Tuesday’s 10: Books for the Young, Restless and Reformed

Back about two years ago, a young man confronted me on Facebook. He could not understand why I was plugging a particular Christian writer/pastor when I could be reading and plugging the “Johns” – Jonathan Edwards, John Calvin and John Piper. I explained to him I started those guys when he was still reading picture books. I also explained the need for us to read broadly and to not dismiss those we may disagree with, so offhandedly. 
He was not impressed.
But hopefully you will be. Hopefully, you will see the value of reading those authors and books less obvious within the Young, Restless and Reformed camp. Some of these will be more off the beaten path than others. Some will be so off the beaten path, you’ll need a machete to find them. And then you’ll have read them in secret.
But do it. You need varying perspectives. And you can learn things you did not know and see things you would not have seen about yourself and God and others by reading outside the “canon” of the YRR a little.
This is not a definitive list, just my list.

1. Eugene Peterson. I owe Peterson my sanity. That is no exaggeration. His vision of pastoral  and ecclesiastical life were an oasis for this parched man. He taught and is still teaching me that God is very often in silent out-of-the-way places. Start with Christ Plays in Thousand Places.

2. C. S. Lewis. You may have read some Lewis but I encourage to move beyond the obvious and read something like On Stories. His writing is superb and his perspective is singular.

3. Thomas Merton. This one is going to be hard for some of you because he was a Catholic Monk. But he was a renegade and his writings are not only poetic but also full of the kind of gems who can think on for months on end. Start with his memoir, The Seven Storey Mountain.

4. Anne Lamott. I’m late to the party on Lamott. But just glad I arrived. She will offend on one page and then warm you to the core of your being on the next. Start anywhere.

5. Francis Schaeffer. I discovered Schaeffer in college and fell in love with his writings immediately. his love and respect for unbelievers is a model for the church in the West. Or at least it should be. Start with The Great Evangelical Disaster.

6. Rob Bell. I just blew your mind, I know. But hang on and let me explain. I have not read a lot of Rob Bell. But what i have read has been helpful for two reasons. First, my primary exposure to the “emergent church” was through criticism. And reading Bell gave me a closer look and helped me relax my criticism. Second, while I disagree with Bell on Hell, I think he genuinely cares for people and for the reputation of God. Reading that book helped me see this. By the way, he is closer to Lewis on Hell than you are.

7. Steve Brown. If you need a guy who oozes grace from every pore and page, this is your guy. And unless you are reading Keller, you of the YRR are probably not getting a lot of grace while talking about it. I owe you all a  review of Three Free Sins, his new book. Start there.

8. G. K. Chesterton. Witty, funny and my favorite apologist for the Christian faith. Also a Catholic and one who is very critical of Calvinism in Orthodoxy, you may want to take off your Jonathan Edwards is my homeboy T-shirt before you begin.

9. Donald Miller. I was a vocal critic of Miller until I actually read Blue Like Jazz. Shockingly, I liked it. And he just seems like a likable guy, who can write well and pull back a layer of hardness to reveal the fleshy tenderness of a soul.
10. Mary Karr. Sorry, she’s Catholic too. You know, they are the best writers. And her book Lit is outstanding. It’s the story of her overcoming her alcoholism and her embrace of Catholicism. I cried like a school girl often while reading of her failures and victories.

4 thoughts on “Tuesday’s 10: Books for the Young, Restless and Reformed

  1. Bill Kinnon May 15, 2012 / 1:13 pm

    You are quickly becoming one of my favourite stopping points in blogdom, Matt. Another good post.

  2. chriscanuel May 15, 2012 / 1:36 pm

    I actually completely agree with you on reading Rob Bell…There is much I don't agree with him on, but for people willing to let down their guard they can learn a few things. 'Love Wins' was overhyped and didn't say much that hadn't already been said…If I was going to suggest a starting place on Bell, I'd say 'Jesus Wants to Save Christians' is the best place to start.

  3. Anonymous May 20, 2012 / 1:20 am

    I'm shocked that this should be considered a shocking list. Lots of people I love and respect like Anne Lamott. I keep trying.George McDonald is another favorite – and I'm always surprised that so many of my Jonathan Edwards t-shirt-wearing friends love him. They can't be all bad. And I like Jonathan Edwards too. And Buechner. And Manning. Ellen

  4. Larry Fischer May 22, 2012 / 7:55 pm

    I will have to read some of these. I have read Lewis, Brown and Miller but not enough of them. I think someone stole my T-shirt. Thanks Matt.

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