My year end favorites

December 29, 2011

I’m finally joining the rest of the blogging world and doing a year end list of favorite books, films, and such. Thus, [tongue in cheek] others can benefit from my impeccable tastes and standards!

Books:

The Assurance of Faith: Conscience in the Theology of Martin Luther and John Calvin by Randall Zachman (Fortress, 1993). A gracefully written and fascinating historical monograph. Can assurance truly have an objective ground? His conclusions are basically in line with Barth.

The Theology of Schleiermacher by Karl Barth (Eerdmans, 1982).

The Theology of the Reformed Confessions by Karl Barth (WJK, 2002). These lectures, and those on Schleiermacher, were delivered in Göttingen during his first major academic post, following his pastorate at Safenwil. These early lectures are immensely interesting for anyone with even a remote interest in Barth. They have shed a lot of light on my reading of the CD.

Reformed Theology by R. Michael Allen (T&T Clark, 2010). For those who want a higher level introduction to Reformed theology, respecting both the classical and modern strands, Allen will be my first recommendation. A much-needed book.

The City of God by Augustine (Modern Library, 1993). At times, I really wished that Augustine would just condense the material and move on. The choice morsels are spread throughout.

Seven Days that Divide the World by John C. Lennox (Zondervan, 2011). Lennox is Professor of Mathematics at Oxford and Fellow in Mathematics and the Philosophy of Science. This is one of the very few books that I have read with a satisfied sense that the author actually respects both Scripture and the work of scientists. Unlike John Walton (The Lost World of Genesis One), Lennox believes that material, not just functional, claims are being made by the creation narratives, which thus limits the reach of evolutionary explanations, especially in regard to the origin of humans.

Music:

Lonesome, On’ry and Mean by Waylon Jennings (RCA Victor, 1973). I’ve been collecting country albums from the sixties and seventies. So far, this has been my favorite. If you have never given country music a chance, start here.

The Taker/Tulsa by Waylon Jennings (RCA, 1971). This is the beginning of Waylon’s “outlaw” break with Chet Atkins, the famed Nashville producer who created the “Nashville sound” of smooth, pop-sensible country. Despite this fact, Atkins was really quite brilliant, but Waylon needed to expand and produce his own material. It begins here, and it is amazing.

Mama Tried by Merle Haggard (Capitol, 1968). A good place to begin with the great Merle Haggard. The title track, “Mama Tried,” is a favorite.

I’m a Lonesome Fugitive by Merle Haggard (Capitol, 1967). More proof that Haggard was doing outlaw country long before it gained a moniker.

Barton Hollow by The Civil Wars (Sensibility, 2011). These are two of the loveliest voices I’ve ever heard. Even if the songs sucked (they don’t), I would still listen.

Actus Tragicus by J. S. Bach (a long time ago). This has become my favorite piece from Bach. Haunting. Strikingly similar to Jar of Flies by Alice in Chains — I’m probably the only person who makes that connection.

Film:

Forget movies. Television has dominated for the last decade as Hollywood continues to lose all the best writers to the TV networks. I have watched more television series than I care to admit (thanks to Netflix). My favorites this past year have been Dexter and, of course, Friday Night Lights. On the surface, these are two completely different shows with completely different demographics, but it is hard to name any other show with better personalities and character depth than Dexter and FNL. Truly remarkable and utterly addicting. Also, The Tudors was surprisingly well done. Based on the first couple episodes, I thought it was just soap opera and eye candy, but it quickly becomes a nuanced account of civil strife and personal turmoil, with great sensitivity to the religious and moral struggles of the characters. Jonathan Rhys-Meyers is captivating in every single episode. His performance is worth the price of the DVD set.

Needtobreathe

December 2, 2011

The greatest band to ever come from South Carolina (slim competition, I know) released their fourth album a little while back: The Reckoning. Their previous album, The Outsiders, has been canonized in my own life, so it’s not fair to compare (yet) the new album with that one. But, my initial impressions are positive. I doubt it will attain the status of The Outsiders, but their creativity is far from exhausted. Here is one cut from the new album:

Bear Rinehart’s voice is astounding.