Reading is good for you. It’s full of Vitamin A, Vitamin B, Calcium…
But I don’t have to convince you. You already love reading. That’s why you are reading at this very moment… reading this pointless intro to a collection of things you actually want to read.
Many of these authors will disagree with each other on various issues, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Like Brazen Church, these books aren’t about replacing your old ideology with a new, equally dogmatic one. They’re about breaking the box that we’ve placed God in and exposing us to a more complex, dynamic, and beautiful reality than our minds have made room for. You’ll learn a ton from every single one of these authors.
Before you begin, we’ve put together something resembling a book ourselves here at Brazen Church. Enter your email below and we’ll send it straight to your inbox in the next 15 (ish) seconds 😀
And now for the books themselves in no particularly order – 12 of our favorite “out of the box” Christian titles that will rock your world!
A Farewell to Mars: An Evangelical Pastor’s Journey Toward the Biblical Gospel of Peace
by Brian Zahnd
Brian Zahnd is one of our absolute favorite authors. His commentary is always relevant, insightful, and thought-provoking. If you aren’t already following his blog, we can’t recommend it enough. Brian’s book A Farewell To Mars is a staple for Christians on a journey – a beautiful blend of progressive thought and ageless paradigms.
We know Jesus the Savior, but have we met Jesus, Prince of Peace?
When did we accept vengeance as an acceptable part of the Christian life? How did violence and power seep into our understanding of faith and grace? For those troubled by this trend toward the sword, perhaps there is a better way.
What if the message of Jesus differs radically from the drumbeats of war we hear all around us?
Using his own journey from war crier to peacemaker and his in-depth study of peace in the scriptures, author and pastor Brian Zahnd reintroduces us to the gospel of Peace.
Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus
by Benjamin L. Corey
Benjamin L. Corey’s Patheos blog Formerly Fundie has been a major catalyst in my own spiritual journey. His thoughts on eternal torment (or the lack thereof) opened up that entire discussion for me, and his Facebook feed is consistently humorous and soul-searching at the same time. BLC’s book Undiluted is the perfect title for anyone interested in taking the message of Jesus seriously (which is hopefully everyone).
Benjamin Corey confronts our vision of Jesus head-on, asking the hard question: Is what we see and hear in the modern church all there is to the message of Jesus… or is there a more radical side to Jesus than we have been led to believe?
Get ready to encounter a Jesus that is determined to turn over the tables of a stale, ineffective and boring gospel that seeks to escape from the world instead of transforming it.
This radical Jesus and His message…
- Invites us to reorient our lives not on Christian religion, but on the person of Jesus
- Calls us to live out faith in the context of authentic community with others, instead of isolation
- Includes the excluded and invites the outcast to have a seat at the table
- Responds to enemies with a radical, unexplainable love
Undiluted will invite you to step out of your comfort zone and into a process of rediscovering the radical, counter cultural, and life-changing message of Jesus. As you do, you’ll discover a more vibrant faith as you embrace an undiluted Jesus and His radical message!
A More Christlike God: A More Beautiful Gospel
by Brad Jersak
I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone quite as good at answering questions as Brad Jersak. Brad manages to make complex answers seem manageable, and he has an unparalleled ability to present the facts without forcing any conclusions. If you’re the type who enjoys a more academic approach without getting overly technical, Brad Jersak’s writings will be some of your favorites, and his signature title A More Christlike God is a can’t-miss. Don’t forget to check out his blogs Clarion Journal and CWR.
What is God like? Toxic images abound: God the punishing judge, the deadbeat dad, the genie in a bottle–false gods that need to be challenged.
But what if, instead, God truly is completely Christlike? What if His love is more generous, his Cross more powerful, and his gospel more beautiful than we’ve dared to imagine? What if our clearest image of God is the self-giving, radically forgiving, co-suffering Love revealed on the Cross?
What if we had ‘A More Christlike God’?
Disarming Scripture: Cherry-Picking Liberals, Violence-Loving Conservatives, and Why We All Need to Learn to Read the Bible Like Jesus Did
by Derek Flood
If there is one word I would use to describe Derek Flood’s writing, it’s “clarity”. Derek doesn’t mess around. He identifies his target, engages it, and delivers a compelling, well-balanced argument backed by studious research. Few issues are as important for the 21st Century Church as how we should read the Bible, and Disarming Scripture is perhaps THE most relevant book today on the subject. Derek does a fantastic job of cutting through the politics we bring to Scripture and showing us how to read the Bible like Jesus did. If you haven’t read this book, get it now and then check out Derek’s blog The Rebel God.
A God of love or genocide?
For many Christians, the problem of violence in Scripture can result in a crisis of faith–especially when we see how such passages have been used throughout history to justify horrific bloodshed in God’s name.
Moving beyond typical conservative and liberal approaches, which seek to either defend or whitewash over violence in the Bible, Disarming Scripture takes a surprising yet compelling approach: Learning to read the Bible like Jesus did.
Along the way, the book deals with some very big issues, ranging from passages commanding genocide and infanticide in the Old Testament to passages in the New Testament that have been used to justify slavery, child abuse, and state violence. The take-away is an approach to Scripture that not only sees questioning as an acceptable part of a healthy faith, but as an absolutely essential part of it.
The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited
by Scot McKnight
Scot McKnight is a renowned theologian, prolific writer, and passionate teacher. His work has heavily influenced many of the authors on this list, and he is widely esteemed for his commitment to engaging amicably with progressive thinkers while retaining firmly Evangelical beliefs. If all Christian leaders modeled themselves after Scot McKnight, we would have a much healthier Church. The King Jesus Gospel is in every sense the “good news revisited” – a mandatory first step on one’s journey of reevaluation. Next step? Head on over to Scot’s Patheos blog Jesus Creed.
Contemporary evangelicals have built a “salvation culture” but not a “gospel culture”, instead reducing the gospel to a message of personal salvation.
This book makes a plea for us to recover the old gospel as that which is still new and still fresh. The book stands on four arguments: that the gospel is defined by the apostles in 1 Corinthians 15 as the completion of the Story of Israel in the saving Story of Jesus; that the gospel is found in the Four Gospels; that the gospel was preached by Jesus; and that the sermons in the Book of Acts are the best example of gospeling in the New Testament.
The King Jesus Gospel ends with practical suggestions about evangelism and about building a gospel culture.
The Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It
by Peter Enns
Peter Enns writes the types of books you want to read. Brian McLaren puts it best, ““Cross a stand-up comic, a robust theological mind, a college professor, and a decent normal guy, and what do you get? Peter Enns. And what does he write? A super-enjoyable, highly informative, disarmingly honest, and downright liberating book. The message of this book needs to get out. Fast.” We agree! The Bible Tells Me So is the answer to your question, “What is the Bible… really?” When you’re done reading it, check out Peter’s blog: the Bible for normal people.
The controversial Bible scholar and author of The Evolution of Adam recounts his transformative spiritual journey in which he discovered a new, more honest way to love and appreciate God’s Word.
Trained as an evangelical Bible scholar, Peter Enns loved the Scriptures and shared his devotion, teaching at Westminster Theological Seminary. But the further he studied the Bible, the more he found himself confronted by questions that could neither be answered within the rigid framework of his religious instruction or accepted among the conservative evangelical community.
Rejecting the increasingly complicated intellectual games used by conservative Christians to “protect” the Bible, Enns was conflicted. Is this what God really requires? How could God’s plan for divine inspiration mean ignoring what is really written in the Bible? These questions eventually cost Enns his job—but they also opened a new spiritual path for him to follow.
The Bible Tells Me So chronicles Enns’s spiritual odyssey, how he came to see beyond restrictive doctrine and learned to embrace God’s Word as it is actually written. As he explores questions progressive evangelical readers of Scripture commonly face yet fear voicing, Enns reveals that they are the very questions that God wants us to consider—the essence of our spiritual study.
The Myth of a Christian Religion: Losing Your Religion for the Beauty of a Revolution
by Greg Boyd
With 18 titles to his name and counting, Greg Boyd is an internationally recognized author, theologian, preacher, teacher, and apologist. Greg brings a refreshingly scientific approach to his theological discussions, merging faith and reason in a way that captivates deep thinkers while remaining palatable to more casual readers. We highly recommend his blog ReKnew but feel obligated to warn you that time has a way of disappearing while you’re there!
The kingdom of God is a beautiful revolution. Marked by the radical life, love, servanthood, and humility of Jesus, it stands in stark contrast to the values and ways of the world.
Regrettably, many who profess to follow Christ have bought into the world’s methods, seeking to impose a sort of Christianized ethical kingdom through politics and control. In this illuminating sequel to his bestselling book The Myth of a Christian Nation, Dr. Gregory Boyd points us to a better way—a way of seeing and living that is consistent with the gospel of Jesus and his kingdom. Between the extremes of passivity on the one hand and political holy war on the other lies the radical, revolutionary path of imitating Jesus.
In twelve areas ranging from racial and social issues to stewardship of the planet, this book will convince and inspire you to live a Christlike life of revolt and beauty—and it will help you attain a practical lifestyle of kingdom impact.
Raising Hell: Christianity’s Most Controversial Doctrine Put Under Fire
by Julie Ferwerda
Julie Ferwerda is a prolific writer as well as a personal friend of ours here at Brazen Church. Like Rob Bell, Julie willingly left her lucrative spot as a member of the Christian author “inner circle” in order to follow her evolving beliefs and leave fundamentalism behind. Her most recent title Raising Hell offers a conclusive, exhaustively researched look at the doctrine of eternal torment, and we recommend it wholeheartedly!
Have you ever considered the apparent injustices, inconsistencies, and even contradictions of the doctrine of hell? For starters, do earthly parents love their children more than God? Does God ask you to forgive your enemies when He is not willing to do the same? Is being punished forever for sins committed in a short lifetime really “justice”? Does everybody really get the same fair chance to believe in Jesus before they die? If hell is the worst possible fate of mankind, and if God is truly loving, then…
- Why did He fail to mention hell in Genesis as the price for sin?
- Why doesn’t the Old Testament ever teach about or even mention hell?
- Why doesn’t Paul, the apostle to the non-Jewish world, ever once mention hell?
- Why has orthodox Judaism (to whom Scriptures were given) never believed in any kind of eternal punishment or hell?
- Why was hell not the orthodox position of the early Church for five centuries after Christ?
- Why can’t theologians agree if we are saved by election or free will?
Dare to question. What have you got to lose? If you’ve ever had doubts or questions about the incompatibility of eternal torment with a merciful God, Raising Hell will open your eyes to a radical view of God’s loving purpose for all humanity and what the “Good News” is really about. Picking up where Rob Bell and others leave off, Julie Ferwerda offers compelling evidence historically, philosophically, and scripturally as to why the doctrine of eternal torment is the biggest and most damaging deception of the modern Church.
Faith Unraveled: How a Girl Who Knew All the Answers Learned to Ask Questions
by Rachel Held Evans
Rachel Held Evans is a bestselling author with a gift for articulating the inner struggle of this phenomenon we call faith. Her writings are transparent, accessible, and particularly significant for those with a fundamentalist upbringing. If you come from an Evangelical background and are struggling with the freedom to question, Rachel’s book Faith Unraveled is a great place to start.
Eighty years after the Scopes Monkey Trial made a spectacle of Christian fundamentalism and brought national attention to her hometown, Rachel Held Evans faced a trial of her own when she began to have doubts about her faith.
In Faith Unraveled, Rachel recounts growing up in a culture obsessed with apologetics, struggling as her own faith unraveled one unexpected question at a time.
In order for her faith to survive, Rachel realizes, it must adapt to change and evolve. Using as an illustration her own spiritual journey from certainty to doubt to faith, Evans challenges you to disentangle your faith from false fundamentals and to trust in a God who is big enough to handle your tough questions.
In a changing cultural environment where new ideas seem to threaten the safety and security of the faith, Faith Unraveled is a fearlessly honest story of survival.
Questions Are The Answer: nakedpastor and the search for understanding
by David Hayward
David Hayward is the Gary Larson of the progressive Christian world. We are HUGE fans of his hilarious cartoons, witty captions, and insightful analysis of modern religion. Check out his work at nakepastor and if you are seeking an online community for spiritually independent people, head on over to his group The Lasting Supper.
David Hayward – ‘the Naked Pastor’ – is one of the most prolific Christian cartoonists of the online world.
Describing himself as ‘a graffiti artist on the walls of religion’ with the aim of ‘helping people undress religion to the core essential of their own unique spirituality’, his immediately recognizable images are shared by thousands across social media every day.
This book uses David’s cartoons and accompanying text to tell his own story from being a ‘Closed’ Christian, with a black and white, fundamentalist view of the world to the freedom of becoming an ‘Open’ Christian with the courage to ask questions and wrestle with some of the tougher challenges of faith.
The Shack: Where Tragedy Confronts Eternity
by Wm. Paul Young
As the only work of fiction on this list, Wm. Paul Young’s bestseller The Shack is almost better classified as a historical event than a book, but don’t let that keep you from experiencing the book itself. Young’s depiction of the Trinity has freed millions to view God in a brand new way, and it will absolutely do the same for you. Before you leave, make sure to check out Paul’s blog for encouraging words from the humblest man to ever sell 18 million copies.
Mackenzie Allen Phillips’s youngest daughter, Missy, has been abducted during a family vacation, and evidence that she may have been brutally murdered is found in an abandoned shack deep in the Oregon wilderness.
Four years later, in this midst of his great sadness, Mack receives a suspicious note, apparently from God, inviting him back to that shack for a weekend.
Against his better judgment he arrives at the shack on wintry afternoon and walks back into his darkest nightmare. What he finds there will change his life forever.
The Shack Revisited: There Is More Going On Here than You Ever Dared to Dream
by Dr. Baxter Kruger
One does not simply read through a chapter by Dr. Baxter Kruger. You read, then re-read, then ponder, then start to read further before suddenly having a thought that sends you scanning back and re-reading yet again. Whether he’s writing or speaking, Dr. Kruger makes you think and then think again, usually while nodding your head in involuntary agreement. If The Shack touched your heart, The Shack Revisited will blow your mind. Prepare yourself!
Millions have found their spiritual hunger satisfied by William P. Young’s #1 New York Times bestseller, The Shack–the story of a man lifted from the depths of despair through his life-altering encounter with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Now C. Baxter Kruger’s THE SHACK REVISITED guides readers into a deeper understanding of these three persons to help readers have a more profound connection with the core message of The Shack–that God is love.
An early fan of The Shack and a close friend to its author, Kruger shows why the novel has been enthusiastically embraced by so many Christians worldwide. In the words of William P. Young from the foreword to THE SHACK REVISITED, “Baxter Kruger will stun readers with his unique cross of intellectual brilliance and creative genius as he takes them deeper into the wonder, worship, and possibility that is the world of The Shack.”
Your Turn! What Did We Miss?
This is certainly not an exhaustive list. There are a bunch more amazing books out there. What are some of your favorites? Post them below in the comments and we’ll consider including them in our next edition!
Aaron Orendorff says
Hear, hear to Peter Enns!
I use his commentary on Genesis (the book that got him canned from Westminster) every time I teach about creation in PHL204, Philosophy of Religion.
Of course I open with a disclaimer that what they’re about to hear would get me in a lot of trouble in Sunday School.
That’s what usually happens when you do the risky thing of actually paying attention to the Text itself (instead of toe-the-line interpretations of it).
I’m gonna check out that one and the Mars book. [Insert dad joke here.] 😉
Jacob McMillen says
Haha thanks Aaron!
And I mean, if you aren’t getting in trouble at Sunday School, what has this all been about?
Jordan Hall says
This is probably one of the best sweepstakes I have seen in a while! When do we receive the 5 ebooks?
Jacob McMillen says
Hey Jordan, glad you’re digging it! We’ll be emailing all participants about a few extra prizes and mini-contests as the week goes on, and then when the giveaway is over, we’ll be sending out all the downloads!
Out Of Sorts by Sarah Bessey is a good one too! Thanks for this list.
Gordon Sherwood says
How about Andre Rabe “Desire found me”
Charles Watson Sr. says
Can you add my book to this list?
“the cross in our context”, Douglas John Hall, is a masterfully written book on a very pertinent issue by a Commander of the English language.
“repenting of religion”, Gregory Boyd, is one of the books that led me to realize I was not an island in my theo-think.
Dusan Velevski says
“Light On The Dark Side of God” by M.M. Campbell (Amazon).
One of the best books on shedding light on many “dark” passages in Scripture.
Can I avail of the free downloads? Thanks a lot.
Lewis Schofield says
Anything by Richard Rohr should be read but “Things Hidden” will rock your world.
No time for critique at the moment. bought it is fabulous.
Tina Green says
Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans
Paul Clutterbuck says
Tom Wright’s Surprised by Hope would be at the top of my list of recommendations. Another would be Morgan Guyton’s How Jesus Saves the World from Us: 12 Antidotes to Toxic Christianity.
Paul Clutterbuck says
Oh, and btw, Tom (N.T.) Wright is quite simply the greatest Christian author and teacher in our generation. I’d recommend everything of his, except his heteronormative view on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Wendy Lynn says
The Atonement of God by J. D. Myers turned my theology upside down!
Peter Skett says
“A New Kind of Christianity,” by Brian McLaren.
Michael Camp says
Pagan Christianity, by Viola and Barna
Please send me the compiled ‘book’ mentioned above. Thank you so much.
Robert Romine says
Books by Brian Zahnd. In particular, 1) “Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God” 2) “Unconditional” 3) “Water into Wine” 4) “Farewell to Mars” and more. Found on Amazon.
Peter Byl says
I found Raising Hell very helpful.
A great book for anyone living in fear of the “hell and damnation forever” con.
Another great book is “The Inescapable Love of God “by Talbot who is a philisophy professor.
It also ,very apty, refutes the doctrine of hell.
I would recommend the following as a corrective to the utterly waste of time list above:
1) John Calvin – Institutes of the Christian Religion
2) J. G. Machen – Christianity and Liberalism
3) John Murray – Redemption Accomplished and Applied
4) J. I. Packer – Knowinig God
5) R. C. Sproul – Chosen by God
6) Michael Horton – Putting Amazing Back Into Grace
7) David F. Wells – No Place for Truth
8) Andreas J. Köstenberger with David W. Jones – God, Marriage, and Family: Rebuilding the Biblical Foundation
9) Andreas J. Köstenberger and Margaret Elizabeth Köstenberger – God’s Design for Man and Woman: A Biblical-Theological Survey
10) John Blanchard – Whatever Happened to Hell?
Robert John Donahue says
I assume Rob Bell’s absence on the list is due to him already having a high profile. Ditto C.S. Lewis (though fairly “orthodox” and speaking to a different era than ours).
That leaves: Just about anything by Peter Rollins.
Also: Ditto on the prior recommendation of Pagan Christianity?, by George Barna & Frank Viola.
debra brown says
I love Rob Bell’s Velvet Elvis is a relevant and poignant look at christian theology and the person of Jesus.
Tim Powers says
I’d be interested in the “book’ you mentioned.
Gail Kruse says
Love this list of books.
Robin Kelly says
Please send your ebook.