7 Quick Takes (1/21/11)

7 Quick Takes (1/21/11) January 21, 2011


Earlier this week, I posted the lengthy list of books that readers recommended in response to my New Year’s Challenge.  I’ve been looking through the list, and I’m narrowing down some books to start with.  This Sunday, I’ll be posting my thoughts about Lee Strobel’s The Case for Faith, a book I was in the middle of before I solicited suggestions.  The books that follow are the one’s I’m most inclined to read next, so they may be showing up on a “Sunday’s Good Book” feature sooner rather than later.


I’ve really liked all the C.S. Lewis I’ve read, and, after I got a recommendation from Mark Shea, I’m definitely inclined to put The Abolition of Man on the list.  Plus, since I’ve got a Lewis omnibus, I’ve already got a copy, making this the easiest one to pick.


More than one commenter suggested I check out Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling.  My offline friends have recommended it to me, too, but what clinched it is the way they recommended it to me.  More than one of my classmates has said some variant on the following to me:

“You should definitely check out Fear and Trembling, I think you’ll find it really interesting.”
*pauses, thinks it over*
“Actually, I’m pretty sure you’ll really, really hate Kierkegaard, but it would definitely be good for you to read it.”

How could I turn down such a pitch?


Given how very often I hear Richard Rorty referenced and how very little I know about his ideas, I probably have a duty to read Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity.  While doing a search of my email, I found that his name, and this book specifically, have frequently come up in questions.  You spoke, I listened.


Some of you suggested fiction, which always makes me happy.  Graham Greene made it on the list with The Heart of the Matter and The Power and the Glory so I’ll probably read one of those two.  Plus, I do have a long-standing promise to Tristyn of Eschatological Psychosis to read Crime and Punishment.   Several Christian converts I know cite Dostoyevsky’s novel as a strong force in their decision to become Christians.


There were a couple of votes for The Agnostic Inquirer: Revelation from a Theological Perspective.  I don’t know that my library has that one, so I’d appreciate links to reviews before I think about whether to buy a copy.


And the rest are up to you!  Take another look at the big list and make a pitch for any you’ve read and loved. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going back to my non-theological readings for a bit.  It probably ought to be schoolwork, but I’m curled up with Pamela Dean’s The Secret Countryinstead.

[Seven Quick Takes is a blog carnival run by Jen of Conversion Diary]

Browse Our Archives

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Regarding Chesterton, if you enjoy fiction I strongly recommend Manalive, The Man Who Knew Too Much and The Man Who Was Thursday. Also the Father Brown mysteries!

  • @JoAnna: I haven't read the others you've mentioned but I love, love, LOVE The Man Who was Thursday.

  • Matt Gerken

    I read F&T; freshman year and found it not particularly enlightening. It's good to figure out what he's actually doing with the whole leap of faith thing, but it's way too anti-reason for your interests. The Sickness Unto Death is waaay better and interesting from a psychological standpoint.Great choice with the Abolition of Man, and the Power and the Glory might be THE best novel I've ever read.

  • Oh, I should not have come here. I really can't spend more time reading, Now, I want to.

  • Have you already read The Screwtape Letters? If you say you've read some CS Lewis, you've probably hit this one. But if you haven't: oh my gosh, it's hilarious!Of course, there's always the BBC-approved cannon.

  • Michael Haycock

    I know both Rob and I have plugged for the Book of Mormon, whether in comments here or in private, but recognizing that it is a 500+ page book, below I make some suggestions of passages that you might find of interest. Of course, the very nature of the book as a narrative history – and its purpose to prove to all nations that Jesus is the Christ, and to demonstrate "what great things the Lord hath done" for past peoples – somewhat decline in richness when sections are cherry-picked, I feel that you might be interested in what follows.1 Nephi – the entire book, about 50 pages. This is very much a metonymy for the rest of the Book of Mormon in many ways: narrative, visions, revelations, prophecies, travels, human-divine interactions, rebellions, and so forth. 2 Nephi 2 – A prophet's last counsel to one of his children, and one source of the LDS Church's dramatically unique conception of the Fall of Adam.2 Nephi 4:14-35 – Known as the "Psalm of Nephi," one of the most beautiful passages in the book.2 Nephi 9 – also a very beautiful (IMO) passage, a sermon by Nephi's brother Jacob, about Christ's atonement for humanity's sins.2 Nephi 25-29 – Nephi again, speaking about the Book of Mormon itself. (Though read others before you read this, probably.)2 Nephi 31-3 – Nephi speaks of the "doctrine of Christ".Enos 1 – Jacob's son speaks about prayer.Mosiah 1-5 – A king gives his final sermon to his people about overcoming the "natural man and becoming a saint."Mosiah 18 – The Church is established amongst one people. (19-22 deal with their captivity and eventual deliverance)Alma 17-22 – Missionary voyages and important conversion stories.Alma 31-34 – The setting of a missionary journey and a series of sermons about faith, prayer, salvation, and much else.Alma 36 – A prophet relates his conversion, in another of the most beautiful passages and an excellent example of chiasmus, a poetic form.3 Nephi 11-28 – Christ's visit to the Americas. (Important, but maybe not so much to your interests; I'm not sure.)Ether 12 – One of the most sublime expressions of divine communication and prayer I've seen, which form does NOT appear in the Bible. Ask me about it.Moroni 10 – The last words of the last Nephite prophet.So, if you don't have time for the whole book, those are where I'd recommend you start!

  • Here's a link to a review of "The Agnostic Inquirer" from March of 2009 published in "Perspectives on Science And Christian Faith", an academic journal, http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_7049/is_1_61/ai_n31390842/The link should work but, if it doesn't, please let me know.

  • I just looked at the Yale Library catalog, and the Yale Divinity library has a copy of The Agnostic Inquirer, so if you're able to access that library you should be able to check it out if you don't want to buy it.

  • The reason I believe "The Case for the Resurrection" should be fairly early in your reading list is simple. The fact is, the whole of Christianity stands or falls based on the resurrection. Christianity makes a bold, historical claim; before Karl Popper, the apostle Paul already knew about "falsifiability" and provided criteria. Here's what he said, "…if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins." Wow. How many religions contain a built in debunking test? Debunk the reasons for believing in the resurrection and two things happen:1) Your 2011 reading list becomes much shorter because you can simply trash the remaining Christian books on the list because they're all junk =)2) All of Christianity (and all the deviations Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses, etc) utterly collapse.I think it makes sense not to dance around peripheral issues and go straight to the heart of the matter, the evidence for the resurrection. No need to read "Orthodoxy" if the resurrection didn't happen, no need to read "Confessions" (great book, I just finished it this week BTW), or "Book of Mormon" if the resurrection didn't happen. That's largely why I suggested, "I don't have enough faith to be an atheist" it touches on the resurrection (and other issues) but is not exhaustive in a single area. More importantly I suggested, "The Case for the Resurrection" because it goes into much more depth, is written by two of the world's top resurrection scholars and I think it is far more important than the first. The latter book contains the silver bullet to potentially end the debate once and for all. Plus it's a reasonably quick read.

  • Matt, glad to see we can at least agree on what a phenomenal novel The Power and the Glory is (though I wouldn't say he gives Dostoevsky too much of a run for his money).I cannot even begin to imagine what on earth a "resurrection scholar" is. It sounds like some kind of terrible, alternate future dystopian moniker for a priest.

  • I'm not sure what prompted me to suggest these – maybe the Kierkegaard thing (love the cover of that particular edition of the book, by the way). Walker Percy's Lost in the Cosmos is odd, amusing, and thought-provoking, while Signposts in a Strange Land is a more thorough compilation of his nonfiction writing. And you might also enjoy Walter Miller's A Canticle for Leibowitz, if you're up for something existentialist/dystopian/sorta sci-fi but not really.

  • How are you going to stay an atheist reading such great books? :)I LOVE Power and the Glory, but my favorite Greene by far is The End of the Affair (DO NOT watch the sore-excuse-for-a-movie- just read the book)

  • @Elizabeth: I was really amused by Screwtape Letters, but my favorite Lewis books are Mere Christianity and The Great Divorce.Thanks for the tipoff, For the Sake of Him!@Dorian Speed: Yeah, I couldn't resist that cover when I was looking through Google Images. I'm supposed to get Leibowitz back from a friend sometime this week, and I might finally get the chance to take a look at it.

  • The Great Divorce is phenomenal.By the way, I'm sorry if this has already been suggested to you, but I have yet one more recommendation for your already impressive stack. This one is a very short novel called "Mr. Blue" by Myles Connolly. A friend recommended it to me last year. It's about a sort of modern-day St. Francis living in New York and generally baffling everybody by his totally otherworldly ways. It's a fun read.Also, my third and final pitch for The Religious Sense by Luigi Giussani. This book is not specifically Christian, though it does contain some references to Christianity. In this book Giussani simply challenges us to correct our gaze upon life so that we may determine its meaning and value more adequately. Here is the description from the back cover:"An exploration of the search for meaning in life. This work argues that the nature of reason expresses itself in an ultimate need for truth, goodness, and beauty. It holds that this need constitutes the fabric of the religious sense, which is evident in every human being everywhere and in all times. So strong is this sense, it claims, that it leads one to desire that the answer to life's mystery might reveal itself in some way. The book challenges us to penetrate the deepest levels of experience to discover our "essential selves", breaking through the layers of opinions and judgments that have obscured our true needs. Asserting that all the tools necessary for self-discovery are inherent within us, it focuses primarily on reason, not as narrowly defined by modern philosophers, but as an openness to existence, a capacity to comprehend and affirm reality in all of its dimensions." 'What Monsignor Giussani teaches us is to rise beyond the smallness of our own minds and open ourselves up to the core spiritual experiences of what it means to be human. This is a book for all faiths and no faith.' Rabbi Michael Shevack, speaking at the 1997 United Nations Conference where Christians, Buddhists, and Jews celebrated the spiritual and religious renewal that Luigi Giussani's work has inspired throughout the world."