As readers of this blog know I recently published two books, Rethinking Church and The New Adam: What the Early Church Can Teach Evangelicals (and Liberals) About the Atonement (Cascade, 2021). Although I felt compelled to write and publish those books and I believe they are worth reading, I have a hard time feeling good about promoting them. Part of my hesitancy arises from imagining that other people might view me as promoting myself, seeking honor, or placing myself above others.
This fear was reinforced about a week ago. I posted a link to the Amazon.com page for The New Adam to a FB group to which I belong. (It is important that you know that this is a church group.) One person commented on the link something like this:
“I wish people would stop trying to sell their Bulls…ty books to this group.” [BTW to protect this person’s identity, I’ve deleted the original post and all subsequent comments.]
What do you say to a comment like this? I said something like this:
“I did not know bulls…ty was a biblical term. Perhaps, even if you read my book you would still think that it is bulls…ty, but surely you cannot know this before you read it. I wonder what you want from authors and teachers. Should they cease writing and speaking and hide their thoughts from the world for fear that someone will think they are merely seeking attention or placing themselves above others? I think about all the great books I’ve read and how much I appreciate the labor that went into them and the insights I received from them. Indeed, no human being is without sin. Everyone loves honor and enjoys attention, and no author’s heart is entirely pure. But isn’t too cynical to judge the work of every author, speaker, and teacher—even when you have not studied their works—as exclusively self-aggrandizement?”
I agree that there are too many books. Libraries are full of them, and millions more are printed every year. Many of them repeat what has been said hundreds of times already. Most do not grab my attention. With rare exceptions, I read only the best books I can find on whatever issue I am thinking about at the time.
Why then do I write more books and essays? Is it because I need attention and confirmation? Perhaps this is a factor; I won’t deny it. But there are other reasons as well. When I was a young person I had many troubling questions. I needed answers. I asked my teachers, and I searched in books. Within my circle at that time I found no one who could help. And there were so many books in the library I did not where to start. Soon realized that to make progress I had to think through problems for myself, and I discovered that the best way for me to do that was to write. I also discovered through experience that other people could benefit from my work of thinking and writing.
What drives me to write and publish, besides the need for attention and affirmation? I want to understand my Christian faith insofar as I can and I believe that helping others to understand is one of the best things I can do for them.
Do I believe that by thinking about the issues surrounding the atonement I have achieved greater insight into my faith in Jesus Christ and the salvation he offers? Yes. I do. Do I want you to read The New Adam? Yes. I do. Do I want you to tell others about it? Yes…because I want them see what I have seen and experience what I have experienced. I pray the Lord will forgive me for my less noble motives. And if there is any bulls…t in my books I pray that my readers will forgive that as well.
Note on the definition of B.S.: In his famous essay “On Bs…t,” Harry Frankfurt defines this mode of speech as focused not primarily on truth, as the liar and the truth teller are, but on conveying a favorable impression about the speaker to the audience. One who speaks this way carelessly blabs confidently about things he does not really understand (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005).
It is sad that so many feel compelled to criticize another person without knowledge. I have not read your book as yet, Ron, but I have found that anything you write edifies our Lord and Jesus Christ far above you notwithstanding any of your motives. Knowledge is something to be sought and people who criticize are probably the same ones who don’t seek knowledge. Keep up the good work, my friend!
Reblogged this on eScriptorium.