May 2008: Books Read

Aight my peeps, it is that time of the month once again where I tell you what my nose has been buried in for the past 30-31 days. The end of last month saw me graduate from my master’s program, so there has been a change in my reading habits. Not much of one, though. Here they are:

The Reformed Pastor1. The Reformed Pastor, by Richard Baxter. Like After Virtue last month, this was a book that I started reading earlier this year, but had to put down because of other pressing obligations. It was written by a 17th-century English Puritan, who wrote it in response to a request by a ministerial association for a little talk on the nature and task of pastoral ministry. He was ill on the day that he was supposed to give this lecture/sermon, so he stayed home and wrote this tome instead (they didn’t call him “Scribbling Dick” for nothing). Despite having been written over 300 years ago, this book is still in print because Baxter has some sound advice for those in pastoral roles in any age. Two things that he stressed which will stick with me were his call for ministers to minister out of living, genuine faith, and his call for ministers to visit each family in their parish annually and take interest in each person’s spiritual state. Not everything Baxter said can be translated directly to our own day and age, but his is a serious call to an energetic pursuit of pastoral work which shouldn’t be ignored in any age.

2. Basilica: The Splendor and the Scandal: Building St. Peter’s by R.A. Scotti. This is an entertaining look at the construction of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, 1506-1626. I read it in preparation for the trip I’m taking which starts next week. It was particularly interesting to read, for perhaps the first time, a book about this time period in which the focus was not on the theological (or even historical) implications of what was going on. It’s just a good yarn about the building of a cathedral, and the lives of the popes and the artists who labored over it for so many years.

Ring for Jeeves3. Ring for Jeeves, by P.G. Wodehouse. I’ve already sung the praises of P.G. Wodehouse once this week, so I don’t need to go into it again. This is your basic book about an English aristocrat who needs extra money so he disguises himself and works as a bookie, and who wants to sell his country estate to a wealthy widow whom he finds out is an old flame, which makes his current fiancee jealous, not to mention the hunter who wants to marry the widow, and who by the way was cheated out of his money at the race track by the aforementioned English aristocrat. But everything works out well in the end.

Living Faithfully in a Fragmented World4. Living Faithfully in a Fragmented World: Lessons for the Church from MacIntyre’s After Virtue, by Jonathan R. Wilson. I read After Virtue earlier this year, and discussed it in a group led by Prof. Wilson, so I thought it would be helpful to read the book he wrote on the subject. And it was. The book is short – just 78 pages – but it has exerted a disproportionate influence on account of its call for a “new monasticism.” This, I think, has resonated with a lot of people in our culture. In the book, Wilson draws out several lessons from MacIntyre:

1) that the church must learn to live with its history (distinguishing among the church, the kingdom and the world),
2) that we live in a fragmented rather than a pluralistic world,
3) that we live in the midst of the failure of the Enlightenment project in the church and the world, and the effects of this failure are often difficult to discern,
4) that we must revitalize our ability to give a Christian account of “the good life,” to draw on the living Christian tradition, to engage in practices that grow us in our character as disciples, and to live in community,
5) and this finally leads us to the recovery of a “new monasticism.”