More Recent Readings: July 17, 2006

Lutheran Forum, Christmass, Winter 2005: This issue contains one of the most inexplicably bad articles I have read in some time. M. E. Chapman’s “Fundamental Unity: Evangelical-Catholic Non-Negotiables” does not argue, but rather asserts, that there are a number of items, all Roman in origin and character, that Lutherans interested in unity with Rome cannot let go of. The author has no understanding of the Gospel, does not understand Lutheran objections to particular (and general) aspects of Roman theology, and gives the reader the impression that the author is nothing more than a 5th-columnist — at best. That the article is not much more than an unpleasant odor emitted at a party, and politely ignored by the other guests, is demonstrated in the following issue, where no letters to the editor, positive or enraged, appear. No other articles stand out, though they are of a consistently interesting quality.

Lutheran Forum, Easter, Spring 2006: C.S. Baldwin provides an interesting reminiscence of TaizĂ©’s Brother Roger; a lovely set of woodcuts from Luther’s Little Prayer Book of 1529 are included; R. B. Bagnall gives us a nice overview of various (reasonably recent) daily office books; and R. J. Niebanck’s review essay of Robert Benne’s recent A Christian Approach to Social, Economic, and Political Concerns is much more than just a review essay — a fine thing to read. There is more to to be found here.

Forum Letter, February 2006: P. G. Alms shares an excellent essay on our desire to be Bigger and Better as churches, and the temptation to go after what we want rather than faithfulness.

Forum Letter, March 2006: As in a past Lutheran Forum, we are directed again to Berthold von Schenk; I’m now convinced his writings are worth a look. We also learn that Catechism classes can be successful — kids do learn, and learn well.

Forum Letter, April 2006: Language matters, even when words scare or put us off; the same is true of Scripture.

Forum Letter, May 2006: We learn details of the scriptural emendations found in the new ELCA hymnal; also that political powers have much too strong a hand in academic institutions, much to the detriment of both those involved and the Church at large.

First Things, No. 160: In which we learn from S. M. Barr (and thus the editors) that the Roman church no longer needs (to hold to, or teach) Creation (no surprise, given the ontology which directs their thinking).

First Things, No. 164: Paul Johnson discusses the U.S. as the “Almost-Chosen People” — worth a look; and R. Hittinger has an interesting take on the release of temporal authority by, especially, Rome.

Cell: A Novel, by Stephen King: At last, someone who finds cell phones and their slaves to be more distasteful than I do! Not a particularly notable book, but one that, for the most part, follows its premises to their conclusions.

American Jesus: How the Son of God Became a National Icon, by Stephen Prothero: a nice overview of Jesus-through-the-American-centuries. The book would have benefitted from a deeper understanding of the theological underpinnings of these various portraits of Jesus, but the book is not harmed by this lack.

Pandora’s Star / Judas Unchained, by Peter F. Hamilton: Part 1: excellent, fun, sad to finish it. Part 2: not so excellent, fun, and glad to get it over with. The interminable chase at the end of Book 2 destroys what could have been a classic of the genre; the second book also suffers from scenes that run on far too long for Hamilton’s style, as well as unnecessary attempts to get us to care for more than a handful of characters. Solutions are far too easy in the second half of this saga, especially given the threat to humanity served up in Book 1.

The American Scholar, Vol. 75.1: a pair of handy shoes can be found on page 14; “My Holocaust Problem” by A. Krystal makes the entire issue worthwhile; W. Rybczynski leads us into superb, anachronistic architecture; M. Edmundson accompanies us as we deal with aging; good writing all around.

The American Scholar, Vol. 75.2: Marilynne Robinson and Gary Wills attempt to find the modern world hidden within Scripture; a set of unusual encounters are recounted by J. McConkey; B. Wallraff invites us down the closed alleys of language. Other pieces worth time are also to be found in this issue.

Bound Choice, Election, and Wittenberg Theological Method: From Martin Luther to the Formula of Concord, by Robert Kolb: not for those without background in the subject, this book is for those with any interest in the history of and actual issues surrounding discussion of the bound will. Superb.

The Role of Justification in Contemporary Theology, by Mark C. Mattes: excellent book, covering five prominent (mostly Lutheran) theologians. While the index, especially of names, needs expansion, it is an excellent resource and up-to-date discussion of the question at hand.

The Believer 4.3: J. Price begins the issue with the first part of an investigation of the natural world hidden in L.A.; S. Saroyan looks behind happiness psychology; worthy issue, but otherwise no standouts.

The Believer 4.4: J. Price concludes her study of nature in L.A.; A. Selsberg dives into 80’s sex comedies; Repo Man relived by J. Ruland; extreme taxidermy investigated by M. Tea; a fine issue.

The Believer 4.5: Ah, the annual music issue. A nice collection of songs come along with the issue, good enough to warrant purchasing the entire thing; E. Vincentelli takes us along to the Eurovision song competition; the history of “I Want Candy” is examined in minute detail; we learn the background and proliferation of the Numa Numa dance; Greil Marcus babbles on and on, as usual, blocking out Don DeLillo; there is a fine interview with Bun B. Great issue!

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