Fellows on Books

Corrie Ten Boom, The Hiding Place (1971) – Fintel: D811.5 .T427 1971

A narrative for those especially interested in history or real-life contexts for biblical teachings, Corrie Ten Boom retells her life story as a member of the Dutch underground working to save as many Jewish lives as possible from Germany during WWII. Through her life story, including her underground work and subsequent arrest and imprisonment, lessons and themes from the bible are examined through how they applied to her personal experiences. She emphasizes trusting the bible and how God has a plan beyond seemingly irrelevant or cruel circumstances. This historical narrative is an immediately compelling account that gracefully tied a captivating history of an important figure in the efforts of rescuing Jews from Hitler’s regime with vital biblical lessons in a form that is still currently relevant. The bible was discussed as a personal hiding place, a source of comfort and strength, that is essential to the chaos of everyday life. Lessons of truth, selflessness, trust, and forgiveness are discussed within the context of Corrie Ten Boom’s life and personal experiences. I recommend this book to anyone who is looking for an interesting read that effectively integrates biblical lessons with an engaging tale of bravery and selflessness. Katherine Charbonneau 2021

G.K. Chesterton, Heretics (1905) - Fintel: PR4453.C4 H4

Chesterton argues that ideas and philosophies are more than important; they are everything. Writing in the context of 1900s Britain, Chesterton dissects and critiques the philosophies of his contemporaries, always returning to the central theme of universal implications. Much has happened in the world during the intervening centuries, but the philosophies and ideas Chesterton examines are easily recognizable and familiar to contemporary readers. At some time or other, I have encountered every philosophy he critiques. The opening and concluding chapters are unifying bookends to a series of essays. Each chapter deals with a different author, like George Bernard Shaw or Rudyard Kipling, or a school of thought, like aestheticism. In this sense, the book is easy to pick up and put down. On the other hand, one must read and reread Chesterton carefully to fully understand and digest the nuances of his language. He is a very chewy writer. But the effort is well rewarded. Heretics is insightful, sharp, humorous, and though-provoking. Many of the ideas Chesterton challenges have become normal and popular in today's society, but receive little by way of deep, reasoned response. Chesterton's convictions are inescapable and just might make you reconsider your own beliefs. Alice S. Keith 2018

Robert E Coleman, The Master Plan of Evangelism (1963)

How did Jesus evangelize? In this book Coleman plainly outlines guiding principles of Jesus' ministry. At first I thought his observations seemed quite obvious, but upon further analysis they became ground breaking in how I saw ministry. For instance, Jesus having twelve disciples is quite an elementary fact, but Coleman shows how this reflects Jesus' priorities. Jesus selected twelve individuals that were dedicated and teachable. He personally invested in them. He led them through example and self-sacrificing service. He delegated tasks to them and expected them to multiply in numbers. Through His twelve the world heard the gospel. I already knew the foundations of a lot of the principles described in this book, but hearing them put so plainly and persuasively was revolutionary for me. I vaguely knew discipleship was important, but when I saw how it fit into God's greater plan I instantly respected it more. As a leader in campus and church ministries, I began to see value in selecting individuals who were teachable and who would, in turn, invest in others. Personally, I became quicker to recognize moments where I could serve and lead by example and was more excited about being discipled by older leaders. I highly recommend this book for Christians, new or old in the faith, who have an interest in leadership or ministry. Chelsea Schafer 2017

Kevin DeYoung, The Hole in Our Holiness (2012)

College students are not known for contemplating the holiness of their lives. DeYoung begins his book by claiming that "the hole in our holiness is that we don't much care about it" (10). He reminds his readers that seeking to grow in likeness to Jesus is a fundamental part of the Christian life, and encourages us to examine our own spiritual lives. It is a timely book in light of popular culture's heavy emphasis on self-interest. Thoroughly rooting his work in Scripture, DeYoung provides an easy to understand discussion of holiness, how we can be transformed through God's grace and power, and how this will change the way we live. I received this book for my high school graduation, and have been working my way through it since, rereading particularly insightful sections. Are my actions really a light in the darkness and reflective of my relationship with Christ, or are they just as worldly as if I didn't know Christ? This book has helped me consider how I can be more intentional in my faith, especially as a college student surrounded by contradictory voices.  Alice Keith 2016

John and Stasi Eldredge, Captivating (2005)

John Eldredge, author of Wild at Heart, collaborated with his wife to co-author Captivating. This book confronts themes that any woman can relate to. Although biblically based, the book draws on many popular culture references, a bit too many for its critics, to illustrate both the truthful inner desires of woman and those pushed on us by the media. The Eldredges refreshingly confront the desires young girls have, specifically to be adored. They write that many girls and women look to fulfill this desire in relationships, materialism, and other personal vices. However, Captivating calls for a refocus on God's wanting of us and how following Him can satisfy this inward call to be desired. I have read this book a couple of times at different stages in my life and it has always been convicting. However, instead of pushing guilt, this book encourages women to self-reflect and honestly consider the underlying drive to their actions and decide if it comes from God. Every time I finish this book I can see a boost in my self-confidence and, paradoxically, my reliance on God. I would suggest this book to any woman currently searching for God's place in her life. Chelsea Schafer 2017

C.S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces (1956) - Fintel: PR6023.E926 T55 1956

C.S. Lewis uses a pagan, grim setting to reveal how one must approach the real Christian God today. The dying queen Orual writes her case against the gods, giving the reader an honest account of her life and inner questions. Her story begins with the pagan god of her kingdom, Ungit, demanding her beautiful sister, Psyche, as a sacrifice to the god of the mountain. When Orual goes to bury her sister, she finds Psyche alive. Her sister claims to be living in a palace and married to the god, both of which are invisible to Orual. Orual demands her sister escape from the god, resulting in Psyche's disappearance. In Orual's search for Psyche she discovers a shrine dedicated to her sister. The priest tells her the myth of a beautiful girl destroyed by her sister's jealousy. Orual is outraged at this depiction of her. However, in a vision she is taken to a room of mirrors, where her face is the same of the god she despises most, Ungit. Reflecting on her life, Orual realizes she has been as selfish as Ungit, especially in regards to her sister's well-being. In recognizing her own faults, she finally makes peace with the gods, "how can they meet us face to face til we have faces." This harrowing tale caused me to think about my own life with a "new face" and to be honest with God about my doubts. I recommend this book to anyone willing to be challenged on their perceptions about themselves and their questions about God. Chelsea Schafer 2017

C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (1942) - Fintel: BR125. L67 1980

Have you ever wondered what demons think? In this classic story, Lewis writes the first-person tale of the young demon Wormwood as he tries to lure his patient (a Christian) from the Enemy (God) by following the guidance of his uncle, Screwtape. The story makes the reader view the world from an upside-down perspective - all that was good is now detestable, and all that was once discouraged is praised. Screwtape picks apart the patient's daily habits, thoughts, and rationales and shows how they either move him closer to or farther from "Our Father Below," Satan. In a way, it is like reading the inner thoughts and goals of sins, if those thoughts also revealed what the True path is. At once witty and insightful, the story acts as a cautionary tale, causing the reader to think twice about what effects his rationalizations, supposedly inconsequential habits, and internal monologues might have on his spiritual life. The lessons and quips have stuck with me. I often recommend it to my friends as a must-read classic.  Alice Keith 2016

C. S. Lewis, The Great Divorce (1946) - Fintel: BJ1404. L4

Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory. We hear so many definitions and descriptions in popular culture it is hard to know what to believe - or where the popular has blended into the biblical. In this short but weighty fictional work, Lewis puts forth his own imaginative scenario. He desires to provide a moral lesson rather than speculation into the character of the afterlife. The narrator and a group of quarrelsome passengers leave a drab and dismal town (Hell) in a shining gold bus headed to a new world (Heaven). Each passenger is free to stay or return as he chooses. Lewis wishes to confront his readers with the unavoidable "either-or," with the idea that Hell is a choice one makes, and most expressly, that evil cannot become good with time but must be undone at the point of origin. For myself, I find the story an intriguing consideration of the eternal and our tendency to cling to earthly baggage.  Alice Keith 2016

C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (1952) - Fintel: BR123. L484 1952  

Essential reading for Christians and those curious about Christianity, this book began as a BBC radio talk series Lewis gave during World War II. It seeks to explain in the plainest English just what Christianity is all about.  Lewis addresses Christian behavior and struggles, writing from a place of humility as a fellow sinner. In the last part, he discusses the doctrine of the Trinity and the ultimate cost of being a Christian.  It is a well-crafted and methodical work meant to instruct and provoke its readers. My first year at Roanoke, our R.A. organized a weekly freshman girls Bible study centered on this book. It was my second time reading it, and I was still struck by the well-crafted, methodical, and straight-forward argument. I find I return to this book when I need a succinct and compelling description of Christianity, or when I want to be challenged by Lewis' keen perception into the heart of mankind.  Alice Keith 2016

Dane Ortlund, Gentle and Lowly 

Everyone goes through highs and lows in their everyday life. This includes Christians, especially those who find difficulty in not knowing if Christ loves them back. In this book, Dane Ortlund goes above and beyond in bringing forth the heart of Christ to those who sin and suffer. In this book, Ortlund wants us to know Christ by his heart, what is natural to him, what flows from him. Is Christ a God who holds bitter resentment to people who do not obey him? No. Ortlund shows that instead, he is one who is tender, gentle, and lowly (an inspired theme from Matthew 20:26). Jesus, Ortlund shows, is one who understands, and who desires to make those who believe in him to rejoice in knowing him. Not only does Ortlund show this as something that Christians should know today. Pulling from the wisdom of puritan theologians such as Richard Sibbes, Thomas Goodwin, and the Baptist John Bunyan, he shows that Christ's desire has always been for his people to come close to his heart. To explore the heart of Christ is a daily submission, in which Ortlund brings his readers to recognize just how wonderful a privilege it is for his Church to draw close and find rest in Him. Hunter B. Smith 2021

J.I. Packer, Knowing God 

How can we know God? What makes knowing him personally so unique to the Christian faith? In this classic, author and theologian J.I. Packer (1926-2020) sets out to bring his readers to understand the importance of knowing God throughout their daily and spiritual life. His words are gentle, yet very convicting, as Packer brings to the fore the truths Christian’s have held for thousands of years, particularly as seen by the reformers and English puritans. In this book, he encourages his readers not to know God from whom they think He is, but from who He says He is through the interaction between Him and others throughout the Bible. The book is broken into three parts: 1) To know the Lord, 2) To behold the Lord, 3) If God be for us. No matter what stage or how far you are in the Christian faith, Packer will certainly leave you thinking about your relationship with God, and just how close he is to the broken hearted, the poor, the meek, and the sinner. That even in the trials of life, and the sins you continue to make, God is with you, God loves you, and God knows. Hunter B. Smith 2021

David Platt, Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream (2010)

This book is aptly named; it radically changed how I viewed the Christian call to sacrifice. David Platt gives a blistering, although mostly accurate, account of the comfortability he sees in American churches today. He targets the physical comfortability, stating that we build megachurches with comfy seats while our brothers and sisters meet in secret basements around the world. However, he also aims deeper, addressing how many American Christians deem the sacrificial call of the great commission as optional. Platt tries to expand the reader's view of the world and their personal call in it. I read this book around the time I went on my first international mission trip. I was very nervous about going; I figured my addition to the team would be minimal and thought the money raised for me to go would be more beneficial if used for other things. I was surprised that David Platt once had similar concerns! While on a mission trip He confided these concerns in his friend overseas. His friend replied that anyone could send money, but that "a true brother comes to be with you in your time of need." This book comforted me in my decision to go on that trip, convicted me in my comfortability, and, honestly, depressed me a little with its scathing opinion of American Christianity. However, I would definitely claim this book as a must-read. Chelsea Schafer 2017

James W. Sire, The Universe Next Door: A Basic Worldview Catalog (2009, 5th ed.)

A book for all those times a professor or reading has mentioned Nihilism or Existentialism or Christian Theism and you wished they had provided a brief explanation. Sire examines and explains nine dominant worldviews by asking of each a series of questions, ranging from what it means to be human, to the day-to-day implications of that particular worldview. The writing is accessible, if more academic in nature, and is thoroughly footnoted for further inquiries. This is a reference I return to time and again to help me understand the main worldviews of today and of my peers. It has proven a good source of basic knowledge while at college - from Honors 120: The Moral of Our Story, to Theology on Tap discussions, to my history courses. I also find it helpful for life generally, so that I can have more engaging and fruitful conversations with those who possess different worldviews than my own.  Alice Keith 2016  

R. C. Sproul, Defending Your Faith: An Introduction to Apologetics (2003)

We are often presented with the false dichotomy of rationality and faith. In this work, Sproul lays out how Christianity is indeed rational, and how intellectual inquiry can support and defend its claims (7-8). He begins by discussing how we can know and discuss anything, moves to possible explanations of the universe's existence, and ends with evidence for the existence of God and the authority of the Bible. Throughout, he discusses different philosophers' views on and contributions to different topics. Sproul takes seriously the ability to defend your faith, to understand what you believe and why, and shows how it is the responsibility of all believers to do so.  Sproul answered many questions and arguments I had been confronted with in conversations, books, articles, and media - and even some I had not encountered. I have found it an extremely helpful and insightful foundational text for Christian apologetics.  Alice Keith 2016

Andrew Zirschky, Beyond the Screen: Youth Ministry for the Connected But Alone Generation (2015)

In a short but compelling read, Andrew Zirschky focuses on the popular topic of millennials and their technology. However, instead of demonizing the phone addiction of many teens, Zirschky theorizes about the underlying issues of the obsession of why many teens are addicted and how the church can best minister to them. For instance, in today's society most youth have a networked friend group, where the youth keeps up multiple individual relationships, instead of traditionally, when location often dictated social circles. Teens feel intense pressure to keep these friendships alive; this often requires constant communication. So while the outside world sees an addiction to the phone, the teen is actually obsessed with the relationship on the other side of the text message. Zirschky calls the church to meet today's teens where they are: in their fear of loneliness. He offers many helpful suggestions on how to do this as well as many anecdotes of failures and successes in trying to understand teens and their technology. Unlike other youth ministry resources I've read, this book keeps the focus on ministering to youth, rather than waging a war on the world that they live in. This book is both a helpful and refreshing read for those in youth ministry. Chelsea Schafer 2017