Monday, May 24, 2010

John's May Reading

Currently Reading:

Brave New Family: G. K. Chesterton on Men and Women, Children, Sex, Divorce, Marriage and the Family

I am giving a talk on Chesterton at St Joseph's Catholic Church, Chelsea on Thursday, 2nd September at 7:30pm. This is a wonderful collection of pieces, recently compiled. This morning I read "The Library of the Nursery," where Chesterton argues that children do not really need books of Nonsense. "Sages and grey-haired philosophers," to be sure, "ought to sit up all night reading
Alice in Wonderland," but
The child has no need of nonsense: to him the whole universe is nonsensical, in the noblest sense of that noble word. A tree is something top-heavy and fantastic, a donkey is as exciting as a dragon. All objects are seen through a great magnifying-glass; the daisy in the meadow is as large as a tree of the Hesperides, and the pebbles littered about a puddle will serve for the Islands of the Blest.

Christ and Culture by Klaas Schilder

I have been thinking through the issue of common grace in preparation for my talk on Abraham Kuyper at the Religion in the Public Square colloquium, and I thought this would be an opportunity to finally have a go at reading this book. Much of what Schilder wrote on the subject of culture and grace is a response to Kuyper's ideas:
We are fog-bound. Even the followers of Dr. Abraham Kuyper are. For years and years they talked of nothing but “God’s honour in all spheres of life.” The more scholarly ones among them constantly repeated Kuyper’s adage concerning “sphere sovereignty.” Every “sphere” of “life” had its own “sovereignty. However; often they do no more than repeat this slogan. No wonder. For Abraham Kuyper himself could not clearly explain what exactly those “sovereigns” in all those “spheres” are. One single Sovereign—that we can accept and understand But as soon as one starts to speak about “sovereigns” in the plural, each of them in his own sphere, then things become vague.

I've been greatly blessed in the past by reading Schilder's trilogy on the suffering and death of Christ. Those were rich meditations, but difficult to read - it literally took me years to get through the three books. So far,
Christ and Culture seems to suffer from the same sort of lack of readability.

Passage by Connie Willis

I don't often re-read books, but this one is just so good. It's about a couple of researchers who manage to simulate near-death experiences. This is a gripping story, and Willis is most adept at getting the reader to identify with the main characters.

Reading the Old Testament by John Barton

As many readers will know, I am starting to specialise in the Old Testament in my reading and study, and this book provides a good introduction to the different types of approaches and "criticisms" out there. I have found it useful in writing the Wikipedia article on canonical criticism.

Finished Recently:

Three Views on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament

This was a difficult read, and it's hard to explain what are the three views in question. They revolve around fulfilment of Old Testament prophecies. For example, Matthew 2:15 indicates that certain events in Jesus' life "fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: Out of Egypt I called my son." This is a quotation of Hosea 11:1. Now, as I understand them, Walter Kaiser would say that Hosea was revealed a truth about the Messiah, Darrell Bock would understand the passage as talking about God's Son, but that Jesus as well as Israel, fulfils that role, while Peter Enns would say that Hosea was not thinking about Christ at all, but since the whole of the Old Testament has Christ as the goal, it was reasonable of Matthew to make the connection.

This has been a burgeoning area of study in recent years, as witnessed by the massive
Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, which I often use in sermon preparation.

The Clown in the Belfry: Writings on Faith and Fiction by Frederick Buechner

Last time I blogged, I mentioned how I was reading
Buechner's The Book of Bebb. I thought it would be appropriate to read some of his non-fiction at the same time. This is a collection of sermons and addresses. The title of the book comes from an anecdote about a certain Lyman Woodard who "stood on his head in the belfry with his feet toward heaven." That, says Buechner, "is a magical and magnificent and Mozartian thing to do."

Quitting Church: Why the Faithful are Fleeing and What to Do about It by Julia Duin

This book is about those who quit church, for such reasons as being hurt by a church, not being able to find good teaching, or not having churches take singleness seriously. Interestingly, one of the reasons covered is charismatics not being able to find a suitable church, since so many charismatic churches have, in recent years, moved away from exercising the extraordinary gifts.

Searching the Scriptures - A Feminist Introduction

The world of feminist hermeneutics is a desolate one, and I would not recommend venturing there without good reason. The essays in this book seem to be based on two premises: 1) the Bible is intensely patriarchal; 2) that's a bad thing. Still, the book wasn't quite as bad as I expected.