Posts Tagged ‘Books’
Life has been (usually delightfully) busy in recent weeks. Part of that has been the fruition of a couple of writing projects. I hope you will be interested to know about them.
The first is called Passing Through: Pilgrim Life in the Wilderness from RHB. The blurb says:
As twenty-first-century Christians, we must relate to the world, but the question is, how do we relate to it? Some Christians are scared, others are simply bewildered, and still others capitulate to the spirit of the age. In Passing Through: Pilgrim Life in the Wilderness, Pastor Jeremy Walker presents the biblical perspective that Christians are pilgrims passing through this fallen world who must cultivate the spirit of holy separation alongside holy engagement as they serve Christ in all their interactions. Unless we embrace this identity, we will lose our way. Reminding us that we need “the Word of God as our map and the Spirit of Christ as our compass,” Pastor Walker clearly presents principles for holy engagement with the world and separation from it for pilgrims on their way home, seeking to glorify the God of their salvation every step of the way.
The other is a book published by Cruciform Press and is called Anchored in Grace: Fixed Points for Humble Faith. Again, the blurb says:
The Bible delights to reveal the riches of God’s mercy in Christ Jesus toward sinners, to display his grace to the praise of his glory. These are the very realities upon which redemption hangs. When our expectation and enjoyment of salvation are not anchored in grace, God is robbed of his glory and we are deprived of hope, comfort, and happiness. Christians therefore need to grasp what the Bible says about these things. We need to know these sweet and substantial strands of revelation – to delve into, to delight in, and then to declare the exceeding riches of God’s grace in his kindness toward us in Christ. We need to learn and to love these bedrock truths in which spiritual life is grounded, the health of our souls is fostered, genuine humility is developed, and eager service is established.
Paul Washer, Joel Beeke, Conrad Mbewe, Geoff Thomas, Mez McConnell, Derek Thomas, and Brian Croft have all been kind enough to provide very warm endorsements. It too is available from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com, but the publisher offers good deals, especially on multiple volumes.
If you have the opportunity, please drop a review at the various website. I appreciate knowing how people have interacted with the books, and am grateful for everyone who reads them, and delighted when someone profits by them. If you have a moment, please pray to that end. Thank you.
One of the joys, if we choose to call it that, of the turn of the year is the “books wot I red” lists that emanate from bloggers left, right and centre. Some of them are simply crass arrogance – the “I read bigger, better, harder, higher, or simply more books than you” approach, a bit like those posts that slide out before the holidays suggesting the thirty tomes that the great and the good will be knocking back in their five days by the seaside. Some of the lists are genuine attempts to encourage and direct others in their reading or the well-meaning surveys of those who read more rapidly, more widely or in a more disciplined way than the rest of us. Some are combined with, or set alongside, the ten or twenty or fifty books that every Christian should read. So, for example, “The twenty books published this year that I read that every other Christian should read.”
But when you flick through a few of these, a pattern begins to emerge. Whether or not it’s your year-end or all-time lists, most of the books are often fairly predictable. What’s particularly disappointing is when the all-time lists include a significant majority of predictable authors from the same circles writing over the last ten years or so. I have seen a couple recently in which, having read the first five, I could have finished off the list for the chap in question, it being so clear the trajectory he was on.
I suspect that we are all prone to this (notice, I did not yet say guilty) to some degree. Most of us, either of necessity or habit or developed preference, have a measure of limit or focus to our reading at any particular time. If I am preparing a series of sermons, researching a particular person or period, or just enjoying something more than usual, my patterns of reading will reflect an element of concentration. Beyond that, we doubtless gravitate toward what we enjoy and profit from – reliable authors, favoured schools of thought, sweet places and stirring periods. That is fair enough, and understandable over time.
However, despite the Pavlovian salivation that occurs whenever anyone mentions the sainted Lewis, well-known for his critique of chronological snobbery in our reading, few seem to be taking him too seriously (whether or not they are confessed Lewis-slobberers). Indeed, the problem spreads beyond the temporal into the topical and the authorial and the geographical.
Too many of those lists show a narrowness and a shallowness that goes beyond the myopic and borders on the deliberately blind. Few contain anything more than a passing nod to anything too far outside the comfort zone. How will we ever test and assess and grow if we refuse to read anything that does not merely buttress or endorse our own preferred authors, preconceived notions, precious systems and protected memes? Some of these lists read like little more than exercises in how to pronounce ‘shibboleth’ properly.
I am not saying that we should indulge an appetite for pap or an itch for poison. Less mature readers usually need safer boundaries than more mature readers. But even the less mature could and should read beyond the hackneyed round of a few religious gurus. All should read those books which – without ever going outside the bounds of substantial orthodoxy – push us to think in ways we never otherwise would. Those starting out need to get into a groove, not drop into a pit. For most of us, it does us good to be stretched, challenged, engaged, taken out of our depth. If we are well-grounded in the faith, such a process can helpfully stir us, exercise us and ultimately strengthen us.
Take a few minor examples: you are a dyed-in-the-wool right wing reactionary of the sort who believes that the injunction to be subject to the governing authorities is somehow suspended in some way when speaking of and dealing with the Blairs and the Obamas of this world. Read a little Christopher Wright, and the first time you come up against his (let the reader understand) sentimental promotion of a left wing agenda of social (read socialist!) justice in the name of the Lord and Anglicanism you shy like a startled mustang. Fine, but once you calm down, you need to ask yourself where his notions and convictions come from, and go back to your Bible, and sieve his conclusions through the grid of Scripture, and assess and learn and argue. At worst, you have tested your own convictions against the convictions of another, and decided that – though you may have a little extra nuance – you see no particular need to shift your most fundamental anchor points. You might even wonder if you have been reading the Bible with one eye closed, and become determined to be more honest with Scripture and with yourself, even if you still can’t see what Mr Wright sees. Or, you are a high Presbyterian who believes that Baptists cannot be considered covenantal theologians, let alone in any way Reformed, and so you insist on referring to them as Anabaptists and dreaming of the day when a properly established Christian state is once again free to persecute such. It might not hurt you to read through some of the material recovering, interacting with and rehearsing some of the seventeenth century material and its underlying convictions, so that in the future your invective is marginally less marred by ignorance. Or, you are a persuaded cessationist, steadfast in your proper conviction that the apostolic gifts ceased with the office of the apostles while still delighting in and relying upon the continued operations of the Holy Spirit. Fair enough, but what about reading your differing brothers at their most intelligent and reasonable, so that you can at least understand why they believe what they say, can see the differences between what is claimed to be the case and what usually happens when someone lays claim to such gifts, and can more thoughtfully and graciously expose the exegetical flaws and practical dangers of their position?
Whatever our particular anchor points, it often does no harm to consider why someone would drop their anchor some little distance from our own. If nothing else, it might get your blood flowing. Who knows, you might even learn something? Better still, we should be deliberately searching out those who have gone before us with reputations for genuine godliness and sacrificial service who shake us out of our crassly comfortable little ruts and make us wonder whether or not we have ever grasped the greatness and the glory of the Lord.
So, let us get outside our own century and our own circle. Let us have lists with a little of a patristic flavour, with a few of the best medievals, a dose of the Reformers, a shot of the Puritans and their successors, a fillip of the eighteenth century men, a snack on the best that the nineteenth has to offer, and a smattering of the twentieth, as well as the low-lying fruit of the twenty-first. Let the breeze of the centuries waft over your souls. Roam the world where the truth has taken root – let the theologians of Europe and Africa and Asia and Australia, and perhaps even America, expand your sense as they wrestle with and apply theology in a context utterly unlike your own. Are you more of a historian? Read some biblical theology! Systematics your thing? How about some missiology? Linguistics float your boat? Dive into a few more biographies. Love your new Calvinists? Read some old ones – get into the Puritans! More of a Genevan? Have a dig around in the Calvinistic Methodists. Stuck in the sentiment of the Victorians? Take a bracing dose of a scholarly Scot. Mired in the multiplied divisions of the Puritans? Shake yourself loose with a canter through the church fathers. Plodding through the Princetonians? Dive into the Particular Baptists. Drowning in the Particular Baptists? Get stuck into the English or Continental Reformers.
As you think about your reading for the coming year, might I suggest that you take up something, early on, that is very much not what you would incline toward. Sprinkle a little seasoning into your reading, slide something spicy into your bland book pile, and add a little zest to your nightstand. Range righteously but rigorously through time and space and opinion. And perhaps, next year, you will produce some truly refreshing ‘best of’ lists that – in addition to blessing your own soul – will introduce the rest of us to a wider and more spiritually stimulating world.
I am glad to announce that The New Calvinism Considered: A Personal and Pastoral Assessment has now arrived. It is available direct from the publisher, or via Amazon.co.uk (paperback/Kindle) and Amazon.com (paperback/Kindle). It’s fairly brief, rocking up at 128 pages, giving an overall introduction, then considering the characteristics of the new Calvinism, offering some commendations, identifying some cautions and concerns, and closing with some suggested conclusions and counsels.
If you are interested in something else, or something slightly different, Reformation Heritage Books is due to publish another title, Life in Christ: Becoming and Being a Disciple of the Lord Jesus sometime toward the end of this month (Nov 2013). It is available for pre-order at Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com. This volume traces the trajectory of the Christian’s experience of God’s grace in Christ Jesus, considering the privilege and blessing of being a true disciple of the Lord. Confusion or error in these matters can dishonour God, undermine a Christian’s spiritual health, unsettle the church, and hold back the truth. We need to consider the many-sided jewel of redemption to be both enlightened and enlivened with regard to our identity as new creatures in Christ Jesus. When we better understand and appreciate our life in Christ, it will draw out our hearts toward God in Christ in thankfulness and love for his many mercies toward us.
As ever, enjoy!
And so I continue to prefer printed copies of the important books and the much-loved books, the ones I want to drive deep into my mind and heart, the ones I want to pour [sic] over, to absorb. I love my Kindle for light reading, for enjoying a good novel or a Christian living kind of book. But books that I am going to return to again and again and books I would want to leave behind as part of my legacy, those are volumes I still want to have in printed editions, sitting in my office, accessible to all, able to outlive me, able to represent me.
Tim Challies muses about books and true ownership.
Books have not been around forever. There are other ways to put words together on paper, papyrus, or cow’s hide. So it’s possible something else will come along to take the book down from the shelf. But it won’t be the iPad I’m using right now. It won’t be the laptop on which I’ve written books and blogs and sermons. In a virtual world, with all its ethereal convenience, there will be many–an increasing number I predict–who long for what is real. Something solid. Something you can hold. Something that hangs around even when you are finished with it. Something like a book.
Yes, yes, a thousand times, yes. As you may by now have gauged, I agree with Kevin DeYoung.
S. M. Houghton
Banner of Truth, 1988, 160pp., cloth, £7
I had known only of Mr Houghton’s reputation as a stickler for accuracy in matters editorial when I picked up this volume. The volume communicates this preciseness of character in its formal but not cold tone and its careful but not dry style. Over the course of ten brief chapters he outlines his life by reference to books purchased, read and enjoyed. All else is made, in essence, colourfully incidental to and illuminative of the amassing of the Houghton library. One salivates over the environment in which, with good theology largely disregarded, and real bookshops the only place to find such material, magnificent tomes might be obtained for a pittance by the intelligent and diligent. Hearing of certain purchases made for pennies, we might say with Wordsworth, “Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive”! For Mr Houghton – though remaining a teacher of history and Scripture for most of his life – was a vigorous participant in the dawn of the new interest in the Puritans, a major contributor to the labours of the Banner of Truth Trust in the early years, and a significant figure in those circles. Closing with an account of the author by Iain Murray, this little volume shows us the value and joy of a life devoted to the God of the Bible, the Bible God gave, and those works which faithfully and earnestly elucidate the Word and illuminate the Lord. Though it might appeal more to the bookish, it is recommended to all.