Hearing the Word – 2

All the study in the world though will do little good if we forget what we studied.  God’s word is not something to be viewed and spit out; it should be slowly digested.  We do this by memorization and meditation.  It takes work and discipline (and that’s just for memorization) but the payoff is eternal.  Memorization is locking the spiritual food in place; meditation is feeding and digesting it.

As much as I love studying the Scripture, studying is useless apart thinking and heeding it.  If you want verification for this, read Psalm 119.  But to look at another passage, consider Psalm 1.  The man who walks in God’s ways is the one who meditates on His word.  Meditating on Scripture is God’s means of planting your roots deeply.  When you build yourself in the word, you are building your house on the Rock (Matt. 7) so that when the rains descend and floods come you will not fall.

For myself personally, meditation is one of the best ways to slow down.  If forces me to let go of other things that are distracting at best and harmful at worst.  It is one way we enter into God’s rest.  I realize I’ve not said much about meditation, and that’s because if you’re meditating on a passage, you either have memorized it or are in the process of memorizing it.  Having said that, I know memorization is more difficult for some than others.  John Piper has some helpful tips here, here, and here  for how he memorizes Scripture and it has worked for me in the past.  In the long run it doesn’t matter how you do it as long as you do it.

Why Calvinists should read Chesterton

At first when I started reading G.K. Chesterton, I struggled with the fact that he has little use for the doctrines of grace.  He regularly pokes fun at those who believe in predestination, but it’s not as bad as it appears.  While I believe in the doctrinesof unconditional election, etc., I’ve never had trouble overlooking his criticism of those beliefs.  John Piper recently published an article explaining why it’s so easy to love Chesterton despite his dislike for predestination.

“But how then can Calvinism awaken such joy in me, and such hate in Chesterton? Because they aren’t the same Calvinism. He thinks Calvinism is the opposite of all this happy wonder that we have in common. The Calvinism he hates is part of the rationalism that drives people mad. Exhibit A:

‘Only one great English poet went mad, Cowper. And he was definitely driven mad by logic, by the ugly and alien logic of predestination. Poetry was not the disease, but the medicine; poetry partly kept him in health. . . . He was damned by John Calvin; he was almost saved by John Gilpin.’

No, Mr. Chesterton, William Cowper was not driven mad by Calvinism. He was driven mad by a mental disease that ran in his family for generations, and he was saved by John Newton, perhaps the humblest, happiest Calvinist who ever lived. And both of them saw the wonders of “Amazing Grace” through the eyes of poetry. Yes, that was a healing balm. But the disease was not Calvinism — else John Newton would not have been the happy, healthy, holy friend that he was.”

Later Piper explains why Calvinists not only can read Chesterton but should read Chesterton.

“I thank God for G. K. Chesterton. His gift for seeing the world and for saying what he sees is peerless. He opens my eyes to wonders of what is there. And what is there is the finger-work of God. He may be dismayed to hear it, but his eyes have helped me see more clearly than ever the God of Jonathan Edwards.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

My list of most influential books

I love book lists.  I have too many book lists on the computer.  But some books are more influential than others.  The following is a list of the five books that most reflect my Christian walk.  I’m not including the Bible in this list, although if you want me to, it would be #1.  They aren’t in any particular order, so here goes.

  • Desiring God – John Piper  This book changed the way I thought about God, myself, and the way the Church does business.  Reading it required me to reorganize my priorities and unsettled my thoughts about the process of salvation.
  • Chosen by God – R.C. Sproul  When I started reading this book, I believed man’s free will trumped God’s sovereign will in salvation.  After reading it, I knew I had to submit to God’s sovereignty in everything (including salvation) or live a lie.  There may be other books that explain God’s sovereign grace more clearly, but none ever gripped my heart like this one.  I’ll never forget the feeling of my old belief system crumbling as I read.  It was truly life changing. 
  • Angels in the Architecture – Doug Wilson and Doug Jones  This book was also a surprise, somewhat because of the title.  It isn’t about architecture (which I knew) but it is about almost everything else.  It highlights Christian culture in the past and crafts a vision for what the rule of Christ looks like in every area of life.  Many can describe abstractly what Christianity should look like when it’s lived out, but this book puts flesh on the bones of those descriptions.
  • Orthodoxy – G.K. Chesterton  I had no idea what I was getting into when I first read this book, but it changed the way I look at, well, everything.  Chesterton’s thought is best summarized in this volume, which turns everything upside down in order for us to look at it right side up (if you don’t understand what I mean just read a page of this book, you’ll get the idea).  Many books talk about Christians having joy in their lives, but this one describes what that looks like.  Chesterton does include a few nasty references to Calvinism, but they are straw men arguments that can be easily ignored.   
  • Postmillenialism: an eschatology of hope – Keith Mathison  This book is the best combination of several books that influenced me in the area of prophecy.  I came into a little maturity in this area through the likes of Gary DeMar, Gary North, Doug Wilson, and R.J. Rushdoony.  Mathison presents the ideas of the gospel spreading throughout all the earth by way of sound exegesis.  It’s a great introduction to the topic.