Here we gather for the first round of our book club. A few of us locals met up at Jittery Joes for first thoughts before we brought the discussion to the blog. The faithful present were Liz Rand, Jeromie Rand, Juli Kalbaugh and myself – quite a funky crew, if I may say so (and I may – it’s my blog).
Mainly I want to hear your thoughts. So, my question is – simply: Where do you go as you read? What did you like /not like?
Here are a few first thoughts from me:
The Man Who Was Thursday While this is on Miska’s list of all-time favorites, I will say it didn’t quite carry that level of sparkle for me. I did enjoy it, though. After I got in sync with G.K’s rhythm and tone and got to know Gabriel Syme a bit, I found his wit and sarchasm downright hilarious. One of my favorite sections was the opening dialogue of chapter ten where he spars with his companions about how he planned to introduce himself to the deadly Marquis.
Chesterton’s ability to connect to the human emotions and essence in all of us is, I think, one of his strong suits. I particularly connected with his line here: Through all this ordeal his root horror had been isolation, and there are no words to express the abyss between isolation and having one ally.
Early on, I fell prey to the temptation to attempt to find Chesterton’s asserted point of view (his political philosophy, his moral philosophy, his vision of the world) embedded in the convoluted twists and turns of the plot and characters. I was chagrined as I read his letter that was included as an appendix reminding readers that we ought read titles as well as we read text. This was a nightmare, after all. Much of this story was neither the world as it was nor the world as Chesterton presumed it should be.
Have any of you read C.S. Lewis’ That Hideous Strength? Did anyone else make any aesthetic or emotive connections between these two novels?
Surprised by Hope Now, this book captured me. It offered a convergence of multiple convictions that have been growing in me for the last year or two – only it took them further and encouraged them toward coherence.
Wright’s central thesis rejecting the notion of Heaven as our final home (particularly with the fuzzy assumption that heaven means some kind of ethereal state in a realm totally separated from the world God placed us in) is, in my opinion, right on target (for those who didn’t read the book: the Biblical vision is that after waiting in Heaven for resurrection, a new earth that has been joined to heaven is the good place all the redeemed will finally arrive). But I found his next point even more on target – the idea that God’s intention has never been to evacuate as many people as possible from this world but is, quite the opposite, to redeem and restore this creation that he named good at the beginning.
In other words – and contrary to much popularized theology and to a whole franchise of Christian fiction – God has precisely not said, “Scrap this planet and my intention for my image bearers (humans) to fill the earth with my glory. The Fall ruined it all.” Rather, God has said, “Satan and his lies and evil will not take what is mine, what I have named good. I will redeem it, every stitch of it. I will re-create it.” And, in the person of Jesus, in his resurrection from death, that is precisely what God began to do. The physical, bodily resurrection of Jesus is the prototype (the “first fruits,” Paul would say) of what God is going to do to all creation, all the earth, every human who will surrender to God’s intent to “make all things new.”
So, as Wright would say, “the Church has work to do.” Every place where sin and ruin has left its mark (which is to say, everywhere) is a place where the people of God should, in the name of Jesus, join God’s work of redemption. Every place of poverty. Every place of ugliness. Every smidgen of shame and abuse. All of these places are places where God’s redemption intends to break free. And this new creation is what we invite those far from God to receive, to enter. We invite them to be united to Jesus, to his death and resurrection. We invite them to be made new and then, in turn, to become themselves agents of God’s newness.
These lines will get much play from me: The church, because it is the family that believes in hope for new creation, should be the place in every town and village where new creativity bursts forth for the whole community, pointing to the hope that, like all beauty, always comes as a surprise.
[Fiction] So Brave, Young and Handsome, Leif Enger
Enger wrote Peace Like a River, one of my top ten novels. This should be great.
[Theology] The Jesus Way: A Conversation on the Ways That Jesus is the Way, Eugene Peterson
It’s Eugene Peterson. For me, nothing more need be said. Eugene is probably the writer/pastor/theologian who has influenced me most. This is the third volume in his intended 5 volume spiritual theology series.