I realize that I am always complaining about things and I don't yet know if it is because I am too cynical (I certainly was in college) or if there really is as much dumb stuff in the world as I think (probably a combo...a delicious cheddar cheese with pretzel outside combo. I haven't had combos in years. Maybe I'll get some later).
Working as a receiver in the bookstore, I see all the new books that come in. If a book is going to be a big deal, we get a lot of it. This trend has led me to much exasperation lately. Here is a tasty sampling of what is big in Christian circles (or at least is predicted to be)...
The Purpose Driven Life Collector's Edition in Leather
Healing is a Choise by Stephen Arterburn (co-author of all 2,539 books in the "Every Man" series)
Living the Extraordinary Life by Charles Stanley
The Convenient Pocketsize version of The Treasure Principle by Andy Stanley
I guess these things aren't necessarily bad in themselves, but meanwhile, there is some great material that is coming out that gets completely over-looked because people are too busy marking up their Leather Purpose Driven Life. Some people say that at least people are reading something. But is that really the most we can ask of each other? Maybe if we looked beyond Christianity's imitation of secular pop culture, we could move into some real spiritual formation instead of simply aquiring trite snipets that give us a shot of self-confidence and half-heartedly challenge us for the one hour it takes to read them.
In an effort to not simply be negative, here are some alternative recent releases that seem to offer some real insight...
Theological Aesthetics ed. Gelsa Thiessen
Contours of Christology ed. Richard Longenecker
Does Human Rights Need God? Eds. Elizabeth Bucar and Barbra Barnett
Renewing the City by Robert Lupton
Saving Power by Schmiechen
I will admit that not everybody is into Biblical Studies or Theology, but I think I'm trying to say that they should be. Obviously we need balance, but why say that nobody needs to think or care about modern discussions in these realms. It makes us seem stupid. If a teacher wants to be excellent, of course she will spend a lot of time in the classroom, working with the students, but she will also take the time to educate herself on the newest methods in teaching, and what discussions and arguments are taking place, while also informing herself of what has happened historically. If following Jesus is really the highest priority for us, we should do the same in Biblical Studies and Theology, and all the more so, because it is not simply our source of income, it is the foundation of our lives.
One of the janitors at Erika's school became a Christian about 8 months ago. Since then he has started learning Koine Greek and reads theology all the time. Every time he sees me asks me all kinds of questions based on what he has been reading lately (he knows I'm in Seminary, although I think that he thinks I am training to be a pastor, even though I've told him otherwise a few times). One time he asked me what Greek lexicon I would recommend. The point is, this guy is a janitor, and he has no plans to go to Seminary or anything like that. He simply sees it as part of what it means to follow Jesus to learn as much as he can from whatever sources he can find. I know what some may think, "Isn't that dangerous? What if he starts reading Tillich and thinks God is simply the Ground of Being?" This is why it is great for such things to be shared by the Christian community. Then we can discuss and help each other. Plus, he doesn't just try to learn all the time. He serves the poor, tells everyone he meets about Jesus, and is an all-around great person to serve as inspiration to all of us what it means to follow Jesus.
I'm not saying everyone needs to learn Greek or anything, but why can't we seek to deepen our understanding more? I guess I should wrap this up. Ultimately, read more (although I don't really think anyone who reads this will need to be particlarly convicted by my rantings here), and read more broadly. John Piper and Rick Warren are not the mouth of God. Try some real material, and you might be surprised how fruitful it is.
P.S. I don't hate John Piper. Even though I think he is wrong almost every time he puts his pen to paper or opens his mouth, and I think he is really mean, I still work at loving him. I will certainly hang out with him in heaven and give him a hug, although only after shouting "I told you so." To which God will confirm, "Word, broseph."