I’ve given myself a little time between the end of one ministry and the beginning of another, mainly so that I could do something that I seldom have enough time to do – namely, read and write. I didn’t waste any time getting started – with the reading.
N.T. Wright has been a favorite theologian, and over the years his books have helped to sharpen my mind. His much-anticipated Paul and the Faithfulness of God has just been published. It’s not Harry Potter, but it’s surprisingly gripping. At 1700 pages (and more than $50) reading it is a daunting project, but I can’t seem to put it down.
Here’s his project as he describes it: “For me, as for many people, ‘theology’ used to have a rather dry, abstract sound – arranging ideas in clever patterns but without much linkage to real life. With Paul all that is different. Paul was a man of action, believing that it was his God-given vocation to found and maintain communities loyal to Jesus right across a world owing allegiance to Caesar. But these communities were bound together by no social ties and indeed cut across normal social divisions. How could they be united and holy? Paul’s answer was: through prayerful, scriptural meditation on who God actually is, who God’s people are, and what God’s future is for the world. That is a kind of working definition (though I come at it in the book from several angles). These were essentially Jewish questions, but ‘theology’ in the new way Paul was doing it was something the Jewish people hadn’t needed to do – and something the non-Jewish world (for whom ‘theology’ was simply a branch of ‘physics’, the world of ‘nature’) hadn’t needed to do either. This kind of theology is a never-ending exploration – each generation has to do it afresh in its own context, and Paul gives us the tools for that rather than a set of pat ‘answers’ which mean that people don’t thereafter have to think.”
But it’s not only theology that has my attention. Doris Kearns Goodwin, best known for her Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, has a new book about Teddy Roosevelt, The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism. It too is really good.
Favorite sentence so far? Nellie Taft’s comment to her husband (who could be a bit wordy): “Many a good thing is spoiled by there being too much of it.”
I imagine that observation could apply to much of life.