There’s nothing quite like the feeling of coming home for Christmas every year. When you walk in the door and smell the candles and the aroma coming from the oven you know you’re home again. And the memories come flooding in until you feel like you were never really gone.
The closest I come to the experience of coming home is the feeling I get every time I walk into the local Christian bookstore. The smell of new books and the aroma from the café reminds me of the best year of my life.
In 2000, I embarked on an intellectual journey, which would lead back to a place where I had been most happy as a child. It began on the eve of New Year’s Eve on death row in Huntsville, Texas. The Lord used my dad to arrange an interview with a murderer and rapist who was just 13 days away from execution.
There was so much said that day but nothing as profound as the inmate’s garbled recitation of John 3:16. He was mentally challenged to say the least. But he learned to read and in 20 years sitting on death row he managed to get through the Bible. Like Carl in the movie Sling Blade there were probably few portions of the Bible that he really understood.
I was embarrassed that a man with a mind as weak as that death row inmate had read the Bible and I had not. So I snuck (or “sneaked” if you’re a Yankee) into Barnes and Noble to buy a copy of the King James Version. I also read some works by Colson that led me to other works. Eventually, I started reading heavily from books I found at the aforementioned Christian book store. The more I read, the more I wanted to read. It was a glorious year of discovery.
I doubt you’ll have time to devour all the books I devoured that year. But I’ve included five favorites I hope you’ll consider. And I’ve published this letter in column form so that others might consider them, too.
1. The Message, by Eugene Peterson. Don’t start with the King James Version like I did. Find a readable paraphrase for your first trip through the Bible. The journey of reading the Bible from cover to cover will be exhilarating. You’ll have so many questions answered when you finally read the world’s greatest book. But others will arise and you’ll want to read it again. When you do re-read the Bible try a more literal translation. I recommend the NASB version of the John MacArthur Study Bible.
2. How Now Shall We Live, by Charles Colson and Nancy Pearcey. This may be the best book (besides the Bible) that I have ever read. One can use this book to begin applying what one learns in the Bible to important contemporary issues. The “recommend readings” section at the end is worth the price of the book. It is not likely that you’ll want to stop reading after you’ve finished this book. Please, follow up with Nancy’s Total Truth if you find that your thirst is not quite quenched.
3. Mere Christianity, by C.S. Lewis. When I was younger I held many ridiculous beliefs. Among them was the notion that Jesus was a great moral teacher though not divine. That is simply absurd. Jesus claimed to be God. If he wasn’t then he was a liar, which would disqualify Him from being a great moral teacher. Reading Lewis helped me get past such non-sense. This book also provides a strong argument for the existence of an absolute moral code. Reading this book convinced me that most self-proclaimed atheists really aren’t atheists. They believe in God and are angry at Him because they think He is unjust. Read it for yourself and tell me what you think. If you want something a little shorter and more digestible, I would recommend More Than a Carpenter, by Josh McDowell. He makes many of the same points and writes in a very clear and cogent manner.
4. Christian Apologetics, by Norm Geisler. I thought this was a great apologetic when I read it ten years ago. But some may want to go with the more recent I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist, which Geisler co-wrote with my good friend Frank Turek. The latter selection has a special place in my heart since a friend of mine read it thrice and converted to Christianity while he was dying (and did not yet know he was dying).
The other day when I was doing a radio show a caller phoned in and informed me that my arguments could not be believed because I was making statements that had not been verified by scientific experimentation. He explained “No statement can be considered true unless subjected to scientific experimentation.” I replied, “Was that statement subjected to scientific experimentation?” Pause. “Well, then, I guess it isn’t true.”
If you read Geisler and Turek you’ll soon start saying things that make the atheist pause. And hopefully they’ll think more about the faith component that underlies their philosophical assumptions.
5. Scaling the Secular City, by J.P. Moreland. I read this book in just a couple of days and loved every page of it. Since then, I have met J.P. and have heard him lecture several times. On the basis of those lectures I decided to read another of his books called Love God With All Your Mind. I liked it even more, especially after I had the following exchange with a student:
Student: Dr. Adams, who is to say what’s right or wrong? How can we impose our morals on others? Your truth might not be the same as my truth.
Dr. Adams: May I borrow your blackberry. (Student hands over blackberry). Thanks. I’ve always wanted one of those and I’m not giving it back. And don’t tell me petty larceny is wrong. Don’t impose your morals on me. My truth is not the same as your truth. In fact, I think petty larceny is a virtue. (Student smiles and Dr. Adams hands him his blackberry). Next time someone says “don’t try to impose your morals on me” or “your truth isn’t the same as my truth” just do to him what I did to you. (Student smiles and nods in agreement).
I didn’t steal the blackberry from that kid. But I did steal the example from J.P. Moreland. That’s why you should read his book. But, please, don’t steal it from the bookstore. That would be objectively wrong.
I hope you tell your loved ones to give you some of these books for Christmas. That way, when you arrive at home you’ll begin to prepare your heart and mind for an even greater homecoming.
I should know about this, Eric. I wandered for seventeen years. But now I’ve made my way back home. The painful memories are fading and now it feels like I was never really gone.
Disclaimer: Frank Turek, Norm Geisler, and J.P. Moreland all teach at Summit Ministries (see www.Summit.org) along with Mike Adams. They did not pay him to promote any of these books. But they probably should have!