Thursday, March 27, 2008

On Article XXVIII

During a recent meeting of our Lenten series at Holy Trinity, a well-esteemed and highly respected member of the community made the suggestion that the clergy of this parish (and many clergy in the Anglican Church, at large) have either rejected or neglected the Articles of Religion (i.e., The Thirty-Nine Articles). In particular, it was suggested that we were acting in contravention of Article XXVIII, “On the Lord’s Supper.”

I would not presume to speak on behalf of any other cleric, but as the suggestion of neglect or contravention was made publicly to this cleric I wish to issue this public response, on my own behalf.

The Articles of Religion, or as they are commonly known, The Thirty-Nine Articles, are a “set of doctrinal formulae finally accepted by the Church of England in its attempt to define its dogmatic position in relation to the controversies of the sixteenth century.” (F.L. Cross, Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 3rd ed., p. 1368). The Articles, approved by Convocation in 1571, are the culmination a process of a lengthy process of theological reflection and editorial work. Earlier collections of Articles included Ten Articles of 1536, the Forty-Two Articles of 1553, and the Thirty-Eight Articles of 1563. Although individuals and parties within Anglicanism have, from time-to-time, suggested that the Articles function as a kind of “Confession of Faith,” in the same sense as the classic Reformed Confessions, this appears to have been neither their intent nor their received usage; instead, they are clearly recognized to be theological summaries of the Anglican position against what were perceived to be both Roman Catholic and advanced Protestant errors of the day. Subscription to the Articles has never been a condition of membership in the Anglican Church and until recent times, only clerics (and until the nineteenth century, members of Oxford and Cambridge as well) have been expected to subscribe to them. The Lambeth Conference of 1968 (Resolution 43) made the recommendation that subscription to the Articles, “be no longer required of ordinands.” The Diocese of Toronto followed this recommendation and clerical subscription to the Articles has not been required for some years.

Yet, the Articles remain an important part of our theological heritage and in many cases still assist Anglicans in our efforts at theological self-understanding. We must always bear in mind the tenor of the times in which they were formulated, and yet, we must also carefully consider our arguments if we seek to move beyond, outside, or against the theology of the Articles. We must always remember that the Articles are not a “systematic” theology of Anglican thought, but short doctrinal statements, most of which allow a breadth of theological interpretation.

But the question will remain, even if I, as a priest in the Church, am not legally required to subscribe, uphold, or assent to the Articles of Religion, have I actively taught against them? I do not believe that I have. Since this suggestion was made in particular with respect to Article XXVIII, I propose to examine the Article in some detail against my own thought, practice, and what I have consistently taught about the Eucharist, to investigate whether or not I have indeed neglected or rejected this Article of Religion.

The text of the Article states in full:

XXVIII. Of the Lord's Supper.
The Supper of the Lord is not only a sign of the love that Christians ought to have among themselves one to another, but rather it is a Sacrament of our Redemption by Christ's death: insomuch that to such as rightly, worthily, and with faith, receive the same, the Bread which we break is a partaking of the Body of Christ; and likewise the Cup of Blessing is a partaking of the Blood of Christ.

Transubstantiation (or the change of the substance of Bread and Wine) in the Supper of the Lord, cannot be proved by Holy Writ; but is repugnant to the plain words of Scripture, overthroweth the nature of a Sacrament, and hath given occasion to many superstitions.

The Body of Christ is given, taken, and eaten, in the Supper, only after an heavenly and spiritual manner. And the mean whereby the Body of Christ is received and eaten in the Supper, is Faith.

The Sacrament of the Lord's Supper was not by Christ's ordinance reserved, carried about, lifted up, or worshipped.


I find nothing in this Article to which I – as both a baptized Christian and a Priest in the Church of God – might object. In the first paragraph, the Article clearly articulates both the communal and mystical nature of the sacrament. As Christians, we gather, in love, around our Lord’s Table. In faith we do indeed receive Him in the breaking of the bread and partaking of the cup. This first paragraph clearly rules out what Brian Gerrish (see Brian Gerrish, The Old Protestantism and the New: A Study of the Fundamental Religious Ideas of the Reformation and Their Relationship to Liberal Protestantism, New York: Continuum, 2004, pp 120ff) has called Symbolic Memorialism, a view held by Zwingli (in his earlier Eucharistic thought) and the Radical Reformation. In this particular school of thought, the Eucharist is a memorial in which symbols are used to evoke remembrance of Christ’s act, but “the Spirit needs no vehicle, least of all material” (Gerrish, 130). The Article clearly rules out this position and states that in worthy receiving we actually receive the body and blood of the Lord.

If am guilty of anything, it might be that I err on the side of receptionism. Reception has always been an important part of Anglican Eucharistic theology. Cranmer sought to encourage reception as the crucial component of the Lord’s Supper (after all, a meal is first and foremost about partaking and the benefits thereof). Worthy reception, or reception in faith finds its roots in 1 Corinthians 11:27 (it is of course, one of the great ironies of Anglican Eucharistic theology that this injunction might be, in part, a cause of infrequent Communion, due to the presumed “unworthiness” of communicants in general). My preference, when administering Communion, is to use the words of the 1559 Book of Common Prayer:

“The Body of our Lord Jesus Christ which was given for thee, preserve thy body and soul unto everlasting life: take and eat this, in remembrance that Christ died for thee, and feed on him in thy heart by faith, with thanksgiving.”

I prefer this next not because I believe or think that other “words of adminstration” (in particular those of the BAS 1985) are deficient. I do not; rather I prefer the 1559 wording because of the didactic quality of the words. First, in administration, the words affirm that the bread and wine are indeed the body and blood of the Lord (as in Article XXVIII); secondly, they suggest the spiritual effect of eating/drinking, namely nourishment unto eternal life; and finally, in concord with Article XXVIII, that reception is done “in faith” (“feed on him in thy heart by faith, with thanksgiving). The words are didactic and expressive of the theology of this Article. They speak against the Symbolic Memorialism of the Radical Reformers and point to a real encounter with Christ in the sacrament, whether or not we choose to use such a controversial phrase as “real presence.”

If the first paragraph has served to rebuke the Radical Reformers, then the second paragraph stands against what were perceived to be the abuses of the Medieval Roman Catholic Church. While in modern ecumenical dialogue, we look toward what binds as us rather than separates us, As Anglicans and Romans, in the sixteenth century, this was not the case: The language here is strong and polemical. However, what binds us with our brothers and sisters of the Roman Communion is that we both believe we truly meet our Lord in the Sacrament, what separates us is the “how.” As I read it, this Article denies that the bread and wine change in substance; and as I understand it, Roman Catholic Eucharistic theology teaches that the bread and wine actually become in all ways, except appearance (i.e., everything about it changes except “the accidents” or appearance) the body and blood of our Lord. While the Anglican Church has traditionally avoided transubstantiation, a diversity of opinion exists as to what exactly happens to the elements, materially.

The phrase, “given, taken and eaten … only after an heavenly and spiritual manner,” in the third paragraph, while at first glance apparently specific and restrictive, is open to wide interpretation. The Article does not define what “heavenly” and “spiritual” might mean. Nor does is restrict a localized “heavenly” or “spiritual” presence in the elements. Therefore, we must ask what other views prevailed during the period, to which the Article might be referring? Brian Gerrish has isolated two further views that are found in the Reformed Confessions of the day. The first is Symbolic Parallelism (perhaps embraced by the later Zwingli, and certainly embraced by Bullinger), which suggests “the inward spiritual occurrence is symbolized by an outward eating of bread” (Gerrish, 120). The relationship is not causal, though. This means that the divine nature of Christ is somehow present, but not locally in the elements. Gerrish also draws attention to the more advanced view, usually associated with Calvin, of Symbolic Instrumentalism. Gerrish notes, “in Calvin’s view it is the nature of the Sacraments to cause and communicate what they signify” (Gerrish, 122). Thus, God actually uses the Sacraments in a causal way. Although a localized presence is likely ruled out. It would seem to me that the Article would not disallow either Symbolic Parallelism or Symbolic Instrumentalism as legitimate theological positions with respect to how the Lord is received in the Eucharist, but both Symbolic Memorialism and Transubstantiation are forbidden. This is not surprising to those who suggest that the Articles are represent a Calvinist theological position.

However, it has recently been argued in the scholarship that the Articles, in their genealogy, reflect more of a Lutheran than Calvinist influence. It is beyond the scope of this short response to investigate this claim extensively, but let us assume for the moment that this is an accurate reading of the historical context, we must ask about the Lutheran position of Consubstantiation, as well. As I understand it, Consubstantiation suggests that in the consecrated elements, both the bread and wine and the body and blood coexist together: Thus, allowing a kind of local presence in the elements. It does not appear that Article XXVIII explicitly rules out this position. Indeed, Bishop Edmund Guest, claimed that this Article, “of my own penning,” was not intended “to exclude the Presence of Christ’s Body from the Sacrament, but only the grossness and sensibleness in the receiving thereof” (Letter to William Cecil, December 22, 1566, unsigned but apparently in Bishop Guest’s handwriting, State Papers “Domestic”, Elizabeth lxxviii, 37. I am indebted to Canon David Neelands for this reference). Therefore, it appears that it was not the intent of the framers of the Article to disallow the Lutheran position, either. Neither does the Article itself rule out this position. I believe that it can be claimed with certainty, that the Article allows a wide berth of interpretation with respect to a “theology of presence.” My own position is probably somewhere along the spectrum between Symbolic Instrumentalism and Consubstantiation. Thus, with respect to “Eucharistic Presence,” I do not take myself to have believed or taught anything contrary to the Eucharistic doctrine deemed permissible by Article XVIII.

Finally, there is the matter of the fourth paragraph, which states, “the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper was not by Christ's ordinance reserved, carried about, lifted up, or worshipped.” Many who characterize what might be termed Anglo-Catholic practice as disagreeable, turn to this statement as evidence of ritualist error. To be sure, our Lord never ordained any of these things. However, there are a good many things -- with respect to our ceremony, polity and theology -- that were not ordained by Christ. As I understand it, Anglicanism has never taught that ceremony, polity and theology may only be regulated by dominical statements or Scriptural precedent. Rather, while the Church cannot teach or expound something contrary to Scripture, it is not bound to base its rites, ceremonies, polity and even its theology (except, perhaps with respect to salvation) solely on what is taught in Scripture. Article XX states:

“The Church hath power to decree Rites or Ceremonies, and authority in Controversies of Faith: And yet it is not lawful for the Church to ordain anything that is contrary to God’s Word written…”

While our Lord did not ordain such things, neither did he forbid them. To some they are edifying, and to many, they are pastorally crucial.

I am no Anglo-Catholic (in principle, I eschew “partyism” in the Church), but it is indeed my own practice to reserve the Sacrament for the communication of the sick. I take this to be a legitimate pastoral extension of the principal act of Sunday corporate worship. Although not practiced by all Anglicans in all times, from personal experience, I can attest that those who receive the reserved sacrament experience not only a communion with our Lord but a communion with the love of the community, which seems to me to be congruous with the understanding of the sacrament expressed in the first paragraph of Article XXVIII.

With respect to elevation and other manual gestures, it is my own practice to elevate the host and cup at certain points during the Eucharistic Prayer, as well as to make certain manual gestures at appropriate places. Even the prayer book included manual gestures (in their simplest forms). I take these gestures to be both didactic (i.e., the gestures seek to elucidate visually the words of the prayer) and dramatic (the gestures allow the congregation to enter into the Eucharist experientially – i.e., the Eucharist is something enacted by the whole people of God). Most importantly though: I do not take these gestures to be, in any way, either mystical or magical. The priest does not have “magic fingers.” It is God that blesses in response to the invocation of priest and people in sacred harmony. The gestures are gestures of prayer in the same way that we teach our children to kneel, or stand, or clasp their hands or open wide their arms. No manual acts or gestures are needed, much less ordained by Christ, but they can be edifying on a variety of levels. I do not believe that I act contrary to Holy Scripture or to the teaching of the Church in this regard (nor in contravention of Article XXVIII) when I elevate the host and cup or when I make manual acts.

There are those Anglicans who would carry the Sacrament in procession and reverence it. The question, of course, is what are they reverencing? If they are adoring our Lord, then all is well. If they are worshiping a piece of wheat or a grape of the vine – in which our Lord is not taken to be in any way present – then I think we are dangerously close to idolatry. However, I do not know a single Christian -- Anglican, Roman, or otherwise -- who believes that they are worshiping a piece of bread or cup of wine. Ask any of them and I believe that they will tell you that they are worshiping Christ our God. The degree to which Christ is present in the sacrament is what is in dispute, of course. My own thinking is simply this: If Christ is truly present in the Sacrament, then, should not I reverence the Sacrament? However, I am always mindful that it is but a sacrament and my adoration is directed to the one who is made present in the Sacrament. My own Protestant sensibilities make me a bit squeamish about carrying the Sacrament about in procession and about devotions to the Sacrament, but I do not disparage the piety of those who engage in such things as I am confident that they in doing so they are adoring Christ and being spiritual edified in their piety.

Thus, with respect to the final paragraph of Article XXVIII, I believe that Christ did not ordain such things, but neither did he forbid them. The framers of Articles clearly held a suspicious view of such practices, but they held them against what they perceived to be abuses by the Roman Church. The article does not forbid such practices but reminds us that they are not of divine but human origin.

Throughout all that I have said above, I have sought to respond to the suggestion by a learned friend that I have rejected or ignored the Articles of Religion in general, and Article XXVIII, in particular. On the contrary, I contend that I have paid very close attention to the Articles of Religion in my own pastoral ministry and theological reflection. I believe that the Articles continue to serve a very useful purpose in Anglican thought and belief. I do not believe that they are immutable, and I do not believe that it is necessarily unlawful to hold a contrary theological position, but I do believe that they are a sound and reputable repository of Anglican teaching. To my knowledge, I have never taught anything to the contrary, nor have I taught or expounded anything contrary to the substance of the Articles themselves, and in particular, contrary to Article XXVIII. If I have, I stand open to correction to which I would submit, most willingly.

Text copyright 2008 by the Rev. Daniel F. Graves. This post may not be reproduced or redistributed, either in whole or part, by any means, without the express, written permission of the author.

Special thanks to the Rev. Canon Dr. David Neelands, and The Venerable Harry Huskins, for assistance in clarifying several points, theological and legal. It shall be noted that the opinions expressed herein are entirely my own.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Reading the Bible -- Part III: Choosing the Right Translation

For parts I & II of this series click on the links, below:
Part I
(click here)
Part II
(click here)

If you have ever participated in a Bible Study, the following experience will probably seem familiar to you:

The leader asks you to turn to a particular passage, which you find after some searching. The leader then asks a member of the group to read the passage. As you follow along, it becomes clear to you that you have must have turned to the wrong passage as the reader seems to be reading from a different text altogether. However, you occasionally pick up on some similarities in the text you have in front of you. You begin to realize that you haven’t turned to the wrong page – it just seems like you are reading from different Bibles.

Well, you are; at least from different translations. Choosing the right translation, in accordance with your intentions and goals in reading Scripture can make all the difference.

A Plethora of Translations

When purchasing a new Bible it is easy to become overwhelmed by the sheer number of translations on the market. They are known almost exclusively by acronyms: KJV, NKJV, RSV, NRSV, NIV, NiRV, TNIV, ESV, ASB, NASB, etc. Why are there so many different translations? As a former bookseller, I feel I must let you in on a little secret: Selling Bibles is a business. Bible publishers will promote their own particular translations because they want to capture your business. Do we need this many Bible translations? Probably not, and yet, every couple of years a new translation comes along and it will receive plenty of publicity. It will likely be a decent translation, but for it to be of any use it is important to understand for whom it is translated and intended and what are its goals as new translation. Historically, individual denominations have often favoured their own, or particular, translations. For example, until the Revised Version was introduced in the 1880’s, the translation used by most Anglicans was the King James Version of 1611. It was known as the “Authorised” version because it had been authorized by James I for use in the English Church. In recent years, various translations have emerged as the result of ecumenical collaborations with the hope that broad numbers of Christians will read from the same translation. The Revised Standard Version (RSV) and its descendent, the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) are the work of a mainstream ecumenical translation team. The New International Version (NIV) is also the work of an ecumenical committee, but one of a more evangelical/conservative nature. Translations such as these are generally meant to serve several purposes simultaneously. First, they will have a certain literary cadence that lends to edifying public reading (i.e., The Scripture as read in a liturgy or worship service). Secondly, they will strive for understandability so that the average churchgoing person can understand the text, reading and studying it either individually or in groups. Thirdly, the translation will be a fairly reliable, literal translation enabling scholars, students and preachers to use the text for in-depth study and accurate exegesis.

The “Original Text”

As we consider the plethora of translations available today, it is important to consider “what,” exactly, the text is being translated from. This will come as a surprise to many, but there exists no “original” text of the Bible. What we have are thousands of fragments (some large, containing large portions of Scripture; some small, containing only a few lines of Scripture) from a variety of different eras. Textual scholars collate (compare) the material (largely Hebrew and Aramaic manuscripts for the Old Testament, and mainly Greek manuscripts for the New Testament) and using a variety of scholarly criteria “decide” on what seems to be closest to what the original text might have been. For example, for the New Testament, most translators use an edited Greek text known as UBS4/NA27. This is not to say that the translators are bound to the editorial decision of the textual editors; indeed, they often choose textual variants that seem “better” to them. Some translation committees go back and start from the beginning and establish their own Hebrew and Greek text. In any case, you will begin to see where some translation differences emerge. A good translation will alert you to some of the controversies over what was actually in the original text by providing a footnote for what we call “textual variants.” Such a footnote might read, “some early manuscripts read … (insert variant).” For a good example, turn to the end of the Gospel of St. Mark, which has several alternate endings, and examine the footnotes!

Formal Correspondence and Dynamic Equivalence

Formal Correspondence and Dynamic Equivalence are terms used to identify the “translation philosophy” of the version. Formal Correspondence might be better understood as “literal” or “word-for-word,” (inasmuch as such a thing is possible when translating from one language to another), while Dynamic Equivalence might be better understood as “thought-for-thought” or “meaning-for-meaning.” These two terms represent two ends of a broad spectrum. Thus, any given translation will exist somewhere along the spectrum (and may contain elements of both). For example, the King James Version (KJV) is a literal translation (although using language common to A.D. 1611), while the Good News Bible (or Today’s English Version – TEV) is very much a thought-for-thought translation. The difference is that in the former, the translators will attempt to translate words and phrases into English in quite strict terms, within the realm of what makes sense as a recognizable sentence in the English language; while in the latter, the translators are less concerned with getting every world translated directly, but in capturing (with accuracy) the essence of the sentence or phrase.

Hear is a select list of several translations under each category with date of first publication (with their acronyms in brackets):

Formal Correspondence:
King James Version, or The Authorized Version (KJV), 1611
New King James Version (NKJV), 1982
Revised Standard Version (RSV), 1952
New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), 1985
New International Version (NIV), 1983
New Jerusalem Bible (NJB), 1985

Dynamic Equivalence:
The Jerusalem Bible (JB), 1966
New English Bible (NEB), 1970
Good News Bible, or Today’s English Version (GNB/TEV), 1976
Revised English Bible (REB), 1989
Contemporary English Version (CEV), 1995

Paraphrases

Another class, moving even further beyond Dynamic Equivalence (thought-for-thought), is the paraphrase. Eugene Peterson’s The Message falls in this group. It goes beyond thought-for-thought in that he actually translates ancient idioms into modern idioms. For example, in the parable of the prodigal son in St. Luke’s Gospel, “killing the fatted calf” becomes, “you have ordered a feast – barbequed beef!” Obviously, such versions can help us understand some of the difficult ancient idioms of the original text, but begin to veer, in significant ways, away from the original text. They might be read profitably alongside a reputable literal translation, but I would discourage their regular use as your only Bible version. Another favourite in this category (but now somewhat dated) is J.B. Phillips, The New Testament in Modern English. The selling point of paraphrases is also their major handicap. In trying to capture ancient ideas in modern idiom, the question emerges, “whose modern idiom?” Idiom is such a geographic and cultural phenomenon. And even more significantly, “modern idiom” is prone to rapid change.

Reading Level

In terms of reading level, not all translations are equal. Generally, Formal Correspondence (word-for-word) translations such as the NRSV, RSV, KJV are read profitably by people who have completed a high school education, but may prove difficult for younger readers, those who have trouble reading, and newcomers to the English language. Generally, Dynamic Equivalent (thought-for-thought) translations, such as The Good News Bible and the CEV may be read profitably by those for whom the task of reading presents more of a challenge. These are not hard and fast rules, but should be taken into consideration.

The Public Reading of Scripture

The liturgical context may well dictate the kind of translation used in the public reading of Scripture (i.e., in the liturgy or worship services), but in many cases, and certainly in Anglicanism, the public reading of Scripture is “robed in ceremony.” Thus, Formal Correspondence (word-for-word) translations have generally been the order of the day in choosing a Bible to be read in Church. The NRSV has achieved widespread acceptance (as a descendent of the KJV and RSV) and seems to be the translation of choice for mainstream Protestants. Roman Catholics tend to favour two of their own translations, the New American Standard Bible (NASB) and the New Jerusalem Bible (NJB). Evangelical Protestants have widely accepted the New International Version (NIV) with some using the New King James Version (NKJV), the latter being a version of questionable translation philosophy. For most Anglicans, owning an NRSV will allow an individual who is charged with reading Scripture as part of the liturgy an opportunity to practice ahead of time as well as the ability to engage in edifying personal and group study.

In conclusion, having a few different translations on your shelf will help significantly in broadening your understanding of the biblical text. Having one or two Bibles of each class will allow you to compare difficult passages in your personal or group study. Good Parallel Bibles, which contain a number of translations in parallel columns, can also be helpful (but difficult to read due to the small nature of the print).

I hope that this short series has been helpful in your quest for the right Bible. Please feel free to contact me with further questions or comments. email: fr.daniel.graves@gmail.com


Text copyright 2008 by the Rev. Daniel F. Graves. This post may not be reproduced or redistributed, either in whole or part, by any means, without the express, written permission of the author.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Old Booksellers Never Die

A parishioner recently asked me about the rather pretentious-looking list in the right-hand column of this page labeled “Currently Reading.” He asked if I was really reading that many books at one time. Before I get around to telling you how I answered him, perhaps a word is in order as to why this list, and its companion list “Recently Read”, are even on this page at all.

Many will know that I was, for many years, the Retail Sales Manager of Toronto’s Anglican Book Centre. I spent a good deal of my time reading catalogues, meeting publishers’ sales representatives, ordering books, classifying books, recommending books, publicizing books, and of course, selling books. One of the great joys of bookselling was to receive what we called the “front-list” catalogues, that is, the catalogues of new titles for the upcoming season. It was as much an art as a science to come up with order quantities for any given new title. Much was involved in making that particular decision. In addition to analyzing previous sales figures, I relied particularly on my own sense of the Anglican market. Invariably, certain titles would immediately bring to mind particular customers. I knew that Father X, or Professor Y would almost certainly want a copy of a particular new title. It was often months between the catalogue solicitation and the publishing date of any given title, so I would either have to make a note of the title or simply remember it and place it in the hands of the prospective customer when the book arrived. Nine times out of ten, my intuition was right and I could make a sale. Old-time bookselling.

Thus, religious bookselling involved not only a deep and broad knowledge of the product, but also of the customer-base. The ministry involved in religious bookselling was simply this: getting the right resource into the hands of the right person. Time and again, customers would return and express their appreciation for this kind of relationship. To my way of thinking, at ABC we strove to go beyond a proprietor-client relationship to create a relationship as colleagues in ministry. I always thought of ABC as a sort of ecclesiastical “Floyd’s Barbershop” in which the relationship between the proprietor and customer was at least as important, if not more so, than business considerations. A close friend of mine described ABC as a “nexus”, or a hub where people met and ministerial relationships were formed and nurtured. I always believed, and still believe, that if this were done well, then the business would thrive.

This is all to say that solid and sensible book recommendations were at the heart of what we did and how we related with our constituency. I have built many lasting personal friendships through the recommendation of an appropriate book. I have also bridged many gaps in understanding through the shared experience of a book recommended and read. In an age in which so many Christians, and particularly Anglicans wish to go their separate ways, a good book has the power to keep us at the table, in conversation. I believed it then, and I believe it now.

And so it is: Old booksellers never die.

I have since left the book industry. Yet, I continue to find myself recommending what I read. I don’t recommend every book I read to every person that I meet. Instead, I continue to recommend appropriate books to those whom I think would be edified by the experience of reading that particular work. I often get this kind of gut feeling when I know that the recommendation is appropriate. As a priest, I frequently hear myself utter the words, “have you read?” or “do you know about such-and-such an author or book?” The lists on the side of this page are tools in the pathological continuance of my life as a “bookseller.” After making a recommendation, I can always say, “you can find the complete information on my website.” This frees me from having to scramble for a pen and paper or worry about giving the incorrect title or author.

And finally, to answer the question offered at the outset: Am I really reading all those books at one time? The answer, of course, is both “yes” and “no.” From time-to-time there will be books on the list that are collections of essays that I am working through slowly, one essay at a time. The book stays on the list until I get through them all. There may be commentaries that I am using fairly thoroughly and regularly, that will be on the list for some time. There are the half-finished “night table” books that are “in progress” but perhaps stalled a bit. If I don’t get back to them after some time, they get bumped off the list altogether. There are books that I am reading through for some academic or professional project and there are books that I am reading for pleasure. In general, they stay on until I’m confident that I’m not going to finish them or until they are finished and then they move to the “recently read” list. There are things that are not on the list either, like the several magazines, journals and comic books that I read monthly.

I’m not under any illusion that anyone is really that interested in what I’m reading. It seems I just can’t help myself from sharing. I guess I’m still just an old bookseller at heart.

Text copyright 2008 by the Rev. Daniel F. Graves. This post may not be reproduced or redistributed by any means, either in whole or part, without the express, written permission of the author.