Our Church, a Reading Community

Screen Shot 2016-05-31 at 11.34.53 AMFrom my foreword to C. Christopher Smith, Reading for the Common Good:

At a recent party at a friend’s home, a home we call Crickhollow, a bundle of folks from Church of the Redeemer engaged in what we do at parties: casual conversations, and not a few of them invoked books and authors. At one moment Katie stood up to cite something from The Lord of the Rings, she was answered by Dana and then Alex. A few moments later Marilynne Robinson’s trilogy of novels — Gilead, Home, Lila — were extolled, along with a few comments about whether it was better to have chapters or not. Dawne registered with us that she had not yet read any of them and asked which to read first, which led to a general consensus that Home is best. Kris and I agreed that was where to begin. Another conversation with Mike, Arnie, Kris, Alex and I was about theistic evolution, BioLogos, the so-called Cambrian explosion, Francis Collins and Michael Behe — and though there some disagreements, there was a generosity of spirit and good will between all of us about all these topics.

Katie, one of our dear friends at Church of the Redeemer, somehow managed to break me of the habit of avoiding fiction by singing the praises of The Lord of the Rings two years ago and so I grabbed the three volumes, set them up on the shelf next to our bed and I began to read them. I got through one and a half volumes when I wore down but I did discover a good expression for a sermon at our church and Katie smiled real big when I mentioned Tolkien. Kris’ reading of Gilead provoked me to read it again and then I was charmed enough to read Home while I was on sabbatical and was mesmerized by Glory and Jack and it led to one conversation after another with Kris and others at our church. We both read Lila and we are now hoping Marilynne Robinson will write another, and at the party Kris said she hopes the next one will be about Glory’s life or even Jack’s. And once or twice I mentioned Robinson’s novels in sermons, and others were drawn into conversation with me about how much they love her books.

We have two scientists — one a professor and another a medical doctor — in our church, so all conversations about evolution and Adam and Eve and the genome are ratcheted up to a level of intelligence that we theologians need to hear. (And we think they need to listen to us.) The topic, so it seems to me, is not best addressed in sermons or even adult Bible classes, but science and faith makes for a wonderful evening of discussion. I’ve learned and I’ve been pushed most about science and faith through conversations with other Christians.

Our church is a reading community.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.