April 2008: Books Read

I graduated last Monday night, and my parents were in town to see it. Up until then, I’d been pretty busy with various things that I had left to the side while in the thick of the semester: going to the doctor, doing my taxes, etc. From now until I leave for the cruise on June 3, I don’t have as much to do. So I’m getting back into blogging regularly. Here are the books I finished during the last month:

1. A Little Guide to Christian Spirituality: Three Dimensions of Life With God by Glen Scorgie. This book was the second of the two textbooks I was assigned to read for my Christian Spirit class. I actually read it in March, but forgot about it because I’d read it so quickly. Unlike Thirsty for God, the other textbook for the class, this is not a historical survey of Christian spirituality, but is a popular-level introduction to the Christian take on that much-used but little-understood word “spirituality.” The three dimensions referred to in the title are the relational, transformational, and vocational. I’d recommend this book to anyone who is interested in what spirituality means for Christians. The very short answer to that question is that, for Christians, spirituality is life in the Spirit – not just any spirit, but the Holy Spirit.

2. The Shoes of the Fisherman, by Morris L. West. When I was finished with classes, I felt like reading a novel, and so I picked this one up off my shelf. My mom had given it to me a few years ago, but I never made the time to read it. It is a novel about a pope from Russia, published in 1963. Some say that it foreshadowed the election of John Paul II, who was the first Slavic pope. It’s unclear whether West did this deliberately, but one thing that he definitely did do on purpose is include a character reminiscent of Pierre Tielhard de Chardin. This character, a Jesuit, is called to Rome over the course of the book, wins the love and confidence of the pope, and then has his work on evolutionary biology condemned by the Catholic Church. In all, I found the book thoughtful and thought-provoking, though the plot was very slow-moving. It took me a while to get into it, and to care about some of the characters. By the time that happened, the book (just 288 pages) was over.

3. After Virtue, by Alasdair MacIntyre. This book I began back in January, when it was discussed by the Ethics Reading Group I was a part of this semester. I made it through all but the last three chapters, then I was overcome by the busyness of the semester. After I finished classes, I went back and finished. I found this an interesting and provocative read. My friend Eric has written over on his blog that After Virtue is “a critique of modernity from the inside.” I think this is a fair assessment. MacIntyre stands back from modernity and criticizes its accounts of ethics, and I think that he is brilliant in his critique. But in the end, MacIntyre is a western liberal who longs for Aristotle, and chooses to go back. He is part of modernity even in his critique of modernity. He argues for teleological ethics in this book, but when the book ends, the reader finds out that MacIntyre has not actually given us a telos. He argues for ethics situated in a community, but in the end his readers are left wondering where to find such a community. This is in part why so many Christians have been attracted to this book. When MacIntyre wrote the book, he was not a Catholic, but in subsequent years he converted to Catholicism. He was on the doorstep of the church when he wrote the book, and he leaves his readers there as well. His work is philosophical rather than theological. But it has left itself open to theological interpretation, and writers like Stanley Hauerwas and Jonathan R. Wilson (who teaches at Carey Theological College and participated in the Ethics Reading Group) have taken up this task in the years since After Virtue was written. One book that I would like to read in the coming month is Wilson’s Living Faithfully in a Fragmented World: Lessons for the Church from MacIntyre’s ‘After Virtue.’

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2 thoughts on “April 2008: Books Read

  1. Jackie May 3, 2008 / 2:43 pm

    Elliot…congratulations on graduation! I hope life is filled with some nice relaxation and good friends for a while 🙂

  2. ericdarylmeyer May 7, 2008 / 10:10 am

    Thanks for the link Elliot. Good reading! I suppose it’s up to us to take MacIntyre’s thought further than he was willing to commit to. Have you seen Benedict lately?

    It was good to see you last week. Hope you are well.

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