Sometimes I wonder if I’ve become a really devout agnostic – I collect theology books like Halloween candy. If one of my favorite faith bloggers has a book coming out, I want it. If there’s an apologetics book being critiqued or reviewed on Patheos, I want it. Part of me hopes that the more I immerse myself in this stuff, the more likely something will “click” again. I also own multiple biblical commentaries from Jewish and Christian scholars, because I just have to know everything from all sides. Gregory Boyd’s Across the Spectrum is scheduled to arrive on my doorstep this Wednesday, and today I stumbled upon Between Gods by Alison Pick, which I had to buy despite my to-read list being a mile long already. Like that’s ever stopped me – I’m eager for Thanksgiving break to hurry up because I am so excited to do nothing but sit in a coffee shop and read!
It’s in the pages of these books that I experience church. They don’t replace in-person community and dialogue (though as an introvert, sometimes I wish they did), but as many a bibliophile will tell you, there are times when the words of people you meet in books get lodged in your soul like no one else can.
This is a passage from Out of Sorts by Sarah Bessey that I read this morning:
Scholarship is important, but sometimes I prefer the books written by “normal people,” because most of us will never be bible scholars. Most of us are students, parents, full-time job holders, and community builders. Some truths cannot be understood in a vacuum – I think some are best understood in the context of our daily lives. For people like Bessey, the virtue of “faith like a child” is made clear when parenting her own. For people like me, sanctification – the process of being made holy – is best understood in a school called marriage.
Books like Bessey’s don’t replace the Bible, but they help bring it to life in new ways, which is refreshing for a skeptic who skips certain passages to avoid anxiety triggers. Books like these remind me to focus on the little snippets I do understand rather than try to move mountain-sized puzzle pieces with strength I have to fake in order to “make.”
The fact that my faith feels threadbare may make it seem like I’m completely unqualified to write a similar book of my own. Then again, I’d like to think that’s exactly why I’m qualified. I’ve come to believe that everyone I meet is some kind of teacher. Not all of their lessons are positive, but each of us brings something unique to the table that can’t be replicated or experienced quite the same by anybody else. It is for that reason I’ve given up the habit of determining who is “in” and who is “out” in the Christian faith. With 40,000 denominations in circulation since the early church, I am definitely one of the least qualified to make that judgment call.
I think there are going to be a lot of shocked people in heaven one day.