Book Review Posts
February 12, 2013 by Jason Hood
I’ve begun Alan Jacobs’s gem, The Narnian: The Life and Imagination of C. S. Lewis, and all I can say is that I should’ve sprung for a hardback. I hate giving out nuggets–you should go get the whole bar of gold, or the whole unprocessed chicken breast, etc.–but here are some nuggets.
(1) Lewis’s mother had a calendar with daily quotations from Shakespeare. On the day of her death were lines from King Lear: “Men must endure Their going hence, even as their coming hither: Ripeness is all.” The first six words were inscribed on CSS’s tomb by his brother 55 years later.
(2) Early in the book Jacobs describes the remarkable degree of misery Lewis was experiencing when he began writing the Chronicles. The reality of intense family suffering and the psychological, social, and financial cost borne by Lewis in that season of his life is radically removed (and therefore all the more important) from the common portrait of Lewis as a prof who takes long walks, enjoys beers with the gang at the pub, and writes letters.
(3) I particularly appreciate @ayjay’s sensitivity to Lewis’s approach to education, which “is not about providing information so much as cultivating “habits of the heart”–producing “men with chests,” as he puts it in his book The Abolition of Man, that is, people who not only think as they should but respond as they should, instinctively and emotionally, to the challenges and blessings the world offers to them.” Thus stories and imagination are not optional; they are in fact vital.
(4) We find an important note along the same lines in Lewis’s Preface to Paradise Lost, which was dedicated to his friend Charles Williams, who had lectured on Milton at Oxford: “It is a reasonable hope that of those who heard you in Oxford many will understand that when the old poets made some virtue their theme they were not teaching but adoring, and that what we take for the didactic is often the enchanted.”
(5) Alan Jacobs thinks the Narnia stories aren’t as good as the Harry Potter stories!2 Comments
August 9, 2012 by Jason Hood
Here’s part two of my interview with Jonathan Pennington, Reading the Gospels Wisely: A Narrative and Theological Introduction, coming in October 2012 from Baker Academic. (For more on the book, including killer video introductions, see the book’s website.) Part one is available here.
(4) What are some of the “big picture,” redemptive historical ideas that shape the way you read the gospels?
From how I’ve defined the gospel above you might rightly surmise that the kingdom or reign of God is central to my thinking, as it seems it was to Jesus’ as well, if his preaching and teaching are any indication!
At the same time, I am convinced that the goal of Holy Scripture (which I spend some time discussing in the book) is our personal transformation through God revealing to us both our brokenness and the full-orbed redemption available to us in the gospel. So, I think a wise reading of the Gospels will not only ask theological and redemptive-historical questions about the kingdom, but also about the nature of God and his redeeming ways with his people. Again, the Gospels are heavily-laden, low-hanging fruit-filled trees on these important matters. At every turn the stories of the Gospels reveal Christ’s gracious greatness and our need for redemption.
(5) Are there any under-appreciated or underexplored aspects of the theology of the kingdom for church today? Are there elements where we haven’t quite gotten the message of the gospels right (i.e., preaching, ethics, evangelism, political engagement, building a worldview or a biblical theology)?
This is obviously a huge question. I will just tackle one small part that is related to what we’ve been discussing. I think we have largely misread the Gospels as if they are the historical data while the rest of the NT is the theological and ethical interpretation of Jesus’ life. This is quite mistaken at many levels. The Gospels themselves are finely-tuned, well-honed, fully-theological and practical interpretations and applications of Jesus’ message. They are, in my opinion, more universal and comprehensive than the epistolary literature, which is largely occasional in nature.
As a result, I believe our understanding of NT theology (and biblical theology overall) is often somewhat pear-shaped by preferencing a certain way of reading Paul and not taking into account the whole NT witness, including the vast bulk of it: the Gospel accounts. When we begin to read the Gospels as theological (even homiletical) messages it will potentially affect how we articulate many things including our worldview, political engagement, evangelism, and ethics.
I absolutely agree, Jonathan, and I don’t think I’m alone. I have been teaching OT of late, I’ve noted the same problem with the way we read the OT books. We take them as historical accounts (to be defended or critiqued, depending on whether we lean left or right) while downplaying or overlooking the theological and pastoral purposes of those books.
Strangely enough, your criticism is the opposite criticism employed by Bultmann and the early Barth against 19th and early 20th century liberalism. That movement was guilty of over-emphasizing the gospels (but by mining for acceptable moral gems and reconstructions of the historical Jesus, famously categorized by Schweitzer as looking intently for Jesus only to find we’re looking into a well and seeing our own reflection) and downplaying soteriological concepts found in Paul and Luther.
(6) A hypothetical student in “old school” dispensationalism picks up this text. What will he or she encounter that will be challenging?
Well, if they truly are old school dispensationalists then they won’t appreciate the fact that I think the Gospels’ teachings are the Church’s teachings! That is, as I was just suggesting, the Gospels are post-Pentecostal interpretations of the Christian faith, not time-bound data about the historical Jesus in his own dispensation nor teachings for Israel in the millennium. This is, according to my understanding, a classical dispensational view. I know it is not the view of today’s “progressive” dispensationalists, thankfully.
Indeed, the edgiest part of RGW is the final chapter where I boldly suggest that the fourfold Gospel book should be understood as the epicenter or keystone of the archway for all of Holy Scripture. I don’t suppose this fits overly well into an old school dispensational view, nor indeed into most evangelical views! You’ll have to read the book and evaluate the arguments for yourself.
Bruce Waltke answers the question, “What is your favorite book of the Bible?”: “Whichever book I’m currently studying.” I imagine your text will help students dig into the gospels so that they become favorite texts for many, Jonathan! Thanks so much for your time, and best wishes on this new publication and your new position as Director of the PhD program at Southern Seminary.1 Comment
April 11, 2012 by Jason Hood
This year marks the 200th anniversary of the first overseas missionaries from the United States. To mark the occasion I’m reading Courtney Anderson’s To the Golden Shore: The Life of Adoniram Judson, a missionary classic that tells the story of the men and women who set sail for Asia in 1812. It’s a remarkable story, Anderson writes very well and doesn’t really veer into hagiography, and I’ve read few books with as much insight on missionary thought and practice.
It would be impossible to do the work or Judson’s life justice in a post (although a good start is John Piper’s telling of the story). But here are a few notes:
The Judsons’ rigor and passion are impressive; they are brilliant, hard-working, and more than a little headstrong. They go to the mission field despite massive opposition from friends and families. Their task requires an abundance of both stubbornness and patience.
As for preparation:
A liberal arts education turns out to be a decent preparation for radical missionary service. The usefulness of smoking pipes and cigars: they cover up the stench of prison. There’s the necessity of slaughtering self-conceit (being a missionary doesn’t exempt one from this most basic of Christian tasks). And there’s the need for a sense of humor, in particular Judson’s “keen sense of the ridiculous” served him and others well (292). At times Judson comes across as an early 19th century hipster who could have written for The Simpson’s.
Finally I note this: we need to place brilliant theological minds on the frontier mission field, and not just in teaching posts at seminaries and colleges and wealthy American congregations (the professions many preferred for Judson).
I’ll follow up soon with a minor complaint about Anderson’s book, but I highly recommend it.2 Comments
April 9, 2012 by Jason Hood
Mrs. Hood has read all the cool stuff—Twilight series, Harry Potter, etc., and urged me to read The Hunger Games. The three books were my first reads on a Kindle. Page-turning thrillers make good sense on an e-reader, but I’m not sold yet on reading other books in this way.
If you are on the fence about reading them, The Hunger Games might be worth your attention. (1) Your children and their friends will be likely to read this series. (2) It reads well and maintains its pace. (3) A number of ethical challenges make for interesting case studies worth discussion, particularly since the radical, Christian option (being harmed rather than harming) is not offered in the book (is Rue an exception?).
But beyond these prosaic reasons, Collins gives a good portrayal of the life and emotions of a teenager. Apart from the usual “which boy” problems, there’s a deeper than anticipated look at teenage self-obsession. Self-focus is tempered by a sense of vocation, and further filtered by a growing awareness of the way one’s life is inextricably connected to others, so that Katniss can’t simply live for herself and her dreams without thinking about others. Katniss weaves through misunderstandings and emotional swings while balancing on a high-wire of self-confidence mixed with self-doubt.
More importantly, she develops an awareness of the world and its warts and weaknesses, particularly the ability of a corrupt world to employ us as pawns for wicked purposes, and her own capacity for evil and wrongdoing.
Even in rebellion against tyranny we may, in fact, turn out to be tyrants.
Less thoughtful than (say) Chronicles of Narnia, more so than Ender’s Game, to paraphrase the book’s conclusion: “there are much worse books to read.”0 Comments
November 8, 2011 by Jason Hood
I’ve signed up to discuss a part of Matthew Lee Anderson’s book on the body in Christian thought and practice, Earthen Vessels. (You should buy a copy, or have him chat at a church or campus or even with a reading group.) What follows is my internal dialogue (so say some) an external diabolism.
I realize it’s not the normal format. Please, indulge me like Tetzel.
Why bother with the chapter on tattoos? For starters, there are some nice observations and turns of phrase. Tattoos, MLA notes, are a social and not merely personal phenomenon; “The skin stretches beyond its limits into the world around us.” There are many such, but let’s keep it light, shall we?
Why did I volunteer to write about something I can’t even consistently spell, let alone something I don’t have an opinion on? Why couldn’t MLA have asked John MacArthur to blog about this? JMac could have told you clearly what to do—in three points—and spawned a snafu over tattoo taboos.
Why don’t I care about my tattoos?
What has me writing is that my students—whether fundy, liberated, or secularist—do care. Last week I taught through Lev 19 with undergrads in an introductory OT survey course. We had some stimulating discussion on the quest for identity and labels. It was abruptly terminated. (Just picture a fairly immature crowd, and Yvette Nicole Brown with an extra 75 or 100 pounds. Now imagine her saying, “What about a sexy little butterfly tattoo? Would that be a quest for identity?” Now imagine recovering the conversation after that.) But the thoughts on identity-quest registered while it lasted, just as they did in MLA’s tattoo chapter.
So I can get a convo going, but I don’t know what I’m talking about: I’ve had three earrings, but I’ve never been inked. So allow me to draw from the shameful specter of tattoos in my family. Shortly after her 80th birthday, my grandmother got her first tattoos. Okay, so they were just eyebrows. But her pastor, who “graciously” gave her a pass, was still concerned enough to preach on tattoos three weeks later. (Without naming denominations, let’s just say they place tattoos, alcohol, and worship with musical instruments in a catch-all drawer that—in their view—holds anything falling between “demonic” and “dumb” on the moral spectrum.)
I think many of us agree that there’s nothing inherently sinful or wrong with getting a tattoo. We commonly call these “wisdom” issues (as opposed to matters of “law”; that’s a gross simplification that borders on the theological felonious, but let’s roll with it for the moment) and agree not to bug one another about them.
The challenging part is that “wisdom” issues actually require wisdom. We always have to work through interesting and important questions. (How exactly do you spell IXTHYS/ICHTHUS, and will it fit legibly in the fish symbol you’ve selected? Why exactly do you want a sexy little butterfly? What if your fiancée dies and you marry someone else…with a different name? Obviously you are trying very hard when you ink to say something…what is it, and is it worth saying? If later in your life you are less hostile to Darwin, could you modify the tat so that your Jesus fish kisses your Darwin lizard?)
And while we try to answer those questions, we’ll always have conservative and liberal voices pressing us, squeezing out the middle ground that lies between (1) “Do whatever you want” and (2) “The devil wants you to get inked.”
The tricky part lies here: “wisdom” issues involve motivation. (And I can’t fully know my own heart, let alone much about others.) But I’ll hazard this thought: I suspect that one primary reason we tat and pierce, as with so much of what we do with our body, is a matter of staking out identity. (I’m cosigning Matt here.) That might be true even if we are just identifying ourselves as “bored.”
I remember struggling back in the 90s, after my third earring: I wasn’t really the sort of musical rebel who needed three earrings. I didn’t even have black Doc Marten’s. I was no longer depressed enough to wear black all the time. The earrings seemed so…out of place.
Pessimistic non-sequitur: What is the difference between stamping doulos on my bicep to praying on street corners? Neither is wrong per se; I’d give you a ride downtown for both activities. But with the latter, maybe you’re telling the world, “I’m holy!” And with the former, I could be shouting, “I’m not a loser fundy, and by golly, I’m a Jesus-slave!” If so, the line between holy roller and holy rock-and-roller starts is thinning…
Up to this point I’m merely playing on Matt’s points. But I do want to suggest a way to advance the conversation. I have two directions. First, if we tat, we should probably do it with excellence. In fact, I’d love to see Christian tattoo academies. (Not least so that people could learn to do Hebrew and Greek correctly. Very serious question: what’s the ratio between evangelical liberal arts schools and trade schools? What does that say about our view of working with and on our bodies?) Can’t we raise funds to start such joints in, say, Grand Rapids, Colorado Springs, Wheaton, or Branson? Couldn’t Thomas Kinkade, Rev. Finster’s estate, and Mako join forces for the greater good?
Ain’t no tat like a Christian tat, cuz a Chrsitian tat comes in matte. (And complete with “master highlights” for a few hundred bucks more.)
Secondly, and seriously: I’ve never heard anyone apply the NT’s approach to externalities to tats. Granted, I haven’t been listening—again, just not something I care about.
1 Peter 3 and 1 Tim 2 both cite what I call “peacocking” as a particularly dangerous thing for Jesus people. Braids (which were often elaborate, status-symbol endeavors in Gr-Rom culture), gold, pearls, and expensive clothing create problems both for the community of faith (stratifying and segregating) and for the peacocks engaged in such displays.
If tats and piercings are really a subset of the bigger discussion about how we clothe and present ourselves, maybe the concerns we find in places like 1 Pet 3 and 1 Tim 2 need to be part of the conversation. The NT wants us to downplay flash and splash, and does not look kindly on acts of segregation.
That certainly doesn’t mean “NO TATS!” But it does mean THINK (theologically) WHEN YOU INK…
Matt, back to you in the studio for some elaboration on t(h)at…1 Comment
October 14, 2011 by Jason Hood
Method in Douglas Sean O’Donnell, The Beginning and End of Wisdom
My last review of this light and engaging book examined the book’s sermons. I also want to highlight the importance of being alert to our own methods and the power they have to shape what we preach.
O’Donnell’s method is perhaps most clearly revealed in the way he makes us of scholarly works. He cites many of the most renowned wisdom scholars like Gerhard von Rad, James Crenshaw, Bruce Waltke, Michael Fox, and Leo Perdue. Without exception, these scholars characterize biblical wisdom as knowledge of the harmony, order, and structure built into the creation. Yet O’Donnell does not mention the link between wisdom and creation nor with the creation order. Nor does he mention two of the most profound wisdom texts: Proverbs 3:18-20 where wisdom provides a path back to tree of life and the lost garden, and the longest poem in Proverbs 8:1-36 where Woman Wisdom testifies to the origin of her expertise: she saw the world made. Creation, that center of ancient wisdom theology, does not really appear in his book.
But why? And what does appear instead? O’Donnell’s Reformed focus is shaped by a theology of salvation and the glory of God which seems to send him looking for three themes: salvation, moral guidance, and metaphysical concepts about God, like omnipotence and sovereignty (pp. 137 and 209 n.3). While these are all central, biblical themes, I’m not convinced they are at the heart of the wisdom literature. None of these biblical books mentions the covenants or Israel’s history of salvation. Their primary context is creation – its breadth, its order, and its inner operations.
How might a method of a fuller theology look different than what we find in O’Donnell’s book? First, take O’Donnell’s focus on morality. What if, as many argue, ethics has its roots in a theology of creation? Wisdom, in this case, would be more than just doing good, but actions that are good because they seek out the justice, order, and hierarchies of the moral world God has created. This greater depth is important. A law professor I know often reminds me that few legal issues are solved by applying individual laws. Most situations fall somewhere between two or more laws and the job of the lawyer or judge is to discern the best application. That’s wisdom: the comprehensive moral viewpoint that sees the system as a whole and finds justice in each new situation. God fit this thing together and that should give every one of us confidence that wisdom can guide us in the countless decisions we make in our homes, neighborhoods, churches, and jobs – moral or not.
Second, the wisdom-creation focus also goes further than O’Donnell in affirming the goodness of the created world and the whole of human life. In other words, as I observed in my earlier review, wisdom affirms the enormous range of human callings to make something out of this world, just as we find in the valiant woman in Proverbs 31 who excels at farming, textiles, trading, wine making, parenting, and social justice. If there is an order to creation then there is an order or harmony within each of these callings. Wisdom, focused on God’s final design for the world, is the way to access that order.
Finally, tying wisdom to the created order also opens new windows into the meaning of Jesus’ work and ministry. O’Donnell chooses not to address the long poem in Proverbs 8 where Woman Wisdom sees the process of creation, and for this reason he has no reason to mention that the New Testament writers put Jesus in the place of this woman “in the beginning” (John 1 and Hebrews 1). Only for these NT authors, the Creator has become the Creature in order to restore all of the order, beauty and wholeness that have been lost in the fall. In so tying Jesus to wisdom, Hebrews and John announce good news for us and for everything else too: parks, cities, schools, families, gardens, the arts, medicine and so on.
O’Donnell’s path through these books gives us a wise and Sovereign God, a generous Savior, and a call to faith that results in righteous living. The wisdom literature is no easy genre and, in a day when a vacuous “spirituality” is increasingly in fashion, his emphasis is very much appreciated. My own approach, guided less by the doctrines of the Reformed tradition, pursues the close theological link in these books between creation (stuff) and wisdom. On this path we meet God as our Creator and the Savior of creation. God’s salvation work in Jesus – the Creator who took on flesh – banishes the sin of death and restores all things to their fullness in the power of his fleshly resurrection. Creatures are not just forgiven, but, as wisdom scholar Al Wolters has said, “Creation (is) Regained.” I would hope that the church will come away enriched by both methods of study and both ways of preaching this excellent literature.0 Comments
October 13, 2011 by Jason Hood
Douglas Sean O’Donnell, The Beginning and End of Wisdom: Preaching Christ from the First and Last Chapters of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Job (Crossway, 2011). Reviewed by Ryan Patrick O’Dowd.
[[See the series introduction here.]]
In his introduction to this book, Sidney Greidanus admonishes the church for its failure to read and preach Old Testament wisdom literature. Greidanus shows that when the biblical sources churches use to equip God’s saints are inadequate, the health of the church suffers. Douglas O’Donnell’s book is a creative and engaging introduction to these lost texts and a much needed book for a church long deprived of biblical wisdom.
After a short introduction, O’Donnell provides six sermons on the first and last chapters of each wisdom book. These sermons are followed by a chapter on hermeneutics and homiletics and two appendices that help preachers to preach wisdom and poetry. O’Donnell’s aim is twofold: one, to inspire love for the wisdom literature, and two, to motivate and guide preachers towards preaching good sermons from these books. I have written two reviews in order to comment on both goals. In the next review I will point to elements in O’Donnell’s methodology which demonstrate that the church’s struggle to preach wisdom literature today goes beyond the genre or our theological method. This first review examines the content of O’Donnell’s sermons.
O’Donnell’s sermons on Proverbs emphasize moral application. He shows that wisdom is interested in giving us a particular guide for day-to-day life in the world, inspiring us to be grateful for the gift of wisdom. O’Donnell explains that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, meaning that true wisdom can only be had if we start in the right place and aim in the right direction – an obedient faith in the covenant God who is the source of all wisdom.
The argument is clear and persuasive in this chapter, though I would have taken the discussion a bit further. Because O’Donnell views wisdom almost entirely within the categories of salvation and morality, he does not address the way wisdom speaks to vocational and cultural issues like aesthetics, architecture, education and politics. Note, for example, the wisdom Bezalel had in building the tabernacle (Exod 31) – wisdom of skill that knows the material properties of God’s world. Joseph and Daniel are given wisdom to govern and to interpret dreams and Solomon’s wisdom applies to a range of tasks from administering justice to building the Temple.
When O’Donnell comes to his next sermon on the valiant woman in Proverbs 31, he again focuses on her moral and spiritual character. But Proverbs 31 also provides lengthy illustrations of her accomplishments in agriculture, commerce, parenting, textiles, and social justice. O’Donnell generically calls these her “industrious work,” referring briefly to Ruth and Boaz as people of character like the Valiant Woman and Woman Wisdom in Proverbs 8. But he doesn’t explore these connections. Had he done so, he might have opened up the way back to Woman Wisdom in Proverbs 8, who saw all the events of creation. Wisdom affirms the goodness of all the human vocations in this world, not just being a good wife.
O’Donnell preaches with an explicit indebtedness to the tradition of Reformed theology and so I was surprised that he did not make use of the excellent Proverbs scholarship by Raymond Van Leeuwen and Al Wolters. Not only do they share his Reformed heritage, but both show how Reformers like Luther, Calvin, Brenz and Melanchthon all saw the wisdom literature celebrating God’s whole creation, and with it, every dimension of human activity in the world.
O’Donnell’s two chapters on Ecclesiastes describe what he calls “the futility of our work in this world,” warning us that our work adds nothing new to this world unless it is “in the Lord.” In other words, work is futile but can be redeemed in Jesus the Messiah.
This raises important questions: how do Christians in a fallen world balance the message of the futility of work with the goodness of work imagined in Proverbs 31? And what does it mean for Jesus to redeem work? The sermons don’t tackle these questions and I suspect that all pastors struggle to connect the physical resurrection of Jesus’ body with its specific application to our life in this world today. In Colossians Paul tells us that Jesus’ resurrection begins the process of reconciling everything in the heavens and the earth. He then prays for God to give his church wisdom so that we can bring the power of his resurrection to the world (compare Phil 3). Simply put, wisdom is our guide to embody his renewing grace, peace, forgiveness and healing in all the broken places of the world: offices, schools, banks, hospitals, studios, and homes. But we must first link wisdom to creation for this wisdom message in Colossians to make sense.
In his sermons on Job, O’Donnell avoids the common error of moralizing Job’s story and concluding that Job suffers because he has sinned. Such a move is shortsighted, as O’Donnell notes, because the narrator and God both strain to reaffirm Job as an upright and righteous man. No, this book is about the mystery of a just God who introduces punishments into the life of a holy man.
I was a little surprised that O’Donnell did not place this mystery in the context of the created order, as Job does in his first complaint about his suffering (3:1-10). Here Job specifically reverses all the terms of light, life and goodness in the six day account of Genesis 1. Job’s friends immediately defend God and accuse Job of sin; but they are misguided. God’s response confirms that Job was on target from the beginning, answering Job’s complaint with a long series of questions that demonstrate the mysteries in the created world (chapters 38-42). The point is that justice and suffering in Job are not just abstract ideas detached from life on earth. They are visceral realities of the order of the universe that extend from human affairs to the sun, moon, clouds, rain, and soil.
Though O’Donnell’s approach does not place suffering in a theology of creation, his excellent sermon on Job 42 nevertheless fits with this interpretation. He argues that if Job is righteous, then there must be much about our human path in this world that remains a mystery to us: life exceeds our understanding and wisdom must know its limits! God does not give Job a rational explanation after all; instead he points to his power in the physical world as a reminder that his thoughts are not our thoughts. The story ends with Job repentant, but the mystery left open. O’Donnell shows that this mystery is only resolved in Jesus’ suffering and resurrection. Indeed, the death of the righteous One and his rising again save us from our judgment and restore the whole world with a power that is beyond our imagining. But that does not always lessen the anguish of suffering in our long wait for his kingdom to come at last. Job is a long story that encourages a long wait.
O’Donnell’s book is easy and useful reading, despite what I think is sometimes too narrow a focus that does not address the connections between creation and wisdom. I am increasingly convinced that if wisdom sermons are going to have significant staying power, they will do best to delve into the roots of wisdom in the tangible, created world.0 Comments
September 22, 2011 by Jason Hood
After reading The Hobbit this year I could not find my copies of the Lord of the Rings trilogy; they are still missing and I suspect they have fallen into shadow. But I still had a Tolkien itch; I didn’t feel like going back to a bigger biography so I picked up Mark Horne’s little volume in the Christian Encounter Series.
It’s a very good book. It’s the first that I’ve read in that series, but it won’t be the last. I suspect as my kids get old enough for those sorts of books, I’ll start to pick up volumes.
As one would expect, it’s not deep–at least, it’s not in-depth. But it’s highly recommended for a quick yet thoughtful read. It would serve especially well as an enlightening read for young fans. That is not because it is simplistic, but because it unveils the darkness and beauty in Tolkien’s life and its impact on his work. When I was a child it never dawned on me that larger than life literary figures because they had a life journey. They were not “born,” but “made,” by what they had suffered and because of what their religion and their friendships had contributed. (Incidentally, this is why SAET exists. The friendship/religion part more than the suffering.)
Horne does a good job of showing the interaction between life, author, and fiction, and just how far from idealistic that interaction was: pain, suffering, being orphaned, losing friends and health in war, and politics are all integrated in Tolkien’s life to the point of influencing his writing.
But he was also shaped by friendships, religion, and his professional life as a philologist. (Of course the influence often occurs in indirect ways, and is subtle at best, and one does not want to read too much of his life into his fiction in particular.)
The “influence” theme appears in a small way on the biography’s opening page. Tolkien scraped by as a young academic and graded papers to make extra money. One such paper contained an empty page. For some reason, Tolkien took his mind off his work for a moment and doodled a sentence on that page that I can’t read or hear without getting chills:
In a hole in the ground there lived a Hobbit.1 Comment
August 17, 2011 by Gerald Hiestand
My review of The Missional Church and Leadership Formation (Eerdmans, 2009) is now up over at Themelios.0 Comments
April 15, 2011 by Gerald Hiestand
The Piper/Carson lectures from last year have been published by Crossway as, The Pastor as Scholar and the Scholar as Pastor: Reflections on Life and Ministry. My buddy Owen Strachan (SAET First Fellowship) served as an editor for the project and kindly asked me for an endorsement, which I was happy to give. As I’ve noted on this blog before, Piper and Carson are speaking more generally about the pastor as local theologian, rather than the pastor as ecclesial theologian (my terms, not theirs). But what they say in these two lectures is important to the whole discussion driving the SAET project. I encourage you to pick up a copy of the book.
“Few books are so needed as this. Recapturing the vision of the pastor as scholar and the scholar as pastor is crucial for the health of the church. Who would not want to read John Piper and D. A. Carson as they reflect on this calling? This is one of the most encouraging and helpful books I have seen in a long time. If you are a pastor, read it. If you have a pastor, put it in his hands.”
—R. Albert Mohler Jr., President, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
“I’m deeply encouraged by the growing number of pastoral scholars and scholarly pastors. Probably no living Christians have done more to bring about this trend than D. A. Carson and John Piper. In this book, they will inspire you with stories from their journeys and challenge you with seasoned advice. Most of all, they will lead you to thank God that he gives you the privilege of leading and teaching his church.”
—Collin Hansen, Editorial Director, The Gospel Coalition; author, Young, Restless, Reformed
“These are important chapters by two of evangelicalism’s most important thinkers. In an age that has largely forgotten the native connection between theology and the church, John Piper and D. A. Carson remind us that these two worlds belong together. There can be, of course, no turning back the clock; the modern research university is here to stay. But Piper and Carson offer us two good examples of how to navigate the contemporary terrain with a view to producing ecclesial theology—theology in service to the church. This short book is a great beginning to a conversation that has been long overdue.”
—Gerald Hiestand, Senior Associate Pastor, Calvary Memorial Church, Oak Park, Illinois; Executive Director, Society for the Advancement of Ecclesial Theology