About July 2007

This page contains all entries posted to Hearts & Minds Books in July 2007. They are listed from oldest to newest.

June 2007 is the previous archive.

August 2007 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

July 2007 Archives

July 2, 2007

Sacred Rhythms & The God of Intimacy and Action

For my Sunday Sabbath reading, I spent some happy hours with a book we have raved about since it came out last year, re-reading portions, and some time with a new one I highlighted in my last post. Fighting over melancoly and exhaustion and a persistent cough, this time of reflection and reading was wonderful. It was my inclination to blog yesterday, but I was resolute not to "work." And so, here's my quickie reviews of two great resources for the journey.

The "something old" was last year's Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation by Ruth Haley Barton (IVP;$16.) Her first chapter about the yearning so many of us feel, especially those of us active in church life or Christian ministry, for "something more", is worth the price of the entire book, and I've read it several times. Despite our hectic pace and numerous obligations, we foolishly try to pack one more spiritual activity into our already wheezing schedules. We think if we read one more book or participate in one more workshop or log on to one more cyber-prayer site, we will gain serenity. Ruth writes in wonderful prose, clear and helpful, inspiring and gentle, about her own spiritual burn-out and the need to find a "rule of life" that was life-giving. Yesterday, I was once again struck by her wisdom about how to wisely disengage from noise and email and technology from time to time. You can read some of her stuff at www.thetransformingcenter.org.

Ruth weaves together her fluency with the best writers (like Ronald Rohleiser's The Holy Longing or M. Robert Mulholland) with standard insights about the practice of the disciplines, but her style is her own, and her stories from her own lived experience of growing into practices that are faithful and helpful. She moves from profound ideas to very practicial suggestions, written with winsome care and yet an authoritative voice. She knows whereof she speaks.

I've read plenty of books on spiritual formation, over decades, and we stock many, from all sorts of publishers. From Thomas Merton to Gary Thomas, Richard Foster to Richard Baxter, from ancient saints to PunkMonk; we love this stuff. I will say without a doubt that this book is one of the best that I've read. We commend it to you, happily, one more time. Also, the one that preceded this is called Invitation to Solitude and Silence: Experiencing God's Tranforming Presence (IVP; $16). It, too, is extraordinary for its clarity, charm, ordinaryness and honesty. I think it is very important (and I will re-read it again, soon.) Happily, an older book she wrote years ago on being a Godly woman is now available again. (It was first called Becoming a Woman of Strength, which she expanded and re-wrote and re-titled as The Truths That Free Us upon learning more about spiritual disciplines, as she was being mentored by Tilden Edwards and the Shalem Institute.) It's has now been re-issued under the title Longing for More: A Woman's Path to Transformation in Christ (IVP; $16.)

I mentioned that I started a brand new book last evening. I announced it in my last post but now that I've read much of it, I can say I am absolutely thrilled and cannot recommend it highly enough. It worked for me on several levels, as it was motivational and inspiring, but also educational in that it taught some new stuff. The God Of Intimacy and Action: Reconnecting Ancient Spiritual Practices, Evangelism and Justice is co-authored by Tony Campolo and Mary Albert Darling (Jossey-Bass; $21.95.) It is a winner and reading it touched me ways for which I am, yet this morning, grateful.

I know that not all of our readers are as committed to promoting Campolo's work as I am. As I read his portion of the book, it reminded me why I love him so, and why I've been blessed to know him a bit: he combines an unashamed interest in leading others to Christ. He does altar calls, for God's sake! (Read that sentence again if you need to.) He is outspoken for peace and social justice, but he invites us to be empowered by the Spirit (can you hear him as he says it in that faux-British way that some older evangelicals use, and how he cites from memory the old King James?) I love a guy that still talks about personal evangelism even as he draws on secular sociologists about power structures and uses his storytelling abilities to remind us to be true to Christ and active in the worlds of culture, society and politics. Here, in a way that isn't surprising, but is refreshing and exciting, he brings together stories of evangelism, conversions, evangelistic preaching, and the need to learn from ancient saints and older spiritual practices. This isn't new ground for him, really, but it is explicit and fascinating and motivating.

(More needs to be said, I think, on the relationships between evangelism, spirituality and justice. Authors as diverse as Harvie Conn and Richard Foster and Rene Padilla and Becky Pippert and Tom Sine have weighed in over the years. This isn't the first word on that, nor the last. But it is a very, very good place to keep that conversation going, and I hope it is widely discussed.)

The long middle part is mostly penned by a woman who was raised in a fairly typical---that is, legalistic and pietisitic---evangelical worldview. Her simple faith was very sincere and personal but rarely equipped her to think deeply about the world or experience God in ways other than in the most superficial and dogmatic ways. As she grew into an interest in spirituality, she found herself also moving outward----think of the story of Catherine of Genoa, if you know it: her obsession with her inner life shattered as Christ called her to the poor and social reformation. Mary Albert Darling does one of the best jobs I've seen in describing the methods of St. Ignatius in ways that those not schooled in his complex theology can absorb. That she writes as an evangelical with a growing interest in social justice work makes her an able guide for many BookNotes readers, I'm sure. Darling teaches spiritual formation classes at Spring Arbor college and is especially fluent (as is Campolo) in the Welsyan revivals, his methods of reading spiritual classics in small groups, and ways to incorporate political action iniatives and evangelism, and all things soaked in prayer and an experience of the Spirit's leading.

Do you long for greater solidtude, and a life that is sane? Are you feeling wiped out this summer, stressed, as I am, overwhelmed even as you hunger for more depth? Ruth Haley Barton is an ally and guide. Sacred Rhythms can help.

Do you, again, as we do here, long for God's Kingdom to be seen in greater ways in our post-Christian culture? Do you want relevant engagement, prophetic ministry, political and economic reformation? Do you often consider the ways in which the whole creation is groaning---land and animals, too!---and eagerly await, like Romans 8 says, for the whole Earth to be renewed? Perhaps the clear teaching of spiritual methods that can fund and energize your call to action explaining in The God of Intimacy and Action will help. I can't wait until next Sunday when I can pray and read and reflect more on these two books. May you can order them, and join me in the journey of rest, renewal, revival and reformation?


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July 7, 2007

Jonathan Edwards conference and a brand new book

Well, business went on as usual here at Hearts & Minds this week, with our competent staff handling all manner of orders and inquiries while Beth and I (yes, Beth was well enough to work) set up and sold books at the annual conference sponsored by the Jonathan Edwards Institute. We've linked to their webpage before, and as their organizer (Pedro Govantes) says, "conversations of consequence" emerge from good worship. That is, true worship---honoring and exalting the sufficient One, Christ, who is both our Judge and Friend, King and Savior---has daily consequences. It effects our worldview, of course, and shapes our heart, which shapes our daily practices. These things are talked about with profound regularity over the book tables, meals, workshops and worship services at the annual JEI gathering in historic Annapolis, Maryland. Thanks to the JEI gang for allowing us to be a part of it all.

This year, alongside a fascinating (if we do say so ourselves) display of books by and about the colonial philosopher, theologian, writer, pastor, scholar and missionary, we featured the authors who were speaking. Keynote speakers includes the profound and exquiste D.A. Carson (surely one of the most solid and prolific Bible scholars around, esteemed professor from Trinity), the passionate and interesting Gordon-Conwell professor, Scott J. Hafemann, and the great, great preacher (of the historic-redemptive method) Richard Pratt, of Reformed Theological Seminary. These men are all elequant and passionate and clear and powerful as they teach the most reliably solid sort of classsic orthodox theology, with vivid and explosive missional consequence. If you don't know their scholarship or the many books they've authored click on the links that list some of their prestigious credentials, ecumenical work, and their books. Even for BookNotes readers who aren't conservative or Reformed, these guys are well worth knowing. That they work in dedicated ways teaching in places like Chad, too, is humbling. Theirs is theological scholarship refined in the trenches not only of the academy but in the fields of hard service.

Other authors present included Westminister Seminary's "Van Til" apologist, jazzman and cultural guru, Bill Edgar (who did workshops, for instance, on the musical work of Stravinski and another on truth in an ipod culture) and the prolific pastor, writer, Dean of Prison Fellowship's Centurian Fellows, organizer and scholar of cultural reformation (and, of late, Celtic spirituality) T.M. Moore. Again, it was an honor to be with these Christian leaders, and a treat to make a living selling books to God's people. At gatherings like this, it is especially meaningful, knowing that in attendence are those who are truly eager to learn, open to buying serious books, and are most likely going to pass new insights and commitments on back in their home congregations.

Thanks to those who were kind to us, who offered encouraging words, shared book reviews and ideas and who shelled out hard earned cash for the resources we promote.

Alas, one book which a few conferees asked about was just released and had arrived here in Dallastown, waiting for us when we got back. (If only it had come a few days earlier! Yikes, I suppose I ought not complain about the Providence of God when discussing one who thought so deeply about His soverignity, should I?)


Signs of the Spirit: An Interpretation of Jonathan Edwards' Religious Affections by Sam Storms (Crossway; $15.99) is now here, so I will at least announce it now. Storms is a serious Reformed scholar and writer, recently touched in manifest ways by the Holy Spirit's gifts (yes, I know, a charismatic Calvinist is nearly an oxymoron, but we love it!) It makes sense for Sam, with his "Enjoying God Ministires" and affirmation of the full role of the Spirit, to revisit this classic of how spiritual revivial and emotional life relate. Are all religious feelings truly of God? Does a bunch of spiritual passion indicate the real thing? Are miracles to be sought? That is precisely what Edwards wondered in his day and it is what is called for, again.

Here are a few endorsements from the back cover.

"Jonathan Edwards' Religious Affections remains one of the most discerning works of spiritual psychology published in the last several centuries. Dr. Samuel Storms unpacking of this significant work reveals once again for a new generation why the old Puritan so much deserves the most careful study today." Mark A. Noll, University of Notre Dame

"Storms' repackaging of this spiritual classic meets a serious need. His essay on Edwards' personal spirituality, introducing the Personal Narrative, is almost worth the price of the book. Then, his running commentary, interspersed with direct selection from the Narrative are exceedingly helpful." Gerald R. McDermott, Roanoke College

"These texts of Jonathan Edwards have nourished the church for nearly three centuries. In Sam Storms' capable hands they'll now speak clearly, plainly, and powerfully to the church today and for generations to come. If you've ever wanted to tackle Edwards but have shied away, you no longer have an excuse." Stephen J. Nichols, Lancaster Bible College

July 11, 2007

Truth Is Stranger Than It Used to Be

This goofy gang may be dressed up for an 80's party or something but you should know they are the cream of the crop of today's collegiate evangelists, intellectually and spiritually mature, spending time this summer reading and learning about their upcoming tasks as campus workers. The Coalition for Christian Outreach (CCO), the para-church campus ministry based in Pittsburgh with whom Beth and I serve as Associate Staff--that means we're their official booksellers---had me out to help with new staff training this week. I offered a passionate and jam-packed class on modernity and postmodernity, the need for campus workers to contextualize their evangelism and disciple-making to the distinctive ethos of the institutions of higher education in which they find themselves.

Obviously, college students will be tomorrow's leaders, and it is strategic and vital to reach often de-churched and secularized postmodern youth with the gospel. It is of equal importance and urgency to help those students who are already followers of Jesus to relate their faith to their majors and future careers. You've seen the little advertisement here on the website for the new book by CCO colleagues Derek Melleby and Don Opitz, The Outrageous Idea of Academic Faithfulness (one of the books the new staff are reading together this week.) I have suggested in other posts that this is the best book to give to young adults going off to college and that there is really nothing like it in print. My lectures for these campus workers and their mentors---who will be hitting their respective campuses next month---was an extended riff on the central thesis of the Outrageous Idea book: God calls us to think faithfully and relate a theologically sound life perpsective to the questions of the classroom (along with all aspects of campus living.) To equip youngsters to think in truly Christian ways about their collegiate experiences and to navigate the ideologies and idols of the postmodern university, their campus ministers have got to know the issues, the intellectual mileu, the controversies and practices which need to be lovingly and discerningly engaged. These are deep waters for many young students so these campus ministers have to know their stuff and be flexible and winsome as they exhort the students they befriend. I considered it one of the great priveleges of my summer to get to help teach these campus disciple-makers. That they raise their own salaries makes it tough for their book-buying budgets, too, but they bought what they could.

A good chunk of my time actually was spent hanging out afterwards consulting about books, showing off our book display and helping the new CCO staff learn about our services as booksellers. (They weren't in their 80's party mode by then.) Of course I told them about our "Books by Vocation" bibliography over at the website, and recommended resources on developing the Christian mind, the best books on evangelism, social action, building community, cross-cultural friendships, etc. You can imagine the stuff that campus workers have to read up on---eating disorders and institutional racism, how to teach young people to lead Bible studies and how to help them form sexual character, how to help their sponsoring churches learn to care for young adult guests and how to help make sure their own spiritual lives are deep and refeshed.

Brian Walsh & Richard Middleton's book Truth is Stranger Than it Used to Be ---a postmodern sequal to the must-read Transforming Vision--formed some of our conversation. With a very informed and somewhat appreciative take on the deconstructionist critique of modernity's idols (the myth of objectivity, the idol of progress, the Enlightenment's hubris and reductionisms, the ideologies of Empire, the false hopes of Rationalism, the subsequent encroaching secularization and crass consumerism and relativism) they show the philosophical and cultural consequences of the postmodern turn. The second half of the book is a creative and sustained Bible study, making an audacious claim that the way to speak into the postmodern culture is with the vision of unfolding drama of the Scriptures, showing that the heart of the story is that the Author of the plot, is the God who suffers and dies for His beloved creation, establishing, through a Spirit-empowered, counter-cultural community, a good Kingdom of peace and healing. Can we learn to love the Scriptures like Walsh & Middleton do?** Can we proclaim them with all the pathos and care and hope that they show in Truth Is Stranger...? Can we embody communities of grace that are signposts of the coming Kingdom? In the context of teaching about the call to wholistic dischipleship, intellectual fidelity, and contextualized campus ministry, this was a challange offered to these thoughtful new CCO staff.

Brian Walsh continues this matter in a little known book of four powerful, intellectually- stimulating and Biblically mind-blowing essays entitled Subversive Christianity: Imaging God in Dangerous Times (Alta Vista; $10.) He reminds us---and I reminded the new CCO staff at the highpoint of my lecture---that intellectual switcheroos, changing ideas (even from a dualistic and privitized worldview to a faith that is full-orbed and culturally relevant) is NOT enough. (This is, by the way, a problem with many of the recent conservative writers that are writing about worldviews, as if they are merely a set of doctrinal or philosophical concepts with which we agree or disagree.) Revising the ideas of our worldviews, needful as that is, is not the goal of a fully repentant and renewed faithfulness. Walsh, who has made his living as a Christian scholar and worldview teacher, insists that true spiritual transformation and cultural reformation will happen when our imaginations change. Drawing on sources deep within the prophetic literature (Jeremiah, mostly) as explicated by Walter Brueggemann, for instance, in The Prophetic Imagination, Walsh's Subversive Christianity tells us to allow God's vision to become our own by the breaking of our hearts, a rejection of idols, a pathos-filled imagination that in faith believes that God will do good things in our times. Do we walk by faith? Can we imagine what it means to be hopeful people? Subversive Christianity is one of my all time favorite books, and I recomended it to them.

People of serious faith will struggle with these things, and perhaps our book selections here at the shop, over at the website, and my reviews and blogs here at BookNotes, will help. Hopefully, this motley and silly crew of the CCO--gotta love the guy who shaved his head to look like Mr. T!---will take their exuberant and faithful approaches into the dorms and classrooms, coffee-shops and locker rooms of our Mid-Atlantic colleges and universities. Pray for them, please. And thanks for caring about our bookselling ministry here. Want to join the fun by ordering any of the one's I've mentioned? It sure would be good to know that others, too, are on this journey...


**By the way, in case you haven't followed their writing career: I mentioned the love for the Scriptures (creatively taught) shown in the last half of Truth Is Stranger Than It Used to Be. Brian Walsh teamed up with his wife Sylvia Keesmaat, and later wrote Colossians Remixed: Subverting the Empire a book which I named as the book of the year a year ago. It, again, is a politically radical and exegetically solid take on postmodernism, Empire, the nature of the witness of the early church communities and how we, today, might live out the vision of the book of Colossians. Agree with it or not, it is one of the most thought-provoking and extraordinary books I've read. Many folks agree, and we're happy to have had a small hand in it. Subversive Christianity, though, is not as well known, and we would love to suggest it to you.

July 16, 2007

York Sunday News column: The Yearning of Young Collegians

As some of you know, I have been asked to write an op-ed piece in our local Sunday paper (The York Sunday News) every six weeks and in past postings, I've linked to those pieces. I usually mention books or authors (duh) and figure that our BookNotes friends might want to see my efforts to talk about the sort of stuff that matters to us here, in a more public setting. Yesterday, a new one was published.

In my last blog post I mentioned helping out with the CCO, the campus ministry organization that trains sharp folks to learn about wholistic campus outreach, and then forms partnerships with congregations that are near college campuses. I allude to them in this column (sadly, their strict word count had me editing out whole paragraphs, cutting entire sentences, and triming some of my more colorful adjectives.) In an earlier draft I named Billy Ferrell as the fella sent by the CCO to York, now working out of Asbury United Methodist.

And, of course, in any talk about caring for the youth of the church, I had to talk about how Derek Melleby and Don Opitz's new book (see the advert over to the left) will help with the college transition.

Read my Sunday News column, "The Yearning of Young Collegians."

What do you think?
Is there somebody---church staff? Parent? College-age student? you could send it to?

July 17, 2007

The Language of God

I promised readers a while back that I would post an announcement when we received the new paperback edition of Francis S. Collins' The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief. We are very happy to say that we've gotten it. It has a new study guide, too, making it ideal for a book club or adult study. We are very fond of it. (Click on that link above and read an interview with Dr. C done by Religion and Ethics NewsWeekly.)

Collins, you should know, is the prestigious director of the Human Genome Project at the NIH, and is one of the world's leading scientists. As it says on the back cover, "he works at the cutting edge of the study of DNA, the code of life. Yet, he is also a man of unshakable faith in God and Scripture."

Yes, Dr. Collins--who has given important lectures at Harvard and was an MIT commencement speaker a few years back!---is an evangelical, nurtured in the ways of orthodox faith by friends at the C.S. Lewis Institute and theologians like N.T. Wright and his pal the estimable Dr. Alister McGrath. That he speaks as easily about C.S. Lewis as he does gene sequences shows his thoughtfulness and deeply integrated perspective. The Times review noted that the book "lets non-church-goers consider spiritual questions without feeling awkward." And that is quite a feat, I think, making it an excellent book to give away or to use in a seeker book discussion.

That the book was a New York Times bestseller and has blurbs from the likes of Desmond Tutu and Kenneth Miller and Paul Davies makes it that much more interesting. I think many of our BookNotes friends will be glad this inexpensive paperback is now available (See the blog special, below).

The book should appeal to a variety of readers. It is a science book, after all, and would obviously fit well into that catagory. If you read popular science or are trying to figure out the debates about evolution, this is a great introduction; well-written, making complex matters very understandable. (I announced the new Michael Behe book, The Edge of Evolution, a month ago. He is a brillant and important researcher but his more technical work is beyond me.) Collins writes as a world-class researcher, too, but this is a popular level book, some of it a memoir of his own journey as person of faith and cutting edge scientist.

Collins is not only a scholar with a PhD in chemistry (done when he was, as he explains, a rigorous atheist), but he has a medical degree as well. It makes sense that a friend and mentor is Dr. Armand Nicholi of Harvard Medical School (author of the great book which compares the worldviews of Sigmund Freud and C.S. Lewis, The Question of God.) It was when Collins was in medical school, actually, when he found Christian faith compelling and became a disciple of Christ.

Much of the book explores his take on the reasonableness of faith, and his good work in genetics and in the herculian effort to map the human genome.

(Collins and his team have done very significant work in many areas, of course, but I was especially moved to hear of his discovery of the key genetic problem that causes cystic fibrosis. I was almost moved to tears as he writes of writing a song for patients, families and activists in the CF support community. Obviously, he's a hero in their eyes! See his bio here to see other diseases his research has helped "crack.")

The book makes a good case for faith being reasonable, and he expresses what I take to be solid and orthodox views yet he is open, gentle, and makes it clear that he does not think that Biblically grounded faith leads to either the politics of the Christian right or the inaccuracies of the creationist movement. (Like many of our wisest church father before him, he does not think that the first three chapters of Genesis need to be taken literally.) In a few chapters he dispatches not only agnostic and atheistic assumptions, but explains his disapproval of both young earth creationism and intelligent design.

Ahhh, space here does not permit my small quibbles about his critique of ID.* Let's just say I don't think he presents the full case, although he makes accusations that I would imagine he could easily back up, even if he doesn't fully do so in the text. Interestingly, secularists have noticed that his apologetic includes the argument from design in cosmology (and, cf,in the Big Bang.) He rejects such thinking, though, in biology, where ID has had the most influence. I would love to see some friendly discusion--and knowing Francis just a bit, I know it would be most cordial--between he and, say, Philip Johnson or Mike Behe.

The Language of God ends with a somewhat detailed discussion of moral medicine, the ethics of genetic engineering (stem cell research, for instance) and a call to thoughtful, balanced and reasonable approaches to bio-medicine guided by principles of stewardship, justice, care and integrity. This is the kind of man he is, the kind of science he daily practices, and he is an ideal voice for inviting skeptics into the conversation between Christian faith and modern science. As First Things said in a review of the initial hardcover, "His book may do more to promote better understanding between the worlds of faith and science than any other so far written."

*Here is a review that was published in The American Spectator. Fascinating.

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July 19, 2007

Free Book About Potter

Well, we received our Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows shipment, and we opened the carton, against publisher rules. (Honestly, we wanted to make sure they weren't damaged. Really.) I suspect the same guys that come after you if you take that little tag off your mattresses will be showing up. If you see a Hearts & Minds employee--no names mentioned here---being led off in cuffs, you'll know why. Sure beats tax evasion, though.

We are ready for a few locals to swing by, sans costumes, I hope, at midnight Friday night. Our oldest daughter, who works at a local library, had over 200 for their little party tonight, so we figured we didn't really need another. Readers of our BookNotes blog will know our worldviewish, in-the-world-but-not-of it, Christ-transforming-culture, engage the issues, Isacharian (look it up, I Chronicals 12:22), love for literature schtick but you should know that we will take hits for stocking the magical book. It may seem silly to some of you, but we ask for your prayers. It seems each time we display the latest, amidst the media hoopla, some Christians are shocked that we have them.

For the record, if it were about witchcraft and advocating evil, we would, obviously, think twice before carrying them. We do not think about the Satanic lightly. (We do, interestingly, carry the seriously anti-Christian Philip Pullman "His Dark Materials" fantasy novels, and some very thoughtful Christian books that evaluate the hatred for the church that is so evident in this well-written novels. No body much buys them here, but we have 'em, and pray hard that we are honoring God despite the complexities of those stories.)

Harry, though: we love him. You have read here previously, I hope, that we have quite an array of books like the excellent The Gospel According to Harry Potter by Connie Neal or the very thoughtful Looking for God in Harry Potter by John Granger, even If Harry Potter Ran General Electric: Leadership Wisdom from the World of the Wizards and Harry Potter and Philosophy: If Aristotle Ran Hogwarts There are others, too, and we are grateful for the chance (sorry if I sound like a boring broken record) to help nurture Christian discernment, Godly thoughtfulness, joy in common grace and the habits of happy reading. Or not so happy, depending on how the story turns in HP7.

So: here's a little deal. I've got a couple of the very, very interesting set of rigorous Potter speculations called Who Killed Albus Dumbledore edited by the Orthodox Potter guru, John Granger. (That is, he is an Orthodox Christian, and a good, if perhaps unorthodox Potter guru. He teaches Latin too, which I suppose is neither here nor there. Or is it?)

The first couple folks who order Deathly Hallows from us here (at the sale price of $24.99) we will give a free copy of that along with the order. It is a $15 value, but we need to move 'em out, and would be happy to use it as an incentive to getcher Harry from us. Just ask for the free book.

While supplies last.

And, for those of you who ordered them elsewhere, I cast upon you the Bat-Bogey Hex.

July 21, 2007

Eyes Wide Open special deal

From what I know of our BookNotes readers, I would guess that many of you know, and some have read, Eyes Wide Open: Finding God in Popular Culture by William D. Romanowski (Brazos) $17.99 (See blog special below for sale pricing.) Some may have inclinations to work on this topic, and like that we have commended books like The Culturally Savvy Christian by Dick Staub, our well-loved Everyday Apocalypse, by the extraordinary David Dark, or, yesterday, the books that offer Christian insights into Harry Potter, but haven't read Romo yet. If so, now is the time to buy this important book. I know I say it a lot, but you should trust me on this.

As we noted in yesterday's post, many have expressed delight and approval that we stock the Harry Potter books; once again, the local paper mentioned us in a story (is it really newsworthy that a Christianly-run store stocks Deathly Hallows?) And, yet, yes, there are reports of religious criticisms of Potter fans, including us, and not everybody understands our interests in fantasy lit (and, more generally, why we carry any "secular" novels and music.) Even some that I thought knew us well have been surprised that we stock HP, even though they are glad.


Why are they surprised? It seems that we still don't quite appreciate the Biblical basis for engaging in culture, playing our part in the human task of culture-forming. Our worldviews just aren't Christian enough; we are enmeshed in dualism that minimizes such stuff. I sometimes pontificate about being salt and light, Biblical metaphors for being in the world, and quote Paul on Mars Hill (Acts 17) who knew the pagan poetry of the day. But how about the "foundational command" to cultivate the Earth, the "cultural mandate" as Reformed folk call it, from Genesis 1:28? It doesn't get much more basic than that.

Of the plethora of books about these kinds of things that have come out in recent years, and there are many, Bill Romanowski's book is among the best, and, I believe, the most important. He has studied hard and long about this stuff, having grappled with everything from the neo-Marxist Frankfurt school to the Dooyeweerdian aesthetics of Calvin Seerveld; he's paid his dues in the academic world of social history and he knows his Biblical theology; and he, well, he loves the movies! I would think that every church library should have Eyes Wide Open. Book groups should be using it. It should be given to college students and other young adults, especially, so they know that their church cares about their world, at least. As we increasingly find ourselves in a media-drenched, entertainment-oriented, cultural matrix driven by the movie industry and the "star-maker machinery" (yes, I know, I date myself with a Joni Mitchell line), it is imperative that we master the stuff in this book. Our times demand it, and, really, our faith requires it.

I admit it: I am fond of this particular text because Bill and I were housemates in college and remain good friends. He's a great communicator, serious yet with more than his share of whimsy. Hearts & Minds has supported the book since its earlier edition (and his earlier work, Pop Culture Wars, too.) We stock the Calvin College produced videos of Bill lecturing on the WB lot with oodles of film clips. This new edition of Eyes..., as I exclaimed when it came out a half a year ago, is significantly updated and expanded. It is a must-have. For what it is worth, our L'Abrai-influenced friends at Ransom Fellowship (who publish the excellent Critique magazine) agree. Go here to see why.

In this Potter-esque season in the book-selling liturgical calandar the discussions about literary criticism, religion & fiction, God and popular entertainment, will be everywhere. The debates among some Christians will be firm, but even where there is only a mild uneasiness---readers who don't want to tell their church friends that they love the Harry & Hermione & Ron Weasley---we don't really have a coherent way to get at the issue. In a time when some pastors get in trouble for being seen lining up with their kids to buy the book, where some Christian book industry leaders dare not mention it to their stores (I was told this last week by a very significant person in the trade) since most Christian booksellers refuse to stock it and would take offense by the mention, when folks do buy it yet don't have any skills of discernement about it, I think we must continue to have resources on hand like Eyes Wide Open.

Here is a great interview from INFUZE with Romanowski.
He talks a bit about the updated version of the book and other good stuff. Check it out!


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2 for the price of one (almost)

We would like to invite you to help us get the book into circulation. If we can get more folks in discussion about this, with these kinds of ideas, God will be pleased and, frankly, our job here will be easier. Your's will be too, don't you think?

We will sell you two nearly for the price of one: it usually sells for $17.99. We'll sell ya two for $20.00 That's the same as $10 each, if you take two. What a deal!
Just email us or use the secure web order form, or give us a call at 717.246.3333. Thanks.

July 28, 2007

Free Book Offer for College Students

I'm posting from my temporary assignment at Ocean City NJ where, as I've said at my Facebook site, I've been teaching and sharing life with a group of college students at the CCOs annual student leadership experience, the summer-long Ocean City Beach Project. What a privilege it was earlier in the summer to help train the professional CCO campus ministers (as I blogged about a week or so ago--scroll down) and now to meet some of their sharpest students. The house here in OC is spacious and warm (in more ways than one) and we have our traveling book display laid out on pool tables and end tables and shelving borrowed from the kitchen. In between their work and beach fun, meetings and ministry, classes and cooking, they browse the display, and have bought plenty. (One donor, and old OCBP teacher, offers some money to subsidize their purchases a bit. THANKS!) The students have had guest speakers all summer and have learned what community life is like as they sharpen their leadership skills for their upcoming fall semester.

I am grateful for how they befriended me and my family---even the ones lost in HP7 this week. These students represented maybe a dozen different colleges, and various majors and interests. They all work at day jobs on the boardwalk or town, and have all kinds of learning experiences, small groups and Bible studies through-out the week.

My topic complimented their more specific weeks on racial justice, leadership, evangelism, Bible study and such. I gave my lectures on integrating faith and learning, being faithful in academic discipleship (for the sake of culture-shaping, world-tranforming social innovations), helping them relate their Christian worldview to the callings and careers learned in the classroom. From Steve Garber's essential book (Fabric of Faithfulness) to the resources on worldview and the Christian mind by James Sire, from Al Wolters Creation Regained to Neal Plantinga's Engaging God's World, we called these young students to a robust and sturdy faith that can withstand the fierce (or the subtle) opposition found on most modern campuses. (I hope you linked to my op-ed piece in the York Sunday News last week where I pondered the state of contemporary college life. Again, scroll down a few posts below if you haven't read it.) That there is much need for deep discernment in our culture, and in the college classroom, as students nurture the mind of Christ should be evident. For some students, though, and usually their churches, and sometimes even campus workers, the radical call to "take every thought captive" comes as a bit of a shock. The vast implications, once realized, opens new and challanging vistas of ways to connect faith and thinking, devotion and life, prayer and politics, our deepest cares and our longed for careers. One student said I shook her up a bit, "in a good way." Let's hope.

It is our conviction that the best resource on these things for college students is the new book, The Outrageous Idea of Academic Faithfulness: A Guide for Students by Derek Melleby and Don Opitz (Brazos; $14.00)which I have raved about here before. Readers of BookNotes should know I'm close to these guys and feel involved in the manuscript. You can see the advertisement about it on the left.

You know how many books I love and how many new ones I commend; this one gets an banner ad here because we are so committed to making it known. If you are reading this and know anyone in college who has an interest in Christian discipleship and living out faith in relevant ways, this book is a must. If space permitted I'd share portions we read together here at the OCBP. It is both radical and fun; serious-minded and light-hearted. Perfect.

Here's a special deal. I've talked before about the very handsome journal we sell, the special issues of the quarterly Comment, entitled "How to Make the Most Out of College." This is a great collection of essays on several key aspects of college life (from forming friendships to learning how to ask questions, from appreciation of the arts to developing habits of reading, written by your truly.) We usually sell it for $8.00 and it is a marvelous resource for students wanting to ponder some important questions and learn life-giving habits about their college experiences. We'll give ya a free one for every Outrageous Idea... you buy. OCBP students liked it. I'd bet that students you know would too. Email or call us today!


BLOG SPECIAL
We will give this special issue of Comment
absolutely free
with any purchase of
The Outrageous Idea of Academic Faithfulness: A Guide for Students.

July 31, 2007

Misadventures in the Middle East, A Thousand Splendid Suns, and a free copy of The Only Road North

Last week Beth and both read books about the conflicted Persian/Arab Middle Eastern world, books that brought great emotion and wonder to us both. Her choice was the more literary and important one, I suppose: A Thousand Splendid Suns (Riverhead; $25.95), the new novel by Khaled Hosseini, the famous Afghani author of The Kite Runner. This is a harrowing tale of great tragedy, of poverty and war, the repression of the Taliban, the oppression of women, the tenacity of friendships and a touching glimmer of redemption. She was, as we say, deeply moved by it, and I got choked up at one point in her describing it to me. The Kite Runner has been a much talked-about book, of course (it was our local choice for the "One Book One Community" read in York County last year.) This one is even more tragic and rich. For those who can take the heavy stuff (think, uh, the new Cormac McCarthy) this would be a very good choice. Beth has been haunted by it, as have most critics, who have raved. Publisher's Weekly called the writing "lyrical" and of course gave it a starred review.



Mine, though, was a heck of a lot more fun, and yet also disturbing in small ways, a book that I can't quite thinking about. It was a fairly well-written book (not brillant) by some British art-school guys who, upon graduating, make a decision to take off to the broad Middle East, knowing not so much about that region, hoping to paint what they see, express their take on things, sell some work in some high-brow gallery showings along the way, and learn how artists in other cultures work. Part road trip, part travelogue, part artist memoir, part political study, Misadventure in the Middle East: Travels as Tramp, Artist and Spy by Henry Hemming (Nicholas Brealey; $19.95) was hard to put down. As Henry and his pal (and their truck named Yasmine) made their way into Turkey, into Kurdish Iran, to contacts in the art world of Lebanon, Baghdad, Saudia Arabia and Jordan, they are variously considered terrorists or spys or national cultural heros; they are detained at borders and housed with princes. They end up in Israel, detained again, with a patriotic picture above them, laden with irony as they had earlier been hosted by one of the Kings (of Jordon) in the official photograph. As they are released into a hostel which they couldn't afford, the book ends, sooner than I would have wished. Not a bad sign, wanting more.

Post 9-11 Middle East has never been portrayed so earnestly and, I would guess, never quite so humorously. Using art as their passport, as it says on the back cover, they traveled "from the drug-fuelled ski slopes of Iran via the region's mosques, palaces, army barracks, secret beaches, police cells, nightclubs, torture chambers, brothels and artists' studios" all on the way to Baghdad (where they have heard there is a growing and important artistic renessaince. If they can only find it.) Finding hipster artists in a war zone isn't the safest thing to do.

I am positive that this will bring good hours of reading pleasure for anyone who is interested in this sort of crazy adventure journey. It is also helpful to enter into the world of art production (the two buds argue relentlessly about their styles of doing work, the meanings of their projects, fretting how their work will be received and reviewed, and the plausibility of producing enough paintings to actually sell, make some money, and continue on their year-long aesthetic escapade. Sound familiar?)

And, it is a helpful glimpse into these Brits and their take on the take of so many common people they met along the way. The invasion of Iraq and the toppling of Saddam's empire happens while there are there, and their increasing love for the region and its people(s) gives them an open-hearted vantage point to hear the anguish of Arab and Middle Eastern folk, Muslim and Christians and others. The differences and similiarities of persective--on religion, on women, on art, on politics, on Americans, on war---that they encounter is itself illuminating. Misadventure... was a very good book to enjoy, and fascinating journey. Some of Mr. Hemming's artwork can be seen here. An art book showing images and artwork of the journey was published as Off Screen.

HERE IS A GREAT BLOG SPECIAL
FREE BOOK
Order either of the above mentioned books
and we will send you another great road memoir
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The Only Road North: 9.000 Miles of Dirt and Dreams by Erik Mirandette (Zondervan; $12.99.)

What a journey of three friends--joined by a fourth later--who are doing relief work, firstly in Morocco, and then, starting in Capetown, motorcyle their way throughout Africa. They face everything from wild animals to terrorist bombs, Christian mission projects and hostile civil warriors. To call them intrepid is saying the least as they struggle to make their way through this magnificent and troubled land. A thrilling spiritual journey filled with qualms and doubts and enough authentic epiphanies to last a lifetime will make a great compliment your pick of either of the other two described in BookNote above. Email us, hit the order form at the website, or give us a call at 717.246.3333. Tell us you want the blog special deal with the free book.