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Too Many Books, Too Little Time

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast held perfect happiness for me; not because Belle found true love where she least expected it, but because of her amazing library.  I want that library.  And to be independently wealthy, of course, so I can spend all day in my library.

When I was a kid, I dreamed of reading every book in the world.

I have, since childhood, discovered that it is neither possible, nor even desirable, to read every book in the world.  Many are not worth my time.  But there are still so many books I want to read, that it seems highly unlikely I will ever read all of them.

The question then becomes: what do I read right now?  Followed, of course, by, what do I read next? and when do I find time to read?

“When do I find time to read?” is probably the easiest question for me to answer.  I carry a book with me everywhere.  And I really mean everywhere.  When I’m on a ten minute break at work, I have a book with me and read it in the hallway on my way to the bathroom.

Even so, in the evenings it’s really easy to get distracted with Facebook and other online pursuits, mostly because by the time I get home from work, I’m exhausted and want to do something that’s more or less mindless.  But I’ve found that time spent reading a book is much more rewarding than surfing the web.

As for what to read, I mostly read on a whim.  I start reading whatever sounds the most interesting to me right at that moment.  This often leads to me being in the middle of four or five books at a time, but this approach works for me.

I generally intersperse weighty tomes of history, economics, and the like with fun, lighter books.  This keeps me refreshed and motivated to go back to those “weighty tomes.”

I start to feel anxious if I’m getting close to the end of a book and haven’t settled on what I’m going to read next.  Generally, have a mental list of what I’m going to read next.  I have digital ones too, with my “too read” list on Goodreads and a list of educational books I plan to read on my computer.

Goodreads, by the way, is pretty awesome.  If you’re an avid reader, it’s a great way to keep track of what you have read and what you want to read.

Sometimes I wish I could do nothing but read all day.  Then I might make more of a dent in my “to read” list.

 

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11 Comments

  1. Mikey G says:

    This article ends with a list of a couple of must reads between the first and fifteenth century for educated Christians: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2013/05/10/searching-for-gospel-centered-theology-before-the-reformation/

    I haven’t read or even heard of any of them, though C.S. Lewis recommending the first puts it at the top of my list.

    I have been thinking a while about your post about LDS and people saying Mormons aren’t “really” Christians. I can understand how that’d piss you off, but do you think some of it is also self created separation? Does the Mormon church also regard itself as something distinct from other churches?

    I hope I am not flame warring a post about reading with theology but the books might be a way to decide if there is a significant difference between your individual denomination and the larger Christian history.

    • That’s a really interesting article. It’s true that I don’t know much about the history of Christianity during the time between the Bible and the Reformation. My religious education has dwelt upon the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and the history of the early LDS church. What I know of the Reformation I learned at school or on my own, not at church.

      We do consider ourselves the only “true” church; at some point after Christ’s ministry, the fulness of the gospel (as we phrase it) was lost, along with the authority to act in God’s name, which is why it had to be restored through Joseph Smith. That’s not to say we believe we have a monopoly on truth; we are encouraged to embrace truth wherever it is to be found.

      I understand how that belief would be off-putting to members of other sects, but don’t all churches believe that they are the “true” church?

      I think a great deal of the idea that “Mormons aren’t Christian” comes from us having a second book of scripture. It may be viewed by some people as a rejection of the Bible, although the Book of Mormon is explicitly about Christ. It’s also true that a lot of our doctrine is very different from most other Christian denominations, such as our emphasis on the family.

      I totally understand why people think Mormons are weird. It’s a well-known fact that we are weird. I’m okay with that; I embrace it. But not Christian? Christ is the center of my religion. I read about Him in the scriptures, pray in His name, and try to act as He would have me act.

      There is indeed a significant difference between the LDS church and the rest of Christian history, but it isn’t a divide so large as to be unbridgeable. Okay, too much metaphor, but I kind of like it.

      To me, the definition of “Christian” is very simple: someone who believes Christ is our only Savior, and does their best to follow Him. Of course, following Christ encompasses one’s entire life-style; the only Christians that I would say are not really Christians are the ones who profess a belief in Christ but make no effort to actually keep His commandments. Individuals like that can be found in any denomination.

      • Mikey G says:

        I can understand your perspective; it is not unusual for a church or denomination to consider themselves the only true practioners of the faith (though I believe all such beliefs are wrong), most certainly there is nothing unexpected by any religion being “weird” since it is by definition something apart from society in general.

        At this point we don’t need to argue about the main disagreement: the definition of “Christian”. For now it just needs to be clear what a person like me means when we say the LDS church is not Christian. We can argue about it as we go if it is profitable but to be a Christian means to believe in the God as the Trinity and to accept God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) as your one and only God.

        As far as I know (though I am far from an expert) the LDS church, Jehovah’s Witness, Gnostics and Hindu’s who believe Jesus is Krishnu do not believe in the Trinity and when I say they are not Christian I am not insulting them but just saying something descriptive about them.

        • The Bible does not support the definition of the Trinity, meaning, God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit as one being. At Christ’s baptism, all three were present as distinct entities. If that is insufficient evidence, still the Bible doesn’t anywhere state unambiguously that these three entities are in fact one.

          I would also think that the necessity and fact of the Savior’s sacrifice would be more central to the definition of “Christian” than the precise form of God (for lack of a better term).

        • Mikey G says:

          Obviously we disagree and that is okay because at this point I more want to explain what an informed Christian (by my definition) means when they say Mormons are not Christian. Certainly there are uninformed people (Christian or otherwise) who would say the LDS church is not Christian for other reasons but I am not as interested in their reasons.

          As best as I can understand the definition I give is what would be called orthodox, held by all major denominations. Which means if your definition were true your response to the claim “Mormons aren’t Christian” would not simply be “yes we are” but instead I would think you would have to say “We are the only Christians.” The attempt to be different from the orthodox definition of Christianity while claiming to be just another kind of Christian I think is an invalid position.

        • My position is that the orthodox definition of “Christian” is wrong. It is corrupted doctrine, and not believing in a corrupted doctrine doesn’t make me something other than a Christian.

          I need to do more research, but from my understanding, this definition was codified as part of the Nicene Creeds, as were many other controversies. Therefore, this definition won over other possible definitions of Christian that were being used at the time. It could even have been adopted in order to exclude others who believed differently and were considered undesirable.

          It would be kind of like if we let only one political party, Democrats or Republicans, define what “American,” “free speech,” “gun rights,” etc., means and then make everyone abide by it.

          Granted, I consider the Nicene Creeds to be the results of politicking, and not inspiration.

        • Mikey G says:

          I am glad we have agreement that we disagree about the truth of orthodox Christianity. It is helpful because regardless who is correct about the true Christianity we can agree that our religions are different from each other in something foundational, something non-negotiable. Of course I think orthodox Christianity is true and you think it is corrupt but that is not what this is about.

          This is about if it appropriate for an informed orthodox Christian to believe and say that Moromons (as praise worthy they may be) are not Christian. Even if you were correct that the orthodox definition of Christianity were a corruption of the true Gospel for a Mormon to casually say, without qualification, that they are Christian would still be inappropriate.

          It would be as if Milton Friedman insisted on calling himself a liberal without explaining how he was different from the modern understanding of the word. He might be correct that his views conform to the original definition of liberal and the modern practice of liberalism was a perverse corruption of true liberalism… but if he just goes around calling himself a liberal without qualification he is using language in a way inexcusably confusing.

          More to the point it seems to me when Mormons say “I’m a Christian” outside of their community they are implying “We’re Christian too” and are careful to not sound like they are saying “We’re only Christians” which it seems to me what your position is. There is a dishonesty to that. Better to say upfront that your religion is different from all of the other religions calling the self Christian.

        • All right, then, I shall hereafter refer to Mormons as “classical Christians.” (I mean that facetiously, in case it wasn’t obvious.) 🙂

          If you think I’m implying I’m “only a Christian,” you’re reading too much into it. I even did a whole post on some of the ways Mormons are different from other Christians. I’m well aware of the uniqueness of my religion, and I do indeed believe it is the truest of them all. But I don’t go around trumpeting that because my goal is not to offend everyone I meet, but to find common ground.

          I really don’t think the average Christian in the United States would say a Christian is someone who believes in the Trinity. I think most people would say it means believing in Christ. That is, after all, where the term “Christian” comes from in the first place. The definition that matters the most is the one in the most general use, isn’t it?

          Didn’t you post an article on FB not that long ago about religious leaders getting too philosophical, instead of dealing with practical problems? That’s what this discussion is. Not that I mean that in a derogatory way; it’s been very interesting, and, I think, fruitful. Honestly I haven’t actually discussed religion very much with non-Mormons, and I don’t know much about about other religions beyond some basics.

        • Mikey G says:

          Ha ha considering our respective traditions are a something like two hundred years old (both from the Second Great Awakening) I think it would be either Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox who would have dibs on the title “classical Christian.” And in religions dibs is the highest authority. 😀

          I disagree with you that most Americans wouldn’t say believing in the trinity is a defining feature of Christianity. Sure there are going to be more than a few who wouldn’t even know what the term means but if you asked if being a Christan means believing Jesus is God the response would overwhelmingly in favor of that being essential.

          And it seems unlikely I would argue people in America are too philosophical, in or out of church circles! But in the New Testament as much (if not more) chapters about the nature of Jesus and Gospel than they do on ethics. Regardless of how we emphasize things today it is clear the authors of the New Testament considered the definition of Gospel and the nature of Jesus much more than an academic question.

          Borrowing from C.S. Lewis’ liar, lunatic or Lord argument IF Jesus is not the God in the flesh then he would have been a most horrific blasphemer. He accepted worship of himself, he claimed to be able to forgive sins and used God’s holy name (I AM) for himself. Those are not actions of holy man, from the perspective of the Law and the Prophets could only be done by the one and only God. So Jesus either was a megalomaniac, a blasphemer or else actually God Himself.

        • I never said that Christ is anything less than divine. He is not God, He is the Son of God, just as Christ himself said he was. Christ could not have suffered for all our sins if He were merely a mortal man. God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit are three separate beings. That doesn’t make any of them less holy.

          As for “classical Christian” – recall that the my church’s claim to be the only true church is based on the claim of being the restored truth that Jesus taught while He was on the earth, which had to be restored because the gospel had been corrupted.

          The nature of God and Jesus is certainly an important question, but I don’t think whether someone believes in the Trinity or the Godhead is going to be a more important consideration at the final judgment than what kind of a person that someone was. The Good Samaritan, after all, had all sorts of incorrect beliefs, but still did the Christ-like thing by helping the abused traveler, while others, who would be viewed by the world as more “holy,” passed him by without helping. The important thing is to accept Christ as one’s Savior, and then behave accordingly.

          My definition of Christian, “a follower of Christ,” is older one than the orthodox definition. If oldest wins, then I win.

        • Mikey G says:

          If your understanding of Christ is correct then the God of the Old Testament either lied to the authors of the Old Testament or they were wrong in what they wrote or else He would hate this Jesus you present.

          God makes it very clear that He is One, there is no one He will share His glory with and His followers are to worship no one other than Him. That is the strict, no wiggle room, no exception Law of the Old Testament. But the Jesus of the New Testament accepts worship, accepts being called God, is glorified by many numerous NT authors, uses I AM to describe himself multiple times and is even presenting on the throne of Heaven which the God of Moses would never ever share. It might seem improbable that Jesus is God but more than improbably but actually impossible is that God would accept what Jesus said about Himself unless Jesus is God.

          And I don’t want to muddy the water with too many points so will pass on the faith versus deeds element of your post. Though if you like we can discuss that common theme at another time.

          As for the oldest definition of Christian I assume you are being silly (or half serious) when you say the oldest definition wins BUT my silly (or half serious) response is that the original definition of Christian was a derogatory terms used in Antioch to mock the believers as “little Christs.” It is sort of like the term “Obamacare” which conservatives first used to insult the President’s legislation but he decided was a fitting brand for it and now is commonly used merely as a proper noun. The Christians of the book of Acts were first called “believers” (suggesting belief matters a great deal) and “followers of the way” (which suggests deeds matter a great deal).

          Regardless even if, as you believe, the LDS has the best claim or maybe even only claim on the title Christian it does not change the fact that using “Christian” as a term for people who believe (among other things) that Jesus is God has something like a two thousand year tradition and so for clarity a person would need to qualify their use of the term when they mean something different.

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