Part dialogue, part novel and part history lesson, A New Kind of Christian refuses to be nailed down to a particular format or set of theological answ...morePart dialogue, part novel and part history lesson, A New Kind of Christian refuses to be nailed down to a particular format or set of theological answers. Instead, McLaren attempts to pry apart present systems of assumptions about God and church in order to make room for questions that arise from lived experience, ancient and medieval Christian teaching, and changing society. McLaren’s fictional interlocutors come to the conclusion that much of what are often presented as unchanging Christian dogmas are ideas that arose to meet the needs of a modern culture obsessed with tidy systems and black-and-white truth. Just as this culture replaced the society of the middle ages, it is now being replaced by a postmodern culture more concerned with stories, ambiguity and relationships. Rather than resist this change, McLaren asks Christians to embrace the insights of postmodern thought and wrestle with how they might be used to make a community of believers more authentic and relevant to the world. He couches all this in the conversations and developing friendship of a burned out minister and his daughter’s high school science teacher. This helps ground the intellectual subject matter in day-to-day life, showing that embracing new ideas is not without consequences and frustrations.
More an analysis of what's gone wrong than a prescription for change, this book may leave some readers wanting more. What exactly should church look like? What is the proper response to current ethical and cultural debates? No doubt McLaren would say these questions themselves betray a modern mindset. Answers are not on offer here. An invitation to engage in conversation is.(less)
It is the nineteenth century and the press is filled with reports of conspiracies of Jesuits, masons and Jews, but missing are reports of the true con...moreIt is the nineteenth century and the press is filled with reports of conspiracies of Jesuits, masons and Jews, but missing are reports of the true conspirators: the forgers. This episodic romp through the history unveils their tale through the life of one Simone Simonini who at various times invents wills, incriminating letters and whole revolutionary plots complete with actual bombers to be arrested by the local police.
While at turns repulsive and charming, Simonini is never dull and his scrapes cover enough of nineteenth century history to act as a primer for anyone new to the period. The novel brilliantly satirizes the rise of antisemitic and anti-masonic movements, while also demonstrating these movements played in the power politics of the period.
The major difficulty in the work is that most of the fun is found in observing how cleverly Eco incorporates history and mocks his narrator through his own words. That the narrator is a raging antisemite makes it impossible to care too much for him, even in a roguish way, which stopped me from getting emotionally involved in the book. As I pushed through the last few pages I found myself hoping that Simonini would meet the grizzly end he richly deserved.
This is one that tickles the brain cells while leaving the heart untouched.(less)
Burton Raffel delivers a very readable translation into modern english of the complete Canterbury Tales. The pleasure of reading the tales is aided by...moreBurton Raffel delivers a very readable translation into modern english of the complete Canterbury Tales. The pleasure of reading the tales is aided by the sheer beauty of this Modern Library edition.(less)
Too often people with disabilities and in particular people with intellectual disabilities are overlooked in disciplines like theology. These discipli...moreToo often people with disabilities and in particular people with intellectual disabilities are overlooked in disciplines like theology. These disciplines tend to deal with man, or more recently, men and women and ignore any special issues that arise for people who do not have the full set of capabilities typically ascribed to these abstract categories. Yong's book is an attempt to rectify this omission. No small task.
The work devotes large sections to disability in the bible, medical conceptions of disability, disability studies and disability theory applied to systematic theology. Each topic could sustain a large volume on its own and it is to Yong's credit that none of the topics feel as if they have been given short shrift. Each chapter begins with a story about Yong's brother who has down syndrome. This grounds what could otherwise be an airy exercise in academese in the daily dilemmas of life.
As someone new to working with people with disabilities and who sees much of their world through the lens of theology, I found much that was helpful in this work. The last section, on the resurrection, rung particularly true as I have spent much time worrying about how someone simply being 'cured' of a disability at that time devalues the unique and fascinating person they've become in virtue of that disability. I was also struck by his suggestion that we need to use the same care in talking about God's will concerning disability as we would in talking of the nature of the Trinity. There's many other such insights in this work and much will be gained from it by any and all concerned with these issues. Lest the 450 pages be intimidating, be encouraged, over a hundred of those are notes. This is a well crafted introduction to this topic and an excellent framework for future investigations into this field.(less)
Reading poetry can often feel like visiting a modern art gallery: I look at a few pieces, trying to understand and, losing interest, move on to someth...moreReading poetry can often feel like visiting a modern art gallery: I look at a few pieces, trying to understand and, losing interest, move on to something else. For both I am sorely in need of a guide. While art galleries have these in abundance if you're willing to wait for a tour - I never am - there's a lack of such guides for poetry. Thankfully, Eagleton has stepped into fill the void. In this short work he takes the reader on a tour of the history, theory and mechanics of poetry, pausing occasionally to spend two or three pages on a close reading of a masterwork. Such a book has the potential to be a tedious rehash of high school English, but Eagleton's charm and his insights into the chosen poems are so captivating that I was sorry to leave his company. This book works well as a guide to the uninitiated, like myself, but I suspect the more experienced would find much to profit from as well.(less)
Didn't the twentieth century show Marxism to be a deeply flawed dream? Eagleton doesn't think so and expends a good deal of rhetoric and wit to demons...moreDidn't the twentieth century show Marxism to be a deeply flawed dream? Eagleton doesn't think so and expends a good deal of rhetoric and wit to demonstrate that many popular perceptions of Marxism are just plain wrong. Along the way he makes many claims that will surprise the casual student of political theory such as that Marx was a champion of individual rights, hated overbearing states and loved his Aristotle. Ultimately though the format of the book betrays Eagleton. Since each chapter attempts to dismantle a particular myth, the book winds up being a series of arguments for why Marx wasn't wrong rather than a systematic defense of the coherence of Marxism. I found myself persuaded by some of the arguments, but left in the dark as to how Marxism was any less self contradictory than capitalism.
Eagleton's style, if sometimes overly polemic, makes this an entertaining enough read and there is much to consider, even for the most hardened economic liberal, within these pages. I didn't come away convinced, but I imagine those already inclined in Marx's favor will welcome this highly readable defense.(less)
This book has a lot going for it, particularly in its enthusiasm to raise the level of information technology knowledge and support in public librarie...moreThis book has a lot going for it, particularly in its enthusiasm to raise the level of information technology knowledge and support in public libraries. However, reading it even four years on it feels very much a snapshot of technology from when it was published (or maybe even a few years before). This probably arises from the authors' decision to be very practical in their advice on technology (e.g. "this is HTML, this is how you build a webpage with it"), instead of focusing on issues that are independent of specific technologies (e.g. "what libraries should make of further disintermediation" or "what are the differences in reference work when the patron is five hundred miles away"). I'm not sure that even the latter would be ideal though. Perhaps its just not useful to publish this sort of material in book form. Really the authors should just start a blog. (less)
I used this to review a year out of an MLIS program and found it ideal for this purpose. It hits most of the high points and current trends of informa...moreI used this to review a year out of an MLIS program and found it ideal for this purpose. It hits most of the high points and current trends of information organization without getting bogged down in any one topic. Those looking for more depth on say catologuing or metadata would probably be best served finding a book dedicated specifically to those purposes, but for those wanting just a general overview of the field this is ideal.(less)
Every Living Thing tells the story of the push to understand more about the quantity and diversity of life in the universe. It is simultaneously humor...moreEvery Living Thing tells the story of the push to understand more about the quantity and diversity of life in the universe. It is simultaneously humorous and fascinating with gossipy histories of science giants (Linnaeus comes off a cowardly, manipulative genius) and accounts of forms of life like beetles (and the mites that live on them) who masquerade as army ants in the rain forests of Central America. It's a quick read that just might inspire one to get a microscope and explore.(less)
A worth while read for anyone interested in design, The Laws of Simplicity has one overriding virture: it's brevity. Maeda is content to keep his musi...moreA worth while read for anyone interested in design, The Laws of Simplicity has one overriding virture: it's brevity. Maeda is content to keep his musing short and to the point, which means that one could probably breeze through the book in an afternoon. In these pages are a fair number of suggestions which could be useful for anyone stuck on a design problem (e.g. "our product isn't visually appealing and I can't put my finger on why") or anyone looking for a philosophical idea to ponder for an afternoon. There's a fair amount of iPod worship as well as a little self promotion, but if you can get past these the book is worth the two hours you'll invest in it.(less)
Gary Marcus, NYU professor of psychology, is intent on letting you know that your brain is not as rational as you think it is. This book focuses mainl...moreGary Marcus, NYU professor of psychology, is intent on letting you know that your brain is not as rational as you think it is. This book focuses mainly on cognitive errors and what they tell us about the brain. Marcus relies heavily on the metaphor of the brain as computer and employs an engineerig term, "kluge", to say just how effective a computer he thinks it is. According to Marcus, a kluge is an effective, but inelegant solution to a problem. Seen this way, most of the difficulties that we have using our brains can be chalked up to the inelegance resulting from evolution dictating that our brains need be just good enough to solve problems of survival, and not so much problems of living rationally. As a catalog of cognitive errors, this book is informative and fun. As a piece of argument it falls short.
It is often hard to understand with whom Marcus thinks he's arguing. Occasionally, he mentions disapprovingly evolutionary psychologists' willingness to look for underlying rationality in what are commonly regarded as failures in the brain, but his difference with them is mainly one of degree. They see the brain as a little less imperfect than he does.
More problematic is that he's not really inclined to draw what would seem to be the obvious inference of his argument: given that we are all prone to errors in our thinking, we should be humble when presenting our views and give the benefit of the doubt to others. Too often the views those who disagree with Marcus are presented and dealt with swiftly through a few rhetorical questions.
At the conclusion of the book, Marcus outlines a course of action for helping people and society become more rational. Most of these points seem worth pursuing, if for nothing else making oneself and others a little less susceptible to advertisers, and I might take a the book out from the library a second time just to go over that last chapter again.(less)
Given the dominance of men in early textual sources, one would think that much of the world of early Christian women has been lost to us. Drenzy attem...moreGiven the dominance of men in early textual sources, one would think that much of the world of early Christian women has been lost to us. Drenzy attempts to restore some of this world by analyzing and intuiting meanings behind images in early Christian funerary art. Because the catacombs were much more democratic in terms of who could select the art, spaces reflecting the thoughts and ideas of women were much more likely to emerge. Denzey's use of these spaces to provide a picture of the life of women in late ancient Rome is often enlightening and her analysis of how these feminine spaces have been interepreted away by male archeologists in past is compelling. Her historical arguments often left me a little queasy though. Was Pope Damasus as pivotal a figure in the history of Christian women if the cults surrounding female saints emerge despite his de-emphasis of them? Were heterodox versions of Christianity really that much better for women? These are tricky historical questions, but the narrative of Denzey's work demands that she assume certain answers. Still, this is well worth a read and especially for those looking for a nice dip into Art History with an emphasis on the history.(less)
A decent easy introduction to Catholic social teaching. The intended audience is lay Catholics, but even as a Protestant I found much worth pondering....moreA decent easy introduction to Catholic social teaching. The intended audience is lay Catholics, but even as a Protestant I found much worth pondering. The treatment of Nietzsche and especially the straight line drawn from him to fascism is too dismissive, but most treatments of Nietzsche's work that aren't explicitly philosophical typically make this mistake. Since most of the work is built around explicating the writings of JPII and Benedict XVI, it might be worthwhile for readers more serious about digging into these work to simply pick up a book by one of those two.(less)
In the midst of working through Life With God, it occured to me that Richard Foster might be one of the most timeless living theologians. I suspect pe...moreIn the midst of working through Life With God, it occured to me that Richard Foster might be one of the most timeless living theologians. I suspect people will be reading his work hundreds of years from now, long after most other academic and popular theologians of our time have been forgotten. That Foster chooses to focus on a timeless topic, the spiritual disciplines, makes this somewhat unsurprising. But what really sets him apart and will continue to make his work relevant is the way he is able to draw upon the wisdom of nearly every theological school of thought to create a vision of the Christian life that any would recognize as true. Evangelical, Catholic, Liberal Protestant, and Orthodox theologians appear in this work and each are used in a way far beyond token. The only fault I found with this work is that it really is more of an addendum to his early works, particularly the Celebration of Disciplines, than a stand alone book. It is much more a picture of what the Christian life with the disciplines should be like than practical advice as to how to enter into those disciplines. I suppose it was also disappointing that a book supposedly focused on reading the Bible was more about the disciplines, but with Foster that is to be expected.(less)
Fast and enjoyable look at the history of financial institutions. Although Ferguson bemoans the lack of financial literacy in the population at large...moreFast and enjoyable look at the history of financial institutions. Although Ferguson bemoans the lack of financial literacy in the population at large this work won't be the one to change that. The explanations of the actual financial instruments involved are too superficial and might only make sense to those with some background in the subject. What makes this worth reading is the history. Ferguson's explanations of John Law's machinations in the court of Louis XV and the Church of Scotland's role in creating modern insurance were particularly fascinating. This is probably one of the few books on finance that will for good Summer beach reading.(less)