Recommended Reading

Some cousins recently gave us a copy of Andrew Peterson’s On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness. Andrew Peterson is a songwriter, author, and father of three living here in Nashville. Our cousins gave us a copy of one of his CDs, as well. Although I usually can’t stomach contemporary Christian music, we’ve enjoyed listening to the album together. That said, what I really want to talk about in this post is the book.

This is a story about a small family with old secrets living in big a world that is both beautiful and terrifying. My wife and I had a hard time figuring out the appropriate age range for this novel, but we decided that the age of the main characters, early adolescence, is about right. It has much of what you’d expect in a fantasy novel — wonders, monsters, thrills, and adventure — but it doesn’t rely too heavily on these elements. There are at least a few gratifying nods to Wendell Berry, (!) and although his book certainly proceeds from the spirit of Lewis and Tolkein, Peterson is his own author. He is at times hilariously goofy (whatever you do, don’t skip the footnotes), and others powerfully poignant. He knows the aching of the human heart for Eden, for home, and this heartache gently nudges the reader throughout the story.

My wife and I are scrambling to get a hold of the next few books in this five-part series, and not just to find out how it ends. This is definitely one we will read to our children.

Joseph Ratzinger: The Salt of the Earth

Amazon link

The Salt of the Earth is a set of interviews with Ratzinger back in the late 90’s when he was still a cardinal.  The interviewer is Peter Seewald, a German journalist.  In it, we hear from the man who is now the pope about a ton of issues both inside and outside the Catholic church.  Ratzinger provides an insightful view of the state of the world today, and even predicts some of the financial and social calamaties that have come to fruition in the Western world.  He seems to contradict at every page the view given of him by the secular news, that he is a hard-core heavy-handed blind traditionalist.  Rather, he comes through as an intelligent, reasonable, and balanced man with a very clear understanding of the global situation and a very humble view of the pope’s role.  Particularly encouraging is his refusal to accept power-oriented characterizations of people and positions in the church and the world.  (Regarding papal infallibility, he says that the pope can only be considered infallible when he is acting in his official role as representative of the consensus of all the bishops of the Church, and it is for this reason only that his stamp of approval in these situations may be called “infallible”.)

A good read for anyone interested in where the new pope may be taking the Catholic church, or who may think that the pope is the anti-Christ.  This should not be taken as an endorsement by me of the Catholic church or certain of its doctrines, but simply to say that it can be helpful to actually listen to someone before we cast judgement on what we heard they believe and do.

Josef Pieper: Abuse of Language, Abuse of Power

Publisher link

We finished this one last week.  Pieper gives an excellent discussion of the critical importance of language in our world, using Plato’s dialogues with the Sophists.  He says that communicated words imply two things: 1) Some connection to reality, and 2) A relationship between two people.  If your words are not grounded in truth, then you are abusing your relationship in order to manipulate.  We discussed implications of this in advertising, politics, and especially the church.

The second essay is called “Knowledge and Freedom”, and as I took it, discusses the value of knowledge and how manipulation of science (in the broadest sense of the word) leads to a destruction of freedom.  To put it another way, the knowledge you gain by doing science is not valuable because it is useful, but rather because it is true.  Furthermore, people must be free to seek knowledge regardless of its “benefits”.  This has implications from the global warming “debate” to the whole funding circus we researchers are constantly going through.

Two excellent essays.  Both quick reads, and in my opinion, should be required reading for anyone who is or is about to be associated with an institution of “higher learning”.