This Sunday we’ll wrap up our teaching series Believable. My aim in this series has been to demonstrate a thoughtful, reasonable approach to faith that might lead a skeptic to consider Christianity more seriously and might push us all beyond a naive or inherited faith. But the Sunday lessons are just the start. Pray with me that God will bring about the fruit of changed lives.
And if this series has provoked you to think new thoughts, here are the most helpful books I’ve come across for exploring faith:
The Reason for God
If you’re only going to read one book on this list, make it this one. Tim Keller is a former academic who started a church of mostly young people in Manhattan. He’s familiar with the questions and objections thinking people have about faith today (There can’t be just one true religion! Science has disproved Christianity! You can’t take the Bible literally!), and his book is a thoughtful, reasonable, persuasive response.
This book began as a series of radio addresses about the basics of Christianity during WWII. All these years later, it remains one of the best explanations of the human enigma and the reasoning behind faith. Lewis writes, as you may know, as an atheist who converted during his adult years.
According to the subtitle, this book is about “why, despite everything, Christianity can still make surprising emotional sense.” That’s as close to a definition as I can get. It’s simply a one-of-a-kind book that argues for the credibility of Christianity based on the experiences of life, not abstract ideas. It engages with new atheists like Dawkins and Hitchens without allowing them to frame the argument. It’s brilliant. You may not agree with all of Spufford’s theology or like his sailor-like language, but you’ll appreciate what he’s trying to do and his ability to tell the story so well.
Wright is – no exaggeration – the leading Biblical scholar alive today. He’s written massive theological/historical volumes, but here he tries to write plainly about why Christianity makes sense. He begins with universal human longings (justice, beauty, etc.) and then weaves those into the story of the Bible.
Judas and the Gospel of Jesus
We live in a post-Dan Brown world, where the canonization of the Bible is seen by many as a shady process. Should books like the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of Judas have been included? This is a good place to start.
See also: Dethroning Jesus by Darrell Bock and Daniel Wallace
The Language of God
Collins is a leading geneticist, Director of the National Institutes of Health, and former head of the Human Genome Project under President Clinton. For questions about the compatibility of faith and science, this is the book to start with.
Compiled by Collins, this book is a series of essays about faith, including both classic arguments by Augustine, Aquinas, and Pascal, and contemporary thinkers like Os Guinness and Alvin Plantinga. It’s a great introduction to a lot of different lines of reasoning that you could then study further.
Making Sense of It All
Blaise Pascal was a brilliant 17th century physicist, inventor, mathematician, and philosopher who died before organizing all his thoughts on faith. They were published anyway, as The Pensees (literally, The Thoughts), and they’ve been influential despite lacking any semblance of order. Morris, a contemporary philosopher at Notre Dame, does a fantastic job making Pascal’s lines of thought accessible to us all.
What We Talk About When We Talk About God
Many today are attracted to the idea of spirituality, but troubled by specific ideas of “God.” This book does 2 things well. One, it demonstrates a God who is present in the physical as well as the spiritual (suggesting we might not want to draw a hard line between them). Two, against those who think faith is culturally regressive, it paints a picture of God being with us, for us, and ahead of us.
Making Sense of the Bible
Hamilton is a Methodist pastor who loves hard questions. Here he tackles questions about how we got the Bible and questions of interpretation like “Is the Bible Inspired?” “Why is the Old Testament so violent?” and “Were there dinosaurs on the Ark?” You may not agree with all of his positions, but you’ll appreciate his willingness to face questions big and small. His fundamental premise – that the Bible is a wonderful but still difficult book – is one that Christians don’t admit often enough.
Who Is This Man?
The cultural impact of Jesus alone is worth careful consideration, and this book lays out the vastness (and improbability) of that influence. If you believe Christianity has had a mostly negative impact on world cultures, this is a rebuttal worth reading. Ortberg’s style is perhaps the most accessible on this list, and if you enjoy this book, you’d also profit from reading another by him, Know Doubt.
The Case for Christ
Strobel is a journalist who set out to investigate the claims of Christianity by interviewing leading experts in history, ancient languages, and textual criticism. This book and its follow-up The Case for Faith do a good job of introducing the questions and the evidence surrounding Christianity. I read this back in high school, and I’m guessing if I read it now, it would seem cheesy. But I put it on this list because the people he interviews really are leading scholars, and their quotes give you a lot of information that you’d otherwise find scattered across a dozen books.
Letters from a Skeptic
Gregory and Edward Boyd
This book stands out because it’s a series of letters written by a father and his son. The father is a religious skeptic and the son is a pastor with a PhD from Princeton. It’s a very respectful dialogue.