Monday, March 28, 2005
Many days have passed and now I return to the blogosphere. Much has transpired in the last few weeks and casting my mind back requires considerable effort. I have grown quite accustomed to being offline. In some senses returning is almost a disappointment. I would not be surprised if my blog will take a subtly different form from now on. I trust that, by God’s grace, I will be able to harness it more effectively, making it subservient to deeper aims and principles, no longer a master of my use of time and energy. The last few weeks boasted the particular highlights of a weekend spent with some Polish friends in Wales and a visit to Nottingham with Elbert to attend an N.T. Wright lecture. I will post extended notes from the lecture sometime in the next couple of days. We also had a very enjoyable church visit to Llandudno (north Wales) just over a week or so ago. While I was visiting my friends in Wales for the weekend I took the opportunity to reread Wright’s doctoral thesis, The Messiah and the People of God. I will probably post some quotes from the thesis some time in the next few weeks. Observing the consistency of Wright’s position in 1980 with his present position was interesting. More than once I was struck by the thought that Wright has been thinking along these lines for longer than I have been alive. I sometimes wonder how far my theology will move in the next twenty years. Will there be any seismic changes in my approach, or will I be primarily concerned with honing a position that I have already pretty much settled upon? I had to give a number of talks over the last few weeks on various subjects. It is hard to fit reading, studying and detailed preparation into a week in which most evenings after work are occupied with meetings or social activities of some type or other. My Greek and Hebrew revision has suffered somewhat. At present I have over 200 pages of a PhD thesis to check for spelling and grammar. My grammar leaves something to be desired; unfortunately, grammar did not seem to be on the curriculum in the schools that I attended. The limited grammar that I now possess was gained by a process of osmosis. I also have to give some thoughts on the theology of the thesis — a task for which I feel more equipped. This afternoon I will most likely be checking an essay for a Korean friend. Tomorrow I return to work. I had been hoping to start into the second year of a BA course in theology in the University of Durham in September. I received a rejection letter a couple of weeks ago. I visited the city in December and got to meet Jeff Steel and Kevin Bywater. I fell in love with the city and was also greatly anticipating the opportunity to get to know Jeff and Kevin better. Unfortunately, it was not to be. I am now thinking more in the direction of an MA course in Divinity in the University of Edinburgh or the University of St. Andrews. I have unconditional acceptances for second-year entry into either of these courses (the courses are four years in length, which is a little daunting). Please pray for wisdom for me as I consider which way I ought to go. I would also appreciate any advice that people can give me that would aid me in my decision. I want to be of use in our Lord’s service, but I still don’t even have the vaguest idea of the place where He would have me to be (long term or short term). I have been greatly held back by illness and various false starts over the last few years and on occasions I feel as if I have already missed the boat somehow. I have watched a few good films over the last few weeks. I enjoyed Lost in Translation. Watching The Incredibles again was fun. I was a little disappointed by Luther. I felt that the film gave an airbrushed portrait of the man. As far as I remember, Luther didn’t drink once in the entire film. I also did not feel that the film presented us with much to go on regarding the thought of the man, that which makes him so significant. He even thumped his Bible on one occasion. I wondered whether someone was trying too hard to make Luther palatable to a Southern Baptist audience. The film ended by mentioning the huge number of people who follow the Christian faith as Luther understood it; one imagines that Luther himself would feel that his name is being taken in vain. I have mixed feelings about Amelie: there was much that I enjoyed, but I felt that it was far too amoral in places. I read a number of books. I finished reading Gene Wolfe’s The Fifth Head of Cerberus. The book deserves a number of readings and I imagine that I will return to it some time in the future. I also finished reading Marva Dawn’s Unfettered Hope. I often disagree with Dawn, but her books and lectures are always stimulating and thought-provoking. I highly recommend Unfettered Hope. Gaines Redd has started a review of the book here. Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is a very well-written book, when one has got beyond the language. I would imagine that contemporary British literature is more expletive-ridden than contemporary American literature. This certainly seems to hold for films. The Curious Incident is a very moving story, told from the perspective of a boy with Asperger’s Syndrome. I read The Name of the Rose for the first time. I can’t remember being so absorbed in a book for some time. Baudolino is also an immensely enjoyable read. Although it is not as good as The Name of the Rose, it still provides the reader with much to ponder. I was quite sorry that I had to finish both of them. Reading Eco’s Mouse or Rat? Translation as Negotiation alongside these two books was interesting. There are points in Mouse or Rat? where Eco reflects on William Weaver’s translation of his works and the things that were lost and gained in the process. Guy Waters’ Justification and the New Perspectives on Paul is terrible. The bulk of the book is devoted to a descriptive account of the teaching of various NPP authors. This descriptive account is probably the best part of the book. It is fairer than most and relatively well-informed. However, when Waters begins to express his own critical thoughts on the NPP, the book quickly goes downhill. A number of his charges against Wright in particular are patently ridiculous to anyone who has studied Wright on his own terms, rather than reading him through the lens of 16th and 17th century debates. I was disappointed as I was honestly hoping for a fairer and more insightful critique. Such a critique would be a welcome addition to the current debates. Ralph Smith’s Trinity and Reality is a helpful introduction to the Christian worldview. It is ideal for teenagers who want to explore the claims of the Christian faith. I will probably buy a number of copies of this book to pass on to other people. Thomas Cahill’s How the Irish Saved Civilization is a great read. Having lived in Ireland for most of my life, I have a deep love for the country and its people. It is inspiring and encouraging to read of God’s superintending of crisis points in history and the manner in which He powerfully used the people of one tiny nation. I reread James Jordan’s Through New Eyes for the second or third time. The world would be a better place if everyone read Jordan. I also read his booklets Crisis, Opportunity and the Christian Future and his Theses on Worship. I highly recommend both of these, particularly Theses on Worship. Although I still have to be convinced by certain of the positions that Jordan presents in Crisis, Opportunity and the Christian Future, I felt that it was attempting to do something that really needs to be done. I would appreciate any recommendations for more reading on Christian ways of discerning patterns in history. Reading this booklet has encouraged me once again to get into the work of Rosenstock-Huessy, an author I have yet to become acquainted with. I read Wright’s most recent book, Scripture and the Authority of God a few days ago. Whilst there is a lot of great material in it, I am not sure that it delivered on the promise of his earlier article, “How Can the Bible be Authoritative?”. I will probably post some comments on the book over the next few weeks. Wright’s formidable gift of illustration is still much in evidence here and much of what he has to say is insightful and useful, but one feels, when one ponders the basic premise of the book, that there is a lot of unfulfilled potential. Paul McPartlan’s The Eucharist Makes the Church: Henri de Lubac and John Zizioulas in Dialogue is a stunning book. Anyone who appreciated Being As Communion should get their hands on it. I will probably post quite a bit on this book in the coming weeks. Now that I have finished reading it, I intend to brush up on my French while reading Zizioulas’ L’être ecclesial. Catholicism and Catholicity also contains some interesting essays on the Eucharist, although it is not as good as I had originally hoped. The contributors include Fergus Kerr, Catherine Pickstock, William T. Cavanaugh and Mary Douglas. At present I am working through Essays on the Lord’s Supper by Oscar Cullmann and F.J. Leenhardt. There are a number of areas in which I disagree with them, but I might post some thoughts from my reading in the next few weeks. Some time in the next few days I might comment on some of the outstanding posts that others have blogged while I have been offline. I still have to catch up on them though.