Announcing the '2019 Christian Greats Challenge: Past & Present '



The Purpose of the Challenge

There are a few reasons I decided to run this challenge:

* I enjoy the community aspect of blogging about books & thought it would be fun to host a challenge with a link-up & get to visit & comment on other blogs.

* I have a number of books by Christian authors on my shelves.  I’d like to read these & a challenge will help to spur me on.

* I’ve been surprised by the sheer number of classic authors whose writings contain dominant Christian themes. Many of these authors were not professing Christians but they had imbibed a Christian ethos that is evident in their writing.

* As I was reading ‘Surprised by Joy’ by C.S. Lewis this year he spoke of his ‘chronological snobbery’ before he became a Christian. He defined this as, ‘the uncritical acceptance of the intellectual climate common to our own age and the assumption that whatever has gone out of date is on that account discredited.’

Studying/reading history whether it be world history in general or Church history specifically, helps to counter this snobbery. 

* And lastly…

‘A child is born in an obscure village. He is brought up in another obscure village. He works in a carpenter shop until he is thirty, and then for three brief years is an itinerant preacher, proclaiming a message and living a life. He never writes a book. He never holds an office. He never raises an army. He never has a family of his own. He never owns a home. He never goes to college. He never travels two hundred miles from the place where he was born. He gathers a little group of friends about him and teaches them his way of life. While still a young man, the tide of popular feeling turns against him. One denies him; another betrays him. He is turned over to his enemies. He goes through the mockery of a trial; he is nailed to a cross between two thieves, and when dead is laid in a borrowed grave by the kindness of a friend.
Those are the facts of his human life. He rises from the dead. Today we look back across nineteen hundred years and ask, What kind of trail has he left across the centuries? When we try to sum up his influence, all the armies that ever marched, all the parliaments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned are absolutely picayune in their influence on mankind compared with that of this one solitary life…’


Dr James Allan Francis, 1926


1)  A Book on Early Church History
(up to about 500 A.D) or a book written by a key figure who lived during that time, or a biography about that person. Examples:

The New Testament Book of Acts
Augustine of Hippo
Selected chapters from a book on Church History: e.g. ‘Christianity Through the Centuries’ by Earle E. Cairns.
A well-written children’s book is also acceptable e.g. Simonetta Carr’s biographies.

2)  A Book About a Prominent Christian Who Was Born Between 500 A.D & 1900 

Francis of Assisi
Joan of Arc
John Wycliffe
Martin Luther
William Wilberforce
Dietrich Bonhoeffer
A good children’s adaption may be used.

3)  A Christian Allegory

Pilgrim’s Progress or The Holy War by John Bunyan
One (or more!) of The Chronicles of Narnia or The Space Trilogy C.S. Lewis
Books by George MacDonald

4)  A Book on Apologetics 

e.g. Authors such as Ravi Zacharias, Francis Schaeffer, Josh McDowell, G.K. Chesterton

5)  A Philosophical Book by a Christian Author

This could be on Education, Virtue, Morals, Worldview or Ethics. Some ideas: books by Anthony Esolen, Charlotte Mason, Stratford Caldecott, David Hicks, Vigen Guroian.

6)   A Missionary Biography or A Biography of a Prominent Christian who lived any time between 1500 A.D to 1950 A.D

7)  A Seasonal Book 

Pick a time of the year such as Lent, Easter, Christmas, Advent, a Saint’s Day, an Anniversary/event in the Church Calendar, and read a book for yourself or choose a book to read to a child. Paraclete Press have some good selections. 

8)  A Novel with a Christian Theme

E.g. forgiveness, redemption, self-sacrifice, grace. It doesn’t have to be written by a Christian but the theme needs to play a prominent part in the story e.g. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, The Scarlet & the Black by J.P. Gallagher, A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy.

9) A Good Old Detective or Mystery Novel…Why??

This is what J.I. Packer said:

‘…these are stories of a kind that would never have existed without the Christian gospel. Culturally, they are Christian fairy tales, with savior heroes and plots that end in what Tolkien called a eucatastrophe—whereby things come right after seeming to go irrevocably wrong. Villains are foiled, people in jeopardy are freed, justice is done, and the ending is happy. The protagonists—detectives, Secret Service agents, noble cowboys and sheriffs, or whatever—are classic Robin Hood figures, champions of the needy, bringers of merited judgment and merciful salvation. The gospel of Christ is the archetype of all such stories. Paganism unleavened by Christianity, on the other hand, was and always will be pessimistic at heart.’

Some worthy authors: Josephine Tey, Dorothy Sayers, Margery Allingham, G.K. Chesterton, Rex Stout, John Buchan.

10)  A Substitute – choose a book by any of the authors below in place of one of the above categories:

Timothy Keller
A.W. Tozer
Patricia St. John
Jan Karon
Wendell Berry
C.S. Lewis
Edith Schaeffer
Elizabeth Goudge


Choose a second book from a category you like


Write a blog post with a list of books you think you might get to read for each category and link it below. (Update: link here)
When you finish a book, write a review and link it here with the name of the book in brackets. Use hashtag #christiangreats if posting on social media.

The aim is to enjoy the books and stretch yourself by reading outside your normal parameters or by introducing yourself to a new author. It’s not to make you feel pressured so you’re welcome to join in even if you only read from one or two categories.
Feel free to copy the image for your blog.


40 thoughts on “Announcing the '2019 Christian Greats Challenge: Past & Present '

  1. Hey, this is unexpected but a great idea! I'm going to have to mull over what I'd include but it would certainly inspire me to get to some of those books that I've started or want to read. I doubt I'd be able to hit all the categories but even if I managed a few, it would be worth it. Thanks for thinking of this challenge!


  2. Not sure what happened to my post so here is take two. I think you’ve come up with an excellent idea. Can we revisit books that we read many years ago and have forgotten and will benefit from in light of years of experience gained?


  3. A grand inspiration! I will try to join in but my eyes are going to go through a temporary challenge and reading will be limited to impossible for a good while ( months) . However, maybe I will be able to review some of the books I have read in these categories and write a bit about them…I am not the best at reviews and it would be a good discipline for me. either way. best to all who take up the challenge and I look forward to peeking in as able.


  4. Sounds like a great idea. I printed the list for reference. I'm not officially joining any challenges right now, but this gives me some great ideas to stretch my mind. I'll be sure to use the hashtag on IG if I post a review.


  5. This is a wonderful idea and I know I won't be able to do it. However, I am going to be reading your and the other bloggers ensuing reviews with great interest. Have a great year of reading!


  6. Your book challenge is intriguing Carol! I can see many fits in my planned reading to the categories you've chosen. I haven't done Back to the Classics Challenge for a couple of years, but am not considering your challenge. Either way, I look forward to seeing your reviews.


  7. I was considering not doing any challenges this year but they do help me do some focussed reading & not just what I feel like at the time, which isn't always a good way to choose a book. Sometimes I need a push in a different direction.


  8. Sorry about that, but when I added a page with the Linky for reviews it stops this one from being added to. I only just realised that when Lacey posted her Challenge list on the other one. I put a link to the review page in the sidebar.


  9. Pingback: Life Under Compulsion: Ten Ways to Destroy the Humanity of Your Child by Anthony Esolen (2015) | journey & destination

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