Nancy Pearcey
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  • The 20 Most Helpful Books I’ve Ever Read

    Top 20 Most Helpful Books

     

    It has been said that you will be in a year who you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read. If this be true, then what we read is of first importance.

    The following list contains the ten most helpful books I’ve ever read. They may not be the best, the most technical, or the most scholarly, but each of these books I found to be the most HELPFUL at where I was at that particular point in time. This list is in no way comprehensive and contains only non-canonical books.

    Desiring God by John PiperChristian Hedonism – If the term Christian hedonism doesn’t mean anything to you, then you need to read this book. Aside from the Scripture, no single book has had a more profound impact on my life. Desiring God was my front door to the reformed tradition. Desiring God was my back door to the Dispensational-Fundamentalist morass of my childhood. The idea that my pursuit of pleasure and my faith were not at odds radically and fundamentally changed how I saw every aspect of the world, from the loftiest matters to the most mundane minutiae.

    Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey – Worldview – Hands down the most clear summary of both the Christian worldview and the history of philosophy. Nancy’s writing is a brilliant, clear, and winsome.

    Redemption Accomplished and Applied by John Murray – The Atonement – Murray gives a crystal clear, text-driven, thorough, and eminently faithful play-by-play of what Jesus actually accomplished in the cross and resurrection and the precise mechanics of how that work actually gets applied to His church.

    No Place for Truth by David Wells – Evangelicalism – Wells gives a clear and excellent history of evangelicals and examines some of our weaknesses as a group.

    Clash of Civilizations by Samuel Huntington – Foreign Policy – Huntington’s thesis is that the world is broken down into 9 different civilizations that each have a different main worldview/religion and that wars are most likely to occur where several civilizations come in close contact with each other – due to the friction created by mutually exclusive ideas. Huntington’s work has proved to be a solid predictor over the last 20 years.

    The Road to Serfdom by F. A. HayekEconomics and Capitalism – If you are tired of the same old Keynesian, too big to fail, and central-planning type ideas, then Hayek’s book should come as a welcome counterpoint. Hayek presents a winsome defense of supply-side economics and capitalism.

    Let the Nations Be Glad by John PiperMissions – Piper single-handedly and radically changed how I viewed other cultures, God’s heart for the nations, and our strategic obligation as the church. A notable honorable mention would be Operation World by Jason Mandryk which provides the most helpful prayer guide for the various peoples of the world.

    Church History in Plain Language by Bruce ShelleyChurch History – Now in it’s fourth edition, Shelley has written a classic, readable, and simple, yet thorough, book on church history for everyone.

    Holiness by J. C. RyleDevotional – I’ve never read a devotional book that was so challenging to the idols of my heart. An honorable mention would be The Pursuit of God by A. W. Tozer which had a similar impact as Holiness at a very critical time in my life.

    Tactics by Greg KouklEvangelism – Koukl presents a very practical and helpful approach to having conversations about Jesus with the people already in your life.

    When Helping Hurts by Corbett and FikkertPoverty – Corbett and Fikkert present a more Biblical and holistic approach to poverty that avoids the over-simplistic models presented by the current political polarities. Poverty is much more than a lack of resources, a lack of education, or lack of anything – poverty is about relationships that are broken and don’t work.

    The Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert ColemanDiscipleship – Coleman simply examines Jesus’ method for discipling his followers. The book is very helpful in giving categories with which to think about the disciple-making process. Justin Taylor has a solid review of the book here.

    Doctrine of the Knowledge of God by John FrameTheory of Knowledge – Before you build a worldview it would be wise to understand how to lay a foundation, frame out the house, and lay the trusses. How you arrive at “knowledge” will largely determine what “knowledge” you affirm. Frame provides very helpful categories with which we might arrive at more responsible, true, and balanced beliefs.

    Baptism and Fullness – John StottHoly Spirit – Stott examines what the Scripture has to say about the Holy Spirit and in the process helps untangle a lot of untrue and dangerous views on the Holy Spirit.

    Social and Cultural Dynamics – Pitirim SorokinSociology – I am constantly amazed at how few people, scholars included, have read this book or even know who of Pitirim Sorokin. He was a Russian thinker who founded Harvard’s sociology department. No one has more thoroughly studied the historical sociology of Western civilization. In it he outlines the pendulum swings of Western civilization back and forth from periods of idea-driven culture to sensate-driven culture.

    Adopted for Life by Russell MooreAdoption – Moore’s book kind of defies categories in many ways. It was as helpful devotionally as it was helpful in either developing a theology of spiritual adoption or legal adoption. The book expanded how I saw myself in relationship to God as Father and the priority of adoption for local churches.

    Culture Making – Andy CrouchChurch and Culture – There are quite a few good books on the subject of Christ and culture and none of them are without their weaknesses. Crouch presents a fairly even-handed model for the church’s engagement with the world. Some other helpful works are Abraham Kuyper’s, Lectures on Calvinism and James Davison Hunter’s, To Change the World.

    The Freedom of the Will – Jonathan EdwardsGod’s Sovereignty and Human Responsibility – This is the most difficult book to read on this list but it is the most helpful if you can slog it through. Most other books on this subject (J. I. Packer’s included) falls deeply into over-simplified understandings of the mechanics of how God orchestrates all things yet in a manner than that doesn’t assail the will or take us off the hook for our actions.

    Pensees by Blaise PascalApologetics – This is another book that defies categories as it is equal parts apologetics, cultural analysis, philosophy, and devotional. The nice thing about the Pensees (French for “thoughts”) is that it isn’t a book you read from cover to cover. It is more a book that you read one paragraph at a time and then chew on that for awhile. I recommend reading it over a couple years versus a couple weeks.

    The M’Cheyne Bible Reading PlanOne Year Bible Reading Plan – For the majority of my Christian life I have used the M’Cheyne reading plan to read the OT once and the NT twice in the year. If you’ve never read the whole Bible before or never read it through in one year, I highly recommend this method.

    There are quite a few categories that didn’t get covered here that are worth noting so I am listing for your benefit a few “Top 10” lists that I’ve written in the past:

    Top 10 Books by John Piper

    Top 10 Books on Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility

    Top 10 Books on Missions, Evangelism, and Discipleship

    Top 10 Books on Church History

    Top 10 Books on Eschatology

    Top 10 Books on Culture

    Top 10 Books on Christian Biography

    Top 10 Books on Science and Christianity

    Top 10 Books on The Church

    Top 10 Books on Apologetics

    Top 10 Books on Systematic Theology

    Top 10 Books on Christian Devotion

    Top 5 Books on Christian Worldview

    Top 15 Books on the Status of American Evangelicalism

    Top 40 Books to Read While in College

     

     

     

  • An Attempt at How Cultural Orthodoxies (Dogmas) Form

    Cogs and Gears

    I’ve been pretty surprised at the rate at which new cultural orthodoxies have been formed over the course of my lifetime but particularly the last decade.  This post serves as an attempt at dissecting how cultural orthodoxies form and serves to appreciate the complexity of their genesis.  There is too much reductionistic thought out there about how cultural shifts occur and most of it centers on just one or two cultural factors and fails to take into account the massive web of multiple reciprocities that is this thing we call culture. Most of the current cultural commentary picks two or three sources as the root causes.  Typically the cited sources are institutional – the (liberal) media, corporations, the current political milieu, or highly organized elite power brokers.  I think these things have certainly played a role, even key roles, into the cultural shifts that we have seen.  That said, I think these views are pretty reductionistic and fail to understand the complexities the constitute culture.  As Justin Holcomb has said, “The most powerful aspect of culture is that which we do not think or reason about.” My main point in this piece is that the forces, elements, and ingredients that cause cultural change are very complicated and cannot be boiled down to just a few people, tribes, or institutions.

     First, we need to understand what elements of culture are at work, both conscious and unconscious:

     There is a constellation of at least 8 things that add to the formulation of cultural dogma – NOTE:  5 of these 8 are directly taken from a presentation delivered by Justin Holcomb and represent heavily thoughts from UVA’s department of Sociology (particularly that of James Davison Hunter) and also that of Christian Smith (Notre Dame)).

    1.  Artifacts:  iPhones, iPads, or other iDevices that unconsciously reorder how we interact with stimuli or information.  Artifacts can also be cultural icons such as the Cowboy, Bald Eagle, or Coca-Cola.  Artifacts unconsciously impact how we think and interact about our world.

    2.  Language:  Language is the carrier of culture… this is why terminology, accents, vocabularies, technical terms, pronunciations, and word meanings can very heavily geographically even within the same linguistic system.  The use of the various aspects of language heavily determines tribal identity.

    3.  Beliefs, Symbols, or Ideas:  these comprise some of the commonly held notions, brand identities, or thoughts of a people group or tribal faction.

    4.  Social Forces (aka Deep Structures) – Note the first 6 are from Justin Holcomb:

    • Individualism
    • The Therapeutic – the making of everything as not anyone’s own ultimate responsibility and the centrality of personal happiness of the goal of the individual
    • Consumerism – the commodification of things that should not be commodified
    • Pluralism – the acceptance of mutually exclusive systems of thought as being equally valued and/or true
    • Secularism – the intentional lessening of religious authority in a culture
    • Technology
    • Democritization of knowledge – consensus is king and if the consensus doesn’t agree with you, bludgeon them until they do
    • Post-Modern-Pragmatism – this is my own personal soap box on the mis-labeling of all things post-modern and what we really mean when we say the term “post-modernism”
    • Globalism/Mobility – this also relates closely to the rapid rise of urbanization, the velocity of ideas, the fluidity with which people change geographic location, and the role of the worldwide marketplace and supply chain

    5.  Institutions:  politics, education, economic, spiritual, media… etc.

    6.  Practices or Rituals:  these are the conscious (places of worship) or unconscious (shopping, sports, entertainment) liturgies of a culture – more on that here, and here.

    7.  Elites:  these can be media, political, athletic, celebrity, or other cultural curators and definers.  One could categorize these as being the heads of various institutions (#5 above), but elites are more individuals than groups and seem to transcend even the institutions that gave them their platforms.

    8.  The Marketplace:  dollars (or perceived dollars) can be the most significant voters of cultural change and this can happen on both the macro (Mozilla) and micro levels (Worldvision).

     Second, we need to understand what some of our cultural orthodoxies (dogmas) happen to be:

    (Note – I have in view here principally the West and specifically the American cultural context)

    -“The highest moral good lay[s] in personal self-fulfillment” – see George Marsden’s book, The Twilight of the American Enlightenment:  the 1950s and the Crisis of Liberal BeliefWSJ review here

    -Public conversation (or dialogue or discourse) is only to be about facts and not beliefs – in other words it is taboo to talk about God

    -Marriage is fundamentally about (romantic) love

    -Homosexual behavior is to be accepted at least as non-abnormal and in some instances as normative

    -What doesn’t hurt other people is morally permissible

    Authenticity to self and personal happiness are very important virtues and perhaps the highest of all the virtues

    -Personal happiness is ultimate

    -Sex is principally intended for pleasure

    -Be good (in your own eyes) in order to be self-actualized (happy)

    -The subjective individual self, in combination with the herd (read: democritization of knowledge), is the greatest interpreter, curator, and judge of what is true, good, and beautiful (over against history, data, or external authority)

    Third, we need to understand the interplay of the cultural elements with the culture, our tribal faction, and ourselves

    Velocity of ideas:  

    Before movable typeset, ideas and culture were principally only shared along trade routes.   Those trade routes which were often roads or nautical routes were the only means by which one culture (or tribe) might cross-polinate another group.  This made the velocity of ideas was much slower than in post-industrial and pre-internet age.  Another complexity to the transmission of ideas dealt with low levels of literacy and significant linguistic barriers that existed for millennia.  Oral traditions can travel remarkably quick yet must gain certain thresholds of cultural penetration in order to take route and multiple through generations.  The paradigm shifts in the transmission of ideas were principally the Gutenberg printing press, transportation advances (cars, planes… etc.), and communication revolutions (radio, television, satellite, internet, web 2.0).  These paradigm shifts in transmission of ideas has radically increased the velocity of ideas.  In the modern era, ideas can travel at nearly limitless speed, spread through thousands of seemingly disparate and unconnected networks or tribes, and reach saturation levels significant enough to change public opinion, shape political policy, or even to overthrow governments (ie. Twitter and the Arab Spring).

    Cultural Interaction is Determinative of Belief:

    Humans naturally gravitate toward like kind and like minded.  That said, there is significant interplay between what we believe and how you come up with what you believe.  Orthodoxy (right beliefs) affects orthopathos, (right emotions) affects orthopraxis (right practice), affect orthodoxy, affects orthopraxis, affects orthodoxy… ad infinitum.  So how we interact with culture – whether we engage it, critique it, or embrace it will impact consciously or unconsciously what we believe.  You can evidence this very clearly with radically undercontextualized and/or cultish groups like the FLDS or the Westboro Baptist folks.

    Unconscious Cultural Elements:

    The seven cultural elements listed above are constantly influencing our lives in good ways, bad ways, and every shade of grey in-between.  Most of this influence is unconscious, subconscious, selectively ignored, or down played as not playing a role in what we believe.  I have had several hundred conversations with people about what they believe.  In an overwhelming number of such instances, people believe the set of ideas that justify their wants, desires, and passions.  In these instances the horse was the wants, desires, and passions of the heart that drove the cart of the justifications, rationalizations, and knowledge of the head.  In other words, people seek evidence, truth, arguments, facts, and knowledge about their beliefs after those beliefs are formed by their belief system (secular, religious, philosophical, or other).  There are notable exceptions, but this seems to be more normative than not.  Most folks could not even name a single thinker, writer, philosopher, sacred text, or cultural element that was the genesis of their most central tenets, dogmas, orthodoxies, or beliefs.

    Conscious Elements:  

    That said, some of these cultural elements above are very conscious.  These elements are the ones that tend to get the most ink spilled about them.  It is usually institutions and elites that get the most attention and the usual scapegoats for when their is some rising cultural dogma that is contrary to our own tribal orthodoxy.  I do not wish to downplay the role of celebrity, elites, the marketplace, and institutions of all kinds in the formulation of new cultural dogmas.  The role of these conscious elements has been well noted in the sexual revolution, the rise of feminism, the rise of fundamentalism and evangelicalism, and have shaped the battle lines on other issues like abortion, gender, and sexuality.

    Concluding thoughts:  If you have bought into the idea that the contours of the cultural landscape are complex and inter-related, then I hope that you might be willing to think and interact on those contours with more deftness and in a manner than is more winsome.  I would hope that you would be able to identify more readily some of unconscious elements that comprise the invisible hand of culture.  Be patient with people who do not understand or do not care that they hold numerous mutually exclusive ideas in their worldview.  Have compassion on the culture for it is harassed and helpless:

    When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  Matthew 9:36

     

    For further reading:

    Culture Wars, James Davison Hunter

    Intellectuals, Paul Johnson

    Total Truth, Nancy Pearcey

    Pensees, Blaise Pascal

    The Twilight of the American Enlightenment:  the 1950s and the Crisis of Liberal Belief, George Marsden

    Social and Cultural Dynamics, Pitirim Sorokin

    To Change the World, James Davison Hunter

    Desiring the Kingdom, James K. A. Smith

    One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, Alexander Solzhenitsyn

    Doctrine of the Knowledge of God, John Frame

  • Best Links of the Week

    Advice for Theological Students” and “More Advice for Theological Students and Pastors” are both absolutely fantastic gems gleaned from Kevin DeYoung.

    Developers Trying To Treat Houses Like Copyright; Want A Cut Of Every Future Resale” and even worse than this, the financial firm pushing this garbage is in the process of securitizing these hidden ‘resale contract covenants.’  No offense, but it is greedy morons like these guys who got us into the whole sub-prime mess.  I am all for free-market economics, but I really hope the free-market (particularly the hedge funds) decides to vote ‘no’ with their feet.

    A List of Important Sermons and Articles Worth Reading” (HT:  JT) – this is an excellent excellent list.  There are a good number of these that I have not read.  I am particularly excited about those that I have not read that have multiple commendations.

    Nancy Pearcey dissects the affect of secularism on America and its’ disability to provide a cogent response to radical Islam.

    Here is also a really good interview with Nancy Pearcey on her new book “Saving Leonardo.”  Coincidentally she also weighs in on James Daveson Hunter’s new book (see next link)

    James K. A. Smith’s review of James Daveson Hunter’s “To Change the World

    Excellent article in The Atlantic from Jeffrey Goldberg analyzing the likelihood and aftermath of an Israeli preemptive strike against the Iranian nuclear program.

    Typewriter robot art… very Philip K. Dick-esque

    Self-assembling biological photovolatics

    Canadian PhD student creates human powered aircraft with large flapping wings.  One of the craziest things I’ve ever seen.

    Pacman with 111 human pixels:

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M3D0JvYJkGc&feature=player_embedded]

  • Top 40 Books to Read While in College

    Don't Waste Your Life by John Piper

    You will never have more discretionary time than while in college.  This is a critical time for you to develop your character and mind.  This is a list of what I think are the most important books to work through during your time as an undergrad.  These books focus on developing your heart to affection (orthopathos), renewing your mind to truth (orthodoxy), and provoking your hands to kingdom work (orthopraxis).  Take 10 books a year and devote 30 minutes a day – you’ll finish the list, perhaps even early.

    Note:  I have listed them in order of how I think they should be read and not necessarily in order of how good they are.  For sake of space, I am not going to do a writeup on each of these.  If you have a question(s) about a book(s), just post in the comments.

    1.  Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper
    2.  Nine Marks of a Healthy Church by Mark Dever
    3.  The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer
    4.  Designed for Dignity by Richard Pratt
    5.  The Fuel and the Flame by Steve Shadrach
    6.  Tell the Truth by Will Metzger
    7.  The Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert Coleman
    8.  Holiness by J.C. Ryle
    9.  The New Testament Documents:  Are They Reliable by F.F. Bruce
    10.  Universe Next Door by James Sire
    11.  Knowing God by J.I. Packer
    12.  Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey
    13.  Redemption Accomplished and Applied by John Murray
    14.  Pensees by Blaise Pascal
    15.  No Place for Truth by David Wells
    16.  The Cross of Christ by John Stott
    17.  Culture Wars by James Hunter
    18.  Let The Nations Be Glad by John Piper
    19.  Salvation Belongs to the Lord by John Frame
    20.  Desiring God (or something else more substantial) by John Piper
    21.  The John Frame Trilogy:  Doctrine of the Knowledge of God, Doctrine of God, Doctrine of the Christian Life by John Frame
    22.  The Clash of Civilizations by Samuel Huntington
    23.  Christ of the Covenants by O. Palmer Robertson
    24.  Darwin’s Black Box by Michael Behe
    25.  Religious Affections by Jonathan Edwards
    26.  Love the Lord Your God With All Your Mind by J.P. Moreland
    27.  Darwin on Trial by Phillip Johnson
    28.  Rise of Christianity by Rodney Stark
    29.  Church History in Plain Language by Bruce Shelley
    30.  Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem
    31.  How to Read the Bible for All its Worth by Fee and Stuart
    32.  He Gave us Stories by Richard Pratt [there is a nice summary here]
    33.  Institutes of Christian Religion by John Calvin
    34.  Confessions by St. Augustine
    35.  Warranted Christian Belief by Alvin Plantinga
    36.  Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche (I included this book because it is important for us to study antithetical works, I will make a list of books like this one later)
    37.  What is a Healthy Church Member by Thabiti Anyabwile
    38.  Habits of the Mind by James Sire
    39.  Why We’re Not Emergent:  From Two Guys That Should Be by Ted Kluck and Kevin Deyoung
    40.  Baptism and Fullness by John Stott

    What books would you add?

  • Top 15 Books on Status of American Evangelicalism

    No Place for Truth by David Wells

    These books represent the best analysis on the present status and recent history of evangelicalism.  This list is meant to be informative and not to be alarmist or disconcerting.  I think the classic Dicken’s line, ‘it was the best of times, it was the worst of times‘ will apply the Christ’s church til He return.  It is implicit also in this list that works commending a Christian worldview, like Nancy Pearcey’s Total Truth, are must reads.  I have also omitted more esoteric debates including books on open theism, federal vision, new perspectives on paul… etc.  The purpose of this list is zoomed out than those specific issues.

    1.  No Place for Truth by David Wells  [e, p, s]

    How modernity crept in and screwed up evangelicalism.  Absolute classic.

    2.  The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind by Mark Noll  [y, l, e, p, s]

    The scandal of the evangelical mind is that it is so scarce and scant.  You may also want to read Os Guinness’ Fit Bodies Fat Minds, addressing evangelicalism’s intellectual laziness and preoccupation with the temporary.

    3.  The Democritization of American Christianity by Nathan Hatch  [e, p, s]

    Fascinating analysis of the democritization of Christianity in America.  His historical analysis is keen and well-researched.

    4.  Christianity and Liberalism by J. Greshem Machen  [e, p, s]

    This classic work delineates the liberalism of the early 20th century as being a completely other faith than the historic orthodox Christian faith.  86 years later it is still relevant.

    5.  God in the Wasteland by David Wells  [e, p, s]

    Wells continues where he left off in No Place for Truth, by challenging evidenced consumerism in evangelicalism.

    6.  The Courage to Be Protestant by David Wells  [e, p, s]

    The title is a play on Paul Tillich’s The Courage to Be.  Tillich’s work was a classic in early 20th century Protestant liberalism.  Wells draws connections between the emergent movement as really being a form of rehashed 20th century era liberalism.  Wells is also scathing on the level and abuse of marketing in modern evangelicalism.  As far as Wells goes, his Above All Earthly Pow’rs s also a worthwhile read:  in terms of analysis Pow’rs is to post-modernity what No Place for Truth was to modernity.

    7.  The New Shape of World Christianity:  How American Experience Reflects Global Faith by Mark Noll  [e, p, s]

    I am surprised by the lack of press for this book.  Noll examines the history of Christianity in America and draws parallels in key growth areas (Southern hemisphere and the East).  Noll is actually rather positive amid the torrent of bad press on what American Christians are exporting.  This is an important work because we are good to be reminded that American evangelicalism is not the height of church history.  Further, the church is Christ’s and she will prevail.  I think Noll has his fingers on the pulse of what is going on and what is next, we would be wise to listen to what he has to say.

    8.  Understanding Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism by George Marsden  [e, p, s]

    This is a must read if you seek to understand our history.  Also an important work is Revival and Revivalism by Iain Murray.

    9.  Reclaiming the Center:  Confronting Evangelical Accomodation to Postmodern Times by Various Authors  [y, l, e, p, s]

    Various heavyweights chime in on the necessity of remaining faithful to the preaching of the Word and to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  If you like this work, I suggest also Os Guinness’, Prophetic Untimeliness:  Challenging the Idol of Relevance.

    10.  Christless Christianity by Michael Horton  [y, l, e, p, s]

    This books has caused a bit of a stir.  You can read John Frame’s book review here.  I have yet to read the book, but I thought it a worthwhile mention to engage in present dialogue over the status of the Gospel in evangelicalism.  From what I gather, Horton has guys like Joel Osteen in view when he speaks of a Christianity without Christ.

    11.  Young, Restless, and Reformed by Colin Hansen  [y, l, e, p, s]

    This book is an important first look at the growing demographic of young Reformed folk.  This is an area that needs further analysis and hopefully a good work will come soon.

    12.  Respectable Sins:  Confronting the Sins We Tolerate by Jerry Bridges  [y, l, e, p, s]

    Bridges is 100% right when he highlights several sins that evangelicals strangely tolerate:  gossip, anger, pride, jealousy, anxiety, and selfishness to name a few.

    13.  Why Johnny Can’t Preach:  The Media Have Shaped the Messengers by T. David Gordon  [e, p, s]

    Gordon applies Marshall McLuhan’s keen insights to shed light on the dearth of serious bible teaching in evangelicalism.

    14.  Confessions of a Reformission Rev by Mark Driscoll  [y, l, e, p, s]

    I think Mark Driscoll is a very important voice in evangelicalism, moreso than many of my fellow Reformed brethren.  This book is a humorous yet insightful look into the story of the planting of Mars Hill Church in Seattle.  There are many lessons weaved into the narrative that are wise and memorable.

    15.  Why We’re Not Emergent:  From Two Guys That Should Be and Why We Love the Church:  In Praise of Institutions and Organized Religion by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck  [y, l, e, p, s]

    The first book is a solid book on the emergent church.  I also wanted to end this list with on a positive note with Why We Love the Church.  Many times we can get so bogged down in self-criticism that we forget to praise God for all the truly good things he is doing in and through the church in America.

    What we need is always adherence to the same three things:  orthodoxy, orthopathos, and orthopraxis.

    (c=children; y=young adult; l=lay leader; e=elder; p=pastor; s=scholar)

  • Top 5 Books on Worldview

    Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey

    1.  Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey  [y, l, e, p, s]

    Again, excellent book on worldview that I have commended here numerous times.  Get it and read it.

    2.  Francis Schaeffer Trilogy by Francis Schaeffer  [y, l, e, p, s]

    In The God Who Is There, Escape from Reason, and He Is There and He Is Not Silent, Schaeffer dissects modernity and modern culture, exposing its corrupt roots and highlighting its end consequences.

    3.  Universe Next Door by James Sire  [y, l, e, p, s]

    Great worldview introduction.  Sire’s Naming the Elephant and Habits of the Mind are also really good.

    4.  Intellectuals by Paul Johnson  [l, e, p, s]

    See previous write-up here.

    5.  Gnostic Empire Strikes Back by Peter Jones  [y, l, e, p, s]

    Jones does a good job helping us understand some recent worldviews are really just rehashed Gnosticism.

    Honorable Mention:  No Place for Truth by David Wells  [l, e, p, s]
    Wells dissects evangelicalism’s roots in modernity in this devastating critique.

    (c=children; y=young adult; l=lay leader; e=elder; p=pastor; s=scholar)

  • Top 10 Books on Culture

    The Clash of Civilizations by Samuel Huntington

    These are books that are helpful for the Christian in better understanding their world past and present.  Some of the books are not written from an explicitly Christian perspective, but are nonetheless quite valuable.

    1.  The Clash of Civilizations by Samuel Huntingtonn  [y, l, e, p, s]

    Huntington’s thesis is that the world is broken down into 9 different civilizations that each have a different main worldview/religion and that wars are most likely to occur where several civilizations come in close contact with each other – due to the friction created by mutually exclusive ideas.  Huntington’s work has proved to be a solid predictor over the last 20 years.

    2.  Culture Wars by James Hunter  [y, l, e, p, s]

    Hunter provides acute analysis on the American cultural landscape, describing battlelines drawn over American culture of the orthodox vs. progressive.  A must read for getting a better look at hot-button issues in contemporary America.

    3.  Social and Cultural Dynamics by Pitrim Sorokin  [e, p, s]

    Sorokin has a mountain of historical and cultural analysis on the history of western civilization.  He describes this history as oscillating between ideational culture and sensate culture.  Ideational culture is where the Western civilization was driven by the world of ideas (typically Christian ones).  Sensate Culture is where Western civilization has abandoned ideas and been preoccupied with pleasuring ourselves (#10 on this list does a great job in explaining the latter in our present context).

    4.  Intellectuals by Paul Johnson  [e, p, s]

    Johnson takes a look side-by-side at the thoughts and lives of several key intellectuals over the past two centuries (specifically:  Rousseau, Shelley, Marx, Ibsen, Tolstoy, Hemingway, Bertrand Russell, Brecht, Sartre, Edmund Wilson, Victor Gollancz, Lillian Hellman, Cyril Connolly, Norman Mailer, James Baldwin, Kenneth Tynan, and Noam Chomsky).  He lets the reader come to their own conclusions… but the conclusions are obvious:  these intellectuals lived lives either horribly inconsistent with their ideas OR their horrible lives drove their suspect ideas.  Paul Johnson also happens to be a very well respected historian whose other works are standard texts at Universities everywhere.

    5.  Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism by Max Weber  [y, l, e, p, s]

    Weber’s thesis for the first half of the book is pretty shocking – the Puritans started capitalism and that no one but the Puritans could have started capitalism.  Never before had capitalism been created because no one had a Calvinistic view of the world before where work was sacred and one did not spend one’s wealth because their focus was on the world-to-come.  Capitalism required an immense amount of initial capital to begin the new paradigm and the Puritans were the first people to be able to inadvertently create the system.  Weber spends the second half of the book explaining how capitalism destroyed the Puritans four generations later as the wealth accumulated became an iron cage.

    6.  Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn  [y, l, e, p, s]

    Kuhn levels the idea that the history of science follows the Darwinian model of slow-and-steady progress.  He coins the term “paradigm shift” to explain how the history of science is a history of completely new-and-superior paradigms leveling older paradigms (ie.  Quantum Mechanics and Newtonian Mechanics).  The thesis of the book has implications though for other fields as well.

    7.  Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey  [y, l, e, p, s]

    Excellent book on worldview that I have commended here numerous times.  Get it and read it.

    8.  Christ and Culture by H. Richard Niebuhr  [e, p, s]

    See write-up on this one here.

    9.  Rise of Christianity by Rodney Stark  [y, l, e, p, s]

    Fascinating look on how Christianity spread from a marginalized Judean sect to the state religion of the Roman empire in under three centuries.  Stark is a well-respected historian and this book is a standard text at most Universities.  I think the implications of how Christianity was so successful in the pluralistic Mediterranean area has important lessons to teach Christendom today.

    10.  Sensate Culture by Harold O.J. Brown  [y, l, e, p, s]

    Brown picks up where Sorokin (#3) left off.  He takes a good hard look at Sorokin’s categories in light of modern American culture.

    (c=children; y=young adult; l=lay leader; e=elder; p=pastor; s=scholar)

  • Top 10 Books on Science and Christianity

    Darwin's Black Box: A Must Read

    Let me first say that science would not exist unless it where for Christianity.  In the history of Western Civilization, one has to ask themselves, ‘the Greeks were really really smart, why didn’t they invent the scientific method?’  The answer is simple, following Platonic and Neo-Platonic thinking, they did not think this world was real or intelligible.  It was not until Christianity presented a world created, ordered, and directed by a sovereign and benevolent triune God that the scientific method sprouted.  The consensus view in the history/philosophy of science is that science required the fertile soul of Christianity in order to grow.  Christianity took this world seriously.

    1.  Darwin’s Black Box by Michael Behe  [l, e, p, s]

    In my view, this book destroys the Neo-Darwinian (scientific rationalism) story of how life exists.  This book is a must read.  See also this previous blog post.

    2.  Pensees by Blaise Pascal  [y, l, e, p, s]

    Although not explicitly about science and Christianity, Pascal presents an epistemology that includes science, reason, and faith.

    3.  Personal Knowledge by Michael Polanyi  [e, p, s]

    Polanyi rightly challenges the objectivity and impersonality of the scientist.  Polanyi is very important in philosophy of science and is a worthwhile read.

    4.  When Science Meets Religion by Ian Barbour  [l, e, p, s]

    Barbour presents four possible relationships that science and religion might have.  Balanced read.

    5.  The Soul of Science:  Christian Faith and Natural Philosophy by Nancy Pearcey and Charles Thaxton  [l, e, p, s]

    Great critique of naturalism.  Pearcey is solid as usual.

    6.  Darwin on Trial by Phillip Johnson  [y, l, e, p, s]

    Is there enough hard evidence to prove Darwinism correct, were it to be put on a public trial?  Creative and damning question.

    7.  The Edge of Evolution:  The Search for the Limits of Darwinism by Michael Behe  [l, e, p, s]

    More Behe.  Good stuff.

    8.  Evolution:  A Theory in Crisis by Michael Denton  [l, e, p, s]

    Most think that this is the book that started the Intelligent Design movement.

    9.  The Reason for God by Tim Keller  [c,y l, e, p, s]

    Although not explicitly on the subject of science, like Pascal, Keller presents a third way between pure science/reason and pure faith.

    10a.   The Language of God by Francis Collins  [l, e, p, s]

    A look at DNA, from the director of the human genome project, and an evangelical Christian.

    10b.  Inventing the Flat Earth:  Columbus and Modern Historian by Jeffrey Russell  [l, e, p, s]

    Russell confronts the myth that people (esp. Christians) believed in a flat earth.  Pretty damning to an annoying and ignorant argument:

    On page 1 of Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologiae (that is, in the first article of the first question of the first part), he casually mentions the round earth on the way to proving something doctrinal: “the astronomer and the physicist both may prove the same conclusion: that the earth, for instance, is round: the astronomer by means of mathematics (i.e., abstracting from matter), but the physicist by means of matter itself.”  (via Between Two Worlds)

    Honorable Mention:  Icons of Evolution by Jonathan Wells  [c, y, l, e, p, s]

    I cannot stand behind anything else he has written, but Icons shreds the silly pictures commonly put in the textbooks you had growing up, demonstrating how they do not show Darwinian macroevolution.

    (c=children; y=young adult; l=lay leader; e=elder; p=pastor; s=scholar)

    ensees by Blaise Pascal

    November 26, 2009 • Apologetics, Epistemology, Nancy Pearcey, orthodoxy, Pascal, Philosophy, Recommended Books • Views: 1278

  • Thoughts on Evangelicalism Moving Forward, Part 3: Worldview

    Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey

    Three nasty by-products of a half-century of evangelical cultural disengagement and anti-intellectualism were that secularism, pluralism, and post-modern-pragmatism were allowed to run amok.  Divinity schools where Pastors were trained for ministry became Religious Studies departments where we put religions in a box to poke them and take notes.

    Moving forward, evangelicalism must rediscover the Biblical worldview that they have neglected.  I can think of no better starting point that evangelicals everywhere reading Nancy Pearcey’s Total Truth.  Every undergraduate, mom, working person, or clergy needs to read this book.  Later I will be doing a series of Top5/10 posts on different books in different genres.  This books is on my Top 10 All-Time across all categories.  It is not an arrogant statement, but a truthful statement, to say that Christianity accounts for everything in the Universe.  This is not tantamount to saying that individual Christians fully understand or comprehend all things or that there is no mystery for us.  But it does mean that, as Augustine put it, “all truth is God’s truth.”  Universities used to be the unity of Christ as total truth uniting the diversity of various academic disciplines that all had their center in his logos.  In other words, the University was much like a bicycle tire, where Christ was the unifying hub and each field was a spoke that owed its stability to the hub and owed its inter-relatedness to other fields also to that same hub.  Now, the University is a place where you get completely different mutually exclusive worldviews in different departments.  This was my experience at University of Florida.  I got diametrically opposed pictures of reality in the Religious Studies and Philosophy departments.  Both were frustrating because both were wrong.  The Religious Studies department was certain that nothing was certain.  The Philosophy department was certain that everything was certain (via modernistic rationalism). I believe that the University is ripe for the plucking because none of these worldviews being espoused have any substantial veracity.  John Summerville has a game plan that I wrote on earlier for on how to redeem the University.

    In my view, secularism, pluralism, and post-modern-pragmatism (I will define this term in a later blog post), are ultimately unlivable and provide a really fertile soil for the Gospel.  Evangelicals must take their faith seriously in mind, heart, and practice.

    Up next, we will look at how energy, the Peak Oil debate, urbanization, telecommuting, and the suburbs may present a substantial threat to evangelicalism.

    November 12, 2009 • Augustine, Nancy Pearcey, University, Worldview • Views: 144

  • Introduction to Apologetics, Part 4: Presuppositional Apologetics

    On day one of every Intro to Philosophy, Philosophy of Religion, Problem of God, or any other similar course the same thing occurs.  Following all the necessary syllabus details there comes a statement like this:

    This is an academic institution, as such, we are examiners of religious and philosophical questions.  In this course, we are not practitioners of religion, hence appeals to religious texts are outside of the scope of this course.  We will examine the topics with rigorous rational thinking.

    Herein lies the perhaps the biggest bait-and-switch at the University.  As a Christian you are now disallowed to bring any aspect of the Bible into the discussion.  This is strange because it assumes that either A. The Bible is entirely irrational or B. to bring the Bible into an academic discussion makes us somehow practioners of Christianity.  As an undergrad, I remember sitting there and thinking, there is something wrong about this statement, but lacking the ability to deconstruct the statement.

    I think it is statements like the one above that have caused many apologists to battle only employing the tools of reason and rationality, largely leaving Scripture out of the discussion.  This is sad and problematic as it virtually conceded a loss.  Recall that presuppositional apologetics presupposes the existence of God and the truth of the Scriptures.  Presuppositional apologetics seeks not to defend Christianity with rational evidences but rather attacks the false assumptions (presuppositions) of the unbeliever.  Say, a non-believer believes that man is inherently good and does not believe in God or His Word… all the evidences in the world will do no good until his incorrect and inconsistent presuppositions are exposed.  It also challenges whether rational arguments are any good at all being that all the reason in the world will do no good unless God regenerates their heart.

    The sum total of all truth is that which has been revealed  in the Scriptures (Special Revelation), plus that which is commonly revealed naturally (General Revelation).  General and Special Revelation have a symbiotic relationship.  We need to be able to read (general revelation) in order to understand the Scriptures (special revelation).  We need the Scriptures (special revelation) to make sense of our senses, emotions, and world (general revelation).  The sad story in academia listed above are demanding that Special Revelation not be brought into the classroom.  The problem is that:

    [T]he truths of experience are not self-explanatory.  Instead they merely constitute the data that cries out to be explained within an overarching worldview.  Why is it that the bits of matter we call our bodies have consciousness and are able to navigate the world so effectively?  Why are we capable of building societies with some measure of justice and compassion?… why is it possible for humans to calculate a trajectory and land a spacecraft on another planet?  What kind of world permits these fascinating achievements?  Our claim as Christians is that only a biblically based worldview offers a complete and consistent explanation of why we are capable of knowing scientific, moral, and mathematical truths.  Christianity is the key that fits the lock of the universe.

    Moreover, since all other worldviews are false keys, we can be absolutely confident, when talking with nonbelievers, that they themselves know things that are not accounted for by their own worldview – whatever it may be.  Or to turn it around, they will not be able to live consistently on the basis of their own worldview.  Since their metaphysical beliefs do not fit the world God created, their lives will be more or less inconsistent with those beliefs.  Living in the real world requires them to function in ways that are not support by their worldview.   Nancy Pearcey in Total Truth, pp. 318-319.

    In other words, the world and our senses cannot interpret themselves, they require a grid in which to understand them.  In the University, on day one they are telling you that you cannot bring any special revelation in which to interpret the world, history, reason, logic, ‘good,’ or ‘evil.’  The problem is that general revelation will never be sufficient to have any saving knowledge of Jesus, nor will general revelation ever be sufficient to have a complete worldview.  It cannot account for morality (moral good or moral evil).  It cannot account for facts.  It cannot account for language.  It cannot account for logic.

    Presuppositional Apologetics primarily has its roots in the teaching of Cornelius Van Til (1895-1987).  Two of Van Til’s students Greg Bahnsen (1948-1995) and John Frame (1939-) continued the tradition making presuppositionalism more widely known.

    Here are three articles written by John Frame to further introduce you to presuppositional thought:  “Presuppositional Apologetics,” “Presuppositional Apologetics:  An Introduction,” and “Monergism:  Presuppositional Apologetics.”

    Up next, the apologetic thought of Blaise Pascal.