books you should read

alright time for the second installment of the ever-anticipated series, "books you should read" according to luke. as far as i know a couple people started reading the brothers off my last post, and as far as i know none of them finished it or maybe even got very far at all. some of the same and others have it on their list for down the road. we'll see. you have my strongest encouragements. it will be worth it.

but in any event i thought it would be nice to give you a book of a little more manageable size. this one isn't without its own issues though, as you're not likely to find it in any library or bookstore. this is an online only selection, which means you have to buy it--or borrow it from me. i never make it easy on you do i? well, again--trying to give myself room to grow.

so without further adieu, here is the present selection:

The Myth of Certainty by Daniel Taylor
subtitle: The Reflective Christian and the Risk of Commitment.

i could say a lot of things to start off praising this book. but i think i'll start by just listing the authors taylor quotes at the beginning of each chapter:

t.s. eliot
blaise pascal (often)
lenny bruce
flannery o'connor
soren kierkegaard (a lot)
jesus christ (probably good eh?)
helmut thielicke
karl barth
jacques ellul

if you don't know who all of those people are, it's ok--i don't know every one of them either. but even the ones i do know alone makes for a stellar list. even better are the actual words they say. i'll intersperse some quotes from taylor in here throughout my writing. looking through for the quotes and such has really made me want to read this book again myself. it's definitely worthy of a multi-read, which is saying a lot since i don't do that much.

now before you go thinking this is just another good christian self-help book, let me speak to that. as the subtitle suggests, it is written for the "reflective chrisitan." or to put it another way, the christian who thinks about their faith. in contrast to the christian that doesn't. which, surprisingly is a little higher than we'd probably like it to be. this book speaks to the christian who isn't so sure about a lot of what they see in the "christian" world. it is written to the guy in the room full of christians thinking, "am i the only one that thinks there is something not right here?" it is written to the christian who sometimes struggles with doubt but exists within a system that often doesn't allow for it.

"We crave explanation because it contributes to perhaps the most basic of all nonphysical human needs--the need for security...Once in operation, a belief system processes all information, all evidence, in its own terms, appropriating that which verifies its outlook and defusing or ignoring anything else."

many of us have a sort of love/hate relationship with this "system." you could call it "the church" if you like--though it might not be the best word for it--because then you feel guilty if you speak badly about it, for we all must heed the words of augustine: "the church is a whore, but she's my mother." though the book is not about separating from or accusing the "church." no it's about learning to live within this culture but not let it take away from genuine faith and thought and uncertainty and existence. the "church" works against those things a lot. perhaps a better word, as taylor uses in the tradition of kierkegaard is "christendom."

"Not only is Christendom not synonymous with a life in Christ, following Christ may well require rejecting parts of Christendom."

this book was way ahead of its time. it was written in 1986, revised in '92. it speaks to the "postmodern christian" before anyone new to call us that, or before it became hip and trendy to do so (i don't think he ever actually uses that word though). it spoke out against an overly-conservative and legalistic american church that still exists in a lot of ways today--though a lot of communities have grown through this. perhaps the book would speak to you about the christianity you knew growing up more than the one you know now. perhaps it will help you to see more of the distinction. and perhaps it will speak some to where you're at now.

"All our perceptions are at least partially flawed as well as limited...The obsession with error makes one fear commitment to anything that is not self-evident, or at least embraced by a large percentage of others who play the same game."

i think the best part about this book is that it speaks to the christian with issues with christians. it speaks to the christian who is conflicted living within a modern christendom but so greatly desires to not only express their own faith in new ways, but to see the church as a whole come to find these expressions and freedoms as well. i'm speaking vaguely here, and it's about to turn into more of a blog post if i get too specific.

"Doubt derives its greatest strength from those who fear it most."

but we all have these individual views of reality, and it seems as if being a christian is about having to assert that my view is the absolute and only right one. not only does this greatly clash with postmoderns, but it reeks of pretentiousness and arrogance. we must stand for the truth with our certainty thinking that it's the only way to really be a christian, and anything else is just subserving the culture or copping out. certainty is our excuse for arrogance. i could tell you more about "the myth" of certainty, but perhaps you should find out about it for yourself (pointer: that's a tricky way of saying you should read the book).

one final word: this is not an easy book. i don't mean it's hard to read. he intersperses fiction in there as well actually and it is done pretty well--at least it helps serve the book and isn't terribly written. no, i mean that it is a challenging read. it will challenge your ideas. it might challenge your "security." you could hate some of this book perhaps. other parts of it might have you saying YES enthusiastically. but it will probably shake you some. i think it is a good shaking and one that is absolutely necessary--but you must be willing to be shook to let the fruit fall and grow something new, something good.


  1. You were the FIRST person that I met that even knew about this book. It one of my favorites, as well. Top 5 list, for sure.

  2. i'd like to read this...do you think i could borrow it?