It wasn’t until I entered my 30’s that I discovered the deeper level of intellectual and spiritual fulfillment that comes from increasing one’s knowledge of Christian theology, history, and apologetics. Knowing what an enormous blessing this endeavor is, it is my hope and prayer that an increasing number of Christ-followers will resolve to explore this aspect of the faith in the new year.
Why is loving God with the mind such a neglected practice? I think many Christians are simply intimidated by what seems like an overwhelming task. They’re unsure about how to find interesting, reliable resources. They may be put off by the controversial topics, because they don’t like the tone employed by some outspoken advocates of various positions. Maybe they think scholarly books and articles will be over their head or simply dull.
I’d like to offer my readers encouragement and support by suggesting a strategy for Loving God With Your Mind in 2012. I’ve formulated a reading plan that incorporates accessible, interesting materials from renowned, trustworthy Christian scholars. This program will give you an excellent knowledge base and prepare you for more concentrated topical studies later on. This list is painfully short and does not include dozens upon dozens of books that I consider highly valuable contributions to Christian scholarship. What I’ve tried to do is offer a one-year plan featuring a variety of books that lay-persons will find digestible and that will encourage them to read higher level, more comprehensive books on each subject. Some of the featured books are a bit more challenging than others, but are by no means beyond the mental grasp of any dedicated reader.
Now, without further ado:
January: Read (or RE-read) Love Your God With All Your Mind by Dr. J.P. Moreland. This is an essential starting point, in my opinion.
February: Read On Guard by William Lane Craig. This will introduce you to some of the key issues in apologetics. It is written at the lay-level, and it has pictures and diagrams that really help beginners with comprehension. There is an optional study guide.
March: Read From Creation to the Cross by Albert Baylis. This is a full chronological survey of the Old Testament and events leading up to the crucifixion. It flows well and does not bog the reader down in technical theological language.
April: Read Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air by Greg Koukl and Francis Beckwith. Of all the issues facing the church and challenging the Great Commission in our era , moral relativism is near the top of the list.
May: Read The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus by Gary Habermas and Mike Licona. If you only read one defense of the resurrection in your life, this is an excellent choice. It comes with a resurrection computer game CD inside the back cover.
June: Read Understanding Intelligent Design: Everything You Need to Know in Plain Language by Sean McDowell and William Dembski. This is an introduction to the theory of intelligent design that all Christians can appreciate, regardless of their preferred model of origins.
July: Read A World of Difference: Putting Christian Truth-Claims to the Worldview Test by Kenneth Samples. The scope of this book is fantastic. It touches on many important issues.
August: Read The Case for The Real Jesus by Lee Strobel. This is a very introductory-level look at the erroneous claims made by some scholars about who Jesus was and the origin of Christianity. Those claims continue to permeate pop-culture and the media, so Christians need answers to them.
September: Read Did Adam and Eve Really Exist? Who They Were and Why You Should Care by C. John Collins. This is one of the best treatments I’ve seen of the issue.
October: Read Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions by Greg Koukl. Koukl is a master of conversational techniques for use in practical apologetics.
November: Read In Search of a Confident Faith: Overcoming Barriers to Trusting in God by J. P. Moreland and Klaus Issler. What I love about this book is that it addresses different kinds of objections to faith, such as emotional and experiential, in addition to intellectual objections.
December: Read Philosophy Made Slightly Less Difficult: A Beginner’s Guide to Life’s Big Questions by Garrett DeWeese and J.P. Moreland. Your reading throughout the year will prepare you for this “slightly” intense but short survey of issues in Christian philosophy. Don’t be afraid! You can do it!
If you decide to follow this reading plan, please send me your thoughts on each book, each month. At the end of the year, I’ll hold an essay contest for participants that made it though all 12 months of reading! Note: if you have already read one or more books on the list, you must either re-read the book or contact me for a substitute title in order to qualify for participation in the end-of-year contest.