Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The happy few


Franz Kafka in a letter wrote, "If the book you are reading does not wake us, as with a fist hammering on our skull, why then do we read it?....A book must be like an ice-axe to break the sea frozen in side of us." Eugene Peterson lead me to that quote and he is as you know one of my people. To run the race of faith you need a healthy cloud of witnesses- some of them living, some dead. If you read this blog even a little bit you will know I have had many down the years. They are the people Gordon MacDonald calls the happy few. How do I know who they are? I suppose I know by looking at the bent spines on my book shelves. The most bent I have come to see are my best encouragers and most faithful counsellors. They are the people I trust. The thing I am learning is that my encouragers will not be the same as yours and you must beware of too strict a paradigm of what you think you ought to be reading. There is the same danger in reading as there is in life. We like to hang with the people who make us look good even if we would rather be friends with the rather less cool and unpopular people. Imagine if I gathered all my people in one room and asked them to guess what they had on common. They would never in a million years guess it would be me.

Here are some of them: David Lodge, Gordon MadDonald, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Jonathan Edwards, Sister Wendy, Mike Breem, Philip Yancey, Mark Driscoll, John Irving, Samuel Rutherford, R T Kendall, Tolstoy, Oswald Chambers, John Piper, Frederick Buechner, Dallas Willard, Lewis, John Newton, Don Carson, Bill Hybels, Richard Foster, Simon Ponsonby, John Wimber, Robert Massie, John Ortberg, Donald Miller, Rick Warren, Larry Crabb and last but not least without whom I wouldn't have a list at all-Tim Keller.

This year on Men on Mountains one friend recommended as his book of the year The Papa Prayer. I had missed this and as it is written by one of my people it is winging its way through the post to me and will go on the pile. Interestingly, my current read is a book that changed a man's life (Kafka would like that) and by providence it arrived in the post the very same week my fellow Southwark clergy blogger and all round good chap Gary wrote a blog post about it. Not a light read but a profound one and good for a thick old muppet like me. Here is Gary in his own words:

"In 1980-1981 four of us students shared a house in York and one by one we read Schaeffer's The God Who Is There. I've read quite a few books in my life but this is one that actually changed my life for good. I was actually a different peson as a result of reading it.

Through Schaeffer we learnt about true truth, the infinite-personal God, the mannishess of man, and life below the line of despair. It was liberating and exhilarating stuff.

Schaeffer gave us a biblically faithful philosophical framework to understand the intellectual world we inhabited at university in the early eighties. He opened our eyes to understand and interpret contemporary literature, art, and philosophy, and thus to read the signs of the times.

The title of one of his latest books both sums up his philosophy and what he gave us who were already Christians and others who were seekers after the truth. It is called simply He is there and he is not silent.

Against the claims of rationalism and radical theology, Schaeffer reaffirmed that the infinite-personal Trinitarian God of the Bible existed really and objectively and that he had spoken through the Scriptures in words of true truth to the people he had created. These are the foundational truths of a Christian worldview, of Christian living, and Christian ministry."

Something might be in the air with this one.........

Keep reading friends. Keep reading.

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