Evangelical Christianity has a problem.
We say the canon is closed, but then we keep writing and writing and writing. And encouraging to write and write and write. And read and read and read—everything about the Bible, but never the Bible itself.
Mr. Ortlund’s, or Pastor Ortlund’s, book was given to me last birthday by a good friend. We went to Seminary together. I told him I’d let him know how the book was after I read it. He clearly loved it, so this was an awkward setup for someone as critical as me. He knew that going in. I agreed because I thought I could use some light Christian reading and figured it couldn’t be terrible. And it wasn’t. It wasn’t even close to terrible.
But it’s for women. Dames.
Check out these sentiments:
We don’t use a word like benevolence much today; it means a disposition to be kind and good, a crouched coil of compassion ready to spring.
Or, …my swirling internal world of fretful panicky-ness arising out of gospel deficit…
The felt love of Christ really is what brings rest, wholeness, flourishing, shalom—that existential calm that for brief, gospel-sane moments settles over you and lets you step in out of the storm of of-works-ness.
No man feels like that was written to him. We all just acknowledge that the Pastor has to include some girly stuff in order to satisfy the publisher, who knows that men typically don’t read anyway. But the book was filled with these and more. Too many. Nobody speaks like that, nor should they. It’s insulting. “Crouched coil of compassion ready to spring”. Sheesh. No need for gender-reassignment surgery here. Just learned what it feels like to be a woman.
Here’s even more truth. The introduction lists a few “who this is written for” descriptions, and the one (only one) that made me decide to go through with reading it was, “…suspect we have disappointed him [the Trinity].” That’s not feminine, neither is it far off from ideas floating around “upstairs” as my step-son says. So I read on.
But I confess that I never really thought the book was for me. And I still don’t. The Bible is for me. This type of book is not.
The problem with these books is their existence itself. You don’t need someone to come up with analogies to the Bible’s analogies in order to understand how to walk according to the Way. You really don’t.
I repeat: the canon is closed.
I have this argument with my wife often too.
The canon is closed. The minute someone creates a recording of what they said, some preacher/teacher, they’re implicitly suggesting that they are as inspired as the authors of the real Bible.
By contrast, I write these posts for me. I don’t believe they can help you in any way that meaningfully would be help. That’s partly because I don’t believe you need my help. You definitely have never asked for my help.
If anything, my theologically-oriented posts may help you understand what makes me tick, but I would never suggest they can help clarify the Bible.
Back to Pastor Ortlund.
If you’re looking for a good spiritual book, most folks would point you to the big ones. Gospel of John, Genesis, early Psalms, Ephesians. Acts is a winner. And that disappoints you. Because that’s not what you’re looking for, I suspect. I suspect that, when looking for a Christian/Devotional book, you’re looking to find a shortcut to the Bible. Bluntly, my gut tells me that you’re looking for a lazy-man’s Bible.
To that search I say: Good luck in your quest. I never have found one. So I stopped wasting time searching and started reading the Bible.