On books

By the way, I also read four ‘Dune’ books, as I am working my way through them, but I don’t think I’ll do a further review until I’ve finished the whole sequence. I’m also half way through ‘What are people for’ by Wendell Berry, and ‘Torture and Eucharist’ by Cavanaugh – both of which are extremely good, so they will each get their own post before long.

Gilead (Marilynne Robinson)

This was tremendously good – another one that I’ve been meaning to read for a long time. I’m going to quote it in another post which I plan to write – at some point – but for now let me just say that I agree with all the positive reviews that have been written about it. Lovely, gracious book, deeply human.

An acceptable sacrifice

I know it’s a cliche, but this really was a curate’s egg, in many ways. Variable quality of essays, by various different people, some of which appealed, some of which were worthy but dull. I was most struck by two essays – one on ‘intersex’, which has significant theological implications, and one on the pluriform and extensive way in which our sexuality is embedded within our wider life.

Recommended for being stimulating; I’m sure other people will like different things.

Promise and Presence (John Colwell)

I had started reading this before heading off on holiday, but only managed to finish it when I was there. It is superb, an excellent exploration of sacramental theology with which I found myself in virtually 100% agreement – which, given that the author is a tutor at Spurgeon’s, might strike some as surprising! I’m going to use much of his material in my Learning Church sequence, so there will be more to come about him. I was particularly struck by the way that his sacramental understanding of the eucharist was enabled by his depression – that the reality of God’s activity doesn’t rest upon how we feel about it!! Quite so.

Very highly recommended.

Everything bad is good for you

Read lots of books on holiday, and this was the first, which was excellent and illuminating. It won’t convince me to let the children spend all day in front of the TV (at the moment TV is restricted to Sundays and other special occasions) but it does make me feel less guilty about enjoying Lost and 24 so much!

I did wonder if there were any implications for how preaching is conducted – and how far preaching is culturally conditioned. He takes on Neil Postman’s reference to the lengthy debates in the nineteenth century, and makes an interesting, and I think telling point, that some forms of truth are communicated more easily through television. Very interesting and engrossing book.

Believing in penal substitution

Good article from Tom Wright (linked via Dave Walker) here, which contains this summary of Steve Chalke’s position:

You could take [Steve] to mean (a) on the cross, as an expression of God’s love, Jesus took into and upon himself the full force of all the evil around him, in the knowledge that if he bore it we would not have to; but this, which amounts to a form of penal substitution, is quite different from other forms of penal substitution, such as the mediaeval model of a vengeful father being placated by an act of gratuitous violence against his innocent son. In other words, there are many models of penal substitution, and the vengeful-father-and-innocent-son story is at best a caricature of the true one. Or you could take the paragraph to mean (b) because the cross is an expression of God’s love, there can be no idea of penal substitution at all, because if there were it would necessarily mean the vengeful-father-and-innocent-son story, and that cannot be right…I have now had a good conversation with Steve about the whole subject and clarified that my initial understanding was correct: he does indeed mean (a).

I find this really interesting because I pretty much accept (a) – but I wouldn’t call it penal substitution at all! Hmmm. Much to explore – particularly his own book Jesus and the Victory of God, which has sat on my bookshelf for about 18 months now.

As it happens, on holiday I bought the book which Tom Wright castigates so thoroughly as being “deeply, profoundly, and disturbingly unbiblical.” I also have on my shelf the book by Hill and James called ‘The Glory of the Atonement’ which Michael Jensen rates. Once I’ve finished this next learning church sequence (on the Eucharist) I’ll be digging in to them thoroughly. I’ll also pursue the links that Peter gave in his comment. In the meantime, I still stick with those four points that I wrote before….