Thursday, June 18, 2009

Five Authors meme ...

Dr. Platypus has tagged me with what was originally Ken Brown's challenge to name the five books (or scholars) that have had the most immediate and lasting influence on how I read the Bible.

The ones I finally chose are authors who have not only written great books, but these particular books have agendas that resonate with me deeply. These are books and authors whose agendas I have, at least in some part, adopted as my own in life ... often before I had read the author and met a kindred soul.
  1. Vladimir Lossky (Eastern Orthodox): The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church. For not apologizing for loving beauty and mystery, for standing up for their place in serious theology in light of God's holiness.
  2. Eusebius the Historian (pre-Chalcedonian orthodox/catholic): The History of the Church. I "get" this author more than many other authors, and this book more than any other non-fiction book I have ever read. I can see his agendas running through his pages, through every word and organizational structure and repeated format in his works. A lot of my early patristics studies (pre-Eusebius era) is an effort to carry through with his monumental work that will never be quite finished.
  3. A.J. Heschel (Jewish): The Sabbath. For seeing the point of God's Law as being less about Obeying Rules and more about dancing under the myrtles.
  4. Lao Tzu (would he classify himself as a Taoist? I wonder): Tao Te Ching. Yes, I'm aware of the authorship disputes on the Tao Te Ching; don't be a grinch. For pursuing the ancient path as humility, gentleness, and simplicity.
  5. Ambrose Bierce (atheist): The Devil's Dictionary. For skewering pretentiousness and holding a mirror up to the parts of ourselves we'd rather not see -- but it would be better for us if we did see. One of the phrases that is always in the back of my mind is from the Devil's Dictionary:
    Christian (definition):
    1. One who believes that the New Testament is a divinely inspired book admirably suited to the spiritual needs of his neighbor.
    2. One who follows the teachings of Christ insofar as they are not inconsistent with a life of sin.

Anyone else up for a meme ("challenge")? I'd be glad to hear from you all; there are a couple of people I'm not tagging only because I doubt you do memes. If you want to participate, please do. The people I consider most likely to participate would be: Mark, Anastasia, Martin, Howard, and Proclaiming Softly.

Thank you, Dr. P. That was fun. :)


PS (PSanafter-thought) said...

Quite frankly, I'm not up to doing this. I'm having some ambition issues (depression??). But I will make this comment, which is my latest take on Biblical interpretation: The Bible is the inspired word of God. I believe that. But I don't believe that any one person's interpretation is the Inspired Interpretation from God. There are too many sincere, believing scholars who have come to different conclusions about some passages. There are too many differences in translations, which, by definition, are "interpretations" when the scholars decide on the word order of a sentence.

And we've all heard the Word of God read and preached and come away with thinking we've heard different things. When a person has lived for awhile, that person has heard something literally, but found out later that he/she has completely misinterpreted the communication. When communications cross cultural lines, the possibility of miscommunication is even more possible.

This construction of mine in no way is a disbelief in the Word of God, but only a certain skepticism or cynicism that I hold toward any preachers who seem so eternally certain of their own interpretation of Bible passages. The Bible is the living word of God and as such speaks to us in new ways as we grow, mature, and experience life.

Weekend Fisher said...

Hi P.S.

I'm sorry to hear you're going through such a rough time. I wish you all the best for peace and rest, and joy and beauty and friendship.

I think the "one true interpretation" thing often misses the point. God's word is often like a fugue, with the interweaving resonances. How does that Psalm go, "One thing God has spoken, two things I have learned" -- the ancient Jewish scholars considered that an indication that there's always more than one "true meaning" to get out of a text.

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF

PS (PSanafter-thought) said...

Hey, thanks. Well, I'm not too bad off, but I've had 5 viruses in the past few months, which seems a lot, and then I was away babysitting, and then my son's wedding, and now a bad tooth...I'm just not too peppy.

I think you are agreeing with me, right?

Just Tuesday at Bible Study, looking at Paul's writing, which is always less than exactly clear, and more or less so, depending on which translation one uses, the pastor mentioned that at the "Ministerium" meeting (interdenominational group of local pastors) one guy said, "well, I think what Paul has to say is so straightforward and clear...." Our pastor said it was hard to look at him and keep a straight face.

PS (PSanafter-thought) said...

And oh yeah, I haven't been reading books much for quite a long time. I don't think I'd come up with much.

Howard said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Howard said...

As no one else has stepped up to the plate here (at least with any 'memes'), I may be going where angels fear to tread...!

I expect that this issue really impinges on the question which people have aided in your understanding of the faith, opening the message of Christ in a fashion that is immediate and edifying. That can prove a hard list to compile (many may believe themselves to be doing so,but may actually be stifling one's development) , but there are some authors I can mention -

1.Iranaeus of Lyon.
His 'Against Heresies' is still key 1900 years on, not only because of His clarification regarding the error of dualism in Christian spirituality, but because of the crucial truths regarding Creation, Fall and Redemption which underpin this.

2.Martin Luther.
One of the clearest theological thinkers since the early church, his sermons on Christology, his teaching on Soteriology and his life as a man (in his Table Talk)are still vital in content to the modern church.

3. C S Lewis.
Probably one of the most important contemporary writers on a range of issues. His insight - in works like 'The Great Divorce' - are shockingly missing in much of what passes as 'christian' in our times.

There are others I could mention, but certainly, here are three that deserve our consideration.

Weekend Fisher said...

Hi Howard

Great choices. Not many Brits are well-read in Luther; interesting to see him on your list. (I'm Lutheran by choice, not by birth.) Though you've always struck me as what is now called "incarnational" -- so your choices are natural, you'll pardon the pun.

Thank you for playing along with the meme. Always interesting to see how other people look at things.

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF

Weekend Fisher said...


Sorry to hear about the illnesses! Those will wear anyone's energy & try the nerves.

I can't fully match your zeal when it comes to the dangers of those who are sure they know what a text means. Of course I've seen it done badly; I'd have to have been sleep-walking through life to have missed that. But I get just as annoyed by people who look at something really obvious (e.g. that God wants all men to be saved, come to a knowledge of the truth, etc.) and somehow find ways to explain it away, usually on the grounds of just how complicated it is to really understand Scripture. I don't think that kind of thing is complicated at all.

So I think some things are fairly easy to understand, and then it gets trickier when we try to extrapolate to how much was really just meant to be "how this applies to our culture", versus how much was meant to be "this is how it would apply to any culture".

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF