Chasing Sophia by Lilian Calles Barger

The other day I listed a group of books that were recommendations for an ordinary small group at a fairly typical church; a friend had a women’s group that she works with, and wondered about some suggestions. I named a handful—not all for or about women—that were basic and not difficult. Nearly any somewhat educated reader could enjoy them, and I maintained that they were a cut above some of the simplistic stuff that passes for Christian discipleship in many Christian bookstores. Still, they were, mostly, pretty easy to read and altogether enjoyable on basic Christian growth. I hope you looked through that long list and made some notes…most of them are really, really fabulous.

I wanted to cite one more book, but thought it deserved a posting of it’s very own. It is not an academic work or a scholarly text, exactly, but it is a bit deeper and richer than even the good ones I described yesterday.
Here, then, is another great book for an open-minded and thoughtful group, women or men. I think it is pretty important, and hope you can help us at Hearts & Minds get the word out about books that are both culturally relevant, well-written, and theologically sound. Thanks again for being a part of our story.

Chasing Sophia: Reclaiming the Lost Wisdom of Jesus Lilian Calles Barger (Jossey-Bass) $18.95. Well, as I said, I started a blog post the other day listing books that were in the genre of simple Christian growth books for fairly traditional evangelical women who wanted something that was more substantive and nuanced than the more typical formulaic approach of many evangelical publishers. I wanted to mention this one, but it is a bit more demanding and rather specialized in it’s topic. We have appreciated this writer and her previous book is very, very important, so I naturally want to commend her. Do you know her previous work? Ms Barger wrote an exceptional book on body image, spirituality, feminism, a rejection of dualism and other vital concerns entitled Eve’s Revenge: Women and the Spirituality of the Body (published by Brazos; $14.99) that we’ve promoted nearly everywhere we have gone these past few years. If you don’t have that one, you should consider it. It is a masterpiece, and a much-needed one at that.
Barger works with the vital Christian outreach to (mostly) feminists gone sour on traditional Christian faith through the Damaris Project, a ministry which engages folk in meaningful dialogues. They set up honest conversations in what they call salons and search out ways to find common ground amongst diverse participants; their website explains more, and is worth a visit. What a gentle, honest and good approach—that in itself is commendable these days of shouting, eh? We, here, are in happy agreement with their efforts and the bridge-building, thoughtful conversational approach to their project.
Chasing Sophia thoughtfully invites us to consider ways in which Jesus was a Hebrew wisdom-teacher and how the Scriptural insights about sophia could be used to build bridges with those involved in a post-Christian spirituality. It draws well on research about women’s ways of knowing and is fluent in feminist literature. It explores the ways in which goddess worship has grown in recent decades. Happily, she brings historic Christian orthodoxy to bear on these thorny questions; you may know that some theologians who reject traditional Christian theology and radically mistrust the Scriptures have used this phrase, often in unhelpful ways… I am not sure if Lilian intends to knowingly re-appropriate the legitimate Biblical truth of this, and just frames it in more appropriate ways. That isn’t exactly her battle, here. She is a helpful guide into the large discussion of wisdom, and she is a faithful witness to Jesus. I suspect it will touch the lives of many, women and men alike.
It would make a wonderful small- group book study or the basis for a serious adult Sunday school class or could serve the basis for a retreat. Even better, it would be splendid for a group of those who are not Christians to read with some that are. Know any religious skeptics, gnostics, neo-pagan feminists, those who are new agey, or seekers? This would be a great discussion-starter, I’m sure. She draws on sources as diverse as Elizabeth Johnson to Dorothy Day, from Elaine Pagels to Dorothy Sayers and writes with authority and grace. Please let us know if you’d like to order one and see if we are correct. Maybe you’ll even need more…
Chasing Sophia: Reclaiming the Lost Wisdom of Jesus Lilian Calles Barger (Jossey-Bass) $18.95

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2 thoughts on “Chasing Sophia by Lilian Calles Barger

  1. It looks like Angela is going to love this one … and the others she received for her birthday. Thankyouthankyouthankyou for these reviews.

  2. Hi, Byron. I just saw this book yesterday: Women and Leadership: The State of Play and Strategies for Change. by Barbara Kellerman, published by Jossey-Bass. It’s in their new Warren Bennis series. Keep reminding us about all the important stuff we need to read!Howard Wilson

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