Book blogger at Bookwi.se
Finding God’s will is a common desire. Often people can be paralized because they are afraid of not finding God’s will. Hearing God is a classic. This is the third copy of the book I have owned (one given and two purchased) over the years but the first time I am actually reading it.
I like that Willard starts by moving the pressure down a notch. He has a good illustration of the fact that no parent wants to tell their children everything that they should do. Parents want to teach their children how to do something, and expect that they will do it. If they are supposed to make their bed in the morning, they should make it every morning. Children complaining that the parent did not tell them this morning to make their bed will only incur the parent’s wrath. So Willard starts telling us we should listen to what scripture says and do that.
Another good point that I have never really thought of, is that we should always read scripture assuming that the people of scripture were much like us. They were not particularly special people, they were sinful, afraid, made bad decisions, etc. If we see them as much like us, then we can assume that we to should be hearing from God and seeking to follow God’s will in relatively similar ways as the biblical characters. Since reading that section, I have been more aware of the large number of Christians that actively resist thinking of biblical characters as ‘like us’. I think it shows one area that we have far to go to move Evangelicals into historical Christian Orthodoxy.
Overall what I am most impressed by, is the biblical balance that Willard attempts to strike. When you discuss hearing from God there are lots of places to veer into shaky ground. And I know that some are of the opinion that even discussing hearing from God goes too far. But Willard attempts to keep the desire to hear from God, the ways we hear from God, the reality of the power of God, and the limitations of our own understanding.
This is incredible personal and interesting look at CS Lewis. These are letters that were intended to be read the original reader, not a wider audience. So Lewis is thinking on the fly. Giving ideas, working things out in written form, counseling a friend and learning from him. Great reminder that spiritual friendships are important. I only wish that the other side of the conversation were also present. That does not really detract from the books (you understand what Malcolm has said by Lewis' response) but I think it would be interesting to hear the other side as well.
There are very few books I have recommended more over the past year or so than Mark Noll’s The Civil War as Theological Crisis. It has been about over a year since I originally read it on kindle and reviewed it, so I thought it was a good time to read it again.
One of the clear takeaways from this book is that we often do not see our own cultural blind spots. For instance, an argument that most pro-slavery Christians did not hear or respond to, is that the main difference between American Slavery and the slavery of biblical times was that American Slavery was racially based. Because civil war era White Christians were so convinced that Blacks as a race were inferior it was inconceivable to most that there could be non-racially based slavery or that free Blacks could or should be considered equal to Whites. And this was true for the vast majority of Christians whether they were from the North or the South, and whether they were for or against slavery.
Those outside the US were also able to call out Northern hypocrisy in ways that many that were in the US were blind to. Many Europeans wanted to question the North’s willingness to participate in the economics of slavery (by carrying cotton and tobacco on its ships and making clothing in its factories) or by the widespread and overt racism that was true of both the North and the South’s treatment of Blacks whether free or slave. Virtually no major US religious leader was for full citizenship of Blacks on biblical grounds let alone in practical issues like interracial marriage or education.
Noll makes clear what we often want to gloss over: issues of Biblical interpretation, cultural assumptions, ethics, history are complicated. We cannot view civil war era people as ‘backward’ or ‘unenlightened’ without questioning our own assumptions. What areas are we culturally blind to? Where does our own Christian ethics and theology fall short of the real goal of God?
Noll does not deal with this explicitly, but for me, I kept coming back to the fact that these people, that I theologically disagree with, were still Christians. I don’t know how you can justify enslaving another human being, but they did. I would call that sin and I think it was. But sin does not prevent us from being Christian. Looking at it another way, Addiction can keep you from God. But a person can be saved and addicted to alcohol or drugs. The addiction (which is sin or at least is the result of sin) prevents you from living the full and complete life that Christ desires for you. But our salvation is the result of God’s grace, not our sinlessness.
This is one of the best illustrations of why we need careful historians to help us remember the world and the history that came before us. The Civil War as Theological Crisis is not a simple book. Noll is a very nuanced historian and I am very much oversimplifying his argument, but it is well written and worth picking up is you are interested in history, the study of scripture, or the ways the church confronts culture.
(originally posted on my blog Bookwi.se)