Julie’s Take – Christianity in Three Books [Updated]

These things used to be called memes … but whatever they’re called, I find them difficult to resist.  Basically Rod Dreher has asked his readers, and the internet at large, what three books they would recommend to provide a basic familiarity with Christian theological ideas to someone with little background on the topic. Read all the guidelines here, which is where Jen Fitz found it.

This came to my attention when I saw Jen’s answers (and was insanely flattered, by the way, thank you Jen!).

Ahem. Anyway, here is my list. Pick it up, pass it on … and so forth.

1.  The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom.

Same as Jen’s #1 but that’s because this is such a great book. I recently reread it and made it a goal to reread it annually. It is a great story and, not coincidentally, is Christianity in a nutshell.

Sheltered spinster, Corrie Ten Boom is 50 years old when the Nazis invade Holland. She and her family shelter Jews targeted by the Nazis and when they are caught, they are sent to prison and eventually concentration camps. This sounds gloomy and like a familiar story. It is not. Every Christian should read this book. If you get the audio, it is even better. Simply fantastic.

2. The Captain from Castile by Samuel Shellabarger 

The classic story of a young Spanish nobleman, Pedro de Vargas, who goes with Cortes to conquer Mexico. Rereading it, Washington Post critic and Pulitzer Prize-winner Jonathan Yardley says in his introduction he “was astonished at how well it has survived. . . . It is accurate, meticulously researched history, and it is a sympathetic, nuanced account of a young man’s moral education…” Precisely. Such is also the same of Shellabarger’s other books. A prime example of how an excellent piece of fiction can communicate “Truth.” Also a favorite, more than this book to be truthful, is Prince of Foxes by this author.

3. In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden

One of the finest authors of our time, largely forgotten, but who always wrote from a deep background of faith. This is the story of Philipa who at the height of a brilliant career and in her 40s decides to enter a cloistered convent. Yes, this is the story of nuns, but the Christianity they practice should be recognizable to Christians of any sort. Not only is it a fascinating tale of what it is like to live in a convent, but it contains a riveting mystery too.

I didn’t notice we weren’t allowed to have books about a “flavor” of a particular religion, which knocks out my original third choice, which I leave below for your edification. That’s ok, it made room for a book I originally was going to include but had dropped in favor of something more obviously theological. Woohoo!

3. Catholic Christianity by Peter Kreeft

Puts the muscle on the “skeleton” of the Catechism, so to speak. This is the book that I read after converting and which brought my understanding fully into line with the teachings of the Church. Eminently logical.

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