Posts Tagged ‘Reading’

Book Review – Eschatology: Biblical, Historical, and Practical Approaches

Book Review

Eschatology: Biblical, Historical, and Practical Approaches

By D. Jeffrey Bingham

ISBN: 978-0825443442

Publisher: Kregel Academic

There is an old saying, “You can’t judge a book by its cover…” and this is true with Eschatology: Biblical, Historical, and Practical Approaches. When I ordered this book, it was on the basis of the subtitle with consideration to the words biblical, historical, and practical. While I found this book informative, I did not find it biblical, historical, or practical. I will qualify my findings based on the subjective definition of all those words.

Eschatology by Bingham is one side of a box. The Christian tradition is rich and diverse as is the Jewish tradition from which Christianity is derived. When I considered “biblical” and “historical,” I was expecting a thorough treatment of the subject of Eschatology, which is defined as “The part of theology concerned with death, judgment, and the final destiny of the soul and of humankind.” I suppose I did get treatment on the subject, but it was very narrowly defined and almost exclusively from one perspective and tradition and that being Protestant and Reformed. While this was not totally unexpected, it was rather disappointing considering again the subtitle. I was hoping for a more inclusive and expansive treatment of the subject. As such, the material was presented in such a way that an unsuspecting reader might assume the dispensational view of biblical “final things” is the only way to understand and interpret the Scriptures.

It was my hope that the presentation of material would be more comprehensive and delivered in an objective manner, allowing the reader to make an informed decision on what theory they might understand as “more practical.” Unfortunately, this is/was not the case.

In fairness, the material, narrowly defined as it might be, was presented well. I appreciated the essay format with multiple authors. Likewise, I appreciated the effort and attempt at including a historical perspective although as a church history buff I noticed immediately how exclusionary the material actually was.

Book Review: New Seeds of Contemplation

Book Review: New Seeds of Contemplation

Author: Thomas Merton

Publisher: Shambhala Publications ISBN: 9781590300497

I am a big fan of Thomas Merton; let me get this out of the way early in this review. I own nine of his books in my personal library and have enjoyed them greatly as I have grown to know Thomas Merton as one of my most influential “mentors from afar.” With regard to this particular volume and Merton in general, his writing style is not for everyone and this specific volume might narrow his audience even more. In other words, this book is not for everyone.

Having experience with Merton’s writing style, I would characterize it as somewhat abrupt, perhaps even calling it brusque at times. While I think his writing is very deep and contemplative (in the theological and philosophical senses), it can often seem very no nonsense and lacking sensitivity… although I find the content of his writing very sensitive even if the style of writing is lacking the same. These observations are not criticisms, just reinforcement to the point that Merton’s writing might not appeal to a large audience. I was talking to a friend recently about this very subject and I made a comparison of Merton to Henri Nouwen. In my opinion, I rank them both as “tens” (on the one to ten scale) in the area and subject of spiritual formation writers. Their style of deep meditation and reflection on the spiritual journey and their ability to communicate those thoughts in written form rivals or exceeds that of most contemporary writers that I have read. What sets them apart are their styles. Nouwen is very gentle and seems to consider the journey of his reader when he writes, almost as if he is sensitive to every emotion and experience of his reader. Merton seems to me, to be at the other end of that sensitivity level, almost as if he does not have time for the pleasantries of emotional sensitivity. This is not to say that he isn’t sensitive, but he gets right to the point and distills all the anecdotal storylines to the pure syrup of contemplative truth. As much as I love Nouwen for how he writes, I love Merton’s deep truth, no nonsense approach equally as much, if not more.

New Seeds of Contemplation (in my opinion) is one his best works, at least of the books I have read by Merton. The preface and the author’s note preceding the actual content of the book should be prerequisite before beginning chapter one. The preface makes explicit mention that the book “is not intended for everybody. It is not intended for all religious people. …There are very many religious people who have no need for a book like this, because theirs is a different kind of spirituality. If to them this book is without meaning, they should not feel concerned.” The author’s notes shares similar sentiments with these words; “The book does not claim, either, to be a work of art. Practically anybody else with the same interests might possibly have written it much better…” To clarify once more, if it is not clear, this book is not for everyone and is not intended to be a literary work of art… although I consider it a masterpiece.

If, after the aforementioned qualifiers, you are still interested in this book, I would recommend it as one of the best on Christian contemplation that I have ever read. The thoughts are deep and prompt deep, prayerful, reflection. The thoughts in New Seeds have turned my own ideas about God and my relationship with Him to deep self-examination, repentance and desire to surrender more to the transformative work of God the Holy Spirit so I might be remade more into His image…the image of Christ. The book is segmented into thirty-nine chapters, most of them between five and seven pages long. My habit has been to read a chapter (sometimes two) and allow it to steep in my brain until it settles into my heart. I have been reading New Seeds for almost two months now and will probably be reading it for another two months. It is that good and has had that much impact on me. If you think you might be one of the persons that this book might appeal to, you shouldn’t waste any time before you get it. I am thankful that I have it…and it has me.

Top Ten Reads From 2010

My Top 10 Reads from 2010

I started out this year with an aggressive goal of reading seventy-five books by the end of 2010; I fell a little short of that goal finishing out with sixty-one (not counting my study Bibles). All in all and considering our cross-country move this past summer, I am satisfied with the amount of reading I was able to accomplish. I will keep my goal the same for the 2011 reading year since I fell short of hitting that number in 2010.

So, about my reading year… I think the providential leading of God had my reading follow a specific area of study for the most part. There was a deep dive into the areas of spiritual formation and lifestyle prayer (aka living in and practicing the Presence of God); a great majority of the books I read and studied this past year were focused around these themes. In particular, I spent the greater part of the year learning and practicing Benedictine Spirituality as a rule for my own life. I have to say this study has impacted me in ways that are still yet to be fully realized. The following list is my Top-Ten reads for this year. These are not listed in any particular order and most of them have an individual review on the blog. I’ve tried to provide links where those reviews exist.

My Top 10 Reads from 2010 (full list here)

(In no particular order)

  • Your Church is Too Small–John Armstrong
  • Spiritual Rhythm–Mark Buchanan
  • Seasons of the Soul–Bruce Demarest
  • Seeking God: The Way of St. Benedict–Esther de Waal
  • Radical–David Platt
  • Nudge–Leonard Sweet
  • Whole Life Transformation–Keith Meyer
  • The Liturgical Year–Joan Chittister
  • Monk Habits for Everyday People–Dennis Okholm
  • The Rule of Benedict: Insights for the Ages–Joan Chittister

This was a tough group of books to pick from saying “these were the best I read;” there were so many books that impacted me in special ways. It is with this understanding that I submit this list of “Honorable Mentions.” A couple of these books make a second or third appearance in my list. Most notably is C.S. Lewis’ The Weight of Glory and Scot McKnight’s A Community Called Atonement. This marks the third read in as many years for A Community Called Atonement; it continues to impact me in profound ways. If you have not read it, I recommend it with the highest rating I can muster…  the rest of the list follows; again, in no particular order:

Honorable Mentions:

  • The Tangible Kingdom by Hugh Halter & Matt Smay
  • Apprenticeship with Jesus by Gary W. Moon
  • The Weight of Glory by C.S. Lewis
  • Sacred Pathways by Gary Thomas
  • A Community Called Atonement by Scot McKnight
  • Always We Begin Again by John McQuiston II
  • The Sacred Moment by Albert Haase, O.F.M.

Finally, I would like to share the primary tools for my devotional studies from the past year. I used several Study Bibles (The NLT, ESV, and Wesley Study Bibles), but for my daily reading I concentrated a lot on the Mosaic Holy Bible which included a parallel study tracking with the Liturgical Year (Church Calendar). There were several other devotional tools I used to immerse myself in the beauty of the Church Calendar, and finally, there were a couple of prayer books and the Rule of Benedict that were very formative for me this year.

Devotional Resources:

  • The Mosaic Holy Bible (NLT Translation)
  • Living the Christian Year: Time to Inhabit the Story of God by Bobby Gross
  • Ancient Christian Devotional: (Cycle C) by Thomas Oden
  • The Liturgical Year: The Ancient Practices Series by Joan Chittister
  • The Rule of St. Benedict by St. Benedict
  • The Paraclete Psalter: A Book of Daily Prayers by Paraclete Press
  • This Day: A Wesleyan Way of Prayer by Lawrence Hull Stookey

Starting the New Year 2011

Devotional Reading and Prayer Books:

  • Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals by Shane Claiborne
  • Ancient Christian Devotional (Cycle A) by Thomas Oden
  • The 1979 Book of Common Prayer and Revised Common Lectionary with NRSV Bible
  • The Divine Hours by Phyllis Tickle
  • Celtic Daily Prayer: Prayers and Readings From the Northumbria Community
  • A Year With God: Living Out the Spiritual Disciplines by Richard Foster

First Couple Months of Reading Scheduled—2011

  • Daily Reader for Contemplative Living by Thomas Keating
  • Practice Resurrection by Eugene Peterson
  • Discovering Our Spiritual Identity by Trevor Hudson
  • Inner Compass by Margaret Silf
  • The Path of Celtic  Prayer by Calvin Miller
  • The Kingdom Life by Alan Andrews
  • To Transform a City by Eric Swanson
  • Holy Listening: The Art of Spiritual Direction by Margaret Guenther
  • The Great Theologians by Gerald R. McDermott
  • Worshiping with the Church Fathers by Christopher Hall
  • Resting Place: A Personal Guide to Spiritual Retreats by Jane Rubietta
  • Tithing: Test Me in This by Douglas LeBlanc
  • Small Faith Great God by N.T. Wright

** This indicates books completed  🙂

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