Ad Hoc Review #1

The Last Word N. T. Wright, The Last Word [books] — N.T. Wright, the Bishop of Durham in the Church of England, is one of the most brilliant and prolific New Testament scholars in the world. Unfortunately, he is also viewed as one of the most controversial because of his association with the “New Perspective on Paul.” This “perspective” (which I personally reject) causes many evangelicals to dismiss the totality of Wright’s prodigious output. This is regrettable for while his work should be approached with caution, the Bishop has many valuable contributions to offer the Church.
One example is The Last Word, in which Wright attempts, as the subhead notes, to move “Beyond the Bible Wars to a New Understanding of the Authority of Scripture.” This “new understanding” is premised on Wright’s central idea:

“…the central claim of this book: that the phrase ‘authority of Scripture’ can make Christian sense only if it is shorthand for ‘the authority of the triune God, exercised somehow through scripture.'”

This insight is so rich that it would take a much longer book to suss out it implications; Wright merely scratches surface. (In his introduction he preempts this criticism by saying: “I trust that those who have grumbled at the length of some of my other books will not now grumble at all the things I have left unsaid in what is a very compressed, at times almost telegraphic, treatment.”). Still, he makes some valid tangential points, particularly in pointing out the “Misreadings of Scripture” on both the left and the right. While this short volume (146 pgs) will not be “the last word” on the authority of the Bible, it is certainly a worthy starting point for the discussion. Rating: B+

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ALL-ETT ALL-ETT Wallets [products] — Remember the episode of Seinfeld where George Constanza’s wallet was so overstuffed with junk that it made him sit at a tilt with it in his back pocket? George solved the imbalance problem by stuffing his other back pocket with napkins. Instead, he should have bought an ALL-ETT, the “World Thinnest Wallet.” I ordered one after reading the review of David Wayne and quickly concluded that the ALL-ETT is the perfect wallet (though I share David’s one criticism: “…the only problem is that you may forget you are carrying it.”).
My current wallet holds 3 insurance cards, 3 credit cards, 5 membership cards, 1 driver’s license, and 8 one dollar bills and yet is still roughly the thickness of 3 nickels. The nylon “spinnaker cloth” version is paper thin and dirt cheap ($19.95) but I recommend spending a few dollars more ($29.95) for the fine grain Italian leather Executive. Be careful, though, when ordering it by mail. When it comes the envelope is so thin that you might mistake if for junk mail and throw it away by accident (seriously). Rating: A+
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Iron Man Iron Man: Director of S.H.I.E.L.D [comics] — For fans of Iron Man, the concept of Tony Stark subbing in for a missing Nick Fury as the director of S.H.I.E.L.D. is pure genius. Unfortunately, the story doesn’t take advantage of the rich possibilities and instead dishes out the standard post-Civil War fare. Fanboys, however, will appreciate the extras included in the trade paperback, including a reprint of the first appearance of S.H.I.E.L.D., a classic Stark/Fury team-up, and comprehensive profiles of both Iron Man and S.H.I.E.L.D. Rating: B-
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Plato’s Lysis [classics] — I suspect the ancient Greek playwright Aristophanes wrote The Clouds–a satire which mockingly portrays Socrates as a foolish sophist–after reading Plato’s Lysis–a dialogue that unintentionally portrays Socrates as a foolish sophist. The discussion is ostensibly about friendship (which, herein, appears to mean boy-boy love). Yet after a meandering throat clearing session followed by a dull aligning and knocking down of strawmen, Socrates concludes by summarizing:

If neither the beloved, nor the lover, nor the like, nor the unlike, nor the good, nor the congenial, nor any other of whom we spoke-for there were such a number of them that I cannot remember all-if none of these are friends, I know not what remains to be said.

I too know not what remains to be said, except, “Maybe Aristophanes was on to something…” Rating: D
Related: My friend (and Plato scholar) John Mark Reynolds reviews my review and finds it lacking:

Plato has written a dialogue, a genre that is not written like contemporary philosophy or apologetics. It is more like a philosophical play than treatise. Of course, it is not a play in the sense that it intends merely to entertain. It is trying to encourage participation.Socrates is confronting some very opinionated young men eager to love and sure they understand what love is….
Plato wrote, therefore, in a more guarded manner. He does not “hide” his meaning to frustrate modern readers, but partly for prudence. He also (see Phaedrus) worries that “dead books” that simply pronounce truths will stifle free inquiry and mental growth in a student.

JMR makes some interesting points and he adequately defends Plato and his method. On those points we are in agreement. But what JMR has not done, in my opinion, is explain what makes Lysis a good dialogue. Plato is of the greatest thinkers in history and “friendship” is one of the great themes. So are we really to believe that this is the best that Plato could do?
What say you readers? Who is closer to the truth? Me or JMR?

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David Archuleta [music] -For the first six seasons the cultural juggernaut known as American Idol has seeded pop music with the great (Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Chris Daughtry), the good (Jennifer Hudson, Elliott Yamin, Bucky Covington), the bad (Kellie Pickler, Blake Lewis, Sanjaya Malakar), and the mediocre (Ruben Studdard, Fantasia Barrino, Taylor Hicks). But this year the show finally delivers the sublime: David Archuleta.

This week the show is down to the remaining eight contestants: David Archuleta and seven inevitable runners-up that are not named David Archuleta. The 17-year-old wunderkind is the best discovery the show has ever made. (Even New York magazine’s snarky Vulture blog asks without irony, “Is David Archuleta the Greatest ‘American Idol’ Contestant of All Time?”) Rating: A+