Monday, June 10, 2013

On the recommending of books

You know, after that post, writing about how I liked Ann Voskamp’s book One Thousand Gifts, I thought I’d just take a look at what else has been said about it around the interwebs. First I found this rather unfavourable review from Challies, then I read this very kind and gracious response by Ann, defending the biblical foundations of her book, and who invited Tim Challies to tea. Then I read this post from Challies asking Voskamp’s forgiveness. Then I read this interesting article at Christianity Today about the whole interchange (but here is a post on CT that addresses what concerned me in how she worked through eucharisteo).

I actually thought it was nobly honest of Tim Challies to admit that he might have written his review differently if Ann Voskamp was someone he considered to be an “insider”. Because that is the thing isn’t it. When I went searching on this book, I found several interviews with Ann Voskamp on the Desiring God website, and also this post on the Ligonier website, and I felt a sense of relief, a kind of ‘oh good, she’s at least kind of in our camp’. But that all becomes a wee little bit absurd at some point doesn’t it? Because none of those people are actually God himself. I mean, I do believe it’s good to listen to the judgment of others we respect. But in the end, Tim Challies is simply a guy who started a blog and started reviewing books. He is discerning, and I read his reviews (well, some of them - if I had ever read this one I had forgotten), but ultimately, he is not actually the benchmark of what is a good book.

And the funny thing is that the “insider” camp I am in is the very thing that probably means I am in very little danger of running off into any kind of mysticism any time soon. My upbringing is too far away from that. I haven’t got the final chapter of this book and the trip to Paris yet, and maybe that is going to be too much (this seems to be the most questionable chapter). We shall see. Voskamp explicitly mentions pantheism, and is well aware of what that is, but panentheism is the slightly different label Challies sends her way, which I haven't yet seen enough to declare her guilty of. She is no theological light-weight, and this is not a pink fluffy book. She also quotes many names we generally approve: Packer, Owen, Calvin, Piper, Tozer, Brueggemann, Keller.

So, to round up my scoping of the the interwebs, here is a review I found, by an English Teacher somewhere, that reflects most accurately my thoughts so far on this book, and also on the reading of books we may not endorse in entirety. The final paragraph is worth reading.

I don’t know that this post has a point. But to say, from what I can gather, most of you folks who regularly read this blog do so because at least some of the things I point to, some of the time, mean something to you in the way that they mean something to me. And so, dear reader, I am going to give you all a vote of confidence and trust this book to your own discernment and, dare I say it, edification.


Pia said...

Actually I think this post says quite a lot (maybe partially implicitly) on how we tend to evaluate and critique the work of others. And how that critique of a work might be more well-meaning or defeating, depending on how we value the person. Even though the piece of work that is evaluated should stand alone, shouldn't it?
And alone the fact that you are fluent with words such as eucharisteo taught me that I still have a lot to learn...
Good post (as so many in your blog - not even to mention all the links that have led me to websites I did not know existed) thank you

Ali said...

Thanks Pia. Yes, I absolutely agree, I think a piece of work should stand alone (even though it might be hard to get our own presuppositions out of the way first!).

I mostly got that work eucharisteo from the book - she uses it about 1,000 times, so if you read it you will be fluent also :).

And thank you - I'm glad that some of the things here mean something to you :).

Paula Louise said...

Thank you for drawing my attention to this book. I've seen it in my local bookshop and have thought, "What a nice cover" but never bothered to pick it up and peruse. After reading your review and checking out the author's website, I'm going to treat myself and buy it.
Another one you recommended, "Notes from a Tilt-A-Whirl' is still on my wish list - think I'll order that one too.


Ali said...

Hi Paula,

It does have a nice cover doesn't it! (I got the leather-look one off Book Depository, because it's so nice.)

I hope it brings you good!