Sunday, January 14, 2007

Best Contemporary Theology Meme

I’ve been tagged! Jason over at "Gower Street" has tagged me for a meme: specifically, the Best Contemporary Works of Theology meme started by Patrik at "God in a Shrinking Universe." It’s my first meme, believe it or not. However, it’s certainly an interesting exercise.

It’s also been something of a difficult one. First, I’m something of a classicist: I don’t know whether I’m ready for the new stuff if I’m not sure I’ve really appreciated the classic stuff. I reread The Rule of St. Benedict regularly - sometimes with commentary, and sometimes without. My current bedside reading is Law’s A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life – hardly contemporary.

Second, my reading has been so specific to my practice of pastoral care that I’m not always up on the latest explorations of systematics. I get there to some extent, but usually from that practical theological perspective.

Finally, I simply have obscure tastes, or so I’m told. I once tried to develop an education theory out of Eco’s descriptions of “cretins, fools, morons, and lunatics” (from Foucault’s Pendulum; you can find the passage here). I think there’s an article to be written about Monty Python’s Flying Circus as Anglican theologians (now, wouldn’t that disturb the Global South!).

Anyway, when I thought of three books, I had to reflect that these were three books that had been important to me; and in fact I came up with more than three, but I had to establish my perspective first.

Most moving, at least in recent years has been Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation by Miroslav Volf. This is an exploration of reconciliation that recognizes the pain entailed, the cost that all must embrace for true reconciliation, and our human frailty in pursuing it. Would in these tumultuous days that more folks had taken it to heart.

Most moving several years ago was Touching Our Strength: The Erotic As Power and the Love of God by Carter Heyward. This was an exploration of the dynamics of power in human relationships, and of the possibility of “power-with” instead of “power-over.” I could not agree with all of her extrapolations, but the principle seemed worthwhile.

Moving in an entirely different way has been Original Blessing: A Primer in Creation Spirituality Presented in Four Paths, Twenty-Six Themes, and Two Questions by Matthew Fox. Not only did this over a different perspective on the Christian tradition – one that I believe is orthodox to the core, notwithstanding it’s openness – but offered it in a way that allowed one to embrace and internalize it.

Finally, and on a very different wavelength, I would suggest a fourth: When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Harold Kushner. It offered an exploration of the problem of pain that was personal and painful enough not to seem pat and doctrinaire. It was certainly popular; but it was also quite profound.

Those are my suggestions. In another week or so, I might think of others; but these seem right to me right now.

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