Between the Lightning and a Lightning Bug

I have come to really enjoy listening to and reading N.T. Wright’s works. The former Bishop of Durham adds an eloquence and reverence to theology that is missing in today‘s world. When I read Tom Wright’s works, I get a sense of wonder. Awe. Maybe even worship within my soul. I think this feeling is God-given. We’re meant to be a people who worship through creation, even good books and thoughtful writings from experts in all fields. I recently sat with an individual that I greatly admire who cautioned me about reading various types of literature. “Austin, be careful about reading so many other books out there…you might just end up believing what you read…I don’t want you to end up full of theology and no good in the pulpit.” I sat in true astonishing bewilderment. The God of the universe has revealed Himself through a piece of literature…a book!  Surely that adds a level of validity to reading books. How can reading books be unhealthy for you? I wholeheartedly disagree with the advice. I think God is a God who likes to tell a good story and we should be a people who love a good tale. We should be people who love a good read. Maybe if more pastors, missionaries, laymen, and Christians in general read more books, they’d be way more knowledgeable in infecting their culture, sharing the Gospel, and genuinely engaging other worldviews with the truth. Instead, we repeat a couple spiritual laws or some boring ABC’s. God has entrusted us, His Church, with the best story in the world. With great ingenuity we have managed, with the aid of much theory, to make that story boring as hell. I pray that you discover writers who use reverent but imaginative words to capture and display the glory of God for you like N.T. Wright and others have done for me. Read good books. Worship God through creation.

“I am concerned that our reading and our writing is gravitating to the lowest common denominator so completely that the great themes of majesty and nobility and felicity are made to seem trite, puny, pedestrian…I am concerned about the state of the soul in the midst of all the cheap sensory overload going on today. You see, without what Alfred North Whitehead called “an habitual vision of greatness”, our soul will shrivel up and lose the capacity for beauty and mystery and transcendence.

But it isn’t just the substance of what we say (or write or read or hear or see) that concerns me. It is the way we say it. To write pedantically about radiance or infinity or ubiquity stunts the mind and cramps the soul. To find the right word, to capture the perfect image, awakens the spirit and enlarges the soul. Mark Twain noted that the difference between the right word and the almost right word is like the difference between the lightning and a lightning bug…The ancient Hebrew prophets cared enough about their message that they frequently delivered it in poetic form. May new prophets arise in our day that will call us to faithful living in words that are crisp and clear and imaginative.” ~Richard Foster

“Our task as image-bearing, god-loving, Christ-shaped, spirit filled Christians, following Christ and shaping our world, is to announce redemption to a world that has discovered its fallenness, to announce healing to a world that has discovered its brokenness, to proclaim love and trust to a world that knows only exploitation, fear and suspicion…The gospel of Jesus points us and indeed urges us to be at the leading edge of the whole culture, articulating in story and music and art and philosophy and education and poetry and politics and theology and even–heaven help us–biblical studies, a worldview that will mount the historically-rooted Christian challenge to both modernity and post modernity, leading the way…with joy and humor and gentleness and good judgment and true wisdom. I believe if we face the question, “if not now, then when?” if we are grasped by this vision we may also hear the question, “if not us, then who?” and if the gospel of Jesus is not the key to this task, then what is?” ~N.T. Wright


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