The Five Most Important Books That Changed My Mind!

I was challenged to share five books that shaped my life in some way. Here they are, plus a little commentary. They are the most important books that changed my life by changing my mind.

1) Howard Van Till's book, The Fourth Day: What the Bible and the Heavens are Telling Us about the Creation. Van Till was a a professor of physics and astronomy. His book changed the way I thought about the Bible and science. It taught me I simply cannot trust what I was raised to believe. It also taught me that science can be trusted over the ancient creationist myths in Genesis. It was the catalyst that took me from a conservative evangelical to a progressive and/or liberal Christian, and beyond to an agnostic and later to atheism. From then on I looked to scientific reasoning for the answers, not the Bible, and certainly not faith. After coming to this conclusion the rest was a forgone conclusion.

2) Bernard Anderson's book, Understanding the Old Testament. This book choice is on a topic my major Ph.D. advisor, Dr. Daniel Maguire, recommended to me at Marquette University. I was majoring in theology and ethics and had just written a paper on "Justice". Maguire was surprised at how uniformed I was (that is, how evangelical I was) about the origins and nature of the Old Testament. He said I must first take a class in the Old Testament before I could graduate in that program. As circumstances worked out, I had to leave the program due to finances and my father's impending death, hoping to return (but never did). This book, in an earlier edition, informed me about the origins and nature of the Old Testament which I had never considered before. It also provoked me to come to grips with the fact that the stories in Genesis 1-11 were all non-historical myths, something I wrestled with but eventually accepted after reading a slew of other books! It confirmed what I had learned from Van Till (and others by that time).

3) John A.T. Robinson's book, Honest to God. Many evangelicals applaud him for arguing in his book, Redating the New Testament, that the New Testament was written before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, on the basis that the fall of Jerusalem is never mentioned in the New Testament writings. What they won't applaud is this other book. Robinson said of it, in his subsequent book Exploration into God (1967), that it's chief contribution was a successful synthesis of the work of seemingly opposed theologians Paul Tillich, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Rudolf Bultmann. Bonhoeffer, as you might know, was the theologian credited with the death of God movement in the 60's, while Tillich and Bultmann are no friends of evangelicalism.

4) I read the counter-part to Robinson's Honest to God written by Robert Funk, aptly titled Honest to Jesus. Funk was the founder of the Jesus Seminar and author of The Five Gospels. While I had majored in NT Studies for my B.R.E at Great Lakes Christian College, in Lansing, Michigan, and did further NT studies work in Seminary, Funk's perspective was something I hadn't seriously considered before. A very large part of it made sense to me though! So I began doing a great deal of research into the life of Jesus which focused on trying to make sense of the virgin birth claim and the gospel nativity stories.

5) James Barr's book, Beyond Fundamentalism, came at the heels of a whole lot of other reading I had done, books too numerous to mention. Books like Carl Sagan's "Demon Haunted World", Michael Shermer's "Why People Believe Weird Things", John Hick's "The Metaphor of God Incarnate", EP Sanders "The Historical Figure of Jesus", James D.G. Dunn's "The Living Word", John Dominic Crossan's, "Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography", and Uta Ranke-Heinemann's "Putting Away Childish Things."

But Barr's book was the clincher for me. Since I had already entertained and rejected all other religions but Christianity, when I rejected Christianity I rejected all religions with it. And don't tell me I hadn't considered progressive Christianity or liberalism. Most of the books I had read were by the liberals. I just couldn't see any merit to liberal Christianity once they gutted it of the historical foundations.

So there you have it, the rest of the story.