The greatest consolation prize for having little or no retirement accounts is getting to have some summer stretches with loose, undefined, unrestricting schedules. As I say, “Summer–when mornings begin and end when I want them to.”
This morning, after Bible reading plus the day’s selection from Tim and Kathie Keller’s Songs from Jesus (which covers the Book of Psalms), I turned to a stack of books, including two that I had not yet started. My goal and method is to read a chapter or at least ten pages in a book. At some point, I usually get well into the book enough to let it–the book–dictate how much I read.
First up this morning was Knowing Christ by Mark Jones. Published by Banner of Truth and with a foreword by J. I. Packer (whose classic work is Knowing God), I knew this would be a good book. The first chapter is titled “Christ’s Declaration.” While there are many quotable lines, I will on cite one: “There is for Christ something lovely, enticing, and satisfying in loving poor, sinful creatures such as we are, who have nothing in us to commend ourselves, except that we belong to him.”
Second book today was Atheism on Trial: Refuting the Modern Arguments Against God by Louis Markos. This book is published by Harvest House Publishers. I thought highly of Dr. Markos back when I had only read portions of his books and heard him on a lecture CD. After seeing and hearing him live and meeting and talking with him, I have become a fan–in the sense of fanatic. Markos is brilliant and exciting, wide-ranging and applicable. After the introduction, this book begins the march across time by looking at how the ancients viewed God or gods and the origins of the world and man. I meet few atheists, but I find books like this powerfully uplifting to the heart and mind.
The Sum Total of Human Happiness is published by St. Augustine Press. Father James V. Schall is on the top tier of my “must have all books/must read) authors. I have been wading into this book for the past couple of weeks. Today, I read chapter 6, titled “On the Will to Know the Truth: Why Men of Learning Often Do Not Believe.” Great chapter, highlighting the work of John Henry Newman, that reminds me of many learned men who have believed and what goes on in the minds of brilliant men who suppress knowledge of God. Certainly, Schall the Jesuit priest, and me, a Calvinist evangelical, have different angles on this topic, but there was much to think about in this chapter. As Schall says, “Men of learning often do not believe because they do not will to know the truth that makes us free. The academic problem is, more than anything else, a spiritual problem–the struggle of pride, grace, and reason.”
The lifting got a bit heavier when I picked up God of Our Fathers: Classical Theism for the Contemporary Church. This book, edited by Bradford Littlejohn, is published by the Davenant Institute. I am still in the process of getting acquainted with this Christian think-tank. Its goal is “the renewal of Christian wisdom for the contemporary church.” The articles in this book are scholarly, heavily documented, and yet irenic in approach. Today, I finished the second chapter, titled “Natural Theology and Protestant Orthodoxy.”
Getting started into The Terrible Speed of Mercy: A Spiritual Biography of Flannery O’Connor was dessert–yes, dessert even before breakfast. Jonathan Rogers wrote the book, and it is published by Thomas Nelson. Dr. Ralph Wood, professor of Theology and Literature at Baylor University, commends the book, and he is an expert of Flannery O’Connor. WhIle I have quite a few books by and about Flannery O’Connor, the brevity of this book is quite appealing.
One selection from this biography: “…Flannery sat down at the typewriter in the front room that used to be the parlor. There–every morning including Sundays–she spent four hours writing stories about street preachers, prostitutes, juvenile deliquents, backwater prophets, hardscrabble farmers, sideshow freaks, murderers, charlatans, and amputees while her mother tended to the business of the house and farm.”
Flannery O’Connor–who Dr. Ralph Wood calls “the most important Christian writer this country has produced”–what a delight!