Readings at Summit Oxford • Spring Term 2016

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on LinkedInEmail this to someone

It undoubtedly is a truism that one can be wearied by the reading of many books. Perhaps even more so, the reading of many online articles, a bulk of blogs, frenzied Facebook statuses, hasty hashtags, and awful opinions. Even so, some publications actually can be enlightening, perhaps challenging. Some most certainly are fuel for our conversations at Summit Oxford. And sometimes our conversation get to be a bit energetic. I call these CHAT times: Christians Happily Arguing Theology (hopefully with an emphasis upon happily).

Readings at Summit Oxford • Hilary Term 2016

Our reading list changes a bit from term to term. New books are published, older ones seem less pressing or helpful, and there is ever a steady stream of articles and chapters on subjects that beg to be included. We do read a lot, mind you, approaching 2500 pages.

For the upcoming coming Autumn Term (September – December), along with a selection of articles, essays, and other items, we are reading and discussing the ten volumes listed below. I have listed them roughly in the order we will read them. Well, actually, several of them will be divvied up over the course of several days, with a chapter or section each day. Often I have our students read the books in their entirety and prepare reports/summaries for select chapters or sections. I’ve provided links to Amazon, if you care to purchase any of them.

December2015

Just below is our invitational video, if you care to watch a quick overview of just what is Summit Oxford. As I sum up in the video: “What is true deserves to be known and to be believed. What is good deserves to be embodied. What is beautiful deserves to be enjoyed, to be loved. And what is just deserves to be defended.” My hope is that our students will come to share in God’s affections and aversions. That, I believe, is what it means to have a Christian worldview.

The Qur’an (500 pp) • paperback • Kindle

This is one version of the Qur’an that our students have appreciated (though we also insist that they explore one by Abdullah Yusuf Ali that effectively is a study edition, complete with explanatory footnotes). An alternative version of the Qur’an is one annotated by A.J. Droge, complete with a myriad of footnotes and cross references and scholarly interactions. Along with the Qur’an, students are assigned four hours of reading in the Hadith (brief narratives that present Muhammad’s judgments, opinions, and actions). One purpose here is to learn how to understand other worldviews through primary sources.

We ask our students to complete a reading of the Qur’an prior to arriving in Oxford. It is the most challenging reading of the term. We do not ask that they study it, per se, only that they have a developing familiarly with it and use it in when they write their exploratory essays on Islam. We also meet with an Imam in Oxford each term. We offer our inquiries and listen carefully to what he has to say.

What Is Biblical Theology? A Guide to the Bible’s Story, Symbolism, and Patterns, James Hamilton (120 pp) • paperback • Kindle

As we spend significant time in the Bible — doing close readings of texts, observing the flow of arguments, pointing up how the Old and New Testaments relate — this volume introduces a host of valuable observations and insights. Written at an introductory level, it may seem rather basic to some readers. It is an accessible introduction and overview (and, perhaps, a refresher), providing a springboard to a number of explorations we venture into throughout the term. 

This is an accessible introduction and overview (and, perhaps, a refresher), providing a springboard to a number of explorations we venture into throughout the term.

Our biblical studies for the term take us through the opening chapters of Genesis (and discussions of Ancient Near Eastern material), the Abrahamic gospel, and the life of Joseph. The Ten Commandments come up for a study, and that combined with some reference to the Sermon on the Mount. We also spend significant time in the Psalms, both for devotional purposes and for a study of typology. The latter takes us into the prophets and through to the New Testament. We often enjoy a quick, thematic survey of Matthew’s gospel, a reading of Ephesians, and some selections from Acts. We look in detail at the opening chapters of Romans, as well as the Old Testament passages and traditions from which Paul draws. More generally spend a great deal of time looking at the relationship between Old Testament law and New Testament ethics, with a spattering of passages drawing our attention. (More could be done, of course, but this is a single course with limited time.)

The Question of Canon, Michael J. Kruger (200 pp) • paperback • Kindle

This volume is more scholarly in tone than most of the others. There are a lot of footnotes, and some seemingly obscure engagements with other scholars. Even so, it is not inaccessible at all. I think it is effective, even exemplary, as a volume combining clear Christian convictions, scholarly rigor, rhetorical precision, and polemical restraint.

I think it is effective, even exemplary, as a volume combining clear Christian convictions, scholarly rigor, rhetorical precision, and polemical restraint.

In previous years we read articles and blog posts by Michael Kruger, all of which had been wonderful (and I do recommend that you read his blog). I had thought of using his book, Canon Revisited: Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament Books – which is an excellent volume – but at over 350 pages, it simply was too much for this topic in our course. At 200 pages, The Question of Canon is a perfect catalyst for great discussions.

When we have managed to schedule a Skype call with Kruger, we have been thoroughly impressed by his knowledge, his ability to communicate with clarity, and his keen insights in how to negotiate through the nonsense so prevalent on this subject today. You can and should keep up with Kruger at his blog, Canon Fodder.

Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions, Gregory Koukl (200 pp) • paperback • Kindle • Audible version*

We have used this book every term since the beginning of Summit Oxford in the autumn of 2008. It is a wonderfully wise and practical volume that guides readers through the whys and hows of communicating Christian convictions well. It is always enlightening and encouraging when we Skype with Greg. And it is an honor to have Greg as a member of the Summit Oxford International Advisory Board.

It is a wonderfully wise and practical volume that guides readers through the whys and hows of communicating Christian convictions well.

*I have noted above a link to the Audible audio edition. While I have read through Greg’s book several times (and even am given a nod of credit in an endnote), I try to listen to the book periodically (at 1.5x speed) for a refresher. I have come to appreciate audio versions of books for this sort of occasion. 

Faith, Reason, and the War against Jihadism, George Weigel (200 pp) • paperback • Kindle

Weigel offers a concise and helpful overview of the origins of modern Jihadism, of how the West has enabled it, and what it will take effectively to counter it.
As with Tactics, this also is a standard volume in our program. Weigel offers a concise and helpful overview of the origins of modern Jihadism, of how the West has enabled it, and what it will take effectively to counter it. It sparks discussions about Islam, about the Crusades, about cultures and international relations, about energy and technology, and about the relationships between Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters, N.T. Wright (285 pp) • paperback, Kindle

Given that we devote a significant amount of time to exploring the relationship between Old Testament law and New Testament ethics, the material in this volume will challenge, enlighten, and encourage all of us toward faith and good deeds.
We have used Wright’s volume for a while now. Given that we devote a significant amount of time to exploring the relationship between Old Testament law and New Testament ethics, the material in this volume will challenge, enlighten, and encourage all of us toward faith and good deeds. In fact, we have found that some of Wright’s illustrations and ways of navigating through thorny paths have been fabulously helpful. (The U.K. title for this book is Virtue Reborn, frustratingly complete with a different pagination as well.) Increasingly our students have noted their appreciation for this volume.

Money, Greed, and God: Why Capitalism Is the Solution and Not the Problem, Jay W. Richards (250 pp) • paperback • Kindle

Hardly a term goes by when one or two students do not have their views on economics thoroughly transformed by Richard’s volume on capitalism.
Along with volumes by Koukl and Weigel, this too is a standard volume for us, one we have used since 2008 (at first in its manuscript form). It is an incisive volume that dispels a number of myths and misconceptions about money and greed and capital and poverty and more. Hardly a term goes by when one or two students do not have their views on economics thoroughly transformed by this volume. We enjoy our Skype conversations with Jay and are honored that he is a member of our International Advisory Board.

The Quest for Cosmic Justice, Thomas Sowell (190 pp) • paperbackKindle

Sowell’s volume very ably helps us navigate our way through various conceptions of justice, showing that all justice is social.
Justice is a central theme in our worldviews course (which is sort of unlike any other worldviews course I know of). Why? Because it is a prominent theme in the Bible. And having a biblical worldview is, to my mind, coming to share God’s affections and aversions. This volume very ably helps us navigate our way through various conceptions of justice, noting that all justice is social (and thus there is no need to qualify justice with the term social). The volume has become a regular feature in syllabus. (If I’m honest, I wish Sowell were a member of our International Advisory Board.) Every term, a large number of our students note how much they appreciate the clarity offered by Sowell. I could not agree more.

Same-Sex Marriage: A Thoughtful Approach to God’s Design for Marriage, Sean McDowell and John Stonestreet (160 pp) • paperbackKindle

This is the third term we’ll have used this volume. Given the current cultural contortions, the animating anti-Christian animus, the rampant rise of rhetorical ripostes, the allure of legislative license, the injustice of jaundiced judicial judgments, the common Christian compromises, the church’s lurches and besmirches, and the simply seductive siren of silence, I feel a volume that addresses these issues is called for. So, it is McDowell and Stonestreet this term. We are honored that John is a member of our International Advisory Board.

In previous terms we have used What Is Marriage?: Man and Woman: A Defense, Sherif Girgis, Ryan T. Anderson, Robert George (150 pp • paperback • Kindle). To my knowledge, there is no better book in terms of legal tradition and public policy. So important is this book that Justice Alito referenced it in his dissent to the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The authors have appeared on numerous news and talk shows, in debates, behind lecterns on campuses, and more. The information and argumentation in this volume are enlightening and exemplary.

We sometimes have our students read the U.S. Supreme Court’s DOMA decision and dissents. These are challenging, given that most people have never even seen a SCOTUS decision. However, making one’s way through a decision can be empowering and enlightening, dispelling some of the mysteries of the court. It most certainly shows that the nine lawyers are mere humans, complete with strengths and weaknesses, ideological convictions and personal interests.

Openness Unhindered: Further Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert on Sexual Identity and Union with Christ, Rosaria Champagne Butterfield (190 pp) • paperback

Given the pressing nature of the issues surrounding sexuality and sexual identity, I feel there is a need to expand our studies a bit beyond the issues swirling around marriage and into issues of orientation, identity, representation, repentance, and hospitality. I don’t believe there is a better resource for this than Rosaria Butterfield’s new book on the subject.

I feel there is a need to expand our studies beyond the issues swirling around marriage and into issues of orientation, identity, representation, repentance, and hospitality.

If I could, I’d probably add also Butterfield’s earlier book: Secret Thoughts of An Unlikely Convert: An English Professor’s Journey into Christian Faith. But that’d be too much for a course such as ours. And if I were to chase these topics out further, I’d include the following titles: Understanding Gender Dysphoria: Navigating Transgender Issues in a Changing Culture, Mark Yarhouse; Out of a Far Country: A Gay Son’s Journey to God. A Broken Mother’s Search for Hope, Christopher Yuan and Angela Yuan, and several others, perhaps including Preston Sprinkle’s upcoming volume, A People to Be Loved: Why Homosexuality Is Not Just An Issue. (Do note that listing volumes here does not equate with endorsement.)

Idols for Destruction: The Conflict of Christian Faith and American Culture, Herbert Schlossberg (335 pp) • paperback

We have used this volume as a text in previous terms. Given the current lurching of American culture, I think it is time to reintroduce the volume into our readings for the autumn term at the Summit Oxford Study Centre . Schlossberg covers Idols of History . . . Humanity . . . Mammon . . . Nature . . . Power . . . Religion. Along the way we encounter . . . the myth of inevitable progress . . . God’s actions in history . . . subjectivism, misuse of guilt, antinomianism . . . the degradation of humanity . . . inflation, redistribution, the politics of pressure groups . . . science as religion, nature as lord, the cult of narcissism . . . the state as idol, rule of the elite, the family under attack . . . anti-clericalism as a biblical theme, churches of the messianic state, civil religion, democratic idolatry . . . paganism revisited, ethics in a post-Christian society, the drive for power . . . idolatry and injustice, defying powers, toward the triumph of justice, persecution. It closes with “Embarking on the Great Adventure.” The book was published in 1983, and then again in 1990, so some facts and figures will be dated, and some names will be obscure. But I am confident that the thrust of the content will be sure and true.

• • •

So, these are the texts for the upcoming spring term. The total number of pages for these main texts is 2630. However, I have a strong aversion to exceeding 2500 in a term, so I’m going to give our students the opportunity to select between two pairs of books in the above list. They may read either Money, Greed, and God: Why Capitalism Is the Solution and Not the Problem or The Quest for Cosmic Justice, and they may read either Same-Sex Marriage: A Thoughtful Approach to God’s Design for Marriage or Openness Unhindered: Further Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert on Sexual Identity and Union with Christ. This is a tough choice to make as each of these books has been selected with great care, and each book is ever so worthy. But it is only a single course, after all.

As I mentioned above, we also read a few select chapters, several essays, a selection of articles, as well as a few biblical books and a host of chapters and specific passages. These can add up to as much as 200 additional pages. However, students must complete 90% of the readings on time for top marks. (That’ll be 90% of the approximately 2500 pages, which equals 2250 pages for top marks.)

All of our readings are designed for exploratory conversations, for long discussions about important questions and convictions. But it is not all talk, mind you. Just as faith without words would be dead, so are good words in the absence of good deeds. Thus the biblical worldview is not properly found resident merely in our intellects but in our imaginations and emotions and actions and habits. To my mind, having a biblical Christian worldview is coming to share God’s affections and aversions, not merely in having the right answers to hard questions.

Happy reading! 

2014_800x600-OxfordEmailPromo

 

1 thought on “Readings at Summit Oxford • Spring Term 2016

Comments are closed.