Sunday, October 29, 2006

Desert Island All-Time Top Five Three

Adam's post below got me all to thinking. Yeah, it's nice that McClaren's writing a book about the holistic/social Gospel. Bully for those Emergent types who pick it up and suddenly realize that Jesus loves poor people. Honestly, the Church needs all the help it can get in this area -- so welcome, Mr. McClaren, welcome.

But I understand Adam's sentiment. This isn't news. This isn't secretive. There's nothing gnostic about it. It's the Gospel, plain and simple, available for those with ears to hear since first century Christianity. And this is where the actual thinking kicked in. Is there anything new being said by Christian authors today? Or are we just parroting things we've heard elsewhere? Sure, maybe the lingo and other cultural markers we employ are new and improved, but we have Ron Sider and Jim Wallis and even Craig Blomberg writing about socio-economic issues. Do we really need McClaren writing another book about social justice (albeit with a way-sexier title)? Maybe, yes. For matters of getting the message far and wide we do.

But let's play What If? (One of my favorite games...) What if we were forced to narrow the playing field so that only a limited number of authors were allowed to continue to publish? Would McClaren's book be as important?

Maybe McClaren is one of the guys you read voraciously. Maybe his every syllable makes you salivate with Emergent hunger. So here's where we get to play little Nick Hornby's. If only three living Christians authors were allowed to continue writing/publishing books -- be they pastors, theologians, novelists, journalists, moms, pundits or internet-evangelists -- who would you choose and why? What is about those particular authors that puts them head and shoulders above the rest, that they deserve to be read and re-read by Christians everywhere, regardless of where they fall on the denominational spectrum? I'll put my picks in the comments. Think about it for a minute/days on end. Then comment away yourself.


At 10/29/2006 4:38 PM, Blogger jonny said...

To be honest, this is tough. For starters, I'm 900 miles away from my library of books. But even so, there just aren't many Christian authors I really follow these days. I have a fondness for some of Annie Lamott's journals and essays, but her Bush-era vitriol (and lackluster fiction) leaves me cold. JK Rowling has written some very memorable novels, but I'm not sure Harry Potter has what it takes to wake modern Christianity from its doldrums. And I've never really understood the attraction so many people my age seem to have for Don Miller; honestly, I'd rather spend five good minutes with Del Doughty than have a library of Miller's books. So after some careful thought, here are my top three authors:

1. Robert Capon -- Capon doesn't just write good theology, he crafts good theology. It's not just important to have a novel idea and put it to paper; it's essential to understand the art of communication and the craft of constructing quality words, sentences and phrases, too. A heaping dose of humility helps as well. In my book, Capon hits all those notes and more. Now's usually the time of year I'd be rereading Hunting the Divine Fox yet again, if I hadn't lent my copy to Brett Bailey last winter. I figure the odds of getting it back are at about 8%. But I felt he needed to read the book ASAP, and if I had extra copies, I'd lend them to all of you as well. Read it. Digest it. And look for other words of his, too.

2. Brennan Manning -- Truthfully, I've only read one-and-a-half books by Manning. But if every Christian had read those one-and-a-half books, too, I don't think I'd have such a hard time being in the company of my brothers and sisters in Christ. Wishful thinking? Maybe. But once again, we're talking about an eye for good words and an air of humility. Plus, terribly messy theology. But sometimes, that's the best kind.

3. Stanley Grenz -- Uh-oh. Cheater alert. I'll admit it. I couldn't think of three. So I'm slipping Grenz in, who passed away not long ago, years before he was done writing. I include him because of his love for amazing theologians like Multmann and Pannenberg, and his ability to distill their thought (and the thought of many other 20th century "liberal" theologians) into language that evangelicals were comfortable with. Basically, he's my McClaren. If his books don't become required reading for evangelicals in a few years, I think I'll just quit life and move to Tibet. You think I'm kidding. Just try me, American church. Just try me.

At 10/31/2006 5:38 AM, Blogger Jeff BBz said...

yes! i love lists! I am thinking about my choices and will get back to this. although like jonny i am far away from my books (i don't even know how far, 4000 miles?) but i love lists! this makes me excited for the end of year media round up! oh man i wish it were the end of the year now!

At 10/31/2006 2:49 PM, Blogger adam said...

This is a tough one. I suppose the biblical authors are off the list because its too obvious, but if they weren't I would take 1 John with me. As for authors not in the bible...

1. Eugene Peterson: Say what you want about the Message (I actually have some good things to say), but Eugene justs gets how Christ impacts the world. His exegesis is fantastic. To read "Reversed Thunder" on Revelation or "A long Obedience" on the Psalms is to read a man who's life is immersed in the good Word. Though I've not read his two newest works "Christ plays in 10,000 Places" or "Eat this Book" I've heard they are amazing.

2. Walter Wangerin, Jr.: He also makes the scriptures come alive without falling into cliches. A few years ago he wrote a small devotional, "Preparing for Jesus," I read it each year because it captures my favorite season of the year, Advent. Also, after taking bib. interp the bible became alot less readable to me, and his "The Book of God" helped re-ignite my interest.

3. Vatican II documents - the more I learn about the Catholic Church the more thankful I am for Vatican II. It wasn't perfect by any means, but the council renewed the church in an amazing way.

Near misses: N.T. Wright, Jane Kenyon, Jim Wallis, Leonardo Boff, Jon Sobrino, Hans Kung

At 11/01/2006 11:11 AM, Blogger adam said...

I'm a moron. I missed the "living" so let's take out the stupid VA II documents and add N.T. Wright.

Its interesting for me to look at my own list, because there aren't any Catholic authors on there. I've read a lot by these authors, but rarely more than one book. I got to admit, I kinda feel guilty. Please don't tell on me.

At 11/01/2006 11:15 AM, Blogger Joey said...

I would just end up repeating those who have already posted so I just wanted to add Jurgen Moltmann. I feel that his writings will continue to impact theology and action for quite some time.

I'm with Jonny, it's really hard not to add Grenz in the list. He doesn't have to be able to write anymore to impact people.

I was surprised at the Eugene Peterson suggestion. I read "Eat This Book" and it was a really great book. He reminded me of Nouwen a bit.

I also would have to suggest somebody who is challenging evanglicalism to move beyond modernity or at least beyond itself. McLaren might not be the best choice because he doesn't really get beyond a singular conversation (which may be just fine) so I'm going to suggest somebody like McNeal (The Present Future).

At 11/02/2006 10:59 PM, Blogger Liza said...

I'm not really much of an active theology student these days, or even a passive one. A dyslexic pagan might hit nearer the mark. But ok, I'll slap three up on the board here.

Anne Lamott without question. Her ubiquitous conversion experience and writing text, Bird by Bird, were both intellectually compelling for me and spiritually humbling.

Madeleine L'Engle. First of all, she wrote some damn fine books in the Wrinkle In Time series, which captivated me in my childhood. What compels me about this lady is that she is a scholar- she knew virtually nothing about physics or the area of science in which she set her most famous novels, so she taught herself until she could convincingly write the story... which then went on to win a gajillion awards and become a permanent fixture in kiddie lit. Props. But my fave thing about her is her Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art, which was basically the only reference I drew from for my capstone paper (and by default, then, the rest of my life. isn't that what capstone was preparing me for?). All jollies aside, this book is one of/maybe my favorite book ever. She absolutely delves into the idea of the artist/creator as a mirror of God, which I find singularly fascinating. Ok, blah blah, enough about Maddy.

The last one here is an add-on, and since I have only read one of his books, I feel less strongly about him as a whole than the other two (plus I was really hoping to post 3 chicks). But G.K. Chesterton's Orthodoxy has been invaluable to my admittedly dead spiritual life lately. I find myself (gasp) wanting to pray again. I find connection in his honest, approachable style, and though I do not feel he always hits the nail on the head, he pounds close enough to make me realize he's building something. And it makes me want to build, too.

So that's it for me. And Jake, I still have your Divine Fox. I'll bring it next time I come to Chicago.

At 11/03/2006 12:37 AM, Blogger Jeff BBz said...

First of all, most of these people are here because after reading them, my life was usually destroyed to some extent. This is both a good thing and terrible thing. So usually i hate these people a tiny bit and love them a lot bit.

Second of all, since he is dead, so I can't list him, I am gonna throw up John Howard Yoder. You really can't go wrong with the biggest modern genius of life/theology/anabaptism/christian pacisfism/good times in awesome city. I haven't read nearly enough of him, but he is so incredibly responsible for who i am today, and is the reason i am forced beyond my will to do all kinds of obnoxiously difficult things for J.C. as well as fail to be able to think in a similar manner to 99 percent of the world, thus disabling me from talking about anything "important," politics, religion, church, peace, etc, without confusing or pissing off everyone else. You bastard!! You genius! I hate you! No, i'm sorry i love you. I love you! and now you are dead. you deserve it!

1. I am also gonna say Roby Capon. I feel a bit of a cheater as I have only read one entire book and then bits and peices and essays from/of others. But that first book, oh man! Totally changed/destroyed my life, so that i can live gloriously in grace, meanwhile being incredibly misunderstood (or just keeping my mouth shut), unable to really convince almost anyone else of the total awesome grace as per Capons views. Furthermore he is a witty readable guy, less interested in being a respectable theologian/cook/priest and more intersted in trying to tell the truth. good work, guy.

2. Then i would have to say Stanley Hauerwas. Yeah i know he might have voted last time, and i don't know why he would do that because its against everything he has written, and sometimes he could probably be annoying as hell, especially in person or around his loud disciples. BUT, he is the closest guy i have found who really understands most of Yoder's thought and follows it as well. Furthermore, in some ways (not in all ways) he even clarifies and refines some of Yoder. Furthermore, I like his wily style and find his prose really readable and entertaining, and sometimes quite funny. He is much more than some trouble maker or social action/emergent church jerk. yes!

3. yeah. hmm. Um I also can't think of three. I would like to say Moltmann or William Mclendon but i don't feel i have read enough by them (molts - 1.5 books, clendys - 1.7). Perhaps one day they can honestly be added to the list. But now i would feel like a name dropper if i did it. Same for NT wright also a member of the 1.something read club, sooooooooooo.........uh. I guess i will say Dostoevsky. Dude can make some damn fine fiction and dudes got depth to spare. Good job fine sir. oh no wait, they have to be living. shoot. Jacques Ellul. I would really like to say him but i haven't even read 1.5 of his books, just a few tidbits. But i am fairly confident i would like him. so there is no three. i am having trouble thinking of anyone thats not dead. so i will go with jonny rice. sure at first you want to compare him to anne lamott, but later you realize he could be even better. not yet. but maybe.

honorable mention: those people above, madeline l'engle, Miroslav Volf and lots of deadies.

At 11/03/2006 3:32 PM, Blogger Liza said...

sorry, I forgot they had to be dead, so forget about Chesterton... sad day... and we'll go with maybe ummmm nancy heche who recently wrote a very fine book called "the truth comes out" it's about how jesus loves gay people

At 11/03/2006 4:12 PM, Blogger jonny said...

oh man, paco. i completely forgot about Miroslav Volf! though to be honest, i've read many more words about him than i've read from him. for any who are interested here is a short bio about the man,

and here is a piece from religion & ethics newsweekly, that i saw back in the day.

i think it's the first mention of him i remember, unless there was talk of him in some class or another and i totally missed it. if so, sorry professor people.

and joey, i think you know this, but Grenz was heavily involved in the challenge to move evangelicalism beyond modernity. his "postmodern primer" should be in the hands of every young pastor in america; and while "renewing the center" is a bit repetitious of some of his other works, it's probably the most well-written challenge to modern theology for lay readers on the market today.


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