No favorite, I’m afraid. However, I often find myself referring to Richard Hooker. He was one of the “Anglican Divines,” thinkers who have shaped the Church of England’s approach to theology. More than anyone else, this 16th-century writer helped make the Anglican tradition one that says, “When you come to church, no need to check your brains at the door.”
Hooker puts three things on the table — scripture, tradition and reason. We often talk about this as the three-legged stool. It’s a good, though imperfect, metaphor because Hooker also insists that we start and end with scripture. Nothing essential to salvation is found outside scripture, and everything essential is found in it.
The problem is that scripture isn’t always self-evident. It helps to be a Hebrew or Greek scholar, of course. That’s why we use reason (how does scripture seem to apply in this crazy modern world?) and tradition (how has the church understood scripture in the past?). It’s not a way of making things up, but of wrestling with the word of God right here in this place and time.
Hooker is important to me because of the Christian tradition in which I live. I encourage my friends to read widely and deeply, and to listen for the Holy Spirit moving among the thoughts and prayers of those who have struggled with faith in print.
Michael Rich, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Jacksonville
Read sometimes just to have read
While it is true that I do a lot of reading, I still do not have a favorite Christian philosopher, theologian or historian. I am eclectic in personality. I like knowing different viewpoints and hearing the various rationales for the foundation of a particular belief. I spend a lot of time reading and dialoguing with different authors, comparing and contrasting views before finally settling on my own.
While I do not have a favorite author, I do tend to purchase more academic books than inspirational. I think it speaks to my inner desire and joy of learning and knowing, and to be in adult education.
As I survey my bookshelves, I have a section for Bible, history, finance, language, counseling, missions and evangelism, sex education, leadership, music, history of religions and more. I agree with many of the authors in my collection and a few I have purchased, “to have read.”
A seminary professor was once asked why do you read so much, and I have never forgotten his response. He began by encouraging us to have a book in hand at all times saying, “You are often waiting to be seen for various kinds of appointments … you can waste your own time.” Then he said, “I don’t read always to know; I often read to have read.”
E. Steven Richardson, 17th Street Missionary Baptist Church, Anniston