Thursday, December 31, 2009

Book List for 2010

Here are a few of the books that I plan on trying to read this year:

John Walton's Genesis One - I really want to work through this issue and I've seen some reviews of this book and I think it will be very helpful.
Douglas Campbell's The Deliverance of God - I've seen several commentators call this the most important book of last year. In light of the "Justification" debate that was brought into the popular realm due to Piper's discussion of N.T. Wright's views and Wright's reply. This book may be the one to end the discussion.
Craig Keener's Historical Jesus - it is a long book but I want to work through all of these issues in light of the advance of critics of religion in general and the continued attacks on what we can really "know" about the real Jesus.
Francis Collins' The Language of God - I know this book is a few years old, but I am interested to see how a committed scientist and committed Christian reconciles the potential tension in both worlds.

Other potential books:
You know that I will read this: After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters by N. T. Wright (due out this spring).
It has been sitting on my shelf and I read the first two chapters but I need to finish Richard Bauckham's ground breaking book Jesus and the Eyewitnesses.
I also need to finish Eckhard Schnabel's Paul the Missionary (3/4 finished).

For fun, I hope to read Soccernomics by Kuper and Symanski. Last year I read two books on soccer/football: Nick Hornby's Fever Pitch (loved it. I must read for all fanatical sports fans) and Peter Lupson's Thank God for Football which discusses the Christian origins of some of the biggest English teams.

I'll post again on some of the books I did work through in 2009 on my next post.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Book List part 1

I feel that I can get a good sense of what kind of person someone is by asking them one simple question: "What are you reading?" I get a sense of what they find interesting as well as a sense of what kind of learner they may be.
I've already compiled an extensive reading list for 2010 and it hasn't even started. I am looking for feedback as to what you are reading and what you plan on reading this upcoming year.

Books to finish as we wind down this year:
I am about half way through Mark Batterson's, Primal: A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity.. I'll be posting notes soon on it. I got a free copy because I work with college students. If you want it, let me know and I'll give it to you the next time I see you (has to be in person, I'm not going to mail it anywhere).
I just started Bill Simmons' The Book of Basketball. I've been reading his ESPN column since it started and I do enjoy his work (although I am beginning to see some real repetition in his work. I pick and choose from his podcasts as well.) This book is 700 pages and literally has stopped a bullet. I am a history buff and one of the few people in mid-MO who likes the NBA over college basketball.
I also started The Turks Today by Andrew Mango. I have been captivated by Turkey since my visit there this time last year. I really am longing to go back someday.
I have two by Malcolm Gladwell: a collection of his essays called, What the Dog Saw; as well as Outliers (I will be giving that away when I finish as well). I don't always get what Gladwell is saying (thought Blink was contradictory) but I really enjoy his writings and looking especially forward to his essays.
I just finished Chuck Klosterman's new book, Eating the Dinosaur. This is a book of essays on popular culture and writing. Where else can you read an essay that compares Kurt Cobain to David Koresh and points out where Ted Kaczynski may have been right. It was my first book that I finished on Kindle. Enjoyed the experience. Kindle is going to make traveling so much easier.
Tomorrow I will post on some of the more technical/Bible study reading I have planned for 2010.
So...what are YOU reading?

Monday, December 7, 2009

Quick thoughts on the Rat

I have always been a big fan of Whitey Herzog. I used to follow the Royals because of George Brett and Whitey. One of the big reasons that St. Louis is known as a first class baseball town is due to his presence in the '80s. Cards won three pennants and one World Series. When I heard he was named to the Hall of Fame I was excited. If he wouldn't have made it, it wouldn't have been a travesty of justice or anything. But, other than Tommy Lasorda, he may have been the best manager of the decade of the '80s. I always thought that only having one World Series Ring was going to keep him out.
His Cardinals teams were so entertaining. I believe that the 1985 Cards may have been the most exciting team of my baseball conscience.
I can't say that St. Louis didn't have a great baseball legacy before Whitey, thanks to the Gashouse Gang, The Man, and Brock and Gibson. But Whitey's team set attendance records (3 million in attendance for a mid-market team). Plus, the Cards had just suffered through the wastelands of the '70s.
Congratulations to the White Rat. Now, please retire number 24.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Formation of the New Testament (part 1)

I was asked to come speak to some students at Missouri State in response to a recent "Skeptics" convention they had there. I was asked to respond to some of the questions that were raised among the members of that campus ministry. One of the things I was asked about was the formation of the New Testament. I pulled together some notes from Introducing the New Testament by Mark Allan Powell. I will post part one of the development of the canon here and part two later.

Canon literally means "rule" or "standard", but it is used by religious groups to refer to a list of books that are officially accepted as scripture. In the early years, Christians simply gathered together writings that they found to be helpful and shared them with each other. Paul encouraged the churches to which he wrote letters to exchange those letters with each other, so that they could read what he had written to other congregations as well as to their own community (see Colossians 4.16). It seems that multiple copies of Mark's gospel were produced and distributed to different parts of the Roman Empire a few years after it was written (both Matthew and Luke appear to have had copies). The works that circulated were the writings produced by people who had known Paul or those original disciples of Jesus, or at least people who had known Paul or those original disciples. This chain of connection to Jesus and Paul would come to be known as the "apostolic tradition."

From the start, however, there were voices within Christianity that were in tension with that developing tradition. there were people arguing for versions of the Christian faith that Paul himself rejected (see Galatians 1.6-9). Some of these alternative voices probably produced writings as well (see 2 Thessalonians 2.2 for evidence) but their works do not appear to have been preserved or included in the NT. The NT, then, is not just a collection of early Christian writings; rather it is a selection of those writings. The NT contains those works that were considered to be most representative of what became mainstream and orthodox.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Million Miles in a Thousand Years review, part 4

A Character Who Wants Something and Overcomes Conflict
I didn’t expect to find a treatise on finding the meaning of pain and hardship in a book by Donald Miller, but Miller gives great food for thought on this topic throughout this book and specifically in this section.
In this section, Miller discusses two major events that added meaning to his life. The first was receiving seed money to begin The Mentoring Project which seeks to provide resources to churches to help mentor kids growing up without a father. (Miller gives statistics that there are 27 million kids growing up without dads and there are 360,000 churches in the U.S. Miller was one of those kids and wrote about it in a previous book, To Own a Dragon).
The reward you get for a story is always less than you thought it would be and the process is always harder than you imagined. But the point is never the ending; it is about your character getting molded in the hard work of the middle.

His second event was a cross country bike ride. It becomes a metaphor for the journey of our lives. We start off wanting to change the world but we get into the middle and discover it was harder than you thought. Through the process, he discovers that joy is what you feel when conflict is over. But it is conflict that changes a person. When you share that conflict (as he did on his bike ride), the pain binds you together. For so many of us, our lives are spent avoiding conflict; maybe this is stealing our great stories. No one wants to purposefully engage in a story that will cause conflict and pain, but in our avoidance, we may be missing out on the greatest chapters of our lives.

He recounts the work and writings of Holocaust survivor Victor Frankl. Frankl spent his time in concentration camp trying to help fellow prisoners avoid suicide by trying to convince them of the meaning of their lives. In a way, he finds that misery, though seemingly ridiculous, indicates that life itself has the potential of meaning, therefore pain must have meaning. Pain might be a path to experiencing a meaning beyond the false gratification of personal comfort.

Miller came up with a good metaphor for the Grand Narrative of all of us. While in the middle of a personal crisis that brings intense emotional pain to his life, he cries out to God for release. In the process of his suffering, he imagines God saying that Don (as are all of us) is “A tree in the story of a forest and the story of the forest is better than the story of the tree.” If we could just see that it isn’t all about us and that maybe our pain is making us better people and God is creating a great story that we are a part of, perhaps we can find meaning despite our feelings of meaninglessness.
We like “made up” stories because they deliver wish fulfillment. More often than not, they wrap things up in the end. We, however, go on longing for a resolution that will not come in our lifetimes. Miller imagines the apostles trying to market the Christian walk in our consumer driven culture: since Paul has tried Jesus he’s been imprisoned, beaten, and bitten by snakes. But the true gospel offers hope that one day we will be made complete. And Paul viewed that as a source of contentment.