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Gregory Thornbury is president of The King's College in New York City. Thornbury previously taught philosophy at Union University, and is author of Recovering Classic Evangelicalism: Applying the Wisdom and Vision of Carl F. H. Henry. CT asked Thornbury to name the five books that every college student should read.
Alfred North Whitehead once said that the European philosophical tradition is a series of footnotes to Plato. I, for one, cannot think of a more helpful oversimplification. Plato's dialogues are good for virtually everything that ails our society. He takes on relativism, skepticism, materialism, and incivility. Gorgias clarifies the difference between truth-seeking and posturing. Meno distinguishes between knowledge and true belief. The Symposium helps an erotically obsessed culture know that love is about more than sex.
Take this truth to the bank: Biography shapes theology. In Confessions, Augustine of Hippo charts his tumultuous journey to God in the greatest coming-of-age story of all time. Students struggling to control their passions and wondering whether to believe what their mother told them about Jesus will instantly see themselves in the Augustinian mirror. Early in life, Augustine was too smart for the Bible, his priest, and the church. The kindness of St. Ambrose made him take a second look. Do not read another memoir until you read this book.
Strength to Love, by Martin Luther King Jr.
Cynicism is the bane of our contemporary existence. Some see the decline of civilization as inevitable, refusing to believe that love, borne out of Christian conviction, can bring redemption and healing to society. This was not the worldview of King and his band of civil rights heroes. Armed with nothing but a Bible and the kingdom ethic of Jesus, he taught us how to love one another. In this toxic era of incivility, we need to hear that message again.
Orthodoxy, by G. K. Chesterton
This is the ...