My four-year-old son was playing with one of his friends here in Pasadena and she asked him, 'Jamie, what are you going to be when you grow up?'
He looked at her curiously and said, 'I'll be James.'
'No,' she said, 'I know what your name will be, but what will you be?'
But he was quite adamant. 'I'll just be James.'
Saturday, 31 December 2011
My four-year-old son was playing with one of his friends here in Pasadena and she asked him, 'Jamie, what are you going to be when you grow up?'
Wednesday, 28 December 2011
- Denys Turner, Julian of Norwich, Theologian (Yale University Press). An exciting theological reading of Julian of Norwich, collapsing the divide between mysticism and systematic theology.
- Lewis Ayres, Augustine and the Trinity (Cambridge University Press). A deep reading and thoroughgoing reevaluation of Augustine's De Trinitate.
- Ralph Wood, Chesterton: The Nightmare Goodness of God (Baylor University Press). An exploration of the darker side of Chesterton's religious imagination.
- Geoffrey Rees, The Romance of Innocent Sexuality (Cascade Books). A sort of meta-critique of the contemporary sexuality debates, and a retrieval of the good old Augustinian doctrine of original sin.
- Margaret Miles, Augustine and the Fundamentalist's Daughter (Cascade Books). One of my all-round favourites of the past year – a delightful autobiographical narrative that follows the structure of the 13 books of Augustine's Confessions. More than an autobiography, it's really an autobiographical commentary on the Confessions. I read this on the way home from San Francisco after AAR, and it reminded me why theology matters.
- Eberhard Busch, Meine Zeit mit Karl Barth: Tagebuch 1965-1968 (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht). Eberhard Busch's diaries from the last years of Barth's life are crammed full with insight and incident. An enormous contribution to Barth studies.
- Eugene Peterson The Pastor: A Memoir (HarperOne). I'm awarding this one preemptively, since I haven't actually read it yet. I've dipped into it, and it looks like a beautiful memoir – I hope to get to it soon.
- Erik Peterson, Theological Tractates, translated by Michael Hollerich (Stanford University Press). A very important contribution to English-language theology. This collection includes some of Peterson's most brilliant and influential essays.
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Theological Education Underground, 1937-1940, translated by Victoria Barnett (Fortress Press). Letters, journal entries, sermons, and lecture notes from Bonhoeffer's time in the Finkenwalde seminary. As the young folks say: epic.
- Sergius Bulgakov, Relics and Miracles: Two Theological Essays, translated by Boris Jakim (Eerdmans). This sounds like a quirky topic – but actually, this little book offers penetrating reflection on the doctrine of creation, the theology of the body, and a theology of transcendence and materiality. Definitely one of the most profound pieces of doctrinal writing that I read all year. Light-years ahead of most of the tosh that gets written about the doctrine of creation.
- Donald MacKinnon, Philosophy and the Burden of Theological Honesty: A Donald MacKinnon Reader, edited by John McDowell (T&T Clark). MacKinnon was a master of the short, punchy essay – the kind of thing you read in half an hour, and then spend the rest of your life thinking about. It's great to have more of his essays available in this form.
- Nicholas Wolterstorff, Hearing the Call: Liturgy, Justice, Church, and World (Eerdmans). A fabulous, spirited collection of short pieces exploring the intersections between liturgy and justice.
- Sarah Coakley and Paul Gavrilyuk, eds., The Spiritual Senses: Perceiving God in Western Christianity (Cambridge University Press). An important contribution to theologies of spirituality and theologies of the body. Taste and see!
- Rob Bell, Love Wins (HarperOne). I've recommended this book to several people, and I've talked to people who found it enormously helpful. In spite of all the kerfuffle surrounding it, it's really an excellent little book. Even my wife read it – twice! No theologian could ask for more.
- N. T. Wright, Simply Jesus (HarperOne). I haven't read this yet – but again, it looks like just the kind of book to recommend to people. It's a shame we don't have more theologians who can write in this kind of attractive plain speech.
- Hilarion Alfeyev, Orthodox Christianity: Volume I: The History and Canonical Structure of the Orthodox Church (St Vladimir's Seminary Press). The first volume of a massive new reference work, by the prodigiously learned Russian scholar. Just think of it: a single-author reference work! It's a feat of Herculean proportions!
- Julian Barnes, The Sense of an Ending (Knopf). A tender, hurtful meditation on time and memory.
- Téa Obreht, The Tiger's Wife (Random House). A spell-binding first novel from this young Serbian writer. It's a delightful story, told in gorgeous prose. First sentence: "In my earliest memory, my grandfather is bald as a stone and he takes me to see the tigers."
- José Saramago, Cain (Houghton Mifflin). Translated posthumously, this is Saramago's irreverent and funny re-telling of the Pentateuch. It's not one of his best books, but it's – well, its Saramago.
- Clare Vanderpool, Moon Over Manifest (Yearling). My daughter loved this book so much that I've started reading it too. Here's a few lines from the first chapter: "The seven-forty-five evening train was going to be right on time.... Being a paying customer this time, with a full-fledged ticket, I didn't have to jump off, and I knew that the preacher would be waiting for me. But as anyone worth his salt knows, it's best to get a look at a place before it gets a look at you."
- Francis Webb, Francis Webb: Collected Poems (UNSW Press). A major publishing event, collecting the luminous work of this tragic, strangely neglected religious poet. Read it, and you'll understand why Sir Herbert Read called Webb "one of the most unjustly neglected poets of the century."
- Kevin Hart, Morning Knowledge (University of Notre Dame Press). Poems of grief, loss, faith, and love, surrounding the death of a father.
- Harold Bloom, The Anatomy of Influence: Literature as a Way of Life (Yale University Press). I'll be the first to admit that Bloom can be more than a little annoying. But his great virtue is his enormous – really, his megalomaniacal – love of reading. And that infectious love comes booming through in this boisterous swansong about a life lived through literature.
- Nathaniel Philbrick, Why Read Moby-Dick? (Viking). Quirky, concise, lucid, brimming with energy and personality – and it's all about Moby-Dick. What more could you want?
- Oscar Wilde, Salomé: A Tragedy in One Act, illustrated by Barry Moser (University of Virginia Press). A lavishly produced book, with Barry Moser's wonderfully dark and vivid engravings.
- Matt Kish, Moby-Dick in Pictures: One Drawing for Every Page (Tin House Books). After following Matt's blog for years, it was a joy to see the published version of this whale-sized art project.
- Elisheva Carlebach, Palaces of Time: Jewish Calendar and Culture in Early Modern Europe (Harvard University Press). Another beautifully produced book, full of sumptuous colour illustrations, and crowded with strange and improbable facts about the history of calendars. An enchanting book.
- Giorgio Agamben, The Kingdom and the Glory: For a Theological Genealogy of Economy and Government (Stanford University Press). A magisterial essay on the political impact of the doctrine of the economic trinity. Somehow I've always found Agamben's writing – that gentle blend of history, philosophy, theology, Jewish mysticism, and sheer sleight of hand – as soothing as a lullaby.
- Princeton University Press's Lives of Great Religious Books. What a great concept for a book series! So far I've only read Garry Wills' biography of Augustine's Confessions – and it was a real treat, especially the opening chapter on the practice of writing in antiquity.
- Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain (1948; Mariner). It's true – somehow I'd never got around to reading this before. What a book! What a writer! What a life! Not so much a life as a one-man Broadway show, a runaway steam train, a carnival of sin and grace. Absolutely tremendous.
- Mark Van Doren, Shakespeare (1939; New York Review Books Classics). One of the most beautiful, precise, elegantly crafted pieces of literary criticism I've ever read.
- Tom Waits, Bad As Me. Nobody is as bad as Tom Waits. Or as good.
- PJ Harvey, Let England Shake. A blistering, rich, eloquent, disturbing provocation about warfare and the violence underlying contemporary society.
- Fleet Foxes, Helplessness Blues. Fleet Foxes: enough said.
- We Are Augustines, Rise Ye Sunken Ships. A pretty compelling rock debut. I discovered them by accident because I thought it had something to do with Saint Augustine. But I kept on listening long after I realised my mistake.
- Australian: Cloudstreet (Showcase). Wonderful mini-series about two working-class families sharing a house in Perth. It's a poignant family drama punctuated by moments of magic realism. Geoff Morrell's Lester Lamb is one of the grandest TV characters I've seen in years – a character of Dickensian proportions. (Honourable mention: ABC's The Slap, another excellent Aussie series.)
- American: Boardwalk Empire (HBO). Only halfway through this at the moment, but I'm loving it – a smart, classy series about organised crime during 1920s Prohibition.
- British: The Hour (BBC). Utterly gripping edge-of-your-sofa suspense about a 1950s current affairs show. Ben Whishaw is captivating as the slovenly genius Freddie Lyons.
- Australian: Brendan Fletcher, Mad Bastards. A raw piece of storytelling about three generations of indigenous Australians. The film used non-professional actors from indigenous communities, and the result feels gritty and confrontingly authentic.
- American: Terrence Malick, The Tree of Life. This beautifully filmed cosmic/domestic epic is a sort of visual commentary on the Book of Job, a cinematic theodicy in answer to the dark Manichean theology of Lars von Trier's Antichrist.
- European: Lars von Trier, Melancholia. The end of the world has never been lovelier.
- Religion site: ABC Religion & Ethics. Scott Stephens' work on this site has catapulted public discourse about theology and religion to completely new levels of depth and sophistication.
- Innovative site: Bibledex. A video for every book of the Bible. Why didn't someone think of it sooner?
- Blogs: Women in Theology and An und für sich. These team-blogs have produced some of the most fruitful and sustained discussions about theology in the past year. I've learned so many interesting new things from these discussions. When I only have time to lurk at a couple of blogs, those tend to be the ones I go to – and then I head over to Jason's relentlessly productive Per Crucem ad Lucem.
Monday, 26 December 2011
Sunday, 25 December 2011
The God Who Graciously Elects: 2011 Kantzer Lectures
1. Is the Reformation Over? Reflections on the Place of the Doctrine of God in Evangelical Theology Today
2. From the One God to the Trinity: The Creation of the Orthodox Understanding of God
3. The Great Reversal: From the Economy of God to the Trinity in Modern Theology
4. The God Who Reveals Himself: The Mystery of the Trinity in the New Testament
5. Which Christology? Refining the Economic Basis of the Christian Doctrine of God
6. The Processions Contain the Missions: Reconstructing the Doctrine of an Immanent Trinity
7. The Being of God as Gift and Grace: On Freedom and Necessity, Aseity and the Divine 'Attributes'
Monday, 19 December 2011
(Tune: Mit Freuden zart)
We hang our heads in shame and guilt
for ruthless exploitation:
we heat the earth and watch it wilt
for capital and nation.
In pitiless pursuit of oil
we poison air and sea and soil –
the lords of de-creation.
“Have mercy on us, Lord!” we plead,
but is it false confession?
We mask misdeeds, we gild our greed,
as peace we spin aggression.
We’re skilful at the apt excuse,
and the dark arts of word-abuse –
the truth is in recession.
O God, this is our world of vice,
come, judge us, test us, try us;
though we deny you, Jesus Christ,
Deliverer, don’t deny us;
break down the selves in which we hide,
evict our vanity and pride –
O Spirit, occupy us!
Thursday, 15 December 2011
After dinner he felt so happy that he went into the other room and wrote a song, full of small words of simple gladness. When it was finished he brought it to her and said, Look, I wrote you a song.
She said, All this time you were so silent, I thought you must be mad at me, I thought you must be brooding, I thought you no longer loved me, I thought you were all alone, I thought you might be thinking of someone else.
He said, But I only think of you.
When she sat down to read the song, she was silent a long time while her heart within her grew glad and boundless as the heart of a child. Watching her carefully from the corner of his eye, he wondered if it was his fault that she had suddenly grown so quiet, so sullen and so subdued, if he had done something to offend her, if she still loved him, if she had ever really loved him, if she was thinking of somebody else, if she was all alone in her thoughts, alone beside him in the pale lamplight with the song of his heart in her hands.
Sunday, 11 December 2011
So to help you out, here's a quick colloquial abridgement of Barth's whole theological career:
- Romans commentary (early 1920s): God judges
- Göttingen dogmatics (mid 1920s): God speaks
- Anselm book (1930): God knows
- Church Dogmatics I (1930s): God gives
- Church Dogmatics II (1940s): God loves
- Church Dogmatics III (1940s-50s): God blesses
- Church Dogmatics IV (1950s-60s): God befriends
- Church Dogmatics V (never written): God heals
Thursday, 8 December 2011
Monday, 5 December 2011
One of my favourite songs is about going to California – and that's what my family and I will be doing in the morning. I'm on sabbatical, so for the next few months I'll be a Visiting Scholar at Fuller Seminary in Pasadena.
My new book on Rowan Williams should be out pretty soon too. There's an edited extract at the ABC site, from the chapter on politics: Politics of the Empty Church: Why Rowan Williams Defended Sharia Law.
And here's a blurb from Lewis Ayres:
Myers’ book exhibits many of the traits he describes in the theology of Rowan Williams: an attentiveness and care that makes the familiar strange, a sparse but rich prose that bears re-reading, a seeking always for historical foundations and resources. In fact, this elegant book is a complex intellectual biography that convincingly roots its hero in a series of engagements – the centrality of MacKinnon, Wittgenstein and Hegel in Williams’ thought is revealed – which are then shown to occur within an on-going reflection on the life of prayer. Throughout, the complex paths of Williams’ theology are introduced with clarity and verve. —Lewis Ayres, Durham UniversityIt's a small book, short and snappy, with 14 chapters. Here's the table of contents:
Sunday, 4 December 2011
by Kim Fabricius
We pray so that we may learn how it feels and what it entails to be loved by God. All “problems” with prayer are, ultimately, problems with love.
I don’t pray the Lord’s Prayer because I believe in God, I believe in God because I pray the Lord’s Prayer.
A life without prayer is an empty house.
I hear Quentin Tarantino is making a director’s cut of the Nativity. It’s called The Massacre of the Innocents.
The only substantive criticism to be made of Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life is that this inexhaustibly rich, mysterious, and tender film ends. The scene with the wounded (female? pregnant?) plesiosaur and the predatory velociraptor that doesn’t predate (WHY? – we are teased to project) haunts me.
I reckon that adults should be admitted to the Bible only if they are accompanied by children.
Here is an example of a Christian who doesn’t “get it”: he infers from Jesus’ saying about the hairs on our head being numbered by the Father (Matthew 10:30) that God actually has a calculable figure in mind, because God knows everything, right?
In a theological critique of the Occupy Movement, an otherwise fine Christian blogger recently opined that “there is, in principle, no gradation of right and wrong before a Holy God. There is either right, or there is wrong; there is no political or social theory that is more or less proximate to God’s ways in Christ.” This is a view that Bonhoeffer would label a Christian “radicalism” that despises the “penultimate”. Bonhoeffer urged, in contrast, a faith that discerns in the world practices of decency that Christians should affirm, and practices of corruption that Christians should oppose. He also advocated supporting and working with the good guys. Indeed. We may live in an age of darkness, but not all the cows out there are black.
Believing that non-Christians who, manifestly, are good are not really is like believing that fossils that, manifestly, are antediluvian are not really. Virtutes gentium splendida vitia? Rather, if it looks, walks, and quacks like an anas, it’s probably an anas, not an anus.
Why are the US and Europe so bollixed? Because the leaders of the West who came of age in the sixties no doubt remember them.
Is it morally permissible to torture another human being? Even to raise the question is to be lost.
Is God more powerful than Satan? No.
The geometry of the kingdom is non-Euclidian: the shortest distance between here and there is not a straight line, it’s a detour of indeterminate length.
Advent prayer: Hound of heaven, make us your prey, we pray.
Is time-travel possible? Of course. As suggested by the initial results of the Opera collaboration on the acceleration of muon neutrinos, faster than the speed of light? No, as realized in that experiment with a Maranatha we call Advent: Christ comes to meet us from the Future.
Do not be deceived: famines, earthquakes, wars, even portentous astronomical phenomena – none of these things are signs that the parousia is imminent. On the other hand, if the Cubs are leading the league come mid-September …
Nature abhors a vacuum, grace loves one. That’s why God made hell.
The fundamental difference between traditional Methodists and hyper-Calvinists is that traditional Methodists never gamble, while for hyper-Calvinists it’s always double or nothing.
“Awesome”. “Amazing”. “Incredible”. New Christians talking about Jesus? Yes, and the judges on The X Factor talking about their acts. Remove these three words from their vocabulary and they would sit there like Trappist monks.
It may be easier to negotiate with a terrorist than with a church organist, but it is easier to negotiate with a church organist than with a cat.
I don’t have a PhD (for me the suggestion to do one was a temptation, not an opportunity), but tell me if I’m wrong in saying that unless it bears fruit in the virtues of gratitude, humility, and friendship, it does indeed amount to poo “piled higher and deeper”.
Jesus said that “you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (John 8:32). He had obviously never met anyone with Alzheimer’s.
I expect to live to 100. Only the good die young. And blues singers. And maybe doctors. Have you ever met an old doctor? It makes you wonder.
Ignatius called the eucharist is the “medicine of immortality”. You could also call it the gingko biloba of the church.
Prayer for a funeral: Veni, Cremator Spiritus!
Ben has just returned from the AAR Meeting in the City by the Bay. Damn, he forgot to pack his copy of The Beauty of the Infinite, which he’d been rereading for the Eastern Orthodox Study Group. That is, he left his Hart in San Francisco. [I know – that was AWful! I’m outta here…]