Well, let me introduce you to Cornelius Plantinga Jr.'s Beyond Doubt. As always, read on to the subtitle: 'Faith-Building Devotions on Questions Christians Ask'. 135 devotionals that must be read aloud, collected around broad headings: God, Humanity, Christ, Salvation, Church and Last Things. There are 27 questions asked in the book and each question receives five responses - hence, the 135 entries.
After reading the second one together, aloud - Barby just looked at me and said, "We have to buy this book for each one of our kids". And so it shall come to pass...
Why? Let me try and pull together a few observations from our early forays into the devotionals in this book.
They are honest. Plantinga lingers with doubts and confusions and opens them up before engaging with them. He is not scared. He gives voice to the deep questions that we have.
They are tender. We are only getting started, but already, on most occasions, I find my voice quivering and my eyes moistening. The caring love of a pastor that seeps into his words really touches us.
They are deep. The guy is a heavyweight theologian. He has been the president of a seminary. He knows his stuff. It is profound. It is balanced. It is wise. We are feeding ourselves on it.
They are simple. We even read the Introduction aloud. 'If readers detect seepage from my reading of good children's literature, I would be pleased'. Yes, it does show. He has been hanging around kids.
They are short. Reading very slowly (which is how it must be done), you'll be done in less than ten minutes. Lots of short sentences which encourage us to go even slower.
They are worshipful. Each devotional opens with a biblical verse and then, at the end, there is a homemade prayer. To frame his thoughts in this way builds a still and quiet sort of worship.
When I shut my eyes and dream about the content and style and purpose of a book I'd love to write in my golden years before I depart this earth, if God grants me that much time - this is kinda like what it would be like. I confess that this is also why I like it so much.
So, here are a couple of things to consider:
(a) Why not make it a belated New Year's Resolution to read through this book in 2014? If you stumble a bit - like we all do with resolutions - there is still hope. There are only 135 entries :).
(b) Why not buy two copies and give one as a gift to someone who is stumbling along in a spiritual journey which has either embryonic, or vestigial, overtones of Christian faith? Maybe even read it together. Face-to-face? On skype?
As for me - I fly back to Bangalore tonight and will be making a bee-line for my study hoping (against hope, I suspect) that Plantinga's Engaging God's World made the cut and is sitting on my shelf AND then ordering Plantinga's new book on preaching - Reading for Preaching - to which a Langham colleague (Pieter Kwant) just happened to alert me as Barby and I were settling down to savour Beyond Doubt.
Now, I know I am an enthusiast, And I know that many of you know that I am an enthusiast. And so there is one thing you need to know about this post. Barby made me do it :) ... sort of. kind of.