Reading a book engages both intellect and emotion. Reading produces thought and evokes feeling. Especially when reading that which challenges or contradicts one’s own personal views. Encountering a viewpoint unlike one’s own produces tension. With tension comes struggle. But struggle, we must remember often produces growth.
Recently while participating in a book club, I found myself in profound disagreement with the author of the book we had chosen. I don’t prefer to be a negative person but when I read the first chapter of this book, I felt the tension boil up. My hands became sweaty. My pulse quickened. I felt defensive. The book is about this particular author’s view of Jesus. Bottom line is that the author denies that Jesus is THE Son of God. He seeks to be accommodating to the teaching of Jesus and admires the lifestyle of Jesus but he proposes a view of Jesus that is diametrically opposed to my own.
In his opinion Jesus is misunderstood by Christians in that we view Him as Messiah. Keep in mind that I’ve only read chapter one so far so maybe there will be something ahead on which we can find agreement. But in the present moment I just want to put the book away and avoid the tension I am feeling.
So why read a book with which you disagree?
My motivation is that I want to understand better the mind of the skeptic and unbelieving. By the way, I would suspect that the author of the said book would take issue that I refer to him as “unbelieving”. He would insist that he believes….at least in a “kind” of Jesus…..just not the “kind” I believe in.
I don’t know if I will ever meet the author face to face. If I do I would converse with him about our differences. In the meantime, I realize that his views are shared by people I know. There are people with whom I converse that accept this very view of Jesus. I want to be better prepared to converse with those who hold this view of Jesus. Maybe if I read their book, they will read mine….the Bible. Or maybe if I will be patient enough to listen to them, they will offer the same cordiality.
So…… the book we are reading in our book club is controversial and causes stress. So does the Bible. Both for unbelievers and believers alike. If I put the Bible down every time I felt stress and tension, I guess I wouldn’t be very far along in my faith.
So I will continue to read, think, study, ponder, discuss, engage, grapple, muse, moan, groan, weep, laugh, shake my head, shrug my shoulders. I just want to be open to the fact that I might yet have something to learn, something to gain by the stress of listening in on a viewpoint which contradicts and offends my own.
Elton Trueblood said, “the unexamined faith is not worth having”. Jesus proclaimed that even the “gates of Hades would not overcome His kingdom purposes…” Matthew 16:18 So I guess in the grand scheme of things one man’s book is not too much of a threat after all.