Bible in a Year

Reading books is a Good Thing. But, much more important…

Ant is inviting us to read the Bible in a year using the Don Carson daily email. You can get to the details of how to get the email through this post of Ant’s. Carson basically follows a modified version of the M’Cheyne reading plan, but with his own notes appended.

I’m in. Any one else up for this?

Go on. You know you should!

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Bible in a Year

Reading in 2005

Some of you who read this blog will snigger up your sleaves, barely suppressing a hearty laugh, at what I am about to reveal. Nevertheless, I achieved something significant for me today: I competed reading my 40th book of this year, 2005.

Target reached.

Now, I know some of you write more than this on your blogs. For you, the merest glance a book is to simultaneously read and digest. Analysis and commentary are burning the ends of your fingertips. Such fire can only be salved by typing and publishing.

For me my target was important. I have written before about how my reading rate has been poor all my life. I have been too dithery and ill-disciplined in my thoughts and so wasted a lot of time. I have been working hard to rectify this in 2005 so that I can make much more progress. This has resulted in several obvious practical steps:

  1. I switch off my computer
  2. When t’computer is on I read less blogs. Sorry to those of you who write long entries, but as I have also written, if the blog entry I am reading is long, I seriously question whether or not there is not more value spending the time in a chapter of a book. Then I switch the computer off.
  3. I get in a good chair. Not the sofa. Too comfy. Too many zeds get logged.
  4. I use my lap timer on my moby phone to crack down on dastardly daydreaming. This lets me set targets. Targets achieved get rewards – like coffee.

In spite of all this it still remains that the majority of the books on my shelves are completely or partially unread. So, next year’s target? Let’s try 60!

For exhaustive completeness, here is the breakdown under various categories (I don’t know how to format the table properly):

  • Theology: 14
  • Commentaries and biblical studies: 8
  • Christian Ministry: 6
  • Biography: 2
  • Devotional: 2
  • Christian Living: 2
  • Church History: 1
  • Apologetics: 1
  • Other Non-Fiction: 3
  • Fiction: 1

As you can probably see, it is not very well balanced. I need to read more history and apologetics. And I want to read more fiction – I want to know how people think. Roll on 2006!

Reading in 2005

An Essential Defensive Shield

We need to worry about mind control. There are sinister forces afoot. Neighbours, colleagues, government, aliens. You know the kind of ‘people’. Ready to sap every living sensible thought out of your brain and fill it full instead with their nefarious schemes. So, last night I discovered the perfect answer – a tin foil hat. Yes. And it looks cool.

So cool, in fact, dear daughter made me one…

Tin foil Head Gear

Nice. By the way, that shiny bit on top is foil, not my usual head, stupid.

Now I can read those liberal, feminist authors on Ruth and remain completely immune from their pernicious propoganda. Ha.

You should make one too. But if you are not confident, don’t worry. You could buy one.

Oh, and just one other thing. Please, keep this hush-hush. I don’t want to get thrown off the Warfield List.

An Essential Defensive Shield

God, Feminists and Ruth

Ruth is one of two books which have a female name as the title. Not only that, unlike the other, Esther, the women dominate the story. The plot is driven by dialogue, predominantly through women’s voices.

When one is studying the book of Ruth one does not seem to be able to avoid reading the work of feminists. As though it were some orphaned child, feminists take up the book of Ruth as their own and look at it from many feminist angles. There is much that has been written. With trepidation, therefore, I have begun to look at these texts.

I have just finished A Feminist Companion to Ruth edited by Athalya Brenner (Sheffield Academic Press, 1993). It is a collection of essays by women. I have to admit that I was expecting to read eisegesis of 20th century sexual politics into the text. If it was there I missed it. I was pleasantly surprised by its absence. Yes, there is a focus on the characters and how they used the “androcentric” environment to get what they wanted. There is the question of whether the author is female (if a man had written this plot it would have taken three or four bald sentences, rather than intriguing dialogue). There is the issue of how later Jewish Rabbis idealised Ruth as the perfect woman. And so on. All very interesting, I suppose.

The thing that always stands out to me in these kinds of writing, is the lack of interest in God. God is conspicuous by his absence in the thinking of these feminist commentators. Perhaps they have fallen into a trap. God does no miracles in the text of Ruth. When Yahweh is mentioned, with one exception (4:13) he is on the lips of the characters themselves, not in the commentary of the narrator. Is the concept of Yahweh a product of the culture? Feminists seem to subconsciously take this idea up. God is not really the mover and shaker in this story. God is on holiday or something, if he exists. Though in some ways it was interesting to see things from their perspective (and it was, believe me) it is nevertheless deeply disturbing to view scripture without reference the source of all providence.

The one exception to this was an essay by Cynthia Ozick (simply entitled, “Ruth”). It was a delight – a well written, exciting essay that moved with pace. She had noticed the implication of Ruth’s insistence on accompanying Naomi back from Moab to Bethlehem. It was not simply pragmatics (“it would be better for me if I stuck with you, Naomi”), nor was it altruism (“I am concerned for you, Naomi, and I want to help you”). No, something amazing had happened to Ruth – Naomi’s God had become her God and she wished it to remain so. Unlike Orpah, who could take or leave God according to her circumstances, Ruth could not be unfaithful to God. So she remained faithful to Naomi. Ms. Ozick’s observations were a nice close to the book.

Many writers who have an interest in the biblical text do not seem to be interested in the God of the bible. (This is incomprehensible to me, I’m afraid.) So it is no surprise that God does not appear in their writings. But God is at the core of Ruth’s story. He is both the God of providence and the one who draws his people to himself so that they know him and are faithful to him.

God, Feminists and Ruth

Mixed Feelings over Christmas

This is a strange time of the year. A weird hiatus in the normal run of things where strange things happen and are made to happen. Maybe it is an age thing, but at this time I begin to want to get back to the normal routine of life.

I can take a pragmatic view of Christmas from a Christian point of view. There is nothing to stop Christians getting together to worship together whenever they want. Given that there is still a cultural memory where the world still likes carols and singing to get into the “Christmas spirit”, there is evangelistic opportunity which we can make use of. This we did with a widely advertised Christmas services.

However, I am no great lover of Christmas as a Christian event. I feel that there is no point of principle involved in its observance. It is another ‘sabbath’ which is optional. On Christmas day I would just as happily not go to church, but give gifts and eat a nice meal with the family as a nice cultural festival. I find it strange that some groups of Christians want to go to the barricades to defend its observance with nativity scenes, special services and “Merry Christmas”-ing. Yet those same groups of people feel little concern to care about the weekly observance of the resurrection on the Lord’s Day and of the new creation of which they are part.

This year is complicated by the fact that Christmas day was on Sunday. For me there was a clash of interests. There was the clash of the desire to worship as normal. And there was the expectation of gift-giving, food prep etc. I’m sure we could do all this better, in a more integrated fashion, but for the time being it is a point of tension and I am glad it is over.

I love the incarnation of the Son. It says God has taken the initiative in salvation to deal with the plight of man. I love that fact that the event is trinitarian – Father, Son and Spirit are revealed. I love the fact that many, many majestic lines of Old Testament thought converge on the womb of an innocent young girl. I love the fact that the story does not stop in the manger but goes on to Jesus’ death, resurrection, ascension and that his resurrection life is the life given to the church by the Holy Spirit. The story is not finished and I am privileged to be part of it.

But, strangely, Christmas as we (or I) have it just does not do it for me. There has got to be a better way.

Mixed Feelings over Christmas