According to William Petersen, author of 100 Christian Books that Changed the Century, these books are not necessarily the best books, but they have helped to shape people and society in general. The list is way too long to repeat here, but I will list a few of the books mentioned.
1.Orthodoxy (1925)- G.K. Chesterton.As the 20th century began, it became popular to question the traditional Christian faith that had the Western world embraced. The writers G.B. Shaw and H.G. Wells advanced the idea that the new world of the 20th century had advanced beyond such a primitive concept.
Chesterton countered, using the metaphor of a man wanting to go to the South Seas, but who gets turned around and ends up back in England, thinking it is the South Seas. "I am that man," says Chesterton, saying that the faith he found in Christianity was there all the time.
2.The Cost of Discipleship (1937) - Dietrich Bonhoffer. In this book Bonhoffer posits: "What did Jesus mean to say to us? How can he help us be good Christians in the modern world?"
To this author the real message of Christ had been overlaid with too many burdens,too many unnecessary rules and regulations. Thus Bonhoffer examines the Gospels to determine what Jesus had to say. The majority of the book deals with the Sermon on the Mount.
But the theme of the book is:"When Christ calls a man,He bids him come and die." In light of Bonhoffer's execution, these words are particularly poignant.
3.Christ and Culture (1951) Richard Niebuhr. In this book Neibuhr examines five ways in which the Christian church has confronted culture. There is a big range on the continuum. Sometimes the church confronts and transforms culture. Other times it shuns it. Christ and Culture has been a foundational book for those trying to make sense of Christianity throughout the last century.
4.Mere Christianity (1952) C.S. Lewis. Many Christians have cited this book as the catalyst for their conversions. In this book, Lewis states that Christianity is not a bye gone relic, but rather, makes sense and that it makes more sense than the materialism of its opponents.
Lewis makes many observations within the pages of this book. Oneof the best is:" God made us: invented us as a man invents an engine. A car is made to run on gasoline and it would not run properly on anything else. Now God designed the human machine to run on Himself."
Hismost famous quote, however, concerns Jesus as a great moral teacher: " A man who was only a man and said the things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher .He would either be a lunatic-on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg-or else the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice.Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse."