It is 9:27 AM Sunday morning and I am waking up to a new work week. I decided not to go to church this morning. I need time to drift and not rush off someplace. I need a mental health break. I got up around 9:15 AM this morning. I never stay in bed that long, I must be whipped. Carol came home from work and woke me up this morning. So here I sit drinking a cup of tea listening to Freakwater. I woke up this morning thinking about a question someone asked in a livejournal. The person asked folks to list the books that changed their lives. I listed four books 1. the Bible 2. "The Collected Writings of St. John of the Cross" 3. "The Cloud of Unknowing" and 4. "Carthusian Spirituality: The Writings Of Hugh Of Balma And Guigo De Ponte" [The Classics Of Western Spirituality]. This morning the more I thought about the question I have to say that these four books are the books I would keep with me if I was chained at the bottom of the egg pit for the rest of my days. But as I think about books that have influenced me or changed me I have to say that at certain periods of my life certain books effected me intellectually and spiritually. One has to keep in mind that I became a Christian when I turned 18 years old. That means I had not been reading that many books in my youth. I do remember reading the Bible from the age of 13 to 16 years old. But in my early teens I did not read that many books. When I was in the 12th grade in High School is when I started reading books. In those early days of youth I was searching for the meaning of life. I suppose the book that effected me in High School was Jack Kerouac's book "On The Road" and Henry Miller's book "The Tropical of Cancer". These books caused me to start writing a diary which I have continued to do till this moment. The thing that changed me in High School was LSD. I suppose there were other things that shaped my world and life view in High School besides drugs like the Anti-war movement, the Hippie movement, the poetry of Allen Ginsberg, especially his poem "Howl", sex and rock no roll music.
As a new Christian in 1970 I did not read books but only The Book the Bible. I mainly just read the Bible from 1970 till 1975. I did read Christian books but none of them effected me or changed my view of reality. The book that changed my understanding of the Bible was a commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews by A.W. Pink. In this book Pink quotes the 17th Century English Puritans. So to make a long story short certain books by the Puritans effected me spiritually and intellectually. Here is a list of books by Puritans that changed me at a certain stage of my existence.
1. "The Harmony of The Divine Attributes In The Contrivance And Accomplishment Of Man's Redemption" by William Bates
2. "The Christian In Complete Armour; A Treatise Of the Saints' War against the Devil" by William Gurnall
3. "Looking Unto Jesus: A View Of The Everlasting Gospel; Or, The Soul's Eyeing Of Jesus, As Carrying On The Great Work Of Man's Salvation, From First To Last" by Isacc Ambrose
4. "The Saint's Everlasting Rest" by Richard Baxter
The above is not a complete list of Puritan works that effected me but a few to read to get a taste of Puritan Spirituality. I read the writings of the Puritans for the next 20 years. I also during these years became a Calvinist and read a ton of scholastic Reformed Theology. Over these 20 years I did not change much in my spirituality I was basically a Beat Puritan Bum. It was while being a seminary student at Reformed Theological Seminary that I got into the study of the Bible especially Pauline Theology. In seminary I finally began to see that the Puritans did not have all the Truth. I began to have a appreciation of modern biblical scholarship. Also in seminary I took a class on Christian Spirituality from Dr. Peter Toon that got me back into the writings of St. John of the Cross. I can not think of one book or books that influenced me in seminary. In seminary many things happened that changed me. I will though mention one man biblical theologian that I would recommend for folks to read, that is Dr. Meredith G. Kline. Read his book "Images Of The Spirit" sometime.
After seminary we moved to Houston Texas where I did my pastor internship in a PCA church. I will not go into the gory details of my internship but say it was while in Houston that I got deep into Christian Spirituality and Puritan Spirituality. But also slowly I was getting into the study of the Bible. I begun to see slowly some aspects of classical Reformed theology did not fit into the teachings of the New Testament. It was during this time as an intern in a PCA church that I taught a Adult Sunday School class on Second Corinthians which caused me to question Puritan Covenant Theology. I recommend these books on Second Corinthians.
1. "2 Corinthians" [Tyndale New Testament Commentary] by R.V. G. Tasker
2. "From Triumphalism to Maturity: An Exposition of 2 Corinthians 10-13" by Donald A. Carson
3. "II Corinthians" [The Anchor Bible Commentary] by Victor Paul Furnish
4. "The Second Epistle To The Corinthians" [The New International Commentary on the New Testament] by Paul Barnett
5. "2 Corinthians" [Word Biblical Commentary] by Ralph P. Martin
It was while living in Houston that I read a ton of stuff on Christian Spirituality and started collecting books on the history of Christian Spirituality. I would often spend time at a local Catholic seminary and read books and articles on the history of Christian Spirituality. I recommend these sets of books on the history of Christian Spirituality.
1. "Christian Spirituality 1: Origins To The Twelfth Century" Edited by Bernard McGinn, John Meyendorff, and Jean Leclercq
2. "Christian Spirituality 2: High Middle Ages And Reformation" Edited By Jill Raitt (these two volumes are found in a series titled World Spirituality: An Encyclopedic History Of The Religious Quest)
3. "A History Of Christian Spirituality Three Volumes/ Vol. 1 The Spirituality of the New Testament and the Fathers" by Louis Bouyer
Vol. 2 "The Spirituality of the Middle Ages" by Jean Leclercq, Francois Vanderbroucke and Louis Bouyer and Vo. 3 "Orthodox Spirituality and Protestant and Anglican Spirituality" by Louis Bouyer. I bought this set in seminary along with books by the Beats Kerouac and Burroughs.
4. "The Foundations Of Mysticism: Origins to the Fifth Century" by Bernard McGinn [from a series The Presence Of God: A History of Western Christian Mysticism]
5. "The Growth Of Mysticism: Gregory the Great through the 12th Century" by Bernard McGinn [ The Presence of God: A History of Western Christian Mysticism]
6. "The Flowering Of Mysticism: Men and Women in the New Mysticism-1200-1350" by Bernard McGinn [The Presence of God: A History of Western Christian Mysticism]
7. "Christian Spirituality" by Rev. P. Pourrat three volumes a classic!
I also got into Thomas Merton and Centering Prayer while living in Texas.
After we did my internship I looked for a job and never got a call to work in a church. All the doors slammed into my face and I was left alone in the American Religious world. We packed our bags and moved north to where my wife grew up in Holland Mich.
We came here going on 11 years ago and I was at a lost what to do with myself? I have read many books over the last 11 years but I stopped reading mainly the old writers about four years ago and have read whatever interest me at the moment. I would though mention one old writer or minister that I believed effected me when I was teaching Reformed Theology about eight years ago at the church we go to on Sundays. The book is two volumes titled "Sermons Of The Rev. James Saurin Late Pastor Of The French Church At The Hague" these two volumes were published in 1832. I highly recommend the sermons of Saurin.
The point of this book rap is that certain books effect me or change me as I crawl down the road of existence.