Why I Am An Avid Reader

Updated: 9/20/2017 | Photo Cred: (1)

With the new year having just begun, it’s interesting how so many hold onto the idea of starting fresh, even though it’s simply another day of life. How this change in years can cause people to make these pledges of how they will make changes in direction in their lives. Changes like losing weight, being a better spouse, paying off debt, etc. In the spirit of this season of making commitments for the new year, I would like to give my own commitment for the new year.

Along with that, I also want to address why I am an avid reader and why you should be too. But first let me share with you three different true stories revolving around the importance of books and reading. In Pastor Jon Courson’s daily devotional, A Pillar By Day, he writes of an interesting exchange between two men of immense power in the ancient world, in it he writes:

“A story is told in the Mishnah (a collection of Jewish teachings and writings) of a certain Persian king named Arteban who sent to Judah, the prince of Jerusalem, the largest diamond in existence. Upon receiving this gift, Judah sent back to Arteban a copy of the book of Deuteronomy with the accompanying note: What you sent me requires guards to protect it. What I have sent you will guard and protect you (P. 360).”

The night of May 10th, 1933 is a night few can forget. Adolf Hitler and his minister of propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, held a nationwide book burning across 34 university towns in Germany. They burned 25,000 total books by fellow Nazi-influenced university students as they held the Nazi salute (2). Books included, but were not limited to works by Albert Einstein, Helen Keller, and even at the end of the ceremony, copies of the Bible were burned last. It was a night where the existence of free thought was challenged by those indoctrinated by the Nazi agenda. Individuals who were dependent on the thoughts of a tyrant that limited learning to what was deemed politically correct at the time.

John Lennox, a Professor of Mathematics at Oxford University, grew up in Northern Ireland in a Christian upbringing by his parents during the 1940s and 1950s in Armagh. His father, a Christian man, taught him that one ought to know what they believe before they learned what others believed. So he read what he could on Christianity, which included the Bible as often as possible throughout his childhood. His father then taught him that in order to avoid being one sided and biased in his beliefs, he should read what others have to say coming from different belief systems to be a more rounded individual. So his father gave him a copy of The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and told him to read it.

The reason I share these three stories is to show how important reading is in the life of anyone willing to learn. Why it’s so crucial to learn by listening and reading what others have to say on a matter, whatever that matter may be. With the first story showing the value of reading is worth more than the greatest diamond the world can offer, the second story showing the cost of reading the ideas of others that some might disagree with, and the right to know what you believe, as well as what others believe.

Is it any wonder why nearly every dictator or tyrant in history has removed books from the public? As the old saying goes, knowledge is power. It’s absolutely critical to be an avid reader because in reality, there might possibly be no better way to learn something than to simply read.

Various studies show that reading has immense benefits like the following:

  1. Improves Analytical, Memory, Writing, & Vocabulary Skills.
  2. Reduces Stress.
  3. Prevents Alzheimer‘s and Dementia.

Of course, these are not the only benefits, but are the most profound effects that reading can have on the human condition. It’s a little ridiculous as to how beneficial reading really is and how it helps make you a more rounded individual. For me, it aids me in comprehending and understanding the world I inhabit, while at the same time providing me with answers to life’s greatest questions. It’s easily one of the most useful skills that one can use on a day-to-day basis. But in an age of social networking, it has been left to die out with each new generation.

Admittedly, I’m not one to talk because I too neglect the power of reading. Yet because it’s a new year I have made a promise to myself and to others to read at the very least 10 books. Not just any ten books though, but specifically these 10 books:

  1. The Sacred Search by Gary Thomas
  2. Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
  3. Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis
  4. My Utmost For His Highest by Oswald Chambers
  5. The Real Kosher Jesus by Michael L. Brown
  6. Rise by Trip Lee
  7. Why Suffering by Ravi Zacharias & Vince Vitale
  8. Against the Flow by John C. Lennox
  9. Warranted Christian Belief by Alvin Plantinga
  10. Rebel With A Cause by Franklin Graham

Now I have already finished reading The Sacred Search, which was great and have started Mere Christianity, which is also great. So at this point I’m at a great pace. Of course to some this may seem like a lot, but if you think about it, it’s basically a book a month. Actually closer to a month and a week per book.

That’s 5 weeks to read one book. That is very doable. In fact I challenge those of you who do not usually read books to make a list of 10 books and try to read them in a year. Or you could make a list of 12 books and read a book a month to challenge yourself. All I’m saying is that you should something to test your mind and keep it fit by simply reading books. Whether that’s just one book a year or 365 books a year, it’s up to you. Nevertheless, my challenge to you is to read 10 books.

To all of my avid readers out there, I know what you’re thinking: “Chris, why is your list so short?” Well, in reality, I was never just going to just read 10 books this year. This was merely the starting point of my 2016 reading list and these were just the first 10 books that I wanted to read.

Since I have made my list, it has grown to about 25 books for the year, which amounts to basically a book every 2 weeks. Not exactly lightning fast, but a good amount that’s manageable for me. And again, everyone has their own speed that they can read a book.

I know for some a book a month is a struggle, while I know others that can read a book in a day. For instance, growing up Dr. Ben Carson and his brother would read 2 books a week because his mother wanted them to get out of their poverty stricken lives in Detroit, Michigan by educating themselves. Needless to say, they are both very successful individuals, whether or not you agree with everything they believe.

The bottom line is, what are you waiting for? Get out there and learn for crying out loud! Educate yourself or entertain yourself with some truly amazing books waiting to be read. Whether they be historical, fictional, or comedic, any book will due.

The point is that I am an avid reader and you should be too because every benefit outweighs every detriment to reading books. So why not start this year with a positive change that will greatly impact you by taking time to crack open a book and learning something new? The choice is up to you. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless!

Footnotes

  1. https://www.pexels.com/
  2. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/goebbels/peopleevents/e_book.html
  3. Disclaimer
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Why I Am Not A Calvinist

Updated: 9/12/2017 | Photo Cred: (1)

 In the first installment of my “Why I Am” series, I will be giving three brief reasons as to why I do not adhere to the Judeo-Christian school of thought known as Calvinism. As I have studied and read about Calvinism, there have been many sources I have used to write this blog-post. Some of these sources were Norman Geisler’s sermon called “Why I Am Not a 5 Point Calvinist” (2), George L. Bryson’s book on Calvinism (3), and Tim Stratton’s 4-part series “The Petals Drop” on his website (4). There were other resources, but these were the main three that inspired me to write this blog-post.

So what is Calvinism exactly? Calvinism is a type of Christian doctrine created in the 16th Century by the French Theologian John Calvin to answer how God’s Sovereignty and Humanity’s Free Will coexist together. There are five main parts to Calvinism. According to gotquestions.org (5), Calvinism can be summarized by the acronym TULIP and is defined as the following:

  1. Total Depravity: “Every aspect of humanity is tainted by sin; therefore, human beings are unable to come to God on their own accord.”
  2. Unconditional Election: “God elects individuals to salvation based entirely on His will, not on anything inherently worthy in the individual.”
  3. Limited Atonement: “Jesus only died for the elect.”
  4. Irresistible Grace: “When God calls a person to salvation, that person will inevitably come to salvation.”
  5. Perseverance of the Saints: “A person who is elected by God will persevere in faith and will not permanently deny Christ or turn away from Him.”

In other words, a Calvinist is a Christian that sees everything with an over-emphasis on God’s Sovereignty, which entails either a deterministic or compatibilistic philosopical view of the world. Here is a quick illustration that I made to put into perspective where Calvinism stands in the grand spectrum of the issue of God’s Sovereignty vs. Humanity’s Free Will within Christianity:

God's Sovereignty & Humanity's Free Will- 6 Stances

One last thing is that when I refer to a Calvinist or Calvinism, I am referring to a 5-Point Calvinist. Not those that claim to be any combination that is short of a 5-Point Calvinist like a 4-Point Calvinist or a 2-Point Calvinist. But the whole point of the 5 points of Calvinism is that they are supposed to work together like the pillars to a building. By removing one point you fracture the legitimacy of the other four points and the foundation of Calvinism in general because they were designed by John Calvin to work together, not to work independently of each other. With that said, let’s look at my objections and see why I am not a Calvinist.

1) Calvinism is Great Exegesis Without Hermeneutics

In general, with the Calvinistic perspective on Scripture, there are massive misinterpretations of certain passages within the Bible. Most notably, Scriptures such as Romans chapters 9-11, John chapter 6, Ephesians 1:1-4, and the list goes on. In contrast, there are Scriptures like 1 John 2:2, Romans 1:16-17, or 1 Timothy 2:3-6 that explicitly go against Calvinism. Put simply, context is key and exegesis without context is like a madman with a sword.

2) Calvinism is Logically Incoherent to Share the Gospel

If you think about the Gospel from the Calvinist perspective, Jesus only came to save the elect, only the elect will go to Heaven, and only the elect will get saved. So then sharing the Gospel becomes useless and pointless because those who are predestined to go to Heaven will go to Heaven and those who are predestined to go to Hell will go to Hell, while at the same time you have no say in the matter.  As Bryson put it in his book, The Five Points of Calvinism, “You will be saved or damned for all eternity because you were saved or damned from all eternity.” (Bryson, 121). Although some of the most prominent preachers have been Calvinists like Charles Spurgeon, their actions are not logically consistent with determinism. It is the equivalent of preaching to tombstones because no matter what some people are just doomed to damnation because it somehow glorifies God.

3) Calvinism Makes God the Author of Evil

If God is completely sovereign, then from the Calvinistic perspective God is the author of evil because He brought it into existence. This goes against everything that characterizes God as worthy of worship and completely good. How can a perfect being bring about imperfection? Only through the Calvinistic perspective is this possible because God is the cause of everything that exists including evil, instead of Eve and Lucifer bringing sin into God’s creation by going against God in their own free will. Philosopher William Lane Craig on the subject of Calvinism once said “according to this view (causal determinism and compatibilism), the way in which God sovereignly controls everything that happens is by causing it to happen, and freedom is re-interpreted to be consistent with being causally determined by factors outside oneself (6).”

So since God is ultimately the first cause of everything, God is therefore the author of evil and good. Something that is completely contradictory to the Bible and Judeo-Christianity as a whole. There are even Calvinist’s that affirm that God is the author of evil. People like R.C. Sproul Jr. affirm this idea of God being the author of evil several times throughout his book (7) that deals with this issue.

Now these are just 3 of many objections I have to Calvinism and are just reasons as to why I do not affirm to be Calvinist. Other objections I have include sin being excusable or God lying to people in the Bible, but that would take awhile to explain every objection I have to Calvinism, so for the sake of time I only chose 3 objections. Hopefully, this helps you with understanding this issue and maybe one day you can decide where you stand on the issue of how God’s Sovereignty and Humanity’s Free Will interact together. My advice for those of you do not understand this issue quite yet is to just believe what the Bible affirms: 1) that God is Sovereign and 2) that humans have Free Will. This is the safest stance concerning this issue because it is strictly Biblical avoids the gridlock nature of philosophical schools of thought like Calvinism among others. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless!

Footnotes

  1. https://restorethegospel.wordpress.com/2009/11/19/a-conversation-about-calvinism-and-arminianism/
  2. https://youtu.be/fPpkSiO1Ci
  3. The Five Points of Calvinism, George L. Bryson
  4. http://freethinkingministries.com/the-petals-drop-why-calvinism-is-impossible/
  5. https://www.gotquestions.org/Calvinism-vs-Arminianism.html
  6. http://www.reasonablefaith.org/molinism-vs-calvinism
  7. http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2008/09/taking-calvinism-too-far-rc-sproul-jr%E2%80%99s-evil-creating-deity/http://amzn.to/2xM4F1Q
  8. Disclaimer