Because life is a series of edits

On Reading, Thinking, Learning

In Books, Church, Education, Seminary, Theologians, Westminster on January 26, 2008 at 12:32 pm

The best part about education is the worst part about education: the more you learn, the more you realize how much there is to learn. And then comes the worst realization of all: there’s no way or time to learn it all. And that stinks.

I experience this sensation everytime I walk into a library or bookstore and remind myself again that, if I manage to average reading 60 books a year and even live to be 100, I’ll only have read 6,000 books in my lifetime (and that’s counting younger years of my life when I didn’t read 60 books a year, so it would be less). This thought makes me very sad.

All that said, of late I’ve been reading a few books on some challenging topics, namely Islam and evolution; the title of the former is Religion of Peace? Why Christianity Is and Islam Isn’t by Robert Spencer, and the latter is The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. I’m still working through them, intrigued by the arguments, perspectives, and applications of each.

In addition, I read The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness by Simon Wiesenthal, a memoir of a Jewish concentration camp prisoner asked by a dying Nazi soldier for forgiveness. The last half of the book is a compendium of short essay responses from 53 “distinguished” men and women (theologians, political leaders, writers, jurists, psychiatrists, human rights activists, Holocaust surivovrs, and victims of attempted genocide) and their opinions on what Wisenthal should have done (he did nothing). Interesting to think through.

This weekend, I need to begin immersing myself in the world of Ancient and Medieval Church History, as I’m taking my first Access class through Covenant. I’m supposed to work through thirty-six recorded lectures by Dr. David Calhoun and volume 1 of Justo L. Gonzalez‘s book, The Story of Christianity, no later than May 15th. There are also quizzes, tests, and a project. Even then, I’ll just be scratching the surface of all that went on from the time of the early church until the Reformation. Nuts.

I’m taking two other classes at Covenant this spring (Children’s Ministry and Youth Ministry Across Culture), but those are each a weekend class, so they shouldn’t be too bad. This is good, as I still need to help my own students make sense of all the letters of the New Testament and the last four of the Ten Commandments (like there’s any way to cover any of those to the depth I want to in the course of a semester).

Which brings me back to my original thought: the more I learn, the more I want to learn, and the more frustrating I become that I can’t learn it all, even in a hundred lifetimes. My hope for Heaven is that we don’t get to just download everything we don’t know in one fell swoop; I’d rather have to learn it, as at least then I’ll have plenty of time to do so.

  1. I’d never thought before about learning in heaven. Oh, to have time to learn without that loud ticking of the clock telling me I’ll never have time! I’ll be chewing on this thought today. Thanks!

  2. Craig– cheer up about the merely 6000 books (or less). Here’s how I see it: at least 25% of the books around (that’s a really generous figure, from what I’ve seen) are really junk that should never have been published (don’t read these). Another 25% (maybe 35%?) are basically one person re-publishing someone else’s ideas almost exactly (don’t read these either). Probably another 40% are good books on topics that, frankly, just don’t “matter” to me– they’re important to someone, and I’m glad they are published, but I’ll never have the need (or drive) to read these. That leaves less than 10% of the books around that I should read, and want to read. Now, that’s still a lot more than 6000, but it’s a lot less than, say, the 18m+ books in the Library of Congress.

    As for heaven…I think your expectations are pretty spot-on. Heaven (and the New Jerusalem) will be a rich eternity of learning and experiences.

  3. After some quick calculations…

    That 6000 books represents about 0.8% of the books I WOULD want to read.

    Take that however you’d like…

  4. I guess you’ll just have to bump yourself to 100 books a year. That way when you make it to 100 you can boast around 10,000 books. Unfortunately for all these calculations your statistically more likely to read 100 books a year than you are to live to 100.

    Wow, that came out as much more of a downer than I intended it to be. Sorry.

  5. Um, between Ed and Travis, I’m not sure this is making me feel any better (but nice try anyway).

    Pardon me while I walk in front of an Amazon truck…

  6. Oops…

    Would it help if I just spelled Mississippi?!?

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