Eyes Above The Waves

Robert O'Callahan. Christian. Repatriate Kiwi. Hacker.

Saturday 30 October 2010

Stepping Stones

Last Sunday I spoke to our church congregation about a few things that had helped me grow spiritually. Many of those things were books. Here's the list:

  • The NIV Study Bible. This is the Bible I bought when I first became a Christian and I've mostly relied on it since then. The notes helped me understand a lot, especially in the beginning. The notes cover a lot of ground: translation issues, interpretations, and controversies. They're pretty good about presenting multiple sides of controversial issues in a fair way.
  • Basic Christianity by John Stott. This was one of the first Christian books I read. It's a particularly good introduction to what Christianity is all about, for non-Christians and Christians alike. It focuses strongly on Jesus: who he was (and is), why he came, and what that means for us. Highly recommended.
  • The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. A senior demon advises a minor demon on how to handle his “patient” --- a new Christian whom the demon has been assigned to corrupt. This is a very fun read, with lots of useful insights into the Christian life. Phillip Pullman likes it, so it must be good.
  • The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis. An imaginary tour of heaven and hell --- not at all intended to be taken literally, but to stimulate one's thinking.
  • The Knowledge Of The Holy by A. W. Tozer. Much more dry than the above, but lays out key truths about God and strongly encourages the reader to take them seriously. Tozer emphasizes God's ineffability, and acknowledges the tension this creates for his own book!
  • Jesus by A. N. Wilson. A portrait of Jesus written from a skeptical/secular point of view. I read it quite soon after I became a Christian. It's interesting because it's clear from the book Wilson was fascinated by Jesus --- maybe even entranced --- even though he didn't really believe in him. I wasn't all that surprised when Wilson recently become a believer.


You should read "Pilgrim's Regress" by C.S. Lewis someday. Based on your list above, I think you'd like it.
How do you balance your worklife where data drives decisions with your "spiritual" life where data is more or less absent. I think I struggle with this and tend to fall on the side of agnostic.
Robert O'Callahan
That depends on what you mean by "data". If you mean statistically significant results of methodologically sound science, there's precious little of that at work and essentially none feeding into anyone's major life decisions --- but we all manage.
If you mean all kinds of information about the world, glued together by reasoning --- there's plenty of that in my spiritual life, I think.
But "the seeker scrounging for data" is really an incomplete picture of the situation, because it ignores God. I believe God has not only revealed a lot of information in the Bible, but he continues to have a relationship with people today and guides those who earnestly seek him.
Also, unlike other areas of my life, the essentials of my spiritual life are very simple. God loves me, I am a sinner, I repent, God has forgiven me through Jesus, I love God. Repeat. It can and should (and does!) go a lot deeper than that, but ultimately if my relationship with God is all right, the rest is details.
Matthew Holloway
What do you think of other religions? E.g. Hinduism, Scientology?
Robert O'Callahan
Scientology is an evil, exploitative cult, without a doubt.
I know very little about Hinduism.
I could say something about Judaism and Islam, but this comment isn't really the place. It may be prudent to say nothing at all.
In general I think the better religions contain a lot of truth, but as far as I understand them, I find them deficient without a satisfactory understanding of Jesus. And without his atonement I don't understand how there can be hope where my sin meets God's justice.
"And without his atonement I don't understand how there can be hope where my sin meets God's justice."
Well said. Concise and to the point.
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