Prayers, Battles, and Church History 11.18.16

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What I’m reading this week:

1. This article from one of my favorite think-tanks, Cardus. The author describes perfectly my journey in understanding prayer and the necessity of viewing prayer as a practice that molds us. If you only read one thing this week, let it be this.

 

“After decades of authentic self-expression before God, I ran into the limit of where my words could take me.”

 

2. The Iliad by Homer. This is what I’m listening to on my commutes! It’s a way to find my zen in the middle of Houston traffic. Though I read this back in high school, coming to it again after studying and teaching literature is incredibly rewarding and rich. I highly recommended the audiobook read by Sir Derek Jacobi, translated by Robert Fagles. After listening to just the first five minutes, you’ll understand why this is considered one of the greatest works of literature ever written.

 

3. The Democratization of American Christianity by Nathan Hatch. Two weeks ago, I mentioned Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey. Pearcey was inspired in part by Hatch, especially in her history of evangelical Christianity. This book is incredibly helpful in not only understanding how the American church came to be the way it is today, but also how the entire American culture was shaped by the Great Awakenings.

 

4. Idylls of the King by Alfred Lord Tennyson. T.S. Eliot claimed that Tennyson had the best understanding of the English language since John Milton wrote Paradise Lost. And now, after finishing Idylls of the King, I agree. Tennyson’s Arthurian epic molds the ancient myths of Arthur into a Victorian re-telling. I still can’t get over these lines:

 

Last, as by some one deathbed after wail

Of suffering, silence follows, or thro’ death

Or deathlike swoon, thus over all that shore,

Save for some whisper of the seething seas,

A dead hush fell; but when that dolorous day

Grew drearier toward twilight falling, came

A bitter wind, clear from the North, and blew

The mist aside, and with that wind the tide

Rose, and the pale King glanced across the field

Of battle: but no man was moving there;

Nor any cry of Christian heard thereon,

Nor yet of any heathen; only the wan wave

Brake in among dead faces, to and fro

Swaying the helpless hands, and up and down

Tumbling the hollow helmets of the fallen,

And shiver’d brands that once had fought with Rome,

And rolling far along the gloomy shores

The voice of days of old and days to be.

 

Idylls of the King, “The Passing of Arthur,” l. 118-135

Controversies, Augustine, & Art 11.4.16

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  1. This insightful essay on the Jen Hatmaker controversy that goes beyond LGBTQ issues to speak about the movement of the church overall. It includes a satirical video parodying Sunday mornings at churches that attempt to be relevant.
  1. Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey. I am honored to be sitting in this woman’s class every Tuesday night. She’s insightful, intelligent, and straight-forward. Total Truth gives an overview of where we are in the American church today and in the past: Pearcey challenges American Christians to realize that truth is total, not merely located in the “spiritual” realm. Part 3, on the evangelical movement, is a helpful way to see how we arrived in our current state of Christianity. Pearcey’s skill as a writer and thinker is evident in this work, and I can attest that she is wise and careful in her thought! Buy it here.
  1. Putting Art (back) In Its Place by John Skillen. After I read the introduction of this book, I was hooked. I met Dr. Skillen at the recent Society for Classical Learning Alcuin Retreat, and his commitment to understanding art and its place in our lives is singular. In the classical movement, we often talk about truth, goodness, and beauty—but our discussions of beauty and aesthetics are sometimes lacking. Skillen has emerged as a leading voice in this conversation, particularly when it comes to interacting with art in our daily lives. Read his book, and you’ll be inviting both art and artists into your communities. Buy it here.
  1. On Christian Doctrine by Augustine. This short work of Augustine’s is a gem: he shows that our ultimate enjoyment should be in God, discusses the interpretation of Scripture, and even lays out rhetorical styles for the Christian teacher. But the most striking part of this book (and all of Augustine’s work) is the theologian’s humble and prayerful approach to teaching. Sometimes I think I learn more in the way he presents his ideas rather than the ideas themselves. Buy it here.

Knights, Moderns, and Newts 10.14.16

img_2847This category–updated every Friday– is where I’ll be featuring some of the things I’m reading or recommending!

Grad school has come with its own long list of books, and thankfully, many of them are stories or great pieces of literature. Here are my top recommendations from the past month:

  1. Perceval by Chretien. What can be so exciting about a medieval Arthurian legend? Just read the first few pages of Perceval and tell me you’re not entertained. Picture this: an ignorant farm boy becomes a knight, sees the holy grail, fights for some ladies… you know, the typical Arthurian lore. But this author’s tongue-in-cheek narrative had me reading lines to Will (my husband, who puts up with me reading things to him constantly) with tears of laughter running down my face. Here’s a sample: “And Kay, who was being nasty, as he always has been and is and will be…” buy it here.
  2. Modern Social Imaginaries by Charles Taylor. Taylor, a Canadian philosopher, is mostly known for his longer work, A Secular Age; but this shorter work is a good entry-point to his concept of the social imaginary. I particularly appreciate his perspective on the modern person as individually-focused. Some critics say his statements are too generalizing, but it offers an interesting starting point for understanding the modern mind. Buy it here.
  3. The Code of the Woosters by P.G. Wodehouse. I cannot count the times I have recommended Wodehouse, but let me add another one. Will and I started reading this during our trip to Scotland, and I finally had him laughing out loud at this masterpiece of British humor. In fact, I think I’ll pick it up again to defeat mid-semester blues. The plot consists of pinching policeman’s helmets, a collection of newts, and an antique cow creamer. If that doesn’t convince you, here’s a sample: “He gave me a dying look, a kind of wide-eyed, reproachful look, such as a dying newt might have given him, if he had forgotten to change its water regularly.” Buy it here.