Monday, April 28, 2008


I try to read relatively widely in the context of theology, from biblical studies to the interface of faith with various facets of living in this world. I’m not scientifically oriented, so a few of the most general articles on life origins and evolution go a long way with me. I am always intrigued by philosophical implications of world-views. I enjoy history and biography. Some personal memoirs I find fascinating. I like a bit of fiction, especially with well-researched historical settings or exceptional character development. I’m mesmerized by someone who can blend biblical exegesis with responsible application since this has been my goal through my more than thirty years of biblical proclamation.

I subscribe to a number of email links to current publications. I regularly read some blogs (among those listed in the side bar) that show incredible breadth and depth of theological reflection. I am in awe of the quality output these are able to maintain. There are also a couple of periodicals that I read mostly cover-to-cover (Touchstone and First Things).

I must say that I am overwhelmingly impressed with Pope Benedict XVI’s books, the earlier ones written as Joseph Ratzinger as well as the more recent under his pontifical title. His biblical scholarship is stellar yet does not obliterate a keen awareness of personal application. Jesus of Nazareth is exceptional. It is a juxtaposition of, on the one hand, a broad awareness of scholarly issues in general New Testament studies and particularly the multi-faceted approaches to Jesus, and on the other hand, a clarity of orthodox Christian faith that not only cuts through all the crust of “scholarly” myopia but also evokes in the reader — at least those whose hearts are open — a desire to know and love Jesus more and more.

I look at the stack of new books I have acquired so far just this year and it is overwhelming to think of all I “need” to read. Switching ecclesiastical identities has opened new dimensions of faith that require substantive “catch-up.” It reminds me of the title from A. B. Macallum’s famous editorial in The Canadian Medical Association Journal, “Of the making of books there is no end.” He laments, in 1928, that the “world of today” is being inundated with far too many publications and then he notes that this idea of “too much” goes back to the time “when all the written word was in the form of manuscript.” What would he think today?!

As I keep plugging away at my reading I try to keep in perspective something I had to learn long ago in the process of my theological education: it can be very difficult for the “heart” to keep up with the “head.” Even a semester in seminary requires more cognitive input than one’s soul can assimilate in the same period of time, especially when one’s time is being consumed with study and not an equal amount of prayer. St. Paul warned of what is falsely called knowledge (1Tim 6:20) early in the life of the Church, also recognizing that it is possible to be ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth (2Tim 3:7)

There is a difference between these warnings and increasing in the knowledge of God (Col 1:10). The Christian’s calling is to be grounded in Truth (orthodoxy) and at the same time to be growing into what Paul calls in his Romans letter the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God (11:33). One of the affirmations of the uniqueness of scripture is that the basic message can be comprehended by a simple mind, and yet the best intellects cannot exhaust the depth of the scriptures.

So some of us keep reading and reading (and, I hope, praying and praying). That is one way Jesus’ garden prayer — that they may know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent — is fulfilled in us.

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