THE problem for contemporary Christian apologetics in a culture
that is "spiritual, but not religious" is not rational or
empirical, as if people might be persuaded of Christianity's truth
by argument or evidence. Rather, the problem is that Christianity
seems to be irrelevant as a source of lively spiritual insight.
So the books that I would recommend to someone who senses that
life has spiritual depth, and seeks ways of growing that
perception, would be those that show Christianity as an invaluable
source of spiritual acuity and wisdom.
I have found this in the writings of Owen Barfield
(pictured, right), the friend of C. S. Lewis and J. R. R.
Tolkien. He is not always easy to read, but the collection of
essays published as The Rediscovery of Meaning,
and in particular the essay that gives the book its title, and also
"The Harp and the Camera", speak profoundly of contemporary
spiritual blindness, and nurturing the kind of consciousness which
can see again. This takes time, and is much about learning to
listen to places, and responding to life, too.
Jennifer Lash's account of her journey through France while
coming to terms with cancer, On Pilgrimage, teaches much.
I suspect that the growing popularity of pilgrimage, and associated
books, is a spontaneous rediscovery of ways of life that might
satisfy our spiritual thirst.
Then there is also the need to develop the discipline and habits
of discernment which develop our spiritual desires. The better
books about mindfulness meditation offer much here, and I would
recommend those by Mark Epstein. For a specifically Christian view,
Into the Silent Land: The practice of contemplation, by
Martin Laird, is the best I've read to date.
Dr Mark Vernon is a writer, broadcaster, and journalist, and
the author of Love: All that matters (Hodder Education,
MANY Christians of my generation have been desperate to find
those gifted communicators who will tell the story of our faith to
the friends we respect in a way that does not make them cringe, or
turn them off completely from the whole thing.
In reading Unapologetic: Why, despite everything,
Christianity can still make surprising emotional sense, by
Francis Spufford (pictured, left), I found that rare gem I
had been looking for for so long. Straightforward and yet
ineffable, Spufford's masterpiece is an honest, lyrical, beautiful,
and uplifting personal story of why Christianity makes sense.
The cadence of the words he uses and the pictures he draws of
life and faith and all that's in between had me, at times,
I would give Unapologetic to someone who was exploring
faith afresh, because it is authentic. It is not saccharine, nor
does it give pat answers to life's big questions. It is relevant,
because it is a human story, drawing not on lofty existential
arguments but telling it how it is - from our perspective. Down
For me, a good Christian book - one that I could give to my
friends - needs to contain that raw element of humanity. It brings
our faith right to the heart of who we are; it is not a badge for
members of some exclusive club.
I think that Don Miller is also a master in this respect. I
loved his books Blue Like Jazz: Non-religious thoughts on
Christian spirituality and A Million Miles in a Thousand
Years: What I learned while editing my life. Both of these
have made me think in a new, deeper way about my own faith, as it
relates to my real life. They have challenged and inspired me; and
they have reminded me of why any of this matters.
Chine Mbubaegbu is head of media and communications at the