Ben Holloway,  Book Reviews,  Cornelius Van Til

Nine of the Most Influential Books I Have Read

Here are nine of the books that have influenced me most in my life (apart from the Bible):

1. Tintin by Herge

My parents used to tell people that if I sounded like I knew anything I got it from Tintin. Despite being a little colonial in its perspective (Herge often used unflattering ethical stereotypes) Tintin’s adventures took my young imagination all over the world.

2. The Secret Agent’s Handbook

When I was old enough to go to the movies I became obsessed with James Bond. My parents bought me this book to put my obsession into practice. Somehow my interest, and this book specifically, became a part of my conversion experience and knowing my calling from the Lord (you can read the story here).

3. The Chronicles of Narnia

I was so enamoured with the characters of the Chronicles that two of my children are named after them (William Caspian and Lucy Verity Holloway). If we have another boy I’m going for Puddleglum.

4. Run Baby Run by Nicky Cruz.

Nicky Cruz was a leader of the Mau Maus, a violent New York gang. He became a Christian and his life was radically changed. The complete change from darkness to light experienced by Nicky was what kept me coming back to this book. I must have read it more than ten times.

5. Blood and Honor by Reinhold Kerstan

Reinhold Kerstan was a member of the Hitler Youth in during WW2. He was inspired by the Fuehrer’s vision of the world. But he was also a Christian and the son of a Baptist pastor. Fitting these two together could never work and this book tells the story of how the truth won out. I think I have spent much of my Christian life unshackling myself from things that I have tried to fit with my faith that just don’t go together. It usually takes a war (though not a world war) to break my propensity for syncretism.

6. The Works of J.G Ballard

Ballard was brilliant dystopian writer who could create bizarre future visions. He once said that his writing was influenced by a combination of Salvador Dali and Sigmund Freud.

7. Godzone by Mike Riddell

During my postmodern phase this book went everywhere with me and its stories ended up in nearly every talk I gave. Not many books about Christian spirituality had ever made me laugh like this before and none had ever soaked up so many tears.

8. After Virtue by Alasdair MacIntyre

MacIntyre’s work revived virtue ethics in Western conversation and taught me that ethics is a matter or character not just action.

9. The Works of Cornelius Van-Til.

One doesn’t just like Van Til. One becomes a Van Tillian. Cornelius Van Til only says one thing. But if what he says sticks it causes mental revolution. His simple, but often misunderstood, idea was that human experience (knowledge, logic, science, language etc.) only makes sense if Christianity is true. His books attempt to show that there is simply no alternative worldview that comes close to being capable of making sense of human experience. Like any claim of this size it has its critics. Consequently, being Van Tillian has got me into all sorts of trouble both in and out of the classroom.

Assistant Professor of Philosophy and History of Ideas at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and The College at Southeastern.