Friday, October 11, 2013

Julie's Take - Christianity in Three Books [UPDATED]

These things used to be called memes ... but whatever they're called, I find them difficult to resist.  Basically Rod Dreher has asked his readers, and the internet at large, what three books they would recommend to provide a basic familiarity with Christian theological ideas to someone with little background on the topic. Read all the guidelines here, which is where Jen Fitz found it.

This came to my attention when I saw Jen's answers (and was insanely flattered, by the way, thank you Jen!).

Ahem. Anyway, here is my list. Pick it up, pass it on ... and so forth.

1.  The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom.

Same as Jen's #1 but that's because this is such a great book. I recently reread it and made it a goal to reread it annually. It is a great story and, not coincidentally, is Christianity in a nutshell.

Sheltered spinster, Corrie Ten Boom is 50 years old when the Nazis invade Holland. She and her family shelter Jews targeted by the Nazis and when they are caught, they are sent to prison and eventually concentration camps. This sounds gloomy and like a familiar story. It is not. Every Christian should read this book. If you get the audio, it is even better. Simply fantastic.

2. The Captain from Castile by Samuel Shellabarger 

The classic story of a young Spanish nobleman, Pedro de Vargas, who goes with Cortes to conquer Mexico. Rereading it, Washington Post critic and Pulitzer Prize-winner Jonathan Yardley says in his introduction he "was astonished at how well it has survived. . . . It is accurate, meticulously researched history, and it is a sympathetic, nuanced account of a young man's moral education..." Precisely. Such is also the same of Shellabarger's other books. A prime example of how an excellent piece of fiction can communicate "Truth." Also a favorite, more than this book to be truthful, is Prince of Foxes by this author.

3. In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden

One of the finest authors of our time, largely forgotten, but who always wrote from a deep background of faith. This is the story of Philipa who at the height of a brilliant career and in her 40s decides to enter a cloistered convent. Yes, this is the story of nuns, but the Christianity they practice should be recognizable to Christians of any sort. Not only is it a fascinating tale of what it is like to live in a convent, but it contains a riveting mystery too.

I didn't notice we weren't allowed to have books about a "flavor" of a particular religion, which knocks out my original third choice, which I leave below for your edification. That's ok, it made room for a book I originally was going to include but had dropped in favor of something more obviously theological. Woohoo!

3. Catholic Christianity by Peter Kreeft

Puts the muscle on the "skeleton" of the Catechism, so to speak. This is the book that I read after converting and which brought my understanding fully into line with the teachings of the Church. Eminently logical.


  1. Orthodoxy by GK Chesterton has to be my #1 pick. It was the first type of a book not only about Christianity but any similar sort of "philosophy" book (to use a loose term) that made any sense to me.

    The other two would be considerably harder to choose, but my #1 is obvious.

  2. Oh I didn't realize you were including fiction. So let me contribute my three:
    The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri
    Silence by Shusaku Endo
    The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene

    Also, I can't resist a fourth:
    Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

  3. I haven't read the Greene or Waugh books, but just speaking for myself, if I were an atheist asking questions about basic Christianity (which is what I was at one time) and someone gave me Silence or The Divine Comedy I'd either be left confused or appalled, depending on my mindset. Of course, we all have our own entry points, which I guess is the beauty of such variety. :-)

    The books I listed were some I read and reread just for themselves and the story ... and so absorbed enough of basic Christianity before it occurred to me I might become a Christian that I had no obvious questions about what a Christian should be. It was upon rereading them (and Jane Eyre and Frankenstein and Dracula ... ) that I saw the layers which I could appreciate even more.

    I love The Divine Comedy and Silence but that appreciation, for me, had to come when first approaching them as a Christian.

    Not a commentary on your selection as much as how differently we are all affected by different literature.

    1. You're right Julie. I lost sight of the original question. Stupid me.

  4. Which audio version do you recommend for "The Hiding Place"? There are two different narrators, Wanda McCaddon or Bernadette Dunne?

    1. Bernadette Dunne is the one I have. Simply fantastic.