What I Read In 2016

One of the reasons I wanted to become an author is because of my love of reading. I am fascinated by books, and can’t visit someone’s home or office without spying what’s on his or her shelf. (Don’t take me to a library unless you’re in it for the long haul.)

Because I always find it interesting what other people are reading, I thought you might enjoy knowing which books I have been reading. (By the way, I’m on Goodreads, and if we’re not friends, we should rectify that absurdity right now.)

Eli Francis

This list is not exhaustive. These are simply the books I read in 2016 I thought you might find interesting. (The links to each book are affiliate links, which just means I get a small commission if you buy them. It doesn’t cost you any extra.)

1. The Case for the Real Jesus: A Journalist Investigates Current Attacks on the Identity of Christ

One in a long line of apologetic books including The Case for Christ and The Case for Faith, The Case for the Real Jesus seeks to investigate and repudiate attacks on the person of Jesus Christ: attacks on His deity, resurrection, teachings, and the historicity of the gospel accounts. To accomplish this task, Strobel interviews scholars such as Michael R. Licona, Michael Brown, Gary Habermas, Paul Copan, to name a few.

Roughly a third of the book focuses on arguments for the resurrection that I have read or encountered in other places, though Strobel digs deeper into the matter. Other topics include examinations of false gospels like the gospel of Thomas, whether or not Jesus fulfilled Messianic prophecies of the Old Testament, and post modern attacks on the exclusive claims of Christ.

I found all of these sections useful, but perhaps the most compelling chapter was that on the authenticity of the scriptures. Strobel interviews Dr. Daniel B. Wallace, one of the foremost experts on Greek and textual criticism in the world. I learned so much from this section that it made the entire book worth the purchase. Wallace doesn’t pull punches when it comes to examining the New Testament. Here are just a few things I learned:

  • Mark’s grammar is pretty bad. 
  • The earliest known manuscript of Revelation 13 reads that the mark of the best is 616, not 666 as it is commonly known. 
  • The story of the woman caught in adultery in the book of John, though it likely happened, was not in the original text. 
  • The last twelve verses of the book of Mark were added later by the church because Mark's ending is rather abrupt. 

None of these facts should rock your faith regarding the Bible because they don’t have any effect on the central doctrines contained therein. In fact knowing these idiosyncrasies is vital because skeptics will pick up on them and use them as an attack against the scriptures. As Wallace says in the book:

The Bible deserves to be rigorously investigated because the Bible claims to be a historical document. We have to ask the Bible tough questions because that’s what Christ not only invites us to do, but requires of us to do. (Kindle location 1403)

No other religion’s scripture can stand up to such scrutiny. Approaching the Bible with a quest for truth, not a preconceived ideology is the only way to study it. Trust me, the Bible can handle it.

2. What Would Jesus Undo

A few years ago, musician and former member of the band FFH, Michael Boggs visited our church in part to promote his book, What Would Jesus Undo. I bought a copy after the Sunday morning service, and it sat undisturbed on my shelf for a couple of years. But when I finally plucked it from among the other hundreds of books I own (I have a problem) and read it, I liked what I read.

My fear entering into the book was that it would be another church-bashing piece. Books berating the church are a dime a dozen, and I think they do more harm than good. But I was surprised to discover that Boggs does a great job of attacking some of the ills residing in the church with tact, positivity, and grace—often pointing the finger directly at himself as an example of where we've gone wrong.

What Would Jesus Undo is a quick, easy read filled with personal stories including the painful separation of his parents, and I love Boggs's heartfelt and honest approach at making the world a better place. Perhaps the entire book could be summed up by this statement found on page 93: “Impotent religion is useless.”

3. Out of the Silent Planet

I love fiction, but I don’t read as much as I should. I find myself knee-deep in apologetic or theological works of nonfiction most of the time. Out of the Silent Planet, the first installment of C.S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy, isn’t the only fiction book I read in 2016, but it is the only one I thought might specifically interest you. Did you even know Lewis wrote science fiction? I didn’t until several years ago when my dad mentioned it to me.

Without revealing too much of the plot, a philologist finds himself on a foreign planet, unsure if he’ll survive or ever make it back home to earth. In the course of the book he discovers intelligent life and using his educational background is able to communicate with these lifeforms.

Though the work is science fiction, it is unmistakably C.S. Lewis—introspective, enlightening, and entertaining. Definitely worth a read if you’re into that sort of thing. I can’t wait to read the rest of the trilogy.

4. Erasing Hell: What God Said About Eternity and the Things We've Made Up

I’ve been wanting to read Erasing Hell by Francis Chan and Preston Sprinkle ever since I became aware of its existence shortly after its publication in 2011. The book is essentially a refutation of Rob Bell’s Love Wins (and Universalism in general), in which Bell claims God will not condemn anyone to eternal damnation.

One of the more compelling arguments Chan and Sprinkle make is that during Jesus’s time on earth, the predominant notion among Judaism was that hell is real, and it is eternal. If this perception of hell were inaccurate, Jesus likely would have corrected it as He did with many Pharisaic distortions (e.g. the Sabbath, inheriting the kingdom, ceremonial washing, et al.)

What I appreciate about this book is that it attempts to approach the subject of hell with an open mind, and the authors are careful and deliberate about citing authoritative sources.

So that's what I read in 2016. What about you? Have you read anything good lately?

Don't forget to grab your free 90-day Old Testament reading guide here: How to Read Through the Old Testament Without Getting Lost or Dozing Off.

Happy reading!

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