Finished reading: some history, some sci-fi, some theology

The history:

The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris by David McCullough

An interesting read about Paris – astonishingly vibrant in the mid-1800s – and the notable Americans who visited or migrated there. McCullough paints a portrait of art, science, and culture flourishing in ways that inspired the visiting Americans. It’s not the most engaging book I’ve read from McCullough – it particularly seems to drift off in the last third – but it was still an interesting look into a time I was unfamiliar with.

The sci-fi:

A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers

The follow-up to The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet which I reviewed earlier. A Closed and Common Orbit follows a sentient Artificial Intelligence program, designed to inhabit and run a spaceship, as it adapts to being in a body and interacting with the world around it in a more limited way. This is a great little book that I had a very hard time putting down.

The theology:

The Doors of the Sea by David Bentley Hart

This little volume is an expansion of a couple essays that Eastern Orthodox theologian David Bentley Hart wrote as a response to the Boxing Day 2004 tsunami that killed hundreds of thousands in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, and Thailand. How could a good and loving God – if such exists – allow such suffering?

I’ve been steeped in Calvinist teaching on this sort of question for a couple decades now and always really struggled with it. Hart, certainly no Calvinist, here provides an alternate view: a God so expansive and powerful that He is willing to give His creation autonomy and yet still work through and around their mess to work out His ultimate purpose. This gives us the freedom to truly rage at the brokenness of the world while at the same time hoping for its restoration.

And with apologies to my Reformed brethren who are reading this and itching to provide me with corrections to Hart, in about 50 small pages Hart has drawn for me an answer to the “How can a good God allow suffering?” question than I’ve heard in 20 years of Calvinist teaching. I’ll post separately with a couple excerpts.

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