A Reading People
It’s no coincidence that the rise of Protestantism coincided with the invention of the printing press. The availability of literature (particularly the Bible) caused an explosion of learning that led to a reevaluation of how we do church. Throughout the years, Christians have established that we are people of The Book, and literacy and learning are important parts of our faith. In fact, we owe establishments like public education to the Christian conviction that everyone should be able to read the Word of God. Christian missionaries, eager to carry Scripture to new people, have developed written languages all over the world so that people could read in their own tongue God’s Truth. From Gregory the Illuminator in the 4th century to John Wycliffe in the 14th century, Christians have cared deeply about literacy and reading.
I’ve seen a lot of debate recently on whether reading books is becoming a lost practice in our culture. With the rise of short-form content on the internet and the demise of big book retailers some are worried about whether future generations will benefit from the joys and discipline of reading. To tell you the truth, I couldn’t tell you one way or another. I’m too busy reading.
Seriously though, I’ve been on a tear lately with reading books. In light of the Christian heritage I just noted, I thought it would be fun to share some of the books I have been reading lately in my spare time. I will include links to the books on Amazon if you’d like to read them yourself. Here goes!
The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life In God by Dallas Willard
I began reading this book 10 years ago and found it very exciting, but also very dense. I picked it up again this past April and read through it for the 3rd time. I got more out of it than I ever have. Willard presents a fresh and invigorating view of discipleship, helping us to realize that Jesus’ cry that “the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand” is a revelation that our good God is near to us. I used Willard’s book to inform the devotions I shared during our Men’s Mexico build trip.
Formed for the Glory of God: Learning from the Spiritual Practices of Jonathan Edwards by Kyle Strobel
I had wanted to learn more about Jonathan Edwards and after hearing the author of this book speak at a conference I decided to check this one out. I’m glad I did. It provides a theological basis for spiritual practices (like Scripture reading and solitude) rooted in an understanding of the Trinity that Edwards provides. Jonathan Edwards is known as one of the most, if not the most, important theologians that America has produced. One thing that Edwards taught particularly struck me: that bringing someone to become a follower of Jesus was not like convincing someone that a theorem was true, but was more like convincing someone that a painting was beautiful. That, and much more from this book, left me thinking for a while.
A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix by Edwin H. Friedman
During our pastor’s retreat at the October Presbytery meeting last year, our guest speaker referenced this book quite a bit, so I finally picked it up a couple of months ago. The author has provocative ideas about what it means to be a healthy person in a society crippled by anxiety. Essentially, how a leader manages their own anxiety can influence how the entire organization functions. This is true in families as much as it is in churches or corporations. To tell you the truth, I’m not entirely sure I understand all that Friedman was trying to say, but I gleaned some insights from the book nonetheless.
Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold by C.S. Lewis
At this rate, it may seem that all I read are serious, difficult to read, nonfiction books. But that’s not true. I also read serious, difficult to read fiction too. This particular book is widely known as one of Lewis’ best written, but most difficult to understand, works of fiction. I enjoyed it very much, however, if only for the illuminating way that Lewis draws out human nature against a mythological backdrop. Of course, my head hurt when trying to figure out the metaphorical underpinnings of the story.
Well, there are just a few of the books I’ve been reading lately. As I look back over what I’ve read lately I can see a couple of themes emerging. One is that sometimes it’s worth reading a book twice. All of these books are probably ones that I will pick up again so that I can better understand them. It’s okay if you don’t quite get something the first time when reading a book. Sometimes a few years of distance (and of walking with God) can give you the perspective you need to understand a book.
Secondly, all of these books drew me back to Scripture in some way. When reading A Failure of Nerve (which was written by a secular Jew), I thought, “Would Jesus lead this way?” When reading Till We Have Faces I thought, “Are Lewis’ depictions of love true?” These are questions that find their answers in Scripture. As Christians, when we read we should have two books open, one of them being the Bible. That’s true of anything really, whether we’re listening to music, watching a movie, or reading a book. All that we do should be evaluated in light of the truth of the gospel.
I’m grateful I can read, because it means I can learn and see for my own eyes how God speaks in Scripture. I hope we all join in our heritage of being a learning, reading people of God.