Having discussed in past blogs my favorite mystery authors (Mystery Mavens, Mystery Men), Fantasy authors (Fantasies), and books for children (Books to read aloud, Books for Girls, Books for Boys), I thought I would mention some of my favorite Christian authors.
Very little fiction here
There aren’t a lot of fictional books here. Christian authors generally shine when discussing their faith, and I have been very disappointed with my forays into Christian fiction, which I have been forced to conclude is not yet as rich or well-written as secular fiction. But I have hope. I’m reading a Christian fiction book now that after 130 pages has provided a pleasant surprise, and it may crop up in a future blog if it fulfills its promise. You can always check out my own fiction for some that (I hope) are both satisfying and Christian. (Some people might not think that a horror story, mystery, comedy, or science fiction story can be Christian, but I try!)
One problem with Christian fiction is the same the Greeks had in their plays: deus ex machina. If God is involved in a play (or story), He is quite capable of taking it over from the characters and extricating them out of all their troubles. For Christians, it’s a quandary. Many of us have been rescued just like that and just as improbably, but as fiction it doesn’t ring true. That’s why Corrie ten Boon’s rescue from a Nazi prison camp (in her personal account in The Hiding Place) strikes the reader as breathtakingly miraculous, but if it were written in a fictional account, it would seem contrived and unbelievable.
Before I reveal my top four favorite authors, I’ll also risk being taken out and stoned by admitting that I found The Lord of Rings Trilogy and its precursor, The Hobbit, to be incredibly slow and boring. Even non-Christians enjoy these seminal stories, but you won’t find Tolkein in my list.
C. S. Lewis
Clive Staples Lewis catapulted onto the Christian stage as a converted atheist and classical scholar. His book Mere Christianity, a written expansion of radio programs he presented over the BBC, are the clearest and most concise explanation of (and invitation to join) the Christian faith that I have read. Those of you who follow my blog will have encountered one or two quotes from C.S. Lewis. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is another fictional fantasy work has been enjoyed by non-Christians, but I find his Screwtape Letters to be shorter, better written, and more gripping. And, finally, Until We Have Faces is so superbly crafted as to require more than one read.
Dr. James Dobson
Dr. James Dobson is a psychologist who was raised in a Christian home, but he was headed away from God until God intervened in his life in one of those ways that would seem contrived if written in fiction. He has written many books (The Strong-Willed Child, Dare to Discipline, Life on the Edge, When God Doesn’t Make Sense, Love Must Be Tough, and many, many more). All his books are now considered controversial. Instead of dealing with Christian theology, his books all deal with marriage, parenting, and our culture. As a result, they are firmly at odds with the direction of a secular world, and deeply hated by secular progressives. His radio show, Focus on the Family, has received similar treatment from those who hate Christianity, but they are are boon for the believer and anyone who has tried everything else to save their marriage or child and recognizes they are still failing.
Watchman Nee was born Ni Tuosheng in China. Of course, his name should be spelled in Chinese characters, but I’m not going to attempt that here, as I can barely put pictures at the top of my blogs. His books and approach to Christianity will seem unusual to those raised in the West. Where biblical exposition in the West is mainly didactic and deductive in nature, Nee’s biblical exposition seems more inspired and intuitive. Many of his books were compiled from notes taken of his teachings rather than books he actually wrote, and this may explain why some books will contradict each other at points. Despite that, I have found his books helpful and instructive. Perhaps his most famous book is A Normal Christian Life, but I found the three books series compiled from many notes (The Church and the Work) to have had more impact my life. Watchman Nee was imprisoned by the Communist regime in China and martyred for his faith.
A. W. Tozer
Aiden Wilson Tozer was a pastor, preacher, husband, father (of 7 children!) and editor of the “Alliance Monthly”. Even now, more than 50 years after his death, someone finds forgotten tapes of his preaching or uncovers lost articles he wrote, and another book comes out. What is amazing (and perhaps sad) is that his books, filled with admonitions against the low quality of Christianity in his day, seem as fresh and applicable as if they had been written yesterday. For decades, I’ve been reading and re-reading Tozer. He wrote 12 books, but there have been so many posthumous compilations of his sermons and articles that they dwarf his own work! In fact, they are so vast, Wikipedia abandoned attempting to record them all! I have never read a book by A. W. Tozer that was anything less than gripping. I heartily recommend you read one today!
I can’t leave this topic without mentioning one of the best books I’ve ever read on prayer: A Praying Life by Paul Miller. Mr. Miller avoids the normal ruts and expected spiritualization of the topic to present a thoughtful, honest, down-to-earth appreciation of prayer and encouragement for the believer.
I guess I simply can’t leave this topic well enough alone! I also thoroughly enjoyed Billy Graham’s The Reason for My Hope, and I can see why he has been one of the 20th centuries greatest evangelists.
Pick one of these books up today. You won’t be disappointed. (And no one is paying me to say that, either!)