Reading Oswald Chambers

Around six years ago I bought a copy of The Complete Works of Oswald Chambers. It was on special–reduced by around $20. It contains something-like 40 books either on biblical topics, Bible books, or daily devotional readings.

I’ve dipped into the volume sporadically since–though not for several years now. Until that point the only book of Oswald’s that I had read was My Utmost For His Highest. The fascinating backstory is that Oswald didn’t write ‘My Utmost’. True, he spoke or taught the words that appear in it, but it was compiled by his wife (widow), Gertrude or ‘Biddy’ from her shorthand notes typed up of his sermons and talks taken verbatim during his time running the Bible Training College in London between 1911 and 1915, and later as a YMCA chaplain to British, Australian and New Zealand troops in Egypt between 1915 and 1917 during World War I.

Oswald lived from 1874 to 1917–dying of complications from appendicitis. During his lifetime Oswald published (or finalised) three books: Biblical Psychology (1912); Studies on the Sermon on the Mount (1912) and Baffled to Fight Better (1917). The remaining 40-or-so books were published by Biddy and others over the next four decades.

Biddy was assisted by David Lambert (who knew Oswald) during much of that time. Their efforts to preserve Oswald’s teaching and legacy, as well as expanding and encouraging the Kingdom of God was extraordinary. Oswald was little-known and little-read during his lifetime but has become one of Christianity’s better-known and most-loved authors,

The little material that I’ve read so far in the Complete Works is extraordinarily dense. Either Oswald’s style of teaching or Biddy’s note-taking and editing distills into teaching with few extraneous words or phrases. It is difficult to read more than a couple of paragraphs at a time without having to pause to try to absorb what Oswald is saying. So far I’m reading only a couple of pages a day, so in a book of 1,500+ pages, it would take a couple of years to read through. Will I complete it? Hard to tell. Probably not continuously. But I would like to think I will be able to finish the book at some stage.

Oswald seems to be a mix of part-charismatic, part-holiness movement and part-evangelical. He seems to appreciate and manifest the best attributes of these three emphases. He has a high view of Scripture; values the Holy Spirit; and places strong demands upon personal holiness, making effort and accepting responsibility. Can he carry those three traits in tension across 1,500 pages and 40 books? We’ll see.