Come November/December and the Christian village in Bangalore goes on a book buying spree. Reason – mega Christmas book sales. The biggest book sale of them all is the Bangalore International Christian Book Fair conducted by OM Books. Thousands and thousands of books are strewn all over the Campus Crusade Hall for people to buy. Its a sale for which people make a beeline even before the sale begins and certainly during the whole week.
However, many a times when I observed the way people buy books(me included; at least some years ago), I found a strange similarity between it and the way people buy vegetables in a grocery store! Just glance at all the books, take some of them, look at the front and the back, if you like it, put them into the basket (even the baskets in these sales look a lot like the ones in grocery store) and head to the billing counter. This is a hyperbole of course. People do take into account whether the books fall somewhere in their sphere of interest and then decide to buy it. However, many a times the reason to buy a particular book stops there. One more reason may be that its a book which is being sold in OM Book Sale; alas! it has to be good since it is found a Christian book fair, right? Continue reading Of Book Sales and Grocery Stores
John MacArthur is undoubtedly one of the best Bible teachers today. He has written over 50 books, all of which clearly show his passion for God’s Word. Pick up any book of MacArthur and you can be sure of certain things a) his books will be solidly biblical b) his arguments will be cogent c) his refutation of anything biblically deviant will be complete. Although I do not hold to all the views that Dr. MacArthur holds to, I respect him highly and thoroughly enjoy his writings.
In this book, Fool’s Gold, Mac Arthur and his seminary team show how there is a great lack of discernment in the Church today and how people rush to embrace any teaching as gold when it is actually spurious. The title of the book is an analogy borrowed from the mad 19th Century gold rush in California which pauperized many (MacArthur is a native of California) — something the authors fear will happen to the Church, in a spiritual sense
They analyze many trends which are prevalent in the church today and present a thorough critique. Many of these trends are present in the Indian Churches also. Some of the issues handled are ‘watered-down’ preaching, Purpose Driven Life’s message, altar calls, contemporary christian music’s lyrics, consumerisitic attitude towards the Church and a few more. The authors go to show how every wind of doctrine is being tolerated in the church today and how the Bible calls for discernment and rejection of such trends.
I must confess that I find it hard to disagree with them. I was quite startled to realize how Purpose Driven Life is so loose in its theology after having read this book. I could not discern it before because I myself did not study the Bible enough to be able to recognize it. This way this book has spurred me on to dig deeper into God’s word.
The Pilgrim’s Progress is the most widely read, published and translated book in the world after the Bible. If such statistics were attributed to any Christian book today, I would have every reason to be wary of it. As a thumb rule, the most popular books in today’s Christendom are the ones which contain what our ears itch to hear. However, that is not true of this classic. The Pilgrim’s Progress was written by John Bunyan (1628-1688) when in prison. He was imprisoned for having conducted religious services unauthorized by the Church of England, which was by-and-large following the Roman Catholic legacy.
The book is written in the form of an allegory (personification of attributes) and is about a person named ‘Christian’ embarking on a journey from the ‘City of Destruction’ to the ‘Celestial City’ immediately after his conversion (or regeneration to be more precise). The pages of the book then take us through the arduous yet exciting journey which characterizes the life of every true believer.
Christian, with a great burden on his back (sin) is guided by an Evangelist to a Wicket Gate but on the way he falls into the Slough of Despond (depression) and is then helped out of it. He is then misguided by one Worldly Wiseman to a village called Morality(self-righteousness). He loses his way but gets on to the right path and comes to the Place of Deliverance where he sees the Cross and the burden falls away automatically (Conversion, I think). Then he proceeds further in the journey with one named Faithful, meets a monster named Apollyon, goes through a place called Vanity Fair (where he loses Faithful), loses his way again and finds himself in a Doubting Castle and is mauled by its owner, Giant Despair, and after much struggle finally arrives to the last hurdle which is a river that separates him from the Celestial City. And you will read how he reaches the blissful destination finally.
Throughout the book Bunyan emphasizes the justice and the wrath of God as much as he emphasizes the love of God. He describes the fate of one Ignorant who is cast into hell. He speaks of the Valley of Shadow of Death where the Christian hears screams of those who are in ‘indescribable torment’. He also mentions of Demas and also Lot’s wife who became a pillar of salt. You will not find a lop-sided portrayal of the love of God in this book. This is the hallmark of Bunyan’s books and in general of all 17th Century English Puritan writers.
My favourite portion of the book is when Christian meets Interpreter who takes him to a room which has a dusty floor. One maid-servant comes and starts sweeping the dust and Christian almost chokes to death. After that she wipes the floor with water and it becomes clean. Interpreter then asks him what this means and Christian seems dumbfounded. The Interpreter then explains that the room is the human heart and the dust is the sin present in it. The broom with which the dust was swept is the Law, which instead of clearing the dust only makes it more ‘active’ thus choking the person to death. The water which is then poured is the Gospel which washes away the sin and makes the heart inclined to God. Outstanding!!! I have come across such profound wisdom in very few books.
Whichever books you read, don’t go through Christian life without reading the Pilgrim’s Progress. It is one of the best pieces of our Christian heritage. No wonder it is considered a classic.
I would highly recommend reading the unabridged and the old-English version since that captures the poetic genius of Bunyan. Howver, modern day versions will make a much easier read. The book is available in ELS and Landmark (modern-day version) and can be also ordered through Indiaplaza.in. Check out Google books too. Happy reading!