Archive for reading old books

Books I need to finish before Christmas

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on November 6, 2009 by The Cult of King Alfred

Peter the Great by Robert Massie.  Manages to combine fair enough scholarship with a popular audience.  Massie can do something few (any?) scholars have ever done:  write in such a way that the common man can read you.   The book gives a decent overview of the change between Tsarism and Western Imperialism.  Also documents that Peter was inducted into the Masonic lodge.

Light from the East by Alexie Nesteruk.   about 30 pages into it.  Good so far.  Deals with science and faith from an Orthodox viewpoint.  He avoids simplistic reductions.  He doesn’t grab his ankles every time a Christ-hating scientist or secularist is offended by the faith, but he also avoids the perils of fundamentalist interpretation as well.

The Cosmic War by Joseph Farrell.  I know he gets slammed a lot, but most of the people who do the slamming aren’t really physics scholars (neither am I).  And his thesis about the pyramids is independent from the rest of hi work, so criticizing the Giza Death Star in no way invalidates other things he says (it’s amazing how people forget that).  Anyway, I am ultimately more interested in his work on alchemy and banking.

The Cosmic Liturgy by Hans urs von Balthasar.  While probably one of the best works on St Maximus, in many ways this is a terribly-argued book.  Balthasar is dealing from the bottom of the deck.  Much of the book is engaged in blatant special-pleading to show that St Maximus secretly rejected Byzantium and became a Roman Catholic.  While this book helped me on a number of issues dealing with the cosmos and transcendence, and summarizing St Gregory of Nyssa and Origen, it is a big let-down.

The Lamb of God by Sergei Bulgakov.  Aside from a few troubling remarks, this book has a number of good insights and in many ways is a vast improvement over von Balthasar. In fact, I will use Bulgakov’s work to blister parts of HuvB’s thesis.

Civilization of the Middle Ages by Norman Cantor.  Pretty good summary of Western Europe.

The Idiot by Dostoevksy.  Harder to read than Brothers Karamazov.  I should have finished it by now.  Lots of good parallels to the redemption of Russia.

War and Peace by Tolstoy.  Really is a good book.  Still, when you are five hundred pages into it and Tolstoy is still setting up the story, well…you get it.

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Some positives about Radical Orthodoxy

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on October 9, 2009 by The Cult of King Alfred

I don’t want to be entirely critical of RO.  They helped me out on a number of issues.

  • Re-introduce the Patristics and Medievals.  While I am not as excited about St Thomas Aquinas as I used to be, I still enjoy reading him and reading Milbank’s reading of Aquinas.  Lot’s of good stuff on materiality and the Eucharist.
  • They highlighted my blind commitment to modernity, despite my hatred for modernity.  Here is a test-case to see how “modern” you really are.  Go pick up St Cyril of Jerusalem’s Catechetical Lectures on the Sacraments.  Does his reasoning and symbology bother you?  It should.  If it does, you are still a modern.  Of, if you are slightly wealthier (actually, if you are rolling in money), pick up Henri Cardinal de Lubac’s 4 volume Medieval Exegesis.  Frustrating reading, isn’t?  Why?  I admit, as much of a medievalist as I am, it still bothers me to read the four-fold exegesis.  This is good.

    The frustration one feels in reading the pre-moderns reveals growth.  We are slowly weaning away ourselves away from modernist hermeneutical commitments (and thus abandoning sola scholaria).  If you really want to pull out your hair, read the Venerable Bede.  Perhaps this is why the ancients said reading the Fathers was podvig.