One of the great things I love about being a professor is that I get to read for a living. That is, I get to continue learning, growing, and developing. In 2014, I had the privilege to read some new books and some old ones and here is a brief summary of the best of my reading.
Among the old books (older or less new) most of my reading was centered around early Christian and medieval monasticism and the intersection of Christian mission—research that I am doing for a forthcoming manuscript on missionary monks (publisher to be named later). On this quest, I particularly enjoyed William Harmless’ Desert Christians, which is a rich and thorough introduction to the context and backgrounds, historical development, and texts of early monasticism. I also appreciated Marilynn Dunn’s The Emergence of Monasticism (2003), a standard scholarly introduction to the phenomenon of ascetic movements within the church. Focusing on more specific missionary monks, Clare Stancliffe’s St. Martin of Tours and His Hagiographer (1983) successfully separated legend from history by examining Sulpicius Severus’ sacred biography of Martin. Two books from my doctoral mentor Thomas O’Loughlin--St. Patrick: The Man and His Works (1999) and Discovering St. Patrick (2005)—also gave rich insight into early Ireland and Patrick’s writings toward a more accurate read of who Patrick was and what he accomplished as a missionary-bishop.
Among the new reads, my reading was divided between (surprise, surprise) mission, theology, and history. In mission books, I greatly appreciated Scott Sunquist’s Understanding Christian Mission (see review HERE) as it was framed by the motifs of suffering and glory and was also enriched by the author’s great abilities as a historian of mission. In theology, I recently read Scot McKnight’s Kingdom Conspiracy (review HERE) that attempts to reshape our understanding of the kingdom of God as well as renew our love for the church. Also in theology, Kelly Kapic’s A Little Book for New Theologians (review HERE) was refreshing as he wrote a wonderful treatise on the heart behind and the how of theology. In history, I enjoyed John Fea’s winsome work Why Study History? (review HERE) which challenges the reader to gain a renewed love for this area of study in the humanities that has practical, life-long value. Finally, in history and theology, I was privileged to digest Stephen Hildebrand’s Basil of Caesarea (review forthcoming) which rightly discusses Basil’s theology in the context of his life as a monk-bishop if fourth century Asia Minor.
I am grateful to these authors for their scholarship and in some cases the publishers who provided the book at no cost. Here’s to reading, learning, growing and worshipping God with heart and mind in 2015.