What are the two most influential books in the last 500 years?


I’d like to pose the following question: What are the two most influential books–one for good, one for evil–from the last 500 years?

There is no right or wrong answer necessarily, but I wish to hear the opinions of DefCon readers on this query.

– What book written in the last 500 years was most influential for good, and why?

– What book written in the last 500 years was most influential for evil, and why?

I look forward to your answers.

14 thoughts on “What are the two most influential books in the last 500 years?

  1. For good: ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’ by Bunyan. Its popularity speaks volumes. It has been an aid and an encouragement to countless Pilgrims on their journey to the ‘Celestial City’.

    For evil: ‘The Jews and their Lies’ by Martin Luther. While the debate concerning Luther’s influence on Nazism continues to this day; history records an undeniable link between Luther’s thought and Nazi ideology. ‘The Jews and their Lies’ played a great role, not only in demonizing the Jews in the minds of the German people; but in establishing anti-Semitism as a part of German culture. The Nazi regime furthered Luther’s anti-Semitic thoughts making anti-Semitism a part of Germany’s national identity. I think it no mere coincident that ‘Kristallnacht’ occurred on Luther’s birthday.


  2. Good: Calvin’s The Institutes of the Christian Religion

    Reasoning: As a disclaimer, my theology is largely Lutheran. While Luther launched the Reformation, Luther’s followers quickly plunged into dead orthodoxy. This is something that I feel Lutherans have never recovered from. Calvin’s followers, in England and Scotland at least, went on to produce a century of some of the greatest Christian literature ever produced. The 17th century Puritans had both rich theology and fervent devotion. Their writings are still read and loved even today for those mature enough to handle them. Further, The Institutes informed politcal thought for centuries reaching from Geneva to the Americas.

    Evil: Marx’ The Communist Manifesto

    How many people died in the 20th century just because of the ideas put forth in this book? How much blood is on Marx’ hands?


  3. Good – The Bible, duh! The amazing gospel story changes lives every single day by giving the good news of salvation to the lost. Even those who don’t become Christians are often influenced subconsciously by the words of God.

    Evil – The Bible, not exactly a duh. The bible from what I gather does more good than bad by far, and that is its purpose. But when people pick and choose their verses out of context, you can get a very skewed point of view that can make senseless acts seem reasonable.


  4. Good – The Holy Bible (King James Version)

    Bad (two-way tie) – Darwin’s Origin of Species and Jaws (I challenge anyone to go into the ocean without “shark?” at least crossing your mind.)


  5. Good: The Institutes of the Christian Religion. As an 18 year old, I could tell you, but I encourage you to work through it. It will dispel many of the myths surrounding John Calvin and his teachings.

    Bad: A Generous Orthodoxy by Brian McLaren. Do I need to explain why anything McLaren writes is not good…


  6. I think I am going to go a little bit more modern day with my choices.

    I think one of the most influential books for evil is “The Purpose Driven Life” by Rick Warren. I believe that it is a sloppy excuse for theology, and it’s feel-good, I wouldn’t dare try and convict you of your sins philosophy will bring droves to ruin.

    I am not going to include the Scriptures in my choice because they are on such a higher level than all other writings.

    As for one of the most influential books for good I think I would choose one of three. (I know I should narrow it down more but this is not an easy question!)

    1. “Of Plymouth Plantation” by William Bradford

    Talk about a book with a multi-generational view!

    2. “Pilgrims Progress” by John Bunyan

    This book is not just “milk”, it is “meat”!

    3. “Family Driven Faith” by Voddie Baucham

    I know this is a really new one, but I truly believe that it has the potential to unite families under the common umbrella of Christ the way He intends for us to be!


  7. Bible – King James Version: Shaped the English language. Leviathon- Thomas Hobbes: Led to Marxism and other forms of tyranny.


  8. The best book in the last 500 years has to be the Holy Bible especially when it was first translated into the English language.

    The worst book in the last 500 years is a tie between Hitler’s Mein Kamph and Marx’s Communist Manifesto.


  9. Since the core criteria is “influential,” I would have to concur with the brethren who have nominated Calvin’s Institutes in the “good” category. While books like Luther’s “Bondage of the Will,” Baxter’s “The Reformed Pastor,” Owen’s “The Death of Death in the Death of Christ” as well as anything by Tozer are classic, seminal works and worthy of being named among the greatest works, Institutes is by far the most influential, having influenced Tozer, Owen, and so many others.

    As far as the “for evil” category, I would nominate “The Porpoise-Drivel Lie” for one simple reason: its effect on leading churches into apostasty by emphasizing the social gospel of good works over the true gospel of the cross of Christ, and leading them to depened on vile human effort to build their crowds rather than relying on the Holy Spirit to build Christ’s church.


  10. The Bible translated so the ordinary person could read it. The most evil, origin of the species


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