Saturday, January 01, 2022

Personal Reflections: Ten Interesting Reads in 2021


New Year's Day is a good time for looking back and evaluating. I don’t think the intensity of my reading has decreased that much over the last several years, but I have probably finished fewer books, in favor of reading selective chapters from works, to mine the desired information, without completing them from end to end. Here is an eclectic selection of ten books, however, of at least ten interesting works of various genres that I was able to finish last year:

·       Nicholas Wolterstorff, In this World of Wonders: A Memoir of a Life in Learning (Eerdmans, 2019): 318 pp.

This engaging memoir comes from an influential American philosopher, shaped by Dutch Reformed and left-leaning evangelical traditions. The most interesting part was reading about how his study of aesthetics had practical application in the architectural design of his Grand Rapids home and his collection of art, from artisan chairs to Japanese ceramics.

·       Paul Abidan Shah, Changing the Goalposts of New Testament Textual Criticism (Wipf & Stock, 2020): 195 pp.

Shah accurately identifies the “radical shift” that has taken place in 21st century textual criticism (from the old modern goal of reconstructing the autograph to the new post-modern goal of merely suggesting a possible “initial text”). Unfortunately, he suggests the answer to this shift is trying to recapture the old modern goal, rather than abandoning modern reconstruction altogether. Listen to my review in WM 215.

·       Crawford Gribben, Survival and Resistance in Evangelical America: Christian Reconstruction in the Pacific Northwest (Oxford, 2021): 210 pp.

This is a fascinating study of conservative Protestant and Reformed Christian efforts to carve out some version of an enclave of a distinctively Christian culture in the “American Redoubt” of the Pacific Northwest. Gribben, of Queen’s University in Belfast, explains how Doug Wilson is not your father’s Rushdoony. Listen to my interview with the author in WM 199.

·       William H. Willimon, Stories (Abingdon Press, 2020): 251 pp.

Willimon is a mainline Methodist Barthian ecclesiocrat with a Southerner’s gift for telling an engaging story (even if you can’t agree with him theologically). These “stories” are drawn from his many books and articles written over a long career.

·       Hilarion Alfeyev, The Sermon on the Mount, Jesus Christ: His Life & Teaching, Volume 2 (SVSP, 2019): 432 pp.

This is the second in a projected six-part series on the life and teaching of Jesus. It focuses on an extensive exposition of Matthew 5—7 from an Eastern Orthodox perspective. Listen to my review of Volume 1 in this series here.

·       E. M. Cioran, The New Gods, trans. by Richard Howard (Quadrangle, NY Times Book Co., 1969): 120 pp.

I picked this used volume off the shelf at the Blue Whale Books in Charlottesville after having read the author’s The Trouble of Being Born a few years back. Cioran is a Romanian-born philosopher, banned under communism, exiled to France, misanthropic, pessimistic, acerbic, hero of modern “Anti-Natalists,” and master of aphorism. Not a Christian work, but sometimes recalls the rants of Qoheleth.

·       Matthew Y. Emerson, He Descended to the Dead: An Evangelical Theology of Holy Saturday (IVP, 2019): 251 pp.

Thought provoking study of the descent clause. Found this helpful when I preached through the Apostle’s Creed. Listen to the series here.

·       Arthur C. Clarke, 2001 A Space Odyssey (ACE, 1968, 1999): 297 pp.

I read this sci-fi work, which served as the basis for the classic film, when I needed a break from reading theology. Predicts the internet, zoom calls, and space travel.

·       John David Punch, The Pericope Adulterae: Theories of Insertion & Omission: An Academic Essay in Theology (Doctoral Thesis, Radbound University, Nijmegen, 2010): 417 pp.

I found this book to be very helpful when preparing to teach and defend John 7:53—8:11.

·       James Romm, Ed. Seneca, How To Keep Your Cool: An Ancient Guide to Anger Management (Princeton University Press, 2019): 220 pp.

A modern diglot (Latin and English) edition of the Stoic Master’s De Ira (On Anger), abbreviated to read like a script from a TED Talk.


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