Monday, April 10, 2017

Our Favorite Authors

We decided it might be fun to do another round of group posts. Our topic for today is favorite authors - one dead, one living, and the reasons why. If you want to share your favorites too, please leave a comment.

Kim:

I find it really hard to choose favourite writers, because there are so many good ones. For an author to be a favourite for me, I must have read quite of few books, and I must feel like I've enjoyed most of them, if not all.

In thinking of a living author, my first thought was D.A. Carson. In addition to his theological acumen, I really appreciate his versatility. He writes more technical volumes such as his commentary on  John, but he also writes more accessible works, like Basics for Believers. His versatility means he can make complex principles understandable, such as in The God Who is There. Carson also writes eloquently, and that can be a stretch for some theologians. Woven in with the propositions are vivid passages which are anything but dry. His practical applications are warm and pastoral, and he is devoted to promoting the greatness of God. And at the end of the day, when he's done with theology, he writes beautiful memoirs like the book about his father, Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor.

My favourite author among the dead is Lucy Maud Montgomery. I began reading the Anne books as a child, but it was not until I was grown with children of my own that I began to really appreciate the complex and fascinating woman she was. She had a deep love of nature, and her writing is full of rich pictures of the land she loved. Some people dislike her lengthy descriptive passages, but I love them. Even in her personal journals, she provides detailed pictures of the walks she loved to take. She was also funny and entertaining. She had a keen understanding of human nature, and was able to flesh out human foibles and ironies in a humorous way. Sadly, her life was nothing like her books, and for that, I love her even more. Despite her sad, lonely life, she was able to write engaging, beautiful stories. As well as the Anne stories, I love the Emily of New Moon books, and another of my favourites is The Blue Castle.


Persis:

At first I thought it wouldn't be too hard picking my favorite authors, but then I started looking at my bookshelves. I've also changed over the years. There were certain authors who helped me at a particular point in my life and those who write about my current concerns. I finally decided on the two people whose books have had a lasting influence on who I am as a Christian.

Without a doubt, my favorite dead author is Charles Haddon Spurgeon. I had heard of Spurgeon when I was in college from a fellow InterVarsity member. When I asked who he was, my friend told me he was a famous Baptist preacher in the late 1800's known as "The Prince of Preachers." Well, I had never heard of him, and I wasn't that impressed. More fool me. Decades later, when I was going through a crisis and not attending a church at the time, God providentially brought his writings across my path. They were food and water to a spiritually starving woman. I began to read both of Spurgeon's devotionals every day. Faith's Checkbook is still my all time favorite. I also began to read his sermons, and I now have 3-ring binders bulging with print-outs. I even credit Spurgeon with leading me to my church. Since he was a Reformed Baptist, I typed those two words into Google, and the rest is history. His writings are available online at The Spurgeon Archive and Spurgeon Gems.

My choice for living author is Nancy Pearcey, the author of Total Truth. It's hard to convey the impact this book has had on my life. I was coming from a Christian background that was largely mystical. I was never taught to think carefully about my faith. But the life of the mind and heartfelt faith are not mutually exclusive, and Total Truth set that false dichotomy to rest. I was challenged to become a worldview detective and examine what I believe, why, and its history. Consequently, my reading material has changed as a result, and I've grown to appreciate subjects that I formerly thought were total bores, namely history and philosophy. Pearcey's book The Soul of Science is also excellent and counters the idea that science is at odds with religion.


Deb:

My top two authors came to mind quickly, but then I wanted to second guess my favorite dead author as potentially too obvious. Over a couple of thousand years of Christian thought and several centuries since the Reformation, certainly I had to have overlooked someone. Yet after much reflection, I've decided to stay true to my first inclination.

My favorite author who is no longer physically alive is John Calvin. Only after what has been many years now of studying the scriptures and the Church have I landed on this spiritual giant and father of the faith. His work, The Institutes of Christian Religion, is perhaps my favorite read outside of the Bible. I return to it regularly, on average as much as once per week. His emphasis on the knowledge of God and the knowledge of self has provided my epistemological foundation and formation. Calvin's ecclesiology, doctrine of atonement, covenant theology, doctrine of sin, and teaching on the Christian Life surpasses many others. Finally, I always consult Calvin's expository commentaries first when studying a Bible passage in depth.

Beyond doubt, my favorite living author is Sinclair Ferguson. I first encountered Dr. Ferguson's teaching about 12 years ago, when I stumbled up his treatise on The Holy Spirit from the Contours of Christian Theology series. Since that first read, I've been increasingly moved by the doctrinal depth and relevant application in titles from On the Christian Life to The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance, and most recently Devoted to God: Blueprints for Sanctification. With each new volume, Dr. Ferguson's work continues to supersede the last, an indication that he will remain my top author for some time.

One newer author who I like a great deal is James K. A. Smith. As pressure increases to engage postmodern realities, Christians in need of a guide and interpreter to make sense of the issues will do well to include Smith's work in their discourse.

Rebecca:

I'm fickle. My favorite author tends to be whomever I’m reading and enjoying right now.

Like Kim, I really like D. A. Carson. If he writes a book, I buy it as soon as its published. But since he’s already taken, I’ll go with J. I. Packer for my favorite living author. I don’t agree with him on everything, but he has a way of writing about theological things that makes me want to either laugh or sing — and that’s a good thing. It might simply be his British English, but he has a way of turning phrases that makes the concepts interesting rather than boring.

Here's an example of his ability to make me laugh, even in a somewhat technical theological discussion. In the introduction to In My Place Condemned He Stood (which is a collection of Packer’s essays on the atonement with one by Mark Dever thrown in for good measure), he takes on contemporary theologians who allege that if, on the cross, Christ substituted for sinners and bore the wrath of God in their place, it would be divine child abuse. He writes, “smartypants notions like ‘divine child abuse’ as a comment on the cross are supremely silly and as irreverent and wrong as they could possibly be.” So if you want your theological reading peppered with phrases like “smartypants notions” and “supremely silly,” Packer is your guy.

If you haven’t yet read Packer’s Knowing God, what are you waiting for?

Favorite dead author? Right now, I’m reading some Flannery O’Connor short stories (again) and marveling at her ability to capture speech and bring characters—in all their depravity—to life. If you’re thinking of checking her writing out, be forewarned: O’Connor's writings portray people from her place and time—the Southern U.S. in the 1940s and 1950s—and some of the depravity she captures is blatent racism. She uses the n-word, or at least her characters do. And many of her stories are intentionally disturbing.

6 comments:

  1. Becky, my second thought about a living author was J.I. Packer :)

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    1. I guess those two get double endorsements then!

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  2. My 2nd choice for a deceased author was Dorothy L. Sayers. I had too many living authors for honorable mentions. :)

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    1. Love Dorothy Sayers! Her fiction and her non-fiction.

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  3. So many great choices on the list! I love the work of Carson and Packer and consult their work regularly. Carson's Exegetical Fallacies has been a go to source for my hermeneutics class.
    Persis, I love that your favorite living authors are women. Often, it is difficult to find a female Christian author with the depth of Pearcey and Sayers. Both examplify great writing and doctrine. Thanks!!

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    1. ...oh, and Flannery O'Connor, too. Thanks to Rebecca, I plan to check her work out, too. :)

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