Monday, September 8, 2008

Martin Marty in Grand Rapids: Thoughts

Dr. Martin E. Marty, the "Dean" or "Pope" of the American Mainline was in Grand Rapids this weekend, and we were there for a great booktable. Dr. Marty was speaking on the 2008 presidental election, but his excellent remarks trancended the 24-hour punditry of the cable news cycle and delved deeper into the larger role that religion plays in our political life. Some higlights:

1. Dr. Marty claimed that maybe only one or two of the founding fathers could really been claimed to be "born-again Evangelicals" in the manner often claimed. Of course, this makes a little bit of sense given that the Evangalicalism of the time was still somewhat nacent in both England and America, and that the emphasis conversion as an easily claimable experience was not to gain full flower for 25-75 years. Still, it seemed that the crowd would naturally assume from his remarks that the founders were just like them. Since there are really only 2 major parties in American Protestantism, the other founders must have been Mainliners? Yet, I'm not sure that this hope is borne out by the facts, as the liberalism that has come to dominate the Mainline was just as embryonic as Evangalicalism was at the time.

2. Probably the best moment came as Russell Kirk's wife, Annette Kirk asked Dr. Marty about the impact of the "five cities" of Western Civilization (Jerusalem, Athens, Rome, London, and Paris) on the civic life of America today. Dr. Marty thought for a minute and said that to really understand what was happening, you needed to add a sixth city, Geneva. He asserted that the Constution and our national understanding really owed more to Calvin mediated throught he Scottish Enlightenment than to any of these other places. As he was in Grand Rapids, he thought that it was appropriate to point this out. I'm not sure if anyone else caught the irony of Dr. Marty (a Lutheran) telling Annette Kirk (a Catholic) that she needed to look to Reformed Philosophy to understand American life today!

3. The best story: Dr. Marty hosted a large multi-year fundamentalisms study at U of Chicago. At the very end, they held a reception to honor the director of catering for her accomidation of the dietary requests of 20+ different sects. The woman said that while Dr. Marty and his collegues did their best to be impartial with regard to the different faiths, she had to play favorites. She said that of all the groups, she liked the Christians best. Why? Because they eat everything! Quite a good endorsement, and pertinent to my wife, who is working on a book on the theology of food.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Even More Calvin Books!

Now in a new, smaller format, Gary Schmidt's classic retelling of "Pilgrim's Progress" has just been reissued. With wonderful illustrations by 2008 Festival of Faith and Writing presenter Barry Moser, it is a great book to introduce children to this wonderful tale of spiritual formation. ($16.50 Eerdmans)

More Calvin Books!

Two of Calvin's most famous "rock-hounds" have teamed up answer the question: How old is the earth? In The Bible, Rocks, and Time: Geological Evidence for the age of the Earth, Davis Young and Ralph Stearley not only explore the fascinating phenomena that have shaped the layers of the earth, but also trace the battles among Christians on this topic over the last 4 centuries, laying out, the key issues in the process. (InterVarsity Press $30.00)

New titles by Calvin Authors

Some of this week's highlights:
The recent death of Aleksandr Solzhenitseyn was widely mourned and spurred many to reexamine the life of one of the 20th century's most famous exiles. Our resident Solzhenitseyn scholar Ed Ericson has followed his excellent Solzhenitseyn Reader with the new work The Soul and Barbed Wire: A Introduction to Solzhenitseyn which provides not only a helpful biography but also a comprehensive literary appraisal of his many works. (ISI Books $28.00)

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Surviving China: Last Minute Items for the Beijing Bound

Perhaps you aren't actually bound for Beijing but will instead be experiencing the All-America all the time coverage on NBC. Still, in the midst of all the hoopla surrounding the athletics, stories about day-to-day life in China are bound to be featured prominently.

One of the biggest hits at the Campus Store this past year has been the little book by Larry and Qin Herzberg, China Survival Guide. Though it is aimed at those traveling to the Middle Kingdom, it could be read profitably by anyone interested in understanding more about China.

Even better, the Herzbergs have teamed with the good folks at the Calvin Media Foundation to produce a 1 hour documentary, China Today: Issues that Trouble Americans at the Beginning of the 21st Century, that tackles many of the questions that olympic enthusiasts and thoughtful christians have. From the trials and tribulations of Christians under Communist rule to democratic liberalization to the implications of a one-child policy, China Today is perfect for small groups, schools, or even casual viewers looking to refine their understanding of the world's most populous country.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Calvin's Top 40, #36: The Kite Runner

Next up on Calvin's Top 40 is Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner. Probably one of the best of a slew of novels on Afganistan that rose to prominence after Sept. 11th, the book was recently used, along with Hosseini's newer A Thousand Splendid Suns, for a class on Afganistan for CALL, the Calvin Academy for Lifelong Learning.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Calvin's Top 40, #37: Colossians Remixed

Colossians Remixed: Subverting the Empire was put together by two scholars with CRC connections (Walsh is CRC campus minister at U of Toronto and Keesmaat is at the Institute for Christian Studies) this "anti-commentary" is perhaps the best example of a merging of biblical studies and postmodernity that aids contemporary readers.