Top 10 Books - Contemporary Western Culture
The following is a list some recommendations on the subject of contemporary Western culture, offered in no particular order. It is far from exhaustive, but provides many trustworthy options.
Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity
I try to read everything I can from Nancy Pearcey. This is my favorite of her works. If you want to understand and respond to the the marginalization of faith in general, and Christianity in particular, from the public sphere, this is a very helpful work.
Christianity and Liberalism
J. Gresham Machen
From the publisher: “This classic defense of orthodox Christianity, written to counter the liberalism that arose in the early 1900s, establishes the importance of scriptural doctrine and contrasts the teachings of liberalism and orthodoxy on God and man, the Bible, Christ, salvation, and the church. J. Gresham Machen’s Christianity and Liberalism has remained relevant through the years ever since its original publication in 1923. It was named one of the top 100 books of the millennium by World magazine and one of the top 100 books of the twentieth century by Christianity Today.”
How Should We Then Live? The Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture
From the publisher: “As one of the foremost evangelical thinkers of the twentieth century, Francis Schaeffer long pondered the fate of declining Western culture. In this brilliant book he analyzed the reasons for modern society's state of affairs and presented the only viable alternative: living by the Christian ethic, acceptance of God's revelation, and total affirmation of the Bible's morals, values, and meaning.”
Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business
From the publisher: “Originally published in 1985, Neil Postman’s groundbreaking polemic about the corrosive effects of television on our politics and public discourse has been hailed as a twenty-first-century book published in the twentieth century. Now, with television joined by more sophisticated electronic media—from the Internet to cell phones to DVDs—it has taken on even greater significance. Amusing Ourselves to Death is a prophetic look at what happens when politics, journalism, education, and even religion become subject to the demands of entertainment. It is also a blueprint for regaining control of our media, so that they can serve our highest goals.”
Closing of the American Mind
From the publisher: “In 1987, eminent political philosopher Allan Bloom published The Closing of the American Mind, an appraisal of contemporary America that “hits with the approximate force and effect of electroshock therapy” (The New York Times) and has not only been vindicated, but has also become more urgent today. In clear, spirited prose, Bloom argues that the social and political crises of contemporary America are part of a larger intellectual crisis: the result of a dangerous narrowing of curiosity and exploration by the university elites.”
A Secular Age
From the publisher: “What does it mean to say that we live in a secular age? Almost everyone would agree that we―in the West, at least―largely do. And clearly the place of religion in our societies has changed profoundly in the last few centuries. In what will be a defining book for our time, Charles Taylor takes up the question of what these changes mean―of what, precisely, happens when a society in which it is virtually impossible not to believe in God becomes one in which faith, even for the staunchest believer, is only one human possibility among others.”
Postmodern Times: A Christian Guide to Contemporary Thought and Culture
Gene Edward Veith
If you want to understand modern society, you need to understand postmodernism. Although an older volume, Veith remains very helpful.
From the publisher: “Just what is postmodernism? The average person would be shocked by its creed: Truth, meaning, and individual identity do not exist. These are social constructs. Human life has no special significance, no more value than animal or plant life. All social relationships, all institutions, all moral values are expressions and masks of the primal will to power.”
The Gospel in a Pluralist Society
From the publisher: “How does the gospel relate to a pluralist society? What is the Christian message in a society marked by religious pluralism, ethnic diversity, and cultural relativism? Should Christians encountering today's pluralist society concentrate on evangelism or on dialogue? How does the prevailing climate of opinion affect, perhaps infect, Christians' faith?
These kinds of questions are addressed in this noteworthy book by Lesslie Newbigin. A highly respected Christian leader and ecumenical figure, Newbigin provides a brilliant analysis of contemporary (secular, humanist, pluralist) culture and suggests how Christians can more confidently affirm their faith in such a context.”
The Culture of Interpretation: Christian Faith and the Postmodern world
Not for the timid, but very helpful in explaining the central issues of postmodernism. From the publisher: “This book offers a broad-ranging account of contemporary American culture, the complex network of symbols, practices, and beliefs at the heart of our society. Lundin explores the historical background of some of our "postmodern" culture's central beliefs and considers their crucial ethical and theological implications.”