Reading in the New Year

Another year and another pile of books to plow through. There are some books I’m particularly excited about and, so far, have found them to be worth a look.

<%image(20060101-ntwright.JPG|97|150|wright)%> What Saint Paul Really Said: Was Paul of Tarsus the Real Founder of Christianity? by NT Wright.
My friend Derek said that this book changed his life and was one of the best he’s ever read. He also followed up by saying he never talks about books in such a way. At about 40 pages in, I think he’s right about it’s significance. Wright is an incredible original thinker and clear writer. I have never come accross such a brilliant theologian who is capable of writing so well.

His basic goal is to reconstruct the world of Paul and the basic thrust of his writings. Wright helpfully points to Saul’s nationalistic and eschatological perspective, driving him to zealously keep the law in order to see God restore Israel and bring righteousness to the world. It was corporate disobedience to the law that was Saul’s enemy. After his conversion and renaming to Paul, he realized that Jesus is the major player in God’s salvation plan for the world. He nevertheless stresses that Saul never thought he could work his way to heaven as a Jew, and that Second Temple Judaism never viewed the law as a means for a “personal” spot in heaven.

It’s all a bit hard to sum up. If you find my jibberish intriguing, give Wright’s book a look.

Emerging Churches: Creating Christian Community in Postmodern Cultures by Ryan bolger and Eddie Gibbs
Like NT Wright’s book, this is a well-written piece of theology. Not only do Gibbs and Bolger identify the key characteristics of emerging churches, they tell stories and help create a picture of this diverse movement. What is most helpful at the 40 page mark is their explanation of the differences between each church movement. They clarify why a young adult service at a seeker or purpose driven church may have a few characteristics of an emerging church, but for the most part, bears no major resemblance to an emerging church as they have observed.

I have found it particularly refreshing to read:
A. The emerging church is about a simple focus on Jesus and being the church.
B. Building community rather than creating a worship service is a top priority for emerging churches.

Ah, isnt’ that wonderful to read? We find out that people don’t like our current worship services and our immediate response is, “Let’s make ANOTHER ONE!” I don’t know what we need instead of a worship service, but I think it’s a big step forward to say, “Maybe having a worship service in the first place is the problem.”

On Writing Well, 25th Anniversary : The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction (On Writing Well) by William Zinsser
Everyone who writes a blog, a web page, books, articles, academic papers, whatever, needs to read this book. It is quite simply one of the best books on writing that I have ever read. It is the manifesting of a novel idea: write well a book about writing well. So simple. So obvious. So rarely done.

With a good dash of humor, sarcasm, and skill, he wisks the reader through various rules of good composition and grammar. I sincerely wish more theologians would read books like this before they drop their theological doldrums on us. A 300 hundred page books with 2 chapters a mess of technical terms does not add up to a book that will be of much use to many.