100 Best Books of the Christian Tradition

Top 100While I’m the last person who is truly qualified to offer such a list, Church Times recently offered a list of the 100 Best Books of the Christian Tradition, and, as a graduate student studying the History of Christianity, I happen to read a lot of books belonging to the Christian tradition. And I like making lists. So I figured I would try my hand at listing the 100 Best Book of the Christian Tradition. Before starting, three notes: 1) these are not intended to strictly be the “best” books (I still have a lot to read), bur rather important works worth reading; 2) while the list is in some sort of order, the hierarchy is not overly rigid; and 3) his list contains only books I’ve read at least substantial portions of, and does not include works I have not read in some fashion. Continue reading

Thinking About Change

ChangeHaving just moved to a new city, a new apartment, and started a new job, the subject of change has been on my mind lately. Change is hard: the times when I’ve transitioned to a new environment, be it moving across the country or going off to school, have been some of the most challenging periods of my life. Apart from practical and logistical concerns (Where IS the nearest grocery store? My, that is an impressive pothole!), when people move they often experience opportunities to let their faith change or, worse, slip away. The large portions of graduating high school seniors who walk away from their faith during their undergraduate years is well documented. So how do you remain faithful to your faith during times of change and challenge? Here are some suggestions. Continue reading

The Bible In American Life

Not too long ago, a report titled “The Bible in American Life” was released by the Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture at Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis. Based on a nation-wide survey on Bible use and knowledge, this report found a number of things, some of the most interesting being:

— About 50% of Americans read “scripture” at any point during the last year; 48% of Americans read the Bible at some point last year
— 9% of American read their Bibles daily
— The King James Bible is the most popular English Bible translation by far
— The favorite passage among Bible readers is Psalm 23 followed by John 3:16
— Less than half of those reading the Bible sought help in understanding it
— 31% of those reading the Bible did so on the internet; 22% used devices of some sort
— Generally, Protestants read their Bibles more than Catholics, and (theologically) conservative Protestants more than liberal Protestants Continue reading

Facebook Trends and Book Lists

BooksThe past several weeks my Facebook friends have been swapping lists of their “Ten Most Influential/Important Books.” Now, typically social media trends don’t excite me and giving into peer pressure does not sound very enticing. But when it comes to books and reading, the bibliophile within cannot resist. So I gave in. But seeing all those lists got me thinking: we all have books we have read. What about books that we should have read? In other words, are there some books, or at least some types of books, that educated Christian men and women should read in order to understand who we are and how we have gotten where we are culturally?

As both a lover of books and creator of lists, I had made a “Ten Books You Should Read” list before (and, whatever else I’m about to suggest, we should all consult and read the “Canon” of Western Civilization). Never are my lists intended to be “closed canons”, but instead starting points. So I returned to and modified my list of books that every American Christian should read: Continue reading

In the Mail: September 26

A few days ago, my mail contained one of my favorite things: a box full of books! The good folks of the Baker Publishing Group were kind enough to send me three of their latest books to review:20140922_155822Andrew B. McGowan’s Ancient Christian Worship: Early Church Practices in Social, Historical, and Theological Perspective; the second edition of Craig G. Bartholomew and Michael W. Goheen’s The Drama of Scripture: Finding Our Place in the Biblical Story; and James W. Thompson’s The Church According to Paul: Rediscovering the Community Conformed to Christ. I’m looking forward to engaging these works and reviewing them.

What Are You Reading?

20140819_134131As the books for my PhD at Saint Louis University being to pour in (methinks Amazon loves me right now), I am trying to wrap up my summer reading list (pictured to the right). I’ve made some significant progress on this stack over the past couple of days, and hope to be complete (or nearly so) by this coming Monday.

20140819_134141In addition to my required reading lists, this fall I hope to engage the Divergent series (finally saw the movie and found it fascinating), The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (Gibbons), and The History of the English Speaking Peoples (Churchill).

What are you reading? Do you have any suggestions for my fall reading list? Comment people to let me know.

On Approaching Difficult Bible Passages

Bible DifficultiesNothing can be more frustrating (or worrisome) as reading something in the Bible and a) not understanding what is going on or b) finding some sort of apparent contradiction in the text. Below are some suggestions on how to best to approach and make sense of these difficult passages.

1. Context is key. Before trying to make sense of a passage, it is imperative that you understand its context. This means never reading a single, solitary Bible verse, but always at least a paragraph. Reading in context also means that you should try to understand passages wider literary, theological, and historical contexts as well. Understanding why Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, the everyday situation of Christians living in first century Corinth, and what ancient Corinth looked like can go a long way in making sense of First Corinthians. Continue reading