I am always thrilled when someone recommends the riches of our Christian past. A new book from Tyndale House, entitled 20 Things You Should Read (2006) and co-authored by four writers—David Edwards, Margaret Feinberg, Janella Griggs and Matthew Paul Turner, each of whom takes turns introducing the various works—is a good way to dip into some of the riches of our heritage. The authors/compilers rightly emphasize that these works of the past reveal how our Christian forebears struggled with many of the questions we wrestle with and how their beautifully-framed answers still convey hope and inspiration (p.vi-vii). The Christian writers chosen are quite eclectic, ranging from Augustine to Madame Guyon, Julian of Norwich to Karl Barth. Some readers, myself included, would question the wisdom of such a wide range of authors, but I was glad to see the two key Reformers Luther and Calvin included as well as Bunyan, Charles Wesley (interesting that John is not included), Whitefield and Spurgeon. All of the writings are taken from documents available on the net, but it is great to have them in one compass like this.
The omission of John Owen and Jonathan Edwards—both masters of spirituality—is curious. But any such collection is bound to omit favourite authors of other Christians.
I also felt that at times the introductory comments were not helpful in doing justice to the historical context of the various authors. To say, for example, that Augustine “partied like a rock star before his conversion” and that up until that event, which took place when he was thirty-one, he had led “a promiscuous, unruly lifestyle” (p.1) simply is not true. After a year or so of such living when he first went to university in Carthage, Augustine actually settled down to a fairly prosaic life, seeking truth in the cult of Manichaenism and the Platonic philosophy.
But the intended audience of the book is obviously young men and women who have not been interested in the riches of Christian authors of the past. And in recommending these riches to such, the book succeeds admirably.