Books that Influenced Me
FIRST, AS A TEEN BECOMING A CHRISTIAN
1) GOD’S SMUGGLER by Brother Andrew, (Old Tappan, NJ: Spire Books, a division of Fleming H. Revell Company, 1967). The cover says, “When he crossed the armed borders of the Iron Curtain would he be lucky-or dead?” I read this as a youngster and it made me want to be a Christian and do something daring for God. It awakened my spiritual interest and set me on the path to the God of Christianity. Little did I suspect that in 1983 I would be smuggling Bibles, money, and medicine across the Iron Curtain, through East Germany for Christian’s in Poland!
2) THE BIBLE which I hid between my mattresses because I didn’t want my Christian parents to know I was reading it at night. In my later teens I discovered the YOUNG’S ANALYTICAL CONCORDANCE, and VINE’S EXPOSITORY DICTIONARY OF BIBLICAL WORDS. I learned to love, study, and memorize large portions of the Bible and started doing Greek word studies and exegetical studies and outlines while in high school.
3) THE MIND MATTERS by John Stott (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1972). This little book gave me a basis to begin thinking of Christianity as a reasonable belief and not anti-intellectual or irrational. Having been raised in a Fundamentalist background that said “Believe because the Bible and the Pastor say so!”, I was able to stay with the faith without losing my ability to reason and leave my mind behind. Also Harry Blamires’ THE CHRISTIAN MIND.
SECOND, AS A YOUNG ADULT BECOMING GROUNDED IN THE FAITH
4) AEROBICS by Kenneth Cooper, MD (NY: Bantam Books, 1968). At an early age this book gave me a lifelong respect for proper exercise and diet. I have run on and off throughout my life and attribute that to a mind-set of health and a resulting healthy body. I also found ARE YOU CONFUSED? by Paavo Airola very helpful to direct me towards natural foods, vitamins and minerals, and a healthy diet.
5) THE GOD WHO IS THERE by Francis Schaeffer (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1968). This book made me understand the concept of truth and opened a whole new vista for me. It approached Christianity from an intellectual, philosophical perspective and gave me the confidence that Christianity was true, not only propositionally, but that it was the only explanation of reality that could be consistent throughout. If made me proud and confident to be a Christian and as a result of this book we eventually went to Switzerland for a year to study with Francis Schaeffer and to travel Europe researching our Reformation Protestant roots. The two other books in the trilogy are HE IS THERE AND HE IS NOT SILENT and ESCAPE FROM REASON. He also opened our eyes, along with all Evangelicalism, to the issue of abortion through his book WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE HUMAN RACE.
6) CANCER WARD by Alexandr Solzhenitsyn (England: Penguin Books, 1969). This book opened the door to Solzenitsyn and I eventually read most of his books. I also was profoundly moved by ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH, THE GULAG ARCHIPELAGO, and THE FIRST CIRCLE. WARNING TO THE WEST also had a big impact on my thinking. Other books that influenced my political thought were THE CHRISTIAN MANIFESTO by Francis Schaeffer, THE SECOND AMERICAN REVOLUTION by John Whitehead and THE FEDERALIST PAPERS by Founding Fathers James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay who wrote explaining the intent and meaning of the United States Constitution. The fact that the intent of the Fathers is now considered irrelevant by the general political climate in favor of an “evolving document”, was very disturbing. Along those lines a book entitled MIRACLE ON MAIN STREET by Tupper Saussy, exposing the unconstitutional nature of our monetary and tax system caused me to study our American history and the formation of our Federal Republic.
7) MEN AND MARRIAGE by George Gilder (Gretna, LA: Pelican Publ., 1987). This book “address the most profound crisis in America today-the imperiled family.” Gilder discusses the place of the sexes and the need for families to achieve a civilized society. Janet and I read THE ACT OF MARRIAGE by Tim LaHaye and it profoundly influenced our marriage.DARE TO DISCIPLINE and other books by James Dobson (Focus on the Family) helped us with raising our children and forming a firm and loving environment for their development. HOME GROWN KIDS by Raymond and Dorothy Moore opened the door for home schooling.
THIRD, AS AN ADULT FROM PROTESTANT TO CATHOLICISM
8) EVANGELICAL IS NOT ENOUGH (Worship of God in Liturgy and Sacrament) by Thomas Howard (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1984). Thomas describes his pilgrimage from Evangelicalism to liturgical Christianity. This was the first book we read, actually that Janet read and it opened doors for us we never expected. After reading this book the possibility of an ancient, visible Church became an exciting reality. This book was groundbreaking, a watershed in our life. APOSTOLIC SUCCESSION, a little Eastern Orthodox book by Father Gregory Rogers convinced me that apostolic succession was not just a later Catholic invention or corruption and BECOMING ORTHODOX by Peter Gillquist chronicled his journey from Evangelicalism to the Eastern Orthodox. This book excited us about the ancient Church, but the Orthodox route quickly faded as we saw the problems and historical discontinuity.
9) CATHOLICISM AND FUNDAMENTALISM by Karl Keating (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1988). This book addresses the anti-Catholic authors and discusses all the major Fundamentalist arguments against the Catholic Church. As I read this book I realized the objections to the Catholic Church that I had been raised with were actually caricatures of the truth and that the Catholic Church was right on these issues. Chesterton’s writings The Catholic Church and Conversion and The Thing: Why I am a Catholic in the book G.K. CHESTERTON COLLECTED WORKS, VOL 3 opened my eyes to many things, from a man I had long respected. John Henry Cardinal Newman’s brilliant MARY THE SECOND EVE and AN ESSAY OF THE DEVELOPMENT OF CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE helped blow away my last obstacles to the Catholic faith.
10) THE HISTORY OF THE CHURCH by Eusebius trans. by G. A. Williamson (NY: Penguin Books, 1989) is the earliest Church history after the book of Acts written about 325 AD. This book had a profound impact on me and I couldn’t set it down. I realized how Catholic the early Church really was (I couldn’t find my favorite distinctive Protestant doctrines anywhere in the first centuries) and it drew me deeply into the first centuries and gave me a thirst to know more. I then delved into the writings of the Fathers, especially THE ANTE-NICENE FATHERS and THE NICENE AND POST-NICENE FATHERS Series OneandSeries Two. These are also available as software from Logos Software.
11) EARLY CHRISTIAN WRITINGS:THE APOSTOLIC FATHERS trans by Maxwell Staniforth (NY: Penguin Books, 1987). This thin book contains the writings of Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch, Polycarp, Barnabas, the Epistle to Diognetus, and the Didache. Again, I couldn’t set the book down. The writings of Irenaeus, AGAINST HERESIES written in 180 AD, showed me the need for Apostolic Tradition, Apostolic Succession, the primacy of Rome etc. THE FAITH OF THE EARLY FATHERS in three volumes by William Jurgens and PATROLOGY in four volumes by Johannes Quasten opened the gateway into a treasure house.
12) CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (Citta del Vaticano: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1994). This beautifully written, tightly reasoned and vast-scoped catechism came out the year we were received into the Church. It has been a wonderful source book, training guide, Church and life manual and book of treasures. It has been a great gift and an extremely useful tool that I carry with me along with my Bible, my Missal, and my Handbook of Prayers.