Since doctoral work and writing entails a great deal of reading, and since some people check the blog presumably because they are also bibliophiles committed to the discipline of reading good stuff, I thought I would provide a list of the books I am now in the process of working through. They are a strange, quirky combination….
As the past two blog posts indicate, I am working through Calvin’s Institutes… quite slowly (in part because my kids usually rise up earlier than I am thinking!).
Also, I am working through essays by Hans Frei, the Yale theologian known for his work on hermeneutics. Since
my doctoral work involves a narrative and theological look at the Fourth Gospel, Frei’s work was suggested by my supervisor. I have read a bit of Frei before, but I am now proceeding with greater care, hoping to grasp the wisdom of every word. Maybe I am alone in this, but Frei is very hard to read. I have realized that this has a great deal to with the fact that he is so brilliantly conversant with the past few centuries of hermeneutical approaches to Scripture and so competently aware of every philosophical system proposed and argued since the 18th century and so acutely well-read when it comes to literary criticism… at least so it seems. To read Frei well, it seems that I will need to read Kant, Wittgenstein, Ryle, Auerbach, and maybe a few others!
Just this weekend I decided to pick up Brian McClaren. I have never read his stuff, but I noticed in Frei the phrase “a generous orthodoxy.” I had no idea that the Yale theologian was the source for one of McClaren’s most well-known catch phra
ses. I am curious to see how he appropriates Frei, though it appears from the introduction as though his appropriation of Frei is more thru Stanley Grenz’s appropriation of Frei, which is probably not a bad thing.
I am also reading (just for fun) Walter Brueggemann’s Out of Babylon. This OT scholar’s The Prophetic Imagination strongly influenced my chapter, “The Way of the Prophet” in Faith Without Illusions. In Out of Babylon, Brueggemann is contrasting the imperial ideology of Israel (which precipitated natural disaster in the 6th century at the hand of Babylon) with what he identifies as the imperial ideology and rhetoric of the 21st century United States. Controversial, yes. But also very, very compelling. As an American living on a distant shore who is most importantly a Christian, it is helpful for me to biblically reflect on the curious and tricky relationships between national identity and the identity I have as a citizen of God’s Kingdom while also a resident in this world.
Finally, I am reading R. Alan Culpepper’s important work, Anatomy of the Fourth Gospel. In spite of the fact that the story of Jesus life and ministry is presented to us as story (in the four-fold Gospel), a serious engagement with Matthew, Mark, Luke and John as narratives has been seriously lacking until recent decades. Culpepper’s book was one of the pioneering projects of literary criticism—I am letting him teach me the craft of such an approach to John through his chapters.