Provoked to Study
Ellis and Larry shared their reading lists with us recently. I felt a bit insecure sharing and preparing my own for 2 reasons: 1) I’m reading many of the books they’re reading; and 2) the ones that differ are controversial and provocative books helping me clarify my own understanding of some critical theological concerns within hermeneutics (that is, how we interpret Scripture) and ministry in a Muslim context.
So instead of a book list, allow me to share some current mini-provocations* that are leading me into my further study.
Has anyone else been really concerned about ISIS? It has led me to seek more understanding of the history and background of current events, particularly in Islamic states. Here is one of the YouTube videos (really just an audio recording) that spurned me into the additional book research I’m now doing: Ravi Zacharias on Islam. This could be like an introduction to an Islam 101 class. Ravi Zacharias International Ministries is one of our missions church projects, and they aim to “help the believer think and the thinker believe.” Ravi gives us a succinct overview of the history and beliefs of Islam.
I was really provoked when I opened my mailbox Saturday. Did anyone else see the cover of National Geographic for September 2014? Larry’s an avid reader. As for me, I like to glance at the pictures and be reminded of the beauty of God’s creation and this vast world he has made. Well, the cover grabbed my attention. There’s an article called “Rome’s Bad Boy: Nero Rises from the Ashes.” It’s talking about historians who are trying to “rehabilitate” Nero saying that his public policies were decent, so his personal morality (or lack thereof) cannot be the final judgment of his character as a politician. Historical revisionists are interesting case studies to me given the media through which we understand our world today. So I am provoked*, and I am interested in the cultural hermeneutic (again, way of interpreting) that led those historians to these new conclusions.
There’s also an article called “Thailand in Crisis” that I am particularly interested in reading, as one of our key missions partners is the Thai Christian Foundation. The Eubank and Dawson families have been keeping us up-to-date with election and government news there, and I know for my own prayer life it is important to get to not just look at the pictures but really read that article.
Yet another person of provocation— Karl Barth— told young theologians (students studying God) “to take your Bible and take your newspaper, and read both. But interpret newspapers from your Bible.”** So join me in studying what it happening in the world, certainly; but foremost, join me in being a careful student of God’s Word.
*Provoked often has a negative connotation with it; however sometimes we need to be provoked! It wakes us up, challenges and sharpens us. It reminds me of the language of Scripture— “provoking one another to love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24) or “iron sharpening iron” (Proverbs 27:17). Allow my use of the word provocation and the lack of explanation as to its negative or challenging use provoke you (I say facetiously).
** Barth in Retirement. TIME (May 31, 1963). Retrieved on 2014-08-21.