Read This List, Earn a Steak Dinner

Austin Maxheimer   -  

If you finish this reading list, I will take you to get a steak at Cavanaugh’s.
These books represent the journey I took to go from a skeptical Explorer to a Pastor. They do not represent all the reading I did during that time (I ended up in Seminary!), but they are the ones that came at the right time to answer specific questions. Obviously a ton of other things came into play, but if it is possible to recreate the journey through simply reading…. I think this might come close. This is not necessarily the exact order I read them in, although it’s pretty close:
Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis.  This was the first book I read that about Christianity that didn’t default back to quoting the Bible. That was crucial for me in the early stages of my journey. It also was the first exposure I had to a mind that profoundly argued from a Christian worldview while explaining it clearly.
Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey.  For a guy who in High School loved partying Friday and Saturday, and genuinely loved church on Sunday, and then set aside my faith in college, this book blew my mind open by it’s explanatory power. Ever had your “unique” experience laid out by someone else? Unsettling.
A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking.  Hawking is certainly not a follower of Jesus, and he argues for cosmology void of God, but this book fascinated me and produced wonder in existence, which sent me journeying even further into exploring reality.
Language of God by Francis Collins.  This was the first time I had read anyone who held to evolution and Christ. Collins calls it Theistic Evolution. I would now recommend Darwin’s Doubt in place of this book, but it was very helpful for me at the time.
The Reason for God by Timothy Keller.  And my love affair with Pastor Keller began. The power of his teaching is in the application of the Gospel into every day life. This book however, dealt with some of the toughest questions I had remaining in a logical presentation.
Simply Christian by N.T. Wright.  You can’t miss with anything by Wright. Many people compare this to Mere Christianity, but why this was so helpful to me was that while I was beginning to affirm some of the arguments for Christianity, I needed to see it alive in real every day life. This book helped do that.
Taking the Quantum Leap by Fred Alan Wolf.  I got really into learning about quantum physics for a season of life. It still fascinates me. I recommend checking out some Dr. Quantum videos. Of the 5 or 6 books I read on the subject, this was the most accessible for me.
Jesus Among Other Gods by Ravi Zacharias.  In college I wrote a paper titled “Sunday School in Heaven” that was basically an argument for pluralistic universalism. I’ve always had a deep respect for other religions and needed to make sense of their beauty and the uniqueness of Christ. This book helped answer many of those questions.
The Hermeneutical Spiral by Grant Osborne.  At this point I had moved on to questions about the Bible itself. I can’t explain how freeing this book was to me. The subtitle says it all, “A Comprehensive Introduction to Biblical Interpretation.” For me this was like lifting the veil off the Bible.
Mission of God by Christopher Wright.  Nothing shaped my philosophy of ministry more than this book. There are many books on the Metanarrative of Scripture, but this one is the most comprehensive. Bonus book: If you’ve wrestled with the Old Testament I strongly recommend Inspiration and Incarnation by Peter Enns.
Is There Meaning in This Text? By Kevin Vanhoozer.  This book solidified my love for hermeneutics. It also stretched my understanding of the Bible and it’s application more than any other single book.
Beauty of the Infinite by David Bentley Hart.  And then there was this beast. It took me three different tries and a full year to read. If anyone seriously thinks that Christianity cannot be intellectually satisfying, I dare you to read this book. Or any book by Hart. Simply put, he’s a brilliant mind. He’s got a new book out that I heard was more accessible that I haven’t read yet.
I could also put all the New Atheist authors on here as book 11. I’ve read them all, Dawkins, Hitchens, Sam Harris…they did nothing but build my faith. After reading primary source materials from atheist philosophers of yester-year like Hume and Nietzsche for papers I had to write in Seminary, their arguments, while popular in our culture, just didn’t seem to have much substance.
Well, like I said, I could recommend so many more, but these were the ones that actually represented my journey through ‘Explore’. What books have been helpful for you in your journey?