As I said on the blog post introducing this, I had this as a handout for a workshop done at the October 2009 Christian Legal Society conference in La Jolla, California. What a privilege to sit with a small group of lawyers, judges, jurists and law students and talk about reading as an act of worship, obedience, relevant discipleship and dialogue with the culture. That spells WORD and was the main framework for my remarks about why we need to read seriously. Here, then, are some of the best suggestions I had for this small but serious group.
On Making Prominent the
Printed Page: Developing a Christian Worldview Through Reading Widely (for Christian lawyers.)
Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in an Age of Show
Business Neil Postman (Penguin) A classic study of how American
culture shifted to entertainment, with illuminating case studies from religion
and politics. A must-read.
How the Irish Saved Civilization Thomas Cahill (Anchor) A popular
telling of the significance of Ireland’s discovery (through St. Patrick and
others) of reading and writing and books.
The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age Sven
Birkerts (Faber & Faber) Part memoir, part lament, part speculation and
social analysis about the fate of reading in the world of computers and the
internet, with a recent new forward and afterward.
A Mind for God James Emory White (IVP) Short and inspiring, this is
a helpful reminder of how reading helps shape a Christian worldview, from which
we can effectively work and witness. Makes a lovely gift, succinct and
Habits of the Mind: Intellectual Life as a Christian Calling James
Sire (IVP) Sire is always worth reading, and here he offers a lifetime of
insight from a humble intellectual. A few of the sections are priceless—his
love of reading shines through and he offers seasoned advice for being a
Living at the Crossroads: An Introduction to Christian Worldview
Michael Goheen & Craig Bartholomew (Baker) One of the best recent
discussion of worldview, and how that is embodied in our era, a crossroad of
modernity and postmodernity. Very, very insightful.
Creation Regained: A Biblical Basis for a Reformational
Worldview Al Wolters (Eerdmans) One of the most often cited books
on worldview; the “creation-fall-redemption” Bible study is very clear. The
“structure-direction” distinction is essential. One helpful chapter in the
second edition compares Wolter’s Dutch neo-Calvinism with the popular and
important missiological vision of Leslie Newbegin and the Biblical theology of
N.T. Wright. Fascinating.
Fabric of Faithfulness: Weaving Together Belief and Behavior Steve
Garber (IVP) One of my all time favorite books by a friend of CLS; Garber
eloquently explores three necessary features of a coherent and lasting Christian
lifestyle. Worth reading and re-reading for anyone who cares about deep
knowledge, integrated vocations, and our responsibility to learn how we can live
out the mission of God. (The second edition has a brilliant forward and a moving
afterword. Very, very rich.) A
small disclaimer: I am mentioned in the book, which truly has nothing to do with
my very sincere admiration for this author and the maturity of vision in the
exceptional book. You can skip the few pages about me…
Heaven is Not My Home: Living in the Now of God’s Creation Paul
Marshall (Word) Although he has written important work on international human
rights, this is a little known and delightful handbook for distinctively
Christian perspectives across all of life. There are chapters on business,
citizenship, art, technology, work, play, rest, learning, worship and more.
Nothing like it in print!
He Shines in All That’s Fair: Culture and Common Grace Richard Mouw
(Eerdmans) Although Mouw writes as a Calvinist exploring the Reformed phrase
“common grace” this is of vital interest to anyone who lives in the real world,
wanting to know if God cares about the ordinary stuff of life. Does God enjoy
baseball? Jazz? Popular music? Good laws? Mouw is always worth reading, and he
Head Heart Hands: Bringing Together Christian Thought, Passion & Action
Dennis Hollinger (IVP) Now the President of Gordon Conwell Seminary,
Hollinger has several important and insightful books on ethics. Here, he shows
how a balanced and robust Christian live must be thoughtful, passionate and
active, but that many Christians (and many churches) over-emphasize one aspect
of discipleship to the exclusion of the others. With great wisdom and
practicality, he shows how all three are deeply intertwined and authentic growth
must be multi-faceted.
Serious Times: Making Your Life Matter in an Urgent Day James Emery
White (IVP) Inspired by the famous line from John Adams (in a letter to Thomas
Jefferson) “My friend, you and I have lived in serous times” this looks at
others who have similar left their mark on “serious times.” White offers
specific insights and lessons from a variety of heroic leaders, from Wilberforce
to Lewis, Martin Luther to St. Benedict, Bonhoeffer to Mother Theresa, inviting
us to take up our role in seeking God’s work in the world. Lon Allison of the
Billy Graham Center says, “My soul is quaking under the impact of this
Reordered Loves, Reordered Lives: Learning the Deep Meaning of
Happiness David Naugle (Eerdmans) Some serious readers have
suggested this is one of the best books they’ve ever read, drawing on
Augustine’s famous quip that to really understand what a person is like it is
less telling to ask what he believes, but what he loves. How can we love the
right stuff, in the right way? What if we do not? Naugle is one of the best
“worldview thinkers” alive today, and this is a rich, warmly written, deep and
rewarding meditation on what to care about.
Simply Christian N.T. Wright (Harper) Wright looks at a few
issues that most people care about (from the most intimate to the most public)
and uses those nearly universal longings for things “to be put to rights” and
asks “what if the Biblical story answered those questions?” The heart of the
book is his introduction to the Christian drama, based on a fine overview of the
unfolding Biblical story, with some final chapters on what it might look like if
that story answered those questions, and the implications for our lives,
churches and work in the world. One of the best contemporary apologetics
Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of
the Church N.T. Wright (Harper) If God is truly intending to restore
the creation, and the physical resurrection is a foretaste of what God is doing
in the world, and if we reject as Platonic a harsh dualism between body and soul
then how do we view death, heaven, everlasting life, and such. How does a
vibrant doctrine of resurrection and new creation effect our daily sense of hope
and mission? Very, very stimulating.
Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, & Power, and the Only
Hope That Matters Timothy Keller (Dutton) This may be the most
insightful and profound brief study of idolatry I’ve yet seen, intellectually
sophisticated yet very nicely written; deep yet practical, challenging yet full
of a Christ-centered gospel of transformation. Highly recommended.
Due late October
vocation & calling
The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life Os
Guinness (Nelson) One of my all time favorite books, the chapters are short but
elegant, literary and Biblical, profoundly theological and yet helpful for
anyone who wants a sustainable and faithful basis for a “purpose driven life.” A
must for our times! (By the way, the “prequel”, The Long Journey Home is
an excellent invitation for seekers.)
A Journey Worth Taking: Finding Your Purpose in This World Charles
Drew (Presbyterian & Reformed) Informed by the same vision as Guinness about
the need for a thoughtful doctrine of vocation and calling, this is more
systematically developed following the unfolding Biblical themes of creation,
fall and redemption. Excellent.
Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling Andy
Crouch (IVP) One of the most talked about evangelical books in years, this
reminds us that worldviews are less abstract ideas but embodied ways of living,
and that we are called not just to think or “engage” culture, but to actually
produce cultural goods. From omelets to artifacts, laws to businesses, families
to civic organizations, we humans make culture, and it is a God-given duty to do
it as an act of worship and service. No one has written about this
Your Work Matters to God Douglas Sherman & William Hendricks
(NavPress) The best, most readable and practical overview of a Christian
theology of work. The title says it all…highly recommended.
Fabric of This World: Inquiries into Calling, Career, and the Design of Human
Work Lee Hardy (Eerdmans) Often cited, a serious and rich study of the
notion of work and calling by an astute Christian philosopher who has written
insightfully about the nature and order and possibilities of work.
The Other Six Days: Vocation, Work & Ministry in Biblical Perspective
Paul Stevens (Eerdmans) Stevens has written widely on the role of the
laity, of the integration of faith and calling, and has worked for years helping
Christians think faithfully about their work. This is his best thinking on the
Forgetting Ourselves On Purpose: Vocation and the Ethics of Ambition
Brian Mahan (Jossey Bass) Evocative, playful, stimulating, a wise and helpful
reflection on the role of ambition, service and such. Not your typical
“Christian” book, but very well worth pondering…
political life and legal thought
The Good News About Injustice and Just
Courage Gary Haugen (IVP) The International Justice Mission may be
one of the most exciting and fruitful international Christian legal
organizations of our time. These are foundational, evangelical studies of God’s
heart for justice and how we can be involved as agents of His healing and
reconciliation. Powerful, basic, vital.
God & the Constitution: Christianity and American Politics Paul
Marshall (Rowman & Littlefield) I think this is somewhat mis-titled as it is
not really about the Constitution as such. It is the best overview of a
distinctively Christian view of government yet done. Very helpful for anyone
pondering the role of government and a Biblically-informed view of
Church, State and Public Justice: Five Views edited by P. C. Kemeny
(IVP) Five scholars offer their take on uniquely Christian politics, and then
the other four respond. Excellently presented views include a Catholic
perspective, a classical “separationist” view, a moderate Anabaptist approach, a
“principled-pluralist” neo-Calvinist view and a mainline Protestant social
justice emphasis. Wow.
Political Visions and Illusions: A Survey & Christian Critique of
Contemporary Ideologies David Koyzis (IVP) No one volume is a profound
and readable in its study of the roots of Western thought and the history of the
development of political theory. Koyzis astutely exposes the Enlightenment roots
of both liberals and conservatives, and helps us understand the dynamics of
ideological conflict in the modern world. Very significant.
Justice: Rights & Wrongs Nicholas Woltersdorff (Princeton
University Press) Recently reviewed in the CLS Christian Lawyer journal,
this is serious, philosophical stuff, by an eminent Christian philosopher.
Anyone called to legal work in any capacity needs to reflect long and hard on
the nature of justice, and this scholarly work will help. Important and
Uncommon Decency: Christian Civility in an Uncivil World Richard
Mouw (IVP) I love this book, its teacherly style, wise ways and gentle
call and humble apologetic. Anyone involved in public life ought to read this
once every year or so. Lovely, honest, and good.
The Case for Civility: And Why Our Future Depends on It Os
Guinness (HarperOne) More than a call to good public manners or civil
politeness, this is a fabulous exploration of the nature of our distinctively
American way of honoring freedom of speech, rooted in First Amendment freedoms
for and from religion. Dr. Guinness is one of our leading evangelical social
thinkers, and here he passionately calls for work not towards a Christian
takeover, but a leavening influence by advocating for pluralism, fairness and a
strong appreciation for the vision of the Framers of the constitution. Highly
Toward an Evangelical Public Policy: Political Strategies for the Health of
the Nation Ronald Sider & Diane Knippers (Baker) The National
Association of Evangelicals worked for years to come up with a non-partisan,
balanced and Biblically-informed social vision, and their “For the Health of the
Nation” document (included herein) was published along with this set of
wide-ranging essays. One of the very best collections of evangelical social
thinking. Important, and a great reference tool.
Politics for the Greatest Good: The Case for Prudence in the Public Square
Clarke D. Forsythe (IVP) The author is a leading policy strategist
in bioethical issues and senior counsel for Americans United for Life, a
national pro-life public policy organization. He has argued before federal and
state courts and testified before Congress; he knows what he’s talking about!
Here, he offers thorough and wise judgements about moral absolutes, political
compromise, and effective Christian involvement. Reasonable and
How Free People Move Mountaisn: A Male Christian Conservative and a Female
Jewish Liberal on a Quest for Common Purpose and Meaning Kathy
Roth-Douquet & Frank Schaeffer (Collins) This is a fun and feisty read where
two very different individuals argue back and forth, wondering how to bring
civic change, greater justice and maturity to our pubic discourse. A great
example of digging deep into philosophical and religious foundations,
disagreeing and debating, with common concern and passion.
Crime and Its Victims Dan Van Ness (IVP) When Chuck Colson moved
from only prison evangelism and ministry to include work for more structural
reforms, he commissioned Van Ness to do a foundational Biblical study of crime
and punishment. This is the best volume on the topic.
Changing Lenses: A New Focus for Crime & Justice Howard Zehr
(Herald Press) With Van Ness’ contribution to evangelical discourse around
“restorative justice” as a basis, other (Mennonite) activist-scholars have
developed the idea into greater clarity around reforms, values and proposals for
more Christ-like approaches in criminology. A very important contribution, which
should be considered.
God’s Joust, God’s Justice: Law and Religion in the Western Tradition
John Witte, Jr (Eerdmans) I would be remiss not to note something of the
prolific, substantive scholar, Dr. Witte. He is one of the leading scholars in
this field, now the director of the Center for the Study of Law and Religion at
Emory University. This “traces the historic struggles that generated the
constitutional separation of church and state…”
The Believers Guide to Legal Issues Stephen Bloom (Living Ink) What
a joy to see a simple, clear-headed, spiritually-based introduction to legal
issues. Most Christian attorneys would know all this, but it is an ideal tool to
share with others in your church or practice, framed by simple gospel insight.
The Lawyers Calling: Christian Faith and Legal Practice Joseph
Allegretti (Paulist Press) One of the best overviews of the ways in which faith
shapes legal practice, the metaphors that are used to imagine what lawyers are
and do, and how to be a responsible, ethical, attorney. Semi-scholarly,
readable, insightful, from a Roman Catholic lawyer drawing on many Protestant
sources. Very helpful.
Can a Good Lawyer Be a Good Lawyer? edited Thomas Baker (University
of Notre Dame Press) An ecumenical collection of essays, sermons, meditations,
and reflective pieces, including some written by active CLS leaders. You may not
love each and every entry, but most are good, and a few are great.
Redeeming Law: Christian Calling and the Legal Profession Michael
Schutt (IVP) I believe that every career and profession should be so fortunate
as to have such a winsome, readable, and yet profound and scholarly treatment of
nearly every aspect of the foundations of the field. Not necessarily the most
simple or practical, but it is the most essential book for every Christian
lawyer’s library. Highly, highly recommended. Great footnotes lead in many good
directions for further study, and the discussion questions make it ideal for
personal growth or small group conversation. Get several and pass ’em
First Be Reconciled: Challenging Christians in the Courts
Richard Church (Herald Press) Many attorneys struggle with the
Biblical verse about not going to court, and this Mennonite lawyer take is most
seriously. Provocative and important, attempting to be serious about Biblical
obedience in the reformation of legal attitudes and practices.