Noted: Christianity Today‘s The Top 50 Books That Have Shaped Evangelicals: Landmark titles that changed the way we think, talk, witness, worship, and live. I’m sure that the books on this list have done all that… for better or for worse. I’ve read a number of those listed, and have a few others on my “someday” list. Many of them I’m happy to find listed, and some others I’m a bit more… concerned.
Meanwhile on books, Michael (Internet Monk) Spencer is pondering The One and Only: Remembering that all those other books arenâ€™t the Bible, or even all that close. Now, I get a little nervous whenever I think someone is going to suggest culling the library… I tend to identify with Erasmus, who said, “When I have a little money, I buy books. And if any is left, I buy food and clothing.” Well, actually my book budget is more meager in recent years than it once was, but I like to think of myself as a collector.
Anyway, the ol’ iMonk is pretty much right on with this one. I hate to break it to you, but the Bible does not contain the hidden secret diet of the ages. It does not hold the ultimate keys to financial success through hidden passages. In fact, it says precious little about a lot of the subjects which so many books proclaim it does. Maybe more people should consider the words of Spurgeon:
If a man can purchase but very few books, my first advice to him would be, let him purchase the very best. If he cannot spend much, let him spend well. The best will always be the cheapest. Leave mere dilutions and attenuations to those who can afford such luxuries. Do not buy milk and water, but get condensed milk, and put what water you like to it yourself. This age is full of word-spinners — professional book-makers, who hammer a grain of matter so thin that it will cover a five-acre sheet of paper: these men have their uses, as gold-beaters have, but they are of no use to you. — Charles Spurgeon (Lectures to My Students)
So much of what the Bible says is certainly not after the fashion of “five steps to…” or “nine keys to…” or whatever you might have heard preached last Sunday. No, so much of the Bible seems open to interpretation in a way that invites us deeper, rather than being presented in a plain take-it-or-leave-it fashion. It kinda goes both ways… Scripture offers no hidden formulas, and beware those who offer them. On the other hand, Scripture does offer truth that lies just beneath the surface, a reward to those who are willing to seek it, and once they find it, to accept it.
It is the glory of God to conceal things,
but the glory of kings is to search things out. [Proverbs 25:2]
Blaise Pascal, from Pensees, Section IV:
Instead of complaining that God had hidden Himself, you will give Him thanks for not having reveled so much of Himself; and you will also give Him thanks for not having revealed himself to haughty sages, unworthy to know so holy a God.
Two kinds of persons know Him: those who have a humble heart, and who love lowliness, whatever kind of intellect they may have, high or low; and those who have sufficient understanding to see the truth, whatever opposition they may have to it.
Several of the books “concerned” me as well. Not because they were on there, but because they seem to reflect the strains of evangelicalism that are in some sense in conflict. For example, only books on “intelligent design science” and no mention of, say, John Polkinghorne or Alvin Plantinga, while due mention is made of Noll, Packer, Willard, Yancey. I’m stewing over the phenomenological aspect of this list…
Tasty stuff. The quotes are great. I need to get a t-shirt with the Erasmus quote.
You (and the “Internet Monk” I guess–haven’t read his post) are spot on with your words about what scripture is and isn’t. Bravo. I also think the quotes you use here are outstanding and I may appropriate them for my own use. Thanks Maynard