Reading Week

Tiffany Window of St. Augustine - Lightner Museum

No classes this week — it’s a tradition called “Reading Week” here at Princeton Theological Seminary.  I think at my undergraduate college, we called it “fall break,” but the implication here seems to be, “No break for you! [insert whip crack here] Time to catch up on all the reading!” Hmmm…guess I could also look at it as mercy and grace, on the flip side.

I feel guilty admitting this, but even while I’m only taking ten credit hours this semester (eight in the “long term” and two in the “Jan term”) I’m still way behind in my reading.  I could blame the whole “having a family thing” or having been “out of college for ten years,” or even “blogging when I should be reading” but none of that changes the fact that I’m behind.  So, time to lay excuses aside and buckle down with some books this week.  Here’s what I’m reading:

  • St. Augustine‘s Confessions — The week after Reading Week, I have a paper due in my Early & Medieval Christian History class analyzing his contribution to medieval thought.  Personally, I’m more interested in his contribution (with this particular book) to the Confessional Autobiographical genre of literature, of which this is apparently the “first” (at least in the western canon).  Oh, and that’s him up there in the picture, “reading” too.
  • On Christian Teaching — This one’s also by Augustine, but for my Christian Education & Formation Class.  Apparently the good Saint dabbled in a little bit of everything, including my favorite field.  So far, I’ve appreciated some of what he’s said (he’s an early proponent of age-appropriate pedagogy), but he often frustrates me with his highly dualistic Neo-Platonism (an overrated philosophy, IMHO).
  • The Creative Word: Canon as a Model for Biblical Education, Walter Brueggemann — Also for my Ed & Formation class.  The jury’s still out on this one, but so far (I’m on chapter one) he has an interesting premise:  That in teaching Old Testament, we should study not just the scriptures themselves, but also the methods by which they were taught as they evolved over centuries in ancient Israel.
  • Reclaiming Our Roots:  An Inclusive Introduction to Church History, Mark Ellingsen.  Another for my church history class, this one is exactly what the title indicates — a reconsideration of the contributions of women, Africans, Asians, and other “non-Western” voices to the development of the early and medieval church.
  • Documents of the Christian Church, selected and edited by Henry Bettenson.  If you think the presidential debates were contentious, try reading some of the early “church fathers” and “heretics” in their own words, debating through council after council.  I tend to side more with the heretics, but no big surprise there.  It is interesting figuring out “which” heresies I identify with more.  I’m definitely not Gnostic, but I could get right on board with the Ebionites and the Sabellianists.
  • On the Incarnation of the Word, St. Athanasius of Alexandria.  This one is for my Patristic Greek Readings class.  We’re reading it in the original Greek, and translating as we go.  I’d comment on the theology, but right now I’m doing pretty good just to eek out a basic meaning, sentence by painstaking sentence.
  • Constructing Local Theologies, Robert J. Schreiter.  Another for my Ed & Formation class — this guy reminds me a lot of Paulo Freire, and incorporates a lot of sociology, cultural anthropology, progressive education, and liberation theology into his writing.  It’s perhaps the first approach to theology and education that I’ve been able to get really excited about.
  • Brew Like a Monk, Stan Hieronymus.  Ok, ok, so this one’s not “officially” for a class, but I do find significant overlap with my church history class.  Anyhow, it focuses on the Belgian Trappist Monasteries — their history, evolution, philosophy, and brewing practices.  It may not be for a grade, but it also might be one of the most relevant ones to my future pursuits, so I’m keeping it on the list this week.

Anyhow, think that’s enough to keep me busy?  I’ve also got a field trip on Wednesday to The Cloisters art museum in NYC, and a choir concert Friday evening.  Ok — enough blog-crastination.  I’m off to read…

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3 Responses to Reading Week

  1. Dennis Coles says:

    Neal, just stumbled across this blog. I clicked on that Ebionite link and was surprised by this from wikipedia:
    “The majority of Church Fathers agree that the Ebionites rejected many of the central Christian views of Jesus such as the pre-existence, divinity, virgin birth, atoning death, and physical resurrection of Jesus. The Ebionites are described as emphasizing the oneness of God and the humanity of Jesus as the biological son of both Mary and Joseph, who by virtue of his righteousness, was chosen by God to be the messianic “prophet like Moses” (foretold in Deuteronomy 18:14–22) when he was anointed with the holy spirit at his baptism.”
    I’m just wondering what you mean when you say you could get right on board with Ebionites? Sounds like an interesting semester. Have fun reading. Take care, Dennis.

  2. Neal Locke says:

    Hi Dennis — I mean pretty much what I said. I could get on board with the Ebionites. While I’m not at the point of denying outright the divinity of Christ, I’m also far from being able to affirm it.

    Intelligent people, well-versed in scripture, and displaying the evidence and fruit of God in their lives, both now and early in church history have considered this issue and come to differing conclusions.

    I’m instantly suspicious of anyone who assumes the divinity of Christ is an easy or obvious conclusion, or tells me just to “read the bible” or asks me “what did Jesus say about himself?” It’s not that simple. In fact, it took the best theologians in the early church almost a century of going back and forth before settling on a position (which still was not unanimously agreed upon, and was suspect even then of having been a largely political position influenced by the Roman Empire). The Gospel of John certainly leans one way, but the Gospel of Mark leans the other way.

    At the least, I *can* affirm the divinity of Christ in the sense that we are all divine creations of God, and all God’s children. In fact, Jesus says something to that effect when confronted by the Pharisees about his “divinity.” So, in that sense, I can get on board with the Ebionites and still consider myself a follower of Christ, albeit a rather “unorthodox” one by today’s usual standards 😉

    Please understand that I’m also pretty far from having reached a definitive conclusion on this issue. Perhaps someday I will, or perhaps not. Like St. Augustine early in his career, I’m pursuing truth (with a lowercase “t”) as honestly and earnestly as I can with what I’ve been given.

  3. Mark says:

    Neal, Neal, Neal… blogging when you should be reading! Reminds me of all those times I chase down rabbit trails instead of studying the one thing at hand.

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