Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Great Books for Thinking About Faith

This week on Kingdom Bloggers, we are talking about contemporary authors. I decided to recommend some authors who stimulate thinking about issues of faith, theology, and our unique journeys of belief. We need to think more and react less! For a scriptural reference on this, read The Epistle of James, chapter 3. I am also a great believer in humor and the healing power of laughter! 

Carolyn Custis James, Half the Church, When Life and Beliefs CollideBook of Ruth, Lost Women of the Bible
I have been a fan of Carolyn's since I heard her speak at a conference in 2005 encouraging the crowd to encourage women to step up to the plate in ministry and careers.  In Half the Church, she offers a healthy discussion of why men and women should be partnering in ministry, in marriage, in life, in business, etc., instead of...well, dwelling on much of the division we have known for years. The other main issue in this book is the call to rescue our global sisters from sexual trafficking, prostitution, and abuse--and giving them a reason to trust and to live: Jesus Christ, and the fellowship of believers who care enough to do something about this crisis. I wrote a six-week study based on Half the Church for my 2012 summertime “Stories on the Porch” I host for women (no offense to men; my porch can only fit so many J), and it stimulated great discussion and challenged our thinking.  Carolyn's other books are excellent as well, and highly recommended.

 Philip Yancey, Soul Survivor: How My Faith Survived the Church.
    This is one of the most important books on faith I have read, and I wish I had known about it ten years ago when it was first published. Back then, I had an aversion to reading contemporary Christian authors for a few reasons, including the relentless marketing of the “same-old same-old” stuff, a growing unsettling about authors of a certain gender, type and age telling me how to think, what to believe, etc., and zero free time raising three young children.
       The funny thing is, Yancey is exactly one of those authors I avoided, certain he had nothing original or pertinent to say to me. So, my own stubbornness and assumptions got in the way of “listening” to him.
     The book is comprised of 13 chapters, each focusing on a person who profoundly impacted Yancey’s faith (usually in times of doubt and struggle) through personal engagement, research or studying the writings and life of past authors/thinkers (persons like Martin Luther King, G. K. Chesterton, Ghandi, Annie Dillard, Dr. Paul Brand). Soul Survivor will challenge and convict believers about their understanding of some prominent Christians, and will hopefully remind us that truly authentic Christians can love and serve Christ while also living flawed lives--because we all are flawed and broken, and in need of redemption. Yancey received a lot of hate mail over his early essays on Martin Luther King, C. Everett Koop, and Ghandi--most of it from evangelical Christians.
     Yancey survived a fundamentalist, racist, hypocritical church as he grew up, but his faith would have withered and died if not for the authentic, loving, sacrificial people God put in his path to challenge his own assumptions about the Church.
      The book also spoke to me because of its support of the power of art and literature (novels, poems, stories) to draw people to Christ.

No doubt some of the content of this honest memoir will bug (read: offend) some people, but this book is not about theology. It is about the personal journey of a woman raised as a Mennonite who left faith behind for 25 years, but who could not escape God’s whisper of love to her. Janzen is an English professor, and her spot-on storytelling and wit are treasures.   Her previous memoir, Mennonite in a Little Black Dress, should probably be read first (which I have not done yet!).  A friend gave the second one to me as a gift, so I plunged ahead--no regrets! J

1 comment:

Linda Maynaard said...

Thanks for the recommendations.I am able tto borrrow Rhoda Janzen and Philip Yancey books at my library. Also, 2 of Carolyn Custis James's books Haalf the Church and Lost Women of the Bible are available through inter library loan