Book List for Summer Term 2017

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Oxford Study Centre
Book List for Summer Term 2017

Our reading list changes a bit from term to term, not only with the books but also with the other readings (chapters, essays, excerpts, etc.). New books are published, others seem less pressing, and there is a steady stream of articles and chapters on subjects that beg to be included. Sometimes the core content makes its way into my presentations or becomes the centerpiece for a set discussion session and an entire book no longer is necessary.

For the upcoming coming Summer Term (6 June–7 August)—in addition to a selection of articles, essays, and other items that are not listed here—we are using the eight books listed below. I have placed them roughly in the order we will read them. (I’ve provided links to Amazon for any who care to chase up the volumes.)

I have lectured on worldviews and apologetics for over two decades. I appreciate a variety of approaches—or, rather, I favor an eclectic approach. Rather than reducing the study of worldviews and apologetics to having the best answer to the hardest questions (though better answers are certainly preferred to their alternatives), I get the sense that at its heart, having a Christian worldview is coming to share God’s affections and aversions; that is, coming to desiring what God desires and despising what he despises.

Naturally, there is a lot of intellectual work that goes into discovering God’s affections and aversions, though our journey simply mustn’t stop there. Rather, such convictions are to be embodied and lived out. Such convictions rightly become and properly are public, just as faith rightly is found in public faithfulness. Thus, what we seek to cultivate in our course is an informed faithfulness

The Qur’an (500 pages) • paperback • Kindle

This is one version of the Qur’an that our students have appreciated (though we also insist that they explore one by Abdullah Yusuf Ali that effectively is a study edition, complete with explanatory footnotes). An alternative version of the Qur’an is one annotated by A.J. Droge, complete with a myriad of footnotes and cross references and scholarly interactions. Along with the Qur’an, students are assigned four hours of reading in the Hadith (brief narratives that present Muhammad’s judgments, opinions, and actions). One purpose here is to learn how to understand other worldviews through primary sources.

We ask our students to complete a reading of the Qur’an prior to arriving in Oxford, though we don’t get to the topic of Islam until the second weeks of the worldview intensive. It is the most challenging reading of the term. We do not ask that they study it, per se, only that they have a developing familiarly with it and reference it accurately when they write their exploratory essays on Islam. We also meet with an Imam in Oxford each term, including an extended Q&A.

God Dwells Among Us: Expanding Eden to the Ends of the Earth, G.K. Beale and Mitchell Kim (160 pages) • paperbackKindleaudio

As we spend many hours with the Bible throughout the term—closely readings texts, observing how arguments flow, pointing up how the Old and New Testaments relate—this volume takes us on a tour of the presence of God among his people throughout the Bible, pointing up relationships that otherwise might go unnoticed. We will use it as an example of how themes course through the testaments, how surprising connections are latent in narratives, and much more.

The Story of Reality, Greg Koukl. This is a great little book for providing an overview of the Christian worldview. It could be seen as Paul’s speech in Acts 17 expanded for contemporaries. It is a great little volume to share with non-Christian friends.
The Drama of Scripture, Craig Bartholomew and Michael Goheen. This volume is especially helpful in providing an overview of biblical history and theology. Students who are shaky on their biblical knowledge would profit from reading this volume prior to arrival.
The Mission of God, Christopher Wright. Seldom do I appreciate a book more than I appreciate this one. If it weren’t so long, it would be in our reading list right now. Much of the content finds its way into my presentations throughout the term. I think this is a fabulous volume.

Making Sense of God: An Invitation to the Skeptical, Timothy Keller (254 pages) • hardbackKindleaudio

Tim Keller is one of the best communicators of Christian convictions to contemporary society. Not only that, he is an insightful and incisive analyst of contemporary cultures. As with Keller’s other books, I find myself consistently and increasingly impressed with his clarity of his case and the effectiveness of his engagements with contemporary skeptics as he invites them to consider the claims of Christ.

Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian ConvictionsGregory Koukl (paperbackKindleaudio). This is a wonderfully wise and practical volume that guides readers through the whys and hows of communicating Christian convictions with grace and clarity and logic and suasion. If you haven’t yet read it, you should remedy that right away. We typically use this as a text in our course, but the summer term is a shorter term, so I will summarize the core concepts in class.

 Answering Jihad: A Better Way Forward, Nabeel Qureshi (173 pages) • paperbackKindleaudio

This is an excellent volume that provides a quick and punchy introduction, overview, and engagement with Islam. Qureshi is a seasoned communicator on this subject, being a former-Muslim himself. It provides us with a great foundation, as well as a number of points of critical engagement (e.g., Qureshi and I have rather different approaches to the question of whether Christians and Muslims worship the same God). (The only serious flaw with this book is its complete lack of documentation. Since I’ve researched this subject for over two decades, I’m confident with the content. But it is nearly shameful that the author and publisher would let this volume go to press without such documentation. Qureshi’s longer book does have some documentation, though it still feels insufficient. A flaw with the audio version is that it doesn’t include any of the appendices, which are quite important.) 

Defeating Jihad: The Winnable War, Sabastian Gorka.
Once one realizes that Islam is a political ideology that has embedded within it some practices, then one no longer approaches Islam as if it were a religion just like any other religion. And here Gorka takes up the case that we have fought totalitarian ideologies before. We should learn from that experience.
No God but One: Allah or Jesus?: A Former Muslim Investigates the Evidence for Islam and Christianity, Nabeel Qureshi. It is surprising how Qureshi could address so many topics so well in a single volume. Then again, he’s been working on this material for years. But this is a great follow up to the smaller volume that we use in our course.

The Question of Canon, Michael J. Kruger (200 pages) • paperback • Kindle

This volume is more scholarly in tone than most of the others. There are a lot of footnotes and some seemingly obscure engagements with other scholars. Even so, it is not inaccessible at all. I think it is effective, even exemplary, as a volume combining clear Christian convictions, scholarly rigor, rhetorical precision, and polemical restraint. (You can and should keep up with Kruger at his blog, Canon Fodder.)

Can We Still Believe the Bible?, Craig Blomberg.

The Historical Reliability of the New Testament: Countering the Challenges to Evangelical Christian Beliefs, Craig Blomberg. Both books are excellent. The latter is a very big book. But Blomberg writes with clarity, so the reading is very accessible. Blomberg has long researched, pondered, taught, debated, and written on this subject. What we have here is a mature work.

Openness Unhindered: Further Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert on Sexual Identity and Union with Christ, Rosaria Champagne Butterfield (190 pages) • paperback • Kindleaudio 

Given the pressing nature of the issues surrounding sexuality and sexual identity, there is a need to expand our studies a bit beyond the issues swirling around marriage and into issues of orientation, identity, representation, repentance, and hospitality. There is no better resource for this than Rosaria Butterfield’s work on the subject.

Truth Overruled: The Future of Marriage and Religious Liberty, Ryan Anderson.
If there is one person who is at the leading edge of the challenges to natural marriage and those who would promote natural marriage it is Ryan Anderson. This is a solid and very important volume.

The Quest for Cosmic Justice, Thomas Sowell (190 pages) • paperbackKindle

Justice is a prominent theme throughout our course (a distinctive for worldviews courses). Why? Because it is a prominent theme throughout the Bible (as we see during the term). This volume very ably helps us navigate our way through various conceptions of justice, showing that all justice is social. Many of our students note how much they appreciate the clarity Sowell brings in the face of so much talk today about “social justice.” I could not agree more.

Money, Greed, and God: Why Capitalism Is the Solution and Not the Problem, Jay Richards.
This is a fabulous book that dispels various clichés and myths about capitalism, as well as answering a number of Christian misunderstandings and misconstruals. It should be widely read.
Intellectuals and Society, Thomas Sowell. Sowell is a national treasure, and this large volume introduces us to the breadth of Sowell’s massive body of work over the decades. While it is large, it reads easily and can be managed by sections.
Wealth, Poverty, and Politics: An International Perspective, Thomas Sowell. Yet again Sowell guides us into a view of the world in all its rich diversity and oddity, pointing up features that have tremendous bearing on economics and the unequal distribution of resources and thus of wealth.

The Founding Fathers and the Debate over Religion in Revolutionary America, Matthew Harris and Thomas Kidd (185 pages) • paperbackKindle

It often has been said that America is a Christian nation. What could that mean? What difference might that make? Is the claim even correct? This volume takes us back to the early days of our republic to witness the disputes about religion between the Founding Fathers. 

The Faiths of the Founding Fathers, David Holmes.
Holmes ably guides us through competing claims regarding the Founder’s faiths, showing with clarity how some were orthodox Christians while most were not.
Between Babel and Beast: America and Empires in Biblical Perspective, Peter Leithart. Seldom has a book made me pause, confirming some of my suspicions and completely dismantling some of my assumptions. This is a biblical theology of empire. It should be read. You should read it!

Two Final Recommendations 

If students would like to improve their writing skills prior to the beginning of the Oxford term, then I suggest they begin with the following small volume: The Writer’s Diet: A Guide to Fit Prose (and Kindle),  by Helen Sword. And for those who are a bit more aggressively interested in writing and grammar and such, I would recommend Steven Pinker’s, A Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century (also Kindle and audio). (Do note that Pinker is an evangelistic atheist who at times is stridently obtuse. But he is great with words and offers ample insights throughout.)

• • •

As I mentioned above, we also read a few chapters from other books, some essays, and a selection of articles, as well as several biblical books, chapters, and passages. All told, we’ll be reading around 2300 pages this summer term (though the texts above combine to 1852 pages of that total).

All of our readings are designed for exploratory conversations, for long discussions about important questions and convictions. But it is not all talk, mind you. Just as faith without words would be dead, so are good words in the absence of good works. The biblical worldview is not properly found resident merely in our intellects but in our imaginations, our emotions, our actions, our habits. Having a biblical Christian worldview is coming to share God’s affections and aversions.

Happy reading! 

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