Monday, August 02, 2010

Simple Books

A little while ago I was working through Thomas A Kempis'  book The Imitation of Christ. I'm not endorsing the whole book but there was a couple of chapters that I thought were really good. Listen to this from chapter 5.


TRUTH, not eloquence, is to be sought in reading the Holy Scriptures; and every part must be read in the spirit in which it was written. For in the Scriptures we ought to seek profit rather than polished diction.
Likewise we ought to read simple and devout books as willingly as learned and profound ones. We ought not to be swayed by the authority of the writer, whether he be a great literary light or an insignificant person, but by the love of simple truth. We ought not to ask who is speaking, but mark what is said. Men pass away, but the truth of the Lord remains forever. God speaks to us in many ways without regard for persons.
Our curiosity often impedes our reading of the Scriptures, when we wish to understand and mull over what we ought simply to read and pass by.
If you would profit from it, therefore, read with humility, simplicity, and faith, and never seek a reputation for being learned. Seek willingly and listen attentively to the words of the saints; do not be displeased with the sayings of the ancients, for they were not made without purpose.

I like the way he presses us to seek out truth not eloquence and that is particularly useful in the culture of twittering and blogging eloquently and insightfully.  I want to read stuff that does my soul good. I want to read stuff that isn't impressed with it's own cleverness. I want to read stuff that stretches my mind but I also want to read stuff that reconnects my mind to simple truths that stir my heart.

Connected with that, it seems that many people are turned off by Christianity because they think it's all about being clever and bookish. I know that some will find that bizarre when Christianity is portrayed as switching your brain off and believing fairy tales but in massive sections of our society the idea of reading a book and discussing it's meaning or debating philosophical ideas is completely alien to everyday life. Many people read the Sun or the Mirror, watch Corrie or Big Brother and live for Friday night. To them debates about Federal Vision, Sabbatarianism and New Covenant Theology are meaningless. So they view us as people who love to debate and argue about stuff that doesn't matter.
And then along side those we have others in the churches who can't compete in arguments and debates and so think that they can never be "proper" or "advanced" or "mature" Christians because they don't understand what people are talking about or they don't understand half of the sermon.

Back to A Kempis: I think that encouraging people to read simple stuff about the Christian faith is good for everyone. Not everyone can handle reading John Owen, excellent though he may well be, but I think that books that talk simply and clearly about real issues are gold. In other words read stuff that stretches you but also read simple stuff that fires you up too.

Why don't you enter a comment below with the title of a simple book that has done you real good.

2 comments:

Ben Parker said...

I recently read 'The Prodigal God' which I found easy reading and very helpful!

Nathan said...

"On my way to heaven" by Mark Ashton is a wonderful example of someone explaining exactly what he believes in very simple but at the same time persuasive way.

"Know and tell the gospel" by John Chapman must still be up there amongst the most brilliant examples of what you have been talking about though!