Posted by: Dan | August 1, 2006

July Books

Well, mostly quick reading this month since I was plugging away on what turned into a 70+ page paper. Thank God for profs that allow me to write that long! Anyway here are the books:

1. Prayer by Hans Urs von Balthasar. Every now and again I find a Christian book that so moves me that I actually stop reading, put the book down mid-sentence, and spend some time in worship and prayer. To my delight this ended up being one of those books. Of course, books about prayer should inspire us to pray, but often they do not. This bok is one of the inspiring ones. It is beautiful, profound, tender, and reflects an author whose life and work has been deeply marked and formed by prayer.

2. God Crucified: Monotheism and Christology in the New Testament by Richard Bauckham. Well, I finally got around to reading this brief, classic defence of the presence of a high Christology within the New Testament (and even prior to the writing of the New Testament). I find Bauckham to be quite convincing, although, in my case, he is preaching to the choir.

3. Justice and Only Justice: A Palestinian Theology of Liberation by Naim Stiffen Ateek. I’ve mentioned this book in a few posts already. Let me add that, given the ongoing tensions in the Middle East, Ateek’s writings should be highly recommended to Western Evangelicals. Ateek writes as a Palestinian Arab who is a Christian priest and an Israeli citizen (that’s quite the combination of titles!).

4. One Lady at a Time: The story of the Walter Hoving Home by John Benton. John Benton started homes that women could come to in order to get out of prostitution. As far as I know, these homes still operate in New York and California. Benton’s model is a pretty good one. Getting women out of the inner-city, and actually living with the women as a part of the household community. I was excited to find out about this agency since I’m working on starting something pretty close to this.

5. Life After God by Douglas Coupland. I first read this book back in highschool but, after hearing the way my ol’ tree-planting foreman (and still good, albeit distant, friend) raves about Coupland, I thought I would take another stab at it. I did enjoy it quite a bit more this time around — in part because it is located in Vancouver so I actually knew all the places he was writing about (what is it about insider knowledge that makes us enjoy things more?). This book is a quick read that dances around the issue of where a generation that has grown up without faith in God can find meaning. Coupland concludes that he can’t find meaning without God. He concludes that he needs God (which, the reader should note, is not the same thing as saying that he actually believes in God — because I’m not sure that he does).

6. The Collected Works of Billy the Kid by Michael Ondaatje. This book is a beautiful combination of poetry that reads like prose and prose that sounds like poetry. Something like a poignant series of snapshots that stir a mix of emotions and leave you feeling that you’ve only caught a glimpse of something both beautiful and terrible.

7. Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. This book is basically Vonnegut’s plea that we don’t look to science and the truthfulness of facts to save us. According to Vonnegut, it is precisely science and truth that will destroy us. What, Vonnegut asks us, gave us the atom bomb? Science and the pursuit of facts. From the atom bomb, we are only a hop, skip and a jump, away from the end of the world. A world driven by a search for facts and truth is a world doomed to destruction. The only solution to this, Vonnegut argues, is to embrace fictions that make us treat each other more humanely.

8. The Red and the Black by Stendahl. This book is considered a classic because it helped to birth the modern novel. It is a well written piece about a young and poor man who, driven by ambition and not faith, enters the seminary. Along the way the fellow has some affairs with wealthy proud women that he loves, envies, and despises, and there is, of course, an oh so tragic ending (it’s interesting to see what is considered “romantic” in different eras). I can’t say I really loved this book, although it did string me along for awhile. I kept feeling like I was on the verge of something, but then, by the end of the book, it seems that that “something” never really materialized.

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