25 Books: Read An Excerpt

Now Featured in the Patheos Book Club
25 Books Every Christian Should Read:
A Guide to the Essential Spiritual Classics

Selected by Renovaré; Edited by Julia L. Roller

Book Excerpt: Foreword

25 Books Every Christian Should Read. Really? That seems such a huge claim. Are there really any definitive books every Christian should read, other than the Bible itself?

In selecting this list of twenty-five books, the editorial board has tried to identify a handful of the most outstanding books ever written on Christian faith and the life of prayer and discipleship. These books are an extraordinary distillation of wisdom about following Jesus written by some of our greatest saints, poets, and thinkers over the last two thousand years. Although our contemporary Western culture often seems allergic to serious reading and thought, Christians cannot afford such a complacent attitude. Just as any serious philosopher should at some point wrestle with Aristotle, and every actor with Shakespeare, so anyone who seriously desires to learn what it means to follow Christ without reserve, heart and soul, must wrestle with these writings. This list of twenty-five books is not final, complete, or definitive. But it is representative of the very best Christians have to offer.

Our selection of books comes with a warning and an encouragement. First the warning: there are no easy reads on this list. Some are more accessible than others, of course, but every one of these books is deeply challenging. Some will bust your brains; John Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion and Blaise Pascal's Pensées represent some of the most profound thinking about faith in twenty centuries of Christian history. Others, like William Law's A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life, will shake down your soul, forcing you to confront the very real cost of following Christ. Yet others will call you into a deeply attractive intimacy with Jesus—books like The Way of a Pilgrim, or John of the Cross's Dark Night of the Soul. But even here we are reminded that the treasure uncovered in the field can only be bought at great cost. These writings all take very seriously what Dietrich Bonhoeffer calls The Cost of Discipleship.

But together with the warning comes encouragement. These books have the power to renew your soul, rekindle your spiritual passion, and transform your life. If you have ever experienced a longing for God, a desire and thirst for a richer knowledge of Christ, a yearning for a deeper life, these writers will not disappoint. These twenty-five books are challenging precisely because their authors have dug down far below the superficialities of our age and theirs in search of the foundations of reality. They have known God intimately and profoundly, and their writings are intended to draw us into their experience.

This is rich fare. These books demand slow, thoughtful, and prayerful reading. They will not yield their rewards easily, yet there is an indescribable wealth in their pages, which no serious disciple of Christ, no devoted lover of Jesus, can possibly afford to miss. 25 Books Every Christian Should Read will not only introduce you to these writings but will act as an informed companion as you read—introducing each book and writer, setting each one in context, pointing out a roadmap through the texts for new readers, highlighting key ideas and concepts.

Reading these books has changed my life. My prayer has been shaped by the insights of The Philokalia. Dante has helped me understand spiritual formation more fully through the pages of The Divine Comedy. Hopkins has helped me see the world more clearly and fully. As you begin to journey deeply into the classical tradition of Christian spiritual writing, may you, too, find yourself opened to the surprising grace of God and so made entirely new.

—Chris Webb
President, Renovaré USA
Englewood, Colorado
Season of Pentecost 2011

Chapter 3
The Sayings of the Desert Fathers

Someone questioned Abba Biare in these words, "What shall I do to be saved?" He replied, "Go, reduce your appetite and your manual work, dwell without care in your cell and you will be saved."

A collection of sayings and stories from the third-, fourth-, and fifth-century hermits and monks who renounced the world for a life of humility, charity, and extreme discipline.

11/16/2011 5:00:00 AM
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