I’m torn here at BookNotes sometimes between raving and raving, going on and on, telling why a particular new book is so important, so urgent, so helpful, and the more subtle and brief approaches. This ain’t Twitter, friends, but I do know I sometimes push the limit of your generous reading time and on-line attention span. So I will try hard not to write too much today, but this book warrants it. I want to shout it from the rooftops, in great detail. This is a great, great new book!
Ahh, the quandary: how to be brief when a book is so exciting to me, so urgent for the church, so perfect for our readership? I want to announce, describe, promote and sell this great new resource, and to avoid sounding like pure schlock, I’d love to take the time to explain it a bit.
The publisher, Zondervan, has broken new ground, offering a devotional reader that is not a typical collection of Bible readings or devotional thoughts. It is a reader on various aspects of Christian engagement with culture, a primer about the intellectual life well lived.
Edited by our friend Kelly Monroe Kullberg (of Veritas Forum), and Lael Arrington, this is a fabulous idea and is carried out well; A Faith & Culture Devotional is described as “a daily guided tour through many of the paintings, laboratories, rock arenas, great books, mass movements and private lives that have shaped the ways we think and live.”
Each section is arranged for 2 weeks, and each day includes a short piece—call it an essay or article or devotional, around a certain theme, followed by brief reflection/discussion questions. For instance, they offer readings in categories of history, popular arts, science, philosophy, literature, and so forth. The only thing that quite comes to mind as similar to this are the Breakpoint radio collections that were compiled from Colson’s radio show. These are a bit more broad, and not necessarily stamped with Colson’s particular perspective, making them appealing to those who enjoy that format and worldviewish framework, but who might appreciate other voices.
The scholars, authors and activists that these pieces are written by include writers who are known to the evangelical press and widely respected—-Phil Yancey, Os Guinness, James Emory White, John Stott, Nancy Pearcey, Scot McKnight, Gene Vieth, Francs Schaeffer, Dallas Willard and more. And there are those who are known in the broader church (Frederica Matthewes-Green is a heck of a great writer and a thoughtful Orthodox author; Michael Behe is a devout Roman Catholic biologist…)
Some of these pieces, by their titles, or by the paring of topic and writer, are thrillng to consider: Eric Metexas writing as Screwtape on The Davinci Code, Hans Rookmaaker on the Impressionists, contemporary painter Bruce Herman on “Sex, Intimacy & Worship” Phil Yancey on Tolstoy, novelist James Scott Bell on Moby Dick. The late Lebanese scholar and UN leader, Charles Malik has a piece entitled “The Future and the Wonder of Being” and Betsy Childs’ title made me turn to it right away: “The Virtue of Holiness: A Vivid Thing” Dick Keyes gives us insight into “Seeing Through Cynicism” and Drew Trotter critiques the sociobiology of E.O Wilson. One of Ms Arrington’s pieces is a perfect example of the cleverness and usefulness of most of these entries: “Dr. Faustus: The Vanity of the Easy Button.” Or, how about the subtitle of one on the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins, “The Sacrament of Struggle.”
Ahhhh, my quandary. I just want to keep writing, teasing you with the various good pieces here, the interesting insights, the worldview-forming power of these various essays and quality thinkers. There’s a year’s worth—stuff on Dylan, on aging, on trafficking, on quantum physics; there are lovely pieces on the Bible and helpful articles on pivotal moments in history (like the French Revolution or the impact of Uncle Tom’s Cabin.)
I hope you pause for a moment and think of the value of such a reader; this is a Christian university education in a nut-shell, a refresher course (if you’re lucky) or a new batch of material you ought to know, but most likely don’t. Not only will this help you be what you are called to be, but it will be an excellent tool, a resource and reference to use often. Who knows when you’ll have to say something of worth about Picasso or string theory or archeology, literature or U2, genomes or Hamlet.
You probably don’t read as widely as you should; few of us do. You may not see yourself as called to be a son or daughter of Issachar (who “understood the times and knew what God’s people should do”) but I suspect, if you are reading BookNotes, you desire to please God by being faithful, wise, active, engaged. I am sure dipping into this–in long stretches, as I might, or in the prescribed daily dose—will strengthen your mind and deepen your heart.
A Faith & Culture Devotional