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Some heavy lifting for your mind

Over the weekend I heard someone say, “If you want to hide something so that people won't find it, put it in a book.”

The idea was that, aside from novels, people don't read non-fiction books. Then the person asked everyone what the last book was that they had read.

I sat there and realised that I cannot remember the last book I just read from start to finish.

These days I don't do that. I don't read fiction, even though my daughter bought me a copy of “Les Miserables” and has been goading me to finish it.

I scan a book to see what are the most important sections for me, and then I read those sections.

I am sure this method is less than perfect, but I am a slow reader, and my appetite for subjects and titles is too great.

Here is a list of some of the books on my current reading list, and I share them with you in hopes that you will challenge yourself to read non-fiction.

Pick a subject and get into the meat of it by reading several books on the same subject.

I also challenge you to read things that seem hard to understand.

For instance, I don't like the packaged literature commonly found in Christian bookstores, because it reduces what is actually a complex thing (ie the Christian life) to formulas, easily remembered acrostics, and simple outlines.

There is something about the way God works with people that demands that we work at trying to understand God and the way that He does things.

For instance, He created the universe so that it would yield to investigation and provide answers about the way creation functions, but these things don't just fall out of the sky like ripe fruit from a tree.

Physicists and mathematicians, scientists of all kinds, have to really work at it.

So, here are some examples of books that will challenge you, perhaps annoy you, but which, if you work at them, might give you new insights and grow your mind:

“Thinking In Tongues: Pentecostal Contributions to Christian Philosophy” by James KA Smith.

The past several decades have seen a renaissance in Christian philosophy, led by the work of Alvin Plantinga, Nicholas Wolterstorff, William Alston, Eleonore Stump, and others.

In the spirit of Plantinga's famous manifesto, “Advice to Christian Philosophers,” James KA Smith offers not only advice to Pentecostal philosophers but also some Pentecostal advice to Christian philosophers.

Smith begins from the conviction that implicit in Pentecostal and charismatic spirituality is a tacit worldview. “Thinking in Tongues” articulates the key elements of this Pentecostal worldview and explores their implications for philosophical reflection on ontology, epistemology, aesthetics, language, science, and philosophy of religion.

In each case, Smith demonstrates how the implicit wisdom of Pentecostal spirituality makes unique contributions to current conversations in Christian philosophy. (adapted from Amazon.com)

“World, Affectivity, Trauma: Heiddeger and Post-Cartesian Psychoanalysis” by Robert Stolorow

Robert Stolorow's post-Cartesian psychoanalytic perspective — intersubjective-systems theory — is a phenomenological contextualism that illuminates worlds of emotional experience as they form within relational contexts.

After outlining the evolution and basic ideas of this framework, Stolorow shows both how post-Cartesian psychoanalysis finds enrichment and philosophical support in Heidegger's analysis of human existence, and how Heidegger's existential philosophy, in turn, can be enriched and expanded by an encounter with post-Cartesian psychoanalysis.

In doing so, he creates an important psychological bridge between post-Cartesian psychoanalysis and existential philosophy in the phenomenology of emotional trauma.

For the lay person, this is a rich exploration of how being situated in a world gives meaning to our experience (adapted from Amazon.com)

“The Meaning of the Body: Aesthetics of Human Understanding” by Mark Johnson.

In “The Meaning of the Body”, Mark Johnson continues his work on the exciting connections between cognitive science, language, and meaning first begun in the classic “Metaphors We Live By”.

Johnson uses recent research into infant psychology to show how the body generates meaning even before self-consciousness has fully developed.

From there he turns to cognitive neuroscience to further explore the bodily origins of meaning, thought, and language and examines the many dimensions of meaning — including images, qualities, emotions, and metaphors — that are all rooted in the body's physical encounters with the world.

Drawing on the psychology of art and pragmatist philosophy, Johnson argues that all of these aspects of meaning-making are fundamentally aesthetic (meaning related to the senses).

He concludes that the arts are the culmination of human attempts to find meaning and that studying the aesthetic dimensions of our experience is crucial to unlocking meaning's bodily sources. (adapted from Amazon.com)

“Transcendence: Critical Realism and God” by Margaret Archer, Andrew Collier, and Douglas Porpora.

Atheism as a belief does not have to present intellectual credentials within academia. Yet to hold beliefs means giving reasons for doing so, ones which may be found wanting. Instead, atheism is the automatic default setting within the academic world.

Conversely, religious belief confronts a double standard. Religious believers are not permitted to make truth claims but are instead forced to present their beliefs as part of one language game among many.

Religious truth claims are expected to satisfy empiricist criteria of evidence but when they fail, as they must, religious belief becomes subject to the hermeneutics of suspicion.

This book explores religious experience as a justifiable reason for religious belief. It uniquely demonstrates that the three pillars of critical realism — ontological intransitivity, epistemic relativity and judgmental rationality — can be applied to religion as to any other beliefs or theories. The three authors are critical realists by philosophical position.

They seek to establish a level playing field between religion and secular ideas, which has not existed in the academic world for some generations, in order for reasoned debate to be conducted. (from Amazon.com)

There are several other books I could have listed as well. To be a thinking Christian requires that a person exercise his or her mind.

If you were lifting weights, you'd build capacity by challenging yourself to lift something that took effort.

It's the same in regards to what you think. If you want to build capacity to think, try reading something heavy.

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Published October 01, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated October 01, 2013 at 9:46 am)

Some heavy lifting for your mind

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