Tuesday, 18 November 2008
Guest post submitted by sirnickdon
Here is an attempt to list a handful of books necessary (or at least most helpful) for living a life that follows in the way of Jesus in discipleship. Hopefully, this list represents a fairly balanced view of the core practices that sustain individuals and communities in following Jesus' way.
- Discipleship by J. Heinrich Arnold. This book is a collection of pointed statements by J. H. Arnold, collected by the Bruderhof communiy after his death. The sayings are arranged topically (the broad categories being "The Disciple," "The Church" and "The Kingdom of God"), and are shockingly concise, blunt and challenging. A handful of people will recall this as the book that Columbine martyr Cassie Bernall relied on daily. The book begins with this little bit of genius: "Discipleship is not a question of our own doing; it is a matter of making room for God so he can live in us."
- A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: discipleship in an instant society by Eugene Peterson. Many know Eugene Peterson only as the author of The Message translation of the scriptures. In fact, Peterson is a prolific author, and virtually everything he has written belong on a discipleship reading list. Nobody understands as he does the way of living out of sync with the frenetic, instant pace of consumer culture. A Long Obedience is around twenty years old, but is probably the best place to start into dialog with Peterson.
- The Moral Vision of the New Testament by Richard B. Hays. In this surprisingly accessible ethics text, Hays attempts to chart a strategy for applying the actual ethics of the New Testament community to discipleship today. He does this through the three-fold lens of Community, Cross and New Creation. After discussing this strategy for using the New Testament to dictate how Christian communities will actually live, Hays evaluates five prominent ethicists and then five moral disagreements that Christian communities sometimes have. I challenge any Christian to read this book and come away with their view of discipleship unchanged or unchallenged.
- Rich Mullins: An Arrow Pointing to Heaven by James Bryan Smith. This "devotional biography," written by theFriends University professor with whom Mullins lived for several years,is challenging in every chapter. Clearly, Rich Mullins' was a lifetotally sold out to the gospel of Christ, and reader will learn to viewthe world through through the eyes of the Gospel, as Mullins did, andchallenged to find their own waysto respond faithfully.
- Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church by N. T. Wright. This is basically a distillation of the much more academically rigorous "Christian origins" series, applied specifically to the hope that Christians have historically held to. Particularly, Wright challenges readers to redefine the way they live their lives inlight of the gospel hope - which is not surprisingly the same logicPaul consistently engaged in.
- Godric: a novel by Frederick Buechner. This book broke well out of the Christian fiction subculture when it was published and was the runner-up for the Pulitzer Prize in its year of publication. Buechner, whose ear for language is intuitive and unforced, similarly to Ian McEwan, takes on the story of the great Saint Godric, illustrating how holiness and profanity can coexist in the same being, in the same moment, while showing the form that the passionate struggle for a life lived truly for God can take. In the end, Buechner weaves history, myth and fiction to create for us the life of an all-too-human saint. I, at least, found myself in there as well.
By no means is this an all-inclusive list. More just a series of starting points in a multi-tiered set of paths, which find their culmination in Christ and the New Testament, and in the life of the church lived out today.
What books would you add that have been fundamental in shaping your attempts at a life of discipleship?