In lieu of a typical book review, as is my habit from time to time, allow me to mention half a dozen things I greatly appreciated about this book. It will definitely make the list for my “Favorite Books of the Year.”
This is the seventh book I’ve read by Smith. All of them made me think in fresh and provocative ways. How (Not) to be Secular was my favorite. It now comes in a close second to Smith’s latest. On the Road with Saint Augustine is now my favorite.
So here are a half dozen things I appreciated about this book:
*There is elegant writing combined with keen insights. It is no surprise that On the Road with Saint Augustine received a coveted starred review by Publishers Weekly.
*It makes a compelling case for why Augustine is the ideal travel partner as we make our way through life. For me, both Augustine and Bunyan (there are others) have been indispenable to have as my vagabond friends.
*There is a thick realism in this book (take note Joel Osteen), but Smith always keeps this tethered to a compelling hope.
*Smith has a good nose for the telling quote or captivating illustration. HIs wide-reading across various disciplines showcases the brilliance of Augustine.
*In my own teaching, and especially in my ministry of discipleship with men, this is the kind of book that I can use as a gateway of sorts to the riches of Christian history.
*I’ve always found that great books help me clarify important issues. My marginalia reflects this reality in On the Road with Saint Augustine. For example, in the chapter on friendship, Smith’s interaction with Heidegger resulted in my marginal comment of “Molds are everywhere, so it is impossible to break out of every single mold.” In other words, autonomous individuals don’t exist because they can’t exist.
Whenever the time comes that sales begin to dwindle for this book, I would recommend Brazos making booklets out of some chapters. For example, the chapter on freedom is one I would love to give to any thoughtful person, irrespective of whether they are a Christian.
I imagine many of you are aware of the recent unpleasantries (yes, a mild word!) between Beth Moore and John MacArthur. I thought you might find my letter to Pastor MacArthur of interest:
Dear Pastor MacArthur,
I heard you preach in person right after Christmas 1977. I was with fifteen friends. We were on our way to a Campus Crusade for Christ conference in southern California. I was a young convert to Christianity. Your message clarified that my faith in Christ was real. Thank you!
In my twenties and early thirties, I was the director of Campus Crusade for Christ at Stanford University. I went through some deep waters of doubt during that time. During one of my lowest moments I heard you deliver a message over the airwaves. It was a great encouragement to me. I wrote you a letter saying so. To my surprise, you wrote back…a personal letter. I still have that letter. Thank you!
In my late thirties and early forties, I had a radio show here in Austin. Most of the time I interviewed authors and leaders of various backgrounds. You were one of my guests and stayed for the entire hour. That alone is quite a commitment, but my show was on Saturday afternoons. Since Sunday is a big day of ministry for you, I was impressed you would give me the entire hour. Thank you!
Most recently, I met one of your sons. Business brought him to Austin. We had breakfast together. I couldn’t believe how much he looks like you! I thought I was looking at the man I heard preach when I was that three-month old Christian. Your son said you are the real deal: a great dad who is uncomfortable with the praise of men. I was tremendously encouraged to hear all that. Thank you!
My own convictions about men and women in the home fall roughly in the complementarian camp, though I might be one of the “softer” types that seems to be a non-category for you. I won’t get into the hermeneutical weeds on that issue because this a short letter not a theological treatise.
I humbly ask you to reconsider the tone of what you said about Beth Moore. For the record, I’ve had my own concerns about her teaching as well. However, your tone came across dismissive and condescending. At the very least, it seems one of you should have mentioned to the chortles of the crowd that this was no laughing matter. Instead, it seemed that you, Todd Friel, and Phil Johnson had no problem with the loud laughter of those gathered that day.
I am now sixty-one and the beneficiary of over forty years of your ministry. From listening to you over the years, I have every confidence that you will seriously consider what I say in light of Scripture. Thank you!
David (George) Moore
Very good exchange:
My interview that just posted today:
STEPPING INTO CONTROVERSY…WITH COURAGE AND CHRIST-LIKE CHARACTER
IS IT POSSIBLE IN OUR DIVISIVE AND TURBULENT TIME?
Taught by Dave Moore
Imagine that you are at your favorite coffee shop. Everything about the place is great, except the tables are a bit too close to one another. This, of course, makes it difficult to avoid eavesdropping. Your reading tends to zone you out from the conversations of others, but not on this day. To your utter amazement you listen in on a conversation between an ardent Trump supporter and one who gladly voted for Hillary Clinton. It is not the various arguments that are being mustered for one candidate over the other that intrigues you. Rather, it is the evident respect each person has for the other even while articulating their significant disagreements.
It is hard to go back to your reading for the day. You become preoccupied with why the kind of exchange you just heard is as rare as it is refreshing…even in your local church.
For seven weeks we will discuss several areas that can hurt or help us as we discuss controversial subjects. A sampling of these include:
*Taking honest inventory of our own failure to be prepared and/or interact with grace
*The need to slow down and pay more careful attention to the definition of words
*Diagnosing how much of an echo chamber we live in
*The need to read and listen to those who make us angry…and to pay close attention to what our “opponents” can teach us
*Why the focus must be on our own challenges rather than being frustrated with those we disagree with
We will also be looking various points raised in How to Think: A Survival Guide for a World at Odds by Alan Jacobs. Copies will be available.
Brilliant piece by Alan Jacobs (HT: John Fea)