Influential Books

Christianity Today has a list of the 50 most influential books in the last 50 years on their website. Several bloggers have commented pro and con on the selection of titles.

During the early 1970's I worked in a large Christian bookstore that my church ran. What made it unusual then (and I think the standard holds true today) is that while they serviced the entire area, they carried only those books that fit the doctrinal beliefs of the church. They would order anything that was published by an evangelical publisher, but would only stock those books that fit the church doctrinal statement.

Based on that time and seeing what people were reading, I'd suggest a few other titles for the list as well. I'm not necessarily recommending any of them, but as I recall they shaped Evangelicalism in the 1970's in particular.

Harold Lindsell's The Battle for the Bible was a defense of biblical inerrancy.

Ray Stedman's Body Life was the book that unleashed a new understanding of how Christians should view their role in the local church, and created an interest in discovering and using spiritual gifts.

Jay Adams' Competent to Counsel was an effort to restore biblical counseling and exhortation to pastors and church leaders. Adams was wrongly chided for being simplistic and harsh, blaming everything on sin. But there is a whole movement that followed in his steps and refined his ideas.

Merlin Carothers' book Prison to Praise was a huge influence on the Charismatic Movement in the early 1970's. We (the bookstore I worked in) did not carry it, but we did tons of special orders for people who wanted it. I'm not charismatic, nor did I appreciate the way people who were charismatic felt the need to try to infiltrate non-charismatic churches at that time, but the book was nevertheless highly influential.

The Living Bible made CT's list, and it certainly made its mark. But surely any list that includes translations should include the New International Version. The NIV became almost THE standard text to preach from and was the foundation for numerous reference sources, both academic and popular in nature. The New American Standard Bible, while not enjoying the popularity of the NIV, was released at somewhat the same time and provided people with a choice other than the KJV and the RSV (which did not enjoy favor with American evangelicals).

Growing up in an independent church culture, I would have to suggest 1967's New Scofield Reference Bible as one of those books that shaped my part of the evangelical world. The New Scofield included updated notes, plus some changes in the wording of the KJV text. Most dispenationalists loved it, some KJV-only types saw it as a perversion of the truth. Regardless of your theological slant, the NSRB was THE study Bible until they began putting one out for every segment of society.

What books are influential depends on a lot of factors. These were books that shaped the evangelical world during a time of great change.


John said...

Harold Lindsell's The Battle for the Bible, was the book that shaped my theological life greatly, whilst i was at Bible College, in fact I just loaned it out the other day.

Be encouraged.