I was recently asked what Christian books have had the biggest impact on my life. Like many people who enjoy reading, I can trace a lot of my thinking and worldview to a few key books that I read at just the right time or were simply so powerful they forever shaped my thinking. Below was my response to the Top 5 Christian Books that have changed my life:
Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold, by C.S. Lewis – This was C.S. Lewis’ favorite among his own writings. He wrote it later in life and it shows a deep understanding of our self-deception and the ways in which self-interest often masquerades as love of others. It’s a fictional myth that may lull you to sleep a bit until you get to the last third of the book and realize that Lewis has been setting you up the whole time. The back third of the book is some of the most genius thinking and writing that I’ve ever come across. Especially if you are an intuitive personality, you don’t want to miss experiencing this book at least once in your life.
Reaching Out: The Three Movements of the Spiritual Life, by Henri Nouwen – Simply put, there is no other book that better articulates the felt quality of loneliness as the first third of this short work by Nouwen. If you are a single adult, struggle with loneliness, or want to have a deeper understanding of Christian community then this book is a must read.
Fear and Trembling, by Søren Kierkegaard – This short treatise on the story of Abraham & Isaac from the book of Genesis has shaped my understanding of faith more than any other book. In fact, I could easily say no work outside of the Bible has so shaped my adult life as this one. Kierkegaard, a Christian philosopher and one of the fathers of existentialism, can be a bit challenging to read so make sure you are committed to reading this before you start. If you stick with it till the end, it will change your life.
Christ the Center, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer – This book was compiled after Bonhoeffer’s death from the notes of students who were part of his lectures on Christology at the underground seminary at Finkenwalde. It’s an obscure book, short and easy to read, in which Bonhoeffer changes the starting point of how we try to understand Jesus from speculation to submission. The philosophical turn Bonhoeffer employs has profoundly influenced my ability to articulate a view on the authority of scripture that begins in faith and submission as a way of moving toward understanding.
Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship with God, by Dallas Willard – There are a lot of great works on prayer, such as Madame Guyon’s Experiencing God Through Prayer and some of the more popular work by Philip Yancey, but no book on prayer I’ve read has dealt as directly with my desires, doubts and fears as poignantly as Dallas Willard’s treatise does. The late Dallas Willard taught philosophy at USC and has a way of making distinctions, clarifying concepts, and demonstrating truths that empower and equip a person to understand and take hold of all the promises on prayer discussed in the New Testament.
Do you have any titles to add to the top Christian book list? If so, feel free to add your recommendations and thoughts in the comment section below.