From time to time, I get asked about recommending books for people who are searching. Instead of just a random order, though, I thought I would put my recommendations in order of experience and transformation — one book led me to the next.
Next up is Simply Christian, by the Bishop N. T. (Tom) Wright. It’s one of the best books to come out in the last few years. It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Bishop Tom. I have read his stuff for years now. Simply Christian was very instrumental in my journey and solidified looking and listening to the “echo of a voice” within all of life. If you are looking for some good foundations for the Christian faith and how you fit within that story, you can’t go wrong with this book by Bishop Tom. Read this book in combination with Simply Christian above, and you will have a very well rounded view of Christianity as a way of living.
Marcus Borg’s The Heart of Christianity is the next book in this journey. I reference this book more than I thought. In it, Borg sets up the idea of two ways of Christianity and emphasizes that the “emerging” way is where a lot of people are finding hope and strength. It’s also about a way of living and not just a set of doctrines to believe. If you are finding difficulty with the Christianity that you encounter on television (for example) or the Christianity from your youth is not really fitting your experience today, check out The Heart of Christianity. You might just find it ringing true from deep within.
Christ of the Celts, by John Philip Newell, is a life changing book. It was the linchpin that tied together all of the things the Spirit was showing me. It challenged me at deep, deep levels. It’s a book for anyone looking for a more holistic approach to things like the natural world and the spiritual world. I will say, however, that it’s not for someone with a weak constitution. It will make you question a lot of what one has been taught about Christianity.
Another book by Brian McLaren is A New Kind of Christianity. McLaren encourages us to re-examine the story we’ve been told and points us into a “new” way of seeing the story. He shows us that there is a way forward through ten questions and his responses (McLaren prefers “responses” because responses helps continue the conversation whereas “answers” tends to end the conversation). Some of the questions he tackles are: Is God Violent? What is the Gospel? Can We Find a Way to Address Human Sexuality Without Fighting About It? How Should Followers of Jesus Relate to People of Other Religions? If you find yourself feeling “on the outside” or on the “fringe” of Christianity and are looking for ways to address some of the questions of your family, friends, and neighbors (and possibly even your own), you might just find some good “responses” in this book.
The next book on this list is possibly one of the most important and the most powerful. It’s Rob Bell’s book, Love Wins. When it was released in 2011, it caught all kinds of flak. And most of it was from the Christian community. Various church leaders were condemning the book and more than a few were condemning Bell! I had stayed clear from it for a while. When I eventually read it the following year, I had already started seeing some of the things Bell wrote about. I honestly didn’t know what to expect when I picked up Bell’s book. But on page after page, Bell wrote passionately, gently pushing, gently prodding, into questions and responses that open up a bigger view of God than most people have ever imagined. Bell challenges us to see God is this bigger way, not only through stories and prose but also from an avalanche of biblical passages, showing, quite convincingly, that, in the end, God’s Love does win.
These last entries are submitted with humility. The first comes from the neo-monastic community through whom I’m a professed member and ordained priest. The Lindisfarne Community is an independent, ecumenical religious community in the Anglo-Celtic tradition with apostolic succession. We’re relational, egalitarian, contemplative, sacramental, and inclusive with deep roots in historical Christianity, yet we’re open to insights from other traditions.
Secular Monasticism: A Journey, was released in the summer of 2012. In it we capture the beginnings of the Lindisfarne Community. Through the first part of the book, our Abbess and Abbot, +Jane Hall Fitz-Gibbon and +Andy Fitz-Gibbon, tell their stories of how they came to this country, struggled with their own changing views and how they were influenced and shaped from a variety of sources. They explain how they felt the need to create a place for others who felt similar callings. In the second part of the book, various members of our community tell our stories and how we eventually found our way to Lindisfarne. I was honored to share part of my journey in this book. My chapter is called, “The Long and Winding Road.”
Lastly, this is the first book in a series of commentaries based in the Celtic Christian tradition, The Winged Man: The Good News According to Matthew (Celtic Bible Commentary Book 1). Kenneth McIntosh, the editor of the series, contacted me and asked me to be a contributor. “Each volume of the Celtic Bible Commentary contains a new translation of that book of the Bible, with commentaries, written by Celtic and Bible scholars, for all chapters. These commentaries include insights from the ancient Celts — and apply them to our own lives in the twenty-first century, challenging us to weave the Bible’s stories into our own. Each commentary encourages us to read scripture ‘the Celtic way,’ encountering it as fresh, living, and radical.”
Well, there you have it! I’ll update this list from time to time, so be on the lookout for a post letting you know it’s been updated again.
Br. Jack+, LC