Three Books: For the Skeptic, For the Christian, For the Disciple
I’ve got three book recommendations for you. The first two rank as some of my all-time favorite reads and the third has made an important and helpful impact on my understanding of discipleship.
Making Sense of God: An Invitation to the Skeptical by Timothy Keller
Keller is a literary father of sorts to me. My own father was skeptical and critical of my faith from the time I confessed Christ at age 11. That is likely why I am drawn to apologetics and authors who winsomely engage skeptics for the sake of Christ. Keller does that so well.
Making Sense of God is a book for our age. It’s three sections take the skeptic (or the one who loves a skeptic) on a progression starting from Isn’t religion going away? all the way to Only in God.
- Section One, entitled Why Does Anyone Need Religion? addresses two false claims: religion is dying and religion is only based on faith while secularism is based on evidence.
- Section Two, entitled Religion is More Than You Think It Is addresses common misconceptions about religion, specifically Christianity. Keller covers the meaning of suffering, finding satisfaction, societal issues with self-autonomy, the problem of self, identity, hope, morality (apart from the gospel), and justice (apart from the gospel).
- Section Three, entitled Christianity Makes Sense brings the reader to an understanding that it’s reasonable to believe in God and it’s reasonable to believe in Christianity.
I marked up and savored this book more than few others I have ever read. It is a lens through which to read and interpret life in the 21st century. I’d suggest reading it and discussing it with friends. You’ll be seeing quotes from this book in my book.
A Little Book on the Christian Life by John Calvin
The contents of this small but mighty book are taken from Calvin’s Institute’s of the Christian Religion. I’m amazed by the wisdom offered to us from the 1500s that is relevant to our current context in 2018. Calvin calls us to be rooted in scripture, to allow it to truly captivate us and take hold of every facet of our lives. He calls us to self-denial, bearing our own crosses, meditating on our future and our citizenship in heaven, and our calling to steward our current life and comforts for God’s purposes and glory. Like I said, small, but oh so mighty.
Because it is indeed a little book, its words are accessible, while its message is profound and robust. While you could read it in one sitting, you will want to return to it time and time again. I highlighted and heavily marked my copy. I return to my favorite pages often and you’ll see some of Calvin’s wisdom in my upcoming book as well.
You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit by James K. A. Smith
As I mentioned above, this book has had an important and shaping influence on my perspective on discipleship. Smith’s says (and I agree) that we widely approach discipleship as a didactic endeavor—we go through books, we gain knowledge, we try to gather more information about God in our hopes of growing in him. But our intellectual pursuits have come at the cost of ignoring our love.
Smith says, “Discipleship, we might say, is a way to curate your heart, to be attentive and intentional about what you love…discipleship is more a matter of hungering and thirsting than of knowing and believing.”
Smith says, “You are what you love because you live toward what you want” and “to be human is to be a lover and to love something ultimate.” He reminds us that Paul prayed that our love for God would abound (Phil. 1:9-11) and that Jesus asked, “What do you want?” (John 1:38.
This book caused me to ponder what I love. To review my habits. To question toward what am I living? What is my idea of the good life? What or who has my heart?
The first half of the book is especially compelling. I could not put it down. Smith’s ideas resonate with me and—again!—you’ll be seeing some his wisdom in my book.
I am so grateful to the Lord for gifting and equipping authors to write solid, compelling, and accessible theology. These three books have shaped me in the past year. They have been a means of grace for growth in my life and I hope you’ll read them too.