Saturday, November 29, 2008

A chinese Christian analyses the West

Technological optimism and literary pessimism' is the conclusion of Carver T Yu.

The guy's Amazon sales rank is 2 million and something, even below that of Gordon's Brown's latest book, so rally round.

Not that I read him, of course: he was quoted in Lesslie Newbiggin

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

I'm really sorry, but I liked 'the Shack'. Eventually.


Robotic dialogue
Minimal characterization
Really a work of theology, not fiction (though the same could be said for Pilgrim's Progress)
'Like the sort of Christian leaflet I get shoved through my letterbox', said one shocked and unimpressed member of our book club. (None of the self-professed non-Christians in our group liked it at all. They hated it. One looked at the Amazon reviews and couldn't believe them.)

Worst, a cloying schlockiness that keeps trying to suck you in and swallow you forever.

This book is as easy to criticise as George W Bush.

But then you get to this artful picture of God and redemption, and the way sets off all kinds of chords in your heart. You note its nice pace, its filmic quality. You feel its freshness. You find yourself thinking about what it said long after you put the book down. You love the way the sheer volume of its sales has forced it into Borders and onto the bestseller lists. And it deserved to, not by being a literary masterpiece but by that insight and power that makes people choose it above better-written books and spend time with it. And you conclude ... OK, I liked it too. Eventually and partially.

Patient revolutionaries

Newbiggin calls Christians 'patient revolutionaries'.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Darcy, Lizzie, two ways of knowing, and the meaning of life

This is complicated but worth it.

I've been reading that theological polymath Leslie Newbiggin who reads so widely himself that you get an instant, distilled education into all sorts of hard books that you aren't brainy enough to pick up yourself.

He talks about two ways of knowing: 'I-it' and 'I-thou'. I-it is about knowing things; I-thou is about knowing persons.

You learn I-it stuff by reading, research, analyzing.

You learn I-thou stuff by humbling yourself, listening, being vulnerable.

What a deep principle this is, running right through the world and the heavenlies.

So (for example) in Pride and Prejudice Mr Darcy is a master of I-it. Rich, educated, powerful. He knows everything. But none of it works with Lizzie. She's only interested in I-thou. And of course, so, deep down, is Darcy. She meets a deep need of his heart, a need that no amount of I-it can satisfy. And so the story is about how he has to humble himself, listen, be vulnerable, and get launched into the exotic, tender world of I-thou knowing.

Here (to take a second example) is where the materialist comes unstuck. I have not read all of Richard Dawkins but I have read enough to know that his whole approach is I-it. Brilliantly argued, wonderfully convincing, construe it how you like, it's still I-it. But the God of the Christians is I-thou. All I-it pathways will bypass him.

Look (to take a third example) at how it splits up the world's religions:

Mainstream Islam? It's the straight path, the rules: I-it
Sufism? That's I-thou, but it's a counter-trend in Islam.

Christianity: where it's I-thou it lives, even if it's very deficient. Where it's I-it, 'even what you have will be taken from you'