June would normally be a time I’d be in class. But with the twins coming anytime it didn’t make much sense to sign-up for a class I might not be able to finish. What summer does provide me is the opportunity to read books that aren’t assigned for any class: books that I get to choose and read at my own leisure. Any seminary student will tell you that is a good feeling. So what I am reading this summer? Right now I’m working through two books:
The Social Gospel Today is a collection of essays edited by Christopher H. Evans, associate professor of church history and United Methodist studies at Colgate Rochester Divinity School / Crozer Theological Seminary. During the turn of the last century the Social Gospel was a theological movement – mostly thought of in urban centers – where the emphasis on salvation moved from the individual to the communal (or corporate). Proponents like Walter Rauschenbusch argued that the Gospels called for a social justice movement and not just individual faith. This book expands on those ideas by exploring who was left out of the Social Gospel movement (women, blacks) and how the Social Gospel can be applied to contemporary issues. Right now I’m about a third of the way through this book and enjoying it.
From Dawn to Decadence: 1500 To The Present is 802-page book by Jacques Barzun that looks at the last 500 years of western cultural life. This book was a National Book Award finalist and made The New York Times Bestseller list. During the fall I’ll be taking the second half of church history and I thought this book might be a good introduction. My step-father, Dr. John Thomas, a professor at Linfield College, recommended this book.
I’ve already finished two related books: Williams Sloane Coffin, Jr.: A Holy Impatience by Warren Goldstein and Coffin’s own The Heart Is A little To The Left: Essays On Public Morality. Goldstein gives you the good, bad, and the ugly of Coffin’s complicated life. He writes from the perspective of an obvious Coffin admirer, but Goldstein isn’t afraid to offer criticism when necessary. Both these books are worth reading.
On the right-hand column on this site (near the bottom) are links to some of the other books I hope to get through this summer (time permitting). For pure fun I'm really looking forward to getting Bill Clinton's book next week. What I really ought to spend more time going through today is this.