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Paradigm Shifting Books
I’ve been re-reading a lot of books recently and it’s made me reflect on how some books have truly changed how I thought about things. Sometimes, this even applies to whole paradigms and ways of thinking instead of simply changing how I viewed a specific event or whether I thought a specific fact was true or not. In light of that:
Have you ever read a book which forced you to re-think a topic so thoroughly that it shifted your paradigm? What was it? What did it make you think about?
The picture on this post is one of those books for me. It made me rethink how I thought about “religious violence” and even whether there is such a thing as “religious” as a distinct category from “secular.” It was a monumentally important book for me and has continually found me going back to it and referencing ideas. I hope you, dear readers, have had books like this in your own lives.
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Josef Pieper’s Leisure: The Basis of Culture changed my life. Pieper was a Catholic theologian who lived through WWII in Germany and got put on a list of “enemies of the state”. He wrote the German version of Leisure in 1948, during reconstruction. He warned his fellow Germans against entering a state of “total work”, whereby any and all time off was spent on cheap entertainment. Instead, we need true Sabbath-time, where we have the energy to reflect on God and be drawn closer to him. Sadly, I think his fear of “total work” has been realized in the US. This can only lead to bad places: people who are continually tapped out have few resources for extending grace, and thus little ability to be conformed to Jesus.
Alasdair MacIntyre’s After Virtue wasn’t quite as life-changing, but he did radically alter my conception of morality. Two claims of his stood out to me: (a) morality without a collectively agreed-upon telos is merely a facade for the Nietzschean will to power; (b) morality cannot be understood outside of seeing it lived out. Many have challenged (a), but MacIntyre does not think any have succeeded. The Bible contains both (a) and (b), but I’ve found that Christians don’t seem to be Heaven-focused in the way Lewis claimed (“If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next…”), and neither do they do enough discipleship. While these criticisms may be obvious, MacIntyre provided rigorous, non-biblical support for them, making the case only stronger.
John Walton’s books on the Old Testament are truly paradigm shifting.
I know it is fiction, but This Present Darkness (Frank Peretti) caused me to think differently about a real conflict that goes on in the spiritual realm. Also, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe added a wealth of color to my spiritual imagination.
Nancy Pearcey’s Total Truth.
I still need to get that book! For me the book that shifted my thought was Greg Bahnsen’s “Van Til’s Apologetics.” It made me conscious of the working of one’s worldview behind one’s treatment of evidences.
I second that vote for Walton’s — I just finished Genesis One and am starting the next.
More deep was reading Fudge’s “The Fire That Consumes”. I’d never really considered what the Old Testament had to say about final punishment — I always just assumed that it was silent, but it’s far from silent; it’s just saying something I wasn’t looking for.