Now that I’ve paved the way for an exhaustive answer (see here) let’s talk a little about books. Recently, I read about a successful business man who didn’t read books so much as he read libraries. Now, that’s a description! Libraries of books is the way – not to expertise & mastery – but to a sufficient understanding. (Isn’t it interesting that the Bible is a library? It’s not a book, it’s 66 books. There’s no 1 book that captures God! Only a library will do.) And, so, as we answer the all-important question of “Is the Bible Trustworthy?” let’s take a look at a mini library:
Do you need to read all this before trusting the Bible? Of course not. The Bible is written so the youngest child can truly believe what it says, and yet, it’s so profound and wonderful that the greatest minds become lost in marveling at its mysteries. Indeed, the Bible is written “so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name,” (John 20:31). But here’s a question for you. Since the Bible speaks about eternal heaven and eternal hell (that is, endless-forever-and-ever bliss or torment), is there any scenario in which it would be wise to ignore a pile of books in order to simply go on in unbelief? And don’t “Pascal’s wager” me! Why wouldn’t you make an all-out study of what the Bible says and offers? It is the most-published & best-selling book of all time, and Jesus Christ is, by all accounts, the most influential person of all time. Those facts alone should mean you devote some time and energy into adequately answering the question, “Should I Trust the Bible?”
So, here’s a break down of the above picture (a picture that may not say a thousand words, but certainly contains at least that many!)
If you need to start with “only one book,” then start with
Jesus Among Secular Gods by Ravi Zacharias and Vince Vitale. Begin by doing your homework. This book’s authors are brilliant men – look them up. They truck with the academic elite of Princeton & Oxford. But, that’s not why this book is where you should start. Both Zacharias and Vitale know how to communicate. Their brilliance doesn’t get in the way of them writing an accessible book to our 2017 secular day and age.
If you’re the sort who realizes you’ll need at least three books to get into a subject, then start with Jesus Among Secular Gods and add these two:
Making Sense of God by Timothy Keller is one of a kind. You’re simply not going to find a more thorough, timely, sensitive, thoughtful, and organized approach to belief in the face of the difficulties of 21st century skepticism. This is a tour de force that will not only answer many of your questions – but will also lead you to the many other questions you should be asking. In addition, every Tim Keller book serves as a tremendous index to all sorts of great literature. His books are always worth twice their cover value: first for Keller’s thoughts – second for all the thoughts of everyone else he footnotes & summarizes. Also, check out this Google Talk by Keller on the book.
Pensees by Blaise Pascal. About time for a curve-ball, isn’t it? Listen, if you get through the first two books and are still ready for more, it’s time to start swimming into the long, deep history of Christianity. Pascal lived and died in the 1600’s. He was 39 when he died. And his writing is still fresh and thought-provoking. You need to start grappling with all he grappled with over his short faith-filled but faith-testing life.
And, if you’re the powerhouse who doesn’t so much read books as you do libraries, then start with the above three, and add these seven:
God’s Big Picture by Vaughan Roberts. Don’t judge the man for having 2 last names. It’s a great quick read that serves as a road-map to the entire Bible. Please don’t make the mistake of reading the Bible from Genesis to Revelation thinking that it will be easy to understand. It’s grand, it’s full, it’s got all sorts of genres & histories. It is a unified story – but use this book to help you see that unified story.
You Are What You Love by James K A Smith is an introduction to the idea that all of life is religious – whether you think so or not. Read this to peal the blinders off your eyes and see yourself as the religious practitioner that you are.
Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey. About time we get some female authorship in here! This book is one that will clue you into our times. Pearcey channels Francis Schaeffer and Chuck Colson in this exceptional understanding of our day and age.
How (Not) To Be Secular by James K A Smith is another book that enables you to accurately see the day & age in which we live. Get your bearings, understand the challenges you’re up against, and see the ever-necessary place for trust in the Bible. Oh, and don’t get scared by the old guy on the cover. Charles Taylor is certainly someone you should read. But start with this summary for now.
The Reason for God by Timothy Keller is a New York Times best-selling case for Jesus Christ. Keller says Making Sense of God (see above) is a prequel to The Reason for God. Both are excellent. Read them both and welcome to the rest of your life, which will involve referring back to these books over and over again.
A Brief History of Thought by Luc Ferry who exposes you to the philosophies of the ages, and places Christianity alongside them. It’s a great concise summary, and can never be blamed of “a Christian bias” since Luc Ferry isn’t a Christian.
Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem. Write a summary of what the entire Bible teaches, organize it well, inform it with thousands of years of church history, then stylize it beautifully and publish it by a premium publisher – and you’ll have this book. One of the most beautiful things about the Bible is that, despite the thousands of years it covers and it’s vast array of human authors, the whole thing still forms a unity. So, you can summarize it, because each part corresponds with another, and there is no contradiction within its teaching. Learn the system of theology in the story of the Bible. Read this (or some other) reputable systematic theology!
“Wait a second,” you say. “I feel cheated! Isn’t there a Ghandi book in that picture? And books on the Canon of Scripture? And just wait a second….is that Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss? That’s not a Christian book! Not even close! What’s going on here?”
I’m glad you asked. Libraries are meant to grow and good answers often be enhanced. In this picture you see that I not only follow up on some personal special interests (the Canon of Scripture, mankind’s capacity & tendency to self-deception, etc.) but that one of those ongoing personal interests is to know what’s out there. What beliefs are currently circulating? What’s the atmosphere we’re in like? What does “the world” think? While reading a book like Tools of Titans may, at points, feel like an unchristian thing to do, I don’t believe it is. In fact, it’s obedience to Jesus Christ that leads me into such reading. I call it “Luke 16:8 reading” because in that verse Jesus says, “For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light.” And St. Paul in Acts 17:28 says “as even some of your own Poets have said.” Not that Tim Ferriss is a poet, necessarily, but that book and the others in that stack are some of the best books I’ve come across to see what the spirit of the age actually is.