Reading Digest #4 (Feb. 26, 2009)

SCRIPTURE …

Judges. I am currently reading through this OT book very slowly, traversing this period of the Warlords with a trusty handbook (Bruce Waltke’s chapter in An Old Testament Theology).

Psalms. My goal is to read and meditate on a single Psalm each week, reading Derek Kidner’s commentary, gleaning personal edification from each chapter, and writing my meditations into a short essay. Currently meditating on Psalm 5 (essays completed on Psalms 1—4).

CURRENTLY READING …

The Christology of John Owen by Richard Daniels (10%, 4.00 stars). Whenever I feel a bit smug in my theological knowledge I turn to Puritan John Owen to get rocked a bit. And I don’t mean rocked as in the fun experience of attending a live jam-band concert; I mean rocked as in the stinging bite of feeling stupid. Daniels has written a masterful comprehensive Christology of Owen’s writings. To balance, I’ve been reading slowly from Owen (1:374-389).

The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer, Volume 3: A Christian View of Spirituality (10%, 3.80 stars). On his blog recently, Justin Taylor quoted from the book, No Little People, and my friend CB is reading True Spirituality. Schaeffer, I believe, was at his best behind the pulpit. Both books are comprised of sermons delivered at L’Abri and are included in volume 3 of Schaeffer’s works. My devo time has been richly reward by these sermons/books.

A. Lincoln: A Biography by Ronald C. White, Jr. (15%, 3.00 stars). A spanking new, highly endorsed, biography of president Lincoln. A hearty 900-page volume that I expect will be worth the time! Note to self: White will be in D.C., May 16-17.

The Agony and the Ecstasy: A Biographical Novel of Michelangelo by Irving Stone (10%, 2.50 stars). The ornamented world of Renaissance Italy is recreated by Stone in this ‘historical novel,’ praised for its research and historical detail (the author studied all 495 known letters written by Michelangelo). The author zooms in from the period to focus on the artistic tensions and life of M., whose sculpting is genius and a small miracle. His aristocratic family was not keen on the idea of son pursuing art, his father apparently hated the idea of a son working with his hands, and was appalled that he would chip rocks with a chisel. Sculpting had passed its height in Italy and there were no gifted sculptor mentors. Yet M. followed his inner conviction that he was created to sculpt. A captivating story of divine artistic gifting.

Unpacking Forgiveness: Biblical Answers for Complex Questions and Deep Wounds by Chris Brauns (50%, ^3.50 stars). Good book on how Christians forgive others. Written with immediate application in mind. Explains the fascinating (and I think biblical) concept of forgiving others for their sin only when they ask for forgiveness and not before.

Our Reasonable Faith by Herman Bavinck (30%, 5.00 stars). My favorite condensed systematic theology noted for its theological splendor and for moments of breakout doxology. Bavinck is my homeboy and this is my go-to volume for rich, slow-paced theological learning. If you see me at Starbucks, I’ll probably have this volume with me.

Artful Sentences: Syntax as Style by Virginia Tufte (35%, 3.40 stars). Collection of over 1,000 sentences from the writings of the modern literary greats, organized topically, with syntactical exegesis to expound the stylistic construction of each sentence. I love the organization, the format, and the depth of explanation. Few books on style are as valuable. Artful Sentences is a rare book that excels at explaining abstract style within concrete examples straight from the pages of modern literature. You’ve seen this book on my list for a while and it’s not a book I’m trying to complete quickly.

RECENTLY COMPLETED …

The God Who Smokes: Scandalous Meditations on Faith by Timothy J. Stoner (100%, 3.20 stars). Stoner is a very snappy writer, plainly discussing the blunt side of Scripture with a raw honesty I appreciate. Stoner makes no apology about the complexity of God’s character; God is a blazing furnace that singes mountains and a tender and merciful father that welcomes prodigal sons home. Few books better present the hard things of God more honestly and openly while at the same time directing the reader to the cross and the unshaken love and kindness of the Lord towards His children.

Halls of Fame: Essays by John D’Agata (70%, 2.80 stars). D’Agata is the most imaginative essayists I have ever read, blending short form, loose poetry, and unique prose together until they dissolve into a single artful style. Not written from a Christian worldview.

Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us by Seth Godin (100%, ^3.00 stars). Good book about online (and offline) leadership and how to use it to help others achieve their goals. Groups stand around together, tribes communicate and provoke one another. How do leaders harness the potential of these online tribes and lead them via Web 2.0—blogs, Facebook, Twitter. Will re-read soon in a study group to refocus one of my ministry initiatives.

Getting Things Done by David Allen (60%, 4.30 stars). The classic book on personal planning and time management. I have recently implemented a computer-based system to help organize projects and have seen the fruit (OmniFocus). Allen helps clarify for me the conceptual framework of how best to utilize this and other tools of organization.

Uprooting Anger: Biblical Help For a Common Problem by Robert D. Jones. (80%, ^3.90 stars). Anger may manifest itself as red-hot or ice-cold. Anger is the manifestation of sin rooted in selfish unmet desires, fears, idols, comforts, passions etc (James 4). Very helpful book.

ON THE DOCKET …

Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling
by Andy Crouch. Dipped into this book on a recent flight, long enough to know this is a book I want to read cover-to-cover.

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson. Because Andrew is reading it now and I refuse to be less informed than Andrew.

3 thoughts on “Reading Digest #4 (Feb. 26, 2009)

  1. Culture Making is on my list too. I attended a seminar at Urbana ’03 that Crouch gave on this, and wished then that it was a book instead of a 60 minute talk, so I was stoked last year when I saw JT mention that it had gone to press.

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