Hip and Thigh: Smiting Theological Philistines with a Great Slaughter. Judges 15:8

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving Birthday to Me!

My birthday is the 25th of November (I turned 38). That means it is celebrated during the week of Thanksgiving and occasionally, sometimes on Thanksgiving day itself. Because of this occurrence, my grandmother (my father's mother), used to bake me my own personal mini-pumpkin pie instead of a cake. I always thrilled at having my own miniature pie.

My dad's birthday was the day following mine on the 26th. I always thought that was kind of cool, too. Last year, my third boy was born on the 24th (Thanksgiving day). I was hoping he would stay put because I wanted to share my birthday date with him. My wife thought that was strange, because she likes having her birthday date all to herself shared with no one else in the family. At least my third son will be the day before mine like my father and me.

This year my birthday was on a Saturday. My wife had asked me a month or so before what I wanted for my birthday. I looked at her square in the eye and replied, "I want to go to Archives by myself and browse the book shelves."

Now, what the heck is Archives? If you live in the So Cal area and are theologically astute or a seminary student, you know about Archives bookshop in Pasadena. It is one of the largest used Christian books stores in America. I mean good Christian books, like commentaries and Puritan theology. Not Beth Moore and Joel Olsteen style books you find in the popular retail type stores, though they may sell Beth Moore's books in the discounted area.

When I first visited Archives it was back in 1992. At this time, the shop occupied two store fronts on the street opposite their current day location. They had books crammed on shelves in essentially two stores with a large door frame cut in the wall between the two. It was almost near impossible to go to a shelf and locate anything alphabetically. Though they had all the "Ps" and Ms" together, they weren't in any order, but shelved randomly. One of my class mates at seminary upon hearing of us planning our first trip to Archives told us with bitterness in his voice, "I hate going to that place; I can't find nothing." Undeterred, my friends and I made the 25 minute drive down the 134 east, onto the 210 east, exited Hill drive and turned north to Washington ave. where Archives was located (at that time) on the north side of the street.

The place was just like my friends had described it: Ceiling high bookcases stuffed with dusty old theology books and tight fitting, narrow aisles in between them. Oddly, the folks running the place were a bunch of hippie moonbeams. They looked like they had just come from a protest rally in San Francisco. They played mellow, classic rock over the sound system in the store. It was a bit odd browsing the Romans commentaries while listening to Starship Trooper performed by Yes playing in the background.

It took me nearly two hours to comb all the shelves, but I walked away with a couple of A.W. Pink books I didn't have. They were all I could afford at the time, and even then, just like today, Archives was a bit pricey for a used book store. I tried to make it over there at least once, if not twice a year, and each time I was as excited on going there as a kid would be for Disney Land.

Sometimes in the late 90s, they bought a large store across the street and moved the entire collection there. It was a much needed improvement. Lots of room to spread out, wide spacious aisle between shelves, and the books were alphabetized! Even more glorious was a bathroom, the sound system played classical music now, and they even provided little plastic shopping baskets to carry your books in.

So, the past Saturday, after the kids gave me my presents consisting of a large bag of dark chocolate M&Ms and a two disc set of Resphigi's Pines of Rome, my wife made me an omelet breakfast with homemade biscuits and I headed off to Pasadena.

Now most folks in this world would think spending all morning in a used theology bookstore for your birthday is weird. But there is something moving about walking through those doors and breathing in that "book" smell. Every person has to have a plan of attack when browsing a book store, especially one like Archives. I begin on the far wall to the right which is old and new Bibles, lexicons and biblical language books. I then move to the shelves opposite those which begins the OT studies and commentaries. Around the corner begins the NT studies and commentaries, then the large sets and Church History. Then moving around those shelves begins the theology section, probably the largest section in the place. They have a section devoted to Luther, Calvin and of course, Barth. (The management thinks Barth is tops).

There is also a large collection of what I call low end theology books that is significantly discounted. You know, the liberal stuff written by Methodist women pastors and the effeminate Jesus Seminar guys. I saw several copies of The Book of J, books by Spong, Borg and plenty of Paul Tillich's works. However, mixed in with all the junky liberal books are some good ones, perhaps too slightly damaged to sell on the regular shelves. I found all my Lloyd-Jones Ephesians commentaries in that section, along with a copy of Iain Murray's Revival and Revivalism. It takes me a good 45 minutes or so to look through that section because the books are randomly placed on the shelves. Usually I have a crick in my neck when I finish, but I always find something to pick up.

With this visit, I went away with four books: Understanding Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism by George Marsden, God's Hammer by Gordon Clark, and two books by Ronald Nash, Faith and Reason and Worldviews in Conflict. It was terrific.

Maybe I am a geek, but I had a awesome, thanksgiving filled birthday.



Blogger ThirstyDavid said...

Weird? No. If I could go to a place like that, I might never come home.

9:42 PM, November 26, 2006  
Blogger Frank Martens said...


We have a place like that up here by Minneapolis, in a little town called Stillwater. The name of the place is something like Loome Theological Bookstore.

You won't find things like Beth Moore or Joel Olsteen there either. They have some collections there that are worth 100s of dollars. If ya ever want to start collecting old bibles or books it's the place to start for sure.

I'd like to get into collecting some of the Bibles there, problem is they are soo much $$$.

7:20 AM, November 27, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not a geek. Astute. Must take Garry there in March for his birthday.

9:22 AM, November 27, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well being a proud citizen of Soviet Canuckistan my Thanksgiving filled birthdays take place in the second week of October. ;-)

7:25 PM, November 28, 2006  

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