lifts three chapters from this, with a one page new introduction for younger folks in times of transition (read: graduates) that would be a very user-friendly little give away; it is called Rising to The Call: Discovering the Ultimate Purpose of Your Life.  Although it isn't pitched at all to a teen audience, Paul Marshall's handbook for living out the Lordship of Christ in every zone of life is a fabulous and very readable resource to consider a Christian perspecti
ve in everything from work to play, learning to the arts, technology to politics. I can't say enough about it's rare and fun articulation of a fully reformational worldview, creatively called Heaven Is Not My Home: Living in the Now of God's Creation. I believe it is still the best introduction to a lived-out, distinctively Christian worldview. 

Specifically written for teens, I really like the wonderful collection of varied pieces, each co-written by a teenager, called Way To Live: Christian Practices for Teens edited by Dorothy Bass and Don Richter. It collects various lifestyle habits and practices showing how a God-centered view shapes and forms the very ways we do ordinary stuff. There are chapters on everything from work to play, food to clothing to speaking, dating, truth-telling, each construed and given new meaning out of a broadly-based Christian vision of life. (I think the chapter on work, for instance, is very, very useful for those thinking about choosing a school and/or major! Or those with summer jobs, of course.)


Heck, even some of the pop culture studies get at this in a way that is so refreshing for most teens that they are eager to check out books like Romanowski's Eyes Wide Open: Finding God in Popular Culture; The Gospel According to the Simpsons or The Gospel According to Tolkein or perhaps How the Movies Helped Save My Soul. That these enter their world of media and offer a uniquely Christian evaluation is new and amazingly helpful for a student who previously saw little connection between Sunday and the real world. Maybe my vote for the best great book of this sort that would fill this need is the nicely done, and not difficult New Way To Be Human: A Provocative Look at What It Means to Follow Jesus by Charlie Peacock.  With a forward by Jon Foreman from Switchfoot, it is a very cool choice these days.&nb

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I really think that someone within the CCO orbit — current or alumni staff, co-operative pastors or student leaders — should consider writing an introduction to a Christian worldview for teens — you know, Al Wolters with hip illustrations. Or, Transforming Vision Junior. In the meantime, we go in through the back door with these kind of books on cultural engagement, whole-life discipleship and developing an integrated Christian perspective (rather than just having faith be a compartmentalized part of life). 

 I know there are not many resources on doing Christian career counseling for youth — I recommend Career and Calling: A Guide for Counselors, Youth and Young Adults by Ginny Ward Holderness (Geneva) which gives programmatic ideas for youth workers or others. At the very least — and the summer before college may be a bit too late to start — it is essential to have them even consider that God cares about their vocations and that their major ought not to be picked simply on the question of job availability or status, but should be asked theologically in terms of discerning God's call.


So helping students begin to think about a Christian take on life itself — a broader worldview and sense of purpose — is the second kind of book. Some of the chapters from Your Work Matters to God by Doug Sherman & William Hendricks (NavPress) would certainly be fruitful, too. 

3. Thirdly, at last, I do think that it would be really important to help a student who has under her belt some of these kind of ideas (the basics of the Christian faith and the biblical story and the beginnings of a whole-life Christian worldview, and hopefully owns a couple of books to show that reading this kind of material is truly important) to next read a book or two or three in preparation for leaving home and entering the college experience. If churches or parents do offer these kinds of books to their high school graduates, they should offer them as Christmas gifts when they come back to visit over the holidays of their first year. (Few churches take seriously the need to follow up their young members who are away at school, tacitly accepting as normal the expectations that young adults leave the church for a season or to. Ugh.)  


Here are a few of those kind of books. I know that for many families, this may be the only Christian book the student will read that summer, so I have picked some that don't necessarily presume much advanced knowledge of the faith, but that offer more than a devotional aimed at students. I think that  these could be read easily by a student in the high school to college transition.

A Heart for Truth: Taking Your Faith to College by Greg Spencer  (Baker, $11.99). I highly recommend this often — and think it is a gem! It has some funny cartoons (although the cover is pretty drab) and the chapter titles are mature yet clever. I think this is a gem of a book, richly written, thoughtful, caring and very good on a variety of aspects of the college experience. It brings an awareness of literature and film, so it has that coolness factor, but the substance is solid, if nuanced, including quotes from diverse authors like Buechner, Chesterton or L'Engle. The ending chapters on faith in the classroom, writing papers for professors who may be hostile to the faith and such are very strong. 


Incredible Four-Year Adventure by John & Chris Yates (Baker, $12.99). The subtitle captures the casual mood of this solid book written by two very handsome, smart young men who recently graduated from prestigious schools: "finding real faith, fun and friendship at college." So, more than the Spencer title, this is practical, clearly helpful about specific details — getting along with your roommate, choosing a fellowship group, budgeting your money and such. I think this is a bit more chatty, written by former students (rather than Spencer, who is a professor). And the faith perspective is unabashedly evangelical, practical and clear. With blurbs from the likes of John Stott and Steve Garber, this is squarely in the best of the evangelical tradition and it is surely very accessible.

How To Stay Christian in College by  J. Budzieszewski (think, $13.99). It doesn't get much hipper than this very cool new edition. Although postmodern in format, it is anything but — Bud is a very rigorous thinker and heavy in his warnings against relativism and such. Charles Colsen regularly promotes this and it is considered a "must-have" sort of resource for many. Although he equips students to think discerningly (critically) about the ethos of the liberal university, he nicely talks of routine stuff like dating, devotional habits, roommate issues and daily stuff, too.  


Chris Chrisman Goes to College by James Sire (IVP, $12.00). I love listing this although not everyone is quite ready for a book like this. It is written mostly as a novel. Chris (raised in a fairly sheltered church in a fairly ordinary middle-American small town) goes off to college and meets some folks that he is surprised to meet — some kids who smoke pot and some kids who are not Christians, even an international student.  Hmmm. He is confronted with a lived experience of new beliefs, pluralism, relativism. The first day of class, he meets professors who hold forth on viewpoints and philosophies that run counter to his previous beliefs.

After the first chapter or two, Sire, ever the teacher, enters with a non-fiction explanation of what is happening to Chris, walking the reader through the lessons to be learned. The novel picks up for a few more chapters — Chris goes to an evangelical fellowship group, meets other kinds of believers and such — and then again Sire has a chapter narrating and unpacking the experience. Although this is written for first-year students to help them reflect worldviewishly on the "relativism, individualism and pluralism" that they necessarily will face at college, and although the novel is clever and largely accurate, it still may be a bit much for those without an interest in these kind of deeper evaluations of the collegiate experience and the philosophical challenges to the faith that may exist.  If a student hasn't read or been taught to think about faith in this kind of whole-life way, and hasn't heard that Romans 12:1-2 requires a ment
al transformation in order to be culturally non-conformed, then this call to stand firm may just not resonate much. Still, for the philosophically-minded student, this book could be a life-line. How many titles look at Christian worldview and critique the philosophical culture of our times, all written in an easy-to-read novella about a kid with a name like Chris Chrisman? Wooo-hooo!


Okay, now I'm on a roll. Forgive my pride that wants everyone to know we have cool stuff, but I can't not tell you of this: some very sharp youth worker friends at what seems to be nearly a mega-church felt like they didn't like any of the books available to college-age students leaving their fold. (They never called me for the above suggestions, though.) They wanted something with even more graphic appeal, sophisticated and not the least bit corny. Since one was a graphic designer, they wrote a book that they self-published. Not known really anywhere outside of their church, I've got hold of a few and it is, while rare, very, very nicely done. I would love to help them promote this content-rich collection. 

It is called, Gameplan: Practical Wisdom for the College Experience written by Nicola Bigson & Gyler Thomas (Christ Church Lake Forest). For those youth workers or teachers who are collecting resources along these lines and want even the obscure stuff, this is a very chatty and yet theologically mature call for students to hang on to their faith, grapple with issues — from sexual temptation to postmodern relativism — and relate the faith to their call to study well. Very nicely done, written by guys who obviously care about their young friends.  


How To Keep Your Faith in College by  Abbie Smith (VMI Publishing, $12.95). Abbie visited a CCO staff seminar a while back (in fact, while touring various colleges in the northeast, she even made a pilgrimage to Hearts & Minds). Even if she hadn't, though, I'd surely want to tell folks about this — it is a collection of interviews she did with a variety of folks at college (including several prestigious, large universities). She chatted with folks who blossomed and grew in their faith during their college years, who took their faith seriously and stood their ground. She highlights stories from fraternities, sports teams, academic clubs, residence halls. She tells of students and their struggles with everything from anti-Christian professors to roommate difficulties; she holds up Christian practices of on campus worship and racial reconciliation. In other words, these are examples and wisdom from st
udents who have been there, living out their faith in the campus setting. It is a nice resource to use.