05 July 2010

processing: Summer 2010 Reading (I)

For The Beauty of the Church
Ed. David Taylor
Since meeting a popular songwriter we hosted in college and being told to check out Steve Turner's Imagine, I've maintained a detached interest in the merger of theology and the arts.  As my theological mind has expanded, so too has my appetite for this intersection.  Duke's (by way of Austin, TX) David Taylor writes and edits this wonderful volume replete with talented and interesting authors and a panoply of perspectives.  Besides Peterson, who can hardly do wrong by me, I was surprised, edified and provoked by John Witvliet Worship piece (I look forward to thinking about original songwriting & worship with some amazing songwriters in our community) and especially Jeremy Begbie's musing on Art and Eschatology.  I highly recommend this to anyone who's ever even considered the role of art in the life of the Church.

Practice Resurrection
Eugene Peterson
The capstone to his prolific Spiritual Theology series, Peterson embarks on a thorough and serious treatment of growing up, being the Church, and living in terms of the resurrection existence Christ inaugurated, as articulated by the letter to the Ephesians.  I really appreciated how constructive this work was.  While providing harsh and prophetic criticism towards the failed and unfaithful ways we North American Christians attempt to build, progress, and grow, the tone and timbre of the whole matches the exciting, creative, and counterintuitive character of the great biblical letter it explicates.

Resident Aliens
Stanley Hauerwas and Will Willimon
About halfway through this book I really began to resent whoever chose our entrance reading requirements a couple years ago for Duke.  While Dean Well's Power and Passion was somewhat helpful, I can't really think of something else that could provide such a succinct and challenging primer to how things are thought and done at Duke than Prof. Hauerwas' and Bishop Willimon's landmark book.  I might have spoken louder, earlier, and more often in some precepts had I tackled this one prior to the summer before my final two semesters.  Spanning ecclesial ethics, the dangers of no-holds-barred modernism, and introing a Yoderian, post-Constantinian vision, these two master communicators also realize the importance of both eschatology and worship for the life of the Church in the world.  This work begs to be engaged with and achieves the provocation the cover advertises.

The Prodigal God
Tim Keller
I was really excited to dig into this one.  The final parable in the Luke 15 series has always been one of my favorites to read, preach, and re-evaluate.  This fall at Gathering Church, we're looking to focus on Keller's take.  His dealing stuck me as a bit unique, devoting a lot of space to the consideration of the older brother in the story (and going on to portray Jesus as True Elder Brother), going as far as to interpret him as but one of a couple of Lost Sons in the story.  I liked the accessibility and intrigue created by this.  It seems it will be a great entry point for those without a ton of study and small group experience as well as those, who know the story well.  It also made me go back to last summer's read: Volf's Exclusion and Embrace, to re-visit his brilliant exegesis of the characters within this keystone parable.  One main gripe I have is the  over-villianization of the Pharisee character in the story.  While I don't deny the teeth the the story has towards that crowd, the NPP-reader and Mel Gibson critic in me cringes at the careless portrayal of Jews as the epitome of flagrant unfaith.  All this said, I'll return back to Prodigal God (no spoiler alert: prodigal means extravagant, excessive) quite a bit more as a resource.

Deep Church
Jim Belcher
Anyone looking for some sort of positive assessment of the messy tangle encountering evangelical(-ish) church-life to come, should pick this one up.  Belcher offers an accessible and erudite survey of the landscape and painstakingly critiques and offers a way forward (which he, following CS Lewis coins the deep church).  This "third way," for him, is rarely a synthesis of the other two poles, though Belcher possesses all the charity, skill, and machinery to form such syntheses.  Belcher instead looks and, more often than not, finds a true new way.  This way of Orthodoxy and Engagement, truth and warmth, set-apartness and engagement must be the way forward and the type of leaders needed for such a grand endeavor must be committed to ecumenism, creativity, and generosity.  I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  It accurately mapped and widely conversed un order to generate a gravitational vision around the Triune God in community.  Well done.

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