Sunday, October 7, 2007

Currently Reading

I thought I’d write down a few thoughts on all of the books I’m currently reading. When I say ”currently,” I mean books I’ve started but haven’t yet finished. A few of these have been unfinished for quite a while now but I do plan to eventually finish them. I’ll start with the non-fiction, which consists entire of Christian books, mostly of the theology and doctrine variety.

What Saint Paul Really Said by N. T. Wright

Last year, my Sunday School class was about to do a study on the Apostle Paul. A friend recommended N.T. Wright as a possible source of good scholarship on Paul so I bought this book, partly for the subtitle “Was Paul of Tarsus the real founder of Christianity?” As it turns out, that subtitle is a bit misleading as only the last chapter of the book really deals with that question. The rest of the book is a brief overview of Paul and his message of bringing the gospel to both a Jewish and pagan audience.

I’ve only read the first four chapters, not because they were boring but because (as is often the case) I became distracted and wanted to read something else. Lately though, I’ve been curious to go back. One of my favorite radio programs, The White Horse Inn, is currently doing a series on justification and in the last program, they specifically mentioned N.T. Wright and the so-called “New Perspectives on Paul.” The theologians on the show are all reformed theologians and were quite harsh in their treatment of NPP in general and specifically Wright, who I assume was singled out because he is so well known in the theological world. I don’t quite understand the entire issue but I gather it has to do with Wright’s redefining of the word “justification” from meaning “to be declared righteous” to “being made righteous.” The members of the radio show are of the opinion that Wright’s views are closer to a Roman Catholic perspective on the term than a reformed Protestant view. With that in mind, I will definitely read Wright’s book carefully to see I can understand this controversy.

Christian Baptism by John Murray

I bought this book for a very specific reason. As recent members of a Presbyterian church that believes in infant baptism, I wanted to understand the reason for this practice. Both my wife and I come from a conservative evangelical background in which baptism is only considered for people who have professed faith in Jesus, and since infants can’t do that, they are never baptized.

Murray’s defense of pedobaptsm, if I understand it correctly, has to do with God’s command for the elect to join the church, which represents the body of Christ. Murray spends a lot of time discussing exactly what baptism means and how it unites the believer to Christ. I still haven’t yet made up my mind. I only have a few chapters left in this short book.

The Same Sex Controversy by James White and Jeffrey D. Niell

The issue of homosexuality and the church seems to come up more and more. This is an issue that isn’t going away so I decided to get a book on exactly what the Bible says about homosexuality.

The authors believe that the Bible condemns homosexuality as a sin and set out to refute almost every conceivable argument that says otherwise. Their arguments are extremely well-stated, to the point that I can’t imagine a better defense of the traditional Biblical perspective. Each objection is answered with solid Biblical exegesis. While their defense of the sinfulness of homosexuality is unflinching, they are also compassionate to those who struggle with the issue.

Now on to the fiction…

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky

I’m not sure what to say about this book yet. I feel like I’ve read a great deal but I’m still only on page 225 or so out of nearly 800 pages with lots and lots of words per page. Even though I told myself I wasn’t going to be intimidated by such a massive novel, I still get a little nervous every time I pick it up. It’s not that it’s hard to understand. On the contrary, the translation I’m reading is excellent and makes the book quite readable. There’s just so much information to retain and lots of characters and situations to keep track of. Thankfully, Dostoevsky has a great ability to convey information through dialogue and since the characters often think about and speak about the events in the novel, the reader is subtly reminded of the complicated relationships. In fact, it is the characters that stand out most. Each one, even the minor ones, has a specific voice and each speaks in a unique fashion. I’m also glad Dostoevsky writes such concise chapters. Each section of the novel has a specific purpose and as long as I don’t take too much time between sections, I can still keep up with the story.