Posted by: Dan | January 30, 2006

January Books

Well now, an interesting month. Lots of reading for class but I’m still managing to read a few books.

1. The Last Word: Beyond the Bible Wars to a New Understanding of the Authority of Scripture by N.T. Wright. This is a great, short, and very readable work. Tom traces the history of hermeneutics, re-examines the Wesleyan quadrilateral (which argues that interpretation takes places through four elements: Scripture, tradition, reason, and experience), and argues for an understanding of Scripture’s authority rooted in a narrative approach. Scripture is authoritative because it tells us the story that shapes our identity. It reveals the previous acts of the play, and also tells us the ending of the play, thereby providing the bookends of our improvisation within this act of the play. Bravo, Tom! This book is excellent.

2. Enchiridion on Faith, Hope, and Love by St. Augustine. This little handbook is Augustine’s attempt to explain Christian worship through the lenses of the three central virtues of (surprise, surprise) faith, hope, and love. It is in this work that Augustine lays out his view of evil as the absence of good — a view that I have found to be especially convincing over the years. This approach allows good to exist apart from evil but requires goodness to always be present for evil to exist. I like it! I actually really enjoyed this book and Augustine has been growing on me lately. I used to associate him with Constantinianism but, thanks to some other authors, I’m beginning to see him in a new light.

3. After Christendom: How the Church is to Behave If Freedom, Justice, and a Christian Nation Are Bad Ideas by Stanley Hauerwas. I love Hauerwas, I love his books, and this one is no exception. Here he provides some of the rational for his argument in Resident Aliens, and he argues that true transformation is created through the disciplines of the Church, which is the only locus of salvation.

4. Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology by Neil Postman. This is my second time reading this book (I have to review it for class) and I must say that I like Postman quite a lot. Within this book he argues that technology has come to play such a role in our society that all other things that used to provide us with meaning (politics, religion, philosophy) have become subservient to technology or have just disappeared from the picture altogether. Postman examines how all technologies have certain implicit biases that impact our culture, our ways of thinking, and our world-views.

5. Bobos in Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There by David Brooks. This is a great book, an excellent examination of contemporary North American culture. Brooks examines how the bourgeoisie have blended with the bohemians to create a new ruling class — the bobos. These bobos now guide society and set the boundaries for appropriate language, behaviour, and attitudes. This has serious implications for business life, intellectual life, pleasure, spiritual life, and politics — and Brooks examines all of these. This book is recommended reading.

6. Dialogue with God: Opening the door to two-way prayer by Mark and Patti Virkler. This was one of the worst books I’ve read in a long time (I had to read it for class). While there is some useful, basic, practical ideas here to aid in one’s prayer life, much of what the author says borders on Montanism, and some of it is just plain idiocy (like his section on authority). Sigh. I really want to embrace more of the charismatic movement but it’s hard to when these are the books they are writing. Don’t read this book.

7. The Way to Language by Martin Heidegger. Well, a dense little booklet but quite intriguing since I’m getting more and more into linguistics. Heidegger argues that the essence of man [sic] consists in language, which is a form of presencing. Presencing is “saying” [Sagen] not just “speaking” for sometimes it is accomplished through silences. Thus saying is showing [Zeigen] , or letting something appear. Language as saying is pointing, and this pointing is, therefore, preceded by a thing’s letting itself be shown. Thus, we do not only speak language, but we speak out of it, and are only capable of doing so because we have listened to it. Thus, speech, as listening to language, is reiterating the saying we have heard. That means that we can only say as much as our own essence has been granted into the saying. Therefore, the showing of saying is owning — propriating. Yet we only understand if we too are propriated by language. Therefore, our saying is always relational. So is that all clear as mud? I actually think this essay, coupled with Lindbeck’s work on religion as language, has huge implications for theology and the revelation of God in the Word. For example, if Heidegger is right, this would be a strong support for the argument that only Christians can do Christian theology. Of course, there are several other implications but I want to sit on this for awhile.

8. Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco. This was quite a fun book, and I actually enjoyed it more than In the Name of the Rose. Foucault has the ability to reveal the playful nature of serious subjects and I rather enjoy that — just like I enjoy his quest for meaning, even if I have a very different approach.

9. Siddhartha by Herman Hesse. This was my first time reading Hesse and I rather enjoyed his stark, basic style of writing. Nothing too profound in this book — sort of a stock story of Buddhist Enlightenment, but it was decent enough to make me want to read another of his books… perhaps Narcissus and Goldmund

10. Postsecret: Extraordinary Confessions from Ordinary Lives compiled by Frank Warren. This is a compilation of postcards that Warren has received from strangers who have decided to tell him secrets that they have told nobody else. Poignant, beautiful, heart-breaking, and humourous. Check out the website which is updated weekly — http://www.postsecret.blogspot.com.

Hmmm, looks like my reviews are getting a little better. Hooray!

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