Without Fear: Books & Truth

He stood tall and well-styled. His words were eloquent and piercing in a welcomed way like the first bracing whiff of a lover’s cologne. I could not ignore the words – nor did I intend to.

“We say that we believe ‘all truth is God’s truth’ – but do we really?” He went on to outline the ways which we say we embrace all truth but in fact refuse truth that comes from suspect sources, thinkers who are foreign to us or schools of thought that we have labeled as ‘dangerous’ or ‘heretical’ or simply ‘other.’

I was jolted by the truth.  Out of my own ignorance I had kept my reading list sanitized and safe. I did not read too widely outside of my denominational circle. I certainly did not read anyone associated with The Jesus Seminar. I never bought a book written by a non-Christian. Not true – I bought textbooks by non-Christians but approved by my Christian professors. I also bought the occasional novel, but classics penned by non-believers were allowed in my world. My reading list was pre-approved.

As an avid reader, I gleaned much truth from my carefully selected books. Did that mean the truth I encountered was also pre-approved?  Truth coming from familiar faces and places, truth that would not rock my boat or disturb the boats around me?

I decided that day what I believed – all truth does belong to God. No truth, despite its origin, threatens God or diminishes His authority. No truth unseats Him from His throne, but rather each strand of truth we discover gets woven into a tapestry that testifies to the goodness of the universe He created.

The practical outcome for me – a commitment to read without fear! I became open to finding truth in new places. I still proceeded with caution, getting recommendations from those who were more fearless readers than myself or following the trail of footnotes in trusted (but irascible) authors. I read like someone with a passport to new lands beyond my neighborhood.

I read with discernment, always. But I read books by people that used to scare me like John Dominic Crossan and Marcus Borg. They taught me about Jesus, introduced His world to me and opened up the Gospels in transformative ways. I read books by people I once thought were off limits to me like the Dali Lama. I learned how a Buddhist saw the world; I benefited from his careful study of emotions. I encountered great wisdom about contemplative practice from a Catholic priest and stunning insight on mindfulness from a Buddhist nun. I read what Jewish scholars had to say about God’s absence, Sabbath and the Psalms. I felt an inner flourishing.

Reading without fear opened me to a larger world that was burning bright with God’s truth from one end to the other. I found God to be more majestic, more comprehensive in His goodness. How generous He is with truth, how all of us created in His image can hold bits of His truth, speaks to God’s nature and His extravagant love for all of us. He leaves no one out – of His love or His truth.

I am left celebrating God’s generosity – and more of His truth. I embrace His truth wherever I find it. I read with discernment – but I read without fear because all truth belongs to Him.

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9 thoughts on “Without Fear: Books & Truth”

  1. Nicole Joshua
     ·  Reply

    Hi Kelley,

    This sounds so liberating. How often we read without realising that our reading choices have been “preapproved” (like you said). Without realising it, we confine ourselves to boxes, and miss out on the gems that are hidden in other kinds of books. This was my experience too. When I began my healing journey, I was introduced to someone called Brandon Bays. The opening chapters left me feeling nervous, because her language is soaked with what certain authority figures classified as “Eastern Mysticism” – in other words, un-Christian. But through her book, I have experienced much healing. I came to a realisation that all truth belongs to God, that he has revealed truth to others, not only Christians, and that while reading “other” books, I needed to trust the Holy Spirit to help me discern what I needed out of those books and what I should discard.

    Enjoy finding hidden treasures in “foreign” places.

    God bless.

    • kelleynikondeha
       ·  Reply

      I remember reading Richard Rohr for the first time, with his heavy language pulled from eastern mysticism. It caught me off guard and I wondered if I was heading into dangerous territory. But there was truth in the words, things that resonated with my faith and what I knew of God… I’m glad I kept reading. Eastern mystics have preserved an intimate vocabulary of contemplative practice over the years – beyond the time the Jesuits put it down. That language is so helpful as we try to talk (again) about the role of contemplative practice, mindfulness and such.

      Hope all is well in Cape Town… I’ll see Idelette and Tina this week in their hometown!

      • Tina/ @teenbug
         ·  Reply

        Yeah you do!!! You see us. In Our. Hometown!!!

  2. d.l. mayfield
     ·  Reply

    oooh, i was just thinking about this yesterday. i was reading a book by someone in our new mission organization, and he was talking about the importance of diversity in the body. how he firmly believed in spending time with catholics, liberals, conservatives, orthodox–and how all of it contributes to the body of christ. if we are completely uniform, then we miss out. his point was that the book of galations was written so people would stop homogenizing religion, and that this is exactly what evangelicals do today. what do you think about this? it was such an intriguing concept to me, because i was raised to fear any people/church/group with different doctrines.

    • kelleynikondeha
       ·  Reply

      I am no Galations scholar… but I am fascinated by his proposed analysis. I do believe that interaction and dialogue with a diverse group helps (not hurts) our faith. I think it also improves our praxis, widening our options and stretching our understanding. Now, I warn you, this comes from a girl who has been called ‘ecclesiastically promiscuous’! I have been in Catholic circles, Vineyards, spirit-filled non-denominational churches, Methodist, Episcopal and even Greek Orthodox! I find that the diversity educates me and gives me life! No one of us has the corner on truth, but together we can share what we’ve learned and grow as family.

  3. Syd Shook
     ·  Reply

    Thanks for the reminder that we don’t hold the monopoly on truth! Crossan and Borg were “dangerous” reads for me too, but the payoff was rich. “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” I am thankful that God’s character of love and truth gave (and continues to give) me the freedom to explore the non pre-approved! Great post!

  4. perfectnumber628
     ·  Reply

    This is a really great post! I can relate to a lot of this- I used to think Christian books were always right, and we just needed to have the right arguments to answer everybody else… I plan to write some more about this in a post on my blog.

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