Monday, October 22, 2012

My library is filled with teachers, counselors, and friends...

I think it was Pope Benedict XVI who said the books in his personal library were his trusted advisors.  I might need to be corrected on this and he could very well have been quoting someone else.  The point is not who said it but the truth of those words.  As a young man (boy) in college, I found myself constantly questioned and I questioned nearly everything.  I suppose it is unavoidable.  Fortunately, I had a good circle of friends who kept me grounded.  More than these, I also had the beginnings of a library of teachers, counselors, trusted friends, and advisors.  They spoke to me the truth that I often found easy to question and gave me answers to the manifold questions that surrounded my college years.  You want the names of some of those library resources?  Try Regin Prenter's Spiritus Creator or Sasse's Here We Stand or Bainton's Here I Stand or Krauth's The Conservative Reformation and Its Theology or Pelikan's Obedient Rebels or Franzmann's The Word of the Lord Grows or Bo Giertz The Hammer of God...  These are just a few of my early library acquisitions and they have proven to be wise, faithful, and trustworthy advisors.

Near the end of the college years and entering into Seminary, I added hundreds of books.  I bought whole libraries from retired or deceased Pastors and books from the campus bookstore with every spare dollar I had.  Remember that a good book back then hardly ever cost more than $10!!  I encountered Gustaf Wingren and Gustaf Aulen.  I read Iranaeus and Athanasius.  I found Luther Reed and Paul H. D. Lang and Paul Z. Strodach.  I learned Schmid and Chemnitz and Luther.  I rediscovered Walther firsthand after reading some less than interesting and less than accurate attributions to him.  Each new addition was one more voice to the chorus of voices instructing, counseling, challenging, guiding, and encouraging a young man (boy) on a journey to the red stole.

By the time I was in my first parish, I had two full walls of books that had to be carefully packed into book cartons and loaded on the van with other, I must confess, less important earthly possessions and then opened and organized and walled around me again as classroom, chatroom, and fortress of wisdom and truth.  By the time I left my first parish (13 years), I had so many books that 12 foot wide bookcase reaching to the 8 foot ceiling could not contain them all.  Now I look around at more than double this number -- including some books no longer in print -- whose voices have become eerily silent outside the confines of the few who have them.  Others have been reprinted in nice new duds to speak freely to a new generation waiting to acquaint themselves with these old friends.  But not all my books have antique pedigrees and some of them, many of them, have recent birthdays.  It is always the marvel to find a friend so much younger than yourself and it comforts me to believe that voices of the present will become for others the same kind of friends, counselors, teachers, and advisors that some of my older works have been for me.

You can tell a great deal by a Pastor's library -- these books represent more than paper and ink and cardboard and binding.  They represent the voices that he listens to, the counselors who guide him, and the kind of friends that surround him.  Parishes would do well to heed the advice given so long ago to mine and provide a modest book allowance to help their shepherd find friends and family to support his pastoral vocation.  Mine has been more than generous -- now $1,000 per year.  Some of my folks have said it is the best investment they have made to keep this 20 year tenure fresh and new, solid and stable over these two decades of change.  I willingly defer to my teachers on the shelves of my office as the source of any wisdom and profundity they have learned from me.  I am still their student and will be for as long as I can read and even then as long as I hear them in my mind.  Most of my reading is not for pleasure or for personal interest.  I read to hear the Gospel spoken to me, to be instructed in my deficiencies, to be guided in my uncertainty, and to be counseled in my distress.  The Word of the Lord is the supreme counselor to be sure but I am ever and always encouraged by the manifold voices who have and still speak that Word to me through the books on my shelves.  The Word of the Lord grows.  Indeed.  And with it, my circle of friends, teachers, counselors, and advisors.

Let him that is taught in the Word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things.  Gal. 6:6


Janis Williams said...

I am remded of C.S. Lewis' advice to read old books. Other generations and ages do not have the same blindnesses as we. So sad that many, many good voices of counsel and instruction die not long after the author.

Also sad that it is such a dangerous thing to loan books. How many times have I loaned a book only to have it leave my hands forever? Partly my fault for not keeping a record. Also my fault for being excited about a book and "talking it up" to someone.

There is something about a wall of books (personal library) that says volumes - forgive the pun - about the person that an iPad or other reader can't!

Scott Diekmann said...

That's a great post Pastor Peters.
For those who don't have them, Krauth can be downloaded here:

Bainton here:

and Prenter here: