The Bible

Christianity is based on the Bible, by far the most widely read book of all time. It was the first book ever made on the printing press, and over 6 billion copies have since been printed. It has been translated into more languages than any other book in history. It can be read here.

Recommended readings on the truth of Christianity

  • Reasonable Faith by William Lane Craig. A classic book of evidences for the veracity of the Christian faith.
  • Jesus' Resurrection: Fact or Figment? by William Lane Craig and Gerd Ludemann. A debate between a prominent Christian scholar and a prominent atheist on the historicity of the resurrection versus a hallucination theory. I personally find Craig's arguments compelling. For a taste of how Craig makes his case, click here.
  • Easter Enigma: Are the Resurrection Accounts in Conflict? by John Wenham. Critics often attack the bible by saying that the gospels contradict each other. Nowhere is this attack more felt than in the resurrection accounts, in which the four gospel writers give four broadly similar accounts, but with some striking differences. This masterful and short book (roughly 150 pages), by John Wenham, who taught Greek at Oxford University, is a gripping and insightful journey into how to read the gospels. It contains many rich insights into how to understand the genre of the New Testament. Wenham lived in Jerusalem for some time, and begins the book with a layout of Jerusalem so that you can visualize locations and paths (identifying the path that Mary Magadelene took from the tomb, for example). He carries the reader with suspense as he unfolds each of the characters and how they relate to the resurrection story. You will never read the story of the resurrection the same way again. You will also appreciate how, in fact, cursory reading finds contradictions while careful reading finds unity.
  • Is God a Moral Monster? Making Sense of the Old Testament God by Paul Copan. The New Atheists (Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, Dennett) and many others claim that the God of the Old Testament is genocidal, misogynistic, narcissistic, and capricious. Copan brilliantly responds to these allegations.
  • Scaling the Secular City by J.P. Moreland. An excellent, modern, and wide exploration of the question of "How do I know there is a God?" and "What is the evidence for Christianity?" Good reading for those who appreciate a scholarly, intellectual defense of Christianity.
  • Warranted Christian Belief by Alvin Plantinga. Let's face it -- Plantinga (professor emeritus of philosophy at Notre Dame) has developed a corpus that smashes atheism to bits. His writing is dense and difficult, but richly rewarding.
  • Christian Think Tank - a great website with basics of the faith and evidences for its veracity. There is enough here, with enough depth, to study profitably for several months. Much of the website is Q&A between very thoughtful writers.

Recommended reading and audio for professing Christians on faith and its practice

Excellent books on church life and prayer life:

  • The Kneeling Christian. One of the most influential books on prayer ever written, the author (an "unknown Christian") simply goes to the Scripture and points out how important prayer is to the life of a believer. The first chapter alone is worth the price of the book. In it, the author states that a person's greatest regret, once in heaven, will be to look back and wonder why he or she didn't pray more. When a person realizes how much can be gained by praying, it should astound us that we don't spend more time on our knees. Each chapter is filled with helpful and motivating insights. This is one book worth reading -- and re-reading -- every year.
  • The Doctrine of Repentance by Thomas Watson. Repentance is a neglected teaching in the Christian church today. In a sin-loving world and in churches where it has been defined only in sociological terms, the biblical teaching on repentance has been ignored. Knowing what repentance is and then actually repenting are essential to true Christianity. Jesus Christ himself said that if we do not repent, we will perish. It is vital, therefore, to read and study what Scripture has to say about this theme. Few better guides have existed in this experience of repentance than Thomas Watson. He was a master of both Scripture and the human heart, and wrote with a simplicity and directness that keeps his work fresh and powerful for the twenty-first century.
  • True Christianity by Charles Finney. Perhaps only once or twice in a lifetime, a person might read a book that changes the very direction of their life. While reading the autobiography of Charles Finney, it struck me that his Christian experience was unlike anything that I had ever heard of -- a journey to a new world full of power and transformation. A subsequent and deep intrigue about how he understood the gospel led me to compile and edit this book of lectures written by Charles Finney: an attempt to gather his best material about what he understood the core of Christianity to be. (Many of the chapters are taken from his Lectures on Revivals of Religion). The content of this book challenged me to live the true Christian life in new and deeper ways. The book can also be read in pdf form by clicking here.
  • King Jesus Claims His Church by Finny Kuruvilla. I wrote this book to touch on the core issues of the Christian life, particularly in connection to the church. Many people today say, "I'm spiritual, but not religious." Such language reveals a hunger for God but a distaste for the church. Even in the church, Christians are asking, "Is this what church is supposed to be?" Many Christians sense deep down that there is supposed to be something more, but are unsure of what that something is. King Jesus Claims His Church presents a stirring, bold vision for the church that is both biblical and timely.
  • The Normal Christian Life by Watchman Nee. A friend recommended this book to me as the most influential book outside the Bible that affected him. Nee was a Chinese believer who could read the Bible in ways that will astonish and bless you. Dripping with powerful insights, this book should especially be read by those who want to understand faith and belief better. This content represents core material that all believers should know. The Normal Christian Life has revolutionized many lives with his understanding of grace and what it is to be "in Christ." Nee is a controversial figure for other reasons, but the content of this book is practically unanimously judged to be his best and most helpful.
  • A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life by William Law. This book is one of the classics of the millenium on Christian living. While not easy reading, it can set your heart aflame in age of laxity and disobedience. Drink deeply and slowly from this rich book.

Baptism: Since baptism is the beginning of our Christian life, we should diligently strive to understand it correctly. There are two errors circulating in our day that have led to significant error and confusion. (If you don't know what they are, read the first book below.)

  • Baptism: A Biblical Study by Jack Cottrell. Baptism has too often been something that divides Christians even though it is supposed to do the opposite (Eph. 4:5). This book is a biblically grounded tour of the subject of baptism, simply by taking the reader through the relevant texts from the New Testament. A must read.
  • The Baptized Life by Tom Jones. An uplifting book that contends that reflecting on our baptism should dramatically impact our spiritual life today -- precisely the argument that Paul makes in Romans 6:1-14. Are you living the baptized life?
  • What the early Christians believed about baptism by David Bercot (free online). Our convictions should come from the Scriptures but validation by the early church (pre-325 AD) is a helpful check. The early church in fact had a view of baptism that comports with the view in the above two books.
  • A vindication of trine immersion as the apostolic form of Christian baptism by James Quinter. When one carefully studies the structure of Matthew 28:19-20, it becomes evident that triple immersion was envisioned. Naturally, this was the exclusive interpretation of the early church. Single immersion was first introduced in the fourth and fifth century by the Eunomians and Sabellians, those who denied the Trinity.

Sexual purity and addictions:

Inspirational Christian biographies:

  • To the Golden Shore: The Life of Adoniram Judson by Courtney Anderson. A beautifully written and inspiring account of the first missionary to ever leave America.
  • Praying Hyde: Apostle of Prayer edited by E.G. Carre. So few of us today pray as we ought, even though prayer is one of the most important things that we can do. This book is a compilation of several writers on their recollections of a man named John Hyde, one of the greatest prayer warriors of our time. It is inspiring and instructive reading in order to show us what a prayer life should be like.
  • The Autobiography of Charles Finney. When I first read this in college, I felt like I was voyaging to a new planet. It's inspiring to read what a person committed to the Lord can do.

On divorce and remarriage:

  • Dear Pastor by Roger Hertzler (free online pdf). Concise, clear, and biblical, this is easily the best book on the subject of divorce and remarriage.
  • Marriage: The Mystery of Christ and the Church by David Engelsma. The New Testament repeatedly describes marriage as being a lifelong bond that only God can break through the death of one of the spouses. Such an understanding prohibits remarriage while the former spouse lives. So few preachers today defend this teaching. Three books from different perspectives nicely defend this high view of marriage. We in the church should not be deceived by the many false views propagated today.

On nonresistance (biblical nonviolence):

  • Finny Kuruvilla, King Jesus Claims His Church. This book addresses nonresistance from within the Bible's larger teaching on the church. Available on amazon.com or from Scroll Publishing.
  • What would you do? by John Howard Yoder. This book tackles the question of pacifism versus "just war." How literally do we take the Sermon on the Mount with its commands, "Turn the other cheek" and "Do not resist an evildoer"? The cover of this book actually reads: "If a violent person threatend to harm a loved one... What would you do?" Most of us have been taught a non-pacifist ideology, and so the first question I (and pretty much everyone else) asks a nonresistant person is, "If someone were going to harm your child, would you let them?" Well, this book is exactly a response to that question. Written by John Yoder, a smart Mennonite thinker, this short book (141 pages), will challenge any non-pacfist to think deeply about what Jesus meant on the Sermon on the Mount, and how it applies to our own lives, the concept of war, etc. Highly provocative. There are essays in this book from many other thinkers such as Leo Tolstoy.
  • George Kalantzis, Caesar and the Lamb: Early Christian Attitudes on War and Military Service. A professor at Wheaton College surveys the early Christian writings and concludes that the ante-Nicene (pre-325 AD) church was uniformly opposed to war. Available on amazon.com.
  • David Bercot, What the Early Christians Believed about War (audio CD), available from Scroll Publishing.
  • Leonard Verduin, Anatomy of a Hybrid: A study in church-state relationships (Eerdmans, 1976). A brilliant book on the relationship of the state and the church. Available on amazon.com or from Scroll Publishing.
  • Pacifism and biblical nonresistance by J.C. Wenger (free online essay). Wenger makes a strong case for biblical nonresistance, exploring the New Testament and views of the early church. The early church was consistently against any form of killing or war; it was not until the fourth century, after Constantine, that the church's views began to change. For other essays from authors in the "peace churches" (Anabaptist, Mennonite, Brethren, etc.) on this subject, click here

On the Bible and the canon:

  • Canon Revisited by Michael Kruger. The best book out there on why Christians should have confidence in the biblical canon. While the focus is on the New Testament, the book has relevance to the entire canon.
  • Christ and the Bible by John Wenham (third edition). A Christ-centered approach to understanding the authority of the Old Testament Canon. Also covers the New Testament canon and the apocrypha.
  • The Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church by Roger Beckwith. This is the most monumental work on the Old Testament canon ever written. A deep and scholarly investigation into the Old Testament canon used by Jesus, the apostles, and the early church. Also covers questions including the order of the books in the canon and the apocrypha.
  • Redating Matthew, Mark, and Luke by John Wenham. Don't believe the silliness about Q and the late dating of the gospel accounts. This former professor at Oxford convincingly argues for an early date for the gospel accounts (he believes Matthew could have been written in the 30s) and the traditional order of composition (Matthew, Mark, Luke) as opposed to Markan priority.

On eschatology:

  • A Case for Amillennialism by Kim Riddlebarger. Understanding eschatology, the study of the last days, is a challenging task. However, because it is difficult does not mean that we should shy away from the task. After all, books like Revelation promise a blessing to those who hold fast to the words of the book (Rev 22:7). Most popular bible teachers teach an eschatology called dispensational premillenialism, which is a view that was founded in the 19th century. In this book, Riddlebarger makes a compelling case for amillenialism, which was the dominant eschatology of most of church history, including the Reformation. I've read several good books on eschatology, and this one is by far the best. The author covers all the relevant issues in a balanced and insightful fashion. To get a taste of the contents of the book, click here.
  • Regnum Caelorum: Patterns of Millennial Thought in Early Christianity by Charles Hill. Persuasively demonstrates that the earliest view of the church was amillenial and opposed to an intermediate state (Hades) for Christians, favoring instead the belief the upon death, believers proceeded directly to the presence of God.

On the Arminian versus Calvinist debate:

  • Grace, Faith, Free Will: Contrasting Views of Salvation by Robert Picirilli. The author of the book does an outstanding job about presenting both sides of the Calvinist/Arminian debate in a fair and balanced manner. For those who think about these issues, he raises a number of very challenging points in his own defense of Arminianism that, no matter what your beliefs, are worth thinking deeply about.
  • Against Calvinism by Roger Olson. A concise and well written book against Calvinism.

On missions, apologetics, and evangelism:

  • Preaching so as to Convert Nobody by Charles Finney. An incisive, penetrating analysis of how not to preach. This is a must-read for those who attend church -- for those who preach in order to improve their messages, and for those who listen so as to recognize gospel preaching from worldly preaching.
  • The Genesis debate Three pairs of scholars debate the interpretation of the word "day" in Genesis chapter 1. A well-referenced and worthy read.
  • Seven Days that Divide the World: The Beginning according to Genesis and Science by John Lennox. A short and helpful book on how to read the Bible faithfully without falling into historically common errors.
  • Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ by Harold W. Hoehner. If you are a biblical student with an affinity for history, this is a very valuable resource. Hoehner works through in detail how to form a chronology of Jesus' life. He argues very convincingly that Jesus was crucified on Friday, April 3, 33 AD. His well referenced book will help you to understand how to use extrabiblical data (such as Roman history and the Jewish historians Philo and Josephus) in piecing together a chronology. Very technical and detailed (not an easy read), this book is a valuable reference for any serious student of New Testament chronology.
  • Christianity at the Religious Roundtable by Timothy Tennent. A fascinating book of fictional dialogues between a Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, and Hindu where one may understand the answers to questions commonly posed by other faiths.
  • Answering Islam by Norman Geisler and Abdul Saleeb. A prominent Christian thinker and a former Muslim wrote this well-rearched and thoughtful book describing the Christian response to Islam. For an unrelated website with a lot of content about the Christian response to Islam, click here.
  • Crisis of Conscience by Raymond Franz. A former member of the Governing Body of the Jehovah's Witnesses describes the organization from the inside and many of the reasons for its problems today. It is an honest and level-headed examination of the group.
  • American Fraud by Kay Burningham. The title is unfortunately offensive, but a lawyer and former Mormon gives her case against Mormonism.

Church history:

  • The Story of Christianity (2 volumes) by Justo Gonzalez. A clear, nonsectarian overview of the history of the church.
  • Kregel Pictorial Guide to Church History by John Hannah. This book covers all of church history in less than 25 pages. At first I was skeptical as to what it could cover, but it's actually quite good. It also comes with a nice chart.

Stewardship:

  • Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger by Ronald Sider (5th edition). This book challenges the church to be faithful to God's call to live simply and help those in need. Sider's thinking has sharpened over the decades, which is reflected in this latest edition of the book (published in 2005) and its footnotes. Though the book has a single author, many people over the years have contributed to its contents, including several economists. You will learn a tremendous amount about the state of the world today (alone worth the price of the book). I disagreed with Sider in his negative remarks on population growth (he is consistently quite against high fertility) and on his high view of political activism (I personally don't think that is the way to real change). Despite that, there is a much in the book worth pondering.
  • Vegetarianism as Stewardship (free online reading) While eating meat is clearly described as an issue of liberty (Romans 14), the Bible forbids cruelty to animals (Proverbs 12:10, Deuteronomy 25:4). Unfortunately the vast majority of meat produced in the United States comes from intensely cruel practices. Christians should not patronize this. Also, 80% of the grain raised in the United States goes to feed animals, a factor that is driving global grain prices higher which greatly hurts the poor. The command to love our neighbor, especially our poor neighbors, therefore involves eating a simple plant-based diet. This very brief essay on the merits of vegetarianism from a Christian perspective -- addressing issues of health, environment, and God's ideal. Click here or here for a fuller treatment.

Helpful collections:

Online bibles in the original languages:

  • A Hebrew-English bible This is a free, online bible (Old Testament only) with one column in Hebrew, and the second in English. The English is the 1917 Jewish Publication Society translation. The Hebrew fonts are fairly decent, certainly much better than any other site I have seen.
  • Greek New Testament Actually read the New Testament online in the original languge! Very clear fonts make this site very valuable. In addition, you can click on any word and get its parsing.