A Gracious Place

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Seminary Made Easy

Since my Eschatology professor made it clear today that I am not allowed to use Wikipedia as a source for my research paper, I decided to head on over to the bookstore to take a look at some other sources. This series caught my eye. Apparently, these are pocket guides designed for new believers. In a short, little book, you can have “Prayer made easy,” “Bible research made easy,” even “Scripture memory made easy.” The books are inexpensive too. ;-)

Now, I know they tell me not to judge a book by its cover…but do they have to tempt me by making it so easy? In all fairness, the author has a laudable goal. I am always on the prowl for simple, introductory books that I can put into the hands of beginners. In fairness, there is a high probability that the author had little-to-no say in determining the titles for the books in this series. Titles, these days, are designed to sell books. And in this case, it will probably work. Since, we all know that spiritual disciplines are not at all easy, titles that claim to make them so are particularly enticing, especially after I’ve enjoyed my delicious microwaveable entrée. Let’s face it; these same books titled in such a way to imply the hard work any of these disciplines entail would simply never sell. Of course, these matters can be dealt with in the preface, after one has already purchased the book (notice how the subtitle says, “an easy-to-understand pocket reference guide”).

Again, I don’t mean to mock or nitpick. Everything I’ve mocked has caught up with me (e.g., my "little" brothers, Matt and Eric). In fact, I would not be surprised if, after surveying this series more closely, I actually liked the contents enough to commend the books. On the other hand, I can also hear myself saying to a friend new to the faith, “Now, you need to understand that the title implies more than it ought. Don’t be surprised if you find it extremely difficult to foster these disciplines in your walk. You have real enemies, including yourself, which militate against anything 'easy' in the spiritual life. Paul calls the journey a fight because it is hard. Even Jesus said, ‘the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak,’ when referring to prayer.”

After my new friend looses consciousness from my long, drawn-out disclaimer. I’ll resuscitate him with some instant coffee, and we can enjoy together the insight gleaned from these four-dollar pocket guides. Here’s the one I can use for my paper.