Tuesday, January 16, 2007

In praise of... generosity

To kick off this series (introduced here), I want to praise an act of creative Christian generosity initiated by Ben Myers on my behalf, and taken up by many others. As mentioned previously, Ben set up an account to which many others also contributed in order to allow me to make Amazon purchases from my wish list. In a few days, US$242.54 (plus a US$20 voucher) was raised. From a friend whom I've only met once, this lovely gesture has been one of many times I've been touched, encouraged and challenged by his warmth and thoughtfulness (for another example, see here). And for the many who gave (many of whom I've never met outside the blogosphere), I thank God for your gracious sharing and desire to be a blessing with the things God has given you. I am excited about the many treasures being shipped Sydney-wards as I type! Although Ben has already published my choices, I thought I'd do so again with some brief explanations of why I picked this tasty menu of treats.

George A. Lindbeck, The Nature of Doctrine: Religion and Theology in a Postliberal Age
An important book on theological method that has set the agenda for much subsequent 'post-liberal' theology. I almost picked it to review for a college assignment last year, but read the much thicker Drama of Doctrine* by Kevin Vanhoozer instead. Since it has come up repeatedly in Patrik's recent meme (e.g. here) about most important theology books of the last 25 years, I thought I should grab a copy when Amazon had it for a reduced price.
*Drew rightly wants us to link to original publishers rather than Amazon, though WJK Press directed me to Amazon when I did a search. Go figure.

Robert W. Jenson, On Thinking the Human: Resolutions of Difficult Notions
I'm down to give a few sermons later in the year on doctrine of humanity as part of a five-part series inspired by this fascinating post from Kim Fabricius. I think this is my only pick from the wish list I had up when Ben launched the appeal. My apologies to those who were hoping to see more from this list, though I received a few of my wishes for Christmas and hadn't updated my list. I've always wanted to read more Jenson, one of the foremost living theologians.

David Bentley Hart, The Beauty of The Infinite: The Aesthetics of Christian Truth
Another frequent recommendation in Patrik's meme. A number of bloggers have been reading this book and posting their thoughts (e.g. here amd here and here). It sounds like quite heavy philosophical theology at points, but I'm keen to read it because my love of Nietzsche has driven a large wedge between Plato and Christianity for me and it sounds like Hart is keen to defend some aspects of Plato. I want to see whether such a thing can be done.

Rowan Williams, On Christian Theology
I've always been fascinated by Williams from a distance as he does his dance as Archbishop of Canterbury and theologian. I'm glad that this figurehead is both a serious thinker and media savvy, even if I'm sometimes puzzled by his comments (and sometimes delighted - check out this quote). I picked three Williams texts that grabbed my attention in order to get to know him a little better first-hand. I'd like to try to write something on him this year and so need to start getting familiar. This collection of essays has been recommended to me as a good intro.

Rowan Williams, Wound of Knowledge: Christian Spirituality from the New Testament to St John of the Cross
This text combines two areas of speciality for Williams: spirituality and patristics. Both are fields I've been getting into over the last few months. I'm particularly interested to see what he says about Augustine, though I'd also like to be better introduced to more of the desert fathers, who have not featured heavily in my own theological education, despite being influential on a number of people I love dearly. I'm keen to get more of an idea of what is going on in Christian mysticism.

Rowan Williams, Where God Happens: Discovering Christ in One Another and Other Lessons from the Desert Fathers
See above. The bonus of this book (a republication of what was originally a short little book called Silence and Honey-cakes (a great title) is that it has many extracts from the desert fathers - and is cheap!

Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics: II/2; III/3; III/4; IV/2; IV,4
Ben regretted that the money wasn't quite enough for a full (paperback) set of Barth's life-work, the unfinished masterpiece of 14 volumes of Church Dogmatics (the greatest theological landmark of the twentieth century - see here for more praise). However, I already own a number of hardback volumes secondhand (I/1; I/2; II/1; IV/1) and so thought I'd do a little detective work for some secondhand Amazon bargains - the postage to Oz is a little steeper than usual, but the prices were worth it for these - each was under US$30 and some under US$10! I make no promises about getting through them all in the next months, but they are a resource for a lifetime of theological depth and pondering. Where Barth gets it wrong, he's still masterfully stimulating.

In all this, I've tasted God's generosity through his people. This imitation of God is also a participation in his giving.

Let us praise what is good.
Series so far: I; II; III; IV; V; VI; VII; VIII; IX; X.


T.B. Vick said...

Hey Byron,

That's a great selection of works! May God richly bless you and bring you strength and good health.

Michael Westmoreland-White, Ph.D. said...


One of Freedom said...

Thanks for the run down on the books you chose. I was touched by Ben's suggestion and reminded what Tom Berry said to an overwhelmed person not knowing where to start doing good, "do one little thing that you can." If everyone did one little thing, it is amazing how that snowballs. I hope we take that same attitude with us to the task of living as Christ in the world around us. Confident that as we each do a little the whole is made better.

Bless you Byron.