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Would anyone here be interested in jointly finding & reading the same book? One of the problems I'm finding with book descriptions here is very often, the reader is the only one who has read it. This isn't necessarily bad (I enjoy good book reviews, and I have another I'll get here in a few days), but I think there are other possibilities for this forum also. If 2+ people read the same book at more or less the same time, more dialogue may be possible, and dialogue is a good thing. Maybe. ;)

 

I've got several books I'd love to read with people, and generally my reading interests go in a direction of history & theology. But this is less about me and more about a general practice I think may be useful for the board.

 

Opinions?

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Nick,

 

This sounds like a good idea, an epc-book club. You are right about reviews; they can be useful and informative, but hard to discuss.

 

(I am personally more interested in the historical than theology, but would be willing to participate in any event. I would also prefer something for which there is a Kindle version - I am putting ink stains and paper cuts into the past. And they travel better as well.)

 

George

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I would also be interested in this. Like you George, I am primarily interested in history or present day sociology. If I buy a book, I like to buy the Kindle variety - they are quite a bit cheaper than the others and much easier to carry around. We are fortunate in that we have a very good public library and I use the public library to a large extent, but they do not have the money to buy all the books that might interest me.

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I'm happy some other people think this may be good.

 

I don't have time today to dig through all my To Read lists (I never quite manage to make 1 file & keep it that way...), so I'll be back with my ideas. And I'd be curious about other people's ideas as well. One book that comes to mind is Diarmaid MacCulloch's award-winning book on the Protestant Reformation, but I'm hesitant to suggest an 800 page book for fun reading on the side. And it isn't on Kindle, which is a shame.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I don't know if I've killed this thread through inattention, but I've kept trying to think of books I would be interested in reading. I have a few suggestions, though none perfectly fit the criteria people have suggested:

  1. Andrew Louth's The Origins of the Christian Mystical Tradition: From Plato to Denys. The name is a good summary of what it's about. It's apparently very good. Sarah Coakley, a prominent feminist theologian, was asked by Christian Century magazine to pick 5 "essential theology books of the last 25 years", and it was on the list. On the line between theology and history, it's about how Christianity developed its mystical side by borrowing / adapting elements from neoplatonism. The downside: the Kindle version isn't cheap, and as an academic book, I suspect non-college libraries may have some trouble, even with inter-library loan.
  2. NT Wright, The New Testament and the People of God. Wright may not be a progressive Christian, but he's one of the most visible & respected New Testament Scholars out there, and rose to be in the #4 position in the Church of England. This is the first book of his 6 book series on historically situating the New Testament (he has the 1st three books done). The second book is on Jesus, and the third book is on the Resurrection, but this one is about the historical setting of Israel in the first Century, what religious beliefs were in play, and how should a historian go about studying these things. Wright isn't without critics however, as he has a tendency to create a "universal string theory" of New Testament history & theology. The fact that he succeeds to some degree is why he's taken seriously. This will be available on Kindle in a few weeks, according to the publisher.
  3. NT Wright, After you Believe. NT Wright oscillates between academic audiences, and the general public. When he's not writing books for his Christian Origins and the Question of God series, he writes books for lay readers. One of the latest he wrote is about Christian ethics from a virtue POV. Accessible, well reviewed, on Kindle.
  4. Anything by Rodney Stark. George W can suggest books by this sociologist of religion better than I can, but he's becoming rather influential outside of sociology from what I gather. One of his books was on the impossibility of biblical literalism, and it made a bit of a stir.
  5. Diarmaid McCulloch. The Reformation. Sweeping history of the Protestant Reformation by a well known British historian. Award winning.

Now... this list is in no way exhaustive, but looking over what I have, this is the stuff I'm interested in that other people may be as well. I have other books I'm interested in that I suspect NOBODY else is (an analysis of agape as an ethical concept, an over view of the theology of Hans Frei, history of Calvinist theology, etc), but I won't bother listing those.

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I would participate in The New Testament and the People of God.

 

Has anyone thought about structure? Should we agree on a pace (like a chapter a week - X pages, etc.)? Should someone be a discussion leader? (Nick: as an academic, you may be well qualified)? Should we leave it unstructured and let the questions and discussion naturally ensue?

 

Does anyone have experience with book groups that might be helpful in starting this?

 

George

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I have no experience at something quite like this, though I'd be ok with facilitating this book, since it was my idea. I do have the sense we need some sort of structure, but I'm not quite sure what that is right now. I need to run, but I'll think about things and get back to you in this thread within a day.

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Wow, from what I see The New Testament and the People of God is a pretty dense and lengthy treatment of the subject. This would be an unusual book discussion.

 

Not for me, but then, that kind of proves your point :)

 

Yeah, 500 pages on the history of 1st Century Israel & how one should study it. Dense & Lengthy is correct. A read-through of the table of contents on Amazon also confirms it: this is a book on how to do history almost as much as it is a history book.

 

An issue with me being the guy who picks books is I tend toward academic writing. Others may find it less than enjoyable than I do, and as you can see from that list... well... there's a theme.

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It completely defeats the purpose if people get stuck with a book they get nothing out of, either because it's too dense, too light, or on an uninteresting topic.

 

Here is a link to the Google Books preview of NTPG (the long name is long!). It's just a preview, but it should give some idea about its direction and density

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Hi Nick,

 

I've nothing against the book choice; others have expressed their interest in it. It just struck me as atypical of a book discussion (which isn't necessarily a bad thing).

 

 

 

Peace,

Mike

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Nick,

 

Not sure if I’d participate, but Louth’s book on mysticism appeals to me the most.

 

If you want to see how some books have been discussed before, the fourth page of this board has threads on chapter-by-chapter discussions of

 

Common Sense Christianity by Randolph Ross

The First Paul by Borg and Crossan

The Shack by William Paul Young

 

but you could structure it any way that feels comfortable.

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I don't think we are constrained to one book. There could be several groups at the same time. People could participate as their interests dictate.

 

I do think the basic idea has merit. It is a way of discussing issues of interest to PCs with everyone on the same page (so to speak).

 

In terms of structure, I don't think the discussion should be limited to the readers. The discussion of posted comments and observations could be joined by others who agree, disagree, want clarification, etc.

 

George

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Mike, sorry if I got overly defensive. I did so because I agree with the point I thought you were making: my taste in books runs in a particular direction, and it may not be to everyone's liking.

 

Beyond that, I agree completely with George that we aren't limited to 1 group. I think it would be great if there were multiple reading groups, each with a different book. I also agree we shouldn't limit discussion to people who have read the book. People who haven't should be able to ask questions, or point out how it relates to things they have read.

 

In terms of a structure, I definitely think that going one chapter or section at a time makes sense. The issue I'm on the fence about is deadlines: I think they may be a necessary evil to say people should try to get chapter 1 read by a certain date, though I also think we should make those deadlines a bit on the generous side.

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In terms of a structure, I definitely think that going one chapter or section at a time makes sense. The issue I'm on the fence about is deadlines: I think they may be a necessary evil to say people should try to get chapter 1 read by a certain date, though I also think we should make those deadlines a bit on the generous side.

I agree; generous deadlines.

 

I would also confine the discussion to issues addressed in the material covered within the deadline to avoid some getting ahead of the pack and posing issues not yet read by others.

 

George

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all ya'll are much more intellectual than myself and thus I will in all likelihood have very little to add to the discussion but I still find it very interesting and look forward to the study.

 

A couple of thoughts.

 

the more the merrier ... a book study with 2 or 3 people is difficult .. the more perspectives the better the discussion so I think splitting is a mistake

 

I agree with the chapter per thread concept. For First Paul the mods wanted one thread for the entire book which I thought made it difficult to follow. It also made it difficult for a person to be a chapter behind .

 

It would be great if this became an ongoing event. The fellowship of everyone reading the same book would be wonderful and if it continues even if one book doesn't appeal the next one may.

 

steve

 

steve

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Ok

 

So...

It looks like I've gotten my wish (my God have mercy on my soul), and a few of my fellow PC'ers are interested in reading a book with me. The book selected in N. T. Wright's The New Testament and the People of God, Volume 1 of his ongoing Christian Origins and the Question of God series. As I've stumbled into getting my way, I have also stumbled into being the discussion facilitator for this book.

 

My Motivations

I'm interested in Wright for several reasons. But before I get to them, I want to make it clear what is not my goal:

 

I am not suggesting we read this book because I expect to agree with everything in it, or agree with its central claims, or as a tool to get people to agree with my worldview.

 

As for why I did suggest this:

  1. Wright is (allegedly) a good writer. I know he can write well for his shorter books, but I haven't tried one of his big books like this yet. If he turns out to be impenetrable, I will apologize to everyone. However, the samples I've read makes him seem not horrible, which pretty good for an academic :)
  2. This book is the groundwork for everything else in this book series. While he talks about Jesus and Paul in NTPG, he's really interested in setting up the historical backdrop in high resolution. Some might find that endeavor boring, but I personally would love to have a primer on what 1st Century Israel was like.
  3. Thanks to Crossan and Borg, questions of the historical Jesus are common among Progressive Christians. Wright is in this vein, and is very interested in history. A scholar of no small reputation, he is an expert on New Testament history and ancient Greek. As such, the things he cares deeply about, and is careful to study with care, is something people here often care deeply about
  4. At the same time, Wright is a foil for Borg, Crossan, and the entire Jesus Seminar (though it should be mention there is mutual respect between both Wright & Borg and Wright and Crossan). Wright truly believes he can demonstrate the historicity of Jesus, show how his teachings make sense in his context, and accept the Resurrection as a real historical event. I suspect the last point will be a bit hard to swallow for people here (me included), but I must say I'm curious how on Earth a guy can argue that AND have the respect of historians. Another potentially prickly subject is Wright is not a fan of Gnosticism.

 

Availability

So, where to get this book. It's available at Amazon, and most book stores could order it. According to an e-mail I received from the publisher, it will be available on Kindle before 11/21 (I couldn't get them to be more specific than "within 3 weeks" of Nov. 1st - when I got the reply). It is also available as a Google e-book right now. So, there are options for ebooks... kinda sorta. Personally, I'm going to Inter-library loan it from my college library, and probably have it in 10 days. When it's available on Kindle, assuming the book isn't horrible, I'll probably be buying it in that format.

 

Plan for Reading / Deadlines

 

On average, chapters are 30 pages long, which isn't too bad. I'm thinking... a week a chapter? That basically means we'd take the winter to read & discuss the book

 

 

Format

  1. I haven't gotten confirmation from mods on whether or not this is OK, but I would prefer the book discussion to be organized around multiple threads:

    1. Each chapter would have its own thread.
    2. The book would have a sticky in the forum with links to all the individual threads
    3. After we are completed with the book, the threads could be combined (I'm not 100% sure about this, but if if people are worried about cluttering up the book discussion forum, this could help)

[*]All would be welcome to discussion, not just the people who are reading. I'm sure there are people who have read other texts on 1st Century who will have a comment or two, or someone who doesn't have time but is curious what Wright says about a specific issue, etc.

  1. Additionally, people can jump in & out if needed (this is more an admission of reality than a rule)

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So, now I have two questions

  1. Who is interested?
  2. What are my responsibilities as a facilitator beyond remind people to read and telling people that we need to move on to the next chapter?

 

Also, I want to be clear about something: I want other books to be discussed. If someone else can get some people together to discuss The Shack or some other book, that would be awesome. I don't want this to be something I'm exclusively in charge of. I'm far too irresponsible, and my tastes are far too idiosyncratic, for that to be a good thing.

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Nick,

 

Several points. First, count me in. I am interested in learning more about 1st century Palestine and the environment in which Jesus lived and preached.

 

I think as facilitator, you could set the reading assignments (what's a better word?) and pose initial discussion questions. I think all participants could and should pose questions, challenge author's claims, etc. But, someone might need to kick off the discussion. The facilitator could keep the discussion relevant and on point; peripheral issues could be referred to a separate thread.

 

Also, if the book will be coming on Kindle, I would prefer to start then. I like the mobility and searchability, the instant dictionary, etc.

 

Thank you for offering to do this.

 

George

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I agree with you about Kindle. It'll be a nice thing to do when I'm avoiding getting in arguments over Thanksgiving :D

 

That will also give us plenty of time (up to 2 weeks) to see who is interested, and if they want to get a copy from another method than Kindle, they'll have time to do so.

 

I've already put in the ILL request for the book. I'm thinking that as facilitator, I may want to try and stay a little ahead of people, so I can figure out where things may be going, and what issues may be worth remembering or foreshadowing.

 

I'm really excited about this.

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I ordered a used copy of the book. Wright does seem like a conservative/ evangelical author, but very scholarly and well-respected by Borg, Crossan etc. I admired the one work I’ve read by him, The Meaning of Jesus.

I can read Wright and still vote Left, right? J

 

btw – the 3 books I mentioned before (The Shack etc) were already discussed--thought you were looking for past examples. If I were to suggest a book that a lot of PC people could probably relate to, it would be Robin Meyers’ Saving Jesus from the church.

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