Three More Books that Influenced Me Most
Feb 25, 2009 by Doug Groothuis | 0 Comments
I am a bibliophile and have been since my second year in college. I may be more likely to remember the publication date and publisher of a book than (say) a loved one's birthday. While this is not virtuous in itself, perhaps it is expected of bookish professors. In that spirit, I offer a few more recommendations of books that God has used in my early years to shape my worldview and ministry.
1. Walter Martin, Kingdom of the Cults, first edition.
I read most of this in the summer of 1977, one year after converting to Christianity. Having been influenced by Eastern religions and the occult before becoming a Christian, I needed to know the essential teachings of various religions and cults in relation to biblical Christianity. (While the word "cult" is controversial, Martin used it in two basic and helpful senses: Any group that deviates from historic Christianity orthodoxy and any group that is dishonest and manipulative in its organizational.) Martin, a true pioneer in evangelicalism and apologetics geared to non-Christian religions that originated in America, provided an in-depth treatment of Mormonism, Jehovah's Witnesses, Christian Science, and many other groups. His chapter, "Scaling the Language Barrier," remains a classic on how non-Christian groups will co-opt Christian language in order to disarm those influenced by Christianity while teaching something entirely against the Bible. I was honored when Walter Martin wrote the preface to my second book, Confronting the New Age (1988). The book is now out in two different revisions, one edited by Hank Hanegraaff and the other by Ravi Zacharias. Suffice to say that Martin's legacy has been contested.
2. James W. Sire, The Universe Next Door, InterVarsity Press, 1976, first edition, 1976.
Before Sire (then editor of InterVarsity Press), no one has really catalogued and compared worldviews according to set beliefs. In fact, in the mid-1970s, not that many evangelicals were speaking and thinking in terms of worldviews (or overall philosophies of life). Now, thanks to Sire, Francis Schaeffer, Charles Colson, Nancy Pearcey, and many others, it is much more commonplace (but far from well established, sadly). Sire compared Christianity with Deism, Naturalism, Pantheism, and New Age thought, writing in very literate, but readable style. (His doctorate is in literature). Sire went on to write many worthwhile books on worldviews and apologetics and delivered lectures around the world explaining and defending the Christian worldview. He was also the editor for three of my InterVarsity Press books: Unmasking the New Age (1986), Confronting the New Age (1988), and Revealing the New Age Jesus (1990). He is a gifted editor and good friend. The Universe Next Door is now out in a 4th edition (2004), and Sire is working on a 5th edition. I have taught from every edition of this book in one setting or another!
3. C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man.
Considered one of Lewis's more difficult and less read works (at least in comparison to his fiction or Mere Christianity), Abolition has been indispensible to my intellectual development. I first read it in my sophomore or junior year in college as a philosophy major. It gave me very solid support for the existence of moral values beyond the contingencies of culture. Technically, it is a work of meta-ethics -- or the metaphysics of ethics. He argues for "the Tao," by which he means the objective basis for moral values that transcends culture and preference. Lewis warned that abandoning this objective standpoint would lead to a culture where people attempt to invent new values and then condition others to accept them through force and propaganda. It is no wonder that I liberally quoted this work in my book against postmodernism, Truth Decay (2000). While not an apologetic for the biblical God as the basis for eternal values, The Abolition of Man lays that foundation. Its argument for objective moral value should be combined with the moral argument for God found in Book One of Lewis's Mere Christianity. I have read this book at least six times and always benefit from it. In that sense, it is much like Francis Schaffer's work, The God Who is There, which I have read about the same number of times.