As I was casting my eye around my room this morning that looks like a federal disaster area (thinking semi-seriously about cleaning it), my gaze happened to rest on a stack of books I have precariously sitting on another stack perpendicular to it. And as I looked at this stack, I noticed two big things;
1) These books represent a nice survey of the things I care about (centrally defined by the lifestyle I claim as a disciple of Jesus), and
2) I’m not a hypocrite (at least, not completely) when I say that I am neither liberal nor conservative (politically and theologically), pro nor anti-science, sacred nor secular, along with other typecasts; and I hope to stay that way for a lifetime.
First, I love the Bible, for many reasons. One of those reasons is that it is so incredibly messy and beautiful. It’s so honest in a way that at times is mystifying (sometimes I say, “I could never confess something like that to someone else because of a lifetime label slapped on me from that point forward).
For example, the Bible presents a picture of a holy, righteous, and distinct God in need of nothing who for some odd reason repents at times, other times expresses some degree of angry confusion that his people don’t get the picture at other times. Crazy, right? This is not some hare-brained theological scheme of mine, it’s letting the Bible speak for itself. Among other things, this simple example shows me a basic principal about God (and by extension, the Bible);
You can’t lock this God down into any easy categories, and therefore his people shouldn’t allow themselves to be locked into easy categories.
In other words, knowledge of the Bible and its impact on life won’t make me a well-adjusted white conservative Republican or a wild-eyed liberal Greenpeace member; though the Bible could be quoted for evidence that we should be one or the other (the conservative Republican one is just the more prevalent because it’s less of a challenge to the way things already are). So, in keeping with the above “principle,” I commit myself daily to the mantra, “You don’t know everything, let yourself be challenged, because you may find God speaking to you in surprising ways.” Which leads us to my precarious book-stack.
First off, I should note that you can see my New York Giants hat on the right of the picture. I didn’t mean for that to be included, but clearly God ordained for it to be included because it is objectively true that God is a Giants fan, which according to this website is defined by “something I believe AND it is actually true.” Using this objectively-true definition of objective truth, it is clear to me from my personal belief and the greater sense of truth I carry when I contemplate the possibility that, clearly, God is a Giants fan (*tongue planted firmly in cheek*) But I digress.
On my bookstack, you’ll see a well-respected, wise champion of the evangelical church (Stott), a UVa professor (a Christfollower) acknowledging the deep sin (often driven by “Christians” in the South) of racism (The Last Days), a Chuck Colson-endorsed book on faith-based social initiatives (Rev. of Compassion), a brilliant book that *gasp* uses the f-bomb liberally (Moneyball), the most functional, weeping-inducing book on discipleship ever (Foster, in my objectively true opinion), a study on Psalms from an incredibly wise man and mentor-through-proxy-of-books (Where Your Treasure Is), a warning of the consequences of ignoring God’s earth he has given to take care of (Earth in the Balance), an excellent book, “Exiles,” by the clearly heretical Emerging Church crowd (in my objectively true opinion), an incredible little book by a white man with an afro (Yancey and “Church, why bother?”), a book, “Following in the Footsteps of Christ,” about the Anabaptist movement of the 16th century (called heretics and executed in droves by objectively true Reformed, Catholic, and Lutheran folk) that I claim as the stream of disciples I swim in, a great commentary, “The Story of Romans,” on one of my favorite (and most frustrating to grasp) books of the Bible, a Hymnbook I sometimes play piano out of (also co-published by two groups of those confounding heretic Anabaptists, the Brethren and Mennonites), and a book full of stories of persons who actually followed Jesus in the “impractical” and “not-really-meant-to-be-followed” admonition to love one’s enemies as yourself. A little eclectic brew, huh?
This beautiful little mess of life on my desk gives me guidance when I come to things such as a little nugget I found on Jimmy Eat World drummer Zach Lind’s blog (who also happens to have a button on his blog that associates him with that clearly heretical organization Emergent Village); it’s Mike Huckabee, the evangelical “born-again” Christian from the South, talking in clear conservative terms about the death penalty.
Huckabee’s response sounds very practical until you read the words of Jesus on the matter. It seems Jesus faced this very same conundrum. I wonder how he responded?
I guess the natural outgrowth of this self-introspective, light-hearted-yet-honest post will be the greater challenge of those I interact with to represent Christ in all of his astonishing fullness. I welcome that challenge, as well as the inevitable failures that will come. Oh, surprising and mighty and graceful and merciful and holy God…help me! 🙂