The last time we met I talked about my first encounter with a particular philosophical objection to Christianity: the problem of evil. Ever since my first encounter with it, I’ve never been afraid to ask questions and seek answers.
I have to confess something: two of the most influential books in my life were books that I stole. Well, I borrowed them and never gave them back. Does that still count as stealing?
I know somebody who “tried on” Christianity for a while. I don’t know if it was a phase of searching he went through in his life, or if he was once a Christian. In any case, I found a number of books on Christian apologetics and theology in his garage. Figuring he wouldn’t care if they were gone, I borrowed a few of them without permission.
The one that caught my attention and made the most impact on me was Lee Strobel’s The Case for Christ. When I looked at the table of contents I saw that Strobel was writing about the questions that I was asking at the time. In fact, they were many of the same questions I vowed to my friend that I would seek to answer. (See the last post for some context.) Not only that, but it was incredibly compelling to me that Strobel was once an atheist who converted to Christianity after conducting the interviews that he records in The Case for Christ (and its sequels).
Whatever doubts I had leftover from being exposed to the problem of evil began to dissipate as I learned how some of the top scholars in every academic field were confessing Christians. It seemed to me that The Case for Christ gave me intellectual permission to not only believe in Christ, but to also continue to pursue questions about him.
In my junior year of high school I got my hands on another book that was revelatory in a different way. I started to enjoy literary criticism and found a lot of what I was hearing from my classmates (as they analyzed Shakespeare and other authors) quite shallow. I wanted to go deeper into the texts we were reading. So I approached my English teacher about it and she let me borrow a book.
That book was Mortimer Adler’s How to Read a Book. From what I remember, my English teacher actually found this book at a garage sell! Looking back, I simply can’t imagine why anybody would want to get rid of it. I guess that explains why I never gave her copy back.
Adler’s book showed me that anybody who wants to can read a book the way that scholars do. I’ve documented in this series how I was always into knowledge for one-upmanship growing up; but now I realized there was such a thing as gaining knowledge for its own sake. How to Read a Book gave me the knowledge I needed to pursue knowledge. Imagine that.
I don’t recommend stealing either of these books, but I would urge you to do whatever you can to get your hands on them. I hope that, like me, you find them just as transformative.
Next time, I’ll talk about how my newly-found assurance in my faith and my new enthusiasm for reading and learning launched me into my journey toward a lifetime of thinking about the God’s nature.