Friday, October 30, 2009

Thirty True Things

On November 1, I plan to start in earnest on writing my next book. Even though I still have much to do to get The Limits of Liberalism published, I am eager to start on this new project.

At this point I am calling the new book "Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart: Thirty True Things Every Christian Needs to Know Now." The title, and the idea for the book, comes from a bestseller titled Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart: Thirty True Things You Need to Know Now (2004) by Dr. Gordon Livingston, an American psychiatrist. (Can I get by with using a title so similar?)

This new book is designed to be more “popular” than my first two books; that is, I will be writing it for a more general public. I am planning to write a chapter of about five pages for each of the “thirty true things” with no footnotes (although I may have a few end notes and suggestions for further reading).

At this point, the first chapter will be called “God is greater than we think, or even can think.” Perhaps drawing some from J. B. Phillips’ Your God is Too Small (1952), I want to emphasize that most people’s idea of God is, indeed, too limited. For several reasons, it is important that we work on developing a broader, deeper, and fuller concept of the nature of God and God’s relationship to us humans and to the entire universe.

I wonder if you have any ideas about this topic that you could share with me. In what ways do you think people’s ideas about God are too small? Do you agree that God is greater than we think, or even can think? If so, what is one of the main reasons for that?

I don’t know how much I will be able to give credit those who respond to these questions or make other suggestions about this subject, but I will not use any ideas others suggest without some acknowledgment.


  1. We happen to have two books with the same title. I do not think you can copyright a book title. The lawyers might have a more official opinion! On the other hand, I not sure such a mouthful of a title is what you want for such an off-putting subject as theology. Maybe something closer to "Theology for Dummies!" (But not that exact title, either.)

    In case you are curious, the two books are The Peaceable Kingdom, by Ardyth Kennelly (1949) and Jan de Hartog (1971). And I finally got registered!

  2. You may want to be careful with an argument regarding the limits of our ability to comprehend or, at least, define God if you are not willing to universalize God beyond traditional/orthodox Christian conceptions. I say this because in your blogs, correspondence, and responses regarding truth, etc., you've not been so willing. What we believe seems to be linked to how and why we believe, which involves, to some extent, comparative considerations. Can you say that a human view of God and faith is limited without saying that one such human view, i.e., a Christian view (orthodox) of God and faith, is defective in some way? I think it makes for a difficult argument to suggest that God is beyond human limits of definition and understanding, while at the same time holding any view that God is best understood within the limits of a Christian framework.

    If you are bringing faith nearer to God (i.e., if you are unbinding, or un-loosing, faith from its human limitations), go for it. If not, then any critique regarding the current limits of human faith, or understanding, may seem less than sincere.

  3. Haven't read your blog in a few weeks. Just happen to have a few minutes this afternoon in between preps for the week, my own writing deadlines, and mass tonight at Grand River Chapel (my class). I'm with Craig on the title thing: seems that "Too soon old, too late... etc." is an aphorism I heard as a kid. Might check it out. Also, I'm not unsympathetic with Chris' concerns about the book's willingness to take some radical new departures in thinking about the meaning of "god."

    I have just returned from seeing a film entitled "The invention of lying." Karen was needing something to make her laugh. It was a success, indeed (I howled, too!). I cannot help but note, though, that the objects of investigation of lying were religion and literature, and cannot help but think of both literature and theology as sharing the same sort of imaginative constructionism. They both are "true" in analogous ways.

    I was wondering whether a nice travel book might accomplish your aims as well as a book on religion, though. Travel books--like maps of the world--are never really about geography, but rather about what is ultimately meaningful to the map-maker (travel-book writer), eh?

  4. I love reading the comments. It is interesting to see where people's thoughts go from the same idea.

    Well, here's my first reaction to the idea of our making God too small. Isn't it ironic that in this age of vast stores and the immediate dissemenation of knowledge that our ideas of God can be limited? Think about all the sources J.B. Phillips had to draw from in 1952 and what Leroy can draw from in 2010? And still we're talking about how limited our ideas of God are.

    So, it's obviously not what is accessible that limits our ideas of God. Perhaps a contributor is the sheer magnitude of what is accessible that limits our time and attention spans from greater ideas of God. (I'm not talking about Leroy's thinking friends, of course!)

    I like Milton's idea of a travel book. It reminds me of Michael Malone's book, "Handling Sin." A dying father sets out for a last adventure and is chased by his son. Together they discover each other. The connection to Milton's idea is that Carolyn's brother Wally Buckner did a Trip-Tik of this book and all the places they stopped on their journey. So, maybe a Trip-Tik is another approach to Milton's idea. Either way, if you haven't read Malone's book, I highly recommend it.

  5. Although not an original idea, in my field (biology) relegating God to "A God of the Gaps" is an example of thinking about God that is dangerously too small, I believe. Confronted with the overwhelming evidence for evolution, there have been those who have conceded that while evolution does occur within species or some other narrow taxa, the gaps in the fossil record can only be explained by God's supernatural action. Besides being scientifically unsupportable, this kind of thinking tends to push God's action in the natural world into a smaller and smaller domain as the gaps begins to be filled. It is also theologically wanting I believe since it unconsciously implies that God only acts in the supernatural. If we do not see God's action in natural biological processes then we are tempted to assume that he is not acting in the everyday events of life. True, we as Christians believe that he is capable of supernaturally intervening in history, but apparently he much prefers to act in ways that are explainable by the laws of cause and effect.

  6. Dave, thanks for your comments. I think you made an important point. Actually, I deal some with the problem of "god of the gaps" thinking in my forthcoming book, "The Limits of Liberalism." It is helpful, though, to have your perspective on this matter from your expertise in the field of biology.