Of the Making of Books

A friend send me this email, and he's given me permission to post it here. It's a good rant, and I'd be curious to hear your reaction.

In any case your comment about reading it got me thinking about my own reading plans. I have been finding it very difficult to get into any book lately. This may in part be due to fatigue and a longing to get some rest. I fear it may be my brain frying. But I also think it may be that the evangelical community, especially the reformed types, are cranking out books at a frightening pace. (And the shameless self-promotion that accompanies it makes me to want to read them even less.) I find them all rather mundane and have been wondering how to get myself back into getting excited about reading. "Of making many books there is no end" and I think I have been too susceptible to the pressure to read them all. I have succumbed to the blogosphere's subtle suggestions that quantity is necessary regardless of its depth, that just because something is "reformed" it must be good, and that just because someone has written a book means that we should pay money to hear him answer questions on a panel at a conference.

It is a rare book that is not saying the same things said better by someone else in years gone by. Books are, I think, like worship songs. The good ones survive the test of time, but most of them are, deservedly (mercifully) soon forgotten. The trouble is, of course that we cannot look into the future and see which ones are going to last, so we have to slug our way through all the nonsense.

I think the reformed community is in danger of measuring their sanctification by books read, conferences attended, attitudes promoted and people offended. I think I need to read less of the stuff that is being pushed on us and more of stuff of substance. Your comment has led me to think that maybe I need to get back to the classics. I have the works of Richard Baxter on my shelf untouched for years now, as well as the works of Flavel, the Institutes, sermons of Matthew Henry ... . I haven't read Pilgrim's Progress in years and there are biographies that would be a much better way to spend my time than in persevering through yet another book on God's will simply because a man with good theology wrote it. (Do I really need to read it because of some nuanced approach that hasn't occurred to me before?) I have fallen prey to a certain degree to the promotions that imply, if not outrightly state, that one cannot be a good (reformed) Christian if one is not up to snuff on the latest offerings of our all stars.

If my brain is fried it is because I have willingly put it on the griddle and allowed it to be cooked by the expert chefs of a movement that may be in danger of saying "you need another cook book". Well, maybe. But maybe not. Go read the Institutes. Share the good stuff with us. Maybe we'll hear it and stop being enamoured with the novel, even the novel dressed up to be looking like the faithful of the past.

What do you think?

The Gospel is Not Just a Message for Individuals

John Frame on how the gospel influences culture:

The gospel, you see, is not just a message for individuals, telling them how to avoid God's wrath. It is also a message about a kingdom, a society, a new community, a new covenant, a new family, a new nation, a new way of life, and therefore, a new culture. God calls us to build a city of God, a New Jerusalem.

Remember the cultural mandate. Sin does not abrogate it..

The gospel creates new people, who are committed to Christ in every area of their lives. People like these will change the world. They will fill and rule the earth for the glory of Jesus. They will plant churches and establish godly families and they will also establish hospitals, schools, arts, and sciences. That is what has happened, by God's grace. And that is what will continue to happen until Jesus comes. (The Doctrine of the Christian Life, pp.861-862)

John Frame on Theological Controversialists

Writing like this is why I appreciate John Frame so much.

The reputation of a person is a delicate thing, not easily restored after it is compromised...

Christians have often attacked one another with a total neglect of biblical standards of evidence. One might think that theologians, at least, would be careful to judge disputes fairly, gently, and cautiously, but in any judgment they are the worst offenders. In theological controversy, writers often delight in distorting the words of one another, reading them in the worst possible (or worse than possible) sense. Many writers invoke the rhetoric of anathema and condemnation, without any adequate argument, and without any meaningful attempt to seek peace...

Many theological controversialists today set themselves up as Internet gurus, declaring brothers and sisters to be excommunicate on their say-so alone...It never occurs to them that they have a responsibility to protect the reputations of fellow Christians, even those with whom they disagree....

It is time for Christians to recognize that this behavior is sin. It is gossip, often slander, and Christians should not support it. The church needs to wake up to the problem. Theology, especially on the Internet, needs to become accountable to the body of Christ. We need to demonstrate to the world that we adhere to God's standards of evidence, and that we deal with sin in a way that is principled, but also gentle and winsome. (The Doctrine of the Christian Life, pp.842-843)


Saturday Monday Links

Here are the links I would have posted last Saturday if I hadn't been on vacation.

David Powlison on two ways of doing life, using Psalm 23 (HT: Justin Taylor)

Honoring Your Father and Mother - I preached on this yesterday, so Chris Brauns 'post with this quote was timely. I hadn't thought of this implication before.

Chris also has a great but convicting quote by Jonathan Edwards on prayer.

Tim Keller has updated his paper on The Gospel and the Poor (PDF). HT: Take Your Vitamin Z

A great gospel reminder

The best post I've read in the past couple of weeks: Tullian Tchividjian on The Gospel for Everyday Life. Also from Tullian: Gospel Gold From John Calvin.

The Real Issue


Jack Miller on the real issue underneath the issues:

After our congregational meeting I was momentarily discouraged. I guess I came away concluding that many times the biggest issue is not the issues being discussed but the way we handle the issues and show concern for one another. It appears to me that is where the Head of the church has His concerns. So I resolved for myself to do more standing back, and then I asked God for grace not to take myself and the issues too seriously. I think sometimes after a few weeks we even have trouble remembering what the excitement was all about, so why get overly involved at the moment? (p.177)