On my bookshelf

A few months ago, I did a post on what I was reading, and I’ve decided to do it again. For one, I enjoy looking back over my posts to see what all I’ve read and what I thought of the books. I also enjoy seeing what others read and I thought it would be fun to get some discussion going.

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As is apparent by the picture, I try to read a wide genre, but two books in this stack have really stretched my literary borders. I read a fair bit over the winter, but still have a couple that didn’t get touched. I joke that I don’t “put up” food for the winter, I put up books. I had a drawer full and picked out a few but still have a ways to go.

By The Great Spoon is a whimsical book set during the gold rush. The illustrations are perfect and add so much to the content. I enjoyed this as a light read.

Love Your God With All Your Mind by J.P Moreland was a thick, complex but wonderful read. It appeals to the intellect and bemoans the departure of it from the modern church. It is deep and thick, and headache invoking and I trudged through some of the chapters because they were so hard to get. Here are a few excerpts to whet your appetite.

“I am responsible for what I believe, and, I might add, for what I refuse to believe because the content of what I do or do not believe makes a tremendous difference to what I become and how I act.”

and

“The mind is like a muscle. If not exercised regularly and strenuously, it loses some of its capacity and strength. We modern evangelicals often feel small and without influence in the public square. We must recapture our intellectual heritage if we are to present to our brothers and sisters, our children, and a post-Christian culture a version of Christianity rich and deep enough to challenge the dehumanizing structures and habits of thought of a society gone mad.”

He bemoans the fact that church leaders were once the intellectuals and thinkers of their generation,but now have turned to emotionalism instead, leaving empty selves sitting in their benches, embarrassed because they don’t understand and articulate their faith, leaving them vulnerable and easily turned away.

It’s an excellent read, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. This would be beneficial on any pastor’s bookshelf, and any person interested in a well trained and ordered mind. If we are to engage in a thinking world, a world that is asking questions, then we have to know and be able to articulate what it is that we do believe, in a way that will compel others to experience it.

The Quakers of New Garden- I probably shouldn’t include it because I didn’t enjoy it, or find it well written,but I picked it up because of the Quaker part. It’s about four Quaker brides and is one of those canned books, you know, where you open it up and it tastes just like 4,329 other books. I wouldn’t recommend it, because as a food it would be a marshmallow fluff dessert, but i did read it, and wanted to be honest 🙂

I picked up Of Beetles and Angels at Dollar Tree and it was well worth my $1. The true story of a Syrian refugee family- it was moving and touching and gave more padding and structure to my refugee context.

I bought The Clear Light of Day by Penelope Wilcock, because her Hawk and Dove Trilogy is one of my all time favorite books. I’m not feeling this book though, and really having a hard time engaging with it. I do want to finish it though and see if the last half redeems the first.

Okay. So The Kite Runner deserves a whole blog post about it. Seldom have I been so stirred and moved by a piece of fiction. If you don’t like sad and melancholy books,run as fast as you can from this one. My dear friend Amanda warned me that it just pretty much stays sad throughout the book, and so I hesitantly and nervously plodded through. It is set in Afghanistan, and so culturally, it was very interesting and included themes like Taliban activity, and stuff like that, of which I don’t usually read about. I don’t think I breathed in the last few chapters, as it gutted me but still left me full. I hated it because it was gut-wrenching but loved it because it was beautiful. It is the book of paradoxes, and when I put it down, I did almost respectfully, because I had just read something so well-written, so rare, so masterfully communicated. Now I will warn you, it’s not a Christian book, it has a very small amount of bad language, and it’s not particularly inspiring, so if you need those qualifications in your reading, it’s probably not for you. Here’s the quote that I read on Pinterest, that made me seek out the book initially,

I wondered if that was how forgiveness budded, not with the fanfare of epiphany, but with pain gathering its things, packing up, and slipping away unannounced in the middle of the night.

I’m a bit sheepish to include the last book in the picture, Straw Dogs- thoughts on humans and other animals– because its so terrible and false, but Ravi Zacharias recommended it to understand other worldviews. I don’t think I’ve ever picked up a book before where I knew going into it that it was false and wrong on every level, but I’m reading it to try to understand this world I’m living in and to equip me to help others more effectively. To give you an idea of how depressing it is, here is the first paragraph:

Most people think they belong to a species that can be master of its destiny. This is faith, not science. We do not speak of a time when whales or gorillas will be masters of their destinies. Why then humans? We do not need Darwin to see that we belong with other animals.

Shocking, huh? Especially because I know that humans are special to God because He breathed life into them, setting them apart from the animal kingdom. And that He gave his own Son, in the form of a human, to redeem the rest of humanity. And that I get to be part of this growing, living Kingdom, and I get to give light and hope to people like John Gray.

Which raises a topic of discussion. What should guide a Christian’s choice of literature? Two of the books in the list above are not necessarily Christian, and the last one is decidedly opposed to it’s worldview. For John Wesley, the study of extrabiblical information and the writings of unbelievers was of critical value for growth and maturity. (excerpt from Love Your God With All Your Mind)

What guiding principles should we embrace, especially considering that our mind is a muscle, and needs to be exercised to retain strength? Will that broaden or limit our exposure to books such as the above? Do these principles vary by individual? Does the spiritual growth of a person determine some of this? What do you think?