Experience of God

The Experience of God (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013)

David Bentley Hart is, by my rough estimate, about three times smarter than I am. The difficulty is that he writes as though he is five times smarter, and I find this off-putting.

Seriously, I rate this book at three stars taking an average of extremes. There are stretches where he is dispatching the bombast of the new atheism in a magnificent way, or puncturing the pretensions of the devotees of artificial intelligence, and so five stars it is. There are other stretches where he is bumping along the one-star bottom, and so that to be thrown into the mix.

The chief difficulty is that what Hart describes as classical theism is a mash-up of Sufi mysticism, Muslim philosophy, Hindu wisdom, Platonism, and Gregory of Nyssa. An entire book about experiencing God, by a Christian, and I am not sure that Jesus was even mentioned once. In these sections, he is describing the god who is the mascot of the smart guys club, and not the God who through Christ toppled the wisdom of the world, which, through all its wisdom, did not know God (1 Cor. 1:21).

Further, Hart makes this mistake while patronizingly dismissing people who could never ever belong to the smart guys club, such as advocates of Intelligent Design. So a Trinitarian creationist can get patted on the head and sent off as a worshiper of an idol while Hart smoothly quotes that great sage Rami Dumbunni. In this, the book is simply fatuous.

Broadus

A Treatise on the Preparation and Delivery of Sermons (San Francisco: HarperOne, 1979)

Very fine book. I didn’t read this edition, but rather a very old version published in 1882. I am assuming the one I read was unabridged. A standard work that preachers ought to be familiar with. You need to make adjustments for time and place, but there is a lot of horse sense here.
Preach Imagination

Preaching & Teaching With Imagination (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994)

This was a good book, with a lot of good points, but I would criticize it the way Ambrose Bierce reviewed a book one time, by saying that its covers were too far apart. The book felt padded at times, and had it been leaner I think it would have been far more effective. That said, the content here about learning to cultivate imagination for pulpit ministry is very important. Too many ministers do very careful exegesis during the week in their study, and Sunday morning ascend the pulpit to give the coroner’s report.

Hard Green

Hard Green (New York: Basic Books, 1000)

Peter Huber demonstrates that the green movement is mostly brown. The greatest threat to the environment would be your standard issue environmentalist, what Huber calls soft greens. People who care about the environment, but who want to depend on markets instead of coercion he calls hard greens. This is a great book. There are some evolutionary asides that are a distraction, so ignore those.

Lila

Lila (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014)

Wonderful description, and held my interest all the way through. But while all the back story on Lila was really interesting, the narrative got a bit lost in the brambly hedges of the Mid-West countryside, along with the theology. The better the description of a hardscrabble life — which in this book is exquisite — the more any culmination of universalism has to come off like the ultimate ta-da! deus ex machina, special pleading, just-so ending. Everybody is rotten, and then we die, and everything is bliss. Imagine our surprise.

God Poet

God the Poet (Wooster, OH: Weaver Book, 2014)

I enjoyed portions of this book, and learned from it, but I think I was let down because it didn’t really live up to the title. The title is stupendous, and promises the moon, which rhymes with June. Nevertheless, the book did what I like books like this to do, which is to get me kind of churned up.