Consumo ergo sum. Living in a highly consumeristic society perhaps means that we are greatly shaped by what we consume. And I bow down my head to the god of paperbacks and hardcovers. After I finished my undergrad study I learnt about Tom Wright, and I drank deeply from his well. I think I was drowned. In 2009 I started to read Karl Barth, and it didn’t took long before he occupied my pantheon of patriarchs. But then I checked my spendings on books and I realized that perhaps I have spent too much. So I decided to follow Sri Mulyani and tighten my fiscal policy for 2010, and somehow I managed to cut my budget by 40% while was still able to purchase the same amount of books. Nevertheless, the overall quality was markedly worse, and, since life is a pendulum, perhaps the way to go is to buy better but lesser amount of books although it might cost you more.
Anyway, before I dwell on my reading plan for next year, here are some highlights of pleasure from this year’s reading:
1. Wright published After You Believe after his Simply Christian and Surprised by Hope. And at the end of the year his 1978 book, Small Faith, Great God, was re-published. And I bought both of them simply because Wright wrote them.
2. Barth’s Evangelical Theology would be a good start to know him. For me he is a theologian of Witness, and I used this category many times to explain a lot of things. If you are a Reformed Evangelical, don’t trust anything that your pastor or your senior told you about Barth. Read him for yourself before you judge him.
3. John Goldingay started publishing volumes after volumes for the new Old Testament for Everyone series to complement Wright’s New Testament for Everyone series. He has finished writing for the Pentateuch, and the next volume on Joshua, Judges, and Ruth will be published in February 2011.
4. I really like Miroslav Volf’s Against the Tide. It is a collection of essays, previously published in Christian Century from 1996 to 2008, on God, evil, family, church, mission, etc. and they are simply wonderful to read and reflect on.
5. Speaking of theologians, I read Stanley Hauerwas’ memoir, Hannah’s Child. And now I believe in ontological superiority of being a Texan (and inferiority in the case of Bush).
6. This year is the year I learnt to read Rowan Williams (Why Study the Past? and The Truce of God), and I started considering to convert myself to Anglicanism. They have Wright and Williams; that’s pretty unfair. Nah, I will be a Presbyterian for life. Elders rule!
7. I read Ernst Käsemann’s collection of unpublished essays and sermons which is now post-mortemly published in On Being a Disciple of the Crucified Nazarene. And it reminded me of why I (still) love Luther. You don’t explain Christian belief; you proclaim it. It’s not the “what”, but the “how.”
8. Michael Ward’s Planet Narnia convinced me that C. S. Lewis is not a literary hobbit if compared to J. R. R. Tolkien.
9. Eric Metaxas’ biography on Dietrich Bonhoeffer is decent enough, but in the end Bonhoeffer was painted in the image of American Evangelicalism and I decided that I need to read at least one more biography from the continental point of view. And Ferdinand Schlingensiepen’s book might be the appropriate antidote.
10. I read Andrea Hirata’s latest bi-logy, Padang Bulan and Cinta di dalam Gelas. And, seriously, I think he is exploiting A Ling to no end. He knows that we want to know what happened to Ikal and A Ling. Surely the father’s silence is not the final verdict to their romance?
11. Joas Adiprasetya’s book, Berdamai dengan Salib, is a response to Ioanes Rakhmat’s work, Membedah Soteriologi Salib. I am thankful for this kind of theological engagement. I admire how Joas is still able to be charitable towards Ioanes throughout his book.
12. I forgot to mention E. P. Sanders’ Paul and Palestinian Judaism, a milestone in Pauline Studies. So, Sanders was saying, basically Paul opposed Judaism not because Judaism is wrong but because Judaism is not Christianity. Go figure.
So, for the year of the rabbit, what kind of books shall I read, then? My primary interest is biblical studies (and, secondarily, historical theology), and this is important to note, since more often than not people commented that I like to read about “doctrine” or “theology.” No. They are inseparable, but they can still be distinguished from each other. I do have an interest to read theological works (and do constructive theology afterwards), but I guess my basic interest will always be biblical studies. But I guess now it’s time to build on those foundations to read modern theological works. Indeed, there are quite a number of theologians already in the list above: Barth, Volf, Hauerwas, Williams, etc. Hence I just need to continue and crystallize the current reading trajectory.
First, I will (purchase and) start reading the whole set of Barth’s Church Dogmatics. Of course, I don’t expect to finish them in one year. It will probably take five to seven years to read the whole series. I also have a few volumes on hermeneutics by Anthony Thiselton (Hermeneutics of Doctrine and Hermeneutics: An Introduction) and Kevin Vanhoozer (Is There A Meaning in This Text? and The Drama of Doctrine) and I guess I will read them too. I will go for a conference next year in Montreal and hopefully I can order a few volumes of Robert Jenson (perhaps his two-volume Systematic Theology) or John Milbank (Theology and Social Theory) from Amazon.ca.
There are several personal obligatory readings as well. For next year’s church bulletin weekly devotionals project, I will read Peter Leithart’s Defending Constantine and Rowan Williams’ Arius. I really enjoyed preparing materials on the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, and I guess I will try to get a copy of John Levison’s Filled with the Spirit and read it.
Phew. I guess I need to stop for now. This is not the end of a confession of a bookaholic. I am seriously afflicted by malignant bibliolatry.