Monday, December 13, 2010

Book Reading Group for 2011: Eccentric Existence by David Kelsey

Each year my brother Garrett and I assign each other two books to read, one smaller and one larger. This plan came about because, though our reading overlaps at many points, it is often relegated to different subjects -- he more in missiology and practical theology, I more in systematics and ethics -- as well as to diverging personal interests (he read novels, I read poetry). Heftier books have included Jenson's Systematic Theology, Lohfink's Does God Need the Church?, and Mary Doria Russell's The Sparrow, smaller books Kallenberg's Live to Tell, McCarthy's The Road, and Wendell Berry's A Timbered Choir. It's been a wonderful little system so far, serving its purpose well.

This upcoming year, however, we're doing something a bit different. We are going to take the bulk of the year to work our way, patiently and methodically, through a single daunting work: David Kelsey's crowning achievement of a lifetime of serious scholarship and classroom teaching, Eccentric Existence: A Theological Anthropology. The two volumes comprising this imposing tome total close to 1,100 pages, and rather than try to do it on our own (waiving accountability) or wait until it becomes a class assignment (speeding through it in a month), we wanted to go ahead and just do it, but with each other and with others.

So: you are invited, beginning the second week of January, to dedicate the subsequent 10-11 months to a slow and careful journey in theological anthropology, with a seasoned master as guide. You won't be alone, and you'll be able to keep up. Personally, I will be planning to serve as a kind of home base for weekly/monthly reflections on and interrogations of the reading; but I am also hopeful that others who join in will be able to write up their own thoughts and reactions, which can be posted here or on their own blogs.

At this point, there are about half a dozen of us (here's a couple), but by all means, join us if you are interested. Drop me a line by email, or comment below, and we'll get organized over the next few weeks. I've already got the reading apportioned out by month -- never less than 80 or more than 120 pages -- and I'll be sure to post January's weekly sections by Monday the 3rd, if not before.

I look forward to hearing from those of you who are interested, and most of all to taking time to read and dissect and discuss share in what I am sure will be a work of lasting significance.

(Credit where credit is due: Garrett and I initially got the idea to connect our long-form reading plan -- which of course is not new, but only to us, and in this way -- with Kelsey's book from this brief post by James K. A. Smith, as well as, even prior to that, from Geoffrey Hoare, Rector of All Saints Episcopal here in Atlanta. Geoffrey has a small group of ministers, pastors, and theologians across the ecumenical spectrum who meet once or twice a year for a few days to discuss a major work they've all agreed upon, and last year's was E.E. Thanks to both for inspiration!)


  1. Would you be interested in adding a psychologist?

  2. Always up for psychologists, as well as for Octane enthusiasts.

  3. What about Australians? A robust theological anthropology ought to make room for even Antipodean criminals right? ô¿ô

  4. Australians, too. Is that you, Damien? It's been a while since we've connected. Hope you are well -- and glad to have you along for the reading group!

  5. I have been plodding for this book for too long now. If (and most likely when) you guys catch up to me I will try and join in. It's a beautifully written, well thought out, and clearly presented piece of theological thinking so you guys will have fun. I look forward to your thoughts on it.

  6. Yep, it's me, and it has been a while! It kind of feels like I've cheated though, as I have some idea of what's going on in your life through your blog.

    Now to get this sucker ordered through Amazon to get it before the new year. The cheapest I can see it locally is $110!

  7. I'm interested. Starting a D.Min. in June. Might have a hard time keeping up some months. Will depend on price, too. I think this is a great project you have! wb