OneTrueGodBlog is, at least in theory, a great idea. The format is simple and unique. Hugh Hewitt asks a weekly question and encourages a panel of prominent Christian bloggers to post a response. Unfortunately there are often few responses given.
Last week Hewitt asked the following question: “Please recommend the five books you would have a Christian college student read who was interested in deepening his or her faith but who also had all the time constraints and background education of most college kids today. (In other words, no Summa Theologica or Institutes.)” There was only one reply to the question. David Allen White suggested the following: Plato’s “Phaedo” Dialogue (“On the Immortality of the Soul”) and Aristotle’s “De Anima” (“On the Soul”); Thomas a Kempis’s IMITATION OF CHRIST, Dante Aligheri’s THE DIVINE COMEDY, KING LEAR and Dostoevsky’s THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV. Those are definitely interesting choices, but, with all due respect, I’m not sure it is an awfully effective list. Perhaps the occasional student who fancies himself a real intellectual and has a full scholarship would have time and inclination to read those titles. I would suggest, though, that very few students would make it through that list of books.
I would like to propose what I consider a more realistic list of five books. These are more realistic because the average college student, whether studying engineering or philosophy, would be able to read and enjoy them. Consider this a list for the average guy like myself. Set aside Wild at Heart, Blue Like Jazz, The Purpose Driven Life and read on.
Most students would benefit from a book written specifically to address issues of maintaining faith through the college experience. A book like University of Destruction (review) or How to Stay Christian in College (which I know only by reputation) might prove invaluable in forewarning young people of the difficulties they are bound to face in college. After all, as the old saying goes, forewarned is forearmed. These books will prepare kids to deal with the temptations that will be offered to them and provide practical guidance for studies, relationships and the pursuit of truth.
Putting Amazing Back Into Grace (review) by Michael Horton is an examination of the doctrines of grace that is entirely accessible to teenagers or adults. It will prepare a student to come face-to-face with God’s amazing grace in saving a people for Himself. It is challenging, devotional and utterly biblical. I can think of few books I have recommended more often or more highly than this one.
Decisions, Decisions (review) by Dave Swavely, which makes similar arguments to those made by Gary Friesen in the classic Decision Making and the Will of God is a valuable study on how to make decisions that honor God and are consistent with His Word. During these formative years students will be faced by many difficult decisions regarding moral choices, career choices and spiritual choices. A book that addresses how to make decisions in a biblical manner will help students rely more on the Word of God and less on their feelings or subjective “leadings.”
Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem. This may not be the type of book people read from cover-to-cover, but it is an invaluable reference tool in matters of theology. Other than the Bible, this is the one book that never leaves my desk and I turn to it constantly. It makes for great devotional reading and is also always available for reference on almost any topic. Every Christian can benefit from it.
At this point I began to have trouble. Do I recommend a devotional work as the final title? A great theological work? A book that will prepare students to evangelize their friends? Perhaps a title like Prophetic Untimeliness (review by Os Guinness would be a good suggestion as it will help students overcome the bias towards the modern over the ancient and help them see the fallacies of relevance. Or maybe a practical reference book like Now That’s A Good Question (review) by R.C. Sproul. But in the end I think any student would do well to read Don Whitney’s Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life (review). It is another modern day classic that will help students learn and appreciate the disciplines that build strong Christian committment and character.
While I do not consider it part of this list, I would also recommend every student have access to a good study Bible based upon a solid translation of the Scriptures. My first choice is the Reformation Study Bible, available in the English Standard Version. A student will benefit far more from immersing himself in this book - God’s book - than in any other.
So there we have it. University of Destruction, Putting Amazing Back Into Grace, Decisions, Decisions , Systematic Theology and Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life. A Christian college student could do far worse than to have those titles on his bookshelf and that collective wisdom in his heart.