28 June 2017

Book Review: The Curious Christian

Some books I read exceed my expectations. I thought Barnabas Piper's The Curious Christian (2017) looked interesting, so I added it to my Amazon wish list. It must have struck my son as interesting as well because he bought it for me for Father's Day. I was in no hurry to read it, thinking I would get to it at some point, though eight days later, it's done.

As I said, it exceeded my expectations.

Piper writes about what I believe is an underappreciated virtue, perhaps especially among Christians. If we are honest with ourselves, we are often an uncurious bunch. Whether from fear or dogmatism or pride, we lack curiosity about God, ourselves, others, and creation. Without intending to do so, many of us live what Augustine called incurvatus in se, lives "curved in on ourselves." Curiosity opens our posture, tilting back our heads and looking up and out with wonder, unblocking our eyes and ears to drink deeply from God's good creation. Perhaps since last summer, when my eldest daughter and I took the course Writing from Your Roots--and maybe longer--I have been been on a personal pilgrimage to live with a deeper sense of wonder and awe, though it involves intention.

If you spend any time with my wife or me, you will likely hear one of use the term sacred curiosity, something I picked up from Larry Crabb. Sacred curiosity involves showing interest in another's story and asking questions with a desire simply to learn more about that person. As both Crabb and Piper suggest, curiosity is often lacking.

I appreciated many things about this book and it likely will enter the rotation of books I read again. One thing I was glad he wrote was that curiosity does not exclude conviction. On page 119, he wrote "I don't need to give up on my beliefs about Jesus in order to listen graciously. Rather, my beliefs about Jesus should be the very reason I listen graciously. I don't need to ignore Scripture to be curious about what other people believe. In fact, Scripture gives me security in my curiosity."

As a recently appointed pastor, one of my desires for those I serve is that they would learn to actually see God's beauty, in His Word and in His world. Christians often (rightly) focus on truth and morality, but beauty is too frequently neglected; however, a two-legged stool doesn't stand well. We need truth, goodness, and beauty and curiosity provides us with an important tool.

Above my desk, I have a fading yellow Post-It note that reads:


Those three words are a good beginning, and Piper's book may get us a little further down the way, but ultimately, no book or blog post will foster curiosity; we simply need to begin.

Nota Bene:

  • If you want to foster curiosity, read some poetry. Don't think of poetry with disdain. Poets are among our most curious citizens. Perhaps start with Mary Oliver. 
  • I would strongly recommend Christian McEwan's excellent book World Enough and Time: On Creativity and Slowing Down for an additional relevant read.
  • Somewhat fortuitously, I suppose, a week ago, I wrote a poem entitled: All Life is a Poem, which I believe gets at some of what Piper writes about. I would love it if you'd read it and if it makes you curious, click on "poetry" on the right side of the blog page, and you will find several more. 

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