Books have an enormous power to shape the way we think and in turn the way we live. Obviously, as a Christian, the books of the Bible are for me both foundational and transformative. Other books, though not inspired or authoritative, have helped me to think about the Bible, its teachings, and its truth claims. I present here a list of books by fifteen different authors. I make no claims here about these being the greatest or most important books of their kind, although in some cases I think this assessment might apply. They happen to have been especially formative for me, either in kindling interest in a certain subject or in reorienting my way of thinking about a subject. I have listed them in roughly the order in which I read them, though my recollection in this regard may not always be correct.

Josh McDowell, Evidence that Demands a Verdict (1972). I became an evangelical Christian in 1974-75, and McDowell’s Evidence was one of the first apologetics books I read. Yes, it was a popular, unsophisticated book, but it got me interested in biblical apologetics. Thanks, Josh.

E. Gordon Rupp and Philip S. Watson, ed., Luther and Erasmus: Free Will and Salvation, Library of Christian Classics (1969). Toward the end of my first year of college, another Christian college student challenged me to read Martin Luther’s Bondage of the Will (1525). When I discovered that Luther’s book was a response to Desiderius Erasmus’s book On Free Will (1524), which was itself a critique of Luther’s theology, I decided to read Erasmus first and then Luther in order to get both sides of the debate. At the time, my own theological inclinations were very similar to those of Erasmus. However, I was forced to admit that Luther won the debate, hands down. Reading these two books completed my conversion to an evangelical Protestant faith. The Library of Christian Classics volume, which I read, includes both books and helpful introductions and footnotes.

C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (1952) and Miracles: A Preliminary Study (2d ed., 1960). Like most evangelicals, I am unabashedly a fan of Lewis (even though he was not consistently evangelical in his theology). I limit myself to the two Lewis books that have meant the most to me. I still think Lewis’s Miracles is one of the very best books ever published on the subject.

F. F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? (5th ed., 1960) and New Testament History (1969). Bruce’s NTD is a short, clear exposition of the evidence for the textual and historical reliability of the New Testament writings. I read this book in 1975 and its basic positions and arguments still hold up today. You can read the fifth edition of NTD online free; the later sixth edition (1981) is now available with a Foreword by N. T. Wright. NTH is a masterful textbook survey of the New Testament placing the events it records in their historical context. I used NTH as a textbook for an upper-division course on New Testament history that I taught in 1978 for my senior project at California State University, Dominguez Hills.

Donald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction (3d ed., 1970). This is a very lengthy textbook that examines the critical questions concerning the authorship, date, sources, integrity, and historical circumstances of each of the books of the New Testament, and draws consistently conservative conclusions. Whereas Guthrie paid close attention to the arguments of liberal and skeptical scholars on these subjects, they have almost completely ignored him—which is understandable, because his case is so well developed that it is difficult to refute it. Other textbooks with the same subject matter have come along, but this is still my favorite. Guthrie published a fourth revised edition in 1990.

Francis A. Schaeffer, The God Who Is There (1968). Schaeffer taught me to see the relevance of Christian faith to one’s whole worldview, to one’s view of science, history, art, literature, and every other aspect of culture. Let this one book stand for the many excellent contributions Schaeffer made to apologetics from which I have learned so much.

Galileo Galilei, Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina (1615). In Stillman Drake, trans., Discoveries and Opinions of Galileo (1957). Galileo influenced my view of the relationship between science and the Bible more than any other thinker. His handling of the question of Joshua’s miracle of the sun was outstanding. Contrary to what some people today think, Galileo was a devout Christian who held a very traditional view of the Bible’s inspiration.

Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren, How to Read a Book (1972). Daniel P. Fuller, my hermeneutics professor at Fuller Theological Seminary, introduced me to this book in 1979, and what a great book it is. There is nothing more important to the interpretation of texts, including the biblical texts, than understanding how to read the parts in light of the whole and vice versa, and Adler’s classic book teaches this important skill.

J. I. Packer, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God (1961). If God is sovereign, why pray for others—and why share the gospel with them, if God has already chosen who will be saved? Packer answered these and other questions for me, demonstrating from Scripture that God’s general sovereignty and his electing grace, far from impediments to prayer and evangelism, are grounds for confidence in these ministries. It was Packer who convinced me to accept a basically Reformed understanding of salvation.

Robert G. Clouse, ed., The Meaning of the Millennium: Four Views (1977). When I read this book, I did not have a clearly defined position on the subject. When I finished it, I was convinced of the historic premillennial position advocated by George Eldon Ladd. I have since then read better defenses of the other views—particularly of the postmillennial position, which I and many others think Boettner did not represent at its best—but I remain, if non-dogmatically, premillennial.

John Calvin, The Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles; Library of Christian Classics (1559; Eng. ed., 1960). There is nothing quite like reading Calvin himself to disabuse one of the caricatured notions prevalent in our culture about Calvinism. I found Calvin warmly passionate about God, brilliantly thoughtful about theology, and immensely skilled at interpreting the Bible. Most surprising to me at the time, I found that Calvin was able to make his case for much of what he said from Augustine and other church fathers, as well as primarily from the Bible. Calvin’s treatment of the doctrine of the Trinity remains one of the best I have ever read. You can read an older English translation online, but by all means get this definitive edition, with its excellent notes and important critical apparatus.

Peter Kreeft, The Unaborted Socrates (1983). Here is a thoroughly enjoyable way of learning: listening in on a rousing discussion between Socrates, mysteriously brought back from the dead, and several fictitious modern characters serving as foils for Socrates as he follows the argument wherever it may lead. Where it leads is the conclusion that abortion is wrong except to save the life of the mother. This remains my favorite book on the subject of abortion.

D. A. Carson, Exegetical Fallacies (1984; 2d ed., 1996). I read the first edition of this book shortly after it came out, and it remains one of my favorite books on biblical interpretation. The premise is simple: interpreters often fall into various fallacious forms of reasoning about the language or contexts of biblical statement, and they need to make every effort to avoid such missteps in interpretation. The subject remains a passion of mine.

Norman L. Geisler and Winfried Corduan, Philosophy of Religion (2d ed., 1988). Of the many excellent books that Geisler has authored or co-authored, this is one of the best. The thorough, careful examination of the classic theistic proofs is well-organized, well-reasoned, and very informative, and the concluding section on the problem of evil remains one of the best treatments of this difficult subject I have read.

John M. Frame, Doctrine of the Knowledge of God (1987). This is in some places a difficult book, but I found reading, re-reading, and studying it highly rewarding. I adopted Frame’s triperspectivalism as a rubric for presenting integrative approaches to apologetic method in Faith Has Its Reasons, a book I co-authored with Kenneth D. Boa. (This book also has material on the apologetic thought of Calvin, Lewis, Schaeffer, Kreeft, and Geisler, among others.) Frame helped me a great deal to understand Cornelius Van Til appreciatively—no little accomplishment.

These are some of the books that have had the biggest impact on my thinking in the areas of apologetics, biblical studies, and theology. What about you? I invite you to comment here about some of the books that have been especially helpful to you in these fields.

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Larry Hurtado, Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity (2002). I first read this book in 2007 and had been a firm believer in the deity of Christ since 2002 (the year of my conversion) but Hurtado gave me even more confidence from the perspective of historical critical scholarship.

J. N. D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines, 5th Rev. Ed. (rprt. 2004). Kelly helped me to gain an appreciation for early Christian history and the formation of our time honored Christological and Trinitarian dogmas. Again, I had already believed these doctrines from my study of Scripture, but seeing the way they took shape in the history of the early Church was simply amazing to me and really put into motion my love for patristics.

Craig A. Evans, Fabricating Jesus: How Modern Scholars Distort the Gospels (2006). This was probably the first in a long list of books I read defending the orthodox understanding of the historical Jesus and it’s probably the book that most showed me the difference between conservative scholarship and fundamentalism. Until reading this book I would have classified myself as a fundie but Evans showed me that there was a better way.

J. Ed Komozsewski & Robert M. Bowman, Putting Jesus in His Place: The Case for the Deity of Christ, (2007). This book was so influential because it gave me an incredibly easy way to present all the things I already believed to others in a format that they could easily remember.

There’s many more but these are all fairly recent and easily explained.

December 28th, 2008 at 6:23 pm
Tesfaye Robele

Tesfaye Robele these are the books that I highly benefited for my apologetic endeavor.

• On the Problem of Evil I highly appreciate the following two books, (1) Alvin C. Plantinga book, “God, Freedom, and Evil” and Daniel Howard-Snyder article “God, Evil, and Suffering” eds. Michael J. Murray “Reason for the Hope Within”
• On Natural Theology and theistic proof, Stephen T. Davis “God, Reason, and Theistic Proofs”
• On Metaphysics, William Hasker, “Metaphysics: Constructing a World View”
• Ethics, Louis P. Pojman, “Ethics: Discovering Right and Wrong” Though Dr. Pojman is not a Christian and his views on Divine Command Theory is unfair, to my judgment this is an interesting book I ever read pertinent to the topic. Scott B. Rae, “Ethics” best book on Moral Philosophy for Christians.
• On the deity of Christ, J. Ed Komozsewski and Robert M. Bowman, “Putting Jesus in His Place: The Case for the Deity of Christ” is the masterpiece and very influential books I ever read on the topic. I expect form the readers (particularly from Rob Bowman to work on “Putting the Trinity in His Place”.
• From Zondervan Guide to Cults and Religious Movement series I highly benefited on the following three books, (1) “Jehovah’s Witnesses” by Rob Bowman (2) “Unmasking the Cults” by Alan W. Gomes (3) “‘Jesus Only’ Churches” by E. Calvin Beisner.
• Kelly James Clark, “Return to Reason”
• J.P. Moreland’s book, (1) “Kingdom Triangle” (2) “Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview” (co-authored with William Lane Craig) (3) “Scaling the Secular City” (4) “The Lost Virtue of Happiness: Discovering the Disciplines of the Good Life” (with Klaus Issler).
• On the Resurrection of Jesus: (1) Gary R. Habermas and Michael R. Licona, “The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus” (2) Norman L. Geisler “The Battle for the Resurrection” (3) some portion from Gary R. Habermas book, “The Historical Jesus: Ancient Evidence for The Life of Christ”
• On Religious Epistemology, eds. Alvin Plantinga and Nicholas Wolterstroff, “Faith and Rationality: Reason and Belief in God”
• On Eternal Punishment: Robert A. Peterson, “Hell on Trial: The Case for Eternal Punishment” and Alan W. Gomes’s articles “Evangelicals and the Annihilation of Hell” part I & II.
• Kenneth D. Boa and Robert M. Bowman Jr. (1) “An Unchanging Faith in A changing World” (2) “Faith Has Its Reasons: An Integrative Approach to Defending Christianity” (3) “20 Compelling Evidences That God Exists: Discovery Why Believing in God Makes So Much Sense”

December 29th, 2008 at 1:36 am

Forgive two typos:

(1) The year of publication on Hurtado’s Lord Jesus Christ is 2003, not 2002.

(2) I reversed the s and z in J. Ed Komoszewski’s name.

December 30th, 2008 at 12:13 am

Oh great! Now I have MORE books to put on my wishlist. 🙂

Seriously though, I do have several of the books listed in my personal library (I’ve got most of ’em catalogued on

Some books that have affected me personally in my Christian growth and life include, but are not limited to:

“The Grace Awakening” — Charles Swindoll
“Questions About The Holy Spirit” — Herbert Bowdoin

My NIV Study Bible and my KJV Study Bible. Both helped me learn more in my studies.

“Reasoning From The Scriptures With The Jehovah’s Witnesses” — Ron Rhodes
“Kingdom Of The Cults” — Walter Martin
I was confronted early on during the old BBS & FidoNet days by Jehovah’s Witnesses before the Watchtower clamped down on computer communications by its members.

“The King James Only Controversey” — James R. White
“The King James Version Debate” — D.A. Carson
I was also confronted early on by people going as far as claiming I was going to hell for using an NIV Study Bible. So I needed research materials from both sides to make up my mind. I figured out early on that G.A. (Gail) Riplinger, Peter Ruckman, D.A. Waite, David Cloud and similar others have major flaws in their reasoning, logic and Biblical applications (it’s GOTTA be obvious for me, a spiritual baby at the time, to recognize) while D.A. Carson & James White effectively rebut their arguments and presents solid information.

With full disclosure in mind, I am not a theologian neither have I attended anything remotely resembling a seminary (Bible study at my church would be considered the closest thing). I’m just a layperson who many years ago got a major urge to start learning more of what the Bible teaches. I’ve been Christian ever since I was a little rug rat but it wasn’t until I was in my late 20’s that I had a “spiritual growth spurt.” I’ve been growing (sanctification?) ever since. Sometimes it waxes and wains but it’s still a continuous journey.

Anyway, I thought I’d offer my 2 cents although with the value of the American dollar, it’s probably worth only about .75 cents. I just found this blog and have added it to my bloglist and plan on visiting more in the future.

January 2nd, 2009 at 3:59 pm

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