Friday, October 06, 2006

Maybe I'm Not An Evangelical

I've enjoyed two posts in the last couple of days. Those were Al Mohler's reflections on books and what they tell us about a person and Tim Challies' reflection on Al's reflection. Both were good reads. Tim and Al had me looking at my book shelves with warm fuzzies.

After reading their pieces, I figured I was fairly history-minded and orthodox, though not generously and working on humbly. Then my little bubble burst. I read CT's Top 50 Books That Have Shaped Evangelicals. After reading the list, all I can say is that I may not be an evangelical.

I've only read four books on the list (Knowing God -- the 1st book I read as a new Christian; The Cost of Discipleship, The God Who Is There, and "oh the shame," Left Behind, the first five volumes) and I've managed to skim another (Stott's Basic Christianity). I use Operation World as a resource for prayer and educating the congregation about missions. I've read and appreciated Tozer, but I've not gotten around to Knowledge of the Holy. I own The Gospel of the Kingdom, The Next Christendom, The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism, Mere Christianity and Desiring God, but I've not read them yet. Many of the titles I'm familiar with because of their arguments or because of their authors. But most I've never heard of.

Two reactions come to mind. If Al Mohler is correct (you can tell a lot about a person by what books they have and have read), then I'm not an evangelical judging by this list! Assuming, of course, that we're going to continue using the word "evangelical" and pretending to agree on what it means.

My second reaction is perhaps more discerning.... What a wacky list!

Surely Grudem's Systematic Theology should be on the list! Perhaps Don Whitney's Spiritual Disciplines? Not Piper and Grudem's Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood? That's a landmark work and a watershed issue. For younger evangelicals, I Kissed Dating Goodbye is as important a book as any written in the last 50 years addressing issues that have been bottled up with Victoria's secrets for centuries! Did Lewis write Screwtape and The Chronicles more than 50 years ago? If not, they're on my list of influential fiction.

Then there are the less than stellar, sometimes useful, but very influential books of the last 50 years. For example, a book like The Five Love Languages, though I think it may be a stretch to call it "evangelical," has had a wider influence than some of the titles listed. What? No Prayer of Jabez? C'mon... you know that was influential and shaped the way so-called evangelicals pray more than anything else in our generation. Everyone knows someone who was praying, "Lord, expand my territory." I've never even heard of the #1 title they listed which earned #1 because of its impact on the prayer lives of Christians. And this isn't an endorsement necessarily, but how influential have the Blackaby's been with Experiencing God? Do you know a mainstream evangelical church that hasn't done a small group or church-wide study of that book?

The CT folks had an impossible task. Perhaps the list reflects the diversity of the respondents as much as anything. But if this is the list that has shaped evangelicalism over the last 50 years, I really may not be much of an evangelical at all.

1 comment:

Michael Bullard said...

I too looked at the CT list and asked the same question. Two books on the list were formative in opening my eyes to the glorious majesty of God about 15-years ago -- Tozer's Knowledge of the Holy and Packer's Knowing God. I read Tozer first -- it was provided a "books-share" from a friend (and I had to buy my own copy) and piqued my desire to know more which lead me to Packer's work on the same topic.

These were followed in short order by the John Piper trilogy of The Pleasures of God, Desiring God and Future Grace.

Looking at the rest of my shelves I have works (not on the CT list) by John Calvin, Martin Luther, John Bunyan, Richard Baxter, Horatio Bonar, Johnathan Edwards, Charles Spurgeon, James Boice, R. C. Sproul, John MacArthur, Michael Horton, Donald Carson, among others -- along with some other works by Tozer, Piper and Packer -- none of which made the CT list.

There are some "live guys" on the shelf; but my one encouragement to young pastors and lay leaders would be to read some of the "old dead guys" that have written works that have trancended the period of time in which they were written and are now a gift to the church of what was their future...and of the "live guys" try to pick ones that will be likewise beneficial to the church long after they join the "old dead guys" club.