Recent Highlights from My Reading

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I’m near the end of my work on my next book. Before Thanksgiving, I hope to finish the last of my edits to the fourth draft. (See this earlier column for more details on the book’s subject.)

Naturally, with so much of my creative energy devoted to this book, I’ve not had as much time as usual to write articles and columns. So today I thought it would be fun to share a few scraps and clippings from my recent reading. Here are some sentences or paragraphs I’ve underlined or marked up in a book or highlighted on my Kindle.

Time to Read

You will understand that I am never in the position of looking for a book to read, but nearly always looking for time in which to read books! — C. S. Lewis, Collected Letters Volume 391.

The Revolutionary Strangeness of the Cross

“A myth, though, is not a lie. At its most profound—as Tolkien, that devout Catholic, always argued—a myth can be true. To be a Christian is to believe that God became man and suffered a death as terrible as any mortal has ever suffered. This is why the cross, that ancient implement of torture, remains what it has always been: the fitting symbol of the Christian revolution. It is the audacity of it—the audacity of finding in a twisted and defeated corpse the glory of the creator of the universe—that serves to explain, more surely than anything else, the sheer strangeness of Christianity, and of the civilization to which it gave birth. Today, the power of this strangeness remains as alive as it has ever been. It is manifest in the great surge of conversions that has swept Africa and Asia over the past century; in the conviction of millions upon millions that the breath of the Spirit, like a living fire, still blows upon the world; and, in Europe and North America, in the assumptions of many more millions who would never think to describe themselves as Christian. All are heirs to the same revolution: a revolution that has, at its molten heart, the image of a god dead on a cross.” — Tom Holland, Dominion: How the Christian Revolution Remade the World

Showing Courtesy to Our Forebears

History is made up of living men whose work is handed over defenseless to our understanding and appreciation upon their death. Precisely because of this, they have a claim on our courtesy, a claim that their own concerns should be heard and that they should not be used simply as a means to our ends. — Karl Barth

Confession as Power

In a world grown cynical from the hypocrisy of evangelical preachers, the answer was ministries that would highlight the failings of the speaker, rather than polish the tarnished brass covering of the feet of clay. The new saints of megaministry would prosper by confessing that they were never saints at all. — Kate Bowler, The Preacher’s Wife: The Precarious Power of Evangelical Women Celebrities, 165.

Error Can Be to Truth’s Advantage

Be not sinfully discontented, for God can make the errors of the church advantageous to truth. Thus the truths of God have come to be more beaten out and confirmed; as it is in the law, one man laying a false title to a piece of land, the true title hath by this means been the more searched into and ratified; some had never so studied to defend the truth of scripture, if others had not endeavoured to overthrow it by sophistry; all the mists and fogs of error that have risen out of the bottomless pit, have made the glorious sun of truth to shine so much the brighter. Had not Arius and Sabellius broached their damnable errors, the truth of those questions about the blessed Trinity, had never been so discussed and defended by Athanasius, Augustine, and others; had not the devil brought in so much of his princely darkness, the champions for truth had never run so fast to scripture to light their lamps. So that God, with a wheel within a wheel, overrules these things wisely, and turns them to the best. Truth is a heavenly plant, that fettles by shaking. God raiseth the price of his truth the more; the very shreds and filings of truth are venerable. When there is much counterfeit metal abroad, we prize the true gold the more; pure wine of truth is never more precious, than when unfound doctrines are broached and vented. — Thomas Watson, The Art of Divine Contentment, 9.

The Mystery of Human Dignity

“Man’s dignity is an echo of God’s transcendence. But if we no longer tremble with a joyful, reverential fear before the greatness of God, how could man be for us a mystery worthy of respect? He no longer has this divine nobility. He becomes a piece of merchandise, a laboratory specimen.” — Robert Cardinal Sarah, The Day Is Now Far Spent

Why Abuse Victims Stay Quiet

Why don’t victims report? Because most of the time, the only thing reporting accomplishes is heightening the trauma to almost unbearable levels. It invites an audience to view your sexual assault. It’s choosing to have no voice in the process after having it stolen from you. That’s why victims don’t report. — Rachael Denhollander, What Is a Girl Worth?

Ripping the Foundations of Future Justice

“In keeping silent about evil, in burying it so deep within us that no sign of it appears on the surface, we are implanting it, and it will rise up a thousand fold in the future. When we neither punish nor reproach evildoers, we are not simply protecting their trivial old age, we are thereby ripping the foundations of justice from beneath new generations.” — Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago

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