Sunday, December 26, 2010

20 books John plans to read in 2011

I wrote a similar list last year. I finished 17 of those books, and am currently reading the remaining three. I'll use the same categories again.

Four novels:

Psmith, journalist by P. G. Wodehouse 5th - 18th February

I think this will be the 15th Wodehouse book I've read. He wrote 96 of them, so if I read two a year, I'll have read the entire Wodehouse canon by the time I'm 75.

The Heir of Redclyffe by Charlotte Yonge

Abraham Kuyper's fiancée gave him this book to read in an attempt to convert him to orthodox Christianity.

Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott

The 1952 film version of this was one of my favourite movies when I was young, but I never got around to reading the book.

Children of Hurin by J. R. R. Tolkien

Four books of theology or Biblical studies:

The Handwriting on the Wall by James B. Jordan 3rd January - 14th April

This is a commentary on Daniel by one of my favourite authors. In Semester 1, 2011, I will be helping to teach a subject at PTC on the Book of Daniel, so this will be good preparation.

Sola Scriptura by Keith Mathison

The Auburn Avenue Theology: Pros & Cons, edited by E. Calvin Beisner 19th June - 28th August

The so-called Federal Vision used to be known as the "Auburn Avenue Theology," from a conference held at Auburn Avenue Presbyterian Church in Monroe, Louisiana. This book is a colloquium of writers for and against the perspective. It was published in 2004, at a time when people on both sides of the controversy were still talking to and listening to each other.

Canon And Biblical Interpretation, edited by Craig G. Bartholomew et al 4th September - 7th December

In the middle of 2010 I started a Doctor of Theology degree, looking at the portrayal of women in the Book of Samuel. I need to think deeply about my methodology, which will involve a canonical approach. That is to say, my thesis will be focusing on the Book of Samuel as a unity - not I and II Samuel, not spilling over into 1 Kings (though Bathsheba appears there as well). It will also examine the final form of the Masoretic Text. So I will need to work through issues relating to canon, and I trust that this book will help me do so.

Four books to help me in my work as a pastor:

Already Gone: Why your kids will quit church and what you can do to stop it by Ken Ham and Britt Beemer 13th - 20th January

I read a book on this topic back in May: Quitting Church by Julia Duin. But I think the perspective will be somewhat different.

The Past
or as Minor Poet: Texts and Subtexts in the Ministerial Life by M. Craig Barnes 6th March - 21st March

Exploring Worship: A Practical Guide to Praise & Worship
by Bob Sorge
20th November - 29th December

This book is written from a charismatic perspective, but I still think reading it will help me think through aspects of public worship. I am inescapably a worship leader - the only thing is whether I do this well or poorly.

Why Johnny Can't Preach by T. David Gordon 9th - 12th January

Four more Christian books:

Pagan Christianity?: Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices by Frank Viola and George Barna

Finding God Beyond Harvard: The Quest for Veritas by Kelly Monroe Kullberg 29th January - 4th February

This is a follow-up to one of my favourite books: Finding God at Harvard.

Black and Tan by Douglas Wilson 11th - 16th February

Mudhouse Sabbath by Lauren Winner 1st - 11th January

I do like Lauren Winner, especially her autobiographical Girl Meets God.

Four other books

The Mercurial Emperor: The Magic Circle of Rudolf II in Renaissance Prague by Peter Marshall

I must have been a teenager when I obtained a coin of Rudolf II. So it's about time that I learned about the man.

1421: The Year China Discovered America by Gavin Menzies

In Xanadu by William Dalrymple 14th June - 14th July

I love Dalrymple's From the Holy Mountain, where he relates his travels in the Middle East. It looks like here he does the same thing with central Asia, re-tracing the route Marco Polo took from Jerusalem to China.

Seven Pillars of Wisdom by T. E. Lawrence

Saturday, December 11, 2010

John's December Reading

Currently Reading:

The Dante Club by Matthew Pearl

I expected this to be a cheap imitation of The Dumas Club, but in fact it is wonderfully original. It is a fictional portrayal of historical characters - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, James Russell Lowell and Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. - who are at work translating Dante, and then come across a series of horrible murders inspired by scenes from the Inferno.

Best Friends by George and Karen Grant

This is the fifth book I've read of a brilliant series that combines stories and quotes in a wonderful way. This volume looks at some interesting friendships throughout history, like that of George Whitefield and Benjamin Franklin.

Interestingly, George Grant's blog was the first one that I read. He started blogging in March 2003, about five months before I did.

Poincaré's Prize by George Szpiro

This is a popularisation of the story of a difficult mathematical problem and how it was solved. The mathematics is getting beyond me (I'm much better at typology than topology) but I love the stories - every mathematician along the way gets a mini-biography.

The Church and the Older Person by Robert M. Gray and David O. Moberg

This book is an interesting sociological study that is the product of a host of interviews with older people about church. Two things strike me in reading through them. In the first place, the vast majority of the respondents speak of the church as "they" rather than "we". Whether "church" means the pastors or elders, and whether the church is viewed positively or negatively ("they are really nice' vs. "they are really mean") even the church-goers interviewed seem to distance themselves from the church.

Secondly, there is a heart-breaking lack of understanding of the gospel among the church-goers interviewed. "I know my soul will go to heaven if I don't do anything wrong between now and then," "my conception of God is that he would never condemn us," "I have faith that I will [live forever] because I have lived a good Christian life and have been a good lady," etc. At least the authors note that "theological beliefs often fall short of the ideal held by the church for them."

Finished Recently:

Questioning Evangelism by Randy Newman

I've read a few books on evangelism, and this is probably the best. The basic premise of the book is that it is far more effective and biblical to ask questions in evangelism rather than just tell people stuff. This is, of course, the way Jesus operated, though Newman doesn't go into that all that much. Instead, he spends most of the book looking at the questions non-Christians are asking, and how we can help them come to understand the truth by asking questions in response.
Non-Christian: You see, different religions are just like all of those blind men. None of them has the whole truth.
Christian: How do you know that?
Non-Christian: Huh?
Christian: How do you know that none of the blind men has the whole truth?
Non-Christian: Well, it's just a story.
Christian: I know. And it's not a bad one - except I still wonder how the person who first told it could say with such certainty that none of the blind men got it right...
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving

I don't know why I'd never read this before, but it is one of the great American short stories, and a precursor to the horror genre. I recently read an issue of an obscure little magazine called Semper Reformanda: A Covenanter Review in which Caleb Stegall suggested that Ichabod Crane was the "most celebrated Covenanter in all of literature."

Handle That New Call With Care by David Campbell

No, I haven't received a call from another congregation! But I figure that the time to think through what to do in that situation is before it happens. Another worthwhile volume from a helpful series.

The Doomsday Prophecy by Scott Mariani

Another religious thriller for people (like me) who enjoyed The Da Vinci Code. This one is not anti-Christian, however, though it is anti-wacky fundamentalist. It features a character who is purportedly evangelical and yet claimed that the Apostle John had appeared to him to tell him that the events of the Book of Revelation were going to happen very soon. Not only does this betray a non-evangelical view of revelation (the concept not the book - it goes against what Packer calls the "evangelical equation": the Bible = the Word of God), but it also suggests a very Roman Catholic view of saints. And yet, it sounds awfully plausible given the current American evangelical scene.