I hope you find my blog helpful, but since I’m not a writer by profession, my presentation is bound to be clumsy in a lot of places. So I’d like to share a list of some of the works of many others who have helped me see the Christian faith from new perspectives. Many of the ideas you’ll find sprinkled throughout my posts owe their origins to one of the following authors, and they in turn are often indebted to more ancient thinkers.
Of course the Bible is the central text of the Christian faith. If you are unfamiliar with the Bible in general or the New Testament in particular, there are many different opinions on where to begin and which translation to read. Personally, I would recommend starting with Luke in the New Living Translation. If a lot of it doesn’t make sense to you the first time through, that’s okay. Try some of the modern authors listed below, and then keep coming back to the biblical texts as you get more familiar with the ideas.
C.S. Lewis is perhaps the greatest Christian writer of modern times. This is not to say he was a great theological innovator. Rather, his talent was in taking Christian truths that many others have grasped over the centuries accessible to the modern English-speaking reader. Lewis wrote in mid-20th century England, a place with deep Christian traditions at a time where Christian beliefs were experiencing a steady decline. The similarities to the cultural environment of early-21st century America are easily apparent. Lewis’s work is never dry or technical, but instead shows a great wit and gift for imagination. Rather than claiming to teach authoritatively, Lewis considered himself an ordinary layman, free to humbly speculate about what God might be up to in many areas of life. In this, he showed an ability to clear up a wide range of stumbling blocks that one finds in an intellectual environment that is (among educated people, anyways) saturated with the skeptical message. A recent article about his enduring influence can be found here. I can’t overstate what his work has meant to me personally.
The best introduction to Lewis’s faith is his classic book Mere Christianity. I’d recommended buying or borrowing a copy, and I’ll even mail you one free for the asking if you email me about it (email@example.com). If I can’t motivate you to do any of that, then with mixed feelings (both because of copyright concerns and typographical errors), I would direct you to this copy on a Russian website.
Lewis’s other classics include The Great Divorce, The Screwtape Letters, Miracles, The Abolition of Man, God in the Dock, and Christian Reflections, all of which I highly recommend. Of course, he’s perhaps best known for his children’s fiction series, The Chronicles of Narnia. Lesser known but dearer to my heart is his Space Trilogy, the third book of which is subtitled “A Modern Fairy-Tale for Grown-ups”.
Through Lewis, I was introduced to two of his formative influences, G.K. Chesterton and George MacDonald. I would highly recommend Chesterton’s The Everlasting Man for people interested in comparative religion or struggling to grasp why Christianity is anything unique. MacDonald’s Unspoken Sermons are excellent, especially if you’ve suspected there’s something not quite right with the standard explanations of “eternal damnation”. Rob Bell’s Love Wins is also very helpful in this regard.
A pair of recent books by the American writer Garry Wills, What Jesus Meant and What Paul Meant, are both excellent as well.
Those familiar with probability theory might enjoy The Probability of God, by Stephen Unwin. If you’re intrigued by Pascal’s Wager, you might find it thought-provoking.
Richard Swinburne has some good essays on his website.
J.P. Moreland does a decent job outlining the argument from consciousness, which I see as one of the stronger arguments for the existence of God.
I accept the scientific consensus behind evolution as a description of biological history and process, and am comfortable reconciling faith and science on this point. Francis Collins is one of the most articulate Christian voices in the scientific community on this point.
As for older Christian books, I enjoyed St. Augustine’s Confessions, and The Imitiation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis.