“People live a narrow view not engaging things they do not understand . . . Instead of seeing the potential for gaps to be bridged, uncuriosity sees the gaps as protection from the foreign and frightening.” And with those words, Barnabas Piper begins a writing quest into the need for curiosity in the Christian life. Perhaps most of us are not curious enough to have thought about the necessity of a book on curiosity, yet the very fact we haven’t thought about it probably shows the need for The Curious Christian.
To many of us, curiosity is a childlike attribute that results with the endless, and thus irritating, barrage of the question, “Why?” Yet, Barnabas Piper takes readers through a journey that demonstrates just how curiosity should be inscribed into our daily lives. Hoping to compel others to be curious, the author examines curiosity in order to establish the necessity of curiosity (chapters 1-3), establish the definitions of curiosity (chapters 4-5), establish the activities of curiosity (chapters 6-8) and establish the implications of curiosity (chapters 9-11). At 176 pages, the book isn’t long and Piper’s style of communication makes it an easy read.
As the author works his way through the book to draw readers into the topic of curiosity, several aspects stand out as exceptional:
- Generates Curiosity: A reading of the book also incites a deeper curiosity about what is around us and about God. Piper teaches readers not only why it is necessary to be curious, but how to be curious. Examples of questions and opportunities provokes readers to recognize their daily opportunities to utilize their curiosity.
- Generates Action: Piper’s goal in this book is not for people to be passive. In fact, he states clearly in his introduction that he desires to see people become more curious and that in doing so they would rid themselves of ‘passive limits.’ He does just that and he does it very well. More than just teaching about the concept of curiosity, the entire book deals with its impact upon all that a person does and lives. Therefore, readers receive a clear picture of how curiosity can (and should) infiltrate life, particularly the Christian life.
- Generates Self-Confrontation: Finally, readers will be confronted with this book. They will be challenged to examine their own notions and actions of curiosity. First, they will be confronted both with society’s presentation and its inhibition of curiosity. At one point he even challenges our current schooling system’s limits upon curiosity (see chapter 3). This forces readers to think more deeply about our programs and processes. Even more important though, readers are forced to confront their own (lack of) curiosity. Piper’s writing causes his audience to examine the missed opportunities in everyday situations and lament over what could have been learned from them. Of course, hopefully with this self-confrontation will come the action that the author does so well at also inciting.
There exists so much to be curious about that our lack of curiousness is curious in itself. However, the most important issue of the book must not be missed. Barnabas Piper hasn’t set out to cause people to simply ask more questions or be more curious. Instead, his purpose goes deeper than that. Curiosity generates an effect upon our relationships and so Piper causes readers to use curiosity as a way to deepen relationships. More specifically, he causes readers to see curiosity as a part of a deeper relationship with our God, which is the most important aspect of this book.
The book overall is quite exceptional in its content. Readers will be confronted with a couple of areas of concern that are worth noting. First, is the use of questionable quotes from questionable people. Throughout the book the author utilizes quotes from others to support his points, however, the Scriptural orthodoxy of some of those he quotes is concerning. One quote in particular states that ‘ . . . true means accurately reflecting human experience’ which suggests that truth must be filtered through confirmation of our experience in order for it to be considered true. Truth though, must never be defined by our experiences, but our experiences must be defined by truth.
Second is the author’s description of knowledge. Throughout chapter 4 especially, he indicates that the value of knowledge must be determined by the action it produces. He is quite reasonable in this assertion and his explanations and examples are worth reading. However, such a definition of knowledge causes us to question whether or not the author has confused the definitions of wisdom and knowledge? Even more, an examination of this also causes us to examine whether or not it would have been valuable for the author to discuss the differences between both and the role of curiosity in the disciplines of each.
Finally, Piper is quite clear that the overall concept of curiosity and what readers engage in must answer the question “Do I see God’s world better because of this?” As he discusses curiosity he often cites varying examples of engaging with the world (and rightly confronts the notion that because it is in the world does not mean it is necessarily ‘worldly’). However, one must be cautious here because it can be easy to take some of the author’s arguments in order to justify them in an engagement with worldly activities that are not profitable for the kingdom of God. The author himself does not do this, however because of the form of his presentation it is necessary for readers to recognize this danger so they do not take it to this extreme.
Frankly, if this book had not been given to mere for a review, I probably would not have picked up (perhaps because I wasn’t curious enough in this area). Yet after reading it, I would say that Christians should not miss this book. It is quite exceptional in the content that is being presented and I am convinced that Christians will find unexpected treasures of insight and wisdom within this book. Curiosity is more than the character of a child, but instead is an aspect necessary for Christian growth. The book, The Curious Christian acts as a good prompter for being more curious in our own lives so that we may be stimulated to greater growth. Therefore, I would urge readers to pick up a copy and invest time in its contents.
To purchase a copy of The Curious Christian by Barnabas Piper, click here.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher at no cost for the purposes of review. However, the review given are my own opinions as a response to reading this book.