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Books I Read in 2010

In 2008 I read 13 books (about 5,121 pages); in 2009 I read 15 books (about 5,683 pages)... last year I continued this upward trend and got through 21 books (about 6,615 pages).  Although reading is something I often have to be quite intentional about doing (when it's not fiction), I'm finding the task to be more and more satisfying.  Here's the short on the first five volumes I read....

*Bold and asterisked titles are those I recommend

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*The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne (2006) (367 pages) - I've already written a review of this one.  But that review was rather negative, and I feel the need to say that this is nonetheless an important and compelling book.  Despite important disagreements with some of Shane's conclusions, the man deserves admiration for his follow-through... and what he does get right he does so above reproach.  If all else, the book helps me realize that I am not putting as much action behind my words as I could be, in a tangibly comparative light.  A girl I met at Eric's wedding, Amanda, mailed this book to me while I was in Iraq.

*The Politics of Jesus, 2nd Edition by John Howard Yoder (1972, 1994) (257 pages) - This is really a collection of separate pursuits toward the policy of the historical Jesus (and it is neatly organized as such).  I don't know how much stock I would put in the latter portion of the work, but nearly the whole first half is an excellent commentary on the Gospel of Luke, which I recommend to the fullest.  Yoder demonstrates that audiences Jesus dealt with were not as obsessed with private salvation as our modern Church is, but instead were primarily concerned with a sort of social deliverance.  Accordingly, Christ's most severe temptation and potential obstacle was then the general messianic expectation for him to become a militant deliverer.  This thesis makes a lot more sense of the synoptic texts than our typical modern cultural projections.  I concede that Yoder overcompensates in the right direction, and because of that I'm sure he's lost the attention of many.  But the patient person will see through to the pure intent of correcting a deep-steated imbalance.  I found out about Yoder by the constant references to his works in The Irresistible Revolution.

*The Trinity and the Kingdom by Jürgen Moltmann (1981) (256 pages) - This book took a lot of effort to push through, but it is the best theology book I've read so far.  Within lies the best explanations of suffering, selflessness, and the trinitarian identity of God that I've ever heard.  That's a lot for one book.  I only know of Moltmann through Sarah, and since reading this book, I've been trying to spread his good name through my own circles.  I need to read more by him this year.

The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer ch (1937) (316 pages) - This book was also difficult to read because of the way it forces you to strictly examine yourself.  There's a lot of great stuff in here for sure, and so far as I understand him, Bonhoeffer is a certain hero whose life deserves particular study.  Nonetheless, it seems to often be overdramatic and on unnecessarily ultimate terms, which wears on me as a reader and makes it difficult for me trust the author, as he ascends his layered progressions.  Bonhoeffer is another guy Sarah got me interested in.  I'm looking forward to reading more... something biographical perhaps...

Fear and Trembling by Søren Kierkegaard, translated by Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong (1843, 1983) (about 210 pages) - If I feel that Bonhoeffer was overdramatic in The Cost of Discipleship, then I feel Kierkegaard was downright full of himself in Fear and Trembling.  Kierkegaard's treatment of Abraham's moral infallibility is almost laughable.  However there were some romantic illustrations and conclusions, used as a sort of tangential support, that I found utterly fascinating, even if not convincing.  My understanding of the man and his work is now complicated by my friend Eric's insistence that Kierkegaard is difficult to interpret because he not only used a diversity of pseudonyms, but got into character with each one.  I concede that that would be a very artistic thing to do, but, at the same time, it probably will now require far more effort for me to accurately appreciate the works than I am willing to invest here.  I'll have to settle with accepting the authority of the Kierkegaard specialists.  By the way, that Eric I mentioned before is the one who gave me the book (and had been wanting me to read it since late high school, I believe).

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Long Live the Written Word,
Jake

Comments

( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
scionofgrace
Jan. 9th, 2011 10:12 pm (UTC)
Hello again!

The politics one sounds interesting. Context is so important to understanding any literature, and I think it's too easy to forget the kind of setting Jesus was dealing with, and what the Jews thought the Messiah was supposed to be. (I understand that many Jews still object to Jesus because he didn't deliver Israel the way they thought he would.)

Kierkegaard is someone I was introduced to in high school and never went back to. Perhaps I should take another look, if only for the impact he's had on modern thought.
essius
Jan. 11th, 2011 08:01 pm (UTC)
Your friend is right. Not one word of Fear and Trembling—or any of the other pseudonymous works—is his own, as Kierkegaard indicates in the addendum to Concluding Unscientific Postscript (on which see here). But even apart from a consideration of Kierkegaard's pseudonymity, it doesn't seem like Fear and Trembling exhibits Abraham as morally infallible. Rather, it says that morally speaking Abraham is a murderer, and religiously speaking he is following the commandments of God. To be sure, morality here is conceived in terms of Hegel's "social morality" (Sittlickheit), so in some ways we can think of Kierkegaard as arguing against cultural relativism or "conventionalism," but never does Johannes de Silentio say that Abraham is morally infallible (even from a religious standpoint) in all that he does. Nevertheless, Abraham remains the OT exemplar of faith par excellence (as we see in Gen. 48:15, Rom. 4:9,12,16, Gal. 3:7-9, and Heb. 11:8,17).
godwillnspire
Jan. 11th, 2011 11:40 pm (UTC)
As I recall, the author made it a critical point, several times, that we must assume Abraham loved his son perfectly, and fulfilled his marital duties perfectly... as if we could trust all of Abraham's actions and motivations as the incarnate, revealed, and prescribed will of God.
essius
Jan. 13th, 2011 12:13 am (UTC)
That could all very well be an exaggeration to stress the discontinuity between the ethical and the religious spheres. Even the most exemplary agent of the ethical sphere is not eo ipso in the religious sphere.
godwillnspire
Jan. 13th, 2011 01:55 am (UTC)
...?

Abraham is not the most exemplary agent of the ethical sphere, but the author seems to assume that he is, just as much as he assumes that he is the most exemplary agent in the religious sphere... This is how the author seems to set things up, before exploring the attempted-sacrifice-of-Isaac event (though it's not as if the author wrote in such strict chronological order, but that he is always falling back on hopeful presuppositions of Abe's infallibility, so to justify looking for inconsistency elsewhere.)

Again, it's as if, during such exploration of the event, the author is wanting us to always hold our point of reference in mind: that Abe was, of course, faultless in his approach to/ life leading up to this situation and, arguably (and the author does so argue), even in this scandalous event.

That's right- in the end the author seems to write Abe off as religiously perfect also, with any confusion about inconsistencies being referred to the untouchable paradox department. So I don't see this stressed discontinuity... unless it's being prescribed to everyone else but Abraham. The book makes Abraham impossibly far away from our capabilities, so as to make him worthless as a role model (not that he is supposed to be a role model, but that seems to be what the author is going for). I guess he still remains eligible for pseudo-worship though.

The NT notes Abraham several times, for fairly specific points, and *in passing.* Nothing in it compares to this long-winded, tired tome of lofty flattery.

I guess I've said some pretty harsh words about Fear and Trembling... I guess I really didn't like the main thrust of the work, as I understand it.
essius
Jan. 13th, 2011 03:54 am (UTC)
Abraham is not the most exemplary agent of the ethical sphere, but the author seems to assume that he is, just as much as he assumes that he is the most exemplary agent in the religious sphere...

Right, and this would make sense given the interest in stressing the aforementioned discontinuity. A kind of a fortiori argument.

Again, it's as if, during such exploration of the event, the author is wanting us to always hold our point of reference in mind: that Abe was, of course, faultless in his approach to/ life leading up to this situation and, arguably (and the author does so argue), even in this scandalous event.

I don't recall where de Silentio implies that Abraham is universally blameless; but even if he does, this is poetry, and with Abraham as with the later poetizations (e.g., the merman) de Silentio is clearly embellishing and using Abraham as an ideal to make a greater point. Despite the eulogy on Abraham, he is not concerned merely to Eulogize the man, but to draw out important relations between the ethical and the religious—in an attack on the Hegelian or quasi-Hegelian viewpoint.

That's right- in the end the author seems to write Abe off as religiously perfect also, with any confusion about inconsistencies being referred to the untouchable paradox department. So I don't see this stressed discontinuity...

The stressed discontinuity is in the fact that Abraham is assumed (whether poetically or literally seems to miss the dialectical point) to have discharged his earthly or social or fatherly duties perfectly, yet is not ipso facto perfect in the religious sphere, which requires a different kind of movement. Just as (in Thomistic philosophy) no amount of acquired virtue can ever entail the infusion of the theological virtues by grace, so here (for Kierkegaard) there is no way of getting to the religious sphere except by receiving God's grace by virtue of the absurd—which, as you may recall, signifies that "for God all things are possible" and is thus a reference to trusting in the Divine Governance.

The book makes Abraham impossibly far away from our capabilities, so as to make him worthless as a role model…

How do you figure? De Silentio doesn't say that we are all called to sacrifice in the same external way as Abraham, and of the knight of faith he even says "if one did not know him, it would be impossible to distinguish him from the rest of the crowd, for at most his hearty and powerful singing of the hymns proves that he has good lungs" (p. 39).

The NT notes Abraham several times, for fairly specific points, and *in passing.* Nothing in it compares to this long-winded, tired tome of lofty flattery.

Kierkegaard wishes to create a distance, not merely between himself and his audience through employment of a poetized pseudonym, but between the reader's self-understanding and the reader's understanding of the ideal. I have not researched this myself, but I would not be surprised if Kierkegaard's representation of Abraham mimics that of some popular preacher of his day eulogizing Abraham in not merely a poetically but a religiously inappropriate way. In any case, the point is to make faith "more difficult" in the sense of disabusing his contemporaries of the notion that they are simply "born into" faith, for faith requires that one must be born a second time, "from above." This is why de Silentio, in the preface (p. 7), describes the difference between the contemporary assumption that "everyone has faith" and the ancient view that faith "was…a task for a whole lifetime, because it was assumed that proficiency in believing is not acquired either in days or in weeks."
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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