Friday, October 13, 2006

The Top 50 Books That Have Shaped Evangelicals

Christianity Today recently listed their Top 50 Books that have shaped evangelical Christians. The books with an "*" next to the number are those that I have already read. Some introductory comments and explanation of the selection process can be found here. I'd love to hear your comments on any books that you think should/should not have been included...

50. Revivalism and Social Reform - Timothy L. Smith. The new evangelicals were rightly wary of the liberal "social gospel." Yet they knew Jesus called them to serve the oppressed. Historian Timothy L. Smith destroyed the myth of the "heavenly minded" evangelical and helped us remember our history of personal and social holiness.

*49. Knowledge of the Holy- A. W. Tozer. The Christian and Missionary Alliance pastor and mystic invited us behind the curtain and into God's presence.

48. The Hiding Place - Corrie ten Boom with John and Elizabeth Sherrill. The staple conundrum of late-night ethics discussions in Christian college dorms—Do you lie if the Nazis knock on your door asking for the Jews you are hiding?—was a question ten Boom lived.

47. The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?- F. F. Bruce. Yes, they are. And it took F. F. Bruce only 120 tiny pages to show it.

46. Out of the Saltshaker and into the World - Rebecca Manley Pippert. "Christians and non-Christians have something in common," author Rebecca Pippert noted. "We're both uptight about evangelism." Out of the Saltshaker helped generations of fearful students (and other would-be evangelists) to loosen up.

45. The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind - Mark A. Noll. Few people have accused evangelicalism of being an intellectual movement—but now we feel bad about it, at least.

44. The Gospel of the Kingdom- George Eldon Ladd. Ladd's work called a generation of evangelicals to a higher level of scholarship, and his "already-but-not yet" take on God's kingdom influenced charismatic theologians and cessationists alike.

*43. Operation World - Patrick Johnstone. The who, where, what, why, when, and how many of unreached peoples.

*42. The Purpose-Driven Life - Rick Warren. A recommended resource to have on hand when faced with a home intruder (a la Ashley Smith) or when seeking to turn around an African nation (a la Rwanda).

*41. Born Again - Charles W. Colson. As we now know, the metamorphosis of a Nixon administration crook into a prison evangelist wasn't just a phase.

*40. Darwin on Trial - Phillip E. Johnson. This Berkeley law professor's takedown of scientific naturalism launched Intelligent Design and gained creationists a level of public attention they hadn't enjoyed since the Scopes trial.

*39. Desiring God - John Piper. Who expected a Calvinist Baptist to redeem hedonism for Christ?

38. The Gospel in a Pluralist Society - Lesslie Newbigin. "A profound rethinking of missions in a pluralist context," says Wheaton College English professor Alan Jacobs, who nominated the tome.

*37. God's Smuggler - Brother Andrew with John and Elizabeth Sherrill. Brother Andrew's autobiography "instilled in me a concern for the persecuted church and ignited courage in my heart to serve those who suffer for Jesus," writes Charisma's editor J. Lee Grady.

*36. Left Behind - Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins. The book launched a series that launched a marketing empire that launched a new set of rules for Christian fiction. The series spent a total of 300 weeks—nearly as long as the Tribulation it dramatized—on The New York Times's bestseller list.

35. The Stork Is Dead - Charlie W. Shedd. Shedd published his sex advice for teens in 1968 and got evangelicals talking about the topic four years before The Joy of Sex was published.

*34. This Present Darkness - Frank E. Peretti. InterVarsity Press editor Al Hsu says Peretti's horror thriller "challenged evangelicals to take spiritual warfare and the supernatural seriously." Maybe, in some cases, too seriously.

33. The Late Great Planet Earth - Hal Lindsey with C. C. Carlson. In the beginning—before the Left Behind series was a sparkle in the cash registers of religious booksellers—there was The Late Great Planet Earth. It's hard to imagine that Jenkins and LaHaye would have sold 43 million copies of their bestsellers if Lindsey hadn't first sold 15 million copies of his dispensationalist hit.

*32. The Cross and the Switchblade - David Wilkerson with John and Elizabeth Sherrill. Amazing things started happening when, in 1958, a country preacher arrived—Bible in hand and Holy Spirit in heart—in the ghettos of New York City. Christian Retailing reports that "more than 50 million copies are in print in 40-plus languages of the book that gave birth to the ministry of Teen Challenge."

31. The Next Christendom - Philip Jenkins. The Penn State professor confronted North American Christians with the shocking truth that they were not the center of the universe.

*30. Roaring Lambs - Robert Briner. Back in the early '90s, when engaging the culture wasn't the "in" thing to do, Roaring Lambs inspired countless Christian artists to become artists who are Christians.

*29. Dare to Discipline - James Dobson. In the permissive '70s, Dobson did what he still does best—calling us to focus on the family.

*28. The Act of Marriage - Tim and Beverly LaHaye. The explicit marriage manual told men how to satisfy their wives. "Fundies in their undies," joked religion scholar Martin E. Marty.

27. Christy - Catherine Marshall. A privileged city girl finds faith and a husband in rural Appalachia—sounds like a TV series to us.

*26. Know Why You Believe - Paul E. Little. Now we do.

*25. Boundaries - Henry Cloud and John Townsend. Sometimes, it's good to say no. This, in a nutshell, is the message that some ministry-weary Christians still need to hear.

24. The Meaning of Persons - Paul Tournier. Swiss physician Paul Tournier awakened us to the deep interconnectedness of the physical, the emotional, and the spiritual.

23. All We're Meant to Be - Letha Dawson Scanzoni and Nancy A. Hardesty. Scanzoni and Hardesty outlined what would later blossom into evangelical feminism. For better or for worse, no evangelical marriage or institution has been able to ignore the ideas in this book.

22. The Genesis Flood - Henry M. Morris and John C. Whitcomb. In 1961, hydraulic engineer Henry M. Morris and biblical scholar John C. Whitcomb infused young-earth creationism with new energy. They argued that the biblical deluge could explain fossils and geological layers.

*21. The Master Plan of Evangelism - Robert Emerson Coleman. Using Jesus' methods, Coleman showed the intimate, indispensable relationship between evangelism and discipleship.

20. A Wrinkle In Time - Madeleine L'Engle. Madeleine L'Engle told CT that when she tried to be a Christian with her "mind only," she ceased to believe. But then she realized that God was a storyteller. Her 1962 classic modeled the power of imagination to energize belief.

19.The Cost of Discipleship - Dietrich Bonhoeffer. "Although cheap grace has entered into the common vocabulary of evangelicals," says theologian Roger Olson, "the full weight of Bonhoeffer's exploration of true Christian discipleship has yet to be borne by many of us." Translated into English in 1949, Bonhoeffer's classic remains a devastating critique of comfortable Christianity.

18. The Divine Conspiracy - Dallas Willard. With this call to discipleship, "Willard joins the line of Thomas a Kempis, Luther, Fenelon, Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection, Zinzendorf, Wesley, Frank Laubach, Dorothy Day, and other master apprentices of Jesus," wrote Books and Culture editor John Wilson in a review, praising the University of Southern California professor's "philosophical depth" and "penetrating understanding of Scripture."

*17. What's So Amazing About Grace? - Philip Yancey. With trademark self-deprecation, Yancey wrote: "Grace comes free of charge to people who do not deserve it, and I am one of those people. I think back to who I was—resentful, wound tight with anger, a single hardened link in a long chain of ungrace learned from family and church. Now I am trying in my own small way to pipe the tune of grace. I do so because I know … that any pang of healing or forgiveness or goodness I have ever felt comes solely from the grace of God."

16. Basic Christianity - John Stott. The slim volume "has introduced more people to Christ than any book I know other than the Bible," says author James Sire.

15. The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism - F. H. Henry. Henry's call to cultural engagement seems unremarkable today. That's because we took his advice to "pursue the enemy, in politics, in economics, in science, in ethics."

*14. Let Justice Roll Down - John M. Perkins. The civil rights activist got white Christians thinking about his three-pronged solution to America's systemic race problem: relocation, reconciliation, and redistribution.

*13. Evidence That Demands a Verdict - Josh McDowell. Who says faith is only for the heart and not the head? Not Josh McDowell.

12. Power Evangelism - John Wimber with Kevin Springer. Lifestyle evangelism is great, but signs and wonders are spectacular.

*11. Celebration of Discipline - Richard J. Foster. It "opened the door for many evangelicals to intentionally practice spiritual disciplines and find a connection with the church throughout history," writes Phyllis Alsdurf, professor of journalism at Bethel College.

10. Evangelism Explosion - D. James Kennedy. This more than any other book ("The Four Spiritual Laws" is a pamphlet) gave evangelicals a systematic way to share their faith. It made the question, "If you were to die tonight, do you know for sure that you would go to heaven?" standard evangelistic fare.

*9. Through Gates of Splendor - Elisabeth Elliot. The account of the martyrdom of five young missionaries at the hands of a feared "Stone Age" tribe in Ecuador helped launch a generation of cross-cultural evangelists into the world's hard places. Author Jerry B. Jenkins told CT, "The story left me feeling spiritually slain."

8. Managing Your Time - Ted W. Engstrom. Evangelicals have historically been entrepreneurs and mystics, so we have run into much personal burnout and organizational chaos. With this book, Ted W. Engstrom gave evangelical leaders permission to organize their ministries rationally and efficiently.

7. Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger - Ronald J. Sider. "God is on the side of the poor!" Sider writes. To neglect them is to neglect the gospel.

*6. The Living Bible - Kenneth N. Taylor. One of the first in a wave of easy-to-read, modern English versions of the Bible, Kenneth N. Taylor's Living Bible came out in 1971, complete with its signature green cover. Book design has come a long way since then.

*5. Knowing God - J. I. Packer. Packer was magisterial in substance, but adopted the tone of a fellow traveler. He convinced us that the study of God "is the most practical project anyone can engage in."

4. The God Who Is There - Francis A. Schaeffer. "This book, and its companion volumes, accomplished something startling and necessary: It made intellectual history a vital part of the evangelical mental landscape, opening up the worlds particularly of art and philosophy to a subculture that was suspicious and ignorant of both," writes John Stackhouse, professor of theology and culture at Regent College.

*3. Mere Christianity - C. S. Lewis. Anyone who has read this far into the list doesn't need any explanation about why Lewis's work of apologetics placed this high—right?

2. Understanding Church Growth - Donald Anderson McGavran. Although evangelicals have always been enamored with large and growing numbers (e.g., the Great Awakenings), it was Donald McGavran who gave us phrases such as "church growth" and "the homogeneous unit principle" and who made the endeavor a "science." Today, every pastor in North America has a decided opinion about whether or how much he or she buys into church-growth principles.

1. Prayer: Conversing With God - Rosalind Rinker. In the 1950s, evangelical prayer was characterized by Elizabethan wouldsts and shouldsts. Prayer meetings were often little more than a series of formal prayer speeches. Then Rosalind Rinker taught us something revolutionary: Prayer is a conversation with God. The idea took hold, sometimes too much (e.g., "Lord, we just really wanna …"). But today evangelicals assume that casual, colloquial, intimate prayer is the most authentic way to pray.

1 comment:

Mike and Netty said...

I can't believe that A.W. Tozer would even be placed in the same category as a Tim LaHaye and some of the others. He stood against what many of these have brought into the church, especially Christian entertainment. He and others like Paris Reidhead and Leonard Ravenhill warned...and many of these others ignored them. Now we are, as A.W. would say "a playground."