Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Guest Column!

Diogenes Allen whom I've mentioned before handed out the following list this morning and was kind enough to let me post it. The commentary is his as well.
Ten Books that I (Dr. Allen) Recommend Highly:

1. A.J. Cronin, The Keys of the Kingdom. A prolific writer on the theme of integrity in one's profession, such as journalism and medicine. This one is on priesthood and is his best. Made into a poor film with Gregory Peck.
2. Georges Bernanos, Diary of a Country Priest. More profound than Chronin. The story of a young, socially clumsy priest in a rural area in which the inhabitants are profoundly bored. It is a tale of courage, integrity, and God's grace reaching the most unlikely place. Also a film.
3. G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy. A very funny, but superb account of why the author is a believer. I think it best of its kind in the 20th century, including C.S. Lewis on the same theme. It was written in 1909 and has never gone out of print
4. Arthur Koestler, The Sleepwalkers A communist defector who made his name with an account of the disillusionment of idealists in his novel, Darkness at Noon, Koestler was interested in the significance of science for human values and religion all his life. The Sleepwalkers is an excellent history of science and its impact that is nearly as readable as a novel. The alleged incompatibility of science and religion is thoroughly unmasked as largely the creation of politically motivated intellectuals, not scientists.
5. Dorothy Sayers, The Mind of the Maker. a great non-technical introduction to theology with considerable freshness by a mystery story writer who is one of the finest stylists of all times.
6 and 7. Kierkegaard, Training in Christianity and Works of Love. Of Kierkegaard's works among the most accessible to a non-specialist, and gives us the core of the Christian faith: the former is on the Incarnation, and the latter is on love of neighbor. Incredibly rich, even though harder work than all the forgoing books mentioned.
8. Michael Foster, Mystery and Philosophy Hard going, except for those who have studied a bit of philosophy in college. It is very short (less than a hundred pages) and was a series of public lectures. It is a great statement on the nature of revelation - of how we can know God - who is beyond the power of the human mind to comprehend. An old teaching considered in the light of a major atheistic philosophic movement that dominated the middle fifty years of the last century.
9. Raymond Brown, An Introduction to New Testament Christology. Brown claims that the majority of New Testament scholars on the Gospels agree that there is an essential continuity between what Jesus did, said, and taught about himself and the Church's teaching.
10. Dante's Divine Comedy Use the Dorothy Sayer's translation (yes, her again) in paperback. Her translation is lively, and her much needed notes are beautifully written. You can learn an awful lot about the nature of sins, their harmful effects, and the glorious life that becomes available as we become relieved of the burden of evil.

Allow me to add links to his own books as well. The one on Postmodernity is my favorite, followed by his most popular text Philosophy for Understanding Theology. Dr. Allen would claim that the reason why theology is so often impoverished today is because theologians have not had the training to learn philosophy. Because theology is the meeting point of Scripture and philosophy, if you don't know the latter your theology will be inevitably limited, or (as is usually the case) politicized towards the left or the right. On the other hand, Sprititual Theology is an attempt to combat the overly-academic nature of theology which must be linked to the spiritual life if it is to flourish.