The Taser's Edge


Tuesday Reading Roundup, Week 5

Sometimes I find myself planning out blog posts just for the sake of blog posts.  For instance, this afternoon I thought about posting a couple short essays I wrote for Happiness, the Life of Virtue, and Friendship.  Then I realized, “No, that would be boring.”  So I spared you.  Yes, you’re welcome.

1. Planting Missional Churches by Ed Stetzer–You already know some about this book if you read my posts about it last week.  What has been great about reading it is that my imagination has never been fired by the idea of church-planting.  Now it is.  I’m finding that I do find a lot of the ideas exciting and that my imagination has some room to run around in them.  The question in my context now: Why liturgical Anglican churches?  Can such churches truly meet unmet needs in communities in the US?  Again and again, this book points me to the need for a robust ecclesiology (theology of the church) as a prerequisite for church-planting.  I think Stetzer falls short (and I think that’s because he’s Southern Baptist).  I’ll need to hit the books to develop that further.

2. Christians Among the Virtues by Stanley Hauerwas and Charles Pinches–A familiar favorite.  This week–reading about Aquinas.  This has been a really good read and a useful secondary resource.

3. Putting on Virtue by Jennifer A. Herdt–Again, a repeat.  Again, for the same class–Virtue, the Life of Happiness, and Friendship with Hauerwas.  It, too, is a secondary resource for this week’s reading of Aquinas, but I haven’t yet cracked it.

4. Treatise on the Virtues by St. Thomas Aquinas–The man himself arrives.  I’ll be reading this for the next two weeks.  Hopefully all this virtue stuff in my Hauerwas class will start making sense (and coming more directly from the primary sources, something which it has as yet failed to do).  I still remember how confused I was the first time I tried to read Aquinas, with absolutely no instruction as to his organizational method, in undergrad.  Derrida was an easier read.  Now somehow Aquinas doesn’t seem as difficult, at least once I get into the rhythms of his organization.  Of course, the fact that it is Tuesday night and I have yet to start reading probably bodes ill for my finishing the assigned portion for this week.

5. Deliverance by James Dickey–Famous poet writes lauded novel which is made into Burt Reynolds/Jon Voight film.  It’s always annoying to pick up movie tie-in edition paperbacks, but this is a new low–bare-chested Burt is never a good thing.  Four friends set out on a wilderness adventure in north Georgia.  Things go horribly, horribly wrong.

6.  Great Lent by Alexander Schmemann–Okay, so it’s a sham.  I’ll never start it, and I’ll always make it look like I read Orthodoxers.

7. Generation to Generation by Edwin H. Friedman–A modern classic on family systems (is there any other kind of classic on family systems theory?) within church and synagogue.  I’m told it’s good.  I’ll find out tomorrow before class.

And as for tonight?

1. Walk Pru.

2. Finish the rest of Stetzer’s book.

3. Quickly clean up some houseness.

4. Watch a yet-to-be-determined movie with Dave and possible more folks.



Tuesday Reading Roundup, Week 4

My blog traffic has been abysmal these past few days, but my posts have been mostly cheating (videos and prayers–what?!), so I can’t blame anybody but myself.  At least there’s this beloved staple, which I can’t do without a bit of a personal touch.

1. Perspectives On Marriage edited by Kieran Scott and Michael Warren–For tomorrow’s class, I got to read about cohabitation vs. marriage.

  • First was a report on Cohabitation and Marriage by the National [US] Council of Catholic Bishops.  (You can probably guess that on the topic of cohabitation, they’re agin’ it.)
  • Then we moved onto an article by Kieran Scott, “Cohabitation and Marriage as a Life-Process,” in which he describes a history of Christian marriage.  Although his history is abit fuzzy (no real solid dates, for instance) sex after betrothal and before marriage was commonplace and expected in other eras.  He goes on to argue that the current system–no sex before marriage and then flip the sex-is-okay-now switch at the wedding ceremony–is too abrupt of a process.  I would say that he’s right on that count.  I’m just skeptical about his idea of reinstating betrothal today.
  • A couple other articles that I’ll skip over…
  • And finally “Sex, Time, and Meaning: A Theology of Dating” by Jason King and Donna Freitas, in which the authors lament the state of a theology of Christian dating.  They are right that evangelical Christians have a sorry track record.  I can attest to that from the late 90s and early 2000s.  But as much as I hate the mentality of I Kissed Dating Goodbye and others, I think these authors are overly harsh in their reading, to point of distorting those books’ views.  And honestly, I didn’t know it was possible to be too hard on them.

2. Planting Missional Churches by Ed Stetzer–Confusingly, this is the second edition of a book by a different title, Planting New Churches in a Postmodern Age.  I’m not sure what to think about the significance of the fact that this book is listed in many places as basically The Bible of Church Planting, yet Duke Divinity Library has no books at all by the author.  Is that a judgment of the validity of his work?  Or are new churches totally uninteresting to the Christian academy?  Or might the faculty of Duke Divinity and its library have no knowledge of church planting literature?  Let me know if you can think of other possibilities.  At any rate, I have to read it for this month’s Anglican Missional Pastor meeting, Friday next.  (I flipped Friday and next because it’s Anglican, you know.)  I’m hoping that my well-tuned critical unit can keep it down a little bit.

3. Becoming Married by Herbert Anderson and Robert Cotton FiteFor Duke CPE, I already read one book by Anderson, entitled All Our Losses, All Our Griefs.  Despite the cheesy titles of pastoral care literature, it’s really amazing stuff, and I feel entirely illiterate in the area, after five semesters at a top-tier divinity school.  (Perhaps the problem is that I went to a top-tier divinity school.)  But, to the point, this book is awesome.  The title refers to the fact that “becoming married” is a long-term process, not just a ceremony.  All kinds of family systems theory and psychology, which is incredibly helpful, although thus far lacking in theological insight.  One thing that is distinctive is that the authors insist that the personality inventories which are so common in Christian premarital counseling (and beyond?) are very limited in their usefulness.  While such inventories can pick up major incompatibility and personality issues, they fall short, because people entering marriage are often still growing as human beings and certainly in relationship to each other.  More helpful, insist Anderson and Fite, is a genogram, basically an in-depth family tree.  When we can see and discuss our family backgrounds, we can begin to talk better about what the new family will look like.   All this genogram talk makes me want to blog about it, but until then, see what Wikipedia has to say about it.

4. Christians Among the Virtues: Theological Conversations with Ancient and Modern Ethics by Stanley Hauerwas and Charles Pinches–Honestly, the readings I am doing this week were due two and three weeks ago, but I find myself, for the first time ever, having a bit of time to go back and catch up on the stuff I missed.  Huzzah!

5. Great Lent: Journey to Pascha by Alexander Schmemann–Discerning readers may notice that this first appeared two weeks ago, and then disappeared for last week.  That’s because I have yet to start it.  But Lent is also yet to start, so I’m safe.  The problem may be that I have nowhere in my schedule to read this.  As interested as I now seem to be in theology and such, I still can’t see this as “fun reading.”  Probably that’s a good thing.  I’m fine with being odd, but maybe I’ll hold off on that kind of odd.