One of the things I love about summer is the opportunity afforded by the slightly quieter pace to tackle the pile of reading that’s been growing on my desk over the last year. Having a seven-week old baby puts a cramp on the quiet reading time, but here are a few of the things I’ve managed to get my teeth into in the past few weeks. There are some great books here: do check a few of them out.
Craig L. Blomberg, Can We Still Believe the Bible? (Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2014)
An easy to read, up to date survey of some of the contemporary challenges to the Bible. Blomberg explores questions including the reliability of manuscripts, can we trust our Bible translations and whether miracle stories show the Bible is a myth.
Julian Barnes, Nothing To Be Frightened Of (London: Random House, 2009)
“I don’t believe in God, but I miss him,” Julian Barnes admits on the very first page of this deeply personal reflection on what it means to grow old and face death—from an atheist’s perspective. Tragic, funny and honest, it’s a fascinating insight into one man’s struggle to live life without God.
John H. Walton & D. Brent Sandy, The Lost World of Scripture: Ancient Literary Culture and Biblical Authority (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2013)
As 21st century moderns we often misread the Bible in many ways. One way is failing to appreciate that biblical text originated in an oral culture—and oral cultures are very different to literary cultures. Offers fascinating insights into how reading through an oral lens brings the Bible alive in fresh ways.
Debra Hirsch, Redeeming Sex: Naked Conversations About Sexuality and Spirituality (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2015)
One of the most helpful books I have read on sexuality and spirituality. Drawing from her own personal testimony, as well as years ministering to the LGBT community, Debra’s book explores how we can be authentic to the gospel but also rethink the ways that we engage those who think differently to us. Honest, powerful, challenging and very moving.
Peter Kreeft, Letters to an Atheist: Wrestling with Faith (Lanham, MA: Rowman & Littlefield, 2014)
A kind of apologetic Screwtape Letters, the book consists of a series of letters between Kreeft and an atheist friend, framing a response to common objections to the gospel in the context of a friendship and a conversation. It’s a refreshing approach and a reminder that arguments alone don’t win people.
John Stott, The Cross of Christ (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006 )
I try and re-read this every couple of years, as it is still the single best book I know on the atonement. Stott was one of the greatest evangelical minds of the twentieth century and in this book carefully sets out why the cross was necessary and what it achieved. Every time I read it I finish the book with a fresh appreciation of God’s grace and justice.
Gordon Nickel, The Gentle Answer to the Muslim Accusation of Biblical Falsification (Calgary: Bruton Gate, 2014)
Over the 20 years I have been dialoguing with Muslims, the accusation that “the Bible has been corrupted” is the most common I hear. Gordon does a great job showing how that polemic developed later in Islam—it’s not there in the Qur’an, Hadith, or early Tafsir literature. He also offers a great summary of the latest critical scholarship on the Qur’an.
Luc Ferry, A Brief History of Thought: A Philosophical Guide to Living, Translated by Theo Cuffe (New York: Harper Perennial, 2011 )
A fascinating survey of the development of philosophy, by French atheist Luc Ferry. What I appreciate about the book is it’s honest—he’s quick to give Christianity credit for a whole number of things (e.g. human rights theory) and willing to ask tough questions about atheism.
Nicholas Carr, The Glass Cage: Automation and Us (New York: W.W. Norton and Co., 2014)
I’ve been reading widely of late on digital culture: what our Internet addicted, 24/7 connected culture is doing to us as individuals and a society. Carr is one of the best commentators on the issue and his latest book is a look at automation—and whether our temptation to outsource everything to machines is beginning to have an impact on the question “What does it mean to be human?”
Andy Bannister, The Atheist Who Didn’t Exist (Or: The Terrible Consequences of Bad Arguments) (Oxford: Monarch, 2015)
No author is above a shameless plug 🙂 Seriously, though, I do think the book is unique in its blending of humour and philosophy—“Jon Stewart meets CS Lewis” as one reviewer called it. Written to be highly engaging for those who are complete skeptics, it’s a laugh-a-minute engagement with contemporary atheism.