The following is a conversation part of the Patheos Book Club for 25 Books Every Christian Should Read. To interact more, click this link.
My spiritual journey continues to be informed by people like Dallas Willard, Richard Foster, and more recently – Jan Johnson. These folks are part of a wonderful organization called Renovare, which focuses on equipping followers of Jesus to become more like their Messiah. My personal reflections on the issue of inward transformation and how such expresses itself outwardly, are written in an article called “I’m Done With Living Like a Christian.” There, you will get a glimpse into why I appreciate the Renovare approach to spirituality. Bottom line: know Jesus more.
Recently, I was sent a book to explore and reflect upon called 25 Books Every Christian Should Read. My initial thought was that I wondered about the criteria for such a list, wondering if this list was a bit restrictive. But, as I read the rationale for selecting these books (which represent the broad gamut of Christian writings from St. Athanasius to Henri Nouwen), I became convinced that the Renovare board was on to something. They state:
This book is not the list of the best Christian books ever written or a list of the top twenty-five devotional books; it isn’t even the list of the top twenty-five classics, although we believe all of the books on the list are or will be considered classics of their respective genres. the books we have chosen to include are, instead, the books that the board judged served as the best guides for living life with God. Cumulatively, these books embody a rich treasure of wisdom and counsel for how to live the Christian life. (x)
With that as the criteria, here is the goal: “reading primarily for formation rather than for information” (xii). This certainly is a challenge in a day when reading is focused on information intake and data overload. This book, which is a guide for introducing readers to a lot of other books, will take discipline to get through. In fact, the books is set up in chronological order, but the hope of the compilers is that readers will seek to read particular works that resonate with where they are in their faith journey at the time. This book truly is a guide to point you in a direction and not a book to “charge” through in a short amount of time.It’s set up with an introduction section that gives much of the information that I summarized above. Then, each “classic” book is given one chapter. The chapter includes a section on the historical background of the work to be considered and the author. Then, a short section on reading strategies for that book. Following this section comes an excerpt from the classical book that gives attention to a significant theme of the work. Finally, at the end of each chapter are discussion questions for personal or small group reflection. This structure is seriously helpful for engaging some books we might not be tempted to otherwise read.
So, my recommendation would be to take one of two paths: 1) Read this book (slowly) in an attempt to get a “taste” of each of the 25 books. In this way, perhaps you won’t have a chance to read every single book listed (if you have seen the “thickness” of Calvin’s Institutes, you many understand what I’m getting at), but at least you will become acquainted with a portion of the work and can meditate upon it. 2) Use this book as an introduction to a vast tradition of spiritual writings and then read all 25 books in their entirety. This project could take months or even years, but I have a feeling that it would be life changing.
I highly recommend this book to you as an introduction to Spiritual Reading. I think it has the potential to greatly shape us into the image of Christ in a fresh way!
I have one extra copy of this important book that I want to give away to you! Here’s how to win it: 1) “Like” my Facebook page and then share my FB page on your wall, inviting your friends to also “like” it. 2) Repost this article on either Twitter or Facebook. 3) Leave a comment with some sort of contact info (FB link or Twitter). Once the steps have been completed, you are entered to win. I will reveal the winner at the end of next week…