I know, it’s overdue. Long overdue. This blog seems to have disintegrated into one of those that has an irregular stream of posts saying, “Sorry I haven’t posted more, but I will soon, I promise.” But I don’t believe in those posts – and maybe I don’t really believe in apologies for not blogging. Sorry to disappoint you. ;^)
This evening is in a way a day of closings. It’s the end of the week, and the end of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. I think our television has been on almost nonstop for 17 days now. And it’s been good seeing our Canadian athletes doing so well. 14 gold medals, more than any country has ever won in any winter Olympics. I think the early glitches of the games were pretty much forgotten as we showed the world how we party at home. People in the street spontaneously singing the national anthem? That’s pretty remarkable for any country anywhere, I’d say. And of course, we made sure to remind the world that hockey is our game. I might have over-tweeted that point, but there it is. Here we are being Canadian… thoroughly proud to the core of all our athletes who scored a podium finish, and feeling sorry for those who didn’t, whether those others are Canadian or not.
Brian McLaren’s new book (A New Kind of Christianity: Ten Questions That Are Transforming the Faith) has just been released, and it’s already causing a bit of a firestorm. I’m still awaiting my copy, but plan to look through it at his ten questions and interact with those once I’ve been able to consider them in more detail. In the meantime, there are a few things upon which I really feel the need to comment, and since I have a ready-built platform, there’s nobody to stop me. I apologize for the length of the post — I went back to see if I could split it up into two parts, but it just doesn’t work very well to do that. It’s long, but I think it’s important. Thanks in advance for bearing with me, and reading on. And if you get bored, skip down — I summarize at the end.
Yesterday I posted an overview of the Didache to introduce what it is and where it came from, but essentially it’s an early Christian document from around the same time that the New Testament itself was still being written. “Didache” means “teaching”, and the document provides a compilation of (probably) oral tradition about what the apostles taught concerning community life. Today I’m blogging on Chapter 6 of Tony Jones‘ newest book, The Teaching of Twelve: Believing & Practicing the Primitive Christianity of the Ancient Didache Community. The Didache is not a long document, but it is instructive for the fact that it deals with practical community matters during a time of liminality when the church was just coming to birth. We ought to imagine that it will offer us insight for a time when the church is undergoing a rebirth.
Philotheos Bryennios was born in March of 1833 at Constantinople. He was educated at the Theological School in Chalce of the Great Church of Christ and the universities of Leipsic, Berlin, and Munich, and in 1861 became professor of ecclesiastical history, exegesis, and other studies at Chalce. He was appointed master and director at Chalce in 1863, though he soon resigned these two positions. In 1867 he was called to Constantinople to be the head of the “Great School of the Nation” in the Phanar, or Greek quarter of Constantinople. He remained there until 1875 when he was sent by the Most Holy Synod of metropolitans and patriarchs to the Old Catholic conference at Bonn, where he receved a patriarchal letter announcing his appointment as metropolitan of Serrae in Macedonia. In 1877 he was transferred to the metropolitan see of Nicodemia, and in 1880 went to Bucharest on behalf of the Eastern Orthodox Patriarchal and other independent churches to participate in a commission dealing with Greek monastaries that had been plundered in Moldavia and Wallachia. In 1882, at the instance of the Holy Synod of Metropolitans in Constantinople and the patriarch Joachim Il., he wrote a reply (published by the Holy Synod) to the encyclical letter of Pope Leo XIII concerning the Slavic apostles Cyrillus and Methodius. The man was no theological slouch, and despite this list of accomplishments, none of these are the thing for which he is most remembered following his death in 1914 or 1918.
I’m just barely returned from the world of Harry Potter. Having put off reading the books for so long now, I finally gave in and picked up a couple of the books in a used bookstore. After they sat on the shelf for a month or so, I finally started reading. Of course I’ve heard many things about the books, and am aware of the controversy that they caused in some ultra-conservative circles who forgot that C.S. Lewis also wrote children’s fantasy with magic in the books. I’d heard that they were well-written, and I now have to say that indeed, they are. Much better than a John Grisham novel, and not sloppily-written as a number of the bestselling authors are in the grownup world. As a writer, I confess I’m a little taken with the story of a single mother in a tiny apartment crafting a novel series in her spare time after work and landing a worldwide sensation. Also as a writer, I’ve been making a point of reading well-written fiction in the past few years, and despite being branded as children’s literature, the Harry Potter series landed squarely within this category for me.
The author of the second-best-selling book in history (next to the Bible) would have been 80 years old today — June 12th — had she not died in March of 1945. Ironically, on June 20, 1942, she wrote, “It seems to me that later on neither I nor anyone else will be interested in the musings of a 13-year-old schoolgirl.” This was one of the earliest entries in the Diary of Anne Frank, who wrote offhandedly on May 11, 1944, “Just imagine how forgetful I’ll be when I’m eighty!” The innocence with which she wrote and the unthinkably tragic way in which her story ends are a jarring contrast, and perhaps this has somehow contributed to her diary becoming one of the key texts of the 20th century. Events are planned to commemorate the occasion. I’ve mentioned Anne Frank before, but it seems to me that she is one of those standout voices that somehow resonates with us all.
I reviewed The Shack about a year and a half ago, and posted my interview with Paul Young shortly after that. The book has just now dropped from the top spot on the bestseller list, and has sold 7½ million copies. After being rejected by 22 publishers. Yes, well, what did they know? Anyway, George Strombolalphabetsoup recently had William Paul Young on The Hour for a bit of an interview. Too bad George’s guests all get turfed after 10-15 minutes of fluff — the boy could be a great interviewer if they’d let him show his chops. Good discussion nonetheless, with some great lines. What is God like? “It took me fifty years to wipe the face of my father off the face of God.”
Today I’m offering two quick reviews and welcoming further input or responses from anyone who’s read these two books — I actually haven’t. How do I review books I haven’t read? Well, we’ll get to that. Both selections are along the same theme, but perhaps for different audiences.
Being engaged in a few other books lately, I loaned my copy of Frank Viola’s Reimagining Church: Pursuing the Dream of Organic Christianity to my friend Grant, who is familiar with Frank’s other work. Grant has furnished a bit of a review, which I’ve edited only lightly to present here.
Monday morning after logging my menu selection and discussing Bosnia with my waitress, I began to dig into Reggie McNeal’s Missional Renaissance: Changing the Scorecard for the Church. I’ve not had much time with it this week, so I’ve only ingested the introduction and chapter one… but I found myself jotting down an inordinate number of notes and quotes for so brief a sample, and yesterday when I tweeted “Those who miss the missional renaissance will find themselves rendered irrelevant to the movement of God in the world. — Reggie McNeal” it proved to be good retweet material. (Paraphrased from p.17 for the sake of a 140-character limit.)
A more long-range benefit of the Reformation’s placing ultimate authority in Scripture was that, when coupled with the principle of the priesthood of all believers, sola scriptura required absolute and universal literacy if it were going to work. The Protestant imperative toward every believer’s being able to read Holy Writ for him- or herself excited the drive toward literacy that in turn accelerated the drive toward rationalism and from there to Enlightenment and from there straight into the science and technology and literature and governments that characterize our lives today. There were, of course, some disadvantages.