a few random books: spirituality, art, human things, and unrequited love

While we have been out and about (please read our last few posts) new books keep stacking up by the computer. We are pleased to tell you about some random, but oh-so-good, new titles.
Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices That Transform Us Adele Ahlberg Calhoun (IVP) $16.00 This books is worth twice the price as it is a treasure-trove jam-packed with ideas, resources, discussion guides, reflective experiences on a large variety of classic diciplines. From fasting to solitude, contemplation to lectio divina and much more, this helps us through these life-giving practices. Calhoun works with our dear friend and highly regarded author Ruth Haley Barton (author of Invitation to Solitude and Silence) and combines an evangelical theological rigor with an ecumenical and broad awareness of the best resources on spiritual formation. An invaluable resource for individuals, spiritual directors or small groups.
Art and the Christian Mind: The Life and Work of H.R. Rookmaaker Laurel Gasque (Crossway) $16.99 On occasion, readers have told us that they appreciate our reviews of books about the arts and our blog posts and website bibliographies on faith and the arts. Many of the best writers make references to the significant work and lovely insight of this great 20th century Dutchman. Rookmaaker was friendly with the heavyweight Kuyperian philosopher, Herman Dooyeweerd, and took much of the insight gleaned from his association with reformational philosophy, and shared it during visits with Philadelphia-area, blue-collar, post-fundamentalist Francis Schaeffer, who had moved to Europe in despair of his insular fightin’ fundy irrelevance, longing to relate to counter-cultural students of the 60’s who were asking the big questions, and finding little accepatance in the traditional churches. Schaeffer’s L’Abrai movement (which Rookmaaker and his dear wife Anky) took up in Holland, continues to be a resource for cultural engagement, serious, applied theology and shaping a uniquely Christian worldview. Rookmaaker, then, is an important person in both the L’Abrai story generally, and in the renewed interest in the Christian and the arts specifically.
Laurel Gasque is a cultural historian living in British Columbia and artist herself who is on the board of the spectacular Image: A Journal of the Arts & Religion. She has researched well for this biography, and it is evident she has great sympathy for Rookmaaker’s vision. We announced at our website a couple of years ago that a British publisher has reprinted the complete collected works of Professor Rookmaaker and that we are pleased to stock them. We are even more pleased that this little volume can serve as a wonderful introduction to the life and ministry of one of the more important Reformed thinkers of the 20th century.
Rallying the Really Human Things: The Moral Imagination in politics, literature, and everyday life Vigen Guroian (ISI Books) $25.00 Although I have known his name for years—Guroian is an Easter Orthodox theologian and cultural critic (he teaches at Loyola College in MD) who has written widely; we have stocked his books on and off for years and read him sometimes in First Things. (I just love his little pocket-sized memoir on the spirituality of gardening, surely one of the more lovely books in that growing genre.)
This handsome hardcover is a collection on “Christian humanism”— a marvelous anthology of pieces, inviting deep reflection on matters as diverse as the fiction of Flannery O’ Connor and the quest for international human rights. Several of the core chapters revolve around themes of literature, children’s books (he has an earlier, marvelous book entitled Tending the Heart of Virtue: How Classic Stories Awaken a Child’s Moral Imagination) and the significance of serious ficiton. (Ahh–one chapter is called “Why Should Businessmen Read Great Literature?”) I have not read most of these, yet, and will dip into them on occasion. I am sure I will love his stuff on family life, children and hoping for a restoration of humane and workable values around issues of sexuality (his chapter “Dorm Brothel” is a walk through the creepy territory of I Am Charlotte Simons, with some help from Walker Percy.) Anybody who can write about St. John Chrysotom, a “non-liberal” view of nationalism, and fairy tales in the same book may be the brillant incarnation of C.S. Lewis. (Or, as Ralph Wood has said, he may be our very own modern-day G.K. Chesterton!) Rallying the Really Human Things promises to be an altogether rewarding read, challanging both liberal and conservative sentiments, with insight and wit.
Loves Me, Loves Me Not: The Ethics of Unrequited Love Laura A. Smit (Baker Academic) $18.99 I have been wanting to blog about this unbelievable book for a month or so. A while back I posted about a book which is a collection of (mosty) progressive Calvinist theologians reflecting on the movement known as radical orthodoxy (one obscure tradition writing on an even more obscure tradition, I think I said; that post oddly generated more interest than nearly anything I’ve written and has been linked here and there in the blogosphere.) Well, Ms Smit–the dean of chapel at Calvin College and an assistant professor of theology there–was a contributor to that wild, astute volume. So she is known in her field of serious theological and cultural reflection.
Here she writes compellingly about something that few (if any) theologians have written on: the matter of a broken heart. Our buddy and tremendously observant writer Lauren Winner has the first blurb on the back: “Simply smashing! Witty, intricate, and smart—this is the most important, thought-provoking book I have read this year.” If you know anything about Lauren’s serious reading habits you know this is one heck of a quote.
There is, as many of us know too well, a deep sorrow that plagues those heart-broken over unrequited love. (The phrase sounds victorian; how else, though to say it?) This stuff is common in romance novels and contemporary film, but, as The Library Journal observes, it “has rarely been touched in nonfiction writings and even less often by ethicists or theologians.”
A few months back on our monthly webpage column I did an annotated listing of books that might be called “self-help” or “personal growth” books that I hoped would be seen as thoughtful, helpful, not cheesy nor predictable. Even those with deeper reading dispositions, I figured, need sometimes to know about helpful books on getting by, finding wholeness and healing, coping with ordinary losses and stresses. I wished I had had this book then—it is certainly a meaty and profound study, yet, at it’s kind heart, is a book about breaking up and being hurt in romantic relationships that don’t work out. This is a one-of-a-kind title. Kudos to Ms Smit for applying her serious theolgoical mind to such an aching, common experience. And thanks to Baker Publishing Group for bringing these kinds of books out. It is my fear that it will not sell in the academic market (it is about romance for crying out loud) yet will be seen as too scholarly for your typical hurtin’ heart. Let us hope it does not fall through the cracks in the market.

2 thoughts on “a few random books: spirituality, art, human things, and unrequited love

  1. ok, i admit, i’m posting before reading this blog…i almost mentioned the adele calhoun book you recommended to me and i bought sat from you on my above post. i really look forward to reading it and incorporating it into in my class on spiritual formation…you’re almost inspiring me to blog–if i can find the time- (of course, i’m finding the time to do this). back to the day job!in him-

  2. Just started loves me, loves me not last night–it is WONDERFUL! Thanks for the recommend.

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