Sunday, February 06, 2005


I sang at church this weekend. In between services, I sat on the floor so that I could read Steven E. Landsburg's Fair Play. At some point, my pastor walked by and asked what I was reading. I showed him, and mentioned that, although I didn't agree with all of his conclusions, it was a really challenging book, which had a surprising amount to say about right and wrong and what's fair. I told him that it forced me to think about things differently than I'd expected. At which point he said, "It's by Landsburg?" This suggested to me that he might go and find a copy and read it.

My reaction to this is twofold. First, I'd really like for him to read it and give me his thoughts on it. Second, I'd really hate for him to read it and then give me his thoughts on it. In the first case, I'm hopeful that he'd engage in a conversation with me. In the second case, I'm fearful that the conversation would involve me trying to justify why I would read such a book as this. Intellectually, I don't think the second case is very likely - especially if you consider that he reads lots of non-Christian material. But that doesn't keep me from fearing it. So as long as I'm stuck with this fear, I might as well answer it.

I read this book, instead of an overtly Christian book because it challenges me. As a Christian who was formely an atheist, one of the biggest things I'm trying to learn is healthy humility. Basically the idea is this: where I used to think that I could know darn near everything (even though I didn't), I now realize that I can't know everything. I'm limited in my knowledge. I'm not God. Which means that I'm almost always going to be able to encounter someone who knows more than me. And when it comes to people who have actually spent the time and discipline to complete a book, that entire population is likely to know more than me. So I read because I know that I'm not God. I read because I want to grow my understanding of truth. I am drawn to this like almost nothing else in my life. Of course, since God is the author and creator of all truth, this is just one way of being drawn to God.

Up to this point, I have justified why I ought to read Christian books. But Landsburg (so far as I'm aware) is not a Christian author. He's certainly not overtly Christian. Why would I read his book? Because even if he doesn't acknowledge it, he lives under the gracious blessings of God. God may very well have granted Landburg the ability to see, understand and explain a particular truth. Whether Landsburg knows or acknowledges the source of this truth is irrelevant if God has so created a desire in Landsburg to deliver it and Landsburg has done so. As such, I'm compelled to listen to truth from whatever direction it comes. It must be tested against scripture, but if it's truth it's valuable to me.

This is what I think a healthy sense of humility entails. Pursuing the truth with no other agenda except ensuring that it's true. And as someone who struggles with pride, I have to open myself up to the possibility that the truth may come from a direction I don't expect. Which means non-Christian authors must be in the mix.

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