News, Reading Guides, VOLUME 12

Becoming People of the Truth [A Reading List]

It’s becoming abundantly clear that in the coming electoral season in the United States, Christians regardless of their political inclinations will have to double down on our commitment as people of the Truth. And yet at the same time, I am being reminded at every turn that truth is always more complicated than we want it to be, not fitting neatly into a soundbite or political platform. 

I once heard Stanley Hauerwas say that all of Christian ethics can be boiled down to two words: “Don’t lie.” And yet certainty evades us, and the best we can do is to bear witness with our lives to the one who called himself Truth, despite our struggles to understand what he was about.

I’ve been wrestling with these questions recently, and offer here the stack of books that are serving as guides on this journey.

Wendell Berry

Faustian Economics: Hell Hath No Limits 

(Essay – Freely available online through Harpers magazine

Wendell Berry

 

“[Our] human and earthly limits, properly understood, are not confinements but rather inducements to formal elaboration and elegance, to fullness of relationship and meaning. Perhaps our most serious cultural loss in recent centuries is the knowledge that some things, though limited, are inexhaustible. For example, an ecosystem, even that of a working forest or farm, so long as it remains ecologically intact, is inexhaustible. A small place, as I know from my own experience, can provide opportunities of work and learning, and a fund of beauty, solace, and pleasure — in addition to its difficulties — that cannot be exhausted in a lifetime or in generations.

To recover from our disease of limitlessness, we will have to give up the idea that we have a right to be godlike animals, that we are potentially omniscient and omnipotent, ready to discover “the secret of the universe.” We will have to start over, with a different and much older premise: the naturalness and, for creatures of limited intelligence, the necessity, of limits. We must learn again to ask how we can make the most of what we are, what we have, what we have been given. If we always have a theoretically better substitute available from somebody or someplace else, we will never make the most of anything. It is hard to make the most of one life. If we each had two lives, we would not make much of either.”

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