When Introverts Speak

Book Review:  ‘Quiet’ by Susan Cain

A few years ago I was in a bookshop and stumbled upon this book as I was browsing.  I picked it up and was hooked immediately.  I think I read the first chapter before paying for it.  What follows is my review that I’ve recently rediscovered, and I offer it here.

The sub-title of the book reads: ‘The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking’.  And although this book is secular, the author not only accesses her biblically Jewish roots, but what she says is as relevant to Christian ministry as it is to industry chiefs and educators.  

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Cain refers to the introvert/extrovert divide as the most “fundamental dimension of personality”, arguing further that in a world of extroverted pomp, introverts make up over a third of the human race!  It is not the pomp of extrovertedness that she critiques per se, but rather the inevitable downside view that the sensitive and serious are seen as undesirable, in both the popular mind of culture and business.

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A Season with Donald Capps

This autumn I am wading into the intriguing work of the late Professor Donald Capps, starting with the following three works, reviews to follow in due course:

Pastoral Care and Hermeneutics
download (2)The basic idea of this book derives from Paul Ricoeur’s view that since texts and meaningful human actions are sufficiently similar, methods and theories developed for interpreting texts may also be used for interpreting human actions. Donald Capps applies this view to the broad range of pastoral actions and, in the process, formulates a unique and helpful hermeneutical model of pastoral care. Capps maintains that such a model can be extremely useful for understanding what a particular pastoral action means to those involved in it, and for evaluating its effects on these persons.

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Visit Coventry because I was born there!

Every human being is born with such a narrow view of the world and we all have to learn to broaden our horizon.  This is equally true for people when they become Christians.  A Christian is a person-becoming-an-adult, a “child of God” with ‘L-Plates’ front and back.  We are serially myopic in our vision of the world and we need help.

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On ‘Doubt, Faith & Certainty’ by Prof. Anthony Thiselton

This is a short introduction by Professor Anthony Thiselton to his book ‘Doubt, Faith & Certainty’ taken from EerdWord, the official blog of Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

The exquisite word ‘bumptiousness‘ makes a rare but welcome appearance!

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Interpreting Sleeping Beauty

Telling our cultural stories is one thing; interpreting them is quite another.  In the highly acclaimed ‘12 Rules for Life’ by Jordan Peterson, in the chapter (or ‘Rule 5’) entitled ‘Do Not Let Your Children Do Anything That Makes You Dislike Them’ (ahem – note to self), Peterson offers a compelling hermeneutic for the classic Fairy Tale

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Commending ‘The Ghost of Perfection – The Search for Humanity’

ghost2My friend Joe Haward published his first book last year called ‘The Ghost of Perfection – Searching for Humanity’.  His chapters tackle many issues that are prominent in our Western societies, though certainly not limited to them.  The topics covered are, Mission, Triumphalism, Relationships, Violence, Consumerism, Beauty, Prayer, Trauma and Sex, with a Conclusion entitled Waking Up!  It’s certainly not likely you will fall asleep reading this book!

I particularly enjoyed how he drew on the Catholic tradition in his chapter Beauty, not only referencing the Roman Catholic Pope a couple of times, but having the present day Eastern Orthodox hero and genius David Bentley Hart critique ye olde Catholic hero and genius that is Thomas Aquinas (1224-74) – I suppose that’s a theo-nerdy thing to get excited about, but that’s the kinda thing that puts rum in my ovaltine.

So below is my Amazon review. But don’t get it from them lot, get it from your local Christian bookshop, even though they’ll probably have to order it in.  For some reason, most theology books worth buying don’t seem to be on the shelf!  It won’t cost you too much of your pocket money, thus it is still worth quoting the Reformer Erasmus, a value both Joe and myself hold to, “When I have a little money, I buy books; and if I have any left, I buy food and clothes.”

Buy The Ghost of Perfection.

“In these times of uncertainty, polarisation and violence, the need to discover what it means to be human has never been more pressing. In The Ghost of Perfection, Joseph Haward tackles those issues that affect us all, from the fragility of relationships in an increasingly digital world and the pervasiveness of consumerism to the violence that has become the normative language of our society. He reveals how these are linked and how self-preservation has become synonymous with security on so many levels.

The chapter on mission makes for often uncomfortable reading – the obsession with numbers and how, all too easily, church programmes become goal-oriented and objectify people by turning them into ‘targets’. The following chapter is just as challenging in revealing the prevalence of triumphalistic ideology and how, by denying the reality of suffering, it can destroy faith and dehumanise us.

I like the way Joseph Haward draws on a diverse range of sources, including the early Church Fathers, Bonhoeffer, Brueggemann and Wink, as well as drawing examples from popular culture, from Black Swan to Hannibal. His writing style is engaging and accessible, and his explanation of Girard’s scapegoat theory, not the easiest concept to grasp, is nothing short of masterful.

He doesn’t shy away from asking difficult questions, and neither does he give us easy answers. What he does do is invite us to hear afresh the call of the God of history who, unthinkably and outrageously, became one of us – not to be a self-help guru or a ticket to a better place, but to show us how to become truly human, for only in so doing can we ever hope to transform our broken and divided communities.”

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Pt 6: Response to C.S. Lewis’s “The Problem of Pain”

Guest post by theologian Dr Rob Knowles on The Problem of Pain by C. S. Lewis:

Part 6:  Response to Chapter 10. Heaven.

Turning now to Lewis’s final chapter, on heaven, then I agree with his point that the issue of the existence of heaven precedes any discussion of whether or not belief in heaven’s existence is escapist. If heaven exists, belief in it isn’t escapism, but realism. Since it is far more rational to assert that only God could create a heaven on earth than it is to assert that mere humanity could create a heaven on earth, then it is modernism’s utopian odyssey that is escapist, not Christianity’s eschatological pilgrimage. Moreover, since our heaven will indeed be a new heavenly Edenic earth, then the motivation to bring about reform isn’t lost to escapism either. We don’t get pie in the sky when we die, so much as a reformed earth. Reformation now becomes all the more assured now that we know that our reforming labours are not in vain.

Lewis is also quite right to argue that if heaven is good, then desiring it isn’t mercenary. Mercenaries serve themselves, but heaven is fundamentally about serving others. So, how can it be selfish to desire not to be selfish? As Lewis rightly argues, only the pure in heart want to see God, and so it is safe to assure them that they will.

I believe that Lewis is also quite right to argue that the desire for heaven is universal. And yet this true point, of course, contradicts Lewis’s other arguments that say that the damned don’t want heaven. Here, again, Lewis projects the demonic onto the human in order to make hell seem more palatable.

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