HEAD OF SCHOOL MESSAGE: BOOKS THAT SHAPED ME
Troy McIntosh reflects on five books that have had the greatest impact on him
Someone recently asked me which books have been most influential in my life. I suppose that any person who has read even a small amount over their lives could point to a title or two that changed how they think, inspired them to act on something, or gave them insight into a topic or problem with which they had been wrestling. That is certainly true for me, both personally and professionally. I am always interested in hearing about other’s experiences with books, so in the hope that that might be true for you also, here is a list of five books that have been particularly influential in my life, each of which shaped how I think about Christian worldview and the place of education in the formation of a person’s life.
- By far the most influential book in my life is A.W. Tozer’s The Knowledge of the Holy. I can’t begin to recount how many times over my 27 years at WC that I have repeated to students the very first line of the book: “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” Tozer then goes on to portray a towering view of God by taking some of His attributes and digging deeper into them so that the reader can gain a better understanding of who God is. Although it is highly readable, there are depths to this book that few others have. It is the first book I recommend to just about anyone.
- I first read Francis Schaeffer’s How Should We Then Live in 1992 just after graduating from college. I am not sure how I graduated from a Christian college without having read Schaeffer, but when I finally did, it allowed me to see how the flow of ideas and events throughout history influenced how we arrived at our contemporary world. Perhaps more importantly, it gave a deeper understanding as to how a Christian ought to live and make his way through that world. As he writes, “There is a flow to history and culture. This flow is rooted and has its wellspring in the thoughts of people. People are unique in the inner life of the mind – what they are in their thought-world determines how they act. This is true of their value systems and it is true of their creativity. It is true of their corporate actions, such as their political lives. The results of their thought-world flow through their fingers and tongues into the external world.” If you have not read Schaeffer, this is a good starting point as it is still relevant today.
- Arthur F. Holmes wrote All Truth is God’s Truth in 1977. In it, he lays the philosophical foundations for why Christian schools ought to exist. He carefully makes the argument that all truth, in every field of inquiry and every academic discipline, comes ultimately from God and finds its unifying focus in him. This is why schools like WC can play such a vital role in students’ discipleship. Study of the truth of God’s general revelation teaches us important things about His nature and work in our world. There is no such thing as “secular truth” because all truth is ultimately of divine origin. “The Christian has a mandate to emphasize truth in society, and to implement in the world that unity of truth which makes men free to live meaningfully.”
- When Nancy Pearcy was younger, she spent time studying under Francis Schaeffer at L’Abri is Switzerland. Since then, she has become perhaps the greatest Christian cultural apologist of our day. Her 2010 book Saving Leonardo is one of her best. Her subtitle is “A Call to Resist the Secular Assault on Mind, Morals, and Meaning.” She takes a fresh approach to many of the great cultural questions of the day, in particular art, beauty, matters of life, entertainment, tyranny, and how 19th and 20th century academics and elites came to influence popular culture and life. It is truly fascinating. “The answer is that the ultimate goal is to preach the gospel. But the gospel is not so simple to those whose background prevents them from understanding it. Today’s global secular culture has erected a maze of mental barriers against even considering the biblical message. The goal of worldview analysis is to knock down those barriers, ‘to demolish strongholds’ – as the apostle Paul puts it.”
- And finally, my favorite book(s) of all time, C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia. I first read these “children’s books” as an adult. I was stunned by the depth wrapped up in a beautiful tale that could be understood by anyone. I think this is the perfect example of how stories can form categories in our minds that allow us to understand the ultimate story of the gospel more fully. It’s a masterpiece and if you only know the story through the films, do yourself a favor and set aside some time to read through the books themselves. It is where I first encountered the notion that Aslan is not a tame lion. As Mrs. Beaver told the Pevensie children, “Safe? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you!”