Saturday, December 24, 2011

the postmodern and the parable

The greatest and hardest achievement in writing a 64,000-word thesis is that I managed to do it without using a single superlative (although, it must be said, the thesis is not an alliteration-free zone). In breaking free from such restraint I thought I might nominate the two best books I encountered in my study.


Peter Leithart's Solomon Among the Postmoderns works away at the interface of postmodernism and the book of Ecclesiastes. At times it is just electric. The guy can write, oh yes he can. He knows his postmodern theory and he is besotted with Ecclesiastes. He is at his best describing the characteristic vocabulary of Ecclesiastes, hebel (vanity, meaningless) - 'vapour'. Modernity aspires 'to control the vapour, to sculpt the mist' (33) ... and 'postmodernity is vapour's revenge' (39). WARNING: you do need to be able to cope with some of the heavier postmodern theory and if this makes you cautious, start with pages 55-58. The highest recommendation I can give is that I would not dream of teaching about postmodernism, or preaching from Ecclesiastes, without this book open beside me.

Then a little book on the parables: Paul Simpson Duke's, The Parables. Just 111 pages and yet in his introduction ('Into the World of Parables', pages 1-15) and conclusion ('On Preaching Parables', pages 97-111), there is a most uncommon appreciation of the twist and turns in the history of parable interpretation. In between he expounds eight parables from the Gospels which provides some illustration and anchorage. Having absorbed so much of this literature myself over the past twenty years, and collecting a library of 70+ books on parables along the way - what Duke achieves is remarkable. In provoking a discussion on preaching from the genre of parable this will continue to be my required reading for more advanced students. As a preacher this book is not enough on its own  - and I am not sure how evangelical Duke is with his convictions about scripture (which is an issue with preaching the parables) - and so I would have a book like Klyne Snodgrass' tomic Stories With Intent open beside me as well (along with the best in commentaries!).

nice to be chatting again, after a five week hiatus.


Paul

2 comments:

Fred said...

Thanks for the reviews Paul… I certainly want to read Solomon Among the Postmoderns – and hey, there ya go, another Brazos imprint! Here’s something for your “from the sublime…” file. I’ve just read a delightful little book – only 98 pages – by the satirist Tom Wolfe. The Painted Word is a jaunt through the modern art movements of the last 100 years… showing how the “artists of bohemia” and their cultured patrons have, with increasing desperation, sought to rid image of everything literary (realistic). The journey in art from “seeing is believing” to “believing is seeing”. The irony of how Modern Art “has become completely literary: the paintings and other works existing only to illustrate the text… Art Theory pure and simple, words on a page, literature undefiled by vision…”. Not only an entertaining read, but when read though a theological lens, also hugely enlightening. Just the stuff for summer holidays!

Paul said...

Thanks, Fred - and for the card too. Off to India tomorrow after a five day holiday with the family last week. Ever since you first drew my attention to Brazos I have noted just how fresh and innovative so much of their stuff can be.

I hope 2012 is filled with good things for you both.