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The Curious Christian: How Discovering Wonder Enriches Every Part of Life Paperback – March 1, 2017
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The book itself was mesmerizing. Piper poignantly points out some of the flaws in our modern ways of thinking. Our rigidity has stomped out the childlike wonder and curiousness that we all possessed as kids, but we lost along the way. Sadly, Christians have seemed to be the forefront of this battle against curiosity. We tend to focus on the negatives (curiosity killed the cat after all) without embracing all the good (curiosity also cured polio). Piper makes the solid case (which is 100% Biblical) that follower of Jesus should be among the most curious and at the forefront of innovation and creative change. The book challenged me to think in new ways and it seemed to unlock a part of my brain that had laid dormant for far too long! I will certainly be a more "Curious Christian" as a result of reading it, and I encourage you to read it too!
As I said, it exceeded my expectations.
Piper writes about what I believe is an underappreciated virtue, perhaps especially among Christians. If we are honest with ourselves, we are often an uncurious bunch. Whether from fear or dogmatism or pride, we lack curiosity about God, ourselves, others, and creation. Without intending to do so, many of us live what Augustine called incurvatus in se, lives "curved in on ourselves." Curiosity opens our posture, tilting back our heads and looking up and out with wonder, unblocking our eyes and ears to drink deeply from God's good creation. Perhaps since last summer, when my eldest daughter and I took the course Writing from Your Roots--and maybe longer--I have been been on a personal pilgrimage to live with a deeper sense of wonder and awe, though it involves intention.
If you spend any time with my wife or me, you will likely hear one of use the term sacred curiosity, something I picked up from Larry Crabb. Sacred curiosity involves showing interest in another's story and asking questions with a desire simply to learn more about that person. As both Crabb and Piper suggest, curiosity is often lacking.
I appreciated many things about this book and it likely will enter the rotation of books I read again. One thing I was glad he wrote was that curiosity does not exclude conviction. On page 119, he wrote "I don't need to give up on my beliefs about Jesus in order to listen graciously. Rather, my beliefs about Jesus should be the very reason I listen graciously. I don't need to ignore Scripture to be curious about what other people believe. In fact, Scripture gives me security in my curiosity."
As a recently appointed pastor, one of my desires for those I serve is that they would learn to actually see God's beauty, in His Word and in His world. Christians often (rightly) focus on truth and morality, but beauty is too frequently neglected; however, a two-legged stool doesn't stand well. We need truth, goodness, and beauty and curiosity provides us with an important tool.
Above my desk, I have a fading yellow Post-It note that reads:
Those three words are a good beginning, and Piper's book may get us a little further down the way, but ultimately, no book or blog post will foster curiosity; we simply need to begin.
If you want to foster curiosity, read some poetry. Don't think of poetry with disdain. Poets are among our most curious citizens. Perhaps start with Mary Oliver.
I would strongly recommend Christian McEwan's excellent book World Enough and Time: On Creativity and Slowing Down for an additional relevant read.
Routines are easy. They’re comfortable. They’re the old sweater with holes and missing buttons that fits you just right. But that sweater’s ugly and it probably smells a little, and it’s time to get a new one—or at least start incorporating some other pieces into your rotation. Similarly, without curiosity our lives “grow as stale as the open package of saltines at the back of the pantry and as musty as the forgotten boxes in your grandmother’s attic.” Curiosity doesn’t create a better life; it makes for a bearable one.
Piper explores curiosity as it applies to work, leadership, ministry, and relationships. He provides tools for encouraging curiosity to flourish without compromising standards in what you read, watch, or engage with, helping separate the permissible from the profitable. He floats in the theoretical just long enough to justify the expedition before quickly diving back into the practical.
Perhaps most valuable in Piper’s book is the way he connects curiosity to empathy. To be curious, he claims, is an act of humility—it’s admitting that you might not understand something fully. And to be curious with people is to invest in them, to reinforce that they are made in the image of God. “Every relationship requires empathy, the ability to put oneself in someone else’s experience and understand it. Empathy is impossible without curiosity.” This is the heart of social justice. Whether we’re discussing racial reconciliation or refugee care, we’re affirming the inherent dignity in all people. And then curiosity demands we don’t stop there. We seek to understand more fully the oppression and passion and weakness and success of each person, filling our lives with fully rounded characters instead of the flat ones we’re so easily satisfied with.
We need to cultivate curiosity because “if you believe the world is uninteresting, it will be for you,” and what a sad world that would be to live in. But ultimately, and most importantly, I now ascribe to what Piper claims in the conclusion of his book, the greatest justification for 160 pages of writing and months of editing and years of dreaming: “Curiosity is about God and for God. It is an expression of worship and it honors Him by exploring the depths and breadth of His creation and nature.” And because of that, I think we could all stand to be a bit more curious.
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