...or more accurately, the books that have made it to the top of my pile and that I hope to read early in 2011.
Walter Brueggemann is always good. But this book, it seems to me, goes to the heart of what his greatest contribution has been not only to Biblical scholarship but toward a helpful post-Christendom ecclesiology. In Out of Babylon he continues to explore the Biblical theme of exile relative to the experience of the Church in our time. Chapter 8, "A Durable Metaphor...Now Contemporary" just about sums it up for me.
I first encountered Bonhoeffer when I turned twenty-one at the University of St. Andrews, in Scotland: a Lutheran pastor who became a close friend was doing PhD work at St. Andrews; Jorg gave me a copy of Letters and Papers from Prison. I read Life Together whenever I start to feel discouraged about parish ministry or the wider church, so that I can try to let go of my "wish dream" of the Church and give thanks for the community God gives us. I look forward to delving into this bio.
I'm planning a book study in my parish on A New Kind of Christianity: Ten Questions That Are Transforming the Faith and have already begun this one. A colleague of mine offers a gentle critique that McLaren is still wrestling with his evangelical background and context and that the direction he is moving in is not unlike what Lutherans and Episcopalians have been saying for some time. Still, I find that people are at various stages in the asking of such questions, which include questions about Biblical authority, the Church's authority, human sexuality, religious pluralism and others. It seems to me that it will be a helpful way to engage in a deeper conversation.
I sometimes joke that if I wasn't a pastor I'd like to be a Supreme Court justice. It's not really a joke; I was always way more interested when in college in attending law school and going straight to being a judge than in actually being a lawyer, and I've long been interested in the Court. I think Breyer is a smart guy. A friend of mine, knowing of this interest, passed the book along to me and I'm eager to delve into it.
Robert Putnam wrote "Bowling Alone." This book, American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us, explores faith in America, and while he writes about things that have important implications for the Church, part of what I like is that he writes not as a theologian but as a social scientist. I read an excellent review of this book in The Christian Century and can't wait to dive into all 688 pages!