Books on a Shelf: Duane W.H. Arnold, PhD
I’ve started a new bookshelf above my desk. As I’ve been going through my library, I’ve been extracting the books given to me as gifts by their authors and placing them aside. Almost all of these books are by friends and colleagues. Some mark times when we were at a conference together. Others were gifts when they stayed in my home and still others simply marked the publication of the volume and the desire of the friend to share the event. A very few were given as thanks for my assistance in research or editing. One section of the bookshelf holds pride of place as it contains a signed copy of every book written by +Michael Ramsey, including a first edition of ‘The Gospel and the Catholic Church’, duly inscribed to me and dated.
As I look at the totality of the shelf, I am amazed at the diversity of the authors. There are all the patristic works by my dear friend, Charles Kannengiesser, a Roman Catholic. Other Catholic friends from Notre Dame are also represented in ‘The Book of Rules of Tyconius’ by Pamela Bright and ‘De Gratia’ by Tom Smith. Frances Young, a Methodist, is there in her groundbreaking work, ‘From Nicaea to Chalcedon’. Survey volumes on Islam by C. George Fry stand near to “Spirit and Martyrdom’ by William Wienrich, both LCMS professors at Concordia. Close at hand is ‘Getting Into the Theology of Concord’ by Robert Preus, which he signed, tongue in cheek, under the inscription, “To the outsider…” Then there is the Orthodox shelf. After a lecture at the Fellowship of St. Sergius and St. Alban, London, Kallistos Ware presented me with a signed copy of ‘The Orthodox Way’. There is George Dragas on Apollinarianism and, of course, John Meyendorff’s ‘Byzantine Theology’, given to me by Fr. John at St. Vladimir’s Seminary in New York at the conclusion of a visit.
Anglicans, of course, are well represented. There are signed copies of all the works on Luther written by James Atkinson and a wonderful biography of Bishop Henry de Candole by Peter Jagger. A visit from Hugh Wybrew, Dean of St. George’s, Jerusalem, is commemorated in the gift of a book on Orthodox liturgy, as are the several times Robert Webber was a guest in our home and would leave signed books under his pillow to be discovered after he had departed. Stephen Sykes, James G. Dunn, Gerald Bonner, C.F.D. Moule, O.C Edwards and Enoch Powell are all there, with each book recalling a time or place. Two books of sermons by my old rector, John G.B Andrew – both with hilarious inscriptions – sit alongside a volume by my Jewish friend, Norman Cantor, who rushed down from NYU to give me a copy of his new book before I left for the UK.
Roman Catholics, Methodists, Lutherans, Orthodox, Anglicans, Jews, Evangelicals, Anglo-Catholics, Reformed, Liberals and Conservatives… they were (and are) all teachers and friends. Each one has enriched me and, at times, challenged me… as they should. Now, does this mean that I agree with everything in the books that these men and women have written? Most certainly not. There is much that I would disagree with and, on occasion, the gift of a book has been followed up by extensive questions and discussions, either in person or by letter. Those questions and discussions, however, have always been tempered with respect for the writer and the desire to learn. Note that I say, “the desire to learn”, for this does not mean that I will ultimately agree with what has been written, but, hopefully, I will learn the process, research and thought that led to the conclusions that we are discussing. Learning does not take place in an echo chamber of given certainties. When we lower discussion to a zero-sum game, not only are there no “winners”, but, even worse, no one really learns. Indeed, the zero-sum game and the echo chamber may produce heat, but no light. It does not result in an increase of knowledge, wonder, or even the due consideration that is required for learning. This is especially true when it comes to theology.
We often get caught up in the game of labeling theology, even before we’ve read it, much less discussed it. It is Roman theology. It is liberal theology. It is conservative theology. It is new theology. The labels are applied first… and often without knowledge. I recently wrote that it is not a matter of old theology or new theology, but rather of good theology and bad theology. This applies to the whole range of the theological enterprise. For instance, we may dispute the meaning of a verse of Scripture, but first we have to look at the text itself, the words that are used, the context, the grammar, even the structure of the original language. Now we may “want” the verse to say something different as we’ve already applied an interpretive label, but our “wanting” does not alter the text itself. We may want to assert a different view of Church history, but we cannot change or ignore the events of Church history to our own liking and/or our own narrative ignoring the evidence of written records, recorded events and all the rest. Otherwise, this becomes a matter of partisan indoctrination rather than due consideration of the topic resulting in understanding. Indeed, this applies to most areas of learning. In his very unpopular defense of the British soldiers accused of murder in the Boston Massacre of 1770, John Adams made the following statement, “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”
“Facts are stubborn things…”
Learning is sometimes hard. All the answers are not always at our fingertips and sometimes the answers are not what we want to hear. Sometimes there are no answers and we are left to imagine or speculate or, on occasion, simply to trust… but that is part of learning as well. Yet as I consider all of this, I’m reminded of Kallistos Ware who wrote the following,
“…It is not the task of Christianity to provide easy answers to every question, but to make us progressively aware of a mystery. God is not so much the object of our knowledge as the cause of our wonder.”
I think this is why I value my diverse friends who now occupy the shelf above my desk. Through reading them, discussing with them and learning from them, they have made me progressively aware of the mystery of faith. They haven’t just increased my knowledge… they’ve increased my wonder.
Duane W.H. Arnold, PhD
I love my books. The new house is one of those old houses with the cool built in bookshelves. I’ve stood in that empty room several times already thinking about which books will look best on each shelf. My line-up is pretty diverse, but heavy on the Protestant / Post-Reformation / Baptist stuff, for sure. Still, when thinking through an issue, I love to be able to walk to the shelf and pull out a few different views to consider. When someone asks me a tough bible question, I love having several different options that i can fit to their education, experience, and personality. It makes me so happy when I loan someone the exact right book for their situation. So, my books are about relationship, too. For the most part, I didn’t have a relationship with the author, but I use them to help others through difficult questions.
The books in my signature pic are some of John Phillips collection. I didn’t discover his writing until shortly after he died in 2010. Its a shame, because he lived his final years in North Carolina. I probably could have met him and learned from him directly. The “About the Author” note on the back of his books is the reason I chose the seminary that I chose. I don’t agree with everything he ever wrote, but the passion with which he wrote about the scriptures touches me, like Otis Redding’s voice. There’s a deep soul there.
Good article Duane. Sorry it got me off on a tangent 🙂
Of the couple of thousand books I had before my move I have only had one book signed and given to me. Bill Ritchie, the pastor at the CC in Vancouver WA “Satisfaction Guaranteed.” Still have it, we are still friends — So I would have a bookshelf of one book. 🙂
Many thanks. The relationships that I’ve had over the course of 40+ years have been invaluable. I still take the attitude that I have more to learn. The most recent book inscribed and given to me was last Friday night. I had a wonderful lengthy conversation with a Greek archeologist who is curating an exhibition here in Indy at the Children’s Museum. Some friends held a reception for her. She had wonderful information on early Christianity in Greece and Macedonia and recent finds. As I was leaving later in the evening, she brought over an inscribed copy of her book. Something more to learn and remember…
If you are now in need of some more books after your move, I could give you my old collection of Left Behind books. I could even sign them for you. 🙂
Very cool, Duane. Our ministry acquaintances have certainly been of a different breed. A church was recently calling some of my references, and I thought about how blessed I have been to serve in the trenches beside such a group of men over the past 20+ years. I see these guys as giants of the faith, though the vast majority will never know their names.
As the years go on, you become even more aware and how truly blessed one is to have these people in our life…. One who occasionally posts here, DavidM, has been a friend and colleague in ministry since I was 16… what a privilege.
I don’t have many signed books…at least not Christian books.
Fran Tarkenton signed his bio and that was a religious experience for me, however…
MLD…Bill signed one of those for me too…
Many here won’t remember Rich Abanes, but he dedicated his last book to the PhxP before he disappeared…
This post grieves me in a way because I think we’re of the last generations that will value the written word as we do.
We’re surely among the last that will value the physical paper and pages books.
My books don’t just speak to me of the authors, but of the people that introduced me to the authors.
My friend Sarah, who gently introduced Eugene Peterson and a score of other thinkers that my tribe scorned…and of course, my friend Duane who turned my world upside down by introducing me to his friend Michael Ramsey…
One of my bookcases is behind my bed in the headboard.
Seven volume set of the writing of Luther…innumerable books by and about Calvin…multiple volumes on church history.
Then on other shelves in the room are dozens of books on Anglican theology and commentaries from many traditions.
The complete works of J.I. Packer.
So many more one offs and folks like N.T. Wright.
They show where I’ve been and where I’m going and the power and diversity of thought keeps me moving and thinking and humble in their presence.
I have over 2000 books on 13+ bookshelves, wherever I can find room for them. This doesn’t count the cookbooks and the children’s books for my grandchildren. Most of it is history/ medieval lit/ Orthodox Christianity. I need a flashlight at times to find a particular book. It is DREAMY over here. 🙂
I am working on a project for school where I am making humongous spreadsheet, a concordance of sorts, for all the Arthurian texts written between Gildas and Tennyson. It will be glorious! What book contains the story of the Sword Bridge? Consult Xenia’s database for the answer!
As you saw in the email I forwarded to you, I shared the article with a friend of mine who is a Roman Catholic bishop. He described the books on my shelf as “second class relics”, i.e. items which these men and women have touched. I don’t think that is simply the case with inscribed copies, but, in some sense with all books. They place us one step away from the actual thought of the author. We’re invited to “step into” their thinking. It’s why it is so important not to attach labels without actually reading and considering what is being said. Agree, yes; disagree, yes… but first read and consider…
“Secondary Relics” sounds better. 🙂
I hope that I haven’t “increased your burden”… at least by too much!?
Oh, what a joyous burden it is!
Hey, I’m not a hoarder- I’m a librarian.
Do you have a day rate… fancy a trip to Indy… I’ve gone from 13,000 to a little over 6,000 and I’m still overwhelmed!!!
My current library, reduced down from 2,000, now sits with this breakdown (approximately)
125 political type biographies
150 detective type themes
So if the house is on fire, what are you grabbing? Me, I have 60 Perry Mason books – love them and they are light. 🙂
In case of a fire, I am grabbing the dog and hollering for the cat to follow.
Michael – True. We’ve seen that music is not valued anymore. No one buys music. Same will be true with literature soon enough.
Xenia – Some of the best preachers have indexed their library in a way similar to what you describe. They can then quickly find a certain illustration or insight by subject, scripture reference, or whatever. I have seen a couple that are ingenious.
MLD – if the house is on fire, I let the books burn.
If the house is on fire I grab the cats and by the time I get all the cats out, I’m on fire too…
Well, I did mean if you could grab a few books, what would you grab.
But it does make a case for my position to not own pets.
If I could only grab a few, it would be my Charles Bowden books and some things Duane sent that are irreplaceable.
Another question for the house…what percentage of your books are outside your tradition…and what percentage of new purchases are outside your tradition?
I’m running over 50% on both…
Instead of a fire, you’ll be going to a desert island. Apart from a Bible, what four books do you take… Telling us why gives you extra points!
Inside my tradition (if my tradition is SBC) less than 10% on the library and new aquisitions.
If my tradition is seen as the larger swath of evangelicalism, I’d guess about 70% on both.
Most of my books are science/math textbooks (relating to my career and math hobby) and a few “popular” reading science and math books. I have some Christian books (mostly Christian living and a few references), quite a few generic reference books (atlases, computer, etc), and a few novels/fiction books.
My bookshelf is devoid of Left Behind books thankfully.
I love books!
Oh, and a couple of biographies…Rich Mullins, Amy Carmichael, and Dave Mustaine.
Yes, I am serious.
Dave was just diagnosed with throat cancer btw.
To Michael’s question –
I’ve taught Church History, Patristics and Liturgy on both an undergraduate and post-grad level since the early 80s. Owing to this, my library is heavily weighted (say 70%) to these three areas. I really have never considered if they are Anglican, Orthodox, Catholic, Lutheran, etc. They either know the material well, and have something to offer, or they don’t. I don’t separate scholarship by tribe…
Duane, one book is conspicuously absent from your list: “666” by Salem Kirban ?
Desert island books…
I’m taking my iPad that has a couple hundred… 🙂
The Book of Common Prayer
“Trinity” by Bowden
“Knowing God” by Packer
“Seventy Five Years of Batman” various authors
The Bible and BCP fill my days with word and a rhythm…Bowden keeps me sharp…Packer keeps me holy…Batman satisfies my creative side…
Outside of the BCP all these are open to being replaced if I think about it too much…
I love biographies…maybe my favorite genre…
After revealing that deep dark secret… I’m taking back all the nice things I said about you!?
I would say 90% of my Christian books are Orthodox.
Assuming this island has no wifi:
Orthodox Prayer book
The Prologue from Ochrid (vols 1 and 2) (Sermons, Lives of the Saints, prayers, Church calendar)
Malory’s Complete Works
The Sea-Beach at Ebb-Tide by Augusta Foote Arnold (so I could tell poisonous from safe shell fish)
And if I had such a book: 101 Ways to Prepare Coconuts
(or electricity to keep my tablet charged up)
Book of Common Prayer (1979 Edition with the Hymnal)
The Gospel and the Catholic Church by +Michael Ramsey
The Franciscan Omnibus of Sources
Collected Works of William Shakespeare
Desert Island 4 books:
Ragamuffin Gospel – I have often said that Manning gets a lot of stuff wrong but he gets one thing really right. And that one thing is the only important thing. Plus, its such a fun read.
The Hiding Place – Corrie Ten Boom would constantly remind me that “There is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still.”
I’m gonna cheat. I have a one-volume collection of about 7 or 8 CS Lewis books, including Mere Christianity and Screwtape Letters. I appreciate the beauty of Lewis’ writing.
Probably a Zodhiates language reference. I would use that to stay up on Hebrew and Greek, while also keeping my mind sharp.
A Roman Catholic
Jumping into this conversation among erudites to say that i think Kallistos Ware hit the bullseye… What a wonderful way to go through life – focused on the mysteries of our triune God. ?
In addition on my bookshelf as I look over my shoulder…
Numerous guitar books (instruction, care)
Numerous art instruction books
Nature and pet care and profile books
One Dave Ramsey finances book
Not sure why, but reading biographies has been one of the more rewarding reading experiences I undertake.
Not sure which books I would bring to a desert Island. So many to choose from!
Yes… it’s not all about knowledge…
My bible and the Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy Trilogy ( it counts because they call it a trilogy 🙂 ) Then I’ll read my books and thank God I was raptured to the desert island. Hopefully He provides coconuts and wild boar, yum!
A Roman Catholic,
An Anglican, and
walk into a bar. The Lutheran ducks.
“A Roman Catholic
Hah! I hadn’t even considered it. Those are just some who constantly feed my soul.
Interesting as well that Manning was Franciscan in terms of his spirituality (he later joined the Little Brothers of Jesus of Charles de Foucauld to minister among the poor). The latter group, I believe, is active on the border…
Yes, I know he spoke of his time as a Little Brother in his memoir.
I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve borrowed a line from him for a sermon or lesson.
A Roman Catholic,
An Anglican, and
walk into a bar.
The bar patrons know them by name and greet them warmly. The bartenders, being extraordinarily well-read women by the names of Xenia and Em, give a generous smile and pull out a can of 10-year old Stillhouse Black Bourbon from the office and allow their saintly guests to imbibe liberally. The six of them have a lively debate over ecclesiology, telos, and entrepreneurship in Christendom. Some guy at the back makes a crack about priests walking into a bar…
Well, I’m pretty sure Spiros was Baptist…so no drinking for him 🙂 Not in public, anyway.
Then they all realize it’s really a desert island and Matthew Fox is saying something about a button that has to be pressed at a certain time, smoke is eating people, and they learn a little Japanese. You’re stuck in purgatory and no one is satisfied with your finale.
Jerod, best TV show ever!
I’m assuming that is Lost. Never saw an episode. If I get the itch to binge a TV series, I’ll choose Lost.
Lost? Is that about Baptists after being in a bar?
Jerod @ 12:08 brought back a memory of some years ago that made me smile…. 2 fellas were doing some work for me and i overheard them discussing what my alcoholic drink of preference would be… They concluded it would be Scotch and soda…
Wait, what happened to Richard Abanes?
“Many here won’t remember Rich Abanes, but he dedicated his last book to the PhxP before he disappeared…”
Rich attended one of our E-Fests years ago. He was a very nice man and he gave each of us a signed CD. He sang as well. If memory serves he posted a ;ot about Rick Warren. Pray he’s well
If I were going to a desert island, I would want life sustaining books. Thus,
(1) The Holy Bible;
(2) Luther’s Commentary on Galatians;
(3) Luther’s Small Catechism; and
(4) A “how to” book on finding food and building shelter when on a desert island.
I have always had difficulty reading a commentary that that took 20 times longer to read than the book of the Bible it was discussing. As things are now as I’m in my mid 60’s I have to read my Bible slowly so that I don’t lose what I just read!
The beauty of Luther’s commentaries is that the length is due to the fact that he writes pastorally and with application. Thus, it’s akin to reading a devotional where one could dwell on one verse a day and be greatly enriched and blessed. Yes, it’s exegetically sound and profound, but its faith enriching and encouraging at the same time.
Jean, I try to hold onto certain verses as I read my Bible. I like the idea of using a commentary as you described for zeroing in on one verse. So do you find a verse while reading your Bible, zero in on a verse which then leads you to your commentary? Thanks.
If I’m reading the Bible or preparing an article or for a Bible study, I will often zero in on a verse and check a commentary.
But, what I also enjoy is reading a magnificent commentary from cover to cover (including the Introduction) as a devotional. I’m currently doing that with Hebrews in the morning and Exodus at night. One pericope a day.
As we get older, it’s very important to keep our eye wear prescriptions up to date and find a place to read with good light and a comfortable chair. Otherwise, reading can be very difficult for longer than a couple minutes.
According to Ford Prefect Have Towel, Will Travel.
Rich got tired of being beat up and went back to performing, last I heard…
One of the best, for sure! Well, next to Seinfeld
News this morning that the Pope-Emeritus, Benedict XVI, has suffered a mild stroke. Of your charity, remember him in your prayers. Apart from his role in church governance, he is a fine patristic scholar, specializing in Augustine. I met him as Joseph Ratzinger and author of, ‘Eschatology: Death and Eternal Life’ (1977), when we lectured at the same conference. The book is still on my shelf and very much worth reading. A gracious and good man…
Thankfully, it was reported by the Catholic News agency today that the Pope-Emeritus did not suffer a stroke. Just to report…