Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Humilitas and A Doubter's Guide to the Bible

Over my break I aimed too high and I wanted to read whole lot more than I actually did. I only managed to read these  two short books by John Dickson (besides the reading I did for my sermon prep), they are about 180-200 pages long and the pages are small (and Humilitas comes with a bunch of pictures).

The genre of this book is a bit hard to pin down. It is kinda a self help leadership manual with some historical and religious research thrown in. Dickson's point is that if you are in charge or people at work or on a team somewhere, you should exercise humility because the best influential and inspiring leaders are humble leaders

The working definition of humility is said to be:
the noble choice to forgo your status, deploy your resources or use your influence for the good of others before yourself. More simply, you could say the humble person is marked by a willingness to hold power in service of others.
Here humility is assumes dignity (or a position of power), it is a choice and it is social (for others).

It may sound a little counter intuitive to meet your business goals by having the person at the top of the food chain to be really the person who forgo's their position to help the lowly, but under the surface Dickson argues it actually makes good sense. This is because the example of humility is inspiring and persuasive, so others are attractive to your goal and what you are willing to do.

While humility may seem common sense today, Dickson puts his historian hat on and show how the ancient world saw humility as a weakness and a vice. It was only after Jesus, by his example and influence of his followers that humility became a virtue. I thought this was quite a solid point in the book which could have been hit harder, but these two chapters felt more like an excursive or interesting fact than really something that was build upon later.

In the realm of disagreeing with someone, there was a good point about how humility in the right area works better than our modern understanding of tolerance. Dickson saw humility working out by treating those with contrary beliefs with respect, care and friendship. We are to hold our convictions firmly but with a soft heart to those who hold contrary views.

A Doubter's Guide To The Bible
This book was a little long that the one above and a bit more technical. This was not like Kevin DeYoung's book, Taking God at His Word where he looked at what the Bible says about itself. Instead this book seeks to give the general overview of the Biblical story, aimed at someone who isn't familiar to the Bible and someone who is even skeptical or hostile of its content.

While Dickson said this wasn't an apologetic book, in some parts it felt like it, especially when it came to the field of history. Maybe because the evidence in that area is so strong, it is hard not to put forward an easy defense of the historical accounts that are narrated in the Bible.

It felt a little bogged down at the beginning, and it really does shine in the areas of history and the life of Jesus (Dickson's specialty). This book does show the major themes and movements in the Bible, how it follows a family and then a nation and their teachings. It shows the accent of grace in the Bible and how some Jewish guy claimed to fulfill the teachings that was set out long before him.

On some controversial issues, mostly from Genesis 1-3, believers (and so I assume non-believers) may not like Dickson's position on certain things, but I do think Dickson does offer summaries of possible alternate views.

Throughout the book, there are pointers to more meatier works for the reader to follow up on. I found this helpful, but then wondered if a doubter to the Bible would follow up. Around the three quarters of the way in I did wonder if someone who did doubt the Bible would have gotten this far. Don't get me wrong, I think the content of this book is good and I would gladly give this away to someone who wants to know the major outline of the Bible. However, I guess I am doubting if a doubter would actually read it till the end. It is probably worth a shot at least.


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