Tuesday Reading Roundup

“Canonical Theism: 30 Theses” by William J. Abraham (reproduced at Inhabitatio Dei)
I had never heard of that title concept before reading around Abraham’s Wikipedia page two days ago. What I like best are the broad sense of tradition; the recognition that the clean, clear, beautiful unified first few centuries of the Church are a (in my experience, evangelical) myth; the explicit emphasis on the work of the Spirit through the canon(s); and the heart toward ecumenism. I’m still not sure about the emphasis on soteriology understood as opposed to epistemology (although I am quite happy for epistemology to lose primacy).

“The Myth of Maturity” by Jonathan Andersen
Don’t keep waiting to be ready/qualified/skilled/smart/holy enough to love others in Christian ministry.

“The Second Epistle to the Thessalonians”
The whole tone of this epistle makes it clear that the church it was addressed to was a church that was experiencing intense suffering. I’m intensely, admittedly sometimes irrationally, reactive towards Christians who talk about how the world today is worse than it’s ever been. (For instance, I don’t understand what middle class, white Americans are talking about when they express doubts about bringing children into the early 21st century. They are speaking gibberish to my ears.) Reading this book repeatedly this week, however, gives me pause in my common reaction to Christians who talk about persecutions and signals of the end of the world. That apocalyptic turn which humans in pain make towards a rapidly approaching End of Days (not just in 2 Thessalonians, but throughout the apocalyptic and prophetic literature of the Old Testament as well as plenty of times in history, including very recent US history) may be a fear-driven response to our surroundings, but our fear does not keep God from entering faithfully and weightily into our lives and communities.

The Girard Reader by Rene Girard, edited by James G. Williams
I first heard about Girard and his concept of scapegoating while at Duke Divinity. In the time since then, I’ve heard more, particularly from emergent and progressive evangelical Christians and others in search of a non-violent God and a non-violent atonement. For this week, our group read the Introduction (a brief biography and overview of the development of Girard’s thought) and the Epilogue (a wide-ranging interview with Girard).

First impressions: this kind of feels like reading Freud might have in the 1930s. Until I’m convinced otherwise, I read Girard’s theories on mimetic desire, human development, and myth as entirely requiring Freud’s (not just any) theory of the unconscious, then applying it to all human societies, not just all human individuals. For another, Girard is a thinker entirely convinced of an idiosyncratic theory and interpretive tool which can be used to explore, describe, and sometimes explain basically anything involving humans. His work, like Freud’s, is provocative and (more-or-less) plausible, even if one is not personally convinced of its accuracy. And the next century will likely bring the scientific method to bear on Girard’s claims in a way that will change our reception of Girard but not remove his impact on our thought. Our final Freud comparison: Girard is still alive, but the next generation of scholars are the ones extending his theories.

How To Raise an Amazing Child the Montessori Way by Tim Seldin
I surprised myself at not devouring all kinds of pregnancy and birthing books during Melinda’s pregnancy. Not only am I a reader and a generally curious person, but I want to be a good husband and father. However, (1) I mostly read a bunch of articles and now feel relatively well-informed, and (2) early in the pregnancy I realized that all kinds of soon-to-be parents consult prenatal books, but the whole ballgame is the actual raising of the child.

My previous Montessori experience is actually a light connection to Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, based on Sofia Cavaletti’s work exploring how our spiritual life follows developmental patterns just as much as our emotional and physical development do. Montessori methods are sometimes stereotyped as hippy schooling, but the reason for that is that they value creativity, curiosity, and independence, things which I definitely also value.

I am loving this book.

Contemplative Prayer by Thomas Merton
I’m nearing the end of the book, and it seems like Merton is setting off a fireworks grand finale: quotations from other mystics throughout history alongside his own deep insight in rapid fire.

Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner
Still being gorgeous. Now it has me thinking about how I loved its emphasis on life-long friendship the first time I read it. This time, I see that all the more, as friendship is the piece I most resonate with in Hauerwas’ work.

“Renounced Ambition: David Schickler Talks About ‘The Dark Path'” by John Williams (New York Times ArtBeat)
The award-winning novelist talks about his Catholic faith, his prayer life, and God.

Tuesday Reading Roundup

“The First Epistle to the Thessalonians”
From loving pastoral guidance to an early Christian to apocalyptic descriptions of the end of the world, this book really has it all. Seriously, though, I keep being struck by this, 1 Thess. 4:9-12 (emphasis mine, which may have to do with trying to find JP2’s reverence for manual labor inside my current latte-centric paycheck):

But concerning love of the brethren you have no need to have any one write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another; and indeed you do love all the brethren throughout Macedonia. But we exhort you, brethren, to do so more and more, to aspire to live quietly, to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we charged you; so that you may command the respect of outsiders, and be dependent on nobody.

Contemplative Prayer by Thomas Merton
Sometimes I forget that Merton was not just a great spiritual sage and teacher but that he had a great mind too. He taught theology to monks and priests, after all, and he was essential to the beginning of Cistercian studies as an academic endeavor. In the last week, this book blossomed from a deep book about contemplative prayer practice to a book about the history of the contemplative tradition inside and outside of Christian monasticism. The closest similar work I’ve read, looking at theological development and history at the same time, is Simon Tugwell’s Ways of Imperfection.

Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner
You decide if it’s worth reading.

Read this blog and be thought-provoked. You can start here: “Manly Me (Theology Edition)” and its follow-up “Un-Womanly Me (A post about, and full of, paradoxes),” both by Brandy Daniels.

Look! There! On the horizon! Fresh from the Amazon warehouse!:
Together with a couple friends, I’ll be tackling The [René] Girard Reader. Look for some wrestlings with it in the next couple weeks.