At the school several of us have begun a book swapping circle, passing books of all genres. The most recent that has made the rounds between four of us is I Told Me So: Self-Deception and the Christian Life by Gregg A. Ten Elshof. Before even reading the book, I was fascinated by the "one degree of separation" as Mike Owen (PIU's Teacher of the Year and all around good-guy) had Mr. Ten Elshof as a professor at Talbot seminary. First hand accounts of the teacher makes the subject of the book even more powerful.
Now, for those who are leery of the subject of philosophy this book offers a great introduction to the genre without overwhelming with existential round-robin discussion. Beyond the philosophical framework, though, the content of I Told Me So is wonderful! As we mature in our Christian lives, we are exhorted to be "imitators" of Christ. We should always be actively moving toward a lifestyle that reflects our beliefs in the power and sanctity of Christ and his relationship to the Father. The difficulty is that, even though we desire to be moving in this direction, we are still hampered by the effects of sin in our lives. And the devil is a crafty one, he can manipulate circumstances to influence our perspective if we don't take notice.
This book suggests ways that this is done, both with the devil's help and by our own sinful nature. Ten Elshof makes a case that self-deception is part of our created make-up that can be used for positive things. It's when this self-deception becomes out of hand and self-serving that it becomes a weakness to be addressed. While it sounds simple, diagnose the symptom and treat the problem, it becomes much more complex when you can't or won't see your own trap of self-deception or when a trusted group of people participate in the attitude with you.
Whew, wait a minute... that sounds awful and like we are all in a conspiracy to fool ourselves and each other into doing and thinking what we want, when we want. Well, yes, that's what sinful nature is: self-deception is just another face of that sinful nature that we can identify and address with God's help. Awareness is the first step.
The last thing that I really like about this book is not that it just presents the "problem" and leaves us to drown in conviction, Ten Elshof also hands us the life saver in the form of suggested ways to identify and combat the tendency toward self-deception. And, even better, he offers up warnings of what can happen if we over-identify and over-correct in reaction to the problem. This is a tidy package of presentation, exhortation, and caution in a book that is easy to read and (for those with a busy life) short.
To recap: This is a very insightful book that will either open your eyes to a particular aspect of your sinful nature you were unaware of or reinforce the knowledge that you already have of it and offer tools to address it. Irrespective of content this is also a great introduction into the subject of philosophy that will give you a feel for the type of thinking involved without pulling you down to the depths.
If you have read it, please leave comments. If not, consider it for yourself or even a discussion group.
And, if you have any suggestions of books for me to read and review, please email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.