Those who know me well know I love books. Often friends will post great pictures of large libraries and I imagine that I could just live there. I love reading. My shelves are filled with books, antique as well as new releases. I was that child in grade school who when the teacher told us it was quiet time and we could read immediately went and picked out several books to read. I was that little girl at home who would rather sit inside and read than play outside, unless of course that meant I could sit on the front stoop (Brooklyn term for the steps leading up to our apartment building) and read undisturbed. Still to this day I would rather keep company with dusty old books, or even good new ones, than much else.
However, I’m quite particular about what I read and why I read it. If you peruse my shelves you will find books from such men like Martin Luther and Herman Sasse to John Warwick Montgomery. You’ll even find such wonderful tales which will take you from the wardrobe of Narnia to the fellowship of the ring. From there you’ll find science books from such as Francis Collins head of the G-nome project and even Hawkings and various philosophers.
My first professor of Apologetics, Dr. Montgomery taught his students to “Read Widely” so that we can give an answer for the faith we hold so dearly. This only fueled my passion for books and added scholarly journals to the list. Not all books are equal but each have helped shape my thoughts and defenses of the faith. My shelves occupants have changed drastically over the past two years, mostly because of our conversion to Lutheranism but also in preparation for the Int’l Apologetics Academy I will be attending later this year. Yet, each book I've read leaves an imprint on my mind and heart making itself available when called upon.
While I may never meet a microbiologist and use what I’ve learned from Demski or Collins to meet the challenges they posit, yet, to know how to answer the young person challenged in school when facing the teachings of evolution, it sure helps to have read something about the subject. Paul, at Mars Hill, knew the writings of Greek poets enough to use them as a tool to bring in the truth about the One True God and the resurrection of Jesus Christ our Savior.
These challenges are good reminders of what Peter told us about having an answer when people question our faith. Being equipped is vital in our time when opinion trumps truth. Knowing how to knock down, break through, or remove obstacles to the faith is necessary in our world. Knowing how to do that properly, with grace and love is even more important. That brings me to the book I recently read: Speaking the Truth in Love to Mormons by Rev. Mark Cares.
A few weeks ago a friend recommended this book to me and I ordered it thinking it would simply be another refutation of the Church of the Latter Day Saints (Mormons). I was in for quite the surprise. This book, instead of going through the questionable history of its founders, was actually taking me into the worldview of Mormonism: achieve perfection to achieve exaltation. This book challenged me deeply to rethink how I approach the Mormon missionaries who may ring my doorbell. It spoke about how the teachings of their prophets, living or dead, exacerbate their stresses and how we Christians, with love and grace, can bring them the True Gospel of Free Grace in Christ Jesus. I highly recommend this book be read several times so that true freedom and forgiveness is offered to those under the chains of a manmade religion which requires utter perfection to become a god from those who are sinners and are in desperate need of the kindness and goodness of God who will save them by grace alone apart from any works done.
Sometimes, okay, often, God will use what we had just read or heard or learned for His Kingdom. That happened this week. No, not with some nicely dressed young men at my doorway telling me there was “Another Gospel”. Instead, it was with someone who needed to know the dangers of Mormonism and the truth about this cult. Thankfully, what I read prepared me better to help this person steer clear of false teachings and encourage them to remain steadfast, trusting God to keep them and provide for them in Jesus.
I suppose that is why Dr. Montgomery taught his students to “read widely.” He said to us that you never know what or how God will use what you read. This is true. Therefore, Christians train in order to be better equipped for the defense of the faith, should be "widely read". As you think about 2019, perhaps you have listed some goals which you want to achieve. I would like to recommend this addition:
Don’t read only Christian books, although that is where you should begin, but read the works of those who do not believe. Why? So that you will know their worldview, their perspective and their doubts as well as the challenges some who read them may bring up in conversation with you.
Why? So that you can do as the late Wilbur M. Smith, have a “vigorous apologetic” for the historic Christian faith in order to follow the Pauline principle of “becoming all things to all people that by all means some might be saved…” (1 Cor. 9:22) and be able to give an apologia (reason) for the faith:
in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15)
Here are some books I would recommend to add to your personal library with the goal of reading them this year:
Christianity for the Tough Minded, John Warwick Montgomery
Religion on Trial, Craig Parton
The Resurrection Fact, John Bombaro and Adam Francisco
Darwin’s Black Box, Michael Behe
The Language of God, Francis Collins
Myth, Allegory & Gospel, John Warwick Montgomery
Mere Christianity, CS Lewis
Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, Richard Bauckham
The Gates of Hell, Scott R. Murray, General Editor
Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions
And of course, Speaking the Truth in Love to Mormons, Mark J. Cares
A few additions to your library will add much to your knowledge so that you are better equipped to answer for the faith once delivered to the saints.