Notes, comments and reviews of books I’ve been reading -- firstname.lastname@example.org
Like many things I start I maintain them for a while then tire of them. I’ve quit blogging undeveloped thoughts now and merely toss them into a box near my desk—I now have enough ideas to write a column every day until I am 100 years old—so I’ll probably not write them all ;-)
But the following is an example of book blogging I did one year—now I just read the books instead of writing reviews of them.
è See all of Drury’s book reviews on Amazon.com
A Century of Holiness Theology
An interesting book by Mark Quanstrom for anybody interested in the shifts in holiness theology in the 20th century. He argues that there are two competing theories of holiness today—generally represented by Richard Taylor and Mildred Wynkoop. I enjoyed the book though of course it is only what it calls itself—a history of holiness in the Nazarene church, virtually ignoring everyone else—but this is to be expected since the Nazarenes consider themselves the “holders of the flame” and think of everyone else in the holiness movement as fragmentary leftovers that failed to join THE Church of the Nazarene. In a way they are right—the Church of the Nazarene is the largest “holiness” denomination. But of course there is no holiness movement any more other than that hiding out in the hills clinging to the former positions. Indeed Richard Taylor himself eventually took refuge in a holdout cave while the rest of the holiness movement completes it headlong leap into becoming mainline evangelical. It is of course to early to write a history of holiness theology in the broader movement but one will come some day—perhaps from Donald Dayton?
Scholarship and Christian Faith
Oh boy—I’m reading this book with seven other faculty members… (well, some are reading their assignments each week—others are no better than their students—showing up unprepared—one didn’t even buy the book!) The authors here are challenging the narrow definition of “integration of faith and learning” as being too reformed. They intend to “enlarge the conversation” and broaden the definition. They want to include things like integration of “faith and hope” or “faith and love” not just integrating sterile faith and the disciplines. They want to add the hands and heart to the head stuff the integrationists talk about. Written by a wife-and-husband team (Psychology and Church historian) they are provoking a stir in the reformed dominated educational cartel. Of course I have an affinity for people who challenge whatever is the conventional wisdom, so I like the book so far. (It is probably good these writers are from an Anabaptist heritage where they are accustomed to being persecuted—I bet the wonderfully brilliant Calvinists who are given to “the life of the mind” will burn Rhonda and Jake Jacobsen at the academic stake! This’ll be fun to watch—stay tuned for some of my notes in later blogs…
East of Eden
When I’m writing a book I like to read one at the same time—it inspires me to be a better writer. I just finished reading John Steinbeck’s 600 page novel, East of Eden. Whew! What a book. The intertwined story of two families—the Hamiltons and the Trasks—Steinbeck masterfully explored questions of good and evil, inherited depravity, perfectionism, and free will in this book that is drawn out of the well of the Old Testament story of Cain and Abel. A great read—I only regret it is finished. I promise myself I’ll get a group together sometime to read it through again, and eat lunch over it once a week. The almost-fatalistic approach can be depressing at times if you imagine humans as better than they really are, but there are enough glimpses of hope and goodness to have keep me with him. My favorite author is Michner—mostly because he writes of places and generations. This book is similar, but besides doing the place-generations thing, the author tosses in a paragraph or phrase (about one per ten pages, for me) that are so stunning in their crafting and depth of thought that I sometimes would lay the book down at that point and go meditate on the porch for an hour on that single phrase. In the book I’m writing I’d be happy to have a single phrase that good. I’ll try. I thank Steinbeck for introducing me to people who are now a part of the pantheon of good and evil in my mind (some busts appear in both pantheons): Cyrus Trask(I know someone like him), his favorite son Adam (A Isaac-type guy) his unfavored brother Charles. I know even better the next generation: Adam’s sons Cal(unfavored, a lot like the God-be-merciful-to-me pray-er) and good Aron. Sam Hamilton is a stand-out example of good and in a curious way his straight-laced wife which reminds me of many stern holiness folk of the past generations. The real central character of evil is certainly Cathy (later Kate). Whew—are there really people (especially women) this evil? Abra Bacon remind me of a girl I knew in grade school, and perhaps Steinbeck is successful in making the central character a Hebrew word—timshel.
Mike Buck is working on a
manuscript of historical fiction. I read
the first section today—the story of the last “Coventer” in
I know we’re not supposed to be reading Dan Brown’s work since we evagelicals have been told to be mad at him for the lousey job he did with the accuracy part of history in DaVinci Code. Of course I agree with Garlow and others that the history of DaVinci Code is mostly conjecture. (Though there is truth in the main point—powerful church leaders have always and will always try to keep the truth a secret from the common folk). Nevertheless I read DaVinci Code and thought it was a great book—as far as being a thriller and good writing with great dialogue. At least good enough for me to read his Digital Fortress on my way flying home from the Colorado Trail yesterday. Digital Fortress is another code book (and I suppose anyone working for the government will see lots of mistakes in this one too. C’mon—get off of it, it is fiction based on scraps of fact and conjecture.) While Dan Brown carries around a very ordinary name, his writing is anything but ordinary. He has all the action of a Tom Clancy novel without the preachiness (well, I take that back, all writers have agendas—Brown’s is just more nuanced than Clancy’s. Digital; Fortress was a great afternoon’s read—lots of fun, and it didn’t take much longer than seeing the movie—which ought to be made.
Why I’m not a Calvinist
Finished up Why I’m Not a Calvinist by Asbury Seminary’s Jerry Walls and Joe Dongell this morning, A BOOK John and Mandy gave me for Father’s day. Soon I must return to unpacking boxes and re-hanging closet doors in our new house, though. This is the best book on this subject since Shank’s books, Life in the Son and Elect in the Son --only this book far better and shorter. It is one of those books I wish I’d written—but I couldn’t have, even on my best day—they were the guys to write it. Well done J&J! (I’m striking it rich this summer with books—usually I’m not so impressed with what I’m reading—two in a row! I’ve written some things to Calvinists and get all kind of entertaining responses from them (accompanied by lengthy lists of proof-texts). Calvinists like to instruct. I think I’ll rest my case on this book for now. I never tried to convert a Calvinist anyway. This book doesn’t either. It merely insists that there is an alternative (minority) view. These guys did a superb job. THIS is why I am not a Calvinist—you have stated it well—even more reasons than I had before. I was a five pointer in college and during half of seminary, but I converted. I switches for the reasons outlined in this book (and a few others too). Walls’ philosophical approach is helpful, and Dongell is always strong in making biblical arguments. Sure, the book is not enough to persuade most Calvinists to switch (God Himself could not do that... well, er, I suppose, being sovereign, God might be able to do it, but it would be hard even for God I bet). Anyway, congratulations on a great book J&J. I get one or two long documents a week from my Calvinist readers who are totally perplexed that their list of proof texts has not convinced me to fall in line. I don’t think I’ll even respond seriously any more to them any more… I’ll just send them the Amazon link for this book as my response. Thank you guys for a great book! (By the way, there is also a companion book, Why I am Not an Arminian if you want both sides)
Ken Schenck’s new manuscript
Taking some time from unpacking boxes I got to read Ken Schenck’s new book manuscript, “Who Decides what the Bible means? WOAH! Great book! I stopped at a drive in hot dog stand and started reading while gulping down a hot dog and a root beer. The gal finally came and got my tray from the window without asking—I was totally engulfed in the ideas he presented. I just stayed there and read the entire book. In some ways this is a hard read for evangelicals. Not that it is hard to read, but it exposes how we really read the Bible “simply for what it says.” I loved his frequent illustrations and examples and of course his emphasis on the church–reading the Bible in context AND community. And he avoided the “We got-it-now” error of so many scholars, taking a humble approach to the “most recent scholarship” even. This is rare for a scholar. And you might expect I liked his emphasis on “good sense reading.” This book signals the death of the “Bible Stict Constructionists” – those Bible scholars who insist “the Bible cannot mean what it did not mean.” That is, those who make their living telling us regular people the only meaning the Bible has is fixed in the first century (or 500 BC or whenever the words were written.) Good riddance to you! This cabal of “original meaning scholars: have too long locked up the Bible’s meaning among themselves like the oil cartel. While Ken is not as hard on this crowd as I am, he is pretty hard—for he is one of them in a way. Weaknesses? I was feeling that a book who was arguing for a flexible meaning of words and a changing meaning of the text through the ages should have more emphasis on the work of the Holy Spirit. I had even written that down in my notes. Then Ken covered the notion thoroughly in the last 5 % of the boo, satisfying me even there. So, other than some repetition here and there that is always in a first draft of a manuscript I was delighted with the book. It can be read by a teen, not just other scholars (though for some scholars it may be the harbinger of their craft’s obituary). Congratulations Ken—this is your best book yet! Translating Philo for the ordinary person has made you able to write more clearly than I. Every student of the Bible should read this book when it gets published!
Dream West— life of John C. Freemont
I just finished reading
David Nevin’s biographical novel of John C. Fremont Dream
West. While backpacking in
o (1) If you enter politics you’ve got to play politics.
o (2) People with great personal ambition who do not know how to compromise and horse trade usually get destroyed by those with those skills.
o (3) Don’t enter business if you aren’t going to learn the rules and watch the business.
o (4) Don’t make many enemies If you want to keep from being lonely in your old age.
o (5) When the chips are down only those who love you stay with you—respect and accomplishment will not inspire permanent loyalty—only love does that.
o (6) Never conclude you are a failure in life—the next generation will decide that for you after you’re dead. (7) Marriage is God’s way of helping us see our most hazardous traits—listening and learning this from a spouse can save great pain later.
o (7) When somebody gets a really raw deal those who resent it most are the family not the victim.
o (8) When large sums of money are involved people change.
o (9) Being great at one thing seldom transfers to being great at another.
o (10) I don’t think I would have liked Abraham Lincoln if I had lived at the time—some people look better a hundred years later.
This reading blog was started June 2004. To see a few other book reviews I did before this time see these:
50 years of book reviews on the relationship of Church and Culture—nine key books about “world-changing”
Quality with Soul (Higher education and saving/keeping/losing its soul)
The Younger Evangelicals (Robert Webber)