How should we then lie...

In tribute to this wonderful article, I want to suggest a list specifically for Christians. This is not, I might add, because Christians need their own everything, including top 10 lists. Rather, it is because Christians have their own peculiar shibboleths and a similar penchant for lying to themselves and others.

Here then are the top 10 books Christians like to think they've read, but haven't...

10. Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan

9. Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis (or anything else by Lewis)

8. The Confessions of St. Augustine

7. The God Who Is There by Francis A. Schaeffer

6. The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

5. Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton

4. Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom

3. Knowing God by J.I. Packer

2. The Institutes by John Calvin

1. The Bible

Mr. Domenech put it well in the article linked above:

Maybe you rationalized it by reasoning that you had a familiarity with the book, or knew who the author was, or what the story was about, or had glanced at its Wikipedia page. Or maybe you had tried to read the book, even bought it and set it by your bed for months unopened, hoping that it would impart what was in it merely via proximity (if that worked, please email me).

Feel free to create your own lists below.

Joseph and his wife, Heidi, have two children, Tate and Eliza Jane. Joseph graduated from Vanderbilt University and Clearnote Pastors College. Joseph serves as pastor of Clearnote Church in Indianapolis, Indiana.



The only book on Domenech's list I've "read" is 1984. I enclosed read in scare quotes because I actually listened to it on Audible.

I'd add Space Trilogy by C.S. Lewis. I also think very few people have truly read Amusing Ourselves to Death. I know that isn't a Christian book per se but I hear a lot of brothers cite that book to support things that Postman doesn't ever say.

The other nine you've actually read, right? :)

Oh no, I've only read a few chunks of The Art of War, On the Origins of the Species, and Ulysses. I've never read a single page out of all the rest. But I have read Margaret Wise Brown's Goodnight Moon more than a hundred times. That has to count for something.

Michael: :^). That, and Maisy, "Oh, no, panda has a fever. Nurse Telullah...." And of course "Harold and the Purple Crayon." It does a great job teaching reading with whole language.

Seriously, I must be a geek, because I'm 6/11 on the linked list and 7/10 on yours. Or rather 6.25/10, as I'm about 300 pages into the Institutes. I think I'll need a couple more readings before I "get" Calvin well, though.

My college roommate had a wonderful phrase. When asked if he was studying, he said, "Well, I'm staring at books." We can narrow things down with the Bible that way. I've stared my way through Jeremiah, eyeballing every word, but have I read it? Maybe I should....

I saw "Atlas Shrugged" parts 1 and 2, does that count? Am I endangering myself by mentioning anything involved with Ayn Rand here?

Also, I would like to think that I finished Pilgrim's Progress for the first time last week, but this blog entry is making me question whether I actually did or not. By the way, I like the list. I have attempted to read 8 of the books on it, but I have only finished 2. Well, I could say I'm never really finished with the Bible, or with Pilgrim's Progress for that matter. So I'll say 0. Sigh.

Have not read Chesterton.

People lie about having read Corrie Ten Boom?


Would you list these as 10 books every Christian should read?

Al sends

I am reminded of a most helpful introduction to the man, Clive Staples Lewis, for anyone interested in said man.

Yes, Al, I think Christians should read all ten of these books. However, they wouldn’t be my top 10. Also, Ive only read 5 or 6 of them. I honestly cant remember if I ever read Pilgrims Progress, or if I just read the abridged kids version. Sad, isnt it? And now that I think about it, Im not positive I finished Orthodoxy. Ive got a bad habit of not finishing good books...

David, in the article I linked to, it mentions people having watched the 1984 Apple ad on Youtube and thereby thinking to themselves that they’ve read the book. I would put Corrie ten Boom in a similar category. People think they’ve read her on the basis that they once had a philosophical conversation about whether to lie to the Nazi soldiers.

But I’m curious. What would you put on the list?


Finished four of them, started another four of them without finishing them.

10. Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan: Nope, just extended excerpts.

9. Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis (or anything else by Lewis). Yup, as well as The Great Divorce, Letters to Malcom, Surprised by Joy, A Severe Mercy, all the Narnia Chromicles many times out loud to my kids, The Four Loves, The Abolition of Man, A Grief Observed, The Problem of Pain, God in the Dock, The World's Last Night and Other Essays, Screwtape Letters, and the Space Trilogy novels (several times to my kids). I've tried several times to finish Till We Have Faces and can't get from here to there for some reason.

8. The Confessions of St. Augustine: excerpts only.

7. The God Who Is There by Francis A. Schaeffer. Yup, and all the other standard Schaeffer oeuvre.

6. The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Yup. The recent biography is also very good.

5. Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton. Many times. In fact, I find that requiring my high school children to read this one out loud is fantastic training for them in elocution.

Among the rest of Chesterton I continually recommend ('cause I've read them, some several times): The Everlasting Man, The Thing, Heretics, The Man Who Was Thursday, What's Wrong With The World, St. Thomas Aquinas, Tremendous Trifles, and St. Francis.

4. Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom. Nope.

3. Knowing God by J.I. Packer. Yup.

2. The Institutes by John Calvin. Extended excerpts only.

1. The Bible. Several times. Can't possibly remember how many times or when.

Does listening to the audiobook count? Because that's the only way I got through the Institutes. Best 3 months of commuting so far, though.

I've started (and found treasure in) both Confessions and The Cost of Discipleship. I have Knowing God on my reading list, but have not yet managed to read it.

I was surprised to see The Hiding Place on the list. I thought that an engaging read.

The other books are good choices that I have actually read. I suspect a number of Evangelicals might lie about reading More Than a Carpenter, but that speaks more to our collective laziness as readers that the difficulty of the book.

Not sure I understand. I confess to not having read the linked article. I also confess to not having read three of the ten books on your list. Are you saying that people say they have read books they haven't read? Why would someone do that? What does one gain from such a lie?

Dear RC,

Yes, I think Christians lie about the books they’ve read. What do they gain? Entry into the club of smart or cool or deep or theologically astute or holy people who read such books.

Is this universal? I don’t know. Maybe upwardly mobile baptists actually read the books that the Presbyterians simply buy and put on the bookshelf. I wouldn’t be surprised. If so, the irony is that they prove they haven’t yet arrived by doing the very thing they thought they had to do to gain entry.


" I think [some?] Christians lie about the books they’ve read."

One of the more socially acceptable ways of being nosy is to graze through Christians' bookshelves, especially home bookshelves. It often gives you telling clues to the book owners' spiritual compasses.

For example, in the admissions I make about my reading above, an astute observer will see evidence of extensive exposure to British Anglo-catholics (or their siblings), and a relatively paltry exposure to British Puritans. And seeing this, they will think (if they hadn't already figured this out), "Ah! So now I understand where he's coming from, and where not. And why."

"Like father, like son" tells the truth about spiritual families just as much (maybe more so) as it tells the truth about geneological families.

As far as spiritual affectations are concerned, this is a good place to repeat a saw originating (I think) from American frontier days: "Baptists are Methodists who wear shoes, Presbyterians are Baptists who can read." In our nook of North Texas, where the English Reformation is usually confused with the Church of Rome, you'll sometimes hear it said that Episcopalians are Baptists who want to smoke and drink. Similar saws have likely popped up here and there since the First Century.

>>What do they gain? Entry into the club...

I remember my brother David one time making the observation that all the applause at classical music concerts is self-congratulatory. And he wasn't dissing classical music, which we were raised on.

Men have pecking orders just like hens, and books and authors are the apex of Reformed men's pecking orders. It's how we get a leg up.

Add to that the simple truth that we have forsaken the word for the image, and Reformed men almost as much as everyone else; kick in that women buy over 70% of Christian books; then listen to the exorbitant claims from Reformed talking heads today that the Reformers support this and that position (which position has little to no support from the Reformers); and it seems clear to me, at least, that much Reformed gab about authors and books is self-congratulatory.

Neil Postman was right, and this is the reason men like John Piper and Doug Wilson are putting out more and more videos.

The humorous (or sad) thing is that it takes much longer to get content from videos than text, and you can't sift and skip content in videos like you can with text. So we're on the road to stupider.

I've sat in many PCA deliberative assemblies and on a GA study committee and the ignorance of Calvin and historical Reformed fathers is appalling, especially on the part of teaching elders who have their M.Div. from Covenant or one of the Reformed seminaries. Add that men who got degrees from Westminster or Escondido have actually read some of the primary sources but are usually lacking in self-knowledge (of their sin), compassion for the flock, discernment, any ability to contextualize; and that they have been taught not to preach, but to lecture; and we see we're in desperate straits.

May God give us young men who read! First, the Bible—daily. Then the Early Church fathers, Reformers, Puritans, etc. Mostly primary sources. Few secondary sources.

Yes, at first it will be difficult, but so was learning to pair your smartphone over bluetooth so you could go handsfree.

The problem today isn't money. CCEL has the vast majority of books a man of God needs to read and they're there for free download. Remember, Edwards only had a few hundred books in his library and he wasn't intellectually stunted.

Well, I guess I should shut up. Them's my 2 sense.


Maybe people would stop lying on their bookshelves if we stopped judging people by their bookshelves. We always had lots of books in my house growing up, but few were out in public display. I was not surprised by this list. Several on it are among my favorites. But I hope that it is possible to judge people more faithfully face to face. That is, if David, Tim or Joseph had not read any of the books on the list I don't think it would diminish in me my respect or admiration for them. And I am certain there are plenty who have read all my favorite books who are not my favorite people. Show me a man whose wife is always peaceful and joyful and I'll show you a great man. Show me a man with a Chesterton shelf and I'll show you a man who owns some great books.

Came across this quote by Jonathan Edwards. He apparently disliked a display of learning. Next to the maxim, "Let much modesty be seen in the style," he wrote another: "Let it not look as if I was much read, or was conversant with books, or with the learned world." This from a man who studied 13-14 hours per day and probably had read all the books he owned.

I haven't experienced outright lying. I think what's common is that somebody says in conversation,"As it says in Pilgrim's Progress, skddjfkjfsd" and everybody at the table nods their head as if they'd read it. I think that's OK, since you don't want to disrupt a conversations with confessions, but it's bad if you think it's important enough for yourself or other people that you ask a question about the passage in response, but you don't because you're chicken to admit you haven't read it. People are *way* too chicken about that, in all circles I'm in---- economics, law, evangelicals, even children. In that respect, my own self-confidence (pride?) is so immense that I'm not hesitant to ask questions like "what does voluntarism mean", as I asked someone (Prof. van Drunen of R2K fame, actually) at lunch a couple days ago at a conference. That's what happens at economics research seminars too: the PhD students are too embarassed to ask questions, even though really all the professors pretty much assume they're ignorant anyway, but the senior professors ask without embarassment.

The part of the Great Gatsby I remember best is about looking at someone's bookshelves to learn about them. (You have to understand that in the 1920's many books were printed in a way so that you had to use a paperknife to literally cut pairs of pages facing each other apart before you read them).

"An owl-eyed man at a Gatsby party sits in awe in the library, murmuring with amazement that the books are real, not just cardboard covers of interior decoration.

"See!" he cried triumphantly. "It's a bona-fide piece of printed matter. It fooled me. This fella's a regular Belasco. It's a triumph. What thoroughness! What realism! Knew when to stop, too - didn't cut the pages. " "

Hey, Eric; when you interlocuted with van Drunen, did he know I was your pastor?


He knew I was from Indiana University and I obviously was very anti-R2K (I asked him and a Jewish prof. to join me for lunch and we talked about church-and-state issues) but when I told him Tim Bayly was my pastor he didn't seem to recall the Baylyblog's criticisms of R2K. He's very academic in his style.

He knew I was from Indiana University and I obviously was very anti-R2K (I asked him and a Jewish prof. to join me for lunch and we talked about church-and-state issues) but when I told him Tim Bayly was my pastor he didn't seem to recall the Baylyblog's criticisms of R2K. He's very academic in his style.

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