Three Books from 2009

Ok, I read a few books last year.  I’d like to share three.  They weren’t published last year, but that’s when I read (or re-read) them.  You would be doing yourself a favor to get your hands on any of them.

This is one is sort of a no-brainer.  If you only read one book this year, it should probably be this one.  In many respects, this is Wright at his finest.  He is a book writing machine.  Some of them very academic.  Others far less so.  I’d say this is written for something of a broader audience, but it ain’t no Joel Osteen, if you get my drift.  Here, he presents as robust a vision of resurrection life.  And who doesn’t need that?  Thought so.

I had the pleasure of re-reading this book this year and was reminded how good it is.  It is not difficult to read, and it helps people get a grasp on understanding how to interpret Scripture.  It is the difference between giving a man a fish, and teaching him how to fish.  The latter being obviously infinitely more valuable.  One person who read this with me said that she thought every Christian should read it…  and I couldn’t disagree.

This one may come as something of a surprise, but man, that J. K. can weave a tale.  Sometime in 2009, shortly after number six came out in the theaters, I got started on the series.    They are all enjoyable, but this one seems to be the best of the ones I’ve read so far.

I know that there are those who have sizable misgivings about the Potter series.  I share some concerns, but it isn’t the outright witchcraft that bothers me.  Things like mistrust for the “Ministry” and episodes of cutting loom larger in my mind.  And yet, occasionally you can come across some stuff that is about as solid as it comes…

“I do not think [Voldemort] understands why, Harry, but then, he was in such a hurry to mutilate his own soul, he never paused to understand the incomparable power of a soul that is untarnished and whole.”

Albus Dumbledore from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

I can scarcely think of a more fitting description of the damage we do to ourselves when we choose to live life other than the way it was intended to be lived.

Naturally, in order to appreciate number five, you’ll need to get after the four that lead up to it.  The one thing that is both genius and diabolical (but in a good way) is that you can’t really be in for just one.  As soon as you read the first twenty pages of Sorcerer’s Stone, you are in for the loooonng haul.

Alright, times a wasting.  Get on it.

Surprised By Hope… Again.

Mumford and Sons – Roll Away Your Stone

I take it back.  In my little blurb on this book a few posts back, I suggested that this wouldn’t be a very good introduction to N. T. Wright’s thinking.  I was wrong.  It may be the perfect book for that purpose.  I read a bit and thought that it was going to be a toned down version of his exceptionally long treatment life after death and the Christian understanding of resurrection.  It is that, but so much more.

Who should read this book?  Anyone who cares about understanding what the New Testament teaches about life after death.  I think even the relatively informed Christian will have their thinking on this subject clarified.  Anyone who wants to understand the gospel and salvation better.  Anyone who wants to understand the mission of the church more fully in terms of the resurrection.  Anyone who tires of simplistic reductions of the Christian faith that tend to rely more on categories of Greek philosophy than the story that emerges from the pages of Scripture.

Here are a few gems…

[A] feature of many communities both in the postindustrial West and many of the poorer parts of the world is ugliness.  True, some communities manage to sustain levels of art and music, often rooted in folk culture, which bring a richness even to the most poverty-stricken areas.  But the shoulder-shrugging, functionalism of postwar architecture, coupled with the passivity born of decades of television, has meant that for many people the world appears to offer little but bleak urban landscapes, on the one hand, and tawdry entertainment, on the other.  And when people cease to be surrounded by beauty, they cease to hope.  They internalize the message of their eyes and ears, the message that whispers that they are not worth very much, that they are in effect less than fully human.

Ok, after you have wrapped your brain around that one, here’s another…

The power of the gospel lies not in the offer of a new spirituality or religious experience, not in the threat of hellfire (certainly not in the threat of being “left behind”), which can be removed if only the hearer checks this box, says this prayer, raises a hand, or whatever, but in the powerful announcement that God is God, that Jesus is Lord, that the powers of evil have been defeated, that God’s new world has begun.


As far as I can see, the major task that faces us in our generation, corresponding to the issue of slavery two centuries ago, is that of the massive economic imbalance of the world, whose major symptom is the ridiculous and unpayable Third World debt … I simply want to record my conviction that this is the number one moral issue of our day.  Sex matters enormously, but global injustice matters far, far more.

But in order to understand the context of statements like these, one needs to wade through ones like this…

It is love that believes the resurrection.  “Simon, son of John,” says Jesus, “do you love me?”  There is a whole world in that question, a world of personal invitation and challenge, of the remaking of a human being after disloyalty and disaster, of the refashioning of epistemology itself, the question of how we know things, to correspond to the new ontology, the question of what reality consists of.

I think I’ve said this before, but there is no one writing today who more clearly expresses my own feelings, thoughts, misgivings, and hopes.  While he begins with developing our understanding of the resurrection, he ends up leaving no stone unturned.  Because he (and I) believe just that…  the resurrection changes everything.

better words

Tonight, I was engaged in one of my main roles as a pastor… teaching.  And it wasn’t on any ordinary run-of-the-mill topic either.  It was on the rather thorny issue of “How can a good all-powerful God exist when there is so much evil and suffering in the world?”  Envying me yet?

Frequently after teaching, I will come across someone who says in writing the same thing I say – but better. Rarely though does that discovery come so quickly. So, not two hours later, I read from N. T. Wright’s Surprised by Hope the following:

If creation was a work of love, it must have involved the creation of something other than God.  That same love then allows creation to be itself, sustaining it in providence and wisdom but not overpowering it.  Logic cannot comprehend love; so much the worse for logic.

Yeah, what he said.