I sometimes like to switch it up a bit, as they say, doing at BookNotes here a little thing we call Five About Five. I’ve got five categories of books and I’m going to name five fairly new or recent books in these five categories. I’m going to try to be brief, at least in comparison to our usual wordy BookNotes, and hope the five new books I mention for each grouping are sort of in conversation with each other. I could do other categories, of course, and name other new books, too, but, for now, let’s do five recent books in five categories. That’s 25 titles. This is fun.
FIVE NEW BOOKS EACH in FIVE CATEGORIES
HOW TO READ THE BIBLE
The Beginning of the Story: Understanding the Old Testament in the Story of Scripture Timothy J. Geddert (Herald Press) $18.99 OUR SALE PRICE = $15.19
I want to suggest this as a great guide to the Old Testament, maybe especially for those looking for a fresh approach that shows both the integrality of the story, how it holds together, and also how the violence and hard sections are to be understood. Can we rediscover the essential beginning of the most important story ever told?
Geddert understands the Bible as a grand story (which is not that unusual these days) but his teaching about it is fresh and powerful, clear and helpful. It is informed by good scholarship but it is easy to read. It points us to the God of the Bible, who, of course, is seen most clearly in the person of Jesus Christ. This, therefore, is a “must read” for followers of Jesus (as Derek Vreeland author of Centering Jesus puts it.)
Timothy Geddert is a long-standing professor of New Testament at Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary; he has a PhD in NT from Aberdeen in Scotland. We’ve carried his other books and we are grateful for his visionary, solid, helpful work.
Light of the Word: How Knowing the History of the Bible Illuminates Our Faith Susan C. Lim (IVP) $18.00 OUR SALE PRICE = $14.40
As Randolph Richards puts it, “Lim invites you to walk alongside, to see how faith in Jesus is enriched by faith in God’s Word.” Nancy Wang Yuen, a sociologist (and host of The Disrupters podcast) notes that she “absolutely loves how Light of the Word reads like a poignant memoir and drops wisdom like a well-researched history book.”
I like that this book “unpacks how the history of the Bible bolsters our faith and anchors us through the changing tides of time.” It is designed to help Christians not only acknowledge that the Bible is God’s Word but, more, that we can have confidence in the reality of its trustworthiness.
Being in a Bible study with Susan and her family for the last five years, I have witnessed firsthand Susan’s passion for the Scriptures and the powerful and gracious work God has done in her life through the Scriptures. My confidence in Scripture has been strengthened and my heart has been refreshed by reading Light of the Word, and I believe this book will serve you well, no matter where you are in your faith journey. It is a book I will come back to again as a trusted resource. — Eric Geiger, senior pastor of Mariners Church
Reading the Bible Around the World: A Student’s Guide to Global Hermeneutics Federico Alfredo Roth and others (IVP) $22.00 OUR SALE PRICE = $17.60
As the back cover shouts, “It’s an exciting time to be reading the Bible.” We are, most of us, encountering readers with perspectives, experiences, and cultural orientations different than our own. Anyone honestly learning about how to read the Bible simply must grapple with the diversity of perspectives. This is, of course, a question of hermeneutics, and how our social location influences the questions we ask, even the naive reading of the text. That some of our diversity comes from other cultures around the world is a given. This book helps us gently enter this varied, complicated world.
Who we are shapes how we read, as it says on the back cover. Guided by these expert teachers, readers will gain a deeper understanding of the influence of theor own social location and how to keep growing in biblical wisdom by reading alongside the global Christian community.
Behold and Become: Reading Scripture for Transformation Jeremy M. Kimble (Kregel Academic) $24.99 OUR SALE PRICE = $19.99
Kregel is a conservative Christian publisher that is respected by evangelicals, and this book highlights a fairly creative, surprisingly open minded perspective on how the Scriptures can help us “not merely for information, but for being saved by God and changed through his words.”
We all know the stories of the Bible are often rhetorically powerful. And those who believe it is God’s Word, believe the power is also, well, Spirited. Right? But how does that work? How can we more properly understand and explain that the Scripture’s authority is based on the truthfulness of the texts? Can the Bible’s own efficacy operate in a way that helps us come to know the Triune God?
This is a complex book — I haven’t studied it carefully enough to say if I even agree with it all. But if, as they say, we “become like what we behold” it may be important to ask what the Scriptures allow us to behold.
The prophet Isaiah assures us that God’s Word will accomplish the purpose for which God has sent it, but what is that purpose? To give God’s people need-to-know information for salvation is clearly part of the answer. The title of Jeremy Kimble’s timely book gives us the other part of the answer: Behold and Become. Head knowledge alone is not enough. The church needs to retrieve this Pauline insight: beholding the glorious God with unveiled faces is a gracious means of becoming more like him (cf. 2 Cor. 3:18). God’s Word gives God’s people what they need to grow, the material for formation unto godliness and Christlikeness. — Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Professor of Systematic Theology, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
Listening to Scripture: An Introduction to Interpreting the Bible Craig G. Bartholomew (Baker Academic) $24.99 OUR SALE PRICE = $19.99
I have written about this one in more detail in a previous BookNotes, explaining how I so very much respect this learned, eccentric, solid Biblical scholar. He has studied a lot, and brings so much together, from reformational philosophy to Christian aesthetics to solid hermeneutics to a palpable passion for living out the Biblical story, in the modern world. In a way, Listening to Scripture is sort of a shorter and more personal version of a much more academic, scholarly text that was widely acclaimed. I’m so glad for this rigorous read, aimed at thoughtful laypeople.
Please consider this. It is one of the best books of its kind — how to read wisely and thoughtfully and fruitfully — that we have seen in quite some time. Highly recommended. Know and Bible study leaders, Sunday school class teachers expositors of Scripture, Bible thumpers, preachers or pastors? This is solid and a serious but engaging read.
FAITH & SCIENCE
God Speaks Science: What Neurons, Giants Squid, and Supernovae Reveal About Our Creator John Van Sloten (Moody Press) $15.99 OUR SALE PRICE = $12.79
You might recall that I raved about this the week it was released, just a few months back. It is a “joy filled expedition into experiencing God’s majestic, everywhere presence.”
In a way, this book isn’t a sophisticated philosophy of science, seeking to integrate general revelation in nature and Biblical revelation. It isn’t even exactly about what some call the “faith and science” conversation. It is a flat-out, wholesome, energetic, celebration of Christian folks who serve in a variety of scientific callings and how their insights can enhance our common knowledge. — scientific information matters! — and our faith. It is, finally, a book about doxology.
“We were made to wonder, “ Van Sloten says. As a Calgary-based writer and former pastor, he knows how to touch people’s lives, and in this exceptional book, he honors those who do scientific research by explaining, in each chapter, something about their work, and blesses us all by showing how these insights of common grace can point us to God and the Kingdom of Christ. We can live with greater awe of our Creator when we know a bit about how science works.
Whether you are a beginner in learning about the sciences or whether you are yourself a serious scholar in a certain scientific discipline, you will enjoy this upbeat, deeply ponderous book. Hooray for John and his lovely curiosity and fabulous storytelling.
What Hath Darwin to Do With Scripture: Comparing the Conceptual Worlds of the Bible and Evolution Dru Johnson (IVP $24.00 OUR SALE PRICE = $19.20
This new book is written not by a scientist but by an impressive, multi-disciplinary Biblical scholar. He is extraordinarily gifted, theologically wise, solid and reliable, and yet — get this — says that “Believe it or not, the book of Genesis might have been the most Darwinian text in the ancient world” Throughout the opening books of Scripture, we find ideas, he says, “that would become prominent insights of the biologist Charles Darwin, interlaced with the Bible’s one-of-a-kind origin story.”
The Hebrew creation accounts, Johnson argues, “weave together three key themes” on the origins and development of humans and animals. These are nearly Darwinian, it seems — the connection of scarcity, cooperation and violence, the fitness of creatures to their environment, and the genealogical aims of sexual reproduction.
Granted, this is intriguing, even provocative, thoughtful stuff. It is what might be considered imaginative. It is what the famous University of St. Andrews scholar Andrew Torrance says is “at once both cautious and creative.” It is what the IVP Academic editor calls “mind-blowing.” For what it is worth, Dr. J is not a wildly liberal theologian, but has exceptional regard for the Holy Word.
He admits it is a bit of a “weird project” and, among many others, from Templeton Research grants to folks at the Creation Project at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, he thanks philosopher Esther Meek. Wow.
What hath Eden to do with the Galapagos Islands? As Dru Johnson explains, more than one might expect — Kenneth Keathley, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
Christianity & Science Herman Bavinck (Crossway) $32.99 OUR SALE PRICE = $26.39
I am not theologically learned enough nor scientifically informed enough to say much of great import about this book other than to say that Bavinck helped create (with his colleague the great Dutch statesman Abraham Super) a movement of Reformed Protestants who desired to honor God by thinking Christianly about all of life. Before the “culture wars” made Darwinism and climate change and such fighting words, he wrote clearly, if densely, about how a uniquely Christian worldview would help us shape our thinking about the natural sciences. First published in Holland in the very earthy 20th century, this shows our orthodox, Biblical faith can inform the natural sciences and how a Biblically-infused worldview can enhance our scientific learning. Indeed, Bavinck was influential in shaping the first non-governmental, Protestant Christian University (the Freje, in Amsterdam.)
This was translated by N. Gray Sutanto, James Eglinton, and Cory C. Brock. Any Kuyper or Bavinck fans out there?
The God of Monkey Science: People of Faith in a Modern Scientific World Janet Kellogg Ray (Eerdmans) $19.99 OUR SALE PRICE = $15.99
Okay, just to be clear, Janet Ray is an enthusiastic science educator, explainer, and communicator. She holds a PhD in curriculum and instruction and has been teaching biology in colleges for nearly twenty years. She has great experience and, as a person of faith, understands the debates and conversations and what is often behind them. She gets it. She is hoping readers will learn how to hold true to your faith and also embrace modern science.
As an evangelical Christian and science educator, she dives into various contemporary hot button issues, from Covid-19 and vaccines to genetic research and (of course) questions about the compatibility of the Bible, Christian theology, and evolution. As Thomas Jay Oord puts it, “Janet Kellogg Ray writes like a journalist, thinks like a scientist, and makes connections to everyday life like a pop-culture expert.” She’s got wit and moxie and doesn’t take herself too seriously.
Jim Stump (of BioLogos and host of the Language of God podcast) says the book is “accessible and engaging.” Love that! Highly recommended.
Navigating Faith and Science Joseph Vukov (Eerdmans) $19.99 OUR SALE PRICE = $15.99
Joseph Vukov is a professor of philosophy at Loyola University, Chicago. He is sharp and thoughtful, deeply aware of the philosophical assumptions surround this conversation about science and faith. The relationship of the two (faith and science) need not be oppositional, of course, and the discussing don’t have to be inherently full of contention. The book and its approach seems really, really wise.
Curiously, the aforementioned Janet Kellogg Ray has a nice endorsement. She explains:
Joseph Vukov has good news for you! Vukov sets the table and invites us to sit down. He asks us through three frameworks for productive dialogue and skillfully equips us to know how and when to apply them in the context of science and faith.
WOMEN IN THE BIBLE
Tell Her Story: How Women Led, Taught, and Ministered in the Early Church Nijay K Gupta (IVP Academic) $24.00 OUR SALE PRICE = $19.20
I’ve mentioned this before but Gupta is such a rock star in the guild of Biblical scholars that we are delighted to recommend it again. This book is fascinating, well researched, clear, passionate without being strident. One reviewer called it a “an important journey throughout the New Testament” Another says he “skillfully uncovers the stories of a range of female leaders, teachers, and missionaries, and highlights their relevance for today.
With a PhD from the University of Durham, Dr. Gupta is professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary. He has several commentaries and edited the huge second edition of the IVP Academic Dictionary of the Paul and His Letters.
Mary and the Interior Life Jeremiah Miriam Shryock, CFS (Paraclete Press) $18.99 OUR SALE PRICE = $15.19
While some of the latest batch of books about women in the Bible are exegetical and making a case about women’s role and tasks and work, this is a different sort of work, careful, thoughtful, but contemplative and meditative. It seems to be a delightful read (I’ve only dipped in briefly.) The foreword is by Father James Dominic Brent, OP (who is at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington) notes how complex it is to write about Mary and our relationship with her. Catholic or Protestant, it is an important question and while this book is more than a study of what some call Mariology, it is, Brent says, well done, showing how a love for Mary points us to a love for Jesus.
Father Shrycock, a Franciscan, studies spiritual direction and it shows; in this book he tells of his own devotion to Mary, how he learned that “the whole world needs your ‘yes’ to God.” We, too, can learn from Mary how to follow Christ with all of our heart.
Fr. Donald Haggerty (who wrote a notable book of St. John of the Cross) says it is “a must-read for everyone aspiring to enter more deeply into the life of holiness…”
Jesus Through the Eyes of Women: How the First Female Disciples Help Us Know and Love the Lord Rebecca McLaughlin (The Gospel Coalition) $14.99 OUR SALE PRICE = $11.99
I have written about Rebecca McLaughlin before, highlighting her books of apologetics, the award-winning, Confronting Christianity and it’s follow up, Confronting Jesus, and her small screed, The Secular Creed and honor her work as a thoughtful, sharp, writer. Geesh, she has a PhD in Renaissance literature from Cambridge (not to mention a theology degree from Oak Hill College in London.) We notice whenever she gets a new book published.
This is a trim-sized, smaller book, fairly brief (about 175 pages) easy-to-read and helpful, even, a book that Julius Kim (of The Gospel Coalition) said was “mind-stimulating and soul-stirring.” That’s a great endorsement, eh?
Naturally, we see and learn more about Jesus than just about the women, and as we use their eyes to see the Master, we can find new angles and fresh insights. These life-changing accounts of women who met the Lord are mostly well-known and often-discussed. There are lots of books like this. And we should never tire of them.
Rather than view women as risks, liabilities, or burdens, Jesus invites them to draw near. With her characteristic and refreshing blend of scholarship and empathy, Rebecca McLaughlin invites us to examine the stories of women woven throughout the ministry of Jesus, searching for the common threads of good news. And a clear, unhesitating message emerges: ‘Suffer the women to come unto me.’ Herein is instruction and encouragement for women and men alike seeking to live as brothers and sisters in God’s family. — Jen Wilkin, author, In His Image: 10 Ways God Calls Us to Reflect His Character and None Like Him: 10 Ways God Is Different from Us (and Why That’s a Good Thing)
Women Who Do: Female Disciples in the Gospels Holly J. Carey (Eerdmans) $29.99 OUR SALE PRICE = $23.99
Holly Carey is professor of biblical studies and chair of the Biblical Studies Department at Point University in Georgia. She examines here what it means to be a dispel — and makes the narrative-critical case that women best embody discipleship in the Gospel and Acts. What? Whoa!
As Joel Green of Fuller Theological Seminary notes,
If asked to name Jesus’s disciples, most of us would focus on the well-known men — Peter, James, John, and the rest. In this important, well-crafted study, Holly Carey fills out that picture by emphasizing Jesus’s overlooked female disciples.
We need books like this — granted it is not the first on this topic, but still feels pioneering. In their socio-political context, this really is something, and her unpacking “women who do” is surely going to be inspiring for many women and men. As Joel Green writes, “If we want to talk about what it means to follow Jesus, we do well to take her advice: Follow the women!”
“If we want to talk about what it means to follow Jesus, we do well to take her advice: Follow the women!”
Eve Isn’t Evil: Feminist Readings of the Bible to Upend Our Assumptions Julie Faith Parker (Baker Academic) $22.99 OUR SALE PRICE = $18.39
Again, I have highlighted this one already, but wanted to give it an encore push. Julie Faith Parker is a fascinating and perceptive writer. With a PhD from Yale she is a visiting professor at Union Theological Seminary and “biblical scholar in residence” at Marble Collegiate Church. She has taught at General Theological Seminary, Trinity Lutheran Seminary, at New York Theological Seminary and among incarcerated students at Sing Sing Prison. She is a good teacher and very deeply respected. She writes with energy and has great empathy.
The great Lutheran New Testament scholar Mark Allan Power writes,
A wonderful book. Readers will inevitably be convinced of two things: feminists can love the Bible, and Bible lovers can (and probably should) be feminists! — Mark Allan Powell, professor (retired), Trinity Lutheran Seminary, author of Introducing the New Testament
AFRICAN AMERICAN and MULTICULTURAL STUDIES
Black Theology and Black Faith Noel Leo Erskine (Eerdmans) $26.99 OUR SALE PRICE = $21.59
I suppose it isn’t important but the hardback cover is striking to me, seeming to harken back to a 1970s title, something seminal, pioneering. Yet this is fresh, new, if connected to the great tradition of black theology. Erskine, who teaches at Candler School of Theology (at Emory), has written several scholarly books about faith and black history, about Caribbean theology (even one about Marley and Rasta.) He feels deeply and has been involved in the project of decolonizing theology, has reflected on pastoral care from a third world perspective. A book of his from years ago that influenced me a bit is King Among the Theologians.
The important Dwight Hopkins (now at the University of Chicago) has said that:
Noel L. Erskine has gifted us with the definitive argument and persuasive proof that Black faith and Black religion in the western hemisphere began with the majority populations of enslaved Africans in the Caribbean and Latin America, and not in the United States. This is a foundational paradigm shift, and Black theology and womanist theology, if they are to remain authentic, must shift as well.
After a lifetime of these unique books about subsets of black scholarship, he now brings to us what might be his magnum opus. He covers Marcus Garvey and various views of sin and redemption in the older black church. He works with salvation and liberation, womanist writers, theology after Cone, up to BLM activists.
Kamari Maxine Clarke of the University of Toronto says it is “a phenomenal contribution to the field.”
Troubling the Water: The Urgent Work of Radical Belonging Ben McBride (Broadleaf Books) $27.99 OUR SALE PRICE = $22.39
When Cornel West has a blurb on the front cover saying a book is “visionary and courageous” I take notice. We all should. Agree or not, this is important, vivid stuff, and West is an extraordinary scholar whose advice we should heed. Another blurb that I found compelling and made me want to stock this one is Father James Martin (whose new book, Come Forth, is about the resurrection of Lazarus) who called it “an urgent, vibrant, and necessary call for justice, which is just what God asks — demands — of all of us.”
This really is a clarion call, a manifesto, an exploration, of the call to justice. Yet, it brings into that “urgent work” the question of belonging.
This author is a seasoned urban activist (you’ll love his insightful story about a public hearing about bike lanes in Oakland) and you’ll appreciate, I hope, his drawing on the great work of Bryan Stevenson and Rev. William Barber. The deep stuff here is going to be helpful for anyone on the road to this kind of witness, or anyone who has been in the trenches.
Listen to Lisa Sharon Harper, author of The Very Good Gospel and Fortune:
At once practical and profound, Ben McBride’s Troubling the Water reflects the hard-earned wisdom of the author — a practitioner and prophet. McBride’s own story offers invaluable guidance for all who wish to be healing agents in our writhing world. But this is not a simple how-to book. McBride leads readers to the heart of the problem–we are failing to see each other (and ourselves) as human. Then he casts a vision and points the way toward a radical kind of belonging that challenges us all to the core. Read this book. It will change you.
Read this book. It will change you.
A Longing to Belong: Reflection on Faith, Identity, and Race Michelle Lee-Barnewall (Zondervan Reflective) $19.99 OUR SALE PRICE = $15.99
I just started this and it is gracious, kind, and thoughtful, a book about belonging, also, but not from the vantage point of a seasoned black activist (see above) but by an Asian American professor at Talbot School of Theology at Biola in Los Angeles. She has written a good book on the parables of Jesus and won a number of awards by the gracious, reasonable Neither Complementarian nor Egalitarian. In this book she does nothing less than “exhorts readers that standing in awe of God transforms us.”
This looks to be an excellent, excellent, uplifting study of identity, who and whose we are, in light of her own passion for reconciliation. Can our longing for belonging “shape the way we think about ourselves and our life together?” She says yes, and that includes our mutual responsibilities to and for one another.
She is a good writer, a gracious storyteller, a beautiful person, surely, with lovely endorsements from colleagues like Octavio Esqueda.
Although it is a lovely, challenging thoughtful read, this endorsement cuts right to the chase:
This book can facilitate a conversation that will reduce the racial divines in our Christian organizations, ministries, and churches. — Sheryl Takagi Silzer, multicultural consultant for SIM, author of Biblical Multicultural Teams
Unfractured: A Christ-Centered Action Plan for Cultural Change Shot Welch (Chosen) $26.99 OUR SALE PRICE = $21.59
I first read Skot Welch a few years back when we highlighted the powerful and important Plantation Jesus: Race, Faith & A New Way Forward (Herald Press) that he co-wrote with Rick Wilson and Andi Cumbo-Floyd. It was very good and I’ve had my eye on him ever since.
I ordered this sight unseen, and thought maybe it would be about more general questions of societal change and renewal within the institutions of our saying culture. But, no, it is, quite specifically, about racial and multi-cultural tensions and the need for a Christ-centered plan to do, well, all the things the above books are lamenting and proposing. Can Unfractured be a tool to actually live out in practical ways answers to our fractured world?
So far, I can say that this is clear-headed, honest, not too controversial, practical, useful. It is for the church, thinking that Christian organizations must get their own house in order and that we “hold the redemptive solution our world needs, one that puts Christ at the center, modeling conciliation that leads to lasting reconciliation.”
He invites readers to “celebrate your identity in Christ and our diverse cultural makeup.” I like that he proposes that we “embrace a new kingdom language” and, as said, that we explore a Christ-centered perspective. Can we build united, diverse community? Can we create a setting where hard but crucial questions are explored with compassion? If you don’t need help with any of that, you can skip this book. But I am sure that we all need a lot of help. This is, at least, for those new to this project, or those who are faltering.
Welch has been a key advisor on diversity and inclusion (he tells stories from churches but also from Fortune 500 Companies and folks in the arts and entertainment world.” He is the founder of Global Bridgebuilders.
The Humanity Archive: Recovering the Soul Black History from a Whitewashed American Myth Jermaine Fowler (The Row House) $28.99 OUR SALE PRICE = $23.19
I have not yet studied this recent New York Times bestseller but it has gotten excellent advanced publicity and critical reviews. It is one of those books that is going to be talked about and perhaps considered a must-read for those working in this field of equity and inclusion, justice and reconciliation. Fowler is a clear writer, a good storyteller — the couple of pages I’ve dipped into had me captivated. I like that he calls himself an “intellectual adventurer.” (And, yes, he grew up going to the free library, being inspired by books of all sorts.)
There are those, even in religious circles these days, who say that slavery was somehow benign. There are those who, even if they are disgusted by the injustices of slavery or the years or Reconstruction that gave us the growth of the KKK, still care to know little about black history. This offers good words in the context of broader human history. I think it is going to be tremendous and want to suggest it here.
Fowler sees historical storytelling and the sharing of knowledge as a vocation and a means of fostering empathy and understanding between cultures. A deft storyteller with a sonorous voice, Fowler’s passion for his material is palpable as he unfurls the hidden histories.—Vanity Fair
CULTURAL CRITICISM AND ANALYSIS
Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling – Expanded Edition Andy Crouch (IVP) $25.00 OUR SALE PRICE = $20.00
When this book first came out — 15 years ago (hence, this new anniversary edition) I could hardly believe it. This. This. This was much of what we were about here at Hearts & Minds, why our little contribution to the world mattered, and why we tried to create a bookstore that was somehow a different sort of place than most Christian bookstores (remember them?) Or most big chain bookstores that were popular. Andy explained, with erudition and wise insight, so much about the Bible and faithful discipleship and social responsibility and the possibilities of change and the nature of our cultural artifacts. The phrase “culture making” became a watchword, and his stuff on various postures, if heeded, might have prevented the worst of the subsequent culture wars and church-influenced disasters. It is one of the most important books we’ve seen in the forty years we’ve been in business and we were glad to have had a very tiny connection to its promotion early on. We admire Andy and he and his family are, I am proud to say, customers of ours. We are grateful.
We are now glad for this new, updated edition. It is mostly the same magisterial volume it first was — but with a lengthy afterword which takes the shape of a dialogue between Andy and Tish Harrison Warren. It is excellent, insightful, provocative and such a joy to read thoughtful Christians (who aren’t so arcane as to make us scratch our heads.) They note that one big cultural artifact that isn’t discussed in Culture Making is the iPhone, which had not come out yet, 15+ years ago. Of course, Crouch has gone on to write about our digital culture (I adored The Life We’re Looking For) and the conversation with Tish in the new afterword explores wisely this new milieu and the ongoing call by God to steward well the potentialities of our life and times.
In this expanded edition there is also a very extensive study guide, good for anyone, of course, but especially designed for small groups, book clubs, entrepreneurs, or church folk wanting their congregation to learn to be more faithfully savvy about the world God calls us to. It’s important, not incidental or only for artists. Lauren Winner said, “I am hard-pressed to think of something that twenty-first century American Christians need to read more” Indeed.
“I am hard-pressed to think of something that twenty-first century American Christians need to read more”
Beyond Homelessness: Christian Faith in a Culture of Displacement – 15th Anniversary Edition Steven Bouma-Prediger & Brian J. Walsh (Eerdmans) $39.99 OUR SALE PRICE = $31.99
Speaking of 15th anniversary editions, this, too, is one of my all-time favorite books and I am thrilled that it has recently been reissued in a new, expanded 15th anniversary edition. It is a fairly hefty volume but there is so much going on that it could nearly be seen as several books in one. Yet, in holds together brilliantly, moving from studies of the poor and unhoused to the ways in which we disregard place (our individualistic, nomadic culture) and why, for some, we are less enthused about placed embodiment because we have a view of heaven that is disconnected to the real world of creation. That one of the authors — the great Steve Bouma-Prediger at Hope College in Holland, MI — is an ecologist (his own recent book Creation Care Discipleship is one of my choices for “best books of the year”) the disregard for climate change and creation care fits into this study of why, really, we have a crisis in housing. They offer a big picture and they connect the notes with pathos and hope.
There are vivid Biblical vignettes scattered throughout showing just how very “Jesusy” (to use Anne Lamont’s famous word) their project is.
This is no simple call to care for the poor, although nothing would please the authors more if we and our churches opened our doors to those in need with a bit more conscientious energy. More, this is a multi-dimensional study of our “culture of displacement.” Why is it, they ask, that there are people with houses (perhaps multiple houses) but who have no sense of place, no belonging, no true home, really, and even while there are, in fact, people who are unhoused or under-housed and yet who have a network of loved ones, people they care about, a place to belong. In a way, they may not have houses, but they have homes. What is a home? What is the task of homemaking? How does the Biblical meta-narrative shape our understanding of home, exile, and homecoming? What might be done for those on the margins of our society when we learn to counter our “culture of displacement”? This book is more urgent now, and more relevant, than it was when it first came out.
There is, in this new anniversary edition, a new foreword by Ruth Padilla DeBorst which is excellent. And, significantly, there is what is called a Postscript but which is really a long, new chapter. It is amazingly good. In this full, new chapter the authors bring their story up to date, looking at the current crisis of homelessness, they cite some more moving poetry and songs and Bible verses, interact with some good theologians (such asThe Home of God: A Brief Story of Everything by Miroslov Volf and Ryan McAnnally-Linz) engage some philosophers and ethicists (and of course, Wendell Berry) as they propose a “phenomenology of homefulness.” Importantly, they spend some time in a place in Austin, Texas with a guy named Alan Graham, creator of Mobile Loaves and Fishes and author of Welcome Homeless. (You can listen to a podcast of Graham chatting with Brian about the new edition of the book and Graham’s work HERE. Check it out.)
I can’t say enough about this new edition, it’s big picture cultural criticism and it’s imaginative reforms for how we think about these matters. It really is a graduate course in contemporary contextual theology and the best thinking I’ve seen yet on these very themes. The book, in that sense, is a bargain.
We are hoping to arrange having a livestream online conversation with Brian about the book that will be hosted by their good publisher, Eerdmans, before long. Stay tuned! In the mean time, buy the book, now on sale.
The Church in an Age of Secular Mysticisms: Why Spiritualities without God Fail to Transform Us Andrew Root (Baker Academic) $28.99 OUR SALE PRICE = $23.19
I may have given this a shout out previously but it is so important it deserves to be on this little list of five about culture. As I hope you know Andrew Root has a series of five other books about how the culture of the world around us has infiltrated and shaped the thinking that goes on in most churches. He draws on various important social critics (think of Charles Taylor and his influential work on our “secular age”) and shows how congregations and pastors have to think hard about all that in order to find faithful renewal and appropriate growth. (I love the title of one The Congregation in a Secular Age: Keeping Sacred Time Against the Speed of Modern Life and The Church After Innovation: Questioning Our Obsession with Work, Creativity, and Entrepreneurship. See what he’s doing there?
Well, this one explores our recent fascination with spirituality, with (again) our view of the very self. He brings in some pretty heady social critics, and you will learn a lot. His helping us get a better grasp on the cultural context in which many perceive our talk about spirituality is a great gift. Wow, this is really important stuff, cultural astute, insightful, and somewhat provocative.
It is also (he says in the introductory pages) the final book in this six-book series. He has to make some arguments about late modernity, do some review, build a framework and then tackle the “spirituality” question. Near the end he goes to the Rhineland mystics and tells of an encounter with Jewish scholar Franz Rosenzweig, connecting that with Martin Buber. It is what a prof at Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary calls “a theological gem.”
Remaking the World: How 1776 Created the Post-Christian West Andrew Wilson (Crossway) $29.99 OUR SALE PRICE = $23.99
One might think this would be put in our history section, and I suppose that is where it goes. It is a close and fascinating reading of things that happened in 1776, starting with seven events, actually. So, obviously, history, right?
However, the creative argument Wilson makes in this extraordinary book has such implications for our understanding our times, too, I’m listing it here with other titles of cultural and social concern. In short, he maintains that the seeds of the post-Christian West were sown in the late eighteenth century. This revolutionary era was decisive in many ways — he explores 7 — shaping the way in which faith and life developed subsequently. This is cultural analysis of the highest sort — and fun! For what it is worth, this isn’t a woke liberal complaining about Jefferson enslaving people (which, of course, is it’s own valuable criticism that must be said, over and over) but it is a moderately conservative evangelical theologian wondering how we became “Western” and “Democratic” and “Romantic” and more. While historian Thomas Kidd says it is “an intellectual tour de force and a model of Christian scholarship” it is, frankly, more. Matthew Lee Anderson says it is “arresting.” It certainly is interesting.
Note this, from two of our great Christian public intellectuals:
Andrew Wilson’s book is extraordinary in every way: extraordinary in the breadth of research; extraordinary in the multitude of world-significant events that Wilson identifies for 1776; extraordinary in the depth of his insight on what those events meant (and continue to mean); extraordinary in the verve with which he makes his arguments; and, not least, extraordinary in the persuasive Christian framework in which he sets the book. Remaking the World is a triumph of both creative historical analysis and winsome Christian interpretation. — Mark Noll, Professor of History, Regent College; author, America’s Book: The Rise and Decline of a Bible Civilization, 1794-1911
Andrew Wilson is a wise and witty guide through the eventful year 1776 (eventful in, as he shows, sometimes surprising ways). He convincingly demonstrates that we’re still living in the wake of that historical moment–and offers shrewd suggestions for how Christians might navigate those rough waters. — Alan Jacobs, Distinguished Professor of Humanities, Baylor University, author of Breaking Bread with the Dead
Christ Among the Classes: The Rich, the Poor, and the Mission of the Church Al Tizon (Orbis Press) $35.00 OUR SALE PRICE = $28.00
I respect my old pal Al Tizon very, very much. He has written much (including some great record reviews) and even in this book there is an appendix, a tribute written to his friend and mentor Ronald J. Sider, who died almost two years ago, now. For those of us who knew Ron, Al’s tender and helpful eulogy is nearly worth the price of the book.
It isn’t am inexpensive book, though, so you need a bit more than his tender and wise overview of Sider and his influence nice as that is. And you get it, for sure. This is an exceedingly thorough, careful, rigorous study of the Biblical visio not economic justice and how, in fact, our income inequality is such these days that God surely groans, along with the oppressed. It is no surprise this bit of liberative economics is published by Orbis Press.
Professor Tizon (He teaches adjunct at North Park in Chicago ad pastors Grace Fellowship Community Church in San Fransisco) is known for his book Whole & Reconciled: Gospel, Church, and Mission in a Featured World which is one of the very best evangelical studies of the wholistic nature of the gospel and how Kingdom visions of reconciliation ought to be central to the redemptive mission of God’s people in the world. Here, he provides the prophetic denunciation of injustice a bit more bitingly and invites us to understand, really understand, classism. As Fr Benigno Beltran puts it, “Al Tizon’s book goes right to the heart of the matter: classism is an affront to the God of justice, and if the wealthy do not repent, the human are will soon perish from the face of the earth.”
All sorts of missional leaders and missionary thinkers have endorsed this as a powerful bit of cultural critique. An East African worker for SIM International, a Bishop in the Church of Uganda, even Jonathan Bonk, executive director emeritus of the Overseas Missions Studies Center. Bonk, by the way, raves, saying how everyone could benefit from a careful reading of this volume. He notes that if change is going to occur, “it might begin with this modest but hard-hitting book.”
Rev. Eugene Cho (President and CEO of Bread for the World) says it calls the reader and Church “to deeper self-examination of classism, while calling us to follow and embody Christ.”
As the good pastor and evangelical he is, Tizon has provided thoughtful discussion questions so Christ Among the Classes can be used in a small group, book club, or adult ed class. There are also sidebars of “action steps” and proposed ideas for further engagement with the material, moving us to experiment and work towards a more reconciled world. This is a really useful resource.
By the way, on this theme, we recently got into the store the new book by bestselling nonfiction author Stephanie Land, author of Maid, which was made into a popular Netflix show. Land’s new one is called Class: A Memoir of Motherhood, Hunger, and Higher Education (1 Signal Publishing / Atria) $28.00 – OUR SALE PRICE = $22.40. I know that is six in this category, but I had to sneak it in. Publisher’s Weekly calls it “stirring” and Neil Gaiman says it is “a beautiful memoir.” Insofar as economic anxiety and class differences are part of our cultural make-up, this could be important for anyone wanting to understand the times.
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Sadly, as of November 2023 we are still closed for in-store browsing. COVID is not fully over. Since few are reporting their illnesses anymore, it is tricky to know the reality but the best measurement is to check the waste water tables to see the amount of virus in the eco-system. It is bad and now getting worse. It’s important to be aware of how risks we take might effect the public good — those at risk, while not dying from the virus, are experiencing long-term health consequences. (Just check the latest reports of the rise of heart attacks and diabetes among younger adults, caused by Covid.) It is complicated, but we are still closed for in-store browsing due to our commitment to public health (and the safety of our family who live here, our staff, and customers.) Our store is a bit cramped without top-notch ventilation, so we are trying to be wise. Thanks for understanding.
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