Another year of reading down, which means that it is time for my (and every other blogger out there’s) short list of top books read during this last year. Perhaps some people view these types of lists as a mere vanity show. A ‘Look at me! Look at me!’ mini competition within the blogosphere. And certainly, I’m sure there is a measure of pride in these types of post.
However, I do not believe that is the only, or even the primary reason why writers and readers like myself create these end of the year lists. As C.S. Lewis famously discussed, humans cannot help but share that which they love. We are hardwired to seek to spread the goodness and beauty and truth that we discover. It’s why we talk about our favorite sports teams and our favorite people. It’s why we talk about our latest hobbies and work out routines. It’s also why we talk to others about the gospel and about Christ. And it is, hopefully, why I’ve made the following list. Once again, the main focus of my energies were spent within the world of apologetics and this year’s list certainly reflects that.
5. The Secular Creed: Engaging Five Contemporary Claims – Rebecca McLaughlin
McLaughlin is one of the two authors who I seek to read every book they publish. Her book Confronting Christianity remains my number one default recommendation for anyone seeking to understand how someone could possibly be a Christian in the face of so many modern objections. In The Secular Creed she offers similar, yet fresh, insight into the world of Christianity and its conflict with contemporary ideas. As is so often the case with her writing, she refreshingly uses “a marker rather than a hammer” when seeking to engage objections levied against Christianity. She finds common ground whenever possible, admits failures within Christendom, and faithfully and thoughtfully provides a wonderful defense of not only why Christianity is true, but also why it is good.
4. Evil and the Cross: An Analytical Look at the Problem of Pain – Henri Blocher
The problem of evil, also know as the problem of pain, is the number one reason given by atheists seeking to justify their unbelief. It’s a problem that no person, whether believer or unbeliever can escape. If it does not find you in the intellectual realm, it will find you in the experiential. Blocher is an expert guide at thinking through the intellectual side of the matter while never neglecting the more practical elements experienced by those suffering. Interestingly, Blocher does not offer a solid answer to the intellectual problem of evil, despite the books analytical nature. He defends its existence, but acknowledges the incomprehensibility of its true and complete origins. Blocher is to be praised in his charitable attitude towards those whom he disagrees with, his hesitation to take more ground than is given by an argument, and his scrutiny to avoid blaming God for evil. Ultimately, he offers us the only true antidote to the experience of evil, the Cross.
3. Why God Makes Sense in a World That Doesn’t: The Beauty of Christian Theism – Gavin Ortlund
Ortlund is the second author who I default to preordering. In this latest book he captures so much of what I have sought to do in my work of fiction that I’ve occasionally mentioned. He follows much of Blaise Pascal’s approach in seeking to make Christianity desirable, not just reasonable. In particular, he brings out the stark contrasts of a world in which Christian theism is true compared to a world in which philosophical materialism is true. The contrast could not be more grand. The two stories, from beginning to end, stand at great odds. Ortlund, as usual, does an excellent job of balancing an academic argument with a very reasonable amount of approachability. In the end, the reader will see just how good the Christian story is when juxtaposed against the most powerful worldview within the prevailing academy.
2. Making Sense of God: An Invitation to the Skeptical – Tim Keller
Keller has been one of the most formative writers for my Christian thinking. This book is just another example of his talent for relating high level intellectual topics to the basics of life. Making Sense of God, although written after The Reason for God, functions as almost a prequel to it. If Reason for God answered specific objections made about Christianity, Making Sense of God attempts to answer the question of, ‘Why care at all in the first place?’ And, of course, Keller does this with a winsome brilliance that few others can match.
1. God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics – C.S. Lewis
A collection of essays by C.S. Lewis is almost impossible to beat. And, as both Keller and Ortlund were shaped deeply by Lewis, did they really have any chance here? I had previously read many various parts of this collection, but going through them as a whole was well worth my time. The essays overflow with Lewis’ standard high level arguments and ordinary practical advice. With every passing year, Lewis only grows in his relevance to our own societal moment.