Friday, January 25, 2008

2007 - Books in Review

There are several reasons why my list of books read in 2007 is drastically lesser than my list of books read in 2006. The introduction of Netflix to the Scott Pearce home has radically reduced the amount of reading in which I partake with any regularity. Another reason is that I will not allow myself to start reading a new book until I have completed the one with which I am presently occupied. You will notice that Moby Dick was tops on the list to start the year, and I was not able to surmount the tale of the white whale until September. This left me just enough time to plow through a surprisingly difficult encounter with God of Promise before the end of the year.

Moby Dick - Herman Melville - It started altogether promising. Immediately following the famous "Call me Ishmael" opening address began a handful of chapters which caused me to respond it such a way as to question whether I had, in fact, forsaken the true calling of my soul to be a man of the sea. A taste: Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from methodically knocking people's hats off--then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. Great stuff.

Between the opening line and page 126 lie a wonderful sermon on the story of Jonah, a few ambiguous prophecies from a character named Elijah, and an entire chapter on the merits of chowder. Between shove off and the first sightings of the white whale on page 689 (!), Melville interrupts an appropriately deliberate narrative with a generous (read: excessive) number of chapters detailing the whaling profession, the glory of the whale, and a biological exposition of the body of the whale--body part by body part. A sampling of the chapter titles comprising the bulk of the book: The Tail, The Honor and Glory of Whaling, Jonah Historically Regarded, and Does the Whale's Magnitude Diminish? I couldn't make this stuff up.

The last five chapters were riveting. It was one of only a few times when I have ever found myself incapable of putting a book down. The close to the story was good enough to make me forget and disregard the nine months of my life that I had spent reaching the close to the story. Moby Dick is perhaps the only exception I would make in passing judgment on someone for reading an abridged version of a classic novel. I could, upon request, cut the 135 chapters of Moby Dick down to 35 essentials and you would not miss a thing.

God of Promise, Introducing Covenant Theology - Michael Horton - I knew nothing about Michael Horton before our church's Men's Reading Group suggested God of Promise for our January meeting. Somehow, I felt as if I knew almost as little about covenant theology. Sure, I was familiar with regular references to the "old covenant" and the "new covenant" and the "Abrahamic covenant" and the "Mosaic covenant," but the distinctions and characterizations of each were anything but crystallized in my mind.

All in our reading group agreed that Horton did an excellent job arguing the significance of understanding covenant theology, of expounding the topic, and of explaining the application and implications of the topic. There were a few chapters where Horton led his readers to greater depths and/or loftier heights of thinking than I was able to follow. However, I found his work most helpful and would recommend it to all. A few selections can be found below:

We were not just created and then given a covenant; we were created as covenant creatures--partners not in deity, to be sure, but in the drama that was about to unfold in history.

Reformed theology is synonymous with covenant theology.

It is hardly anti-Semitic to observe that the covenant with Israel as a national entity in league with God was conditional and that the nation had so thoroughly violated that covenant that its theocratic status was revoked. Dispensationalism and the so-called two-covenant theory currently popular in mainline theology both treat the land promise as eternal and irrevocable, even to the extent that there can be significant difference between Israel and the church in God's plan. Both interpretations, however, fail to recognize that the Hebrew Scriptures themselves qualify this national covenant in strictly conditional terms.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Your Resolutions for the New Year

Not being one to take special interest in resolutions of the New Year's variety, I have been a bit of a wet blanket this January as I have been asked about my list of New Year's Resolutions. I have countered this awkward social situation by creating a list of resolutions that I would like to see you follow this year.

Don't kid yourself. It is obvious to us all that your life has not quite reached the Fulfilled plateau. Below find several resolutions to which your adherence is a must in 2008:

(in no order of importance)

1. If you claim to be a Patriots fan, generate a list of at least five reasons why. All reasons must not include any reference to winning.

2. Do not allow the balance on your credit card to carry over to the next month.

3. If you have more than one credit card, cancel all but one.

4. Walk more, especially in the company of loved ones.

5. Vote.

6. Buy, listen to, and love "Born in the USA" by Bruce Springsteen. If you have been a New Jersey resident for more than any ten years of you life, make this Resolution #1.

7. Buy a pickup truck, or at least imagine how much better your life would be with a pickup truck.

8. Tip your garbage man and mailman more than you tip your bartender.

9. Realize and embrace the fact that the current purse craze is stupid. Use a twelve-step program, if necessary. Convince yourself and your friends that a purse with a letter on the outside is no more special than one without. Remind yourself that wanting something just because every one of your friends has one is not a good reason to do anything.

10. Eat more legumes.

11. Write your mother a card on a day other than Mother's Day, her birthday, or Valentine's Day. Make it a Blank Inside card, and write your own sincere message.

12. Make Brian Regan a part of your life.

13. Meditate on the Lord's unmerited favor to you in 2007. Expect more of it in 2008.