On Christian Doctrine is the first work of Augustine’s I’ve ever finished. The reading group I’m in read the first two sections as a launching point fOn Christian Doctrine is the first work of Augustine’s I’ve ever finished. The reading group I’m in read the first two sections as a launching point for our discussion of myth and symbol, and I decided to finish the whole thing. The book is essentially a primer on how to read the Bible and then, in the fourth section, how to present the knowledge attained therein.
All in all, On Christian Doctrine is a very solid, though basic, examination of symbol, hermeneutics and eloquence. I like Augustine’s principle exegetical rule (partially, I must confess, because I’ve thought of a similar thing myself) which states that the interpretation of scripture should always be one that leads to the love of God and/or others since Jesus said “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” (Mathew 22: 37-40).
However, I found myself occasionally annoyed and distracted when Augustine chose to voice his opinions on sexuality (it is only for procreation in his mind) and am indeed not a fan of his general asceticism. Mind you, I do believe there is a place for ascetic practices (I’m a fan of Dallas Willard after all) but I think they are always for training. It seems to me that Augustine believes in asceticism because of some platonic aversion to creation, but I could be wrong.
I also found the last section difficult at times because it relied very heavily on Greco-Roman theory about rhetoric, and thus frequently used terms with which I am not familiar. Of course, were I wanting to do a more in depth study of that section, I could easily do some reading on that theory, and it’s certainly not a fault of the book itself. In essence though, Augustine says that eloquence is good, but wisdom is better. If you can have both, then do, but if you have to choose, choose wisdom.
All in all, this book is a good introduction to the reading of scripture and those interested in the thoughts of the church fathers should pick it up....more
Abraham is the greatest, says Kierkegaard, and “the highest passion in a human being is faith”(Kierkegaard 144). This is wrong. Christ is greatest, anAbraham is the greatest, says Kierkegaard, and “the highest passion in a human being is faith”(Kierkegaard 144). This is wrong. Christ is greatest, and though faith, hope and love endure, “the greatest of these is love”(1 Corinthians 13:13). For this reason, I find Kierkegaard’s method in Fear and Trembling for building a Christian ethic utterly puzzling. Kierkegaard starts from the wrong place, taking signs that point towards Christ and love and making them the point. Fear and Trembling is an interesting book in many ways, but it certainly will not, as my friend promised, completely alter my understanding of morality.
I do not pretend that I fully understand Fear and Trembling. Much of what Kierkegaard has to say is put into Hegelian terms, and since I’ve never read Hegel this makes understanding difficult. I can gather from context the general terms of what is being said, but I ultimately feel like I’ve come away with an outline of what Kierkegaard said, and not the full depth of it. Furthermore, Kierkegaard also relies on Hegelian conclusions, and uses them as givens in his argument. Unfortunately, since I don’t know Hegel’s arguments, these premises are hardly givens to me. Like I said though, to my thinking he starts from the wrong place so thoroughly that his conclusions cannot help but miss the mark.
What I do understand of Kierkegaard I find immensely disturbing. The highest life, that of faith, is one of dread, horror and isolation. What is more, the Knight of Faith (as Kierkegaard calls him) must do whatever God asks of him without testing to see if it really is God asking, without seeking the wisdom of others, and without any reference at all to universal morality. The man of faith then, in Kierkegaard’s terms, is the monster my atheists friends think him to be.
I should say, however, that I am not completely disdainful of Fear and Trembling. Kierkegaard starts the book with several retellings of the story of Abraham and Isaac, subtly altering the story in ways that thereby change the meaning. This part of the book is enjoyable, and he does the same with various stories and myths throughout the book.
Ultimately, any student of philosophy should read this book because it is of such massive importance historically. Kierkegaard in many ways fathered the existential movement, and he certainly gave birth to Christian existentialism. This was one of the reasons that I read the book, because as much as I disagree with existentialism, I find it intriguing. Also, I have a friend who is a firm Christian existentialist, and I’d really like to understand where his ideas come from. Thankfully, I think I’m one step closer to that point now. ...more
Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church by N.T. Wright
Before I get into any longwinded discussion of N.TSurprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church by N.T. Wright
Before I get into any longwinded discussion of N.T. Wright’s Surprised by Hope, let me just say that it’s absolutely amazing. I picked this book up and could hardly put it down, its presentation of Christian doctrine is incredible and for many it will be revolutionary (though it is really the historic understanding of things). Get this book, read it, then give it to your friends so they can read it. Don’t just take my word for it either, Dallas Willard, Rob Bell and Richard Foster all praise the book, and their recommendation should carry a bit more weight than mine I think. Now, on to why I think this book is so incredible.
I picked up Surprised by Hope while visiting Regent College, the seminary in Canada where I hope to do my masters education. I’d been given a $25 gift card by the college, and was looking around the store for something to pick, finding myself quite overwhelmed by the sheer quality and quantity of books available. One of the concepts which I’ve been thinking a lot about recently, has been the importance of embodiment, specifically as it relates to the biblical and historic conception of the afterlife. Thus, when asked if I needed help finding anything, I asked to see if they had any books on that subject, and I was immediately taken to several (the man knew what I meant and knew where to find it without looking it up, is that cool or what?). As I said, there were several, but in the end I decided to pick up Surprised by Hope, and as you already know I was not disappointed.
The book is subtitled Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church, and it addresses the true biblical hope for our futures, the significance of the bodily resurrection of Christ and how these two things relate to the mission of the church in the world today. This is a book bursting with hope, and filled with the message that our lives as Christians have deep significance in the here and now. The book addresses many of the false ideas that have grown up in Western civilization about the biblical understanding of human nature and the afterlife, and seeks to recover the historical understanding of these things, which as Dallas Willard says “uniquely meets the challenge facing the Church by recovering the original, radical understanding of resurrection, salvation and the Good news of life now in the Kingdom of God.”
If I have one criticism of the book, it’s that I don’t think Wright is quite emphatic enough in emphasizing that building for the Kingdom must not take the form of a Theocracy. Mind you, he says this, but I just wish he’d made it more clear.
Anyway, as I said, read this book, and hopefully it will change your reading of the Bible, and also your life....more