A good read
According to regular bookworm, David Thurston,
a balanced reading diet is essential for good health…
Source: Perspective Vo4 No4 ©Perspective 1999
“Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body” says the Teacher in Ecclesiastes 12. But according to regular bookworm, David Thurston, a balanced reading diet is essential for good health…
I enjoyed my years at college. I didn’t feel I was inhabiting a parallel universe that had nothing to do with the `real world’. College was a time to learn, to question, to struggle. Most of all it was preparation for a life of teaching other people the Bible so they could know the Lord Jesus. By the time I finished books indeed were a weariness! All I wanted to do was to get out and do something. Reading wasn’t one of them!
It was probably in my second year into parish life that I realised that being a ‘simple parish minister’ wasn’t that simple. It required skills and knowledge that college hadn’t given me. At this point I need to say that a college is not designed to skill you completely. It is to teach you the Bible, and to develop the ability to think theologically about issues. The tendency towards being `practical’ can in the end prove limiting. But here I was, six and a half hours from Sydney, and supposedly the ‘expert’. (Is this how Nicodemus felt?)
I realised what I needed to do was to hit the books again. I realised that this necessity went beyond the mere answering of tough questions. I wanted to be equipped for the tough job of being a pastor-teacher for life. Reading was integral to that.
One thing I decided to do was to be practical and impractical at the same time. I needed to be practical because often parish life is busy so I didn’t want to set myself up for failure. Being practical meant that I needed to be realistic about how much reading I could actually do. What I decided to do was to set myself one significant book to study each school term. But I needed to be impractical as well. I made sure that the books I chose were not necessarily directly tied to issues I was involved in but rather made me think in broader subject areas.
Now, in reading, the `how’ is at times the most significant issue. Here are some tips.
- Read a book with a mate and discuss it together.
- Always carry the book you are reading so that you can make use of time in waiting rooms, trains, or when someone is late etc.
- Set an amount of the book, for example, a chapter, to be read every week. If you’re a reader, reward yourself with fifteen minutes of reading when you’ve done a difficult task throughout the day. If you’re not a reader then you need to schedule time in the day for reading.
- Take notes, write in the margin, underline, follow up footnotes. Be aware when you read. Don’t drift off into `lala land’.
- At times commit a whole day to reading a book.
Well, now we come to the `what’. I’m going to give you four categories that fit nicely into the four school terms of the year, and then I’ll make some reading suggestions under each heading. Of course it would be useful to ask people in the know what books or issues are on the boil and what are the best `reads’ on the issue but here are some of my suggestions.
“Scripture and Truth” ed Carson and Woodbridge.
A Collection of essays that deal with some of the issues involved in holding to a high view of scripture as the Word of God.
“From Sabbath to Lord’s Day – A Biblical, Historical and Theological Investigation” ed D.Carson
This provides a thorough-going critique of the issues relating to the Sabbath, but is also a useful guide to the wider question of the place of the law in the life of the Christian.
“No Place for Truth (Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology?)” – David Wells.
Wells contends that evangelical theology has sold its soul to the prevailing contemporary culture and so ministry is primarily concerned with management and therapy. Wells’ suggested response to the prevailing tendencies is provocative, especially for those in ministry.
“Dissonant Voices – Religious Pluralism and the Question of Truth” by Harold A. Netland
This book asks the questions, “Is there such a thing as truth in religion? If there is, what should the true religion look like?” Netland deals with tendencies toward `universalism’ and the weakness of universalist arguments before looking at the question of can we evangelise at home or overseas, and the issues that are raised when we do.
“Essentials” by David L. Edwards and John Stott.
Correspondence between an English Anglican liberal and an English Anglican evangelical. This explores areas such as infallibility or inerrancy of the scriptures, the centrality of the cross, miracles, final judgment.
“Natural Theology” Barth and Brunner.
Believe it or not this is a great read – stimulating, refreshing, and a preachers delight.
“Luther – Between God and the Devil” by Heiko Oberman.
This is a book that repays a careful read. It puts Luther in his context and we get a better idea of who he was and what motivated him. It’s full of surprises and challenges.
Ideas and Movements
“Intellectuals” by Paul Johnson.
Johnson takes us through the lives of people who have shaped the way we think. This includes the likes of Rousseau, Ibsen, Marx, Hemingway, Sartre. Johnson’s method is to judge these intellectuals by their own teaching and principles. Try them and they are found wanting.
“Degenerate Moderns – Modernity as Rationalised Sexual Misbehaviour” by E.Michael Jones.
Jones follows much the same method as Johnson, except he makes explicit what is implicit in Johnson – that the driving force behind modern intellectual developments is the justification of sexual misbehaviour.
Jones looks at Margaret Mead (anthropologist), Sir Anthony Blunt (English spy), as well as Kinsey (sexologist), before moving onto Freud and Jung. Jones also critiques Luther, but in doing so reveals a misunderstanding of grace.
“Hollywood vs America” by Michael Medved. Well known film critic Michael Medved is a Jew, and writes for the New York Post. In Hollywood vs. America, he critiques Hollywood itself. He asks the question “Why is the entertainment industry so out of step with the clearly expressed tastes of the majority of Americans?” The answer is profoundly disturbing. While this book contains lyrics that are profane and dirty it is a book all parents should read.
Journals & Others
Kategoria (Ed: now defunct, but back issues available) and The Briefing both from Matthias Media deal with ideas and current issues regularly. You can write to Matthias Media at PO Box 225, Kingsford, NSW 2032 Australia.
Here is a list of a few other books that might refresh, stimulate, entertain or interest you:
“Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass” by Lewis Carroll.
“Lord of the Rings” by J R R Tolkein.
“The Great Divorce” by CS Lewis
“Skallagrig” by Michael Horwood
“Cloud Street” by Tim Winton
“A Brief History of Time” by Steve Hawking (maybe you’ll finish it! I didn’t.)
“The Mind of God” – Paul Davies
Well there is more than enough there to keep you busy. If you’re feeling a bit stale, this is a good way of stimulating the `little grey cells’. Good Reading!