Faith in an Emerging Culture?

I have only read one book in the Faith in an Emerging Culture Series from Paternoster (Re: Mission: Biblical Mission for a Post-Biblical Church) but the preface really captures where I am in my exploration of my faith these days:

It is common knowledge that Western culture has undergone major changes and we now find ourselves in an increasingly postmodern (or post-postmodern?), post Christendom, post industrial, post-just-about-anything-you-like world. The church now sits on the margins of western culture with a faith ‘package deal’ to offer the world that is perceived as out of date and irrelevant. How can we recontextualize the old, old story of the gospel in the new, new world of postmodernity? How can we fulfill our missional calling in a world that cannot any longer understand or relate to what we are saying? ‘Faith in an Emerging Culture’ seeks to imaginatively rethink Christian theology and practice in postmodern ways. It does not shrink from being explorative, provocative and controversial but is at the same time committed to remaining within the bounds of orthodox Christian faith and practice. Most readers will find things to agree with and things which will irritate them but we hope at very least to provoke fresh thought and theological/spiritual renewal.

So much so that I am using the first half as a teaser for my Sunday School class in 2015. I think these questions and issues have only become more relevant and important even as the term “emerging” in connection with church has mostly faded.

In the Mail: Original Sinners

Original Sinners: Why Genesis Still Matters by John R. Coats

Publishers Weekly

An entertaining narrative voice, personal reflections from the author’s life and insightful interpretations combine to produce this accessible and lively new addition to Genesis scholarship. Coats, a former parish priest and management consultant, cogently applies source theory—the hypothesis that four separate documents went into the first five books of the Bible—to familiar stories whose ethical and spiritual DNA seeps through Western culture. Through his approach, the author makes complex biblical scholarship comprehensible, while challenging the reader to examine the actual text. Asserting that biblical characters are rather relentless in their mirroring, Coats uses second-person hooks (Imagine yourself as the first human being) to invite readers to use their own perspective to interpret the text. Cheeky chapter headings entice and inform; First, about the ark, which is most definitely not a boat begins his analysis of Noah and the flood. While cultural references from Maimonides to Mae West spice up the narrative, Coats’s exploration of how his own history and self-understanding inform his interpretations makes the most compelling reading. His reflections on his own aging and his analysis of the stories of Noah and Abraham prove compelling and thought provoking.

The Classics: All You Need to Know, from Zeus's Throne to the Fall of Rome by Caroline Taggart

I am a fan of short but informative books so I was intrigued when The Classics: All You Need to Know, from Zeus’s Throne to the Fall of Rome came in the mail. I am also interested in classical mythology and history so it seemed like a good fit.  And it turned out to be a fun and informative read.

Here is the publishers description:

It’s no myth: this lively refresher course fills in all you need to know about ancient studies-from Zeus’s throne to the fall of Rome-in pithy little quips. It covers the impressive advances made by Greek and Roman societies, from language to medicine, from art to architecture. You’ll learn:

  • The Greek alphabet, from alpha to omega
  • The history and characteristics that define Greek and Roman architecture and its influence on modern building
  • Greek and Latin words, which make up more than 30 percent of the words in the English language, and how you can build your vocabulary by learning the roots
  • The Greek and Roman gods, the mythology surrounding them, and the part these figures play in our culture
  • Almost 1,000 years of Greek and Roman history, from the birth of democracy to Caesar’s empire
  • The philosophies taught by Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle and what their ideas have contributed to the world we live in today
  • How modern cultural staples such as the Olympics were formed by classical literature written by authors such as Homer and Cicero
  • A fascinating introduction to the world that became the foundation for Western Civilization, The Classics puts the same information from stuffy textbooks at your fingertips in one entertaining read. Make this and all of the Blackboard Books(tm) a permanent fixture on your shelf, and you’ll have instant access to a breadth of knowledge. Whether you need homework help or want to win that trivia game, this series is the trusted source for fun facts.

    Taggart keeps the prose lively and the snarky commentary to a minimum (too often these type of books emphasize humor to the detriment of information). It is an easy read but still manages to cover a lot of basic ground on classical history and culture.

    A good example of an area I found helpful is architecture. I had a basic understanding of some of this but it was great to have a short chapter on the main styles of classical architecture (Doric, Ionic and Corinthian) with the building blocks involved and some famous examples.

    This is a great book for adults who want to refresh their memory on the touch-points of classical culture (or who never received a quality education in this area) and for younger readers who want a readable introduction to the subject.

    The Classics: All You Need to Know, from Zeus's Throne to the Fall of Rome by Caroline Taggart

    I am a fan of short but informative books so I was intrigued when The Classics: All You Need to Know, from Zeus’s Throne to the Fall of Rome came in the mail. I am also interested in classical mythology and history so it seemed like a good fit.  And it turned out to be a fun and informative read.

    Here is the publishers description:

    It’s no myth: this lively refresher course fills in all you need to know about ancient studies-from Zeus’s throne to the fall of Rome-in pithy little quips. It covers the impressive advances made by Greek and Roman societies, from language to medicine, from art to architecture. You’ll learn:

  • The Greek alphabet, from alpha to omega
  • The history and characteristics that define Greek and Roman architecture and its influence on modern building
  • Greek and Latin words, which make up more than 30 percent of the words in the English language, and how you can build your vocabulary by learning the roots
  • The Greek and Roman gods, the mythology surrounding them, and the part these figures play in our culture
  • Almost 1,000 years of Greek and Roman history, from the birth of democracy to Caesar’s empire
  • The philosophies taught by Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle and what their ideas have contributed to the world we live in today
  • How modern cultural staples such as the Olympics were formed by classical literature written by authors such as Homer and Cicero
  • A fascinating introduction to the world that became the foundation for Western Civilization, The Classics puts the same information from stuffy textbooks at your fingertips in one entertaining read. Make this and all of the Blackboard Books(tm) a permanent fixture on your shelf, and you’ll have instant access to a breadth of knowledge. Whether you need homework help or want to win that trivia game, this series is the trusted source for fun facts.

    Taggart keeps the prose lively and the snarky commentary to a minimum (too often these type of books emphasize humor to the detriment of information). It is an easy read but still manages to cover a lot of basic ground on classical history and culture.

    A good example of an area I found helpful is architecture. I had a basic understanding of some of this but it was great to have a short chapter on the main styles of classical architecture (Doric, Ionic and Corinthian) with the building blocks involved and some famous examples.

    This is a great book for adults who want to refresh their memory on the touch-points of classical culture (or who never received a quality education in this area) and for younger readers who want a readable introduction to the subject.

    Original Sinners: A New Interpretation of Genesis by John R. Coats

    When it first came in the mail I didn’t think I would read Original Sinners: A New Interpretation of Genesis. It is written by a man who has lost his faith – who no longer sees the Bible as the Word of God but rather a sort of literary touchstone or psychological tool to understand yourself better.  Here is Publishers Weekly:

    An entertaining narrative voice, personal reflections from the author’s life and insightful interpretations combine to produce this accessible and lively new addition to Genesis scholarship. Coats, a former parish priest and management consultant, cogently applies source theory—the hypothesis that four separate documents went into the first five books of the Bible—to familiar stories whose ethical and spiritual DNA seeps through Western culture. Through his approach, the author makes complex biblical scholarship comprehensible, while challenging the reader to examine the actual text. Asserting that biblical characters are rather relentless in their mirroring, Coats uses second-person hooks (Imagine yourself as the first human being) to invite readers to use their own perspective to interpret the text. Cheeky chapter headings entice and inform; First, about the ark, which is most definitely not a boat begins his analysis of Noah and the flood. While cultural references from Maimonides to Mae West spice up the narrative, Coats’s exploration of how his own history and self-understanding inform his interpretations makes the most compelling reading. His reflections on his own aging and his analysis of the stories of Noah and Abraham prove compelling and thought provoking.

    This is not usually the sort of book I read.  But having read the introduction I was interested enough to push on. And in the end I found it an interesting read despite disagreeing with his fundamental assumptions in many ways.

    Continue reading