My Summer Reading List

 

Roy Clouser. The Myth of Religious Neutrality. University of Notre Dame Press, 2005. So I am currently on a kick against modernist philosophy, and its pretentions to “objectivity.” I’m also searching for a coherent alternative to secular political philosophy. So books like this will come in handy.
James K. A. Smith. Imagining the Kingdom. Baker Academic, 2013. This is the second book in Smith’s planned trilogy. I still haven’t read the first one, Desiring the Kingdom. One thing that interests me about this is that Smith critiques the famous Kuyperian distinction between church as organism and church as organization.
Chandra Manning. What This Cruel War Was Over: Soldiers, Slavery, and the Civil War. Vintage, 2008. As a Northern transplant to the South, I was surprised to learn that many Southerners don’t think the Civil War was really over slavery. So I want to check the facts. This isn’t really related to theology, but I would like to better understand the culture of which I am now a part.
James Le Fanu. Why Us? How Science Rediscovered the Mystery of Ourselves. Pantheon, 2009. The intersection of science and faith is a perennial interest of mine—especially when secular thinkers come to see the inadequacy of materialist thought. So this looks like a must-read.
Daniel M. Bell, Jr. The Economy of Desire: Christianity and Capitalism in a Postmodern World. Baker Academic, 2012. I’ve read both Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism? and Whose Community? Which Interpretation? in this series, and I am very impressed by how these authors are able to make sense of postmodernism. I look forward to reading this installment on the theology of economics.
Thomas Nagel. The View from Nowhere. Oxford University Press, 1989. Like Clouser’s book above, this is a critique on modernist claims to objectivity. This book is a classic, written by a well-respected atheist philosopher—at least, well-respected until he wrote Mind & Cosmos (which I reviewed here)!
Jonathan Gottschall. The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human. Mariner Books, 2013. Someday, I hope to write a book on the subject of how language makes humans unique and points to God’s image. Unlike animal communication, language enables humans to tell stories, make promises, and talk about morality. In other words, language is what makes us covenantal creatures.
Noam Chomsky. The Science of Language: Interviews with James McGilvray. Cambridge University Press, 2012. Chomsky is an authority in the field of linguistics. Although he is an atheist, he has championed the idea that human language is qualitatively distinct from what animals do. For reasons mysterious to secular science, only humans are capable of syncactical recursion. For those of you not familiar with the idea of recursion, think, “I am your father’s brother’s nephew’s cousin’s former roommate.” You get the idea.
Guy Deutscher. The Unfolding of Language: An Evolutionary Tour of Mankind’s Greatest Invention. Holt Paperbacks, 2006. To write competently on any subject, you have to have conversation partners with whom you disagree. I don’t buy into evolutionary accounts of language, but I should at least know what these guys are saying before dismissing them.
Con Slobodchikoff. Chasing Doctor Dolittle: Learning the Language of Animals. St. Martin’s Press, 2012. There have been quite a few attempts on the part of secular linguists to bridge the gap between animal communication and human language. One of the more popular examples was Sue Savage-Rumbaugh’s work with bonobos. But in this book, Slobodchikoff describes his research on prairie dogs in an effort to undermine the idea of human uniqueness.
Steven Pinker. The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language. Harper, 2007. Pinker is a well-known disciple of Chomsky and an atheist. This book is standard reading in the field of linguistics.
Jerry Fodor. The Mind Doesn’t Work That Way: The Scope and Limits of Computational Psychology. Bradford, 2001. This book is a direct response to Pinker’s book How the Mind Works. Pinker attempts to put forward a computational, modular, Darwinian theory of mind (no, I don’t know what that means). But Fodor says, not so fast.

 

About Kyle Dillon

A teaching elder in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), assistant pastor of theological instruction at Riveroaks Reformed Presbyterian Church, and theology/languages teacher at Westminster Academy in Memphis, Tennessee.

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