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Thursday, July 14, 2005

Knowing the Author

My friend Brian steered me toward some NT Wright messages about Jesus to check out (first four messages listed under "Wright Audio/Video). It was mentally stimulating to listen to them (I had to listen to each message twice just to get the gist of them!). The man is very smart and I do plan on writing about my observations of his messages in the future.

Before I started the first message on my shuffle, I had already begun an interesting thought process. I knew that I didn't agree with NT Wright about his New Perspective on Paul approach. After listening to Wright, I believe he truly desires to hold to orthodox faith, and mysteriously protests that he is (despite the fact that logic would argue he doesn't). I wondered what, and if, I was going to agree with Wright. Here's the things I initially got to thinking:

1.) How much reading do you have to do to know another person's theology? I remember once reading "Seven Deadly Sins" by Tony Campolo. It's actually a great book about sin, focussing on the heart, not on actions. I knew nothing else about Tony C, and began referring him to others. I thought, because his book on deadly sins was so great, that we were probably on the same page about other things...oops.

2.) We all make theological errors. No one's doctrine is completely correct. I know I have doctrinal errors. I just have no idea what they are. I pray that if they were exposed to me, I would be humble enough to change my position. Therefore, I do not require doctrinal perfection from anyone. However, when someone takes a view and yet somehow misses the implications of that view, or comes to that view through a very careless or frivilous approach to Scripture...it makes it hard for them not to lose credibility with me. (Wright's issue regarding New Perspective is not that he handles the Word lightly...if anything, he's digging so deep that he misses the original intent of the author. He's highly intelligent and strikes me as the type that is so smart, he just can't see the practical effects of his view. Like the brilliant mathematician who can't balance his checkbook.) How do I keep my disappointment about a man's approach in one area from killing my openess to his other views?

3.) How much time should we spend looking at other views? I haven't read much by Greg Boyd to understand his open views. I haven't spent much time reading about the Armenian camp. In the same way, I haven't read much about Islam from a Muslim. How do you know when reading another camp's views will help you know your's, or when it becomes a waste of your time?

4.) How easily do you recommend stuff to others then. I remember reading "Celebration of Discipline" by Richard Foster and loving the book...pretty much. His call and practical approach to the Christian Disciplines was eye opening and liberating for me. I recommended it to countless people. However, after referring it to a more discerning friend, he began to ask me questions about some of Foster's views. I looked back and realized that several of the chapters approached some issues in ways I was uncomfortable with. I was willing to overlook those differences because the book overall had been so meaningful to me. But when I thought about referring the book to others, I began to wonder if they may think I would endorse some of his positions. I then began to wonder if my list of books I found beneficial, and the list I would recommend to others would look quite different. Does yours?


  • At 11:09 PM, Anonymous ~d said…

    Hey, Danny-
    i was just thinking this evening about all the books i've read and recommended to others...then i read your post. i only have about 2 cents worth to give in response, but it's yours...it seems to me that when i read a book that speaks to my present situation or causes me to grow in an area that needed the growth, i, of course, think it's a good book and tend to recommend it to others. i like to mark up my books so i can go back later on and easily find the information that was so meaningful to me, but often i find myself wondering, a year or two or three later, why i marked a particular passage. Sometimes i even wonder why i'd been so crazy about the book. Seven or 8 years ago when i read "The Jesus I Never Knew" by Philip Yancey, i was enthralled and believed for years afterward that it was my all-time favorite book. I read it again recently, though, and thought it rather tame. I still recommend the book to those i think would benefit from it because i think it's a good book, but i'm not as enthusiastic about it at this point in my life as i used to be. So i guess i'm saying that, sure, my list of recommended books would change over time, but it's probably because i'm changing over time...and who knows whether or not anyone else would benefit from the same ones i once found beneficial? And who's to say that another person would even "hear" the same things in the same book that spoke to me? They probably wouldn't, unless our situations (while reading the book) happened to be identical as well. Even then it isn't likely. And now i'm getting long-winded and will stop the rambling thoughts...

  • At 12:49 PM, Blogger jason said…

    Wright on Wright, how exciting! I hear ya' though. Theres always a tendency within some people I know to assume that you endorse every word the man has written, which has never happened. Every book overstates or oversimplifies something. Further more, even if you do read everything stated by an author, every belief system changes subtly over time. Maybe not in the big areas, but you tend to be really dogmatic about a truth that seems fresh and back off from it more and more as it becomes more familiar. Authors recant of statements they made or state other beliefs more harshly. All of this is to say... no good answers here

  • At 1:29 PM, Anonymous brian said…

    great questions ... I try to be a bit cautious about referring books and such because I process things so differently. Sometimes I like to recommend things so I can have a good conversation about the content with someone else I trust (i.e. N.T.)--I guess there's no great answer and too many books can be overkill, for sure, but I think that part of appreciating something is the aspect of sharing it with others ... even if it's a modest appreciation with some content that is understandably objectionable. Man, that sounded so clinical, Oh well ... Fun conversation, Danny.


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