To Read or Not to Read

Here are four books that I am reading right now. One I highly recommend: From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya, the others are up to one’s personal preferences.

If you do like to read then I suggest you have a look at a short commentary I wrote on the book of Galatians. Here’s a link to the PDF:Galatians Overview 3

Here is the Khmer version of my commentary of Galatians:Khmer Galatians 001

1. From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya is a biographical book about different missionaries living over the past 2000 years. I really like this book mostly because it is very honest. There are no angelic visitations, no miraculous escapes, or no “holier than thou” personalities. There are just hard working, dedicated men and women of God giving their all to do what they believe they are called to do. The book is full of very imperfect people making lots of mistakes, getting into trouble, getting sick, and even being killed. It is a very encouraging book to me as I see I don’t have to be perfect to be a successful missionary.

2. The Next Christendom starts out very interesting as it describes Christian history. It soon becomes kind of dry and repetitive as it begins to predict the future of world Christianity using current day statistics. But so far it is an interesting book as it takes a good look at how Christianity is moving out and away from western countries, and is making a strong impact in the 2nd and 3rd world nations. Although I think it’s pretty obvious that Christianity is growing in the southern and poorer nations, the author of the book uses stats that throw all people claiming to be Christian into one big pot. So Catholics, wayward Charismatics, and even Mormons are included together in determining the number of Christians today and in the future. So it is kind of impossible to make all these predictions when the definition of Christian is in dispute. I haven’t finished with this one yet, and if he doesn’t move on from all the charts and graphs showing the same thing, I may never finish it.

3. The Portable Edgar A Poe is a collection of Poe stories, poems, letters, and essays. Poe was a very strange and dark individual, and you don’t need to read a biography on his life to realize that, just read this book. Poe was a great writer, and was always able to give his reader a poetically descriptive storyline. As I personally have a love/hate relationship with cats, I always get a good laugh when reading stories with the theme: “Man vs. Cat”. Here’s an excerpt from Poe’s “The Black Cat”~“One night, returning home, much intoxicated, from one of my haunts about town, I fancied that the cat avoided my presence. I seized him; when, in his fright at my violence, he inflicted a slight wound upon my hand with his teeth. The fury of a demon instantly possessed me. I knew myself no longer. My original soul seemed, at once, to take its flight from my body; and a more than fiendish malevolence, gin-nurtured, thrilled every fiber of my frame. I took from my waistcoat-pocket a pen-knife, opened it, grasped the poor beast by the throat, and deliberately cut one of its eyes from the socket! I blush, I burn, I shudder, while I pen the damnable atrocity.”… “Who has not, a hundred times, found himself committing a vile or a silly action, for no other reason than because he knows he should not? Have we not a perpetual inclination, in the teeth of our best judgment, to violate that which is Law, merely because we understand it to be such?”… “One morning, in cool blood, I slipped a noose about its neck and hung it to the limb of a tree; – hung it because I knew that it loved me, and because I felt it had given me no reason of offense; – hung it because I knew that in doing so I was committing a sin – a deadly sin that would so jeopardize my immortal soul as to place it – if such a thing were possible – even beyond the reach of the infinite mercy of the Most Merciful and Most Terrible God.” In the end, the cat wins.

4. Freedom of the Will is a book I started recently. It is an extremely difficult book to read, and I won’t be surprised if I never am able to finish it. It is a very complicated treatise on the limitations of man’s will in the context of salvation. I can only take this book in small doses. I will often just read one paragraph, and read it again and again until I’ve figured out what the author is trying to say, after that I have to put the book down from mental exhaustion. I enjoy reading books like this because once you’ve figured out what’s being said it opens your mind to a greater understanding, and so it is very rewarding. Here’s an example: “And God has so made and established the human nature, the soul being united to a body in proper state that the soul preferring or choosing such an immediate exertion or alteration of the body, such an alteration instantaneously follows. There is nothing else in the actions of my mind, that I am conscious of while I walk, but only my preferring or choosing, through successive moments that there should be such alterations of my external sensations and motions; together with a concurring habitual expectation that it will be so; having ever found by experience, that on such an immediate preference, such sensations and motions do actually, instantaneously, and constantly arise. But it is not so in the case of flying; though a man may be said remotely to choose or prefer flying; yet he does not prefer, or desire, under circumstances in view, any immediate exertion of the members of his body in order to it; because he has no expectation that he should obtain the desired end by any such exertion and he does not prefer, or incline to, any bodily exertion under this apprehended circumstance, of its being wholly in vain. So that if we carefully distinguish the proper objects of the several acts of the will, it will not appear by this, and such like instances, that there is any difference between volition and preference; or that a man’s choosing liking best, or being pleased with a thing, are not the same with his willing that thing. Thus an act of the will is commonly expressed by its pleasing a man to do thus or thus ; and a man doing as he wills, and doing as he pleases are in common speech the same thing.” So if you’re like me you have to re-read this several times to figure out what’s being said. So, I don’t think I’ll ever finish this book, I’m just not that determined to know so much about the Human Will.

2 responses to “To Read or Not to Read

  1. Hey Harley. I just your commentaries on the books that you are reading. The last one hurt my head just reading it.
    The first one does sound rather coo thoughl. Maybe I’ll pick it up one day.

    • Yeah definitely give it a read. It’s very interesting, and easy to read too. One American missionary in Burma, at one point was so discouraged and depressed, he dug his own grave, and just sat in it for days.

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