11 January 2005

books

I received a nice Westminster Seminary Bookstore gift certificate from my parents for Christmas. So today I ventured over to the Seminary and wandered the bookstore for a while trying to figure out what to buy. Bookstores are far too tempting, especially when you've got a gift certificate to spend--and without the guilt of spending your own money.

There are a number of recent publications I would like to read, but what one would like to own is generally a more narrow selection. After all, there's nothing worse than investing in a book only to read it, think it was pretty mediocre, and then have it take up valuable shelf space. In other cases, some books are simply outside of my expertise and, while they may be helpful in their own way, they're still not something I'm likely to want to refer back to time and again.

In the end, I acquired the following:

Robert Letham, The Holy Trinity: In Scripture, History, Theology, and Worship (P&R 2004).

James K.A. Smith, Introducing Radical Orthodoxy: Mapping a Post-Secular Theology (Baker Academic 2004).

Hans Boersma, Violence, Hospitality, and the Cross: Reappropriating the Atonement Tradition (Baker Academic 2004).

All three are books that have come highly recommended, are ones I've had my eye on for some time, and are the sorts of work that both intersect with my philosophical interests and, I hope, will have some kind of abiding significance or usefulness.

The Robert Letham volume looks like a fairly comprehensive Trinitarian theology. The past century of theological development has gone a long way towards recovering the Trinitarian shape of Christian theology as that is present in the Scriptures and in some of the Fathers and medievals. Of course, some treatments have gone in questionable directions (e.g., Moltmann who, for all of his insightfulness, too handily rejects large parts of classical theism). I trust that Letham will provide a fair and searching overview of both classical theology and more recent development.

I've looked forward to reading Jamie Smith's introduction since he told me about it and allowed me to look at his proposal over a year and a half ago. Smith has a way of taking the sometimes complex concepts and theological jargon of Radical Orthodoxy and explaining them in a way that is more readily grasped. Moreover, he self-consciously writes from within the Reformed tradition--particularly it's neo-calvinist expression--but with deep sympathies and cooperation with Radical Orthodoxy, even as he sometimes criticizes aspects of it, as well as having an ongoing interest in the emerging church movement. Smith, therefore, also writes with an eye to the practical implications of Radical Orthodoxy for the life of the church.

The Hans Boersma book is the one I know the least about, though it comes highly recommended from sources I trust (including Jamie Smith). It attempts to think through a biblical theology of the atonement, one that emerges from within traditional Reformed (and even scholastic) theology, but takes figures such as Levinas, Derrida, and Girard as major conversation partners, even while engaging in a retrieval of the atonement theologies of Irenaeus and Gregory of Nyssa. As is evident from the title, the themes of violence and hospitality are programmatic for Boersma's argument.

I'm not sure when I'll actually get a chance to read these three works, but I hope to report back when I do.