Risk and Intellectual Maturation

When people look at my reading lists, they usually get very nervous.  They see “dangerous” authors and ask why I am abandoning the gospel.  Such motives are always news to me.  But I think I understand the point of the question.  There is a legitimate reason for the question–a wrong one, to be sure–but understandable, nonetheless.  People who read nothing but dangerous literature usually become dangerous.  I hope that isn’t me.  We shall see.

Another assumption behind the question, one that is almost never identified, is the problem of the Other.  In other words, modern Reformed theology–especially the crude internetskii–needs an Other to maintain its own identity.  There is an identity and difference between “You” and the “Other.”

Self-consciousness is confronted by an Other. It perceives this other as an object and probably a negative moment.  Self consciousness exists in being acknowledged (Hegel sec.178).   They recognize themselves as being mutually recognized (185).  Yet, each seeks the negation (death) of the Other.  When self-consciousness first confronts the Other, it loses its simple unity.

Master/Slave Analogy

Master: consciousness that exists for itself (190), but it mediates this existence through another consciousness.  It sees the other as a thing.

Bondsman: self-consciousness in general.  It relates negatively to the Other.  

The master sees the bondsman as something unessential.

Man can only be self-conscious when he abstracts himself from the world.  But when he does that, he severs himself from the organic unity of life.  Reason and Life are thus opposites.  But they are opposites which can’t exist without the other.The ego posits the non-ego. The subject must be set against the object.

Conclusion to all of this:  Modern day Reformed theology lives upon negation and needs a bad guy in order to do theology.  Without Barth or NT Wright or R2k or Theonomy or Arminianism, Reformed theology wouldn’t have anything to talk about.

But enough of them.  My reading habits are diverse simply because…why the hell not?  Whenever I read a guy who is acknowledged to be an authority in the field, I usually go to the bibliography at the end and start working through some of those works.  This means I read scary stuff.   But God wants us to mature into Christ and not be babes.

But someone will say, aren’t you throwing away your Reformed heritage?  I don’t think I am, but if a person says that, he is free to make a logical argument to the effect.  I’ve learned not to hold my breath, however.  But here is my background in theological reading, if it matters.  These texts are generally recognized as the standards in the field.

  • Calvin, John.  Institutes.   I’ve read them at least 3x through.  I’m working on some of his commentaries, too.   Btw, a lot of them were edited by TF Torrance.
  • Bavinck, Herman.  I’ve read through Reformed Dogmatics volumes 1-3, and volume 2 at least three times.
  • Muller, Richard.  His book on Arminius, volumes 1-3 of Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics, his Dictionary at least several times through.  And most of his scholarly articles.
  • Berkhof, Louis. Reads like a Dutch and German language dictionary.
  • Hodge, Charles.  Systematic Theology.
  • Shedd, WGT.  About 400 pages of his theology.
  • Church Fathers.  Somewhere between 10,000-15,000 pages.
  • Dabney, Robert.  Systematic Theology, along with volumes 3-4 of his discussions.  And now a bunch of Internet Covies start have nervous breakdowns.  And I’ve read his bio on Jackson and his Sensualistic Philosophy.
  • Berkouwer.  Man the Image of God and The Person of Christ.
  • Turretin, Francis.  Volumes 1-2.
  • Bucer, Martin.  De Regno Christi.
  • Luther, Martin.  Bondage of the Will.  Three Treatises.  First volume of his commentary on Genesis.
  • Owen, John.  Communion with God.
  • Van Til.  Almost everything he has written.
  • Watson, Thomas.  A Body of Divinity.
  • Edwards, Jonathan.  Religious Affections, The End for which God created the world, The Nature of True Virtue.



About J. B. Aitken

Interests include patristics, the role of the soul in the human person, analytic theology, Reformed Scholasticism, Medievalism, Substance Metaphysics
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