Fumbled Books

Picking up a book to read is like getting the ball on the field. Your intent is to carry it to the end-zone and score a touch-down. Your plan is to finish the book. At least this is true for me most of the time. I do dip into books without the intention of reading them through, but - more often than I care to admit - I fumble books that I originally planned to finish. Somehow they cease to be priorities, a few weeks or even months roll by and it dawns on me I'm not going to finish this book.

Here are a few of my fumbled reads from 2005.

Perspectives Old and New: The Lutheran Paul and His Critics by Stephen Westerholm. I really wanted to finish this book. Really. It is one of the key books on the New Perspective on Paul and has been highly recommended by men that I trust for those who want to sort through the knotty problems of contemporary Pauline theology. And I made a good attempt. I got through part one, where Westerholm survey's the Pauline theology of Augustine, Luther, Calvin, and Wesley. I read a whole lot of the stuff on the newer perspectives (and it was tough going!) - especially the material that was most relevant to me (on N. T. Wright and other more Evangelical friendly scholars) and a good bit on the responses from more "Lutheran" Pauline scholars (although I think that is a simplistic and maybe even unhelpful label). But I didn't read Westerholm's own exposition of Pauline theology and didn't finish the book. I'm guessing I've got 150 pages left or so. The reason? I just don't have time and energy for it. The press of more urgent study for sermon preparation takes the majority of my time, and when I'm finished with that, my mental energies are like left-overs and I find myself lacking energy for serious theological study. That's when I turn to a novel or biography or something light. So, this is one book I fumbled. I had every intention of finishing it last year, but just didn't make it. I still plan to, someday. But I suspect it will be quite a while, so I'm taking it off my "Books I'm Reading" section.

Heaven's Wager - Ted Dekker. I read about six Ted Dekker novels early last year and tried to get into this one. I couldn't. I read 100 pages and was still not hooked. That spells bad news for a novelist for me, because I don't want to have to work to read for fun. So I dropped it. I still like Dekker, but this novel (an older one) gets lost in the details and suffers from stilted - even corny - dialogue. I have no intention of trying again.

Church History in Plain Language - Bruce Shelley. I just read 100 pages or so from this and think it is a great book. It's another one that I'd like to finish someday, and will probably reference from time to time. But it's just not benefiting me enough right now to keep working at it. Incidentally, it is a fairly easy book to read - it lives up to its title.

The Goldsworthy Trilogy - Graeme Goldsworthy. I got through Gospel and Kingdom in a day, and it was one of the great delights of my reading last year. The other two books in this volume - Gospel and Wisdom and The Gospel in Revelation - are still on my list. I started the latter and liked what I read, but as with some of the titles above, I really don't have time to pursue it right now. Someday, when I really want to buckle down and study the Book of Revelation, I'll take it up again. For now, other things are more important.


Agent X said...

I know what you mean about fumbled books. I work in a bookstore. They are like candy. So many to choose from, so much money, but so little time and energy.

I have looked at the Church History in plaine language (was that the title exactly?) Anyway, I never bought it, but I really considered it. I did not take church history in school, and so there is a whole wing of my budding theological education that works only on residual information.

I am staggering on N.T. Wright's The Last Word right now, which is rediculous because I am a huge enthusiast of Wright's. I have read nearly every major book of his, and two recent ones. Last Word is good, and when I pick it up, I can hardly put it down, but once down, it is hard to pick back up. I am on overload at the moment.

A recent read that was utterly succesful and so deeply challengine was Colossians Remixed: Subverting the Empire by Walsh/Keesmaat. If you have not read it, I recommend it.

I am curious about the Westerholm book. I was never a clear adherer to the old perspective, and what I know of it now seems so unsustainable to me in light of Wright, and a couple of philosophy courses. I'd be interested in looking closer at some both sides discussions by some heavy hitters.

Good blog, I saw the post above on why the slow down. Keep it up. This is good. I am glad I found it.

Many blessings...

Brian G. Hedges said...

I enjoyed The Last Word - especially its focus on Scripture as narrative. As with most of Wright's stuff, I think there are some good points and bad points to it. I resonated with Doug Wilson's review.

You should check out Westerholm if you are partial to the New Perspective. Or the two volumes edited by Carson on Justification and Variegated Nomism (which I've bought but haven't yet read). There are some strong arguments against NPP that need to be grappled with.

What church in Lubbock do you go to? I hail from that area myself (grew up in Brownfield) and my brother lives in Lubbock now and attends South Crest Baptist Church.

Thanks for the positive comments on the blog.

Agent X said...


I stopped back by and saw that you had responded to me. Great.

I belong to Vandelia Church of Christ in the Vandelia Village (area of Lubbock). After they leveled North Overton, so many poor people, and so much drugs/prostitution type riff-raff that had been up there for years spread down to Vandelia. It is deteriorating now. However, several years ago, the elders there had assessed the church's situation (having paid for the building etc) and rather than pulling up stakes and moving to the south side of town, they chose to stay.

So we are developing a number of ministries for a poor, or deteriorating, neighborhood. It has taxed our white middle class membership heavily, sending some packing, but we are adapting and changing.

It also so happens that Vandelia is the most ecumenical Church of Christ in town (probably the region). We have a Baptist evangelist, Gilbert Herrera, come and lead a Baptist style evangelist service on Wednesday nights, after we feed neighborhood folks. Our Wednesday night services are beginning to rival our Sunday morning services for attendance. Gilbert is leading a neighborhood evangelism ministry among us, and it is paying off big!

We also seek to unite with other neighborhood churches. We are developing a bond with Fellowship Baptist nearby. We have sent one of our ministers over there to speak on several occasions, and they have raised special contributions for some of our efforts. God bless 'em.

Anyway, neither Vandelia is, nor am I, the old standard entrentched CoC, though we try to reach out to them too. We do not agree with lots of doctrines or view among ourselves, and certainly not with many outside our tradition. But, enough of us believe strongly enough in loving others actively and spiritually (as if there is another kind) despite those differences. And some of us believe that is the real point to begin with. So we do not fit the old mold of the old ways.

I did prison ministry down in Brownfield all summer long. I preached in the Rudd Unit one Sunday. A moving experience.

Also, I am friends with the preaching minister at the CoC there on Lubbock Road, the one that burned down a while back. His name is Derek McNamara. If you ever had the chance to know him, I think you'd like him. He is not far removed from the kind of spirit we have at Vandelia, although I figure it would be a stretch to say that about the church where he serves. (Nice people for the most part, but I would not risk bringing up church with them.)

Anyway, that is more than you asked for, but I had a few minutes.

Also, by way of post above regarding elders. I went back and clicked on the diagrams. I see what you mean. Big difference between that and CoC. However, were you aware that about 150-200 years ago our traditions united briefly? I know most CoCers are oblivious to that. In fact, I have a photo of a historical marker outside a church in Nienda, TX (hope I spelled it right) that says "Baptist Church of Christ". Very curious. Perhaps I'll post it.

Many blessings....