Reading Update

I’ve been reading.  It’s an occupational hazard/joy (or at least it should be).  Sometimes it’s planned and other times less so.

In December I finished T.E. Lawrence’s The Seven Pillars of Wisdom.  I discovered and fell in love with the film version in late high school/early college with my best friend.  We didn’t just see the movie, we saw the movie in an amazing place – the Cine Capri in Phoenix, Arizona.  An amazing, environment for a movie of that scale.  However I wasn’t much familiar with the history the film described.  The book filled in some gaps while also going largely over my head in reference to obscure Middle Eastern place names and persons.  But I look forward to seeing the movie again having actually read the book.

My reading time now is split between two major endeavors.

The first is weekly preparation for the Bible study on Romans that I’m leading.  I have a devoted group of 20 or so folks who have survived in-depth studies on Genesis, Exodus, and Mark.  Romans is next on our list.  Thus far my prep reading for each week dwarfs what I did for any other individual study.  People have a lot to say about Romans.  While my bibliography for the course lists close to 10 different resources that I’ll draw upon from time to time, I’ve settled on the following three as my main go-tos:

  • Luther’s Lectures on Romans.  This is the first time I’m close-reading Luther for a Bible study.  I attempted it briefly with Genesis and gave up on it.  But I like his Romans commentary thus far, and his approach (the Scholastic teaching method) is similar in some ways to how I have structured these studies.  There is a basic study that I distribute to the students to get them into the text prior to class.  Generally these studies (Living Way) are fairly basic – they aren’t addressing scholarly or deeply theological issues with the text, but deal with the plain sense and application of the Word, oftentimes cross-referencing (sometimes well, sometimes not so well) with other Scripture.  Then I compile my lecture notes, which I give to the students as I lecture.  These are more in-depth and try to deal with more detailed theological analysis and application.  It seems to work, and I learn tons along the way.
  • The New International Commentary on the New Testament: The Epistle to the Romans by John Murray.  A good overview.  Light on grammatical analysis (which I’m grateful for).
  • Concordia Commentary: Romans 1-8 by Michael P. Middendorf.  Dense.  I just got this and will need to commit more time each week to getting through it.  Heavy grammatical emphasis despite his claims to the contrary.  Very solid theological examination of the text and citation of relevant alternate interpretations.
  • Word Biblical Commentary: Romans 1-8 by James D. G. Dunn.  Any author with two middle initials ought to be good, right?  The Word series is generally a little more liberal in interpretation but provides some good grammatical insights and word studies.

The other major reading endeavor is the preparatory reading for the academy I will be attending this summer in Strasbourg, France.  As a first-time attender expectations are probably somewhat flexible, but my intention is to read through as much of the three-page reading list as possible.  Much of the stuff expected for first-time attenders is authored by the founder and major figure of the academy – John Warwick Montgomery (you can Wiki him here).  Some of his stuff is very dense and is going to take a long time and probably multiple re-reads to wade through.  Other stuff is easier.  To date, this is how far I’ve gotten.  All of these are by JWM:

  • How Dow We Know There Is a God? – This is a very brief book – practically a pamphlet intended to be given to someone with some basic questions about the faith.  As such the answers are cursory in nature and the serious inquirer will need to be directed to more substantial works.  Additionally, because the answers are cursory they are sometimes phrased in a dismissive tone.  Authored in 1973 such a tone might have still been reasonable, but will likely be a major turn-off to post-modern assumptions about the relative nature of truth.
  • Defending the Gospel Through the Centuries – Authored in 1999 this is a brief summary of major apologetic figures of the last 2000 years.  While parts of it serve as a very reasonable overview and introduction, other sections assume a familiarity with various philosophical figures to truly make sense of JMW’s critiques.  He includes bibliographical references for each figure that he lists, which is helpful for someone looking to make a more in-depth study.
  • Tractacus Logico-Theologicus – Some consider this JMW’s magnum opus.  That may well be, but it’s painful to read.  Come prepared with a good background in philosophy and a comfort with the tools of analytic philosophy.  As such, the work is terse and to the point – there is no fluff here.  JMW presents page after page, line after line, of terse, logical defense of the Christian faith, particularly against the typical nonsense that all religions are essentially the same or lead to the same end-points/God.  Stylistically it is organized on the same basis as the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Tractacus Logico-Philosophicus.  This is going to take a long time to get through, some sections are simpler than others, and the whole thing will require multiple re-reads.

On the fun side, last night I had a few extra minutes before my volunteer shift for the Santa Barbara International Film Festival and wandered into our main downtown library for the first time.  Wandering in the fiction B’s I found a collection of Ray Bradbury short stories that was published just a few years ago, bound together around the common dystopian themes present in Fahrenheit 451.  I was able to read two short stories of his I’d never seen before, and review another one that I have always enjoyed.  What a wonderful 30 minutes of indulgence!

Have any good reading recommendations?  I should be able to get to them in about 2018….

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2 Responses to “Reading Update”

  1. sarahsjoys Says:

    ‘The Just Church’ by Jim Martin and ‘The World is Not Ours to Save,’ by Tyler Wigg-Stevenson are both good. If you get around to them in the next few years, let me know. :)

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