Friday, March 3, 2017

Book Review: The Curious Christian

The Curious Christian. Barnabas Piper. 2017. B&H. 176 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I definitely enjoyed reading Barnabas Piper's newest book, The Curious Christian. In this book, he explores what it means to be a curious person and argues that Christians should be more curious. The first half of this one was my favorite. It is "To Be Christian is to Be Curious." The second half was also good. It is "Curious About….?" In this second section, one of the many things he addresses is the importance of reading books!!! How could I not love that chapter?!

In his own words,
I will do my best to show how curiosity is one of the most significant ways we have to be image bearers of God, how it can deepen and expand our relationships with others, how it can lead us to an entirely more significant impact on society, and how it will lead us deeper into beautiful relationship with God for all time. Curiosity leads to discovery of great truth throughout all of life. Without it we tread the same paths to and from work, in and out of relationships, through our churches, across the pages of books and Scripture, all without ever seeing what’s really there.
One of the points he emphasizes throughout is that real curiosity seeks TRUTH.
We don’t get to define truth or select it. Instead we must recognize and adhere to it. Truth is what is real, what is, but it is more than this—much more. If all we did was look around and determine truth by what we saw, we would end up exactly where are: in a society where truth shifts, morphs, changes, and loses credibility and value each day. Instead we must recognize that truth expresses reality as it ought to be. It is a standard for reality not just a reflection of what currently exists and happens.
He continues,
Truth reflects some aspect of God’s character and persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, in some way—though no truth in this world can display any of them fully. It displays His plan, work, or creation as He intended it to be and will one day make it again. This is the ultimate real and while it is a great adventure we do not choose what it will be. We do not pick the ending or the workings or the plot; the Author does that. Truth is entirely shaped and determined by God. All truth is God’s truth and reflects this Trinitarian reality.
He argues that curiousity "is the key to sorting it all out, to making a way forward, to actually fulfilling the vocational calling we have to reflect God’s image. We are not only created to reflect and echo God, we are tasked with doing so in all of life…In order to represent God to the world, we must know Him, and to do that we must learn. We must search for truth about His nature, His character, and His work. We must explore both His Word and His world. We absolutely must be curious if we are Christians. Without it we cease to grow and we become incapable of fulfilling our purpose in life. If we start by growing in this divine curiosity we will then be prepared to begin exploring this weird, complicated messy world that is full of so much amazing truth and beauty and so many awful lies and horror."

I loved this book. Why? Because it made me think and rethink how I see the world. I'd never really given much thought to if I was curious, or to what degree I was curious. But Piper shows that there are many ways to be curious. And we don't have to all be curious about the same things in the same ways. Our different ways to be curious makes us unique in a way. 

One of my favorite quotes:
Without curiosity we cannot be what God designed us to be. We cannot know Him or His truth as we ought or care for His creation as He wishes. We cannot understand this world or its creator or its faults or its blessings. Curiosity is where that all begins, and curiosity must begin at God Himself—searching, asking, digging, discovering, growing. If we start there, His image will reflect and His voice will resonate from us into a world that needs it deeply.
See that is food for thought!!!!

In addition to discussing curiosity, Piper discusses perspective. And I thought how the two relate to one another was important.
Perspective comes from seeing things differently, from experiencing things widely. Perspective comes from feeding curiosity and giving it a chance to roam and see and feel. And it comes from seeing and experiencing all these things in a context of biblical truth. Perspective feeds curiosity because it sees life from different sides and from different points of view. Curiosity then feeds perspective because it asks and seeks and explores and finds new points of view and hidden truths. Most people in the world are strangers to us. We don’t know them. We know nothing about them. We view them as stranger than us. Or we don’t view them as anything at all because they are nonentities to us. Only curiosity overcomes this. 
Some will read this and think I am saying we should only read Christian fiction and watch Christian films. Good gravy, no. All that will do is turn you into a sheltered, unrealistic, fearful idealist with no concept of the real world or how to function in it. If you are a discerning person you can learn much of God, of people, of God’s creation through distinctly non-Christian stories and depictions of reality too. If we do not expand our horizons, we are missing out on the people who love those horizons and the artists who create them.
Do not assume anyone or anything has nothing to offer you. If God made it then it has value, and if it is a person then he or she bears God’s imprint the same as you. It is arrogance to treat anyone or anything as valueless and uninteresting. If, then, all created things have value and hold interest, we should ask questions, and only humble people are free to do this. Asking questions is an admission of ignorance and a tacit statement of need. Pride abhors this stance. Proud people are embarrassed to ask questions and to look vulnerable. Pride kills curiosity quicker than anything. So foster humility by constantly looking at the expanse of God, His creation, and all you don’t yet know about it.
Barnabas Piper on reading:
Nothing has grown and shaped my curiosity like books. I do not think there is a single medium in the world that so effectively shares information, opens new worlds, and ignites the imagination as books. It would seem you agree since you are, after all, reading or listening to a book. Books are largely what made me want to write. Books have shaped my perspectives on God, friends, sports, civil issues, faith, church, art, and nearly everything else. I read for fun and I read to learn. My greatest risk in reading is that I will collect knowledge but do not act on it, that I will become a card catalog of knowledge instead of being intent on bringing my curiosity to bear in the world.
A novel shows truth, it presents a deeper layer of truth that, if described, would be boring at best and unrecognizable at worst. But when we find it woven in a story, we know it to be true. Good vs. evil, nobility, honesty, courage, friendship, self-sacrifice—these are truths that fiction reveals in a way nonfiction often struggles to do.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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