Joining in the train that has been following Tyler Cowen, here are ten books that have shaped me to make me what I am today.
- The Bible – While I first encountered the Bible as a young child, only in high school did I start reading it on my own. As a follower of Jesus, I find it very valuable as I seek to know him, his purposes and his ways of acting in the world. I like John Wesley’s idea of being homo unius libri.
- The Lord of the Rings – This is another set I first read in high school. Though I was an extensive reader beforehand, somehow I didn’t even learn of Tolkein until my sophomore year. But then I read them again and again, to myself and to my little brother.
- The Journal of John Wesley – By the time I arrived at college, I knew I had a call to ministry in the United Methodist Church. Though I’d been a member of the church for years, I thought it would be a good idea to go to the source. I read Wesley’s Journal from beginning to end in my free time, finding a man seeking to know God and passionate to see others learn of Jesus and take up his way of life.
- Father Brown – The first Chesterton I read was Everlasting Man, but the works I keep going back to are the Father Brown Mysteries. The root of Father Brown’s insight that allows him to solve mysteries stems from his deep insight into sinners, knowing himself to be one of their number.
- After Virtue – I first saw Alasdair MacIntyre’s After Virtue at the Asbury Seminary bookstore, shortly before I graduated. Since I was about to return to Texas, I was trying to hold off on book buying, so I wasn’t able to read it until I started pastoring. By that time I was far from any sources other than Inter Library Loan. MacIntyre’s picture of the fragmented status of ethics in modernity struck me as eerily similar to the status of doctrine in my own denomination. Reading After Virtue wasn’t enough, so I went on to read most of his other works, the most important of which was likely Whose Justice? Which Rationality?
- Genesis of Doctrine – I remember struggling to justify paying the price Blackwell wanted for this book. The subject was already under my skin, so I had to get this book. It helped put some skin on the bones of my thinking begun by reading MacIntyre.
- Theology in an Age of Scientific Reasoning – I encountered Nancey Murphy’s book during my second semester of doctoral work, not surprisingly, when I was taking a course she taught on postmodernity. Nancey became the lead professor for the rest of my work and introduced me to the relevance of the philosophy of science.
- How to Do Things with Words – J.L.Austin’s little book has always struck me as a book many have picked up and few have finished. His notion of “performative utterance,” introduced in the first chapters has so captured people that they often fail to notice what he does with it by the end of the book. But in an age where so many are inclined toward anti-realism, it sounded like an easy way out.
- New Testament and the People of God – Though my main area of study was philosophical theology, I didn’t limit myself to that field. I think it as Colin Brown who suggested I read NTPG. I’ve read just about every book Wright has put out since then (I think I missed his Y2K volume, but not much more). His take on Jesus and the First Century world has deeply shaped my preaching and teaching. Along with others, I’m eagerly awaiting his next Big Book.
- Sources of the Self – Charles Taylor was another philosopher I discovered while in graduate school. Where MacIntyre writes as an insightful critic of modernity, Taylor writes as an insightful acquaintance, neither friend nor foe. Beyond Sources of the Self, many of Taylor’s papers and other books have shaped my thinking also.