West London Alliance Church

The following is a blog post that I posted in July of 2010 at The Oak Log. It lists the 5 most influential, non-canonical books I had read up to that point in my life. It is interesting to read and think about now. Three of the books would likely remain on the list if I were to re-write the post today; Grudem, Hybels, and Mahaney still get the nod. Two would likely be removed. The books by Joe Boot and by Gary Thomas have been bumped, though I still appreciate both of them very much. One book in the honorable mentions would break into the top 5 were I choosing today; The Doctrine of God convinced me of the meticulous sovereignty of God which is a doctrine, once embraced, that impacts everything. That would leave me one book to add to my top 5 most influential. To be honest, deciding on that one will require some contemplation.

I hope you enjoy this window into my past. Perhaps it would be worthwhile to make your own list. As incentive for you to post your top 5 most influential book list in the comments section, I will hold a draw using those who reply. The winner of the draw will receive a brand new copy of Bill Hull's new book on discipleship called Conversion and Discipleship. If I don't know you or regularly see you, put some contact info in your comment in case you win. Enjoy.

This is the list of the top 5 influential books I have read. It is a list of non-canonical books only. The Bible and each of its books would, of course, dwarf the list of all the books I have read. So, aside from Scripture, these are the books that have had the greatest impact on my life. They are not necessarily the best books I have read. And I have read some books recently that may supplant some of these but their impact , perhaps based on the short amount of time they have had influence on me, has not been as significant as those listed below. Also, I am not claiming that I agree with everything in these books nor am I claiming they do not have some erroneous ideas in them. I am simply saying that they have affected me more than any other books I have read. Enough caveats. Here is the list in no particular order:

1) Too Busy Not To Pray by Bill Hybels

Summary: Hybels's accessible introduction to prayer has ... helped ...readers develop a rich and regular prayer life in the midst of life's busyness. [H]e includes new insights from his years of ministry and his own spiritual journey. He shows how to slow down to pray, listen to God, respond to what we hear, practice the presence of God and overcome prayer barriers. His fun and practical book offers the resources we need for growing, ongoing experiences in prayer.

Comments: I am not interested in what people think of Hybels, Willow Creek, or seeker-friendliness. The bottom line is: I did not have a regular time of prayer and Bible reading until this book had its influence on me. For that reason, it makes this list.

2) Sacred Pathways by Gary L. Thomas

Summary: "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's spiritual walk." Are you envious of the way that some people seem to walk closely with God? Gary Thomas insists that it’s better to discover the path God designed you to take--a path marked by growth and fulfillment, based on your unique temperament. In Sacred Pathways, he strips away the frustration of a one-size-fits-all spirituality and guides you toward a style of relating to God that frees you to be you.

Comments: I don't like the title and I can't stand the cover-art this book has had. Even the summary provided at Thomas' website doesn't do it justice. All I can say as it has had a lasting, positive impact on my pursuit of God.

3)Why I Still Believe by Joe Boot

Summary: In Why I Still Believe, apologist Joe Boot provides a readable introduction to presuppositional apologetics for the average layperson. This approach assumes that the Christian and non-Christian come to the discussion of faith with worldviews--sets of presuppositions--that are miles apart, so that there is little common ground on which to build an objective argument of rational proof. In this conversational survey of his own intellectual and spiritual journey, Boot invites the non-believer to step inside the Christian worldview to see whether or not it makes sense. Along the way he builds a coherent argument for the truth of Christianity. He also examines the non-Christian worldview, showing how it ultimately fails to make sense of the world.

Comments: Joe gave me a framework for understanding and articulating what I believe. He prepared me to give a reason for the hope I have within me. Joe, more than any other author, wrote in such a way that I felt as if he was writing exactly what I was thinking. He introduced me to presuppositional apologetics and did so in a manner that was easy to comprehend. Joe is incredibly intelligent and well-spoken. If you ever get the chance to hear him, take advantage of it.

4)Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem

Summary: The Christian church has a long tradition of systematic theology, that is, studying theology and doctrine organized around fairly standard categories such as the Word of God, redemption, and Jesus Christ. This introduction to systematic theology has several distinctive features: - A strong emphasis on the scriptural basis for each doctrine and teaching - Clear writing, with technical terms kept to a minimum - A contemporary approach, treating subjects of special interest to the church today - A friendly tone, appealing to the emotions and the spirit as well as the intellect - Frequent application to life - Resources for worship with each chapter - Bibliographies with each chapter that cross-reference subjects to a wide range of other systematic theologies.

Comment: I cannot express in this short post the impact this book has had on me. I will try and give you an idea as briefly as I can. I have learned an enormous amount of theology from this book. It has introduced, clarified, and strengthened so much of my doctrine I no longer remember what I used to believe. Grudem also gave my immature and insecure ego the girding it needed to face the Calvinism question which is tough for a one-time Arminian-charismatic like myself. I was once Pentecostal, Arminian, egalitarian. I am now consider myself charismatic, Calvinistic, complementarian. I cannot envision this transformation without this book and this author.

5) The Cross-centered Life by C. J. Mahaney

Summary: What are you centered on? Sometimes the most important truths are the easiest to forget. It's time to get back to the starting point of the Christian life—the cross of Christ. Jesus' work on your behalf must be the central motivation for your life and faith—the main thing. Never lay it aside. Never move on, says C.J. Mahaney, who shows you how to center every day around the cross of Calvary and how to escape the pitfalls of legalism, condemnation, and feelings-driven faith.

Comments: How about one word to encapsulate the effect of this book; revolutionary, reformational, recalibrating, reviving, revivifying, renewing, re-centering, refocusing ... take your pick. I think(hope) that twenty years from now I will attribute the trajectory of my walk with Christ in large part due to this book. But let me leave you with one more "R-E" word. Read. As in read this book.

Honourable Mentions:
1) The Doctrine of God by John Frame - This book is sure to join the books listed above.
2) Chosen for Life by Sam Storms - Election? After reading this book; case closed!
3) Knowing God by J. I. Packer - I wish I read it 20 years ago.

Leave a Comment