The Reading List – Aug 20 – 26

August 26th, 2013

1) Worship Matters by Bob Kauflin. I read this because of a recommendation from Juddy a few years back. Took me a while … Anyway, I see why he did. It’s a decent book, easy to read, and you can see that Bob’s experience and maturity really come through. This book is definitely worth a read, perhaps even mandatory, for anyone involved in church music.

2) John Owen: Reformed Catholic, Renaissance Man by Carl Trueman. Also a good read this one. I read this so as to introduce myself to the life and works of Owen before I get into it later on down the track. Reading Owen has been suggested on a number of fronts regarding my reading into covenant theology, and this volume is a good introduction. Probably because it’s written for that purpose. Trueman’s argument is that the label ‘Puritan’ doesn’t really capture Owen properly. For too long, ‘Puritan’ has been a cover-all and a byword for fundamentalism and other such perjoratives, whereas, Owen is really a product of his times, and a good product at that. The book title is reflective of his opinion – Owen was in touch with the best of theological tradition, and indeed well read in many areas, but clearly mediating them through good intelligence, the Scriptures, and the gospel.
Also, I really should have read Owen for 2nd year doctrine regarding open theism. It’s taken a few years for something closer to the platonic form of that essay to work itself out in my mind, sigh.

The Wolverine

August 24th, 2013

***### will there be spoilers? who knows, but this always go up here ###***

Quick rate: it ain’t bad, though you’ll need to suspend disbelief, etc.

Read the rest of this entry »

My Down-Under-cision 2013

August 19th, 2013

If you’re not aware, the title refers to how The Daily Show refers to our federal election.

I’ve pretty much already made my decision about how I’ll vote in a general sense. The specifics on further preferences and especially the upper house will come later. But the general gist is, I’ll be voting for Daryl Melham, the incumbent ALP member for Banks, and in the upper house, my trend will be to go, roughly, ALP, Greens, McRandoms. If, however, the sheer size of the ballot destroys my will to live (and the amount of time I’ll have to get to a wedding later that day) I may have to resort to only the Greens at the top.

I’m not voting Liberal because their policies strike me as populist. I find that Tony Abbott resembles a child spruiking themselves in an election for school captain and promising pretty much everything. In addition, I don’t buy the argument of constantly lowering taxation and finding savings somewhere in the public service. I’m sure somewhere in there, there is red tape and bureaucracy that is unnecessary, but, red tape and bureaucracy is required to stop things like massive corporate fraud. I also find the Coalition’s climate policy incredible, in the ‘credibility’ sense of the word. The carbon tax is not bad. Also, ‘towing back the boats’? Give me a freakin’ break.

On the other hand, we found ourselves in the hard place, or the shambles known as the ALP. Yeah, their refugee solution doesn’t exactly smack of the light on the hill. And they haven’t sold themselves well on the economic management PR. But in quite a few areas, they actually did good. Remember plain packaging for tobacco products? Essentially, I find the current government the lesser of two evils.

The Greens – well, basically, they’re too left wing. But I think we need a balance of power in the Senate, especially if the Coalition receives enough seats in the lower house.

As for the new random entrants hailing out of Queensland, um, I’m really not on board.

I think I’ll be more concerned about getting through the traffic to Lane Cove than anything else that day.

The Reading List – Aug 13 – 19

August 19th, 2013

1) Every Good Endeavour by Tim Keller. This is coming in Bible study, so I thought I’d be cheap and read it for free via the library. Essentially, Keller wants to help people think about work in all its dimensions so that one can work out by which dimensions one can best engage one’s own line of work. By, ‘all its dimensions’, Keller refers to the various ways in which many have posited how one ought to be working at work, but which, in general, have only been posited singly. These one dimensional views of work, i.e. those which purport to offer the ‘one’ or ‘main’ way in which a Christian ought to work at work, are just that – one dimensional. The book is fairly light and easy and clear, as is the case generally with Tim Keller’s work. A good one for every working adult.

2) Sin Bravely by Mark Ellingsen. The title, and that element of the content, is taken from Luther, and is not about being an antinomian. The book is several things, each of which Ellingsen does kind of ok, but which together feel like he’s overreaching. Those several things are: 1) a critique of The Purpose-Driven Life, 2) a critique of western individualist Narcissism, 3) an exhortation to live the grace-filled life that is ‘sinning bravely’ and, 4) a discussion of neurophysiology of dopamine and transcendent-focused thinking. The book is physically quite thin, and the argument stringing the chapters together feels that way too at times. Essentially, he presents the ‘brave sinning’ life as superior and more grace-orientated to the purpose driven life, and as an antidote to American Narcissism, to which the purpose driven life actually panders to, and has the added benefit of possibility being more likely to activate the dopamine centres in your brain. Australia suffers from a different cultural plague than the narcissism that Ellingsen describes about America, so it’s not really a book for this place.

Random Miscellany, pt 3

August 16th, 2013

1) I have finally added to my career tally of goals for St Barnabas’ Football Club, which for about 2 years remained at 2. It now sits at 3. The long gap is mainly because I’ve been playing on the backline, due to a lack of good/experienced/willing defenders. Last Saturday, however, I played about a third of a game for the first grade team at striker (this is where I was playing a fair bit in that first year at Barneys FC). There were a few half chances, but the one I got in was perfect and not wasted. Miles managed to dribble the ball to inside the 18, push a pass at a nice spot in front of me, about 4 or 5 yards from the right post, the goalie played the percentages and lunged at the near post, but I had pushed the ball for the far post, and watched as it went by and into the back of the net. A beautiful moment, followed by high fives, backpatting, and a hug-and-lift from behind.

2) I have stopped watching Australian news on TV, and have reduced web news consumption to only The Conversation. This is because I’m finding the endless stream of election waffle (to put it politely) unbearable. I’ll have more to say on my views on the election later.

3) I have, however, not stopped watching international news. SBS from 3-5:30 is all English language news – France 24, AlJazeera English, DW Journal in English, and then PBS Newshour. I feel like I’m more in touch with actually important news.

4) Anyone else noticed a quiet entry into the News 24 Sunday schedule? Faithlines, yet another ABC religion show hosted by Geraldine Doogue, has been on for a few weeks now. The format appears to be: 10-15 mins interview with some religious figure, followed by 15-20 mins of discussion panel. Last Sunday, Rob Forsyth was on the panel, who, along with the other panel member, were taking Spong to task about a recent book of his on John’s gospel (the interviewee and the subject of the interview). It doesn’t seem to be of a uniformly high quality, but it does show promise of actually picking up relevant issues and discussing them (as in, I’m saying it might be good because it’s not like Compass). Thoughts?

The Reading List – Aug 6 – 12

August 13th, 2013

1) Practicing Theology: Beliefs and Practices in Christian Life edited by Miroslav Volf and Dorothy Bass (which, on the spine, reads, “Volf/Bass”, to which I had mild chuckle). I picked this book up because I wanted to read some Volf. The book itself, though, is a collection of essays on the above topic. The quality, however, is up and down. The best takeaways come from the examples that some of the authors produce and were involved in. The horrible parts were the chapters that were nigh on unreadable – long sentences, highly rarefied academic speak, etc. The whole book is not worth a read, and I would not recommend one do so.

2) Israelite Religions: An Archaelogical and Biblical Survey by Richard Hess. This book is about what we know of the ‘on the ground’ experience of religion (rather than theology). That is to say, it’s about the evidence we have for what people might actually have thought and felt, and also, how well the Biblical testimony goes with the various archaeological evidences we have. Hess takes a conservative point of view on the matter, showing that, on the whole, there are no good reasons for not taking the Biblical record as pointing to a broadly accurate picture. For example, various scholars, especially history of religion types and those who like to generalise, have assumed that the various cultic rituals and levitical codes were too complex, based on their ideas on how complex religion could be, or rather, how complex they thought it should be. However, contemporaneous records in other sites show that other religions were in fact more complex (partly due to having more gods to appease, etc). Also these other sites attest similar festivals, and so, theories of origins for some Israelite festivals – imagine, if you will, a JEPD breakdown of Exodus 12 and bits of Leviticus – are basically dumb and unfounded. This book would probably go well with A Biblical History of Israel. Heartily recommended.

Random Miscellany, pt 17 + 7i

August 5th, 2013

1) So, we’ve got an election, a week earlier than previously scheduled. I’m going to be sick of all the political talk fairly soon, especially now that ABC News 24 will probably be wall-to-wall politics. I’m already sick of Tony Abbott’s voice, Scott Morrison’s voice, and a few others as well.

2) I am somewhat indifferently neutral about Peter Capaldi being announced as the next Doctor. Good for him, but I’ll wait to see how he plays out next season.

3) Carlton does not have a realistic chance of making the 8 now that they’re two wins behind Port on the ladder. Despite the mathematical possibilities, it is extremely unlikely that the teams that make up the 8 will change. It will only be a matter of order. The upset losses by the Hawks and Cats have improved the Swans’ chances of not only staying in the top 4 but getting a home final. I’m excited about this part of September.

4) I don’t think Australia will win back the Ashes in England. Not sure about the chances down here but the odds are slightly better. By then, the squad will probably be more accustomed to each other, and so forth. I’m hoping that they can at least boost their morale by continuing to bat with some proficiency (and luck with the DRS. Seriously, you might as well toss a coin. If the standards of conclusiveness exhibited with the DRS were employed elsewhere, it’d probably be a heck of a lot easier to convince people to change religions.)

The Reading List – July 31 – Aug 5

August 4th, 2013

Paul and Union with Christ by Con Campbell. This is a pretty easy read, well, unless you have no knowledge of Greek, in which case, you will get a little bamboozled. Even though the volume is about 450 pages, the font size and amount of space occupied by block-indented Greek text and English translation mean that you’ll actually eat through this pretty quickly, or use the opportunity to test your Greek! (Why not, Con did write another book about keeping up the Greek skills after all.)
The book is logically and clearly laid out. Starting with an intro, a review of what everyone else has said, he then moves on to a very long section of going through a lot of exegesis, followed by bringing it all together and wrapping it up. The ease of reading is as much due to the clarity of the writing as it is to the nice font size. This makes the conclusions easy to see and it’s easy to see how he gets there. Smarter people than I have written their own incisive reviews on this volume, but as for me, I’d say, a must-read for anyone studying the NT.

The Reading List – July 23 – 30

July 30th, 2013

Scientific Mythologies by James Herrick. Herrick basically goes through science fiction and unveils the quasi-religious nature of some the fantasies on offer. A short summary might be this, to borrow from Qohelet: there’s nothing new under the sun – when someone says “Look, something new!”, behold, it has already been. What he basically reveals, but does not say himself, is that science fiction offers authors and interested scientists an outlet for propagating their own preferred worldviews and mythologies in the dress of the future, or aliens, or whatever. These worldviews and myths are simply old ones in these new clothes – e.g. gnosticism, the myth of the Fairly Awesome Land We Haven’t Discovered Yet But Clearly Has A Mountains Of Gold And Maybe A Fountain Of Youth. The book is ok, but I thought his analysis could be tighter, and there are some glaring factual and spelling errors (e.g. talking about Yoda being in A New Hope). All in all, I’ll have an extra set of eyes on when I next read some SF.

The Reading List – July 16 – 22

July 22nd, 2013

One book this time, to slowly get myself back on some sort of discipline, though I definitely felt the effects of Tour fatigue. Dominion and Dynasty: A Theology of the Hebrew Bible by Stephen Dempster, in the NSBT series.

This book is basically a biblical theology of the OT, only, brief, and the OT in the MT canonical order, i.e. Tanakh. His basic argument is that the Torah sets up expectations of a dominion (i.e. a kingdom or land) and a dynasty (i.e. offspring or nation), which is then commented, not only by the fact that the rest of the OT talks about it, but also because the canonical order itself represents a structuring intended to further illustrate the point. That is, the placement and ordering of the books is intended to amplify and/or complement the themes of each book and the whole work up to that point as it is read in order. As a ~200 page book commenting on the entire OT, well, its necessarily brief, but his general gist is fairly compelling, and illustrates how much is lost by the modern canonical order and the fact that most of us will hardly ever read the whole Bible in order. However, its brevity means that it makes for a useful summary treatise on OT theology for someone not really wanting to swallow larger works, e.g. Goldingay, Waltke, so on.