Introductory books for Christianity

Collected advice from Charles Murray, Vox Day, and myself.

My advice is to start with the New Testament if you’re genuinely interested. It’s more important than the Old Testament and significantly shorter, so the payoff in understanding is immediate and much greater. For the same reason, I recommend easy-to-read translations like the NIV over the King James, even if there’s a possibility that Satan wrote them, because you’ll still get 99% of the idea. Leave absolute theological precision to the autists. The Old Testament provides context, but if you’ll pardon the analogy it’s more like the Silmarillion than it is like The Hobbit (as these pertain to The Lord of the Rings).

If you’re not genuinely interested, but consider religion one of those things you ought to get around to someday, I’d second Charles Murray’s recommendations here for intelligent folks. These books are more intellectually engaging and less intimidating than the Bible itself.

The more you are around people who are seriously religious, the harder it is to think there’s nothing to it.

I say this mostly out of my wife’s testimony, because she has been around some impressive examples, but to some extent from my own experience. You will encounter people whose intelligence, judgment, and critical faculties are as impressive as those of your smartest atheist friends — and who also possess a disquietingly serene confidence in an underlying reality behind the many religious dogmas. They have learned to reconcile faith and reason, yes, but beyond that, they persuasively convey that there are ways of knowing that transcend intellectual understanding. They exhibit in their own personae a kind of wisdom that goes beyond just having intelligence and good judgment.

If any of these propositions has intrigued you enough to start taking religion seriously, here’s a short reading list for Christianity (if you’re Jewish, a sympathetic rabbi can get you started). My favorite entry point is Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis. The book is a compilation of radio lectures on the BBC during World War II. It is effortless to read, is charming, radiates intelligence, and will get you thinking. Thomas Merton’s The Seven Storey Mountain is a classic account of a spiritual journey from youth to maturity. If you want an example of a book that will show you how much more there is to the Gospels than you realized, read The Wisdom Jesus by Cynthia Bourgeault.

-Charles Murray
The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Getting Ahead (Excerpt)

Murray also recommends continually rewatching the movie Groundhog’s Day as an easy way to learn and understand Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics.

Vox’s recommendations are better if you fall into his UHIQ category of “brilliant” thinkers, as opposed to very smart thinkers.

First of all, remember not to get too caught up in the theological extrapolations. No matter what you end up reading, it is always worthwhile to periodically circle back to the original source. Don’t neglect reading the Bible in favor of various men’s interpretations of what the Bible says. In the end, theology is nothing more than philosophy derived from the Bible and it is no more intrinsically reliable than any other logical derivation.

I would start at the beginning. If your understanding is limited, begin with The Chronicles of Narnia. As we saw in the debate with Luke of Common Sense Atheism, the average grasp of Christian concepts don’t even rise to the level of Narnia. Then read The Tower of Geburah by John White. Once you’ve read the children’s fiction, move onto simple theology like Mere Christianity by CS Lewis and Orthodoxy by GK Chesterton. As a general rule, it’s hard to go too far afield on a foundation of Lewis and Chesterton. I would also recommend the very short, very simple, but intriguing A Defense of the Revelation by Leonhard Euler, who happens to be one of the most legendary mathematicians in history. And my friend Greg Boyd’s Letters to a Skeptic is also recommended.
Once you have a grasp of the theological basics, you may be ready to read up on the actual history of Christianity and some of its leading thinkers. The first volume of the Cambridge Medieval History series, The Christian Empire, is tremendously informative and the epub is freely available for download online. St. Augustine’s Confessions are worth reading for their influence on Western thinking and a good summary of Thomas Aquinas is a necessity as well. I haven’t read it yet, but I have heard very good things about Edward Feser’s Aquinas: A Beginner’s Guide and I intend to review it as soon as I finish the Cantillon.

-Vox Day
Mailvox: studying Christianity

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About Aeoli Pera

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16 Responses to Introductory books for Christianity

  1. To me, Corinthians 22:36 was definitely a big aha moment.

    I’m fond of Stoicism and similar things and consider them Christianity-lite in a way. Many atheists have no problem reading eg Marcus Aurelius or Buddha and to me they are obviously talking about the same things as NT (just not “crowned” to perfection – but they do provide some fundamentals).

  2. Santoculto says:

    Poor Wisdom, always mixing this poor lady with ”relig–ion” or ”ideolo-guide”…

    ”Wisdom of Jesus”

    I prefer ” Wisdom of Power Rangers” or ”Wisdom of Saint Seiya” or whatever other magical– non-existent real-thing + wisdom word, vacuized from any conceptual substance.

    in other alternative reality Murray like to equate ”intellig-ence” with IQ…

    No real wisdom checked there…

    • SirHamster says:

      I prefer ” Wisdom of Power Rangers” or ”Wisdom of Saint Seiya” or whatever other magical– non-existent real-thing + wisdom word, vacuized from any conceptual substance.

      I have yet to be impressed by atheist intelligence. You are so proud to scoff with embarrassingly childish thoughts. Your type have consistently proved out out the Bible’s wisdom when it asserts, “The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.””

      • Santoculto says:

        I’m not atheist.

        Believe in a Jewish super man is childish par excellence or sign of lack of emotional maturity.

        I believe in something in some meaning to the existence but not doubt

        – anthropomorphic god= no
        – jewishmorphic god = no

        I was childish so I can be a child again if I can and use it to make fun as in the case (or not) or to use it for other purposes.

        • SirHamster says:

          So you say. Mocking religion is a reliable marker.

          What label do you give your theistic views?

          • Santoculto says:

            Absolutely.

            Agnostic.

            • SirHamster says:

              No God or gods. “I’m not atheist”, “agnostic”

              Agnostic – “a person who believes that nothing is known or can be known of the existence or nature of God or of anything beyond material phenomena; a person who claims neither faith nor disbelief in God.”

              Haven’t even put in the lowest level of intellectual effort to make beliefs and self-chosen labels agree.

              Marker of atheism proven; God’s Word on atheists once more confirmed.

            • Santoculto says:

              There are two or more types of believe or uncertainty.

              I’m sure all this bullshit of Christianism your primitive mind believe is impossible to be true.

              A truly atheist tend to say that universe “or” existence no have a meaning. Meaning is a human value. Something don’t need have a meaning to exist. That’s what atheists tend to believe.

              I’m unsure about it. But about all constellation of human belief systems with their respective metaphorical narratives from the blue elephant with piercing to the Nazarene, I’m sure that all this is pure magical thinking.

              I don’t debate if Jesus there was or not, if jewsus was a x-man or not. For serious thinker it’s not even minimally relevant. But about ” ADULT metaphysical things” I’m a agnostic. Period.

            • SirHamster says:

              “I’m sure all this bullshit of Christianism your primitive mind believe is impossible to be true.”

              Which is sufficient to make the atheist label stick. But intellectually lazy special snowflake doesn’t want to to put in the effort to satisfy the burden of proof “atheist” comes with. So crudely crosses out “atheist” on the nametag and scribbles in “agnostic” underneath.

              To call the possible “impossible” is a flat out lie. The very best you can do with the evidence at hand is “probably untrue”, which is still far short of “impossible”.

              You call my mind primitive while you stumble like a concussed drunk on the first steps of the problem. Your arrogance is a hilarious juxtaposition with your incompetence. The very best you can do is to troll your intellectual betters. Git gud.

              “I’m sure that all this is pure magical thinking.”

              Your magic words of ”Wisdom of Power Rangers”, ”Wisdom of Saint Seiya”, “Christianism”, “jewishmorphic”, and “jewsus” have no power.

              How long will you look for that magic word that will banish Christianity from the world forever? When will you figure out it doesn’t exist?

            • Santoculto says:

              ”Which is sufficient to make the atheist label stick. But intellectually lazy special snowflake doesn’t want to to put in the effort to satisfy the burden of proof “atheist” comes with. So crudely crosses out “atheist” on the nametag and scribbles in “agnostic” underneath.”

              Tongue of people, please.

              ”To call the possible “impossible” is a flat out lie. The very best you can do with the evidence at hand is “probably untrue”, which is still far short of “impossible”.”

              I will not TRY to debate with a mental ill psychotic as you, sorry!1

              No SON,

              No jewsuis in real world. only in your ”sacred” bibles.

              Search for a leftist ideologue and i will find a christian/or any other typo/ religiologue.

              ”You call my mind primitive while you stumble like a concussed drunk on the first steps of the problem. Your arrogance is a hilarious juxtaposition with your incompetence. The very best you can do is to troll your intellectual betters. Git gud.”

              I’m arrogant…

              but

              the creator of universe is human,

              ”HE” created non-human living beings to serve human flakes,

              No any evidence to prove all of bizarre ”historical facts” of your delirant and historically beligerant ”fairy tale” like ”ressurrection” or any other retarded ”fact”,

              only jewsuis traish, the son of the great lord, that is valid…

              EVEN this story is real or non-psychotic, the christian {and almost other irrealigion) history is so dirty, official irrealigion often goes hand on hands with power.

              Weshtern started to die earlier…

              Call me what you want christian flakes BUT

              just try to prove that your retarded beliefes are factually right or existent…

              i know…. impossibile..

              the difference between religion and schizophrenia is its popularity.

              ”Your magic words of ”Wisdom of Power Rangers”, ”Wisdom of Saint Seiya”, “Christianism”, “jewishmorphic”, and “jewsus” have no power.”

              Because your stupidity is tremendously superior. the tragic secrets of life history on earth.

              ”How long will you look for that magic word that will banish Christianity from the world forever? When will you figure out it doesn’t exist?”

              an*

            • Santoculto says:

              Take the red pill

              supposedly to be the ”pill of truth, pill of the real-reality”

              but if you’re religious, so you take only half of this pill, so sorry.

              Alt righters are generally contextually-abnormies…

              we have

              contextual
              and
              universal (but still contextual) oppositions

              leftists were older ”counter-currents” or ”counter-culture” until in the near past. Even this days many them still believe they are the opposition of system, and they are, just partially, because they have half of the truth about current mega-system they/we live.

              Leftists are mostly right about

              – anti-prejudice;
              – pro-ecology
              – pro- social justice
              whatever, moral stuff

              but they are right only in this topics because when ”they” develop this ideas they fail miserably. Why*

              Because leftism was created to act like that, every human system tend to have congenital or purposeful defects that make people believe and follow it but without to know everything about it, defects included. Propaganda there is to hide this designed or purposeful defects. There are factories of ”rationalizations” of this designed defects.

        • Aeoli Pera says:

          I see glosoli read you correctly the other day.

      • Santoculto says:

        Correcting
        I was a child so I can be this again.

        Super seriousness is not always recommended.

        Sacred bubble is good to burn.

  3. LEATHUR says:

    If you are a new Christian, I recommend “The Fight” by John White. It’s full of actionable advice about how you can start living out your faith.

  4. Son of Distant Trebizond says:

    “And God shall make thy body pure, and give thee Knowledge to endure
    This ghost-life’s piercing phantom pain, and bring thee out to Life again

    And God shall make thy soul a glass, where eighteen thousand eons pass
    And thou shalt see the gleaming worlds as men see dew upon the grass…”

  5. Ophiuchus says:

    Thank you for posting this.

    >”…consider religion one of those things you ought to get around to someday”

    Guilty as charged.

    A healthy religious life for both the public and the leadership is, in my opinion, one of the utmost requirements–if not the preeminent foundational requirement–for a secure, prosperous and stable nation state. Without God, nothing really makes sense for the people other than hedonism. From there it’s just a matter of time until decline and collapse. I consider the ability to deduce and/or intuitively recognize this a very basic litmus test for whether or not someone is worth listening to and/or taking seriously

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