Saturday, December 18, 2004
I haven't posted anything of great significance for some time now. The last few months have been extremely lean periods, blogging wise. I had considered going into an official blogging hibernation this winter, but in the end decided against it. As things have transpired my blogging has been quite insubstantial and relatively infrequent; I might as well have taken the winter off. I have been able to get a bit more reading done over the last few days, mostly by my granny's bedside. I am re-reading a number of books and trying to get back into a number of books that I never got around to finishing when I started reading them in the past. I used to feel compelled to read every book through from cover to cover, but seldom feel the same way any more. Of course, there are some books that simply must be read this way, but many books that I read are simply telling me things I have already read elsewhere on numerous occasions. I need a good reason to do anything more than skim some of these sections. I often skim read a book in about an hour to get a feel of its general argument and then read it again (or certain sections of it) in more depth. If it is a particularly good book I will make occasional notes in the margins and engage in copious underlining. I read James Jordan's Primeval Saints a couple of days ago and enjoyed it thoroughly. As is the case with all of Jordan's books, Primeval Saints was replete with scintillating biblical insights. The more that I study my Bible, the less tenuous many of Jordan's readings seem to be. I remember being unimpressed on my first encounters with Jordan's work a few years ago. I felt that his exegesis was far too fanciful. Of course, at that stage I was very much in favour of closed 'scientific' readings of the biblical text and Jordan's use of Scripture introduced an ambiguity into the text of Scripture that could not be properly contained by my tight hermeneutical rules. I have also nearly finished reading Tom Holland's new book Contours of Pauline Theology. Tom Holland is an evangelical Pauline scholar who seeks to interact with the thought of NPP authors such as N.T. Wright, for example. Holland seeks to interpret Paul in a manner that takes seriously Paul's Jewish roots. He repeatedly challenges readings of Paul that are individualistic and fail to do justice to the 'corporate' character of Paul's thought. Holland occasionally gives refreshing and illuminating readings of Paul, but his work suffers from a significant number of serious flaws. In particular, the manner in which Holland employs the 'New Exodus motif' is troubling. This one motif dominates almost to the extent of its becoming an all-controlling model into which all texts are shoehorned. Dr. Peter Head's description of the book as 'challenging, unsettling and infuriating' is perfect. At this stage I will confess that I know Dr. Holland personally and have heard him lecture on many of these issues in the past. I have also talked at great length to a number of his PhD students and have ended up feeling profoundly frustrated with the manner in which the text of Scripture is frequently distorted by Holland's so-called 'corporate principle'. My own theological understanding has been profoundly shaped by this dialogue. I may well have brought too much of the frustration that I experienced when talking with Holland's disciples to my reading of this book. To some degree, however, I believe that my prior interaction with Holland and his students does grant me a richer context for my act of reading than most would possess. The fact that I know Dr. Holland to be a very warm man with a deep pastoral heart also colours my reading. For these reasons I feel that my biased reading is not without its merit. I might well post a lengthy review of Holland's book in a future post. Other books that I am reading include N.T. Wright's Paul For Everyone: Romans Part II and Michel Foucault's The Order of Things. I have also just started reading The Deptford Trilogy on Paul Baxter's recommendation of Robertson Davies' work. Peter is getting me a copy of James Smith's Introducing Radical Orthodoxy for Christmas, which I cannot wait to get my teeth into. Unfortunately my mind just can't cope with anything too deep at the moment; I have had very little sleep this week (one night I didn't have any at all) and my mind is not really fit for thinking.