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Entries in Reading (42)


Have some poutine with your theology

True confession: I have never eaten poutine. I don't know why people even equate Canadians with poutine, because I've lived here all my life, and I'd never heard of poutine until maybe ten years ago. Yes, I am Canadian, but no, I don't eat poutine. And I'm not overly fond of the stereotypes of Canadians. And yes, I bristle when people say that American culture and Canadian culture are "identical." An American transplanted to Canada said that exact thing on Facebook a couple of years ago. Said transplant has never been outside of Ontario, so I took the comment to be simply a manifestation of being unaware.

American culture and Canadian culture have similarities, but they are very different. I had Michael Haykin as a prof this past semester, and he got to talking about being a Canadian working in the U.S., and his observations and reflections reminded me of how very unlike we can be. As a Christian, the differences are also quite telling. The religious climate in Canada is very different. If you start by examining the link between religious affiliation and political affiliation alone, the differences begin to reveal themselves.

Anyway, I digress.

I see a lot about how Christians are supposed to engage with culture. For some, that seems to mean looking for biblical truth in cable television programs; sanctifying WWF wresting, or looking for spiritual messages in The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Some Canadian Christians know more about the U.S. political culture than they do our own. I understand that. The big theological influences are in the U.S. Here in Canada, we do boast of a few notable men: Michael Haykin, D.A. Carson, Richard Longenecker. However, we realize we're a little nation population-wise, and clearly, our evangelical roots are connected to those in the U.S. However, the origins of Canada and the U.S. are vastly different (we had a revolution, it lasted three days, and we lost), so our evangelicalism will be different. That's the part of culture we ought to pay attention to. How has our history affected our culture, and thus our faith?

In 2017, I want to pay more attention to my own country. My social media feed can often be biased toward American culture, and while I do appreciate it, I want to focus on my own. I've been hearing nothing but good things about the book Hillbilly Elegy. Before deciding to read it, I read quite a few reviews. I decided to read it because it sounds quite poignant, and I like prose like that. But I'm very aware of the fact that the book is faiirly culture specific. The principle of poverty with its related issues here in Canada is not the same. Even words like "hillbilly" and "white trash" are not words I grew up with. I went to school with kids who lived in low cost housing; I don't remember hearing them referred to as hillbillies, and the only reference to "white trash" I had was from the movie Gone With the Wind

I decided that if I was going to read Hillbilly Elegy, I ought to read something about Canada's poverty problem, too. This year, I'm going to read a few books specific to Canadian culture, and see where they take me:

Poverty in Canada - an interdiscplinary look at the matter of poverty in Canada and its effects.

The Break - a novel authored by an Aboriginal woman, dealilng with the fate of indigenous women in Canada.

A Culture of Faith - a discussion of evangelical congregations in Canada. I'm hoping to get some resources that point directly to the history of evangelicalism in Canada.

And I don't think I'll be eating poutine with my reading; maybe a double-double from Tim Horton's.


Growing Reading Lists

My reading list is always growing. I have a couple of wish lists, one at Christian Book Distributors and one at Westminster Books. I add when something looks good, and every now and then, I have a look and delete stuff that I've lost interest in. Here are some recent additions. 

The Historical Reliability of John's Gospel: Issues and Commentary, Craig L. Blomberg.

Invitation to the Septuagint, Karen Jobes and Moises Silva

The IVP Biblical Background Commentary: New Testament, Craig Keener

Biblical Words and Their Meaning, Moises Silva

A Biblical History of Israel, Iain Provan, V. Phillips Long, Tremper Longman, III

Hermeneutics, Authority, and Canon, D.A. Carson and John Woodbridge

A New Testament Biblical Theology: The Unfolding of the Old Testament in the New, G.K. Beale

Continuity and Discontinuity: Persperpectives on the Relationship Between the Old and New Testaments, John Feinberg, Ed.

Letters to the Church: A Survey of Hebrews and the General Epistles, Karen Jobes

The Promise-Plan of God: A Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments, Walter Kaiser

New Testament History, Ben Witherington, III

Who's Tampering With the Trinity? Millard Erickson

The Deep Things of God, Fred Sanders

The Forgotten Trinity, James White

Thanksgiving: A Biblical-Theological Investigation of a Pauline Theme, David Pao

That last book is a recent addition after getting into Christine Pohl's book Living into Community. Thankfully, quite a few of them on the list are in the library at my school, and I hope to get some through inter-library loan. The books on the Trinity were added in the midst of the discussions that have been rumbling around lately. I'm going to be taking Theological Foundations this September, so I hope to get more insight into the Trinity there as well. 

In the meantime, I'm enjoying reading for fun, and that's always a good thing.


Take time to smell the pages

My daughter does the same thing with a new book every time she gets one: she holds the book to her nose, flips the pages and smells. She has a thing about the way books smell. I think there are times when the enjoyment of reading is inhibited because she doesn't like the smell. Naturally, she is a paper book lover, as opposed to digital. She enjoys the sensory experience.

I am not a book sniffer myself, but I have seen lately the need to stop and sniff the pages in a figurative sense. Over the past six weeks, as I prepared papers, I had to pretty much race through my reading. Sometimes, I was frustrated because I had to take longer to understand something. At other times, it was frustrating to have to have to hurry through. I skimmed the bibliographies and wished I had time to spend delving into some of the issues more deeply. There just wasn't time. While I love having completed my assignments, I can't say the process was easy, and at times it was onerous. I don't like to be rushed, but it is a consequence of busyness.

Being busy is an interference to our gratitude. That is a principle I read in Christine Pohl's book Living into Community. She comments:

"Gratitude and wonder are squeezed out when our lives are packed full with busyness and responsibilities. There is simply no room, no time to notice." 

No time to notice; that situation extends to so many aspects of our lives.

When I am in a hurry, I just don't notice things, whether it is the many things for which I am thankful or the wonderful things I have read in a book. As a child growing up, I read L.M. Montgomery's books over and over again to the point where I can repeat passages at length. I wouldn't be able to do that unless I had either read repeatedly or read more slowly, or perhaps, both. I want to be able to remember what I read, especially if it is eloquently stated. And certainly, eloquent writing is far more memorable than that which is not.

I think this is why I don't like reading lists. When there is a list, I look at it as something to be conquered. I don't want to look at reading in that way. I want to stop and "smell" the pages. I want to dwell on the footnotes, check out the resources, and follow the bunny trails. I guess I'm more like my Beagle; the joy of the trail isn't the end; it's the variety of smells in between the beginning and the end. 

I am thankful for good books. I am thankful that I have the means to purchase books and libraries to borrow from. But I don't want to get caught up in the busyness so that I don't notice not only what's inside the book, but what's going on around me. Certainly, placing a list of books to be read by a certain date means I have to avert my eyes from other things in order to finish. I can't do that. Reading methods and approaches are not universal. Some of us want to slow down, and some of us want to hurry along. I may not physically smell the pages, but I want to do so metaphorically.


Too much theology?

Is there anything as too much theology? I didn't think so, but the past few weeks, I've been wondering. My seminary class has a lot of reading. In addition to learning the course material, I am also beginning my research for my hermeneutical papers. That means more reading. It means commentaries, and it means lots of Bible reading, because the first thing to address when writing a hermeneutical paper is the context. Between school and weekly planning for teaching Sunday school, I've found my interest in other thelogical books a little half-hearted. In May, I will be starting a course about how the New Testament uses Old Testament Scripture. I have a feeling I may continue to feel this way.

Perhaps it's because I'm getting older, and I don't juggle multiple books like I used to. I find that trying to juggle too many draws my focus away from the school work, and I want to be focused. On the upside, seminary has meant I'm reading other things. And I'm actually reading without a pencil in my hand, which I seldom do, but sometimes, it's good to do that. It's good to have a break from the theology. Sometimes, stepping away for a break is good to just process things and let them settle in my brain.

My husband and I both began reading The Last Kingdom series, which is about Alfred the Great. It's set in the 9th Century, and there's lots of battles. I never thought I'd like this kind of book, but I really do. I'm about to start the second volume, and my husband just started the third. There is eight in all, so we should keep busy with that.

I am about to finish a book called The Famine Plot, which is about the Irish Famine. The author, Tim Pat Coogan has written many books, and was a journalist. I've read two of his other books, one on Michael Collins and one on Eamon DeValera. Coogan's mother, Beatrice, wrote a novel set in the time of the famine, The Big Wind, and I picked that up recently.

In April, Dr. Michael Haykin is bringing Karen Swallow Prior to my school to speak about Hannah More. I decided to give in and see what all the fuss was about, so in preparation for her lecture, I want to read Fierce Convictions. Judging from those who liked it, I suspect I will, too.

I don't know if I'll get all of these finished before May, which is my goal. Once the deadlines for my papers get closer, I know I won't have as much time. As for all those other unread books, I'll just have to pencil them in for the summer.


Other kinds of goals in 2016

I don't have any particular reading goals this year other than I want to read. I'm not good at keeping lists, so I'm just going to go with the flow. I have the syllabus for my hermeneutics course this semester, and there will be a lot of reading. I will basically be immersed in hermeneutics, and I can only see myself reading anything else at bed time, when I read fiction. 

But what about other goals? How about creativity goals? One year, it was my goal to take a picture every day; and I did. I may do a modified version of that and take a picture every week. It's a good way to practice composition. This year, I have some knitting goals. I want to make both my husband and son cardigans. I also want to make a blanket for no one in particular; just something to have on hand in case a gift need arises.

This past year, I've been really convicted about the amount of conspicuous consumption I participate in. When I look at the crammed bookshelves in my house, and many of those books unread, I feel a little guilty. Stewardship of our resources is a serious matter. I want to use our resources wisely. This year, I am seriously considering buying some coloured stickers and putting a red one on the spine of every book on my shelf I haven't read. That will give me a daily visual reminder that I don't need anymore books at the moment.

I want to be more helpful to people. There are young families who need babysitters; older people who need practical helps; women who need friends. I want that to be something I am paying closer attention to. It doesn't have to be anything spectacular. Just being open to the prospect of helping others is the place to start.

I want to make the most of my seminary time. I will be at school every Tuesday from 8:30-11:15, and I want to develop friendships. I want to take advantage of the seminary chapel days, and make connections with my school community. I'm taking a Masters of Theology, and I'm a part-time student; I'll be there a while.

I also want to be more physically active this year. I was pretty much a big ole couch potato last winter, but this winter I want to be out more, walking. My next door neighbour is 91 years old and very active. I think he's always been active. As I get older, I want to stay healthy and be active, keep extra weight from hanging around, and have a healthy heart. It won't happen if I don't get up and move.

Most of all this year, I just want to know the Lord better. I want to think more deeply on God's truths rather than just giving a cursory glance. I want to mull things over, ruminate over them, and drink deeply. I was quite convicted by this passage in a the boook God's Battleplan for the Mind:

Shallow Christianity has become the blight of the modern church. Success is no longer measured by Christian maturity and discernment. Rather, it is judged by the quality of the praise music, the comfort of the building, and the increased size of the congregation. Godly meditation is the answer to this superficial religion. Meditation broadens the shoulders and deepens the experience of God's people. It sobers foolish minds and matures childish reasoning.

If thinking more means I speak less, perhaps that is a good thing.