Archive for the ‘books’ Category
I have really been enjoying this series of meditations on Psalm 27 from Paul Tripp recently.
There are 52 meditations on a psalm with just 14 verses, so it’s slow and meditative without any sense of needing to rush on through. The meditations don’t go through the psalm in order, though sometimes there will be two consecutive meditations on the same verse. There is a careful rhythm to the meditations, some of which are written in the form of poems or prayers, and others more prosaically. Each is only a couple of pages long, followed by two thought-provoking questions. These make for thoughtful, meaningful quiet times. I’ve found that I like to read the meditation and think about the questions at the start of the day, then skim through it quickly again before I go to bed at night, to remind myself of the truths I’ve been thinking about.
The subtitle of the book ‘meditations on God and trouble’ indicates the content of the book. These aren’t banal reflections on happy things. Tripp, as one would expect from someone associated with CCEF, understands the human heart well. He knows the depth of sin and the sorrow of suffering. At the start of the book he talks about the time when his daughter was involved in a car accident that left her seriously injured (I think I remember praying for her during the time I was at Tenth Pres). This isn’t a book that pretends suffering isn’t real or painful. It’s a book that’s meets you in the depths of the pit, at the centre of the storm, and keeps pointing you back to the high rock and to the safe shelter. On the back of the book it says that it is ‘designed to fill hearts with patient hope in times of trouble’. It’s working for me.
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How are math, art, music, and language intertwined? How does intelligent behavior arise from its component parts? Can computers think? Can brains compute? Douglas Hofstadter probes very cleverly at these questions and more in his Pulitzer Prize winning book, “Gödel, Escher, Bach”. In this seminar, we will read and discuss the book in depth, taking the time to solve its puzzles, appreciate the Bach pieces that inspired its dialogues, and discover its hidden tricks along the way.
It sounds absolutely fascinating and, even though I don’t think I have time for the reading, I’ll be checking out Karyn’s blog for the discussions.
I notice that the papers from the EA Symposium on the atonement from summer 2005 have finally been published. I haven’t read it but I have just skimmed through the contents list (see the sample pages here and I’m struck by both the omissions and the inclusions. Here are the chapters (one of the more irritating, though less significant, omissions is the use of the Shift key to provide suitable capitalisations):
1. atonement, evangelicalism and the evangelical
alliance: the present debate in context . . . . . . . david hilborn
2. the redemption of the cross . . . . . . . . . . . . . .steve chalke
3. the theology of the atonement . . . . . . . . . . . . i. howard marshall
4. atonement in the old testament . . . . . . . . . . . .christopher j. h. wright
5. the atonement in the new testament . . . . . . . . geoffrey grogan
6. why did christ die? an exegesis of isaiah 52:13 – 53:12 . . . . . . . . . . . .sue groom
7. penal substitutionary atonement in paul:an exegetical study of romans 3:25 – 26 . .rohintan k. mody
8. the atonement in hebrews . . . . . . . . . . . . . . steve motyer
9. must we imagine the atonement in penal substitutionary terms? questions, caveats and a plea . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . joel b. green
10. penal substitution: a response to recent criticisms . . garry williams
11. atonement, creation and trinity . . . . . . . . . . . graham mcfarlane
12. the logic of penal substitution revisited . . . . . . oliver d. crisp
13. towards a unified theory of the atonement . . . . . david t. williams
14. bernard of clairvaux: theologian of the cross . . . . tony lane
15. ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven:evangelical accounts of the atonement . . .stephen r. holmes
16. “live much under the shadow of the cross”:atonement and evangelical spirituality . . . . . . . . ian randall
17. the message of the cross is foolishness:atonement in womanist theology; towards a black british perspective . . . . . . . . . lynette j. mullings
18. atonement in contemporary culture: christ, symbolic exchange and death . . . . anna m. robbins
19. penal substitution: a pastoral apologetic . . . . . . derek tidball
I’m sure the inclusion of some of these extra papers that weren’t given at the conference will be worth reading – Oliver Crisp and Tony Lane’s look particularly interesting. But, um, where’s Mike Ovey’s paper on Christus Victor? And why on earth was the womanist nonsense included (I went to the seminar, so I know what I’m talking about)? It’ll be interesting to see whether Sue Groom has changed anything in her paper in light of some of the devastating comments she got from the floor.
John Hobbins has challenged Bible bloggers to take on the world of children’s literature. John has a five-year-old daughter who many find a number of the books being reviewed a little too much just now. My choice, however, should be ideal bedtime reading. I adored Paddington when I was little. The cartoons on TV with their sketchily drawn backdrops and the three-dimensional figures in the foreground were transfixing. We had some of the books too which were perfect for being read to, and later for reading.
The latest addition to the Paddington corpus celebrates the fiftieth birthday of the bear from Deepest Darkest Peru. Paddington hasn’t aged noticeably, though the world he inhabits has changed somewhat. The Browns are still a comfortable middle-class family in which the children are away at boarding school, Mrs Brown has no noticeable occupation, and Mrs Bird is the live-in housekeeper who holds it all together. But outside the doors of 32, Windsor Gardens there are all sorts of new obstacles: having one’s shopping trolley towed away; government inspectors looking for illegal aliens; tabloid journalists; talent spotting scouts for record companies.
Paddington falls amiably into one scrape after another, always somehow landing on his feet. Each chapter is a self-contained story and most follow the same pattern: Paddington has a Good Idea; something goes Horribly Wrong; everything Works Out In The End. Safe and reassuring. Poor Paddington struggles to understand the world, in just the same way that children do, but he always means well and his family are there to step in if need be. And that’s what these books are really about, being adopted into a family who love and accept this bear just the way he is.
I heard an interview with Michael Bond recently who said that when he first wrote Paddington, he wanted to address some of the issues that the post-war wave of immigrants into the UK was causing. The bear at the railway station, with the label round his neck, was the helpless innocent who just needed help and love. In 2008, the attitudes towards immigrants (legal or otherwise) in the UK haven’t changed a whole lot, at least not for the better. I’m not sure that the new Paddington stories will cause a dramatic shift either.
Because the stories are told from the point of view of Paddington himself, the thing I really loved as a child was the sense that I wasn’t the only outsider in the world. Paddington is always getting the wrong end of the stick and ending up in situations he didn’t mean to. He doesn’t quite understand the world he’s living in and that’s okay. He gives children a way to learn, to ask questions, to say if they don’t understand, to not be the same as everyone else, and to make mistakes. He’s funny, charming, honest and confused and it’s no surprise that, fifty years on, children and adults still love him.
Paddington: Here and Now is beautifully bound with a lovely illustration from the original illustrator on the front cover. Inside, the illustrations are done by a different artist, but they are equally charming and funny. It’s a book that I think will be well-loved and will stand up to sticky little fingers for many years.
Friedrich Nietzsche would, it seems to me, make an excellent subject for a sitcom. The Ed Reardon of Polish existentialism was pompous, self-absorbed, sexist, racist, rude and utterly unaware of his own failings.
At no moment of my life can I be shown to have adopted any kind of arrogant or pathetic posture.(p. 45)
Arrogant? Certainly not when you called your book ‘Why I Am Wise’. Perhaps I am unfair. Maybe there was an irony in his writing that has been lost in translation. Here, for example, Nietzsche seems to temper his arrogance with a tongue in cheek:
…to take a book of mine into his hands is one of the rarest distinctions anyone can confer upon himself. I even assume he removes his shoes when he does so – not to speak of boots…(pp. 47-48)
But his willingness to dismiss others (contemptuously calling Shakespeare ‘a disorderly genius’ (p. 33), and belittling Schumann along with his entire nation: ‘The Germans are incapable of any conception of greatness: proof Schumann’(p. 33)) indicates something of Nietzsche’s supreme pride. He fully expects to be misunderstood and reviled and takes this as proof of his all-surpassing greatness.
As a writer, Nietzsche is insufferable, inscrutable, incoherent, pompous and self-indulgent. ‘Why I Am Wise’ is written in a way that is deliberately exclusive, elitist, unclear and rambling. He ‘mistrusts all systematizers’ (p. 75) which is simply another way of saying that he will not own the consequences of his statements – so anyone who tries to make coherent sense of Nietzsche is onto a losing battle. It makes it hard to write a review that doesn’t merely consist of a list of soundbites. Born a hundred years later, he might have made a good politician.
As a philosopher, Nietzsche seems (at least in this one short book, which is all I am prepared to read of his) to have dispensed with all such prerequisites as logical argument, theory or evidence. He merely states his conclusions as self-evident. And has the gall to announce that he demands no faith from his readers.
I have absolutely no knowledge of atheism as an outcome of reasoning, still less as an event: with me it is obvious by instinct. I am too inquisitive, too questionable (sic. – I think he means questioning), too high spirited to rest content with a crude answer. God is a crude answer, a piece of indelicacy against us thinkers – fundamentally even a crude prohibition to us: you shall not think! (pp. 25-26)
Hmm. Atheism is not obvious to me by instinct. Yet, I too am inquisitive, questioning and perhaps even high spirited. I would even presume to call myself, like Nietzsche, a thinker. But Nietzsche is labouring under a false apprehension: God is no prohibition, rather he is the prerequisite for thought. He is the basis for all rationality, reason, logic and justice. We should not be surprised to find that Nietzsche’s work is lacking in all of these.
At times he shows that he almost understands the gospel:
A god come to earth ought to do nothing whatever but wrong: to take upon oneself not only the punishment, but the guilt – only that would be godlike. (pp.17-18)
He claims not to be angry with Christianity, though he wages war against it. But he speaks of priests in vitriolic terms, and describes Christianity as a ‘pitiable thing’ (p. 19)
He does, however, have a particularly sharp insight into the perils of being a scholar, which struck a chord with me:
The scholar, who really does nothing but ‘trundle’ books – the philologist at a modest assessment about 200 a day – finally loses altogether the ability to think for himself. If he does not trundle he does not think. He replies to a stimulus (- a thought he has read) when he thinks – finally he does nothing but react. The scholar expends his entire strength in affirmation and denial, in criticizing what has already been thought – he himself no longer thinks. (p. 41)
This is Nietzsche’s own designation of himself: ‘I am, in Greek and not only in Greek, the Anti-Christ.’ (p. 51)
I don’t quite agree. But if this short book exemplifies the rest of Nietzsche’s work and thought, then he is indeed a pitiable thing. I’m hoping that next time I sign up for the Penguin Free Book scheme, I get something a little more fun.
Idly thumbing through my mother’s copy of the Church Times while waiting for some bread to defrost, I happened to notice this week’s book reviews. Lester Grabbe’s latest book on the history of ancient Israel looks to be a fairly standard historical study with not much new to offer.
But it was the second volume that really caught my interest. Have a look at this:
…the baptism of Jesus, and Christian baptism, are traced back to the consecration of priests. The eucharist is interpreted against the background of the Day of Atonement, not the Passover. The bread at the eucharist is most likely the Bread of the Presence, consumed weekly by the priests of the Temple.
No, the volume in question isn’t Leithart’s “The Priesthood of the Plebs” but something called “Temple Themes in Christian Worship” by Margaret Barker. It sounds excellent.
No really! Well, almost.
Penguin are once again giving out books to bloggers. You sign up, they send you a book and you undertake to write a review of it within 6 weeks. See here for more details. They’re sending me something by Nietzsche but not everything is that scary. One of my friends is getting The Wind in the Willows, for instance.