Books to Devour

As a Man ThinkethJames Allen.  Oldie and a shortie, but a goodie.  Not super sure of the history, but this might have sparked the “positive psychology” wave.  Allen’s basic premise is that if you want to change your character and your overall well-being for the better, you have to control your thoughts.  Positive thoughts mean positive actions and, eventually, inner-peace.  Allen wants us to believe that we are in control of our own well-being, not anyone else, or outside circumstances.  Control your thoughts and control your life.  See my review here.

As a Man Thinketh


The Historical Christ and the Theological JesusDale Allison Jr.  This is a fantastic introduction to the debate regarding both “historical Jesus methodology” (i.e. how do we reconstruct a historical Jesus from our sources?) and the identity of Jesus of Nazareth.  In my opinion, Allison gets both right.  His conclusions will likely trouble both liberals and conservatives, but his arguments (laid out only in brief sketches in this short work) are persuasive.  See my review.


The Historical Christ and the Theological Jesus


The Luminous DuskDale Allison Jr.  Allison thinks aloud about spirituality and how to connect with God.  Can’t get me enough Allison.  Not his usual subject, but a great read. 

The Luminous Dusk: Finding God in the Deep, Still Places



UncleanRichard Beck.  Examining the psychology of “purity” in the church.  Interested in the interplay between psychology and religion (specifically Christianity)?  Read Beck.  And then go to his outstanding blog at Experimental Theology.

Unclean: Meditations on Purity, Hospitality, and Mortality

Reading the Bible Again for the First TimeMarcus Borg.  The first few chapters are the heart of this book and are helpful for categorizing a “conservative” vs. “liberal” understanding of Christianity and the Bible.  The rest are his reflections on how to read other parts of the Christian Scriptures.  Highly recommended for understanding the conservative vs. liberal debate.  Borg is probably the author, and this is arguably the book, that liberals can rally around – especially his unique lens for understanding the Faith.  See my review here.


Reading the Bible Again For the First Time: Taking the Bible Seriously But Not Literally


Putting Away Childish ThingsMarcus Borg.  Borg delves into the world of fiction.  A good read and we seemingly get a look into Borg’s experience in the Christian church – feeling attacked from various sides.


Putting Away Childish Things: A Tale of Modern Faith


Satan and the Problem of EvilGreg Boyd.  Boyd is brilliant.  From an Evangelical perspective it doesn’t get much better.  In this book, Boyd sets forth his comprehensive theodicy, which, as the title suggests, has a healthy place for Satan and demonic forces.  Broadly speaking, he would argue for a “free will” solution to evil – and I don’t think it is argued more persuasively anywhere else than here.  Liberal or Conservative, you have to deal with the problem of evil; this densely philosophic work will at least get you thinking about it.


Satan & the Problem of Evil: Constructing a Trinitarian Warfare Theodicy


God of the PossibleGreg Boyd.  A biblical defense of Open Theism.  Boyd takes plenty of heat for this view.  Philosophic thinkers will love this author and his arguments.  Liberals might not be as concerned that the Bible backs any particular view, but can gain an understanding of the “Open” model of viewing God and His interaction with the world.


God of the Possible: A Biblical Introduction to the Open View of God


Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury.  Never met a dystopian future book I didn’t like.  Fahrenheit, 1984, Brave New World.  Take your pick on these gems.


Fahrenheit 451: A Novel


Spirituality of the PsalmsWalter Brueggemann.  The Bible isn’t all roses, daisies, and unicorns.  The Psalms often express discontent with life and God.  Brueggemann says it’s ok to express these things.  The Bible itself does.

Spirituality of the Psalms (Facets)

A Clockwork Orange – Anthony Burgess.  Is a world in which people can turn themselves (or be turned) into monsters better than a world in which everyone is forced to be “good”?  Is free will worth it?  This perennial theological/philosophical question lies in the background of Clockwork.


A Clockwork Orange (Norton Critical Editions)


The Shallows: What The Internet Is Doing To Our Brains - Nicholas Carr.  The Internet is re-wiring the heck out of our brains and changing the way we think.  Say goodbye to your ability to concentrate for long periods of time and hello to multi-tasking and the art of distracting yourself constantly.  Directly applicable to your spiritual life…because if you can’t still your mind, you aren’t going to have much of one.  Check out my review.


The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains

How to Win Friends and Influence PeopleDale Carnegie.  Crass title, but piercing insight into human nature:)  Read this for a marketing class…not explicitly theological by any means, but some interesting thoughts.


How To Win Friends and Influence People


The Man Who Was ThursdayG.K. Chesterton.  A short novel that serves as an allegory for the book of Job.  Absolutely love it.  Not long, and comes from a man that clearly wrestled with the problem of evil in his life.  He certainly has a unique outlook on the message of Job and adds to the conversation about its meaning.  For a little more background if you don’t mind spoilers, see Job, The Man Who Was Thursday, and Theodicy.


The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare (Penguin Classics)


OrthodoxyG.K. Chesterton.  I just love Chesterton.  At a very minimum, Orthodoxy gives interesting philosophic arguments for theism and against materialism.




The Bhagavad GitaTranslated by Eknath Easwaran.  Classic mystical text from India.  Maybe the most widely read book in Hinduism.  Ghandi based his life on it, and he turned out pretty good.

The Bhagavad Gita (Classics of Indian Spirituality)

Inspiration and Incarnation – Peter Enns.  Like Kenton Sparks’ God’s Word in Human Words, Enns should be required reading for Evangelicals exposed to modern Biblical criticism.  Enns and Sparks should be best pals if they aren’t yet.  If either of you reads this, maybe you could just email me and let me know if you’re pals…


Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament


Evolving in Monkey TownRachel Held Evans.  The faith journey of a “Fundamentalist” who is bombarded and incapacitated by her own questions.  Lively author and those who grew up conservative, but have had their doubts, will find a partner in Evans.


Evolving in Monkey Town: How a Girl Who Knew All the Answers Learned to Ask the Questions


The Fifth DimensionJohn Hick.  Hick, a stalwart in liberal Christian thought, argues that Spiritual Reality has ontological existence – our spiritual experiences are not simply illusions or projections.  I like a lot of Hick’s work; he is another author that liberals can gravitate to as he tries to steer the church to the left.  He is a very philosophic and clear headed writer.  This work will also aid in understanding “mysticism.”


The Fifth Dimension: An Exploration of the Spiritual Realm


The Metaphor of God IncarnateJohn Hick.  Hick sets forth a vision for a Christianity that sees itself as “one among a number of different responses to the ultimate Reality that we call God” in his typically philosophical and tightly reasoned way.

The Metaphor of God Incarnate, Second Edition: Christology in a Pluralistic Age

The Perennial PhilosophyAldous Huxley.  Huxley tries to synthesize “mystics both East and West” and present their thought as “the Perennial Philosophy” (i.e. the mystical philosophy that continues to come back regardless of historical time or culture).  In Eastern terms – a spiritual Ground exists, your true identity is identical to the Ground, your destiny is immersion in the Ground.  In Western terms – The Creator God exists, your soul is made in His Image, and your destiny is unity with and absorption in Him (my descriptions, not his).  This is a great introduction to mystical works from all religious streams.  See my review for more…


The Perennial Philosophy: An Interpretation of the Great Mystics, East and West (P.S.)


Brave New WorldAldous Huxley.  If you didn’t read this in high school, read it now.  If you did read it in high school read it again.  Huxley’s critique of modern culture will have you looking at the world in new ways.  At the risk of sounding like the high schooler I was when I first read this, Huxley is a beast.


Brave New World


The Doors of PerceptionAldous Huxley.  Another great one from Aldous.  “Doors” is essentially a recounting of his experience when using mescaline, and his theory as to how the experience relates to Spiritual Reality.  Puts forth the idea that the brain is a “reducing valve on reality” and that mescaline (as well as states of mind reached by the mystics) “opens that valve”, allowing the user to experience reality more fully.  Muy interesante…


The Doors Of Perception: Heaven and Hell (thINKing Classics)


IslandAldous Huxley.  A journalist travels to an Island.  The Island is Huxley’s version of an Ideal Society.  The journalist likes it.  I think this was Huxley’s last novel.  Lots and lots of themes from his other books come up again here, especially from the Perennial Philosophy.


The Varieties of Religious ExperienceWilliam James.  Classic.  Dense.  Title says it all.

William James: The Varieties of Religious Experience (The Library of America Paperback Classics Series)


Intimacy with God: An Introduction to Centering PrayerThomas Keating.  As the subtitle says, this is an introduction to Centering Prayer, a method of prayer that Keating is big on.  This method is founded on the principles found in The Cloud of Unknowing (below).  I am also big on this method of prayer and how it can facilitate your “relationship with God.”  So I listed it here.  I have a suspicion that Centering Prayer might be the key to everything.

Intimacy with God: An Introduction to Centering Prayer

The Freedom of Self ForgetfulnessTimothy Keller.  Stop thinking about yourself.  Lose the ego and acquire the freedom of self-forgetfulness.

The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness: The Path to True Christian Joy

The Great DivorceC.S. Lewis.  C.S. delves into speculation on the nature of Heaven and Hell.  Instead of the popular notion of humanity either being good enough for Heaven or bad enough to be thrown into Hell by an angry God, Lewis’ conception is dependent on our choice.  Heaven is a state of being – the formation of a character that is in harmony with God, others, and self, that we choose with God’s help.  In the end, the only ones not in Heaven will be those who, against God’s will, chose slavery to Self instead of service to God…those who said “better to reign in hell than to serve in Heaven.”  Short and insightful.


The Great Divorce


What Does It All Mean?Thomas Nagel.  Great introduction to the questions of philosophy.  Very readable.  Philosophy 101.

What Does It All Mean?: A Very Short Introduction to Philosophy

PenseesBlaise Pascal.  Thoughts (literally, that’s what the title means) from a smart French dude.

Pascal's Pensees

God’s Word in Human Words: An Evangelical Appropriation of Critical Biblical ScholarshipKenton Sparks.  If you are an Evangelical and interacting with modern Biblical scholarship in any way, be it in a Seminary or not, you have to read Sparks.  This book is very very dense; a good warmup to the issues can be found in Peter Enns’ Inspiration and Incarnation.  Both Sparks and Enns are examples of self-professed Evangelicals who accept many of the “critical” positions of Biblical scholarship and re-frame their doctrines of Scripture accordingly.


God's Word in Human Words: An Evangelical Appropriation of Critical Biblical Scholarship


The Cloud of UnknowingUnkown / Edited by William Johnston. Classic Christian mystical text.  Probably my favorite reading from any mystic.  As with many older works, translation matters!  I highly recommend the version edited by William Johnston.  If there were one work that exemplified mystic thought in an easy to understand and straightforward way, this would be it!


The Cloud of Unknowing: and The Book of Privy Counseling (Image Book Original)