intraspace: the review lounge

Saturday, October 28, 2006

free of charge

free of charge, by miroslav volf

this is a book that i randomly picked up after anna brought it home from the library. looked pretty interesting and was the archbishop of canterbury's official lent 2006 book - who could resist?...

miroslav volf is apparently a fairly well-known theologian who teaches at yale. this book covers the twin themes of giving and forgiving. the thing that struck me most in the book was volf's description of the common ways that people view God. with regard to giving, people often see God as either a negotiator or santa claus. ie, they either see God as someone you can strike a deal with in order to get what you want, or they see him as someone who just gives stuff willy-nilly. with regard to forgiving, people tend to see God as either an implacable judge, or as a doting grandparent.

that's a pretty good observation i think, and volf goes on to explain what the true God is really like. bearing in mind that this is a book by a theologian, it is quite long-winded and volf likes to answer any question that might arise. but apart from the rigor of that for the casual reader, there is a lot of stuff to pick up on, and it is nicely carried by examples and illustrations, so is not too difficult to read.

here's a good quote summing up the point of book, and the argument that volf makes for a God that defies most people's perception of him:

"You can sum up where we've landed in four simple sentences. The world is sinful. That's why God doesn't affirm it indiscriminately [like santa claus or a doting grandparent]. God loves the world. That's why God doesn't punish it in justice [like a negotiator or implacable judge]. What does God do with this double bind? God forgives."

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Sunday, October 15, 2006

subversive orthodoxy

subversive orthodoxy, by robert inchausti

this book made quite a big impact on me (as partly witnessed by this post on my other blog). it wasn't always easy to understand - and when you can't fully understand something it is hard to fully ascertain whether or not you completely agree. that sounds like it might have been a major problem, but there was enough in here that i really liked to be able to say that i liked the whole book.

so that's the review in a nutshell. now for some quotes. in this book inchausti talks about a brand of christian orthodoxy that works counter-culturally (as true christianity is want to do) and is spearheaded by what he calls "the orthodox avant-garde":

"cutting edge Christian thinkers who, merely by expressing the contemporary moral and intellectual implications of their faith, have exposed the dogmas of modernism in the light of a more inclusive and liberating Christian vision of reality."

"not about new religious values so much as it is about the eternal freshness of the old ones. most of the thinkers examined here are religious traditionalists whose ideas challenge the assumptions of their secular colleagues. most are also important innovators in their respective fields, alert to contemporary circumstances, aware of changes in their disciplines, critical of dominant narratives, and yet still capable of drawing connections between their faith and the realities of the modern world ... each of them does far more than simply say 'no' to modernism; they bridge the chasm between our longings for spiritual completion and the technoscientific world within which we live."

on the headphones: 'nautilus' by loscil, from the album 'submers'.

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Saturday, October 07, 2006

a royal duty

a royal duty, by paul burrell

i suppose i should start by explaining why i read this book. i can't really think of a good explanation other than the fact that i read the first few pages to see what a royal biography was like and ended up getting hooked. sucker.

i had also forgotten what a huge stink this book made when it was first released. paul burrell, former footman to the queen and butler to diana, was accused of all manner of things when it came out - betraying the royals' trust, profiting from the memory of diana - that kind of thing.

in actual fact i found that this was a very even handed account - only mildly sensational and other than that, just a really interesting insight into the way the royal family functions. the book notches up a gear in the final third with the death of diana and with burrell being charged with stealing diana's personal property.

all the while, the thing that emerges is a story of a butler who is absolutely enamoured with his employer, a man under the spell of diana's charms - to the point of obsession, and at the expense of his own family. burrell sees upholding the memory of the princess as his life's calling. and i think that is a believeable motive, despite the vast sums of money that he has made from the book. although, i have to admit that when i heard the other day that he is planning to release another book on diana soon, his credibility starts to slip. he claims that it is because people are starting to forget her. cynics say it's time to make some more money. i think it is more a factor of an obsessed man who knows deep down that his main importance is in association with diana - without that he becomes little more than an expert on royal etiquette.

i suppose that seems like a bit of mean assessment. when you read the book you sympathise with burrell, and it is surprisingly well-written. and i think it holds true that this book is probably the most crucial one available for anyone who wants to know what life is like behind the windsors' front door.

on the stereo: 'the mp' by the album leaf, from the album 'one day i'll be on time'.

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