Tuesday, August 12, 2008

More Books I've Read

It's been a while since I shared about some of what I've been reading. I might be forgetting some but way back during Lent I was reading:

The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

I think this is simply called "Discipleship" in its newest translation. That's what its original German title was, simply Nachfolge which I guess literally means "following."

Anyway, I read the version copyrighted in 1959. I wonder if the newer translation is an easier read. I've heard from a few people how reading this book changed their lives. I just found it so dense, so hard to read. I could only read a few pages a day because I was getting lost. I've read quotes now and then from this book and I think they were picking out some highlights because I just couldn't wrap my head around it very well. Maybe I'm the one who's dense.

Reclaiming the "E" Word: Waking Up to Our Evangelical Identity by Kelly A. Fryer

I'm a pretty big fan of Kelly Fryer. When I read her stuff I get excited about the possibilities for the church. Sometimes the trick is translating that excitement into action or spreading that excitement to the rest of the church.

Kelly can be pretty critical about the church, which can be a good thing, but I'm starting to think she's going overboard. Kelly's writing is starting to sound like the church can do nothing right and that we ought to scrap the whole deal and start from scratch. I believe, as she does, that the church needs to be focused outward, but when I read her now I'm not sure what, if anything, the church should be doing "in here."

I get frustrated by what goes on in the local church (I guess more by what doesn't go on) and by what does and doesn't go on in the wider church. I'm wondering if Kelly has become too frustrated. Is it because the church body she belongs to has said that someone like her can't be a pastor in that denomination?

There's still a lot of good stuff in this book. The term "Evangelical" has been hijacked and we need to wake up and reclaim it in its older and fuller meaning. Maybe she was more challenging than I was ready for when I first read it. It's a short book so I'll have to read it again and see if I see it differently.

Crazy Talk: A Not-So-Stuffy Dictionary of Theological Terms edited by Rolf A. Jacobson

This was a book written by professional theologians for ordinary folk. I guess I can be considered one of the former but I see myself more as one of the latter. And it doesn't shy away from taking a few digs. For instance:

Rapture \RAP-chuhr\ n.
Now you see it, now you don't—because the teaching is not biblical.

In this not-going-to-happen event, all truly faithful Christians would be beamed from the earth directly to heaven so that they could avoid Satan's seven-year reign before Christ's return at the end of the world. In reality the biblical support for such an event simply does not exist. Kind of like Frankenstein, this monstrous false doctrine was pieced together from bits of 1 Thessalonians, Matthew, Daniel, and Revelation—and popularized by a series of pseudo-interpretational novels. (p. 139)

Some definitions just made me think of things in a new way or understand them more clearly. For example:

Means of Grace \MEENZ-uhv-GRAS\ n.

The simplest stuff of every day through which the most profound event of eternity happens to you.

Have you ever smelled cold or hot? Have you ever felt a scream? How can a person see that which is invisible or hold that which has not substance in one's hands? That is what the means of grace are all about. God's grace—God's Redeeming Actions Concerning Everyone—is an event that frees us, forgives us, empowers us. But how does it come to us? In the simplest of everyday things: words, water, bread, wine, community. In the Word of God, in the sacraments of baptism and Communion, in the community of the church, God's grace can be smelled, felt, seen, heard, held, and tasted. (p. 113)

I really liked this book.

Lutheran Questions, Lutheran Answers: Exploring Christian Faith by Martin E. Marty

Apparently Martin Marty has written more than fifty books and I think this is the first one I've ever read. I've certainly heard of him and read quotations from his writings and maybe read articles by him, but this was my first book. It was very good. It answers a lot of theological questions from a Lutheran perspective. That's very helpful because I think a lot of people have conflated so much from the fundamentalist end of the spectrum and so much decision theology into Lutheranism.

Now it may seem that I read only theological books, but I make time for fiction. I read:

The Secret Mitzvah of Lucio Burke by Steven Hayward

This book was about three families living side by side in row houses, sharing a connected front porch, in Toronto in 1933. Two families are Jewish and one is Italian. Part of the book is a love story, part about friendships, part about baseball, and part about anti-Semitism. It culminates in a riot that takes place after an amateur baseball playoff game between the anti-Semitic Swastika Club and a predominantly Jewish baseball team and their fans (the Italians were their allies). The riot really did take place 75 years ago this month. Good book.

Playing for Pizza by John Grisham

A third-string NFL quarterback gets into the conference final game and really blows it. He's got some skill but nobody wants him on their team anymore. His agent finds him a job as starting quarterback for the Parma Panthers in the Italian NFL. It's funny. There's some romance. And the description of the football games is even exciting. It's not Moby Dick or To Kill a Mockingbird, but for sitting on the beach or by the pool or at your campsite it's enjoyable, at least it was for me.

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