What I’ve Been Reading

Over at Conciliar Post, we’ve got a nice collection of short write-ups on the books that some of our writers have been reading. My contributions are included below, but I’d encourage you to check out what else we’re been reading by clicking here. Continue reading

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How to Approach Difficult Bible Passages

As a teacher, I am regularly asked about Bible passages and the theology they convey. Sometimes the questions are straightforward; other times, not so much. Some time back, for example, as I was innocently trying to lead our community group through Romans 8:18-30, I was asked how to interpret verses 29-30 in light of that not-at-all-discussed-among-Christians topic of Predestination and Freewill. It happens.

The vast majority of the time, I am more than happy to dig into a text and explain what I think and why. Having been privileged to study under some brilliant Biblical scholars (and having read many more), I am all too eager to hold forth on the Scriptures, and I genuinely hope that my discussion helps those listening. However, in the past several years I have discovered a more fruitful approach to addressing these questions: walking through Bible passages with people and training them how to read and interpret wisely. Continue reading

A Shout-Out to Shout-Outs

One of the (very cool) benefits of working with top scholars is that you sometimes run across your name in print. Friends and peers have recently pointed out a couple such shout-outs, and I, in turn, wish to encourage you to check out these books, knowing first hand the excellence of their contents.

Splendid Wickeness MentionFirst is David Bentley Hart’s latest volume, a series of collected essays titled A Splendid Wickedness and Other Essays available from Eerdmans. I had the pleasure of serving as Dr. Hart’s research assistant during the 2014-2015 academic year and helped him assemble the essays included in this volume. As Phil Long notes in his recent review of Hart’s work, these essays cover a wide variety of topics, but very often relate back to important issues of theology and/or philosophy. Continue reading

The Scriptures of Saint Patrick: The Medieval Scriptural World

This post is part of an ongoing series on the Scriptures of Saint Patrick of Ireland.

BibleTwo factors shaped the used and form of Patrick’s scriptural context, namely, the “lack of early medieval pandects (single-volume Bibles) and the fundamentally liturgical quality of early medieval biblical books….”[1] There is no doubt that the Bible’s liturgical use underscored its importance during the early medieval period. In the words of Susan Boynton, “The Bible permeated the medieval Latin liturgy: biblical narratives and themes lay behind the fundamental structures of the liturgical year, and scriptural texts were ubiquitous in the form of chants and readings.”[2] In short, the Bible and its message of the Lord Jesus prominently occupied the medieval Christian worldview through liturgical structures, be they liturgical readings, hymnody, the liturgical calendar, biblical interpretation, or communal feast days. Continue reading

The Value of (Television) Narratives

TelevisionsAt the risk of shocking some of my readers, I want to start this article with a confession: I was raised in a household that did not watch television. Or, at least, did not watch television that was anything other than the Olympics, Presidential speeches, or the occasional Chicago Cubs playoff collapse. Although the primary reason for our not watching television was because of scheduling (we simply were too busy with other things to make watching TV any sort of a priority), we would also occasionally hear about the dangers of watching TV, especially the immoral values that it promoted. Continue reading

21 Suggestions for Theological Study

OxfordSome time back, Joseph Torres published “30 Suggestions for Theological Students and Young Theologians” by John Frame. Below, I offer 21 suggestions for theological study, admittedly from the perspective of someone who could only be called a theological student and/or young theologian.

  1. Make God revealed in Christ the focus of your theological work. The fundamental work of theology is “faith seeking understanding”, to seek God and communicate His reality to humanity. If your theological project is not furthering God’s Kingdom, you’re not doing theology.

Continue reading

Book Review: Restoring All Things (Smith and Stonestreet)

“Christians are called to live for the good of the world. This requires understanding and action. We must think clearly about the world and engage deeply when and where we can.”

Restoring All ThingsIn his essay “On the Reading of Old Books”, C.S. Lewis once admonished his readers to engage numerous old books for every new book that they read. The prevailing attitude of Lewis’s day (and, indeed, that of our own) often emphasizes the new. In opposition to this “cult of innovation” we are often encouraged to return to the foundational classics of civilization and culture, and rightly so. Yet along with the wealth of the past, we must also read new books—this very website contains my reflections on a new book almost every week. Many of these new books I fully expect to make only limited lasting contributions to the shape of our world (if they make any substantial contribution at all). There are exceptions of course—though I shall not delve into a catalogue of what I perceive to be the most influential contemporary books in this particular review—and these writings are to be engaged with great eagerness. Certain other books are highly descriptive in nature, accurately taking the pulse of our world from a particular moment and perspective. The best of these are works which not only offer a catalog of contemporary culture but also connect that description with principled analysis. Though I have read many a writing claiming this dual role of description and analysis, none in recent years hold a candle to the work which is the topic of today’s review. Continue reading

Ephrem’s Boundaries of Investigation: Scriptural and Natural

This post is part of an ongoing series examining Ephrem the Syrian and early Syriac theology.
Saint Ephrem the Syrian

Saint Ephrem the Syrian

Throughout his Hymns on Faith, Ephrem remains especially concerned with recasting the terms of the Arian-Orthodox debate concerning the relationship of the Son to the Father. Instead of simply affirming a Nicene, Homoean, or Subordinationist perspective, Ephrem focuses on what he believes to be the root cause of the Christological controversy of his day: investigation. In Ephrem’s view, improper investigation has lead to the current turmoil and improper debate. While subordinationist theologies are in the wrong Christologically and methodologically, Ephrem does not hesitate to also problematize the methods of those with whom his Christology agree. In this essay, I briefly reflect on Ephrem’s two chief boundary markers for proper investigation: nature and scripture. Continue reading

Book Review: As One Devil to Another (Platt)

978-1-4143-7166-5Many readers of C. S. Lewis have enjoyed reading his Screwtape Letters, a series of correspondences between two demons, the instructor Screwtape and his nephew Wormwood, as they attempt to secure the damnation of their human “patient.” As delightfully diabolical and insightful as Lewis’ work is, however, few writers have adopted his style of “apologetics-by-dialogue” from the beyond. That has all changed with Richard Platt’s As One Devil to Another. Continue reading

Books Received: Christmas Break Reading

It’s that time of the semester again: presentations are being given, classes are wrapping up, and papers are due. The cumulative weight of the academic term is bearing down on students and teachers alike. And the holidays are coming, plans to see family are being made, and packages are beginning to arrive in the mail. I’ve recently received a number of packages in the mail, with gifts of a different sort–books to read and review.Books Received 11.21.14

 

Thanks to Fortress Press, Random House, and Thomas Nelson for these books–I’m really looking forward to reading and reviewing them.