So, I’ve completely abandoned my summer reading list at present. Instead I’ve switched over to reading my textbooks for this coming semester. I’ve read five in the past week, so I won’t discuss each at any length. But I will give a few words on the general topic and feel of the book. You can find the Amazon links for all of these at this post.
Sacramental Theology: A General Introduction. This book was really quite good, and I’m glad that it was the first I read for my History of Liturgy class. It has helped to correct some common low church protestant misunderstandings of the Catholic Sacramental tradition. The book basically consists of a basic overview of the current theology and theological discussion surrounding the Catholic sacraments, though it also ventures into some comparative studies dealing with Anglican and Lutheran sacramental theology as well. A great read if you’re completely ignorant of the finer details of Sacramental Theology.
Christ the Sacrament of the Encounter With God. Unlike Sacramental Theology, this book isn’t really an easy read. Schillebeeckx’s (the author) thesis in this book is that Jesus represents the Primordial Sacrament. That is, if sacraments are an encounter with God than it is proper to speak of Jesus as the Sacrament. The book above delved into this to some extent, warning that one must be careful to see only Jesus’ humanity as a sacrament since by their very nature sacraments point to something greater, and how can Jesus’ divinity – being completely God – point to something greater? (this made me a little nervous since separating his humanity and divinity in such a way always makes me nervous) Schillebeeckx deals with that question as well, though at some point his reasoning lost me. His logic, at least in the first several chapters, is impeccable. If Jesus is our encounter with God as human beings via the incarnation, than how are we today (2000 years later, and with no physical incarnation of God the Son visible), able to encounter God? Simple, Schillebeeckx argues: we encounter Christ through his Church (the basic sacrament) and specifically through the sacraments that he instituted. In this way Schillebeeckx is careful never to actually refer to nine sacraments (because he has added two, Jesus and the Church). Rather, he is able to maintain complete agreement with the Council of Trent and declare that there are seven sacraments. As a Protestant I disagree with a bit of the theology presented – but this book has made me wonder even more if the idea of “it’s only a sign” is really applicable to Baptism and Holy Communion. The very name suggests something more.
A Commentary on the Divine Liturgy. Here I moved from Catholic Theology into the Orthodox view on the sacraments, in this case specifically the Eucharist since that is what this book deals with. The book basically walks through a standard Orthodox service. Yet that very wording does it injustice since the symbolism and importance of each element of the liturgy means something. Having never been to an Orthodox service myself (a short coming I must rectify in the future), I can only say after reading this commentary that they are simply beautiful. That’s really all I can say.
Power Failure: Christianity in the Culture of Technology. Now we have to jump from History of Liturgy to Anthropology. This book is less of a book and more a collection of essays. As a general rule I dislike philosophy, which is much of what this book is. Given, that may sound odd just having given praise to a variety of books on theology, which really has many parallels to philosophy – but that’s the subject of another post. At any rate Borgmann basically comes down pretty hard on technology as having destroyed our sense of community within the industrialized West. He is probably right in much of what he says, though I choose to see technology as having the potential to be much more helpful than Borgmann seems to allow. I also don’t think that technology is going away. Beyond that, Borgmann’s solutions seem to generally involve government sponsored religion. To be sure he doesn’t think Christianity should win out over any others. Rather he sees a state mandated (or if not mandated, at least sponsored – think Memorial Day or Thanksgiving) celebration of Ramadan as ideal, along with other such festivals. His goal with this isn’t so much combining religion and state as much as it is resurrecting the practice of communal festival. He sees us as very much slaves to the machine. I cannot disagree with this notion – we very much are. But I think that there are solutions other than involving the government since it is, in my opinion, one of the greatest allies of the machine and one of the largest machines itself. In the end, I agree with much (though not all) of his ideas regarding the problems. He makes a lot of sense there. I disagree with his proposed solution, and perhaps also with the idea that technology must inherently separate us. I think it can connect us as well, just in ways that are different from the past.
Old Testament Textual Criticism. This book would have been able 10x better if it had another two hundred pages and was written by Tov. Alas! I shall have to struggle on. The book as a whole wasn’t bad as an introduction. Brotzman manages to communicate the basics of text criticism, and because I’m fairly new to the topic, I learned some things. However, it really is a very basic introduction and it leaves many questions unanswered. Still, the deciphering of the apparatus contained in BHS was worth my time. So there are probably much better books out there, but as a basic introduction it does not fail to deliver.
No coming soon today. I still have no less than eleven textbooks to read (not including grammars and workbooks) so it’s whichever I happen to pick up next. As much as I really want to start Schmemann’s For the Life of the World I probably need to get a little further in my reading for Anthropology first.