Paul the Apostle & "Epimenides of Crete"
When God spoke to us... He wrote it down... He gave us a book... The Bible. When we reach the limits of the human intellect in our search for Truth... and we look for more information... and carefully examine purported revelation, only in the Bible do we find intellectually robust answers to the questions which really matter... Questions like: "Where did we come from and where are we going; What is the meaning and purpose of life; How should I live: Why does it matter?
Books, unlike oral traditions, are not subject to the vagaries of human memory, nor the current bias of the speaker. Books, unlike oral traditions and other media, are not ephemeral. (Despite the apparent permanency of the internet (which I always hoped was a temporary fad), I suspect what is written on the web will always be subject to revision by those who control it). Bung a book in a clay pot, bury it, and it can be recovered and read twenty three centuries later.
"The Sum of (God's) Word is Truth", so we must study and know God's Word. While the times and style of the individual writers of the Bible are preserved, their books were "ghost" written... Actually "Holy Ghost" written. These are the very Words of God Himself. What about human words? While we can "weary ourselves over many books" there are certain books written by men and women from whom we can learn a great deal. ALL people are made in God's Image and both those who recognize their origins, and those who do not, write words of truth and passion and eloquence which help us understand ourselves, our world, and our Creator.
The following books have taught me much, not least the questions I should be asking and the questions I must try and answer when asked to explain the hope I have in the Gospel. Some have an American perspective as this is the culture in which TMM is headquartered and where most of our missionaries originate, but their themes are human themes which transcend culture. With all the usual caveats and disclaimers reminding you that these are the personal recommendations of Jim Teasdale and not those of The Master's Mission... I offer you, Dear Reader, my reading list:
"Faithful Witness: The Life and Mission of William Carey" (1991) by Timothy George.
William Carey, known as "The Father of Modern Missions", went as a missionary to India despite the protests of the English clergy, and in defiance of the laws of the British Empire. Of the plethora of Carey biographies, Timothy George has written perhaps the most accessible record of this remarkable man.
The "Father of Modern Missions" ignored the opinions of the church leaders of his day and sought to simply understand and obey the clear commands of Jesus Christ. Speaking in Westminster cathedral nearly one hundred years later, Frederick W. Farrar... Preacher, writer - and a pallbearer at Charles Darwin's funeral - said, "Those who in that day sneered that England had sent a cobbler to convert the world were the direct lineal descendants of those who sneered in Palestine 2,000 years ago, "Is not this the carpenter?" " Perhaps we need to rediscover the same simple faith and obedience in our own day.
"What could he do, this lone, little man, against the principalities and powers of darkness? Here is his resume: education, minimal; degrees, none; savings, depleted; political influence, nil; references, a band of country preachers half a world away. What are his resources? A weapon: love; a desire: to bring the light of God into the darkness; a strategy: to proclaim by life, lips, and letters the unsearchable riches of Christ."
"From the outset Carey knew that, at bottom, Christianity was about truth. Ultimately, the claims of Jesus Christ would have to be pressed against competing ideologies and worldviews on this basis."
"Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity" (2004) by Nancy Pearcey.
Nancy Pearcey, like Francis Schaeffer before her, reminds followers of Jesus that they were not redeemed to inhabit a religious ghetto, but were given the capacity to know absolute objective Truth and share that Truth with their fellow human beings in the marketplace of human ideas. Pearcey is a gifted teacher and Total Truth is a comprehensive biblical worldview textbook teaching us how to make sense of our world and live in that world with integrity.
"The lesson of the Cultural Mandate is that our sense of fulfillment depends on engaging in creative, constructive work. The ideal human existence is not eternal leisure or an endless vacation-or even a monastic retreat into prayer and meditation-but creative effort expended for the glory of God and the benefit of others." (Nancy Pearcey)
"The Death of Adam: Essays on Modern Thought" (1998) by Marilynne Robinson.
Pulitzer Prize winning author Marilynne Robinson, without glossing over the errors of the past, celebrates the heritage of western civilization.
"While Calvinists spoke of an elect, Leninists and suchlike have spoken of an elite... The history of elites is brutal and terrible. When the impact of scientific and industrial and political elites finally becomes clear- and it has been devastating in every part of the world- it will become clear also that people picked at random off the street would probably have made better decisions." (Marilynne Robinson)
"This is Water: Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about living a Compassionate Life" (2009) by David Foster Wallace.
This little book is the transcript of the commencement address Wallace gave to the 2005 graduating class of Kenyon College (You can listen to the actual commencement address on YouTube). I have never read another human author who is more self-aware than Wallace, nor one more aware of the true hidden corners of human thought and emotion and experience, nor one who asks more penetrating questions about things which really matter. Wallace died in 2008. As far as I can determine, he was never introduced to Jesus Christ...
"The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day. That is real freedom. That is being taught how to think. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the "rat race" - the constant, gnawing sense of having had and lost some infinite thing." (David Foster Wallace)
"The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert: an English professor's journey into Christian faith" (2012) by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield.
This book tells the painfully honest story of how a tenured lesbian PHD English professor and rising university administrator was introduced to Christ by an older pastor and his wife who knew Christ and wanted a relationship with one who bore His image. It tells of the terrible mercy of Christ in redemption and in the initial process of learning obedience. It is an even more painfully honest indictment of how often "Justice triumphs over Mercy" in the attitudes and actions of those who represent Christ to the LGBT community.
"At the age of 36, I was one of the few tenured women at a large research university, a rising administrator, and a community activist. I had become one of the "tenured radicals." By all standards, I had made it. That same year, Christ claimed me for himself and the life that I had known and loved came to a humiliating end..."
"...Ken and Floy invited the stranger in - not to scapegoat me, but to listen and to learn and to dialogue... Ken and Floy didn't identify with me. They listened to me and identified with Christ. They were willing to walk the long journey to me in Christian compassion. During our meal, they did not share the gospel with me. After our meal, they did not invite me to church. Because of these glaring omissions to the Christian script as I had come to know it, when the evening ended and pastor Ken said he wanted to stay in touch, I knew that it was truly safe to accept his open hand."
"In Defense of Sanity: The Best Essays of G. K. Chesterton" (2011) selected by Dale Ahlquist - Joseph Pearce - Aidan Mackey.
Chesterton was a journalist, novelist, poet, and essayist writing during the first 36 years of the last century. One of his books led a young atheist named C. S. Lewis to become a Christian: One of his essays inspired Mohandas Gandhi to work towards ending British colonial rule in India. This volume is a collection of 67 of the more than 4000 essays written by Chesterton, and is a good introduction to one of the greatest writers of the last (or any) century.
"Our civilization has decided, and very justly decided, that determining the guilt or innocence of men is a thing too important to be trusted to trained men. It wishes for light upon that awful matter, it asks men who know no more law than I know, but who can feel the things that I felt in the jury box. When it wants a library catalogued, or the solar system discovered, or any trifle of that kind it uses up its specialists. But when it wishes anything done which is really serious, it collects twelve of the ordinary men standing round. The same thing was done, if I remember right, by the Founder of Christianity." ("The Twelve Men" GKC)
"The argument is this, that the differences between a man and a woman are at the best so obstinate and exasperating that they practically cannot be got over unless there is an atmosphere of exaggerated tenderness and mutual interest. To put the matter in one metaphor, the sexes are two stubborn pieces of iron; if they are to be welded together, it must be while they are red-hot. Every woman has to find out that her husband is a selfish beast, because every man is a selfish beast by the standard of a woman. But let her find out the beast while they are both still in the story of "Beauty and the Beast." Every man has to find out that his wife is cross - that is to say, sensitive to the point of madness: for every woman is mad by the masculine standard. But let him find out that she is mad while her madness is more worth considering than anyone else's sanity." ("Two Stubborn Pieces of Iron" GKC)
"Defending Marriage: Twelve Arguments for Sanity" (2014) by Anthony Esolen.
Professor Esolen has written a passionate compelling defense of the family as ordained by God and understood, with rare exception, by every society in every age. He clearly and rationally demonstrates the madness of modern attempts to redefine marriage and shows the tragic consequences to both the individual and to society.
"The family is the single greatest bastion against the power of the State. That's not because of "individual" rights. It's because the family claims precedence in being and in nature. It is itself a society anterior to the greater society. It has its own just rules, its aims, its claims to obedience from its members, its promises, its duties, its power. In any land where there are strong, self-sustaining culture-making, community-building families, the State, which may be a lot bigger but which is secondary in its nature, meets the hand of a lord who says, "Thus far you may go, and no farther." And this is, of course, why ambitious statists seek to co-opt the family, to regulate it from above and invade it from within. The State is a jealous god..."
" ...We've given up on the foolish notion of the Divine Right of Kings, dreamed up by totalizing monarchs of the late Renaissance. Now we have the Divine Right of Bureaucratic States."