I haven’t traveled much.  Not that I wouldn’t love to. My list of out of state and country excursions is a very short list.  States visited: 12, Countries:3.  First on my list of places I’d like to go: Israel.  Everyone I talk who has traveled there says you’ll never read the Bible the same again after you go.  You can read about places and people but it’s just not the same as being there.

I’m a big fan of Dennis Prager (a committed Jew who has a syndicated radio program and author).  He just visited his 100th country and has been to most of them twice!   He wrote an article regarding the benefits of world travel.  I love what he points out about the bubble (insulated from others world-views) that 99% of us grow up in.

“Nearly everyone grows up insular. The problem is that vast numbers of people never leave the cloistered world of their childhood. This is as true for those who grow up in Manhattan as those who grow up in Fargo or Tokyo. And as for college, there are few places as insular and cloistered as the university.

Insularity is bad because at the very least, it prevents questioning oneself and thinking through important ideas and convictions. And at worst, it facilitates the groupthink that allows for most great evils. Though one can hold on to insular and bad ideas even after interacting with others, it is much harder to do so, especially when one interacts on the others’…”*

I used to read books that primarily articulated points of view that I agreed with.  It’s a good thing to do.  You will become more confident and articulate in what you believe by doing so.  But unless you allow your core views to be challenge from time to time you run the risk of having shallow, unexplored core beliefs.  Another critical factor in reading and listening to others outside your comfort zone is the ability to see other perspectives on life that are invaluable to help you understand other people better.

Many people have pointed out the beauty of the Apostle Paul’s work in Athens (Acts 17).  Although he was Jewish and an expert in Jewish law and tradition, he was also fluent in Greek culture.  It allowed him to have a hearing with the most influential people in Athens.

Most of us don’t have the means to travel the world.  Perhaps the next best option is to read.   And as you read, don’t just absorb the information but wrestle with it, ask questions, think of the implications and talk to others about what your learning.

What’s the best book you’ve read in the last 6 months?

In what areas of your life are you guilty of “group-thinking”?


Read if you can’t go there…

5 thoughts on “Read if you can’t go there…

  • February 21, 2011 at 4:57 pm

    Hey Noah
    My answers to your qauestions

    1. Lets say that there is no town near this farmer because it is the 18th century and he just moved out with his family. Would it not be sufficient for him to spread the gospel to his children and only his children. Is not raising Godly children sufficient enough to spread the gospel?

    2. Does our belief of 2+2 equallying 4 have to be challenged for us to really believe it? I agreee that it would be beneficial to have your beliefs challenged but I don’t feel it is absolutely necessary to live a fufilled life.

    Question 3 and 4 can be answered by the farmer just reading and living by God’s word which is the Bible. As long as he has this, he can become the best christian he can be.

    5. You are right about the farmer and it was strickly very hypothetical. I do feel for me it is and would be good for me to learn and travel to better understand the world I live in. However, I don’t feel thats as important as getting to know who God is. And I feel that this can be done staying in one place your whole life and really connecting with it just as well if you were to travel around the world and know all the different people that inhabit the world.

  • February 13, 2011 at 7:21 am

    A couple thoughts.

    The best book I read recently that challenged my insular beliefs was Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis. Eventhough it’s fiction, the story he creates brings into question some core christian values.

    I am guilty of “group-thinking” in the area of being “American” and a Christian. From my various travels outside the USA, I have learned a great deal from how people see those from the USA as well as the country itself. Currently it’s very interesting to see how the South Africans view the culture of the USA, which causes me to question my own perspective. Why do they think we all know movie stars? And is that a good thing? Another example is singing worship songs. Every country I’ve been, I have struggled with participating and understanding how other cultures and myself sing praise to God…but in every respect, it is a very beautiful thing.

    Finally, I agree with the idea of Mr. Pragars Bubble argument, as the very reason I have enjoyed traveling is because of the challenge I receive to my core values. Most of us live in a comfort zone that becomes reinforced over time, and rightfully so, for that helps us grow and is a atarting point for developing our core beliefs. Its only when you take that step out from underneath the parental wing, when you are then challenged to actually fly yourself and make your own decisions. The university can be good for a period of time. Traveling can be too. Reading as well. Although, if their is never taken time to process it all, it will be useless.

  • February 12, 2011 at 7:08 pm

    Hey Noah.

    i really enjoyes reading this blog and I need to come on here more often.

    Im perplexed if I really agree absolutely with this idea though.

    This article makes me think about a country christian farmer who was born and raised on his farm and not so much as left a radius of 100 miles from his farm. Are we to assume that he is at some disadvantage because he never traveled? Are we to assume he is lacking becasue he has read the bible and only the bible his whole life; that his “insulated world view” has never been chalenged? Is it even necessary for his belief system to be challenged, even though it is the right belief? I am sure it is possible to gain a better understanding of the world by traveling it. But I would also argue that staying in the same place your whole life would reap just as equal of benifits. This farmer may not know a lot about pakistan or the why hindos wear turbens on their heads, but Im sure he has gained a tremendous understanding of how the world, and especially God works just by staying in one place and really connecting with and getting to know the things and people around him.

    Anyway, thats just what I was thinking.

    My favorite book is the one Im reading now. It is called “Big God” by Britt Merrick and its all about trusting in God.

    • February 12, 2011 at 8:19 pm

      Good questions Josh!
      Here are some questions I have for you based on your “farmer”…
      1. Even the the farmer may not encounter the pluralism that we do, won’t he still run into others in his town that wouldn’t hold to his “right beliefs”? Isn’t he responsible to help those know the hope he has in Jesus (1 Peter 3:15)?
      2. How does one know he has the “right beliefs”, if they are not challenged or critically challenged?
      3. Does God expect us to know His story and what it means to honor Him where we live? How would the farmer best come to know those answers?
      4. Would you agree that to be the best farmer you can be, it would be a necessity to learn farming history, techniques and marketing? How would you come to learn those facts? How ever you answer that question would it not be similar to answering the question about becoming the best Christian you can be?
      5. You’re not that farmer. In fact I’m not sure that farmer exist anymore in America. So how about you, is it valuable for you to read and travel to better understand the world you live in?

      Thanks for getting me thinking! Lets talk more on Wednesday night…

  • February 11, 2011 at 3:24 pm

    Awesome point Noah,
    I have heard the same thing from people.
    As for your questions, The Treasure Principle, would have to be my answer because I have not finished The Rage Against God or Unbreakable yet…

    The Treasure Principle is a great book that made me rethink the importance on giving to the Church and what my perspective on money should be.

    The second question would have to be my walk with God, I know that i need to read more about other religions, cultures and stances on Christianity, but I feel I need to build my base with Christ strong first then explore the other positions at the table second so that I know how to better support my decision to walk with Christ.


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