Recent Books on Faith and Politics (and links to some old ones, too) URGENTLY ON SALE NOW

Those BookNotes friends that have followed us for a while know that I have often offered lists of titles on Christian perspectives on politics, government, and, more generally, public life and civic engagement. We have run BookNotes columns on civility (for instance, here) and we’ve attempted (not always successfully, some might say) to be fair and balanced, holding forth the lofty idea that we as church folk who follow Jesus are not to be unequivocally loyal to any political party. As black preacher Tony Evans says, when Jesus comes back, he won’t be riding a donkey or an elephant. Right?

And yet, as every missional book puts it these days, we are called to be involved in the world, secular saints, so to speak. Among my favorites of this sort these days are Exiles on Mission: How Christians Can Thrive in a Post-Christian World by Paul Williams (Brazos Press; $19.99) and The Symphony of Mission: Playing Your Part in God’s Work in the World by Michael Goheen & Jim Mullins (Baker Academic; $22.99.) They are strong, serious reads, well worth working through.

Maybe you saw the video I posted at facebook (both my own, and the bookstore group’s page) last week (which was fun) and you’ll recall I announced the brand new book by the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, Russell Moore, who just released The Courage to Stand: Facing Your Fear without Losing Your Soul (B+H; $22.99.) That’s part of it, finding God’s courage when we are anxious or fearful to speak up. It isn’t new but we often recommend Kathy Khang’s Raise Your Voice: Why We Stay Silent and How to Speak Up (IVP; $16.00.) Just a few weeks ago we got the new paperback edition of a book I recommended nearly a year ago by Jim Wallis, Christ in Crisis: Reclaiming Jesus in a Time of Fear, Hate, and Violence (HarperOne; $17.99.) Of the many books we’ve highlighted lately about racial reconciliation and multi-ethnic ministry, several pushed towards greater involvement in social affairs. For instance, I highly recommend the latest by Brenda Salter McNeil Becoming Brave: Finding the Courage to Pursue Racial Justice Now (Brazos Press; $21.99) and the recent one by Dr. Drew G.I. Hart, Who Will Be a Witness: Igniting Activism for God’s Justice, Love, and Deliverance (Herald Press; $18.99.)

One of the most popular books we’ve been selling this past month or two is Compassion (&) Conviction: The AND CAMPAIGN’s Guide to Faithful Civic Engagement co-authored by Justin GIboney, Michael Ware, and Chris Butler (IVP; $22.00.) It is extraordinary for a number of reasons and we’re glad to continue to get the word out about it. You can see my quick review of it here (and cash in on the 20% discount, too.)

One of the shortest and simplest and most balanced (and so useful!) calls to political holiness is a small book by Dr. Vincent E. Bacote called The Political Disciple: A Theology of Public Life (Zondervan; $11.99.) You could get a few and give ’em out to those just starting to think about this.(You can see my review of this little treasure here.) Allowing the gospel of Christ’s Kingdom to shape our approach to public life and God’s love to motivate us to be more eagerly involved in society as God’s salt and light and leaven has been a theme here in many, many columns.

I now want to highlight just a few recent books on political life as such that I think are useful and important for us as citizens. Along the way, I will share some links to previous columns and older books that I highly recommend as well about this process of relating faith and our  calling to good citizenship. For now, though, I want to help you focus on our political moment.

READING ABOUT HEALTHY MODELS OF RELATION FAITH & POLITICS AS A SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINE

Right now and continuing strong in the months following the election we will be inundated with punditry and preaching from various corners of the public square. For some of us, we have already grown numb from it all, soured for sure. Having a book or two nearby that reminds to to think Christianly, to hear and filter and be discerning about the controversies of the day through the lens of Christian truths and God’s grace in Christ will be for many of us a lifeline to sanity. I recommend it as a spiritual discipline. For many of us, such reading might not only be a happy counter-balanced to the spin and hype, hostility and cynicism, roiling around us, but it will be part of the cost of discipleship — using books as tools to help you be intentional about nurturing within your heart and mind, God’s views, God’s mind and heart, receiving and keeping a Biblically-shaped imagination, worldview, orientation, perspective. Books can remind you of that task and can help you do it.

The Bible tells us to “test the spirits” (I John 4:1) and warns us to be careful not to get tossed around by the waves or blown around by every wind of ideology (Ephesians 4:14.) Indeed, Paul tells us not to be “taken captive” by un-Christ-like ideologies (Colossians 2:8.) We are called to be “conformed” to the ways of the world around us and we can show that we are free of the culture’s pressures by seeking “the renewal of your mind” (Romans 12:1-2.) These books will help you apply these Biblical admonitions. I believe that. I bet you sense the need for some help in this. These books could be a part of your regimen for Christian political health in the weeks and months ahead. They can help.

Unlearning or qualifying our often primal loyalties to our political parties and philsophies, or learning to inhabit new (Christ-like) attitudes around political life will take some time and effort. Most of us don’t have too much support in such a project, not even in church, I suspect. I believe buying a book or two is a major step to deepen your commitment to “taking every idea captive” (2 Corinthians 10:5) even in our lives as citizens. Reading them prayerfully just might help you adjust the longings of your heart, working their faithful way to reform your desires, your hopes, your dreams, your social imagination. These books will help you pull that lever in the voting booth (or send that ballot in the mail) with the prayer “Thy Kingdom come.”

Recent books on faith and politics. Every book mentioned 20% off.                        Please tap on the ORDER tab at the end which will take you to our secure order form page.

Thou Shalt Not Be a Jerk: A Christian’s Guide to Engaging Politics  Eugene Cho (Cook) $17.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $14.39

That last line of mine above, that suggested that even as we vote we pray that somehow it doesn’t just advance our own party’s agenda, but that, more deeply, it points as a signpost towards the Kingdom coming?  That our vote is a prayer “They Kingdom Come”? I suppose it could be said that that is what this book is about. I highlighted it at BookNotes a month ago because I am a fan. (The author, Eugene Cho, has written a previous book about poverty issues and now is the new Director of Bread for the World (BFW), one of our favorite and I think most important Christian groups for voters who want to be informed about legislation that matters, that can literally save lives.

What I had written about this book previously at BookNotes took a cue from the playful title, suggesting that it is mostly about political civility. How we can be passionate without being mean-spirited. We need that right now, of course, and, I am afraid, will need it even more so next month, no matter who wins the Presidential election. This idea that we can find points of agreement with others and work for the common good is so important and this book is really helpful about that very matter. Cho’s stories about real-life congregations that have done just that is inspiring and offers good models to emulate. Mutual respect, cooperation, common ground can be found a real-life friendships can emerge from what could be disagreeable circumstances. I’ve seen it in my own activism and take heart from some of the stories in Thou Shalt Not Be a Jerk. But, again; brace yourself. If you care about stuff one way or the other, your going to have to be reminded of some of this.

As much as I might promote this book as a guide to civility and mutual respect and common ground in an age of polarization, it is also a primer on Christian political thinking. Cho does insist that our citizenship is a gift from God which we must steward faithfully. We are not, as followers of Christ, supposed to just vote for anybody that we like or anybody that will help us, but we must seek higher motivations and deeper principles. We can learn to see our citizenship as an expression of our discipleship and we can — we must — take into consideration the most vulnerable and needy. We care, also in our politics, for others. The Bible says over and over that the task of the state is to establish justice for all, and that includes the poorest and those who are marginalized by societal forces.

Along with chapters on building bridges and living our our convictions appropriately, Cho shows us how to deepen our perspective, to have more depth in our analysis. He has a chapter about not lying, about not getting played or being manipulated. (Yes, this is the rough and tumble of real citizenship and real politics.) We can love others, trust God, and testify that Christ is still the King of kings.

I like this book a lot. It’s a breezy read, good for citizens starting to think faithfully and generously about the common good and political involvement. And Cho is a talented and experienced leader.  It is a bit weak on the question of what the Bible actually says about government and what might be considered a Christian political philosophy or the call to wise statecraft. For that, you really need a book like James Skillen’s weighty The Good of Politics: A Biblical, Historical, and Contemporary Introduction (BakerAcademic; $22.99) which I reviewed at length here. There are some other good ones mentioned, too in that old column.

Even if you are unsure that Skillen is fully right about government in Christian perspective, it is still the flagship book to read on this, the magisterial overview of the subject we need. But for a fuller debate of five different viewpoints by five different sorts of Christians, see Five Views on The Church and Politics edited by Amy E. Black (Zondervan; $19.99.) Compare and contrast differing views of our political calling from Lutheran, Catholic, Reformed, Mennonite, and a black church perspective. I described it at greater length here. And don’t miss the other titles I mention in that BookNotes column, too. Click through but be sure to come back.

One very recent one along these lines of big but foundational studies that has gotten rave reviews is by an author who offers critique to Skillen’s Kuyperian-influenced vision, David VanDrunen. It is called Politics After Christendom: Political Theology in a Fractured World and has been called groundbreaking and brilliant.

Politics After Christendom: Political Theology in a Fractured World David VanDrunen (Zondervan Academic) $29.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $23.99

This is not the place for me to go into detail, but I think I have my beefs with Dr. VanDrunen’s “two kingdom” theology, but many have said this book is a must read. It is serious, hefty, almost tedious. But his ideas are very, very important. For instance, Calvin Theological Seminary thinker John Bolt says, “This clear and thoughtful work is a game changer.” Wow.

Or consider this, by Christian legal scholar and historian, John Witte, Jr. of Emory University:

This volume is a brilliant capstone to David VanDrunen’s project on Reformed political and legal teachings. It again features probing exegesis of biblical teachings and their reception history; creative retrieval and reconstruction of natural law theories, Two Kingdoms ontologies, and covenantal theology; and a bracing engagement with enduring questions of authority and liberty, justice and mercy, custom and community, rights and resistance. This volume and its prequels have earned VanDrunen a place high on the honor roll of law and religion scholarship and of Reformed political theology.

Jonathan Chaplin is a brilliant British political scientist (a member of the Cambridge University Divinity faculty) who for a while was at the Institute for Christian Studies in Toronto. He is partial to Jim Skillen’s book, above, neo-Calvinist that he is. He has a blurb on the back of it, in fact. However, his remarkable comment here about VanDrunen’s book is generous:
This pioneering and provocative work, David VanDrunen brings to impressive completion his longstanding project of retrieving neglected themes in classic Reformed political theology –‘natural law,’ ‘Two Kingdoms,’ and the ‘Noahic covenant’ — and deploying them for our pluralistic post-Christendom context. It is the most substantial biblical and theological case for what the author calls a ‘conservative liberalism’ to have appeared in many years, and future debates about Reformed political theology will not be able to bypass it. Even those unpersuaded by some of the book’s core theological and political judgments will be enriched by the author’s erudition and argumentative vigor and in turn challenged to come up better arguments for their own positions.
Consider these words from Jonathan Leeman, author of Political Church and How the Nations Rage; he doesn’t even fully agree with it bust insists it is “the starting point for anyone who wants to lay a foundation on the Bible” and is his “top recommendation in the field.” Wow.
Two problems bedevil nearly every Christian political theology, whether you encounter it in an academic’s tome or a nonacademic’s water-cooler opinions. First, Christians too often begin with ideological or partisan foundations. Second, they build on those foundations with a favorite biblical prooftext, often one meant for ancient Israel or the church but wrongly applied to nation-states and their governments. Therefore, it’s difficult to overstate the importance of building our political theology on the whole Bible’s covenantal structure… Whether you count yourself a Two Kingdoms theologian or not (I don’t), every political theologian needs to follow VanDrunen precisely here. To put it simply, I believe that VanDrunen’s emphasis on the Noahic covenant is the way forward for Christian political theology. Other books offer helpful emphases or counterpoints, but Politics after Christendom offers the starting point for anyone who wants to lay a foundation on the Bible. It just moved into pole position for my top recommendation in the field.

Scandalous Witness: A Little Political Manifesto for Christians Lee Camp (Eerdmans) $19.99        OUR SALE PRICE = $15.99

Well, if you want to skip some of the heady, deeply Biblical studies of the nature of law, the task of the state, the ways in which Biblical truths can or cannot be applied in a pluralistic democracy, if you are less interested in Skillen overview of how various Christian thinkers down through history have or have not developed a sturdy, sound, view of statecraft, but want a bit more practical application, this is semi-scholarly, lectures given in a church setting, offered as 15 fiesty propositions. It’s punchy. Each proposition is described in a long paragraph opening each chapter, and there is a (black and white) art piece which he uses to explore and further unpack the implications of each particular proposition.

Camp is a good writer, erudite and pleasurable for those who like crisp, elegant, provocative prose.  It is a manifesto, after all, so it is not particularly nuanced. He doesn’t quite write the political essay the way Wendell Berry or even Marilynne Robinson might, but it is incisive and probing. David Gushee calls his writing “astringent.” Each chapter is maybe 10 or so pages but you won’t breeze through them quickly; Scandalous Witness is what one reviewed called “tart and sassy.” I think it’s good stuff, shocking to some, perhaps, as he does go after some pretty sacred cows.

The orientation of Scandalous Witness emerges from the assumption that the gospel is, in fact, a “scandal” to the world as it is described in 1 Corinthians 1:23, and we have lost that edge because of our accommodation to the powers that be. Camp writes with fierce conviction, against being shaped or formed or, heaven forbid, loyal to any political party. He’s somewhat Anabaptist in this sense, with a strong view of the tension between the church and the world, Christ’s Kingdom and the partisan ideologies of the culture. He takes big pot-shots at the religious right, but he also is not particularly happy with the mainline church and its seeming comfort with the Democratic party. He is what Scot McKnight has called “an equal opportunity critic.”  Ha.

Here are just a few of the many rave reviews he has received:”

“With characteristic intelligence, humor, and grace, Lee Camp argues that the American church today has earned itself the curious distinction of having largely ‘destroyed its own witness.’ But Lee is not just a prophet of doom. He proposes an alternative. It may be a scandalous one, to be sure, but it is a courageously hopeful one as well.” Miroslav Volf
— author of A Public Faith: How Followers of Christ Should Serve the Common Good

“It’s impossible for me to read Scandalous Witness without a growing awareness of the ways I’ve conflated the Gospel with nationalism. I love my country, but I belong to Jesus, and that belonging frees me and calls me to share in the costly suffering love that takes precedence over all else. Lee has outlined clearly and beautifully all the ways, large and small, we Christians abandon our first love and turn to national interest–which in the end is another form of self-interest.”  Ashley Cleveland — Grammy-winning gospel singer, author of Little Black Sheep

“With a scholar’s eye and a storyteller’s knack for narrative, Lee Camp exposes the current inability of American Christianity to bear witness to the gospel. We are asking the wrong questions, taking the wrong turns and pledging the wrong loyalties. Both parts contrarian and constructionist, Camp finds himself in the family tree of St. Paul, Augustine, Hauerwas, Davison Hunter, and others, challenging those who call themselves Christians to rearrange our bastardized version of the faith towards a more prophetic, historical and theologically courageous imagination.”  Drew Holcomb
— Magnolia Records recording artist

The Liturgy of the Politics: Spiritual Formation for the Sake of Our Neighbor Kaitlyn Schiess (IVP) $17.00  OUR SALE PRICE =  $13.60

Of the many books I’ve read on this topic — and I’ve read a lot — this is absolutely one of my all time favorites. I found myself nodding in agreement over and over and rejoicing that I was actually seeing these words on the page, turning page after page, delighting in the goodness and wisdom I was encountering. How could such a young writer not only learn to sparkle as a writer and storyteller and teacher, but be so widely read, and be wise enough to draw on such interesting, generative, even surprising sources? I kept flipping back to the endnotes, over and over, as they were themselves a delight (especially for this book nerd who so appreciates when a somewhat rare or lesser known author shows up. And with helpful quotes from James K.A. Smith, Jurgen Moltmann, and Martha Nussbaum, Kate Bowler, James Skillen and Richard Mouw, Richard Middleton, Fleming Rutledge, and Willie James Jennings, I kept nodding and grinning. Where did she find all these good books? How does she integrate so many interesting, interesting influences? It is the mark of a good author, in my book, and The Liturgy of Politics is a very good read.

I announced it briefly in a previous BookNotes and a few who pre-ordered it have given us fabulous feedback. I’m not alone in thinking this is a fabulous and important book.

Here are two key things Kaitlyn Schiess is doing in this recent work, and therefore two different reasons to read it. It is about political life and it is about church life. And which rubs off on the other, how that works badly and how it could be otherwise. It is both a lament and critique as well as a constructive project to help us improve. It’s for political nuts and churchy folks. If your both, this book is screaming your name!

Firstly, she is asking the deep question about what story we are living in, what social imaginary, as some all it, what value-system or worldview shapes our engagement with political concerns? She is — as are most of the authors above (especially Lee Camp)  — greatly distressed that we in the churches have allowed ourselves to be hoodwinked  — captured to use the language of the Bible — by ungodly ideologies that then open us to be used and manipulated by the partisan powers that be. This is particularly egregious in evangelical churches who are part of the religious right, as her people were growing up and as she experienced first hand at Jerry Fallwell’s Liberty University when she was an undergrad there.) The legendary oddity of the recent religious right getting so zealously behind somebody so inconsistent with a Christian perspective/demeanor as Mr. Trump is only one example of how we have been shaped in our deepest thinking and desires by the ways of the partisan political forces. That is, she is wondering how we arrive at our political loyalties and our public theology and our voting habits. And it isn’t good.

My friend Michael Ware (author of Reclaiming Hope, about his years in the Obama White House and now co-author of Compassion  & Conviction, the book of the AND campaign) wrote a forward that is only a few pages but worth the price of the book. He sets the stage for Schiess’s work by reminding us of our call as Christians to be involved by not co-opted, bringing Christ’s ways into the public square. He says she writes as a voice of a new generation that sees spiritual formation as key to discipleship, but always for the world. And, that, similarly, if we are going to be involved in public life, we will need the Holy Spirit and congregation’s influence. It’s a beautifully written and very important foreword.

So the first part of the book is about this call to “think Christianly” about politics, and she reminds us that, indeed, there is a history of thought about these things and we dare not ignore the Bible or the church’s great tradition of coherent and intentional Christian theologizing. As one who has gone to seminary she is herself, she tells us, a book nerd and loves studying this stuff. (No wonder I linked her so!)

But here’s the big thing: she has learned well from James K.A. Smith and Tish Harrison Warren and Stanley Hauerwas and Robert Webber — as Smith puts it, you know, “we are what we love,” That is, our ideas about proper Biblical politics are not as important as what stories and dreams and hopes and values and symbols and images have formed our hearts. She realizes that the subterranean affective questions are most deeply religious: what do we feel about politics, what are we afraid of, what do we loathe, what do we want, what have we pledged allegiance to? Using Jamie Smith — You Are What You Love and his entire “cultural liturgy” trilogy but, of course, especially the third in the trilogy, Awaiting the King: Reforming Public Theology — she shows that our civic attitudes and beliefs and behaviors may most deeply be shaped not by thoughtful analysis of issues, but by the tug on our hearts and dispositions. That’s just how we humans work, it’s what the Bible says about our hearts. How we vote is not only about our heart’s longings and desires, our virtues and character, but it is most likely more that than the level headed arguments we hold or the high-sounding principles we claim. Those are preceded by what habits of heart we’ve embraced and who we’ve become. As Andy Crouch has quipped, the things we do (“secular liturgies”) do things to us. We are shaped, for better or worse, below the surface, subconsciously, and we can be sucked into the gravitational pull of an ideology within a political party, without even really knowing it. The first several chapters of The Liturgy of Politics explores this as well as anything I’ve seen and I highly, highly recommend it.

This call to ask probing questions about our deepest thinking and even more about our desires — about why we are apolitical or a zealous partisan (it works either way), or why we are angry about this or that issue or candidate,  to ponder what sort of things we’ve made ultimate in our lives, and why that is, is so very important. Her own story is shared, she draws on some of the best writers on this question of how we learn and what shapes us most, and invites us to discern what direction our lives are unfolding, especially when it comes to our political lives. This is simply brilliant stuff, intersting, breezy, well informed, challenging but not at all shaming or overwhelming. Young or old, I highly recommend this first part of the book.

The second thing, though, is also important. This is where the subtitle of the book becomes more important. Like Smith before her, Schiess searches for deeper (thicker) liturgies and stories to supplant and transform the ones we’ve embraced (or that have embraced us) from the world. If you’ve been unhelpfully captured by the stories and images of the idols of a political party, where you start to mirror their ideology and assumptions, even if they are not necessarily consistent with a Biblical vision, what can possibly undo that? A few attack ads from the other side? No! We need a better story, a deeper spirituality, our deformed desires need re-ordered. We need a gospel-centered, Biblically robust, thick sort of worship and Christian liturgical spirituality that can shape us and reshape us in a faithful political direction.

Yes, that is the answer to the deformed politics that come from our accommodation to the ways of the world: we need to be reformed and we need to find ourselves in a new story, with new values, and new desires, new imagination shaped by the Kingdom of God. By Christ-likeness, be compassion and justice and wonder and grace. So the second half of the book is about how the church can influence us to be more caring neighbors, socially engaged in public life for the common good, better citizens for the sake of all our neighbors as love would have of us.

The church can do this not mostly by teaching us about politics, per se, but by developing the pregnant meanings and implications in the formative power of the liturgies we already employ. The simple example I often us: in what ways can passing the peace and pronouncing a blessing on folks at church each week make us into peacemakers in the world? Many have explored the relationship between the holy rituals of bread and table in Eucharist or communion and how that might make us more hospitable, maybe even more sensitive to food issues. (She wisely draws on Alan Streets’ good work.) People who celebrate a Savior who invites us to eat just might vote in a way that cares about hunger, eh?

Yep, and the chapter is called “Ekklesia: The Church as Training Ground for Political Engagement.” If you are interested in Christian politics, this book is a must. If you are a pastor, worship minister, youth mentor, or congregational leader, or campus ministry worker who influences others in their faith development, this is a resource you must have to help you realize the power of what you do as you shape God’s people for life in the world.

Kaitlyn Schiess plumbs this stuff beautifully in ways I hadn’t even considered; one chapter is about “time, music, confession” and explores the calendar of the church year and the practices of sabbath. Another chapter is on “spiritual disciplines and political formation” and yet another is on how we read the Bible with an eye to public and political formation. (“A Story to Live Into” that one is called.)

The hour is late for me here and I feel like I am not scratching the surface of how valuable this lovely, thoughtful, stimulating book is. I learned much, was reminded of things I perhaps needed to be reminded of, and reveled as Ms Schiess connected dots all over the place. Her chapter on Augustine, by the way (“A Confession City”) is a great overview, drawing on the best Augustine scholars these days, including Eric Gregory and Charles Mathewes and Olliver O’Donovan. This gal knows her stuff and shares just enough to whet our own appetites.

So, this accesible, winsome book is about how the influences of modern politics shape/deform our attitudes and habits about citizenship (not to mention our very souls, so to speak) and how our church lives might undo some of that, training us in deeper ways to be the kind of people that would relate faith and citizenship in a more Christ-like, coherent, faithful way.  And the church does that in subtle, often symbolic ways. Just think of how Tish Harrison Warren describes her “practicing the presence of God” hour by hour through the day because of how she draws upon the practices of liturgical worship in The Liturgy of the Ordinary. I have my tongue in cheek as I say this, but The Liturgy of Politics by Kaitlyn Schiess is sort of Tish Warren for an election year. Ya know?

I’ve said over and over in BookNotes past that I think James K.A.Smith’s You Are What You Love is one of the most important books in recent decades. Others in that constellation, it seems to me, include Andy Crouch’s Strong and Weak. Again, Schiess is drawing on this generative, seminal volumes and using them to articulate this project of her, a project that she started in earnest a decade ago as she struggled to wonder why it was that so many of her evangelical friends thought about politics as they did. After much reading and writing and praying and learning (and, it seems, involvement in a very good local church and worshipping community and some degree of civic activism, too) Schiess has given us the fruit of her pondering, a volume that is unlike any other book on faith and politics I have read. It is, in a way, one of the ones we most need, pioneering, groundbreaking, wonderful. Thanks be to God.

Don’t believe me, alone. Here are a few great recommendations by those who have endorsed it:

“This is the book I have been waiting for! There could hardly be a more important topic for our cultural moment than the connection between Christian formation and politics. Kaitlyn Schiess persuasively and powerfully argues that Christians are being deeply formed by the political currents in which we swim, although we don’t often realize it. She then casts a beautiful biblical and theological vision for intentional Christian formation that, by God’s grace, shapes us into disciples who love God as we attend to the life of the world. While giving detailed attention to how and why we practice prayer, Bible reading, worship, Sabbath, and the sacraments, Schiess casts a sweeping and winsome vision of the Christian life, including political engagement and so much more. This book will itself be deeply formative for all who read it. It needs to be read by pastors, youth ministers, worship leaders, small groups, college and seminary students, and all who care about faithful discipleship and formation today.” –Kristin Deede Johnson, dean and professor of theology and Christian formation at Western Theological Seminary, author of The Justice Calling.

“This is a powerful challenge from a young heart and a mature mind. Schiess seems to touch every unexamined habit of Christian thought, work, leisure, and worship. With a wide sweep of life’s liturgies and church liturgies, of spiritual formation and political responsibility, of Bible reading and communication with others, Schiess goes straight for the heart in relaxed conversation that packs a prophetic punch about our complacency, ignorance of Scripture, cultural conformity, and more. Her urgent message is for communities of Christian faith to repent and turn ourselves over entirely to God, as disciples of Jesus Christ have always been called to do. It is hard to imagine how this young woman has been able to read so widely and think so profoundly about so much of life. Here you’ll find fresh insight and compelling hope that will renew your labors for the coming of God’s kingdom. Young people, old folks like me, and everyone in between, read this book now!” — James W. Skillen, author of The Good of Politics, former president of the Center for Public Justice

“How should Christians vote? In the last several years, this question has become a dividing line in the church, polarizing the people of God into opposing camps and fracturing the Christian community along worldly fault lines. With wisdom beyond her years, Kaitlyn Schiess recognizes the folly of centering on this question and instead focuses on a better one: What sort of people are we being formed into? With biblical grounding, theological depth, and the spiritual urgency of a next-generation leader, Kaitlyn lays the groundwork for a better, more faithful approach to political engagement. After finishing this book, here is the one thing I know for sure: we have not seen the last of Kaitlyn.” — Sharon Hodde Miller, author of Nice: Why We Love to Be Liked And How God Calls Us to More
“Many young evangelicals–weary of politics and the culture wars–have begun to disengage from political life. Tired of the narrow-minded politics of the right and left, these evangelicals long for something more–something beyond ideology and sound bites. Kaitlyn Schiess has answered her generation’s call. Drawing on Scripture, history, and contemporary political theology, she offers a robust and accessible political ethic that avoids the old pitfalls of the Christian right and left. She deftly explores how worship and spiritual disciplines can not only liberate evangelicals from destructive political ideologies but actively move them into God’s alternative political mission of public justice and shalom.” — Matthew Kaemingk, assistant professor of Christian ethics and associate dean, Fuller Theological Seminary author of Christian Hospitality and Muslim Immigration in an Age of Fear and Work and Worship: Reconnecting Our Labor and Liturgy.

Political Visions & Illusions: A Survey & Christian Critique of Contemporary Ideologies Second Edition David Koyzis (IVP Academic) $33.00        OUR SALE PRICE = $26.40

I realize this second edition of this book has re-issued last year, so it isn’t brand new. But it was out of stock for a while and when Tim Keller recommended it, we got a few calls from far way, folks hearing that we had a few. We did, and now we have more as they are back in stock again. So let’s list it here as if were a new one.  Ha.

In the above book reviews I’ve mentioned idols and ideologies. The best book on the subject idols these days is the brand new Here Are Your Gods: Faithful Discipleship in Idolatrous Times by Christopher J. Wright (IVP Academic; $18.00.) Wright is a keen Biblical scholar and one of our most reliable authors in Scripture studies. This new paperback takes a major section (“The Living God Confronts Idolatry” from his magisterial The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bibles Grand Narrative, releasing it in a new form, which is essentially the first half of Here Are Your Gods. The second half is still meaty, but a bit more practical as Wright describes the way idols drive various political ideologies. He explores the Scriptural notion of “the nations” and looks at “God in the Political Arena” then and now. It is worth getting this book and reading that middle part this very week, I’d say. The third portion of this deep little book invites us to consider what it means to be God’s people in idolatrous times.  It is both a scathing indictment and a hopeful guide away from our communal idols and the spirits of the age.  I will write more about this later, I’m sure.

More specific to this post about politics, though, and of the ideologies that are diving both the right and the left in American political culture is this older book by David Koyzis that I’ve tried to sell repeatedly in these pages. (For instance here, or here.) Political Visions & Illusions: A Survey & Christian Critique of Contemporary Ideologies, as I mentioned above, was expanded and updated and reissued a year ago. It has some new material on populism and nationalisms (and has a lovely, wise foreword by Richard Mouw.) It is very important, I’d say and I sometimes get a bit breathy and enthusiastic pushing it, believing in it as I do. (Maybe it is because I know I need this book and dip into it regularly. You see, I find myself drawn to the best ideas of some of these disparate traditions, sometimes saying I’m a liberal conservative or a conservative liberal or some fusiony admixture, making me wisely eclectic or terribly undiscerning, depending who you ask.) Here, though, is how the publisher fairly plainly describes the book: “David Koyzis surveys the key political ideologies of our era, unpacking the worldview issues inherent to each and pointing out essential strengths and weaknesses.”  Oh yeah, he does, with wisdom and insight and some occasional wit!  Come on!

As Professor Koyzis walks us through chapters on liberalism, conservatism, nationalism, democracy (or democratism?) and socialism, he then invites us to transcend the ideologies by “affirming societal pluriformity.” He offers two faith traditions who have a worked out perspective on this, explaining in detail the Roman Catholic view of subsidiarity and the notion of sphere sovereignty that was central to the Anti-Revolutionary Party in the Christian democratic movement in Holland. These two historic Christian approaches are his alternative, so to speak, to the wrong-headed and possibly idolatrous ideologies of the left and the right, none of which are able to honor real pluralism and thereby do justice to all the differing people and organizations and institutions in a diverse society. In the midst of excursions into terrorism and racism and helpful contemporary examples of the abuse of power, this long-haul, bigger picture is a book that gets to the root of things and is thereby an exceedingly important contribution to our ongoing repentance and renewal as we seek political faithfulness from a Christian perspective.

Listen to David Guretzki, executive vice president and resident theologian, The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada

Few could have anticipated the major political upheavals witnessed since this book first came out in 2003. Yet Koyzis’s book has stood the test of time, ranking, in my opinion, as the best introduction to modern political thought from a Christian perspective. This updated edition is welcome in its inclusion both of newer literature and fresh examples to recent political developments. As a politically engaged theologian, I’m especially thrilled to see the addition of the ‘Concluding Ecclesiological Postscript’ that could very well serve as kind of theo-political compass for church leaders wanting navigational guidance on how churches should–and should not–engage in political action.”

Here is a helpful reminder of how important this is by Mary S. Van Leeuwen, professor emerita of psychology and philosophy, Eastern University, author of Gender and Grace.

“David Koyzis introduces readers to the range of political theories that have emerged and competed for dominance since classical times. He carefully and respectfully separates wheat from chaff in each of them in terms of a Christian worldview, and in a style that is clear, irenic, and persuasive. The second edition helpfully updates the first in terms of major political events of the past two decades. In an increasingly polarized world, this kind of book is essential reading for concerned citizens of all political and religious leanings.”

You could “google” David Koyzis and find a number of interviews and videos with him talking about worldviews and “religious”-like convictions that shape our lives. For instance, my friend Bob Robinson interviewed Koyzis at his (re)integrate podcast. Enjoy it here.

The Bible and the Ballot: Using Scripture in Political Divisions Tremper Longman (Eerdmans) $24.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $19.99

We got another one of those stupid voters guides put out by a well-intended Christian family organization in our state, all red white and blue, with checks of where candidates stand on this or that issues. They are a little more coy than they used to be but many of these simply mimic the positions of the Republican party whether they have any Biblical or even theological principles that are evident for that view or not.  Why does a pro-life, pro-family group imply that a big defense budget is what true Christians want?  For what reasons do some conservative Christian groups oppose environmental regulations, as if that’s an unbiblical thing on the face of it? Who says an anti-immigration policy is “pro-family,” let alone based on the Bible? (Geesh, folks, get out a concordance why don’t ya?) Who gets to say a certain tax policy is or is not “Biblical.” (It was to his embarrassment, in my view, that the otherwise thoughtfully conservative Bible scholar Wayne Grudem wrote a whole chapter in a book of his on (so-called) “Christian politics” supporting a conservative tax policy based on one half of a single Proverb. I hope his department chair tool him aside and gave him a brush-up Biblical Interpretation 101 review on how that’s a sloppy no-no. (That his publisher let him get away with it, misguiding the people of God like that, is also disappointing.) But when ideologies rule — as Kaitlyn Schiess explains in the above mentioned The Liturgy of Politics more graciously than I do — even well intended readings of the Bible get distorted and used for a partisan agenda.

Enter Biblical scholar Tremper Longman with a book that is a resource we really, really (really) need now more than ever. I admire Tremper, have met him, and know a person who was influential in his life as a student half a lifetime ago, so I am disposed to trust him a lot. His work is almost across the board stellar and he has written or edited dozens of serious books, mostly on the Old Testament. A few he has done with his old pal Dan Allender, too.

The Bible and the Ballot is about this project on how to use the Bible, or be instructed and informed by the Bible, on our views of political issues. Because it is what it is, it doesn’t go into the multi-dimensional questions that Kaitlyn raises about how we are actually formed in our political imaginations and desires. It doesn’t go into the ideologies behind the political philosophies that use or misuse the Bible, one way of the other. It not a volume on a Christian political option. It is, though, a summary of key Biblical passages that relate to contemporary social issues that are addresses in various political platforms. So, it is of limited use as we think about the development of a profound and coherent Christian political philosophy, but for a non-partisan handbook to Bible texts written by a Biblical scholar, this is very useful.

Here are two small criticisms which should not dissuade you from buying this asap.  It isn’t as comprehensive as I might wish, and on a couple of issues, there are a couple of verses that I was surprised to not see show up in Longman’s overview. Understandably, the book is already 300 pages, so he couldn’t be comprehensive. Fair enough. Secondly, his sidebar summary of the key teaching from each unit was a bit bland for my tastes. I suppose this in intentional, not trying to be breathy or zealous or at all partisan. So he keeps it fairly straight forward, not polemical, just documenting core Bible teaching on topics ranging from war to racism, from abortion to poverty, from criminal justice and capitol punishment to the environment to same-sex marriage. One of the helpful topics is nationalism and patriotism and another I found very interesting was his foray into religious liberty. In each of these topics he shows relevant Biblical material and tries to wisely suggest ways those texts might inform a policy position that might approximate something we night say is “Biblically informed.”

Unlike those right wing or left wing voters guides that tend to be shallow, partisan and sometimes alarmist — ye gads, look how the “other side” is violating What The Bible Says — Tremper Longman’s new The Bible and the Ballot is reasonable and coherent, honest before the complexities of the texts and which texts influence or help us form faithful views. He believes we should be influenced by the Biblical texts but we must be honest about what they actually say and how to interpret them. As we say these days, it’s messy and it is hard to have much integrity as a reader of the Bible if we insist on taking some of our preferred passages and shoehorning them to prove the righteousness of our political agenda.

Therefore, the first quarter of this Bible and the Ballot book offers some overarching principles of Biblical interpretation, especially when trying to interpret the Bible for modern day social issues. This is thorny ground and good people may disagree about the methodology (what is also called hermeneutics) that shape our philosophy of interpretation. That is, you know you just can’t take some verse from Leviticus or some episode from Kings or some waring Jeremiah and willy nilly apply it today. Some find it complicated to even do that with plain teaching from Jesus, but we sure can’t do it easily from, say, a battle in Joshua, as if our military policy should be circling around a building with trumpets or our agricultural policy should be a strict application of Leviticus 25.  Anyway, while it may be obvious (at least in some cases) when we ought not apply the Bible story verbatim for our modern social policy, there surely are principles to help us see divine patterns, learn how to be guided by God’s ways in the world as applied prudently to todays context.

Longman’s keys for reading the Bible well are helpful for any of us (about any issue about which we seek the Scripture’s illumination and guidance) and his interpretive principles are very useful. Part three of The B and the B offers “essential Biblical/theological themes” that will be carried throughout the book. This is all before he gets to specific issues. The Bible and the Ballot: Using Scripture in Political Decisions is not the only book we need as we become more intentionally wise about our civic posture and positions. But it is a great tool, a gift offered by a wise lover of God and one committed to the authority of God’s Word.

God in Public: How the Bible Speaks Truth To Power Today N.T. Wright (SPCK) $20.00  OUR SALE PRICE = $16.00

I’m so glad to list this even though it isn’t new, so I’m sort of cheating a bit here. But I bet it is new to many, even many Tom Wright fans. We import (through a US distributor) from the UK where is is published by a thoughtful, interesting publishing house there. These are essays former Bishop Wright gave to listeners in several locations in the UK and he starts off by noting that in both his academic training as a historian and New Testament scholar and in his ministerial training for being a parish priest there was this assumption that the Biblical gospel of Christ’s Kingdom is mostly for the church. Or maybe the scholarly guild. Neither Biblical scholars nor pastors and priests are adept at speaking about the world, let alone in the world. And then, as a Bishop, Wright became a member (as the state church has it in Great Britain) of the House of Lords. Oh my. By those years he already was learning to speak out about Biblical truth for contemporary culture and was eroding the unbiblical dualism that divides life into sacred and secular. (His first book published in the US, by the way, in the 1980s, was very much about culture and the modern society. By 2014 he had given enough public lectures about creation care, the arts, economics, science, justice and the like that HarperOne released Surprised by Scripture: Engaging Contemporary Issues. It’s very good.)

This imported British volume, though, is fabulous to be added on to this list about faith and politics. It is about power and justice (one was a lecture he gave at the London School of Economics.) As Wright became more convinced that his calling as a Bible scholar equipped him to serve the church and the culture, he increasingly had opportunity to weigh in on justice issues, on social causes, and on actual policy proposals. This book is an example of some of his visionary, Biblical teaching that has some application and traction in the world of public affairs.

There are 10 chapters, almost 185 pages. There are lectures on Pilate and Caesar and their encounter with Jesus in John 18-19; there is a chapter on the nature of law; there is a chapter about global terror and questions of war. In many of the chapters Wright is pushing back against secularism, those that might suggest that people of faith have no right or at least little to say of enduring worth as they bring a faith perspective to bear on the idols and issues and topics of the modern world.  One chapter looks at postmodernism in public life, another looks at some of the idols of modernity still reigning in the power structures of the big empires.

One good chapter was a presentation entitled “God’s powerful foolishness in a world of foolish power” which of couse, takes its cue from “folly and wisdom, weakness and power: the gospel in Corinth.” One of the lectures (“Christian Virtue in Peace and War”) was actually given at the Royal Military Academy.  Wow.

The Spiritual Danger of Donald Trump: 30 Evangelical Christians on Justice, Truth, and Moral Integrity edited by Ronald J. Sider (Cascade) $25.00  OUR SALE PRICE = $20.00

I have already mentioned this book in a BookNote last summer. I invited folks to pre-order it and said that there are contributors here that I think very highly of and a few who I count as friends or mentors.

As Termper Longman says of it, “My hope and prayer is that all Christians, whatever their present political leanings, will be open to the case made in this book.”  As Ambassador Tony Hall,  one of the great US Congressman who was so known for his advocacy for the poor and the starving (as he served in the US House) says, “I commend this book to anyone struggling to align their faith with their choices at the ballot box.

Let’s just say it bluntly. Almost anyone but the most partisan ideologies would admit that there are very good reasons to be troubled by the character and the behaviors and many of the policies of President Trump. From his chronic dishonesty to his antagonism with opponents and journalists to the weird disdain for science and truth and refusal to distance himself from racist and violent supporters, to his ill-informed, confused, and sloppy management within the Administration itself (decried by so many that once worked with him and could do so no longer — has there every been a President in US history that has had so many people quit or be fired?) More, there are the large character flaws — did he really pay off a porn star to silence her? Did her really call some poor nations “shithole” countries? Can you imagine what Jeremiah would say about tear-gassing peaceful citizen protesters so he could stand in front of a church and hold a Bible up, a Bible he doesn’t read. That some flamboyant religious right leaders love him is just inexplicable.

This book has significant and sometimes leading evangelicals weighing in on the anguish of having this dangerous man as the leader of our nation. A few chapters are biting; many are relatively gracious. Most are hard hitting with painful truth as they authors see it.

The Spiritual Dangers of Donald Trump is divided up into three main parts.  The first part is on Mr. Trump the person. We have among others, pieces by Mark Galli and Vicki Courtney. There is a chapter by a Christian psychologist about God’s hatred for “a lying tongue.” Chris Thurman is another evangelical psychologist whose is well loved for his wise book about self-delusion called Lies We Believe. It’s good he is in here. One helpful chapter is “10 Reasons Why Christians Should Reconsider Their Support of Trump.” You could copy it and use it, I’m sure, if you are so inclined. We hope you get this book and share some of these chapters with those who need to wrestle with the matters.

One of the scholars, by the way, who contributed to this is Dr. Bandy X. Lee. She has advanced degrees in both psychiatry and theology and now practices through the Yale School of Medicine. She was so concerned about behaviors she saw exhibited by Mr. Trump that she edited a best selling volume called The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 37 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President which inspired this more theological collection. In an earnest forward she tells of her own sense of being led by God to begin the process of this book, which she soon turned over to the impeccable Ronald J. Sider.

The second section is on “Evangelical Support of Trump.” This is lead off by long time right wing political operative Peter Wehner with an essay called “The Deepening Crisis in Evangelical Christianity.” Oh my, this is important, whether one is an evangelical or not. Ron Sider has an important piece called “Will The Evangelical Center Remain Silent in 2020?” He loves the evangelical world and he deeply wants to call the church to Jesus. He knows the Scriptures and he cares very much about the testimony we offer to the world around this campaign. I like how he draws on the significant, balanced method and agenda for evangelical social engagement “For the Health of the Nation” created by the National Association of Evangelicals. If only those self-appointed leaders of evangelicalism who are the loudest cheerleaders for the current President knew about this significant document created after painstaking work by evangelicals of various social and theological orientations. You can learn more about it in a big book Ron co-edited (with the late Diane Knippers) with bunches of significant evangelical thinkers and leaders doing chapters in 2005 entitled Toward an Evangelical Public Policy: Political Strategies for the Health of the Nation  (Baker; $25.00.) It is a historic document and offered the sort of deeply theological framework we need today.

There are several other amazing pieces in this section of The Spiritual Danger of Donald Trump, from Stephen Haynes (a Bonhoeffer scholar) and a chapter co-authored by several evangelical leaders from the global evangelical community.  Several of these pieces are very probing, analyzing the cognitive dissonance many evangelicals feel when they think about this unlikely partnership of conservative religion and the brutal Trumpian style. The famous African- American sociologist and Christian Dr. George Yancey has a very powerful piece, too. I really hope you buy this book and read it right away.

Part three in this anthology is what they call “theological, historical, and constitutional issues regarding President Trump.” This is sharp stuff, with serious chapters by Miroslav Volf and James Skillen and Joh Fea and others.

Steven E. Meyer is in here who is known as a thoughtful scholar of diplomacy who has served in the CIA and as an upper level manager at the Department of Defense. I mention this not only because his work is valuable and often compelling and because this chapter is excellent, but to show that these contributors are often fairly mainstream thinkers — not wild radicals, not even Sojourners or activists of the left.  It’s been used before, but perhaps rarely so urgently, but the title of Meyer’s piece is “Quo Vadis, America?”

Julia Stronks has a chapter on constitutional questions — she is a Christian lawyer who teaches politics and history at Whitworth College. She calls for greater forbearance and toleration and observes that the Presidents style (the tweets, for instance) and his public statements and many of his actual policies and executive orders have eroded a sense of democratic values. It’s a strong piece and I recommend it.

I am glad for Ron’s closing sermon, a plea to return to Christ. He does invite us to listen well to each other and to pray together, no matter who wins the upcoming election. As he often does, he lists a handful of ways to take next steps, both visionary and hopeful as well as practical and admonishing. No matter what, he wants to to deepen our discipleship, live out our faith in a Christ-honoring way. As a book of his puts it that we still stock,  I Am Not a Social Activist: Making Jesus the Agenda. Ron is a reliable thinker and earnest faith leader. I am glad he edited this volume and I commend it to you, urgently, now. Send us an order today, please.

Dual Citizens: Politics and American Evangelicalism edited by Timothy Padgett (Lexham Press) $28.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $23.19

I applaud Lexham Press for doing a series of books like this, a handsome, trim sized hardback set called The Best of Christianity Today. They have anthologized all sorts of stuff from the earliest days of Christianity Today until today. One volume was from a several year series they did on evangelical theology and it is simply amazing. Another is various pieces written by John Stott. They are doing one soon to be released that is a collection of older Advent devotions that appeared in the magazine (some old, by the likes of Billy Graham.)

This new one may be one of the most valuable for anyone charting the early days and evolution of American (mostly white) evangelicals and their political posture, their public theology and their social positions. Of course, keep in mind, while evangelicals tended to be socially conservative, the phrase become popular in the 20th century (with CT their flagship journal) as a voice of Biblically orthodox but socially moderate Protestantism. That is, they were created to be an alternative to the fundamentalists. Until recently, there was a sharp divide between fundamentalists and evangelicals, although now the media lumps them together in unhelpful ways.

Here is how the publisher describes the value of this historical account of wrestling with the issues.

American evangelicals are often assumed to be a monolithic political force absolutely unified in their (right wing) priorities. This collection of articles from Christianity Today originally published between 1956 and 2016 tells a different story. Evangelical engagement with politics has been more complex than is often remembered. Dual Citizens reveals a variety of evangelical thought towards political developments over the past few decades. As such, it offers a real window into sixty years of evangelical political engagement

Here are a few historians and other public thinkers who compliment the volume:

At a time when evangelical Protestant presence in public life has come under significant criticism –including ridicule — this collection of essays from Christianity Today will enable insiders and observers to put the religious right in perspective. –D. G. Hart, Hillsdale College, author of American Catholic: Faith and Politics during the Cold War

This book is valuable to everyone interested in how evangelicals have thought about public issues and how they have acted in the public square. I also believe Christians will find it edifying as a reminder of the value of a faithful Christian witness, and a God who is working in history for his glory. –Michael Wear, author of Reclaiming Hope: Lessons Learned in the Obama White House About the Future of Faith in America

The book offers a priceless resource for historians as well as rank-and-file students of contemporary religion…. Edited volumes come and go — mostly go. But not this one. It will stand for years as a standard reference for understanding the inner texture of one of the largest and most influential Christian traditions of modern times. — Grant Wacker, Gilbert T. Rowe Professor Emeritus of Christian History, Duke Divinity School

The first chapter or unit is on CT writing about US Presidents. This is fascinating and for those of us who lived through any of this it will be very interesting. It has an early piece from 1956, a 1960 piece about the possibility of a “Catholic president” and a remarkable one about Kennedy’s assassination. There are essays about prayer, about protest, about the “political tightrope” from 1966. There were several about Watergate, one about President Ford, and several that are more contemporary. It is illustrative to see the piece about Reagan, surprising to see one by Rodney Clapp; there are well written ones by Philip Yancey and Sarah Pulliam and more. Of couse there is one by Chuck Colson — “How to Confront a President” written in 1994 (although he will show up often, later.) We get to see an early piece by the great journalist Mollie Ziegler Hemingway from 2009. Tony Carnes was the reporter weighing on President Bush after 9-11 and we see the magazine report about “The Bush Doctrine” that launched the Iraq War. There’s several more. And then the final three in this section include a famous 2016 editorial by Ron Sider on why he was going to vote for Hillary Clinton paired with one by James Dobson on why he supported Donald Trump and one by Sho Baraka on why he wasn’t voting for either.

The second part is about both the emerging roles of the Religious Right and a bit about the Evangelical Left. From CT’s moderate assessment of the mean-spirited Carl McIntire (1970) to Carl Henry’s classic “evangelical social concern” program to what were then called “radical Christians” there is a lot. One 1985 article compares and contrasts Charles Colson, Jerry Falwell, and Jim Wallis. There are a number of good pieces here — one written by Nancy Pearcey with Chuck Colson, another by Carolyn Curtis, yet several more by the editorial team on the issues of the day.

The third part includes positions the magazine took and editorials they ran on a wide range of global issues. My head spun when I saw the first one from 1956 penned by J. Edgar Hoover. Yikes. Some of these are remarkable for their historical value and one I re-read to educate myself — a Pearcey/Colson piece from 1999 “Does Kosovo Pass the Just-War Test?” There were missionary writers and Billy Graham weighing in and various pieces about ISIS, the most recent from 2014.

The fourth unit includes editorials about domestic affairs. Much of the writing in this section is about racism, poverty, and economics. It is fascinating to see what some evangelical leaders thought about segregation in 1957 or about Selma in 1965. There was a self-effacing piece about discrimination (in 1968) and a piece called “Race and Economics” by Francis Schaeffer in 1974. Wow.

And, yes, here is the editorial “Abortion and the Court” written in January of 1973.

I was intrigued to see various sorts of insights about the development of the evangelical pro-life stance. There are several. Standouts include Ron Sider’s piece from 1996 about “our selective rage” calling for a more consistently pro-life view. It could have been written last week. Orthodox writer and thinker Frederica Matthewes-Green has a piece from 1999. In 2001 CT weighed in about “changing hearts and laws” and the 2015 editor Katelyn Beatty’s impressive piece “The Power of Pro-Life Women” is included. Glad for that.

The final dozen or so essays range from 1956 to 2014 and there are a variety of editorials on various topics relating to the theme “God and Country.” There is writing on civil disobedience, on civil religion, a piece from 1957 about how government service can be a Christian vocation. (I was surprised to see that, for some reason, using the language of vocation, then.) I liked a number of these short pieces and found myself wanting to revisit a few more.

This book is loaded with good insight (even if often quite contextualized, emerging from its own social location, obviously.) There are some essays that are in my view pretty off-base. A few are brilliant, having stood the test of time. For inspiration and overtly evangelical Christian social and political thinking, Dual Citizens is valuable, if uneven. For historians and any who want to see the roots and fruits of the vision Carl Henry and the others had, hoping to present a Biblically-based, conservative but engaging theological alternative to both rigid and sectarian fundamentalism on one had and often theologically muddled, mainline social gopsel liberalism on the other, it is priceless. To see the somewhat evolving perspectives of this standard-bearer journal (loved by some, hated by others), Dual Citizens is a true treasure trove.

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15 MORE RECENT BOOKS THAT I WISHED I COULD HAVE TOLD YOU ABOUT SOONER. Learn about them now and buy from Hearts & Minds at 20% OFF

I hope you saw a BookNotes column we did a week or so ago lamenting that when we had to furlough some of our staff and we got swamped with complicated mail order bookselling in the worst of the quarantining, we didn’t have the capacity to celebrate important new releases of last Spring and Summer. I announced in the important BookNotes column some of those I really had intended to promote back then, and figured “better late than never.” Please take a look at that BookNotes (they are all archived at our Hearts & Minds bookstore website) and see that list of some of the most important books of the past six months. Better late than never.

And, so, we continue on, naming books that we have big stacks of here; we would have shared these at our off site events, the conferences, retreats, and gatherings we had intended to serve with big book displays a season or so ago. We’ve lost almost half our income having these gigs all (necessarily and properly) cancelled, but we remain steadfast in our calling to tell you about good books.

If you like what you see, maybe you could share it with others, helping us get the word out about these authors and titles and our online sales.

Be sure to tell people that they can order on line, easily, or call the shop.

Our order form page (SEE THE LINK AT THE END OF THIS COLUMN) is certified secure so you can enter credit card information safely. We will reply promptly to confirm everything.

Please tell us how you’d like your order shipped  — USPS Media Mail is cheaper and slower; USPS Priority Mail is more costly but much quicker. Feel free to ask for more details about your own order if you’d like. We’re happy to help.

So, here are some more important releases that are fairly recent, but that we might have promoted more vigorously when the first came out if we had been able. These are not to be missed and we salute the authors and publishers who work to write and release these kinds of great resources for us all.  Buy some books, folks!  Not brand new, but recent. Let’s not let the Covid virus ravage our authors and publishers (and booksellers.) All are 20% off.

Wait With Me: Meeting God in Loneliness Jason Gaboury (formatio/IVP) $16.00 – OUR SALE PRICE = $12.80

It was early in the quarantining, shelter-in-place season when this brilliant book entered our store and nearly every day I wished I had the capacity to write about it and send it out via our BookNotes newsletter. Few books seemed as urgent, as apropos, as needed. Yet, the season drug on and we were working 15 hours straight keeping up with our mail out orders without our team on board. As you know, I didn’t write much, save an Easter blog or two. And so, now, truly, in the “better late than never” category is this winner: a book written before any lock-downs and stay-at-home orders, before the big increase in loneliness among many of us. I know many who knew of this wise and thoughtful work commented on how it was very important resource for many of us.

Of course, Wait With Me was not written with any Covid-caused loneliness and could not have anticipated folks exiled from work and church and entertainment and extended family, but it nonetheless was written about the nature of our relationship with God whenever we are lonely. That statistics were tilting strong in this direction way before Covid — curiously, one of the best books on this epidemic of loneliness is one I wrote about just before the health crisis hit — Three Pieces of Glass: Why We Feel Lonely in a World Mediated by Screens by the brilliant pastor and social critic Eric Jacobsen (Brazos Press; $19.99.) The three pieces of glass are, as I explained in my BookNotes rave review, are the TV screen, the computer screen, and the windshield from our cars. These social realities facilitate a culture of individualism and autonomy and loneliness.

Readers will be glad that Jason Gaboury — a regional ministry director with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship — understand these things. He gets the big picture and isn’t afraid to talk about our culture and social trends and the habits and practices that erode our experience of authentic community. He cites very contemporary critics and novelists. He’s aware of important ways things like racism and sexism effect our sense of self and may help contribute to alienation and loneliness. He is also part of a robust, liturgical worshipping community and is an Anglican friar, skilled in the arts of spiritual direction, with deeper awareness of deeper truth; he realizes, as his own 70-something spiritual director told him, “To be human is to be lonely.”  Ahh, perhaps, Covid or no, screens or not, we need Gaboury’s insights about the deepest holes in our heart and the deepest hurts in our souls and the realities of our human condition. Which is to say, this book is walking ground along with Merton’s No Man Is an Island and perhaps Henri Nouwen’s Reaching Out or The Wounded Healer. Perhaps we need not to run from our inner anguish or our relational sorrows but push on to know God better.

This is not cheap talk or pious sentimentality. It could be the way some writes who say this come across — “Don’t worry if you’re lonely or sad, just be with Jesus,” – with a smiley face or praying hands emoji.  No. This it isn’t quaint or cheap, but it does, yet, profoundly move in that direction, naming and exploring how in our own suffering we find a greater sense of our oneness with Christ’s suffering and thereby our actual humanness. As David Booram (author of the lovely and good When Faith Becomes Sight ) writes, Gaboury in inviting us to this “unwelcomed, unavoidable, yet potentially sacred meeting place.”  It calls us to what author Noemi Vega Quiñones (coauthor of Hermanas) called “vulnerable connection.” With With Me is a beautifully written book, wise and helpful and cool, even if pushing us to some serious self reflection in our often anguished solitude. (He is, by the way, happily married with children and has a job that would be an extraverts dream. And yet.)

This book has gotten great reviews from all sorts of folks of different races, men and women, those married and singles, older and younger. Many think it’s excellent.

“This, thankfully, is not a book that promises to solve loneliness. It’s not a how-to guide for ‘getting out there’ or a formula for ensuring God will erase your sense of isolation. This book is something very different: a poignant, wise, at times searing invitation to attend to our loneliness as a call from God. This is spiritual writing that is at once urgent and patient, honest and inviting.” (James K. A. Smith, Byker Chair in Applied Reformed Theology and Worldview at Calvin University, author of On the Road with Saint Augustine)

“It is not easy to find biblical, relevant, practical, and emotionally engaged content that presses us into the tension of existence as opposed to showing us how to manage or get away. This book is not a roadmap on how to escape something that is core to being human but a testament to how rigorous engagement with loneliness can free us to live more fully as people made in the image of God. This isn’t just a book you should buy; it is a book you should read.” (Jonathan P. Walton, poet and author of Twelve Lies That Hold America Captive: And the Truth That Sets Us Free)=

Digital Life Together: The Challenge of Technology for Christian Schools David I. Smith, Kara Sevensma, Majorie Terpstra, Steven McMullen (Eerdmans) $29.99 – OUR SALE PRICE = $23.99

I had ordered a bunch of these (pre-Covid and pre-quarantining) because I so respect the work of David Smith, a language arts professor at Calvin University and one who has thought about the distinctives of thinking and practicing Christianly in the field of education as much as anyone I know. Although this was based on a three-year in-depth study of the use of technology within alternative Christian schools, it would be, I figured, ideal for any educator — elementary, high-school, or college, public or private. This big book walks teachers, school leaders and parents through “some of the big ideas that are hidden in our technology habits.” That is they don’t just rehearse the arguments for or against more digital learning and techie stuff in the classroom, but address “the nuanced realities of [Christian] education in a twenty-first century context.”

This book is full of a crisp and enlightening picture of what real classrooms are like and what makes the best Christian school classrooms tick — again, if one teaches in or has children in a public or secular private school, this is still hugely resonant of what good teaching and classroom environment can be. And within that context of good schooling practices and normative, wise visions of education, it invites both creative us of and critique of technology. It encourages best practices even as we equip colleagues and students to deepen their discernment of what values or habits come along as baggage, as unintended consequences.

In this, I must say, our favorite book on these things for daily home use remains the small but fabulously rich volume called The Tech Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in Its Proper Place by Andy Crouch (Baker; $15.99.) And don’t miss, by the way, the sequel to it coming out mid-November by Andy and co-written by Andy’s daughter Amy, now a college student, called My Tech-Wise Life: Growing Up and Making Choices in a World of Devices (Baker; $15.99.) Both of these offer the wise and thoughtful approach that is picked up and used seriously to shape the research done by Smith and his team as they prepared Digital Life Together.

For what it’s worth, the authors used all sorts of qualitative study, and tell here about their focus groups and case studies and classroom observations and the in-depth interviews. As James K.A. Smith (no relation to David Smith, even though they teach together and have written together) puts it, this is “wisdom about the role of technology in Christian teaching and learning that is neither blind enthusiasm nor defensive dismissal.”

We offer a Zoom handclap and Facebook thumbs up and happy email emoji to these authors and researchers and writers (who hale from Calvin University and Hope College.) I wished I had be able to read, review and promote this book months ago, prescient as it has been. It’s not too late, though, as we are in a new wave of a new era for all of our media us.  With 40 short chapters with discussion/reflection questions after each, Digital Life Together is simply the best resource to have right now for anyone who does on-line learning. Order it now at our 20% off, and, while your at it, pre-order the forthcoming Andy & Amy Crouch My Tech-Wise Life at 20% off as well.

The Flourishing Teacher: Vocational Renewal for a Sacred Profession Christiana Bieber Lake (IVP Academic) $22.00 – OUR SALE PRICE = $17.60

We have a big stack of these and I was stymied writing about it since I hadn’t had time to study it carefully. I would have promoted it as teaches prepped for the “back to school” season over the summer, but the pandemic kept us from doing that well. Although the book cover or title does not say it — grrr —this book is not primarily written for ordinary teachers of elementary or high school ,but it is about being a college teacher. We have a large section in our store about higher education and several about the calling of being a Christian college prof, and I did not realize this one was one of those sorts. Alas, as I shifted my expectations, I soon enough fell in love with this book. Written by a woman who has taught literature at Wheaton College (indeed, is the Clyde S. Kilby Professor of English there) but who also has been a teacher in K-12 settings, she knows what educators go through. She believes deeply it is a sacred profession to which some are called. But, as she starts the book (down with the flu and terribly discouraged) she set out to write a book for those who may be burned out by the “relentless pace, the overload of classes, the grading, the advising, the additional committee work.” Sound familiar?

Dr. Lake is a remarkably learned woman. Her stunning, scholarly work Beyond the Story: American Literary Fiction and the Limits of Materialism (University of Notre Dame; $45.00) explores the deepest worldviews and assumptions about life (and the reality of metaphysics) in contemporary fiction. She has a stellar book on St. Flannery, too, called The Incarnational Art of Flannery O’Connor (Mercer University Press; $30.00.) She is a major scholar and has done this high level of academic work, even as she so clearly is a passionate, seasoned professor and teacher.

And, so, The Flourishing Teacher by Bieber Lake offers profound insight and rumination and spiritual reflections and practical advise for any teacher who feels a need to refocus, become renewed, and learn to actually flourish in what can be a draining, hard job. As the back cover promises, she takes on several pressing issues: “How do I balanced work and family time? Where do I fit in time for my research and writing? What particular challenges do female faculty face, and how should they navigate them?”

After an introductory chapter called “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction”, she offers clever and inviting chapter titles that walk a teacher through a year of life. She starts in August, of course, with that mix of excitement and dread, sadness that the summer zoomed by so fast, and yet eager to get thinking about the new school year. What wisdom she offers, how spot-on and relevant. Get this book for any teacher you know, but especially for anyone teaching at the college level. It might remind them why they teach and help them rediscover a passion for their sacred vocation.

Listen to these endorsing blurbs:

The Flourishing Teacher understands in wonderfully particular and empathetic detail the peculiar rhythms and challenges of the academic year. No matter where you are in your career, you will find winsome and practical advice for thriving in and, as importantly, out of the classroom. Through it all, Christina Bieber Lake is that trusted friend who has successfully navigated scholarship and teaching from whom we all wished we could get advice. Now we can.”  — Jennifer L. Holberg, professor of English at Calvin University, founding coeditor of the Duke University Press journal, Pedagogy

“What a wonderful, invigorating, and encouraging book! I recommend it to anyone committed to the ‘spiritual work’ of college teaching. With honesty and confidence born of long experience, the author shares her vocational journey through the form of the academic year. Along the way, she offers splendid, practical wisdom while sustaining a graced tone of gratitude. The Flourishing Teacher is a vital addition to any professor’s ‘soul shelf,’ but especially those of us who teach at church-related schools.” –Paul J. Contino, Pepperdine University)

Brutally honest, eminently practical, and wonderfully snarky, this book might save your teaching career, your joy in your vocational calling, and even your marriage. It is a true masterpiece of personal, pedagogical, and professional wisdom. I wish I’d had this volume before I completed my graduate degrees. I would have been much healthier, happier, and productive. Read this from cover to cover immediately, and then month-to-month starting before the-month-that-shall-not-be named. Join the company of Eager Biebers!” –C. Ben Mitchell, Professor of Moral Philosophy at Union University

“Dr. Bieber, as her students refer to her, has given those of us who teach a gift. With wit and transparency, this seasoned professor not only stimulates us to consider ways in which we can teach better but she provides us with specific strategies not only for the classroom but for maintaining sanity throughout the year–with specifics from managing emails to knowing how and when to say no to orchestrating the accomplishment of tasks on the to-do list. This book is not fluff; it is well researched, as Bieber Lake introduces us to resources that provide practical and soul-saving advice. Every teacher should read this book! “–Dennis Okholm, Azusa Pacific University
Be Kind to Yourself: Releasing Frustrations and Embracing Joy Cindy Bunch (formatio/IVP) $15.00 – OUR SALE PRICE = $12.00
I must admit I’m not particularly drawn to small self-help books that offer little tips for getting over my frustrations and hurts. Perhaps I don’t trust the inevitable cliches or don’t find most calls to self-care that compelling in light of the urgent needs of the broken world and Jesus’s own call to selflessness and downward mobility. Yet, this author is a legend at my favorite publishing house and it is part of the extraordinary formatio line of books about spiritual formation. One of the wisest and best writers about contemplative spirituality and deep practices to nurture our interior lives with God is Ruth Haley Barton and I noticed that she had written the foreword. Maybe Be Kind To Yourself is a different sort of little book I thought. Oh my, yes, yes it is.
Here are the others who have endorsements on the back cover, wise and deep spiritual guides we can trust — James Bryan Smith, Suzanne Stabile, Christine Valters Paintner, Juanita Campbell Rasmus (who recently wrote Learning to Be) and the remarkable Sybil MacBeth who wrote Praying in Color. These are not simple or cheesy cheerleaders but smart and creative spiritual directors. If they say Be Kind to Yourself is “a lovely gift of grace” or that “we need this book right now” or is “a go-to for all who long to stay awake to the beauty and revelations of life” then maybe it is a little book we should promote, share, tell others about. Maybe you should gift some to others. It sure made me give it a deeper look, and I’m so glad I did.
In fact, As Enneagrammer Suzanne Stabile writes of it,
“There is a sweet space where wisdom and innocence meet in the relationship between those who have given themselves to the rhythm of spiritual formation for a long time and those whose commitment is new. Cindy Bunch found it and then set the table for all of us to come together, using the same practices, to explore who we are in God and who we can become.”–Suzanne Stabile, author of The Path Between Us and host of The Enneagram Journey podcast

Cindy Bunch knows lots about the best authors and works in the field of spiritual formation and she understand deeply the stuff about the true self. She knows what it means to attend to “the frustration that bug us in order to identity negative thinking about ourselves or others.” Yep, this is a lovely little volume that is deeply rooted in the old, old work of letting go of sin and false stuff and living into our union with Christ. It is about Ignatius and discernment and self knowledge and Godly inner transformation and deeper, sane discipleship. She cites oodles of great stuff, surprising stuff, and has lots of practical sidebars and prayer ideas and appendices for various types of folks. There are drawings and little charts and art reproductions and few photographs, that are fun and funny. Each short chapter is about a certain thing that may bug you, and how that can lead you, if brought before God and surrendered to Christ’s transforming grace, to wholeness and joy.

So. This absolutely not a simplistic, cheery little self help book about taking care of yourself in a way favored by our shallow consumer culture. Not at all. It is about radical transformation, serious inner work, listening well to your life. But it may be in the guise of a cheery little self help book. What’s not to love — this book is fun and fantastic and I highly recommend it. If only I can get through more of the letting go, and letting God. I’m sure this will help. You too, I bet.

Seeing God in Art: The Christian Faith in 30 Images Richard Harries (SPCK) $22.00 – OUR SALE PRICE = $17.60

Oh my, I just can’t wait any longer to tell you about this book that released here in the States in March 2020. Yes, back then. It is from the UK and we were so excited to promote it at all our various events this past Spring and Summer, we just knew it would be a big hit if people picked it up and took a look. Alas, we can’t slip it into your hands and invite you to behold, so we’ve been waiting to explain it’s glories. This is a great little book, a great price, and very, very formative and informative, for hearts and minds.

Two of our favorite little books and best-sellers for us in their respective seasons are The Art of Advent: A Painting a Day from Advent to Epiphany (by Jane Williams) and The Art of Lent: A Painting a Day from Ash Wednesday to Easter (by Sister Wendy Beckett.) Both are from SPCK in England ($16.00 and $17.00, respectively.) This new one is sort of like those but bigger in size and has fewer entries, but more text. Let me explain.

What this book does is try to offer what might be called an introduction to Christian thinking, with entries on the basics of Christian theology, each explored by way of a famous painting.  Over the centuries, of course, some of the world’s greatest painters and sculptors have been people of deep faith and their artwork reflected this. (See the forthcoming re-issued 75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know by Terry Glaspy for more great examples of that, including music, and literature as well.) So, Seeing God in Art “holds up a lens through which you can enhance your appreciation of Christian art and the wonders of Christianity itself.” Yes, it is less about finding “God” in the art, but deepening our understanding of Christian faith by way of this authors reflections on these paintings.

There are pieces here by Rembrandt and da Vinci and Caravaggio and Fra Angelica, of course. There are modern pieces by Marc Chagall (on the Exodus) and Stanley Spencer’s famous one of Jesus holding the deadly spider  “The Scorpion” from 1939. It is remarkable seeing early church mosaics and 14th century Russian icons and medieval tapestries from Europe next to Nicholas Mynheer’s 2003 vivid “The Spirit Descends to Live within Us” from the Worcester College Chapel on Solomon Raj’s scratchy black and white etchings from 1995. I did not know of Ceri Richards nor his “The Supper at Emmaus” from 1958 but I’ve pondered it on and off for months, now.

The author’s pick of paintings may not be yours, but that is most of the fun. His pick of the thirty things to write about, too, may not be reflective of your deepest theology, although it’s fairly standard stuff. Some will adore his clear-headed, basic sense of God, creation, humans, fall, scenes of the Old Testament and the gospels, Christ’s life, death, resurrection, and scenes of the Spirit come and the church charged with power to serve. I had my own wishes — especially for one last painting reflecting on the cosmic healing of the created order (perhaps at least how Francis Schaeffer described the landscapes (including the rich and poor) in Van Eyck’s “Adoration of the Lamb” in How Should We Then Live.) Nonetheless, Rev. Harries has modeled for us how to see theological truth in mostly pretty overtly religious paintings.

We heartily recommend Seeing God in Art: The Christian Faith in 30 Images. We hope you order it at our 20% discount.

It brings to mind (I must say, in passing) the extraordinary and rare little book that we stock by Calvin Seerveld entitled On Being Human: Imaging God in the Modern World (Welch Publishing Company; $6.99) where Seerveld reflects in about 100 pages on both old and some very contemporary art pieces to explore the meaning of being human — created in the image of God, fallen, in need of adoption, made into priests, put into neighborhoods, pregnant with redemptive possibility, and more — including fresh translations of Scriptures (his own) and contemporary songs to joyfully sing, humanly.

The Wisdom Pattern: Order/Disorder/Reorder Richard Rohr (Franciscan Media) $18.99 – OUR SALE PRICE = $15.19

I suppose if you’ve read BookNotes for long you may know that we have found it exceptionally helpful to think of the overview of the major chapters of the Biblical story as what we sometimes call creation-fall-redemption-restoration. Al Wolters in his exceptionally wise introduction to what is meant by a Christian worldview, sort of a pre-theoretical philosophy of life called Creation Regained helped outline this for many. So did Brian Walsh & Richard Middletown in Transforming Vision. Both books were written in and for communities of faith of which Beth and I were somewhat a part in the 1970s. The phrase has been tweaked and nurtured, advanced and explored — in little books and big ones, from lesser known authors to leaders like N.T. Wright. You may know the campus ministry organization that we work with a bit called the CCO (Coalition for Christian Outreach) runs their big Jubilee conference each February and the four keynote presentations are exploring the Biblical doctrines of creation, fall, redemption, and restoration. It was somewhat in that context that our friend Lisa Sharon Harper wrote her book The Very Good Gospel: How Everything Wrong Can Be Made Right in which she brilliantly uses other images and words drawn from Genesis and the subsequent Biblical drama. In her good hands, she writes about shalom/alienation/reconciliation. Faith and Christian conversion is a sort of homecoming, not just a reverse of the curse, but a healing of the alienation. We become agents of cosmic reconciliation in all areas of life.

Well, this is a long way of introducing these familiar themes that find their way in yet another iteration in the recent overview of the spiritual life written by Father Richard Rohr, a contemplative mystic, a social justice-activist and a rather progressive contemporary theologian that has this ancient-future vibe. (See, for instance, his fascinating, if not fully adequate, study of the Holy Trinity in his The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation, which I did a long review of when it first came out in 2016.) We respect Rohr a lot and while we have recommended some of his mystical volumes about contemplative prayer (and his ones about justice and cultural transformation) we’ve been unsure of the fidelity to the best orthodox theological traditions in some of his recent works. (I have often said I both love and disagree with much in his recent Cosmic Christ which, though at times theologically sloppy, properly reminds us that Jesus the Christ is not merely a personal buddy or savior of our souls or even only Lord of the church, but the redeemer of all things, King of creation itself, which he made, sustains, and is redeeming, every square inch of it. Yes, yes, yes – just think of the grand hymn “All Creatures of Our God and King” and sing Hallelujah.  As a Franciscan, he gets that and some of his eloquent and provocative writing is a gift to the wider church who needs reminded of these basic Biblical truths.)

Which leads us to this new book that I am inclined to like very much as it gets at this gospel-centered “once-good, now fouled up, and being made new” — that is, creation/fall/redemption or shalom/alienation/reconciliation — way to explain the Christian faith. The incarnate Son of God comes to earth to defeat evil so that was once good can be reclaimed and restored. My ears obvious perk up when I hear Roh talking about “order-disorder-re-order.”

It also reminds us of Walter Brueggemann’s helpful summary of the three kinds of Psalms, those of orientation, disorientation, and re-orientation.

Allow our mystical creation-oriented Franciscan brother to lead you through this flow of episodes that keep appearing and reappearing in your life. Things that are orderly get screw up; things that are bad get reformed. We move from order to disorder to a new order often without seeing it, and if we are attentive, we can discern God’s hand in it all. I believe that. Rohr insists that seeing God’s hand in the pattern (indeed in yielding to it) is what it means to be wise. Hence, this is the “wisdom pattern.”

It makes sense. There are those unrealistic who make a fetish out of order, who cling to the old ways, to control, who can’t stomach change or renewal. There are those who are so realistic that all they can do is lament the disorder, stuck in brokenness in ways that lead to cynicism or despair. There are those who want God’s redemption in ways that do not re-order things, but just want God to bless whatever they are used to, no believing Isaiah who says we will “sing a new song.”  So we can and do get stuck (personally, communally, institutionally, culturally) in either of these three “chapters” of the story, these three phases of our life’s episodes.

This may be too mystical for some, or, more likely, like overblown psychobabble to others. But I think he is on to something here, articulating in this helpful pattern, something we know happens, something we’ve experienced, and something that might just make us wiser if we enter into being intentional about it all.

In the introduction, Fr. Rohr says,

“Knowing the full pattern allows us to let go of our first order, trust the disorder, and, sometimes even hardest of all – to trust the new reorder. Three big leaps of faith for all of us, and each of a different character.”

This 199 page book is jam packed with quotes from everybody from Dons Scotus to Carl Jung, from St. Bonaventure to John Calvin, from Francis of Assisi to Peter Berger of Boston, making it creative (if a bit impressionistic, frustrating to serious theologians or historians, I suspect) but ends on the notes of hope, rebuilding, what he calls being a reconstructionist.  Embrace the new order, a healing of the disorder, and be wiser, even as God is working all around us to bring upon us His resurrection new life.

Chasing Wisdom: The Lifelong Pursuit of Living Well Daniel Grothe (Thomas Nelson) $24.99 – OUR SALE PRICE = $19.99

Speaking of wisdom. It’s fascinating to me that there is such a large body of work of books that we have about the wisdom literature in the Old Testament, good stuff (like the new Calvin Seerveld book on reading Proverbs) in the commentary section. But books about just being wise in life, prudent and Biblically insightful, day by day? Not so much. This book has a very different approach and feel than the Richard Rohr one, above. Grothe is a very popular, upbeat, pastor at the multi-site, evangelical community church (New Life in Colorado Springs.) Their senior pastor, Andrew Arndt, just published a great book called All Flame: Entering Into the Life of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (NavPress; $15.99) and if Grothe is connected with that guy, I’ll read him.

Some fairly big names in the reasonable, Spirit-driven, moderate, evangelical world endorse this — Peter Greig (of the 24/7 Prayer movement) says it is “fresh, countercultural, provocative, and urgent.” Ken Costa, chairman of Alpha International (who wrote a great book on faith in the marketplace called God at Work and one a little more foundational called Know Your Why) says it is “a compelling read.” He would know. Glen Packiam, another well respected writer who is a New Life pastor says of Grothe, 

A poet with his prose and a pastor who understands the care of souls, Daniel is a perfect guide to the critical quest for wisdom in our age.

But here is something that is more important. He was befriended by Eugene Peterson. You can tell from the footnotes that he is drawing on the rich and deep tradition of the church fathers, the desert mystics, and contemporary folks from poet Mary Oliver to Presbyterian Frederick Buechner. No exactly what we used to expect from megachurch preachers, right? He guides his readers towards Peterson — a sage that means a lot to Grothe — and I believe he knows Eugene’s work well.  Daniel Grothe is a good communicator and a clear, conversational writer. And it offers insight into this topic which we all need to be nurtured in and which there are not an abundance of useful books. This came out in April, and I only wish we could have highlighted it sooner. Don’t miss it now.

Love Matters More: How Fighting to be Right Keeps Us From Loving Like Jesus Jared Byas (Zondervan) $18.99 – OUR SALE PRICE = $15.19

It seems to me that for those wanting a wise way to engage our neighbors or fellow church members (or family members) it is always, always, wise to realize just what this book says — love is the way to go, love is the answer, the greatest of these is love. Am I right? Of course. God is love, after all. Well, how, then, do we argue, how to we try to persuade others, how to we live in conflict? How does this work out. This book gets at that in a way that is enjoyable to read but, in fact, offers more than a pleasant call to civility. It’s a bit more meaty than that.

The back cover of Love Matters More says this is a “new vision of the Christian life, built not on being right but on loving our neighbors.” Well, (in love) I’d say that’s not so new. But, boy, is it important to be reminded of. No matter what side of the political isle your’re on these days, or what kind of church, or what religion tradition you are in, yes, we simply must take this to heart. We need a witty and strong, and solid author to lead us deeper into a gospel-centered, grace-based view of how to live out the truth in love.

This author is fabulously interesting and very entertaining. That helps. He is cohost of the popular podcast “The Bible for Normal People” and co-author with Pete Enns of Genesis for Normal People. He knows a lot about the ancient Jewish ways of understanding, what some might call the Hebrew worldview. He attends a Mennonite church outside of Philly and and I suppose you’ll dig that he named his kids Augustine, Tov, Elletheia, and Exodus. So there’s that bit of love right there.

Which is to say, as this book makes clear, love doesn’t have to be a least-common- denominator can’t-we-all-get-along session of Kumbaya and white bread. The heart of the Bible is itself a messy, even painful story and it is one about truth. Indeed, truth matters. But — get this, as it is a key to the book — Biblically speaking, truth must be incarnate, lived, real. Drawing on important stuff about the very nature of truth in the Bible — think of his buddy Pete Enns’s Sin of Certainty, which explores the very Biblical notion that God is less interested in correct beliefs than trust and relationship and approaches the complexities of what philosophers call epistemology (that is, knowing) — Byas here explores some great insights for living truth in love. Living the truth in love. Wow.

The back cover says this book is for “anyone who has ever felt forced to choose between truth and love, acceptance and rightness.” It offers a path beyond endless debates about who is right towards a love that matters more. And he does with with a light touch, some signature wit, and, yes, a deep desire to help people experience the truth.

Liberation Is Here: Women Uncovering Hope in a Broken World Nikole Lim (IVP) $25.00 – OUR SALE PRICE = $20.00

Those who know about or follow the work of Gary Haugen and the International Justice Mission, one of the first and best of the NGOs fighting sexual trafficking, or Hope International (the Lancaster-based anti-poverty ministry that works in micro-loans and encouraging entrepreneurship in the developing countries) you may know of this amazing woman, Nikole Lim.  She is a visionary, consultant, storyteller, researcher, and cofounded Freely in Hope which describes itself as a nonprofit “seeking to restore dignity to survivors of sexual violence by providing educational opportunities and platforms for women to fulfill their dreams.” She is amazing.

It is said of her own storytelling  that she “shifts paradigms on how stories are told by platforming voices of the oppressed—sharing stories of beauty arising out of seemingly broken situations.” Her heart beats for young women whose voices are silenced by oppression and desires to see every person realize the transformative power of their own story.

Oh, and she is a filmmaker.

It should come as no surprise, then, that Liberation Is Here is a book of stories of women (focusing on just three) from Africa told alongside beautiful photographs and pictures — a visual, artful, multi-medium, telling of stories of women whose lives embody a new found hope, resilience, agency and beauty. These are the true stories of how development and transformation and Christian social chance happens, what it looks and feels like, as women (who are not portrayed as victims) become inspiring heros of God’s unfolding story.  It shows us the personal side of what a more just and good world could look like, and it tells/shows it powerfully. You will be caught up in the drama and glad for these hours spent with these women.

“With unflinching honesty yet gentle compassion, Nikole Lim draws close to women who live under oppression, shame, and gender-based violence. But she also treats her subjects as more than victims. Rather, women like Nekesa, Mara, and Mubanga have something to teach any reader about their own pain and oppression, and show that liberation comes not through avoiding brokenness but by moving through it with the mercy and love of God.”  –Katelyn Beaty, author of A Woman’s Place: A Christian Vision for Your Calling in the Office, the Home, and the World
“Nikole Lim allows us to see into a world foreign and distant to many of us. . . . With the telling of every story she allows us to find our calloused hearts loosened. There are no easy answers here, but we find ourselves as in her words, beginning to allow ourselves ‘to love amidst difficult places.’ Thank you, Nikole, for taking us into the places where God can ask us, ‘Where are you?’ This is a profound telling of story, and Nikole’s is a profound work in the world.”–Juanita Campbell Rasmus, spiritual director, copastor of St. John’s United Methodist Church, Houston, author of Learning to Be: Finding Your Center After the Bottom Falls Out

“Nikole Lim’s Liberation Is Here is the story of three African women, all of them sexually assaulted as children, and their extraordinary journeys to survival, restoration, and leadership. Their unforgettable stories convey the appalling reality of near-total impunity enjoyed by men who rape children. Ms. Lim finds hope in the breathtaking courage of rape survivors whose suffering has compelled them to advocate on behalf of others.”   –Gary Haugen, CEO of International Justice Mission

“What a vulnerable, deep, and profound book of hope and hidden beauty! Through the lens of an artist, in powerful and beautiful images, Nikole Lim’s Liberation Is Here stewards the stories of women who have survived abuse and sexual violence. Heart-wrenching and full of trauma, the accounts of violations against women are not the end of the story. Rather, Lim walks the reader through a transformative journey of joy and profound pain in the quest for liberation from sexual violence and oppression. Liberation Is Here describes a mutual process of transformation and liberation where our individual freedom is bound up in the stories, pain, and the triumph of others’ quests for redemption and healing. Lim describes how healing and transformation parallel the story of Jesus through joy and pain, death and rebirth. May all who read Liberation Is Here experience the binding power of our common humanity as we hold onto hope and seek mutual healing and justice.”  –Mae Elise Cannon, author of Social Justice Handbook and Beyond Hashtag Activism, executive director of Churches for Middle East Peace)

Women in a Patriarchal World: Twenty-five Empowering Stories from the Bible Elaine Storkey (SPCK) $15.00 – OUR SALE PRICE = $12.00

A new book by Elaine Storkey? Of course we will order it (even though our distributor has to get it in from the UK.) Elaine is a British scholar – activist who has worked with all sorts of organizations and ministries we’ve admired, from Toronto’s Institution for Christian Studies to John Stott’s London Institute for Contemporary Christianity for to our beloved CCO Jubilee conference. She has held posts (as they say it across the pond) at Oxford and Kings and has been a visiting professor at Calvin College in Grand Rapids.

Elaine Storkey is just an amazing person. She was president of the excellent, wholistic relief and development agency Tearfund and has served for decades on the General Synod of the Church of England. As a trained sociologist and philosopher and a journalist and broadcaster she has learned to speak well into the complexities of social disorder and injustice and offer a lively, Biblical, just vision for God’s shalom. Her last book was Scars Across Humanity: Understanding and Overcoming Violence Against Women which was honored in 2019 as a “best book” not only by us here at Hearts & Minds but by Christianity Today.

What can we tell you about this? It is simple, Women in a Patriarchal World is actually a set of 25 chapters, each fairly brief, offering a retelling and exploration of woman from the Bible. There are 11 from the Older Testament, the rest from the New.  As she faithfully teaches from the Scriptures, the last two or three pages from each chapter offers insights about what she calls “Facing Our Challenges Today.” And then there are two discussion questions to ponder about the text and it’ application today. With maybe a little ingenuity with a third or four question, this would make a fabulous book to read through in your small group or Bible study. As her credentials above may show, she’s smart and astute, but these are not academic studies, but sermonettes, reflections, solid but very inspiring. Perfect for personal reading or for groups or classes.

As Henrietta Blyth, of Open Doors UK & Ireland, writes,

In Elaine Storkey’s wise, compassionate and scholarly hands, these familiar stories erupt like gentle fireworks, bringing fresh illumination, excitement, colour, and impact.

Yes, indeed, gentle fireworks!  Except some of the people and episodes may not be that familiar to some readers. That the men who compiled our sacred Scripture included these many women is pretty astonishing, and that they remain God’s Word to us is vital. We’re grateful for Storkey’s work immersing us more deeply into Biblical truth.

Might from the Margins: The Gospels Power to Turn the Tables on Injustice Dennis R. Edwards (Herald Press) $16.99 – OUR SALE PRICE = $13.59

It’s so annoying to us seeing a big stack of books that we were so enthused about when we ordered them more than a half a year ago, only to realize we haven’t been able to show them off at a conference or hand-sell them to browsers in the store. Our store is a mess with such stacks and one that I’ve been itching to tell you about for a while, now, is this important one by Dr. Dennis Edwards, a professor of New Testament at North Park Theological Seminary. I like his little What is the Bible and How Do We Understand It in the recent The Jesus Way Series (a series of pocket sized books with an edgy Anabaptist-ish perspective.) I used Dr. Edward’s great hardback commentary in the “Story of God Bible Commentary” series when I was co-leading a Zoom Bible study this summer on 1 Peter. That letter, written to exiles, came alive reading the evangelical commentary about it written by this black man. It was helpful, to say the least.

Now Edwards has this new one — well written, provocative, clear-headed, solidly Biblical. Why do we sometimes not notice all the good stuff that happens in the Bible from the margins, the outcasts, the fringes. (I’ve been praying for months, now, the Magnificat (Mary’s Canticle from Luke 1) every Sunday night in a little Zoom prayer service and I wonder when it’s upside down clarity will stop being jarring to me?) Why do we sometimes miss how those who are excluded become vital — just think of the end of Jesus’s first Jubilee sermon in Luke 4 and how the inclusion of the hated outsiders nearly got him killed. What would our hospitality and outreach be like if we were more welcoming of outsiders, of those different and despised?

But, more to the point of Might from the Margins, Mr. Edwards asks us to wonder what the church itself would be like if marginalized Christians helped the church become more transformed?

Nicole Baker Fulgham, founder of a project to help churches help schools with at risk populations (The Expectations Project) and author of Educating All God’s Children, says that this book,

Lays out a much-needed theological framework that both explores and celebrates the power of marginalized communities.

Listen to Drew Hart, professor of theology at Messiah University, author of Who Will Be a Witness? Igniting Activism for God’s Justice, Love, and Deliverance who says it is “A compelling vision forward, grounded in Scripture and God’s delivering presence for those with their ‘backs against the wall.'”

Jim Wallis of Sojourners and the recent Christ in Crisis?: Reclaiming Jesus in a Time of Fear, Hate, and Violence says, quite simply, that Might from the Margins is “A powerful, inspiring book.”

M from the M opens with a chapter on the power of God which is very good — this dude can preach! — and then highlights, chapter by chapter, the power of a diaspora people, the power to discern injustice, the power of prophecy, the power of anger, the power of solidarity, the power of worship, the power of hope, and the power of the Spirit. The last chapter? “The Power of Love.” Amen.

Not Done Yet: Reaching and Keeping Unchurched Emerging Adults Beth Severson (IVP) $18.00. OUR SALE PRICE = $14.40

We keep a large section of books about reaching young adults, about campus ministry, about congregational life that is attentive to the “emerging adults” as the scholars call the college and post college age group. Their journey isn’t just beginning, but there is this specific era that is potent– the critical years, some call it — for 20-somethings. And these days, many are called “the nones” (those who check “none of the above” in the census or other surveys when asked to chose a faith or religion. (And then there are the dones who perhaps grew up in church but have moved on, who are so “done with that.”) Why are younger adults increasingly nones and dones? Beth Severson, Director of the Center for Christian Ministries and Practical Theology at North Park University in Chicago, (and previously director of evangelism for the Evangelical Covenant Church), set out to do new research to figure more of this out.

In Not Done Yet — get the title’s allusion? — she shares the insights gleaned from this extensive research and outlines a model for how to engage and retain millennials and Generation Z in the life of the local church.

We have lots of the older go-to titles including 2019’s must-read Faith for Exiles: 5 Ways for a New Generation to Follow Jesus in Digital Babylon by David Kinnaman (Baker; $21.99) and another that came out in the March 2020, Welcoming the Future Church: How to Reach, Teach, and Engage Young Adults by Jonathan Pokluda (Baker; $17.99) Let us know if you need other sorts of titles on this topic.

Not Done Yet: Reaching and Keeping Unchurched Emerging Adults by Ms Seversen really is an extraordinary book. I highly recommend it. It is so interesting, well-written, creative and theological and practical, too. It has gotten truly great reviews. Please, please, read these commendations and then think to whom you could recommend this book. Or better, buy it for somebody at your church who might start a book club or new initiative to explore this good, good material. You won’t regret it.

“Beth Seversen has done her homework. I like her interviews of secular people attending the Burning Man festival. She also highlights various fruitful ‘bright spot’ churches who are doing a great job reaching today’s teens and twentysomethings. Enjoy!”–Doug Schaupp, national director of evangelism, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA
“Plenty have highlighted why the church is losing ground with today’s young adults, but few have studied churches that are reaching them effectively. Dr. Seversen’s groundbreaking work demonstrates that reaching today’s young adults is not a lost cause but is in fact likely if we intentionally engage in risky yet proven practices that connect them to the life of the church. This book will be a seminal text in my evangelism courses for years to come.”–Craig Hendrickson, associate professor and program head, missional leadership, Moody Bible Institute
“The spiritual journeys of emerging adults are dynamic and varied, yet too often churches have reduced their experiences to one (typically negative) narrative. As a result, most churches start with the wrong perceptions and offer emerging adults something far from good news. Seversen’s project is a breath of fresh air that gives ministry leaders a better view for understanding those navigating their third decade of life. Read this book if you want to be informed and if you dare to rethink the ways you are supporting emerging adults in your community.”–Steven Argue, associate professor of youth, family, and culture at Fuller Theological Seminary
“With a pastoral heart for young adults who are disconnected from faith communities, Dr. Seversen helps churches understand the unique spiritual journeys of young adults and how they are seeking a place to belong and contribute. She shares best practices from churches that are effectively reaching this demographic, including how to initially welcome them, incorporate them in the life of the church, and guide them along the path to spiritual transformation. I will continue to reference this book for years to come as I seek to draw young adults into the Christian faith at my church.”–Joyce Koo Dalrymple, pastor of discipleship and connections at Wellspring Alliance Church, Wheaton, IL, and a former attorney

“Beth Seversen has successfully developed a book on evangelism that appeals to the scholar and the church leader. For the scholar, Seversen offers fresh, empirical research that engages with human complexity and refuses to be contained by common assumptions about what evangelism should look like. Her work is worthy of significant engagement in the academy. For church leaders, Seversen is good news to the church! In a North American culture filled with gloomy statistics, she shows there are bright spots where young people are participating in Christian communities and committing to lives as disciples of Jesus Christ. More than this, she shows how local congregations can increase their evangelistic illumination to join these bright spots.”–Mark R. Teasdale, E. Stanley Jones Associate Professor of Evangelism at Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary

Life Questions Every Student Asks: Faithful Responses to Common Issues edited by Gary Burge & David Lauber (IVP) $22.00 – OUR SALE PRICE = $17.60

Well, speaking of college age folks, the students referred to in this recent volume are not high-schoolers. Although I suppose it might work with those who are mature and somewhat sophisticated in their faith and cultural development. But, no, this book really is designed for those who work with young adults, or to be read by college students. We ordered a bunch hoping we’d be with our friends and colleagues at the CCO sometime this fall, or get to talk about it at some gigs we do some places where there are churches who care about college ministry. We love other para-church groups, too, that work on campuses, like IVCF, Cru, Navs, DiscipleMakers, RUF, the Newman Centers, the Baptist Student Unions, Chi-Alpha, and others. (CCO is pretty unique in that they partner with local congregations since involvement in the institutional church is essential in their model of campus ministry.) Anyway, Life Questions Every Student Asks would be a great read for anyone on staff of campus ministry organizations or church leaders who work with college and career age emerging adults. It would be swell to share with students, themselves since that is who it is written for.

The forward, by the way, is by Mary Hulst, the chaplain at Calvin University in Grand Rapids. Both the editors are themselves college teachers and know college students well; most of the authors teach at Christian colleges or have other direct involvement with college students.

This book covers twelve key questions about faith and discipleship and the chapters are by twelve different thoughtful evangelical leaders; as I’ve said, most are teachers at Christian colleges or universities. A few of the writers have published — Beth Felker Jones does the chapter on sexuality; Margaret Kim Peterson does the marriage chapter. Keith Johnson has the chapter on doubt. Most are authors I don’t know well, but their chapters are beautifully written, thoughtful, engaging, and helpful. As you can see below, it includes practical questions about things like: what does it mean to be in community? How can I discern my vocation? Who do I relate to money and power? What if I doubt my faith? How should I approach other religions?

Overall I give this a big, big thumbs up and a few of the chapters are fantastic.

The twelve chapters include:

1. Community and Friendship – Gary M. Burge
2. Vocation – Ben Norquist
3. Gender Roles – Emily Hunter McGowin
4. Sex – Beth Felker Jones
5. Marriage – Margaret Kim Peterson
6. Church – Amy Peeler
7. Wealth and Power – James G. Huff Jr.
8. Suffering – David Lauber
9. Doubt – Keith L. Johnson
10. Counseling – Elisha Eveleigh
11. Religious Pluralism – David Capes
12. Activism – Matt Vega

“Every conversation in this book I had as a student at Columbia University, except I didn’t have this book to ground and launch those discussions. If you are a college student or work with them, then this is the book to get together to discuss and wrestle with what it looks like to follow Jesus in the face of a dominant culture that calls you to look elsewhere for identity, significance, and satisfaction.”  –Jonathan P. Walton is an area director with InterVarsity/USA and author of Twelve Lies That Hold America Captive: And the Truth That Sets Us Free
“Every church that sends its kids off to college and every parent who wants their child to navigate the higher education experience as a disciple of Jesus should give them a compass and this book. Both will help the matriculating student stay on course–in the case of this book, not with canned advice, as is so often the case, but with deep wisdom, honest reflections, and practical advice about the most significant questions that often haunt Christian students, whether they attend secular or religious institutions. In any case, every Christian college should make this book required reading during its students’ first semester.”  –Dennis Okholm, Azusa Pacific University, author of Learning Theology through the Church’s Worship
“To have within a single volume twelve different experts, whose own lives and callings have been indelibly shaped by their Christian faith, winsomely and honestly translate their expertise into practical wisdom for following Jesus in the contours, struggles, and questions of everyday life–the result is a pearl of great price, one book worth innumerable other books. I can think of so many Christians navigating the very present questions and challenges that arise over the course of life, from confronting suffering to figuring out if church really matters to engaging in activism, who I would want to benefit from the wisdom of this book. The importance of the topics that are engaged, the ways those topics are shaped by the real-life experiences of those writing, and the clear compassion that permeates the engagement combine together to make this a must-read book for college students, twenty-and- thirtysomethings, and those well beyond.”  –Kristen Deede Johnson, dean and professor of theology and Christian formation at Western Theological Seminary, author of The Justice Calling

By the way, just so you know — if any of you grown ups wish you had a book just like this, fear not. We stock their very impressive Theology Questions Everyone Asks: Christian Faith in Plain Language (IVP; $20.00.)

Disciple Making in a Culture of Power, Comfort and Fear Matthew T. Dickerson (Cascade) $20.00 – OUR SALE PRICE – $16.00

This book came out in early June and given the Covid complications in our supply chains and the publishing world, we didn’t have it right away. But it arrived soon enough, and we were thrilled; just thrilled. Matthew is a distant friend — he was raised working in his parent’s creatively stocked, thoughtfully indie Christian bookstore so he is one of a small network of people who understand us as much as anyone. And we’ve adored his many books — from stellar works on literature (From Homer to Harry Potter) and scholarly tomes on the ecological vision of both Tolkien and Lewis — both on Kent State University Press. He has a few books about fishing and the glories of streams; he has some self published fantasy novels that we stock. His Mind and the Machine was one of the first books Brazos published and was ahead of its time, reflecting on what it means to be human in an age of automation and technology. He’s a reader, a lit lover, and outdoorsman and Christian ecologist. He’s worked with the Christian fellowship group (with IVCF) at Middlebury College in Vermont where he teaches. He has lectured widely on the Lord of the Rings books and he’s does it so, so well. And now, this.

This is a book about what we might call Christian mentoring or evangelical spiritual direction or, as the title puts it, the making of disciples. More loosely, it is about pastoring, about caring, about helping others in their journey of faith. Whether you are a church educator or a campus minister, a teacher or older friend to younger Christians, this is one of the many, many books on disciple-making, many that are very useful and important, but one that is unique. It explores disciple-making as a whole-life project — not just one’s “spiritual” life, but all of life — and it does so quite aware of the idols and ideologies of the Western culture in which we find ourselves.

Ahh, yes, this is it. We need to move ministry from head to heart to hands and feet, realizing we are what we love and our loves must be renewed in the way of Christ. That is, he gets the most profound stuff within the faith-formation literature. And we have to do all this whole-life mentoring under the Lordship of Christ across all sides of life within the culture we find ourselves in.

Do you get the subtitle? Matthew uses his literary and cultural awareness to pin-point for us the stress points, the danger zones, of living in our modern world. There are other idols and obstacles to a faithful discipleship with Jesus, but he focuses on three: our idolatry of power, our need for comfort, and our culture of fear. Oh, my. Nobody has done this and we should be grateful for this contextualized vision of wholistic discipleship. Preachers, teachers, campus ministers, parents, disciple-makers of all sorts should get this book and ponder it carefully.

When my friend Steve Garber recommends a book — and he is discerning about what he so publicly endorses, more than I am, I’d say — it makes it a no-brainer decision to read it. If Steve advises us to read something, we should. Listen to his lovely and inviting comments about Matthew’s book here:

“Like the best words always are, ‘apprentice’ is rooted in the generations before us, making sense of the way we learn. At its heart it is about binding oneself to someone who knows more. In reading Matthew Dickerson we are drawn into his long apprenticeship to J. R. R. Tolkien, the master story-teller whose moral imagination shapes every soul who enters into his world of hobbits and their ways. But the thread that weaves this tale is about learning to learn to follow Jesus — not the pursuit of the power of a ring — and therefore a pilgrimage in the imitation of Christ, of binding ourselves to the truest truths of the universe.”

–Steven Garber, author of Visions of Vocation: Common Grace for the Common Good and A Seamless Life: A Tapestry of Love and Learning, Work and Worship, 

Whether you love Tolkien as Matthew Dickerson and Steve Garber do, you should consider this important little book. In an age of individualism and consumerism, of temptations and shallowness, we need these kinds of good words. It shouldn’t surprise us that Matt opens the book with an epigram from the late Eugene Peterson from his book The Jesus Way. It is dedicated to the memories of Eugene and Janice.

Created to Draw Near: Our Life as God’s Royal Priests Edward Welch (Crossway) $17.99 – OUR SALE PRICE = $14.39

This is yet another book we ordered a good handful of months ago with plans to highlight it at an event, an event that was long ago cancelled. I sure hope some of our BookNotes readers know Ed Welch, author of the powerful Shame Interrupted: How God Lifts the Pain of Worthlessness and Rejection, another so many of us need, Running Scared: Fear, Worry, and the God of Rest, and the popular, punchy book about the idolatry that lurks under co-dependency, When People Are Big and God Is Small. I love the title What Do You Think of Me And Why Do I Care? He is a Bible-based counselor who writes about grace but who some find a bit tough; he knows a bit about anger and fear and shame and addictions and our other all-to-human foibles. (Okay, that’s my word: he calls ’em sins.) But he also knows this: that we were created to rule the creation with Christ, that we are adopted as beloved children of a very good God and turned into His priests!  Yes, yes, this is majestic, glorious Biblical material that we don’t hear responsibly broken open for us very often. 

There are few heavy things going on in this engaging, accesible work. First, yes, God is holy. We are called to be holy. Priests have some work in that arena and as we become priests we mediate that to the watching world, to the whole creation. We are made to be royal priests, wired to be in relationship with each other and creation and God, a God who is holy,

So, we need to understand some of this in order to live into our call to be fully human.  This fiesty book is theologically solid, yet, because it is so surprising to some, it might seem wild, provocative even. Yet, Welch is a non-nonsense writer, workmanlike and reliable. He will deepen (maybe even change) your view of God and thereby will be transformative about your view of yourself. Yep, that’s how it works. Tozer was pretty right, that the most important thing that determines our view of life is, in fact, our view of God. So Welch starts there. And it leads to all sorts of implications of being made in the very image of a ruling, creating, caring, holy God.

Listen to these two different voices saying something important about this robust book.

“You have your grace books and your older holiness books. At times, they exist in two different worlds. Not for Ed Welch. In a book full of rich insights that link the Old and New Testaments, Welch paints a picture of holiness and intimacy with God that makes you want to be holy. He widens our view of holiness, working to craft it into a vision of beauty. You’ll want to obey after reading this book.”
–Paul E. Miller, author, A Praying Life and J-Curve: Dying and Rising with Jesus in Everyday Life

“When some writers and preachers today suggest that the gospel is only about forgiveness, Ed Welch reminds us that it is also good news that God brings us into a life of holiness.”
–Gerald R. McDermott, Former Anglican Chair of Divinity, Beeson Divinity School

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IMPORTANT NEWS ABOUT DELAY OF “Burning in My Bones: The Authorized Biography of Eugene Peterson” AND TWO NEW BOOKS, ONE BY EUGENE PETERSON and ONE BY HIS SON, ERIC — up to 30% OFF for a limited time only

Okay, first, the frustrating news. We have learned that A Burning in My Bones — the authorized biography of Eugene Peterson by Winn Collier (to be published by Waterbrook) — has been delayed by the publisher until March 2021. It was to be released next week and we had quite a waiting list who had taken us up on our discounted pre-order offer.

We were shocked and disappointed when we heard of this and it took a while to learn why.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with the book. (I’ve read an early manuscript and was interviewed by Winn for the research since Peterson was a customer and friend. It’s really good.) The family is very happy with it as are all involved. No, it is only a clear-eyed marketing decision due to the mess we are in with Covid and the pandemic and the forest fires (and the contention of the election, for that matter.) The publisher concluded that now just isn’t the best time to be sending out such an important book and they want to give it the marketing attention and retail space it deserves. It seems like a long time to wait but I suspect they are right. The publishing world is a hot mess right now.

This is a disappointment but in the long run will be better for the book itself. I’m writing a personal letter to those who had pre-ordered it from us here at Hearts & Minds explaining this delay. In case you didn’t see that in your inbox, we wanted to announce it here, now.

We are sorry for this unexpected situation; we know some of our customers had hoped to give Burning in My Bones as a gift this Fall. I hope more will add their names to the pre-order list (earning a 20% off and some other special perks from the publisher) and those that have already ordered it will allow us to send it next Spring. Please, do let us know if anything changes with your order.
But, now, the good news.
TWO NEW BOOKS OF LETTERS:
ONE WRITTEN BY EUGENE PETERSON,
ONE WRITTEN BY ERIC PETERSON.

AND A HEARTS & MINDS SPECIAL OFFER, WHILE SUPPLIES: LAST 30% OFF — IF BUYING BOTH. 20% off if you are buying just one. Use the link at the bottom of this column to be taken to our secure order form page. Tell us what you want, we’ll do the rest.

Letters to a Young Pastor: Timothy Conversations Between Father and Son Eugene H. Peterson (NavPress) regularly $19.99 // $15.99 for one; $13.99 if buying both

Letters to a Young Congregation: Nurturing the Growth of a Faithful Church Eric E. Peterson (NavPress) regularly $19.99 // $15.99 for one; $13.99 if buying both

Instead of our customary BookNotes 20% off discount, we will deduct 30% off if you buy them both. You get 20% off for either one if you buy them singularly. That’s $15.99. But if you get both, our 30% off for the pair makes them just $13.99 each. That’s $27.98 for both.

We want to try to redeem this frustrating news that the authorized biography of Eugene Peterson, A Burning in My Bones, by Winn Collier, has been delayed from the expected October 2020 release to a projected mid-March 2021 release date. As I said above, this is not at all due to any problems with the manuscript or author but a wise decision to give the book a better shot at being known and purchased next Spring. These are distracted times and a book this good and this important deserves to be well marketed, and we trust that the good folks at Waterbrook, owned by Random House, know how best to determine these things. We are sad, but glad, that they have the best interest in the book in mind. We are still taking pre-orders for it. It means a lot to many of us, and it means a lot to us.

So we will make you another Peterson offer. Earlier this Spring, in the midst of the shut-down from the pandemic, we got a case of two great books, books I couldn’t wait to lay eyes on. One is a set of letters from father Eugene, then a retired Presbyterian pastor, to his pastor son, Eric. The other is a book — in the form of a set of letters to his own newly formed church — from young pastor Eric. To say these are Peterson-esque is a tongue-in-cheek joke. How could they not be? The are by Eugene and Eric Peterson! Of course they are Peterson-esque.

Letters to a Young Pastor: Timothy Conversations Between Father and Son starts off with this great story: Eric explains that he felt unsure about his pastoral chops as a newish pastor, and wanted some advice from his dad, not unlike the encouragement offered in the Bible by the elder Paul to the younger Timothy. Eric says he was glad that his dad didn’t say, “Well, yes, I’ve already written a number of books about this very thing, the spirituality and practices of being a pastor, and you should read them.” No, his dad took up the task of writing, writing to his son as a Barnabas or a Paul to a sometimes befuddled Timothy trying to find his stride in this hard vocation of being a pastor.

This book collects letters carefully written by Eugene over almost a decade.

So there are two beautiful things, at least, going on it Letters to a Young Pastor. There is the father-son aspect, letters from a Godly man to his adult son. Gene didn’t just send Eric his books. Few of us get to engage in this kind of intentional lovely discourse, and even if we did, most of our dads where not quite like Eugene Peterson.  So there is some tender stuff here, most that are very autobiographical, including fairly typical reports about his life with Jan and news about their other son and daughter. Like good letter writers of older eras, much of this is both mundane and stunningly beautiful. Most is not dramatic, but it is instructive in so many ways. How interesting to eavesdrop on these intimate conversations about Peterson’s own call, his work, his travels, his writing, his days off. I gasped a bit — but, frankly was not surprised — when he told about a book he had just ordered (from us here at Hearts & Minds!) I was glad to see him comment on Wee Kirk, the Presbyterian gathering for small congregations where he on occasion preached and taught. I was happy to read his letters that so affirmed his love and confidence in his adult son.

Of course, another part of Letters to a Young Pastor is Eugene’s conversationally offer teaching points about faith and discipleship, church work, pastoring. These are usually subtle, not forced, usually rooted in a story for his own past. A congregant he encounter, a book he read, a denominational exec he talked with, the aggravation he felt by the pressure to use sales-force lingo and sociology and marketing, the sad ethos of the Christian community.  It is the very early 2000s (and following) when Eugene Peterson was writing these to pastor Eric, so much of this is conjured from rememberance of his earlier Maryland years and yet it feels like a live journal. For the fans of the writing of Eugene Peterson, this is now an essential volume in his body of work. It includes 37 letters, a poem, and is over 200 pages. What a treasure Eric has compiled for us all. It is a gift and we are grateful.

There is so much wisdom here for pastors, so you might earn favor with yours by buying it for him or her. But we who are not ministers will enjoy it, too. There’s so many interesting moments — his telling Eric about a brand new book called Gilead by one Marilynne Robinson or his enthusiasm for the new novel by Leif, Eric’s brother, called Catherine’s Wheels. He talks about meetings with publishers and about lectures he is preparing which eventually become books and he talks about friends who have left the church. He even lists some jokes.

Eric writes,

Eugene H. Peterson was my dad. But he was also the holiest man I have either known or know of. His life formed me to be the person and pastor I am more than I would even venture to guess. I. hope that, in the pages that follow, you will allow the legacy of his enduring spirit to converse with you, as well.  Eric E. Peterson

 

Letters to a Young Congregation: Nurturing the Growth of a Faithful Church, with a uniform, hardback cover, is by Eric Peterson.This companion book to the letters from Eugene Peterson is also rich, wonderful, and a truly edifying resource for anyone who cares about the integrity of congregational life. As much as I deeply loved Letters to a Young Pastor, to be honest, despite his lack of fame and reputation, this recent book by son Eric is perhaps an even better book. It is simply remarkable to have such a literate pastor who shares the style and tone and much of the orienting perspective of one of our most respected pastoral voices without it feeling like a copy-cat, affectatious, second-hand. No, it is clear that this is substantial and authentic. There are other books like this — pastoral letters written to a local flock — and this is by far the best I’ve read.

(Okay, except maybe for the fictional collection by Peterson biographer Winn Collier, who wrote several years ago a book Eugene loved called Love Big Be Well: Letters to a Small Town Church which had the benefit of not needing to be stuck in the quotidian of real ordinary life. That is, it was a novel, for Pete’s sake, so it isn’t quite a fair comparison. But those are some great letters, there.)

Eric Peterson’s Letters… is a bit like that novel, actually, and he’s a very fine writer. Like his father, he cares about the ordinary, writes with a plainspoken heft, solid and clear. Funny that he isn’t luminous or elegant but yet is artful and literary. It’s a good style and it suits his voice, as it did his famous fathers. Unlike the fictional church in the Winn Collier novel, but somewhat like Eugene’s earlier setting, these letters are (as the title suggests) written to members of a church plant, a new church development, as some call it. These are letters from the pastor to the people of Colbert Presbyterian Church in Colbert, in the mountains of Eastern Washington state.

In 200 pages this epistolary collection unfolds in four majors sections. The first batch of letters are under the topic “What My Life Is All About” and the second set explore “What God Is About.” The third section is “What the Church is About” while the last set of letters instruct his congregation on “What Following Jesus is All About.” These are not quit sermons, but they are inspiring. They are not quite theological essays, but they are informative and thoughtful. They are pastoral letters, down to Earth, visionary and yet placed. Set in place.

In the very moving introduction, Eric writes of being raised in the church. (Quite literally, too, since his childhood during Eugene and Jan’s early days at Christ our King the worship space for the church plant was their basement, where Eric later had his bedroom, complete with left-over liturgical furniture.) It’s a great little read — don’t miss it. In the final pages of that opening piece, he shares that near the end of Eugene’s life he delivered one of his dad’s lectures for him, at Princeton Theological Seminary. Eric knew the thunderous applause was for his dad, even as he had voiced the words.  And then he writes,

As dementia robbed him of his fertile imagination, I did some ghostwriting to help him meet his remaining commitments. The task of a ghostwriter is to communicate the ideas of another, and to do this in their own voice. I’ll never forget the first time I did this. After spending half a day attempting to “channel” Eugene, trying to get the words and the voice to sound like him, I pushed back from my desk and said to myself, “I no longer know where his voice ends and mine begins.”

I suppose the same could be said for the letters that here follow, and anyone familiar with Eugene’s writing will readily detect his influence on mine. My pastoral voice has developed largely through the many years and many conversations we have shared together to the point where it’s not always clear just where his ends and mine begin. Although Eugene died on October 22, 2018, I often feel as though he is still overseeing my life and ministry.

In death no less than life, he has been both my father and my bishop. With much gratitude, this volume is dedicated to his memory.

These are a very nice and valuable pair of books. We are happy to sell them, as it is what we do, as we did with Eugene. (When he writes in one of his old letters to Eric that a “friend” “put him on” to a certain author, believing that is was me just made me weep.) It’s honorable work, Peterson told me once, and so we invite you now to buy these books.

We have this offer, now, at least, while supplies last. Instead of our customary BookNotes 20% off discount, we will deduct 30% off if you buy them both. You get 20% off for either one if you buy just one. That comes to $15.99. But if you get both, our 30% off for the pair makes them $13.99 each. That’s $27.98 for both.

Please let us know if you’d rather have us send the order the least costly way (US Postal Media Mail) which can be slow. For one or two books that is usually about $3.25; a bit extra for more books, of course. Some people request the speedy US Postal Priority Mail option. For about $7 or so for two books, it is as quick as UPS and a whole lot cheaper.

Do, please, let us know your preference.

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20 Books I Should Have Told You About Before – all 20% OFF

We’ve got a lot of ground to cover, friends. Since some of you are quarantining or at least trying not to be out and about much, you may have some time to settle in and read this loquacious BookNotes. Believe me, it’s been long in coming. I’ve literally shed tears over my inability to get this information about books to you.

We actually have stacks of some of these titles that have been sitting here, as if mocking me, since March or April. Many we ordered (shall we say) extras of, in months previous anticipating selling them at this or that event in the Spring, to this gathering or that conference or yet another retreat or off-site bookselling gig. We’ve lost nearly half our income by losing all these on-the-road Borger bookmobile extravaganzas. The books are here. And we’re still closed for in store browsing here at the shop.

We are doing lots of curbside pickup and outdoor book selling in the yard behind the shop. If you’re in central PA, give us a ring — we’d love to visit, with masks, out by our rear parking area.
Please call us at 717-246-3333.

If you are farther away or can’t get out — no worries. You can send us an order for any of these books now (just click on the ORDER link at the end of this column) and tell us what you want and how you want them sent. We’ll get them out at our our sale prices right away.

For those authors who are friends of our store, who have sent customers our way to buy your books, we are especially grateful. If we’re going to survive in this new mode, we have to have more readers discover us, and we’re glad for those who are H&M cheerleaders. We wished we could have done more to serve you and your baby. The publishing world is a hot mess right now, and we are grateful for your patience and support.

For now, here are 20 books that I hope you will consider buying. I feel awful for some of the authors and their publishers who did not expect their work to be scuttled under the tragedy of pandemic and mass illness. I’ll admit even now it’s hard to be too exuberant knowing that we have lost over 200,000 of our fellow Americans this past half a year. (And so many more, worldwide!) Yet, despite all, we read on, and we honor these 20 (or more) authors who have worked hard putting their words down for our enjoyment and growth. Let’s support them by buying a few extra books this season. Maybe you could even buy some for those who might not otherwise pick up such titles or who cannot afford them. Seems like a quiet way to improve our world, to contribute to culture, to steward and spread goodness, sowing ideas of grace and beauty, justice and faith. Spread some book love around, y’all. You’ll be glad you did.

All That God Cares About: Common Grace and Devine Delight  Richard J. Mouw (Baker Academic) $21.99 – OUR SALE PRICE = $17.59

Well, well. This one is first for a reason. It is one of the few books that actually talk about our bookstore and has a fairly lengthy excerpt of something I once wrote at BookNotes. (“We’re even in a footnote!” I shouted to Beth, book nerd that I am.) If I’m being honest I have to admit how very proud this makes us feel and how honored we are that this world-renowned theologian and writer and global Christian leader chose to focus on a story I told about our own past.

It is a story that Mouw knows a bit about, revolving, in part, around a Dutch Reformed, worldviewish, philosopher/social organizer who inspired young people in Western Pennsylvania in the 1970s, out of which came the now famous Jubilee conference run by the CCO in Pittsburgh (as well as other lasting missions and ministries, such as extraordinary Pittsburgh Urban Christian School.) Dr. Peter J. Steen was the star of my little story that Mouw cited although he is only mentioned in passing. Dr. Mouw knew him from his own career in philosophy in those years (then at Calvin College) and while Mouw isn’t nearly as flamboyant as the energetic and colorful Dr. Steen, they read some of the same books (such as Abraham Kuyper, Herman Dooyeweerd, and Bob Goudzwaard, in Dutch, even) and had a penchant for social analysis that was radical and wide-ranging. They both knew Al Wolters, author of Creation Regained, who perhaps popularized the phrase “reformational” while he was at the Institute for Christian Studies in Toronto, a decidedly neo-Calvinist graduate and PhD institution of higher education. It was Steen that first turned me on to Walter Brueggemann and Peter Berger and it may have been Mouw that first got me interested in John Howard Yoder. And they both read Newbigin early on; they taught on issues like ecological stewardship and Christian political theories and took up the cause of racial justice in concert with a young John Perkins. As conservative Calvinist theologians, neither would have fully approved of the idiosyncrasies of the thought of, say, Brueggemann or Yoder, but they were in those kinds of ecumenical dialogues long before some postmodern-ish emergent church planters took up those authors decades later. Steen’s teaching about the deepest, ultimate concerns that shape one’s life perspective introduced us to the word worldview before any other author or speaker I knew and predicted the insights of the likes of Derrida and other postmodernists who rejected the alleged religious neutrality of autonomous reason.

Just to sort of frame all of this one more time, authors we promote here that you may have heard of who were influenced by this robust teaching about philosophy and the cosmic scope of Christ’s redemption of the likes of Dr. Steen include James K.A. Smith, Calvin Seerveld, Steve Garber, Brian Walsh — each writers that I care about, and who would agree that in one way or another, Steen left a mark in our circles in Western Pennsylvania and which in turn inspired Beth and I to start our ecumenical bookstore in 1982.

Anyway, this renegade philosopher / mentor taught us to think about the Dutch statesman/theologian Abraham Kuyper’s teaching of common grace — that “all truth is God’s truth” as Arthur Holmes used to say — which is a remarkably potent theological doctrine that invites us to be curious about God’s world, to affirm the goodness in many fine things in life, and to appreciate that in which God takes delight, whether those things seem inherently religious or not. It is this doctrine — its controversies and implications, both happy and troubling — that professor Mouw walks us through in this fabulous and wide-ranging book. It is even better than his first fascinating foray into the topic almost 20 years ago, He Shines In All That’s Fair: Culture and Common Grace (Eerdmans; $15.99.)

(I have often said that for many in the mainline and sacramental churches, this common grace stuff goes without saying. By intuition they feel no shame in enjoying sports, R-rated movies, engaging in ordinary civic affairs, reading popular science magazines about evolution.  But my, oh my, the grief we might avoid and the faithfulness to God that we could deepen if we could articulate why it is right and good to be fully engaged in ordinary human activities, to break out of the rather lame orientation described by Niebuhr as merely Christ plus culture. Those in more fundamentalist or evangelical congregations, however, have been more leery– or they used to be, at least — of worldly pursuits and trivial social involvments and, again, my oh my, what great joy it could bring, and what freedom, if the doctrine of the goodness of creation and the common grace offer by a righteous Creator, were known, understood, and well articulated. In other words, Mouw’s teaching here is important for most church folks no matter where you are on the denominational or theological spectrum.)

Anyway, we’d truly love it if you ordered All That God Cares About because what Mouw is doing here (besides quoting me, which really isn’t that important, finally) is foundational to why we started Hearts & Minds in the first place. I don’t need to rehearse this matter too much, but it is true that over the last decades what has come to be called “Christian bookstores” are those shops that are known for not carrying classic fiction, for not offering much by way of poetry or the arts, for refusing to carry much about science, let alone environmental science. You know those Christian bookstores that until recently didn’t have a section in the store about race relations; the revivals of concern about injustice over the past 20 years just passed most of them by because the books they carried and the topics they viewed as proper to a regiment of Christian reading were narrow. They were too often constricted by the narrow range of subjects they carried and the largely ultra-conservative perspective they brought when they did curate books on current affairs or social ethics.

Few Christian bookstores — in air quotes, of course, since we are referring to the conservative evangelical Protestant Christian bookstores; Catholic and Epsiopalian stores existed as well, although not well known among many in the popular culture or wider publishing industry — when we first opened dared to stock Catholic books on Anabaptist books or books by mainstream Protestants. We did and do. They had bumper stickers and Jesusy whirligigs, but little on business or work, the arts, farming, or science. They had books by right wing celebrity stars — books by Ollie North justifying his death squads and lying under oath, say — but not many other books about current events. They just didn’t get it that God cared about all of life and that a follower of Jesus should therefore read widely, caring about what God cared about. And — more to the point of Mouw’s book — that we could enjoy the things God seems to enjoy.

Mouw doesn’t talk about any of that bookstore stuff, of course; I just use it as our own illustration of how his theme of common grace informed us early on and why this new study seems so important to me. Mouw’s argument in favor of a broad-mindedness in thinking and a generous willingness to see some good in most things (from ancient Chinese art to secular science to modern sporting events) is rooted in this unique exploration of “divine delight.” Does God care about recreation or art or fashion design? Can part of our daily discipleship include reading secular novels or watching crime shows on TV or being happy about our favorite hockey team? If God cares and even enjoys human activities, then dare we?  Or, dare we not?

To say yes to this question bears remarkable consequences, for good and perhaps for ill. Mouw is balanced and careful as he walks us through some deep weeds in one particular theological tradition that has grappled with this idea, but he does it so well and explains its implications so clearly that those of us who are not Dutch or Calvinist (as he is) will still want to follow along, learning from the ups and downs of his own religious denominations and social ministries and debates.

I wish someday to seriously review this marvelous book, chapter by informative chapter. I would love to show why this fascinating theological controversy could add heft to our instinct to “practice the presence of God” and find a sense of the sacred amidst the quotidian occurrences of our daily lives. For now, I can only tell you this backstory of why Beth and I appreciate Mouw’s good work, his celebration of God’s concerns about stuff that goes on beyond the boundaries of the church and we think that those who read BookNotes (that would be you, dear reader) would benefit from reading any of Mouw’s books, but especially this recent one. We like his phrase “common grace” and we like how he explains it (as well as how he explains and replies to the objections some have to it, all that he takes judiciously.) All That God Cares About is theology at its best — readable, interesting, fair, informative, inspiring, and with great, great consequence for how we live, day by day, as God’s own children.

Listen to this:

“Vincent Van Gogh once said, ‘The great thing is to gather new vigor in reality.’ This is exactly what Mouw is doing in All That God Cares About. He is gathering new vigor for our undivided attention to the reality of God’s world. Rather than sludging through the embattled history of the doctrine of common grace in our Calvinian camps, Mouw compels us to apprehend and admire the coruscations of God’s glory shed abroad in this fallen world.” — Tim Blackmon, chaplain, Wheaton College

“God takes delight! Mouw has given many of us the gift of that truth through his writing and speaking and very being! In this clearly written book he engages many thinkers to help us know that redemption is cosmic in scope and to help us appreciate the work of the Holy Spirit beyond the boundaries of the Christian community.”
— Katherine Leary Alsdorf,  Global Faith & Work Initiatives, Redeemer City to City

“In this winsome book, Mouw takes readers on an enlightening tour of the theologies of creation, redemption, and eschatology undergirding his hopeful theology of common grace. Irenic but never shy to respond to critique, Mouw gives us a book that will engage and inform readers from a wide range of theological standpoints. A delight to read!”
— J. Todd Billings, Western Theological Seminary

Here is a very short little clip of Mouw delightfully talking about some of these ideas.

Uncommon Ground: Living Faithfully in a World of Difference Timothy Keller & John Inazu (Thomas Nelson) $25.99 – OUR SALE PRICE = $20.79

Several years ago we met Dr. Inazu (author of Confident Pluralism, a University of Chicago title that argues for a profound and respectful structural pluralism, part public etiquette guide and part political theory about how to create just space for all with a high value on religious freedom.) We are fans. We were glad when the famous Manhattan Presbyterian pastor hosted him at Redeemer in New York (and got the books for the gig from us.) This book emerged from their various conversations, inviting evangelical Christians to write about how the navigate the tensions of serving the common good in a world of great difference. These are well written essays, testimonials, stories and arguments for convicted civility, for engaging well in this era of toxic conflict.

There are three parts to this, with four chapters in each: Framing Our Engagement, Communicating Our Engagement, and Embodying Our Engagement. With contributors such as Trillia Newbell, Lacrae, Kristen Deede Johnson, and Rudy Carrasco (not to mention Keller and Inazu) it is hard to pick favorite pieces. I will say, though, that I have read and re-read the chapter by Tish Harrison Warren on being a writer, and loved hearing from singer songwriter Sarah Groves.

I suppose I don’t have to explain how very significant this project is, this 21st century conversation about how to recover a sense of being salty salt and bright light and effective leaven in the loaf. Somehow our churches have become hostile to the watching world or so eager to be seen as not extremist or pushy that we’ve nearly blended into the secular culture with a chameleon faith. These authors tell stores that are both winsome and principled, taking stands but in ways that are gracious and helpful. These are the sorts of people we aspire to be, I think, at our best, thoughtful, intentional, gracious, and innovative, even as we seek to honor God in all we do. Highly recommended.

Thou Shalt Not Be a Jerk: A Christian’s Guide to Engaging Politics Eugene Cho (Cook) $17.99 – OUR SALE PRICE = $14.39

Speaking of civility, this is one we all need right now (myself included, for sure!) The witty title and the playful cover don’t do this book justice as it is a serious work by a very serious guy. Rev. Cho, formerly a pastor of Quest Church in Seattle, also was the founder of One Day’s Wages, a grassroots movement of people working to alleviate global poverty. This good work led him to his new job, the Executive Director of Bread for the World, the respected citizen’s lobby organization that inspires and equips people of faith to advocate for anti-hunger legislation. Filling the shoes of heros such as BFW founder Arthur Simon and the previous Director, David Beckman, will be daunting for the younger, more hip and evangelical Cho. But if this fun book about civility and building coalitions for the Kingdom of God and just political policies is any indication, Cho is going to lead Bread into a good new future.

This is a fine book (among many these days) that offer a balanced and Biblically-guided vision and a faithful prophetic imagination to move us towards voting in ways that honor God’s own heart for social justice, even as we stay in friendship and fellowship with others who see things differently than we do. Cho’s friend and mentor Dr. John Perkins says “I have been waiting for this book… we need to hear and embody this message!”

Speaking Peace in a Climate of Conflict Marilyn McEntyre (Eerdmans) $21.99 – OUR SALE PRICE = $17.59

Oh my, I hope you know what a good and captivating writer Ms McEntyre is, the good words she has offered for for us in so many beautiful books. I know I’ve raved often about her Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies and many have simply been transformed by the loveliness of her wise, little Make a List: How a Simple Practice Can Change Our Lives and Open Our Hearts. I have loved her daily devotional called Word By Word and have quoted out loud from her When Poets Pray in talks I have done about the power of books and words and, yes, poems. She is a writer who you should know and who for many is nearly a patron saint. Back before the Spring I ordered a whole case to promote at our upcoming events. You who attend gigs like EAPCE and the UCC clergy convocations and the Episcopal Bishop’s retreat in Cape May and the CCO staff training institute — I was going to tell you all about this, and I figured you’d love it!

Speaking Peace, you see, is not only a guide to civility in our frayed democracy, not only a resource alongside the likes of Richard Mouw’s Uncommon Decency or Arthur Brooks’s book about “the culture of contempt.”  In a sense it is closer to the fabulous and insightful How the Body of Christ Talks by C. Christopher Smith. It is less an essay on incivility and the loss of civil discourse, but more, a celebration and manifesto about the power of words. It is about how to use words wisely and well. Drawing on the Biblical line in Colossians 4, it could have been called something like seasoned speech. As Leslie Leyland Fields (herself quite a wordsmith and wise writer) says, “Marilyn McEntyre has been quietly shepherding us toward God’s intention of language as a gift rather than a weapon. She’s done it again.”

As Paula Huston puts it, Speaking Peace is “written with her signature intelligence and poetic flair.” Can we reclaim “the nobility of language and its power to heal”? I assure you, this book will startle you, awaken something within you, and impress you in important ways.

Buy several — please!

Bridging Theory and Practice in Children’s Spirituality: New Directions for Education, Ministry, and Discipleship edited by Mimi L. Larson & Robert J. Keeley  (Zondervan) $22.99 – OUR SALE PRICE = $18.39

Every Spring for many, many, years, Beth and I (and, more recently, our oldest daughter Stephanie) have played a role at the annual Eastern APCE Conference — that’s the Association of Presbyterian Church Educators, thanks for asking — and we missed it so badly this year. We miss these humble and often beloved local church educators that love children and adult formation, that study heady stuff about education theory and our social context and broad Reformed theology as it relates to the shelter and nurture of the children of God in the local congregation. We miss their exuberant dedication to children’s books and their love of creativity and their passion for learning. This book, quite simply, would have sold out there, I’m sure of it.

Mim Larson is a professor of Christian formation and ministry at Wheaton, visiting there on loan from her work as children’s ministry catalyzer for Faith Formation Ministries in the Christian Reformed Church. They do very good work and she is a fabulous, respected scholar-practitioner. She has served in the local parish, participated in curriculum development and authors books and book chapters.

Robert Kelley is professor of education at Calvin University (and also teaches discipleship and faith formation at Calvin Theological Seminary.) He wrote Helping Our Children Grow in Faith (Baker Books; $15.00) which we have sold well over the years. He’s a lively teacher and good writer.

Putting the two of these leaders together to edit a cutting edge volume about this shift from scholarship to practice, from theory to embodiment, was a stroke of genius. And they pulled together an extraordinary case to help offer a great resource for anyone serious about influencing a children’s spirituality and faith development. As the publisher’s promise, this book will help us “explore the different contexts and methods” that can help us accomplish this. The blend of practical application and theoretical understanding makes this widely appealing, and we are very glad to tell you about it now.

And what a great array of contributors — including a chapter by John Roberto who had been scheduled to be the keynote speaker for our Eastern APCE event. There are chapters here about racial diversity in children’s faith formation, surveys of different schools of thought and theologies of children’s ministry, good stuff about the role of the family and the role of the church. There is a chapter on childern’s grief, a chapter on play, and an important chapter on what do to about “white” spirituality in children’s curriculum. Bridging Theory and Practice in Children’s Spirituality, unlike some similar anthologies, doesn’t have a bad chapter in it. We hope you’d consider getting one for leaders in the children’s ministry in your church.

(And if you are a long-time APCE friend, what are you waiting for? Pick up the phone or send us an email. You’ve got to have this one!!)

Strange Rites: New Religions for a Godless World Tara Isabella Burton (PublicAffairs) $28.00 – OUR SALE PRICE = $22.40

This is one of those books that had I had capacity in the hectic times of the most serious shut-down I’d have read and studied and pondered and critiqued. From dipping in I can say for sure that it is an enjoyably written work, remarkable, really. And it is an oddball book that has caught much attention, surprisingly, I think. Ms Burton is clearly on to something here and she invites us into the story with verve and immersive, storytelling genius. Rod Dreher — himself quite a storyteller — says that with this book, “Tara Isabella Burton establishes herself as her generations’s foremost chronicler of American religious life.” And the “religious life” she is exploring is less the Lutheran liturgies or the Methodist services or the Presbyterian prayers or the evangelical worship gatherings, but the “spiritual anarchy” (as Dreher puts it) that is emerging in practices and communities that are replacing classic Christianity. We are, as a people, becoming both more and less religious at the same time. That is something I heard Len Sweet predict decades ago, and now we are swimming in it.

That is, Burton explores stuff like Harry Potter devotes, ideologies of sex, practitioners of magic, the post-new-age wellness movement, and the like, and notes they are still longing for connections and community, forging new kinds of sacred spaces, searching for transcendent meaning. Ahh, if only they’d read Jamies Smith’s On the Road with Saint Augustine, but I digress.

Just listen to these remarks about the importance of this research:

“A bracing tour through the myriad forms of bespoke spiritualism and makeshift quasi-religions springing up across America.”
―The Wall Street Journal

“An essential work for anyone interested in understanding — or addressing — our rapidly transforming cultural and religious landscape.”
Christianity Today

“A lesser writer and a colder intellect would have been content simply to mock the video-gaming, Soul-Cycling communicants of our “Remixed” Great Awakening. Yet in Strange Rites, Tara Isabella Burton grasps that strangeness entails ecstatic power as well as oddity, and that even folly in search of transcendent meaning merits empathy, not apathy–the difference between a merely lively read and a profound one.”―Giselle Donnelley, Research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research

Why We Drive: Toward a Philosophy of the Open Road Matthew B. Crawford (William Morrow) $28.99 – OUR SALE PRICE = $23.19

Hey, friends, it’s not too late to go for a joy ride and get in on this one — what a fascinating, fun, read for those who are philosophically inclined and who love the open road. I suppose you know by now that Matthew Crawford is an important name, author of two books that are astute and profround and unlike almost anything you’ve ever read. A lot of our smartest customers really like his work a lot.

His first major release was Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work (Penguin; $17.00) where he tells the story of being dissatisfied with the feel of pointlessness in his white collar, academic job and how he opened and found joy in his own motorcycle repair shop. That becomes the basis for thinking hard about why we tend to devalue blue collar work these days, why shop classes are on the decline in American schools, and how to ponder more seriously the meaning of education and work. It was, in some ways, the intellectual foundation for much of the contemporary maker movement. It’s still a book we tend to sell a copy or two of almost anywhere we take it.

Crawford’s second important book studied and wrote about workers who are good with their hands. It’s deeper than that, and his exploration of embodied practices — think of a worker trained in the detailed art of repairing large pipe organs or an employee valued because of the “body memory” of what she can naturally do (“without thinking” we say) — has much to offer all of us. These kinds of tasks cannot be mechanized, but in the world of “information science” and automation we are failing to appreciate this deeply human way to be embodied and attentive to the realities of God’s world around us. And so, he wrote the splendid, useful, wise, the World Beyond Your Head: On Becoming an Individual in an Age of Distraction (Farrar, Straus, Giroux; $17.00.) It’s a very good book for all of us, no matter what style of work we do, since we all live in our bodies and in the joys and constraints of God’s real world.

Which brings us to his big, fat, new hardback which is about driving cars. I’m not kidding: if you follow is work, it flows exactly from his other two.  As it says on the back:

As we become ever more pacified in so many domains of life, I want to explore this one domain of skill and freedom — driving — before it is too late, and make a case for defending it.

Is he pushing back against what we lose when we give ourselves over to driverless cars? Yes indeed. Is in a bit in the linage of, say, Neil Postman and his Technopoly? Yep. (He has a chapter called “The Diminishing Returns of Idiot-Proofing as a Design Principle” and calls driverless cars a push towards “moral reeducation.”) Does he make tons of fabulous observations about the joy and art and skill of driving, about being out on the highways? Oh yes, what a fun writer he is! Does he along the way do what we Christians might call an idol out of human freedom, about (as he puts it) “autonomy”? Is it a little weird that he calls driving a sort of “humanism.” Yes, yes, yes. But it’s still a helluva book — with lots about the common good and road rage and feeling the road and the DMV and managing traffic, and bikes, too. I can’t wait to read more of it soon. I’m sure you know somebody who would love it.

Crawford writes ecstatically of driving, evoking the sense of release and agency of flooring it out of the city as “a shady country road reels out ahead in rhythmic curves.” … But Why We Drive is about driving like Moby-Dick is about whaling. … Crawford has something important to say.– San Francisco Chronicle

Dream Big: Know What You Want, Why You Want It, and What You’re Going to Do About It Bob Goff (Thomas Nelson) $26.99 – OUR SALE PRICE = $21.59

What a Springtime it was, with students graduating, college commencements, new seasons for new considerations. I wanted to shout about my own book of graduation speeches for college grads, Serious Dreams: Bold Ideas for the Rest of Your Life but whenever folks were asking about new stuff that would be good gifts for grads in these past months I found my self wanting to tell them about Dream Big that had just come out in early June. I am a big fan of Bob Goff and his books — his last one was the great year-long devotional Live in Grace, Walk in Love that had 365 new Goff stories, each interwoven with a solid Bible teaching. After Love Does and Everybody Always and the newish devo, Bob needed to shift gears just a bit. So many people were asking him how he did what he did — starting schools in war zones, taking phones calls at all hours from around the world, being supportive of great people and their good causes. He started and took on the road a series of  “Dream Big” workshops that were whimsical gatherings of upbeat encouragement but also serious coaching to help people take steps to do what they really wanted to do in life. Apparently these retreats were life-changing and helped launch into the world all manner of new resolve to do good stuff.

Dream Big: Know What You Want…, then, is the big-hearted, humorous, faith-infused, practical (well, sometimes practical) visionary guidebook to discerning what one might do to get one with one’s life. To be honest, as one who has helped start up some neat projects and who started a business out of nothing, I am not a fan of most of these breathy, you-can-do-it self help books. I might not have read this if I didn’t know Goff would minister to me as a storyteller who points us to Christ.  But ya know what? I loved this. It made me think, helped me ponder some important issues in my own life, and I came away wanting to tell others about it.

Goff is a genius at using inspiring metaphors and examples. In a chapter on “figuring out what is holding you back” he brings up Stockholm Syndrome. He wonders if we are clinging with affection to the very things that are holding us hostage. The chapter is cleverly called “Hostage Negotiation”and I’ve read it three times. He uses an apt image, too, when he tells about a drawer in his house full of keys that they don’t want to discard because they might need them. But, of course, they don’t know what the keys are for, which locks they unlock. (#metoo anyone?) So he reminds us that that box of keys is like the hang-ups in our lives. “They are habits and beliefs and pattersn that may have served us at one point, but don’t any longer. Yet we still hang on to them thinking they might be useful later.”  “This,” he says, “is how limiting believe work.”

And then the next chapter is about what he calls “launching beliefs” that, somehow, through God’s grace, most of us also have floating around in our heads and hearts. They have quite a shelf life and he invites us to be aware of what is going on in our interior lives to hurt or help us. I suppose it’s psych 101, but it’s really well put and I think will be helpful for lots of us.  To make it clearer, just read the chapter “Pick the Vespa” which is classic Goff and just hilarious.

On the back cover Bob says he invites us not to settle for anything less than following our dreams and discovering our deeper purposes because, he insists, “God thinks you’re worth it.” “We need a path,” he says, “and I hope this book provides on that moves you toward you ambitions.” Are you willing to take steps to figure this out and release some amazing things into the world? Dream Big just might help you, no matter at what age or stage you find yourself. Heck, whether it works or not, it’ll be a blast reading it and you’ll surely be inspired to something reflective and new and maybe even exciting. And you’ll have his phone number, too. Buy the book and call him up. Just tell him I said hi and that I’m still dreaming those serious dreams. And then tell him about your own.

Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers Dane Ortlund (Crossway) $19.99 – OUR SALE PRICE  = $15.99

The textured dust-jacket on this nice hardback immediately feels right and it is good, because this is one of those books that one doesn’t read for new information or a few hours literary pleasure. There very well be new information here and there will be hours of reading enjoyment. But this is a book that feels significant. It feels beautiful. It is a book that — as Paul David Tripp says — “carefully and tenderly displays Christ’s heart.” As Michael Reeves (himself an author of a book on Christ, and another on the Trinity) says “For any feeling bruised, weary, or empty, this is the balm for you.”

Author Dane Ortlund is know in “Gospel Coalition” circles and is the chief publisher at Crossway. Here, he brings his PhD level studies and focuses supremely on this wondrous but beautiful notion: that God’s kindness for us is magnificent, that Christ’s heart is for us, especially when we are weak and broken. It starts with the kind invitation from Jesus, recorded in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

You should know that this tender and gentle book is weighty, not trivial and, in fact, draws heavily on a Puritan writer named Thomas Goodwin. Along the way he cites Jonathan Edwards, of course, and even the rare contemporary thinker such as Richard Baukhaum and Jorgen Moltmann, but the book is drenched in the work and vision of the Puritans like Sibbes, Owens, Bunyan, and his beloved Goodwin. If you’ve never spent time with these authors, this is a great introduction to this stream of Christian tradition and we are happy to recommend this.

God Walk: Moving at the Speed of Your Soul: Walking as Spiritual Practice Mark Buchanan (Zondervan) $25.99 – OUR SALE PRICE = $20.79

It has been a long time since Mark Buchanan (one of my favorite evangelical wordsmiths) has put paper to pen and released a new book. We still recommend his older books, such as Your God Is Too Safe and we regularly sell his The Rest of God: Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Sabbath (Nelson; $15.99.) I’d suggest him if you want a very fine writer who is thoughtful, serious, but not too stuffy or arcane, maybe like a Eugene Peterson, or even a Max Lucado if Max wrote more deeply, or a less mystical Richard Foster, maybe. So you respect the writing of Philip Yancey? This guy comes close, believe me. I love his colorful images and his tender stories and his clear-headed Biblical study and his keen vocabulary.

This new one is one I’m sure I would have announced at off-site gatherings this summer if we were with our friends at retreats. There is nothing like it and it is so, so interesting. This book is I think the best thing yet done on this topic — the spirituality of walking.

Roberts starts with a reflection on the famous Asian theologian Kosuke Koyama who wrote, famously, The Three Mile An Hour God.  As you might guess, this isn’t exactly about hiking — although outdoor and wilderness lovers will surely enjoy it — and it isn’t so pious as to be about what some call prayer-walking, either, although there is a chapter about prayer. No, it is a fully developed theology of the experience of human walking. And, man, does he cover it. There are 17 chapters, from “waking as friendship” “to “walking as remembering” to “walking as exorcism.” The first couple of chapters are fabulous, on “why we walk” and even the history of walking. He has ruminations on walking with animals, stuff about attentiveness, a chapter “for those who cannot walk.” This is a real modern day pilgrim’s progress as we follow a Lord who walked, the three mile an hour God.  This is lovely and probative and stimulating and fun and, I assure you, enriching to your soul. Walk slowly and order it soon!

“Literary masterpiece, written in prose full of energy and light. Contagiously fresh. Invitingly deep. On and on. The stuff of spiritual classics.”  —Darrell Johnson, retired pastor and professor; speaker; author, The Glory of Preaching;

“Poetic, poignant, and immensely practical, this book will change your life . . . one step at a time.” —Ken Shigematsu, pastor, Tenth Church, Vancouver; bestselling author, Survival Guide for the Soul

Spiritual Care in an Age of #BlackLivesMatter: Examining the Spiritual and Prophetic Needs of African Americans in a Violent America edited by Danielle J. Buhuro (Cascade) $31.00 – OUR SALE PRICE = $24.80

Again, this was one of those books that I wished I had the ability to announce to the world a few months ago, but we just didn’t have that many BookNotes opportunities. Now, we are highlighting books that we think you should know about — maybe now more than ever. This is a collected anthology of very up-to-date pieces mostly by people of color, about what we might call pastoral care for at risk and traumatized people of color.  Buhuro is an ACPE Certified Educator/CPE Supervisor at Advocate Aurora South Suburban and Trinity Hospitals in Chicago. There is a significant foreword by Chanequa Walker-Barnes who wrote two other books we stock, Too Heavy a Yoke: Black Women and the Burden of Strength (Cascade; $28.00) and I Bring the Voices of My People: A Womanist Vision for Racial Reconciliation (Eerdmans; $24.99.) As far as I know, there is nothing quite like this in print.

This is a thought-provoking book that will be demanding for some readers — yes, it uses critical race theory and it is forthright about the anguishes and angers carried by many African Americans and other minorities, naming them for the trauma that they are. The authors are professionally diverse, including clinical therapists and social workers, caregivers and seminary professors, psychologists and pastors and engaged scholars. It is serious, for professionals in caregiving careers or college professors doing research in these fields. It is fiesty and raw and a vivid call to hear what some who specialize in helping black lives flourish have to say as they analyze their specialty disciplines.

For instance, here are just a few of the 20 chapter — in the first part about “Caring for the Victims of Violence and Social Justice Activism” we have “From Viral to Voyeuristic: When Politic Brutality Videos Turn into Black Death Tourism; Self-care for Black Trauma” by Danielle Buhuro; “Domestic Violence and Pastoral Care in the Age of #BlackLivesMatters” by Sharon ellis Davis; “Creating Circles of Peace: Mindfulness as a Pastoral Response to Health, Education, and Violence in the Black Community” by Marsha Thomas.

In the second section (“Caring for Body and Soul in the Black Community”) there are chapters such as “Rethinking Interpretive Tools for a Liberating Spiritual Care” by Afri A. Atiba; in this section there are several chapters about mental health, about congregations engaged in suicide intervention and prevention, about food oppression in the black community, etc.

Part 3 includes essays under the heading of “Caring for African American Marriages, LGBTQIA Partnerships, and Families.” Here there are chapters about mate selection within the African American community, a moving piece about “The Talk” between black fathers and sons, and then in Part 4 there are several key chapters about caring as chaplains, about institutional settings that may be racist, about the need for CPE among African American clergy. There is a “manifesto” about black spiritual care in hospitals and even an essay about pastoral and spiritual care to African Americans in the United States Armed Forces.

This book isn’t designed for everyone, not even everyone who cares about the trauma of racism and the unique needs of black persons in our culture. But for those who want this kind of fiesty, professional anthology, I don’t know of anything like it.

By the way, I hope to review in greater detail later a new book that is more evangelical in tone, more conventional and less academic, but is another new, rare sort of resource. It is designed to bring the typically very white tradition of spiritual direction to the historic black church and, conversely, to help the typically white contemplative spirituality movement learn from those who embody spiritual gifts from the black church. Entitled Soul Care in African American Practice by Barbara Peacock (IVP; $17.00 — SALE PRICE = $13.60) this suggests that “practices of spiritual formation are woven into African American culture and lived out in the rich heritage of its faith community.” I think many of our customers will find it informative and helpful.

As Natasha Sistrunk Robinson (author of A Sojourner’s Truth: Choosing Freedom and Courage in a Divided World) comments about Soul Care… “The temptation of Western theological thought and spiritual formation is to ignore or deny the historical contributions of African Americans. Dr. Peacock does a wonderful job of introducing to some and reminding others of the role African American spiritual mothers and fathers have played in shaping the hearts of God’s people and a nation.”

Exiles on Mission: How Christians Can Thrive in a Post-Christian World Paul Williams (Brazos Press) $19.99 – OUR SALE PRICE = $15.99

As the pandemic spread and the quarantining caused the cancellation of our off-site events, I was asked to do some Zoom and Facebook Live book announcements for groups Beth and I usually serve. From staff training for the CCO to clergy convocations for the UCC to a Bishop’s retreat of Episcopal priests, we have quick shout outs to this at each. This book is so good for so many — drawing on a vivid and largely Reformed worldview that (in the spirit of Newbigin) pushes us to engage culture and think missionally about society, work, economics, and more, if helps us all learn to be “ambassadors of hope in a new Babylon.” This theme of exile is important for all of us in a post-Christian culture, of course, but it is really resonant now, after a period of being exiled from our church buildings, workplaces, favorite social haunts, maybe even our loved ones. The book isn’t about the dislocation we’ve felt this past Spring and Summer but God’s people flourishing on mission even in exile and in hard spaces certain works these days, doesn’t it?

Rave reviews and hearty blurbs on the back are from the aforementioned Tim Keller, our friend Amy Sherman (author of Kingdom Calling: Vocational Stewardship for the Common Good), and Katherine Leary Alsdorf, co-author of Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work — surely one of the top two or three most substantial books in the “faith and work” movement. Williams taught “marketplace theology” at Regent College in British Columbia and is known for the extraordinary ReFrame video curriculum. I can’t say enough about it, it this short space, but it is an excellent read. Similar to last year’s fantastic Symphony of Mission: Playing Your Part in God’s Work in the World by Michael Goheen and Jim Mullins (Baker Academic; $22.99) and along with it, we have now just the absolutely best books for a full-orbed and wholistic cultural theology that is culturally contextualized and sweetly missional, deep, rich, and yet accesible. Highly recommended.

Everywhere You Look: Discovering the Church Right Where You Are Tim Soerens (IVP Praxis) $17.00 – OUR SALE PRICE = $15.99

You may recall the wonderful book that Tim Soerens co-wrote a few years ago entitled The New Parish: How Neighborhood Churches Are Transforming Mission, Discipleship and Community (IVP; $18.00.) I believe a case can be made that it is more important now, during Covid and the post-pandemic era, than even before. This new one is fantastic as well, offering a deeper dive into some of that hope about caring for place. Everywhere Your Look starts with the (sad but true) necessary reality check for many of us: there will be in the future fresh experiences of church that may be very different than the status quo. Older forms of church may not be sustainable. Lasting congregations, that we now tend to call faith communities, are increasingly being defined by a robust, Biblical ecclesiology that causes us to see ourselves as real communities and as Kingdom agents of what might be called a movement. As it says on the back cover, this book offers “a vision of the church grounded in a grassroots movement of ordinary people living out what it means to be church in their everyday lives.” It is what David Fitch calls “a manifest plea to all who are ready to give up on church” and what Michael Frost (clearly one of Soerens’s own mentors) says is “tender and rousing in equal measure.”

(By the way, I have to say, some of this brings to mind a recent edited collection by some friends of ours, scholars and practitioners of PC(USA) church planting and congregational development called Sustaining Grace that explores “innovative ecosystems” for new faith communities. It was put together by Scott Hagley, Karen Rohrer, and Mike Gerling (Wipf & Stock; $21.00) and we reviewed it in a BookNotes column a month ago.

Everywhere You Look: Discovering the Church Right Where You Are comes with a solid, several page foreword by Walter Brueggemann and it is nearly worth the price of admission to read that. Tim Soerens, though, is the real deal and it is very good to listen to him — even if you bristle at some of his anti-institutional church biases and are not as hopeful as he is about “building collaborative communities” in your neighborhood. He has paid attention to church life and inter-denominational collaborations and shared ministry efforts and he is a significant voice. Drawing on the likes of Alan Kreider’s The Patient Ferment of the Early Church, Soerens guides us towards an agenda that trusts God enough that allows us to be patient, even as we seek the good of our neighborhoods and places and society.

Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation Kristin Kobes Du Mez (Liveright) $28.95 – OUR SALE PRICE = $23.16

I would love to tell you much more about this; we respect the author immensely. She is a beloved professor of history at Calvin University in Grand Rapids; she herself grew up in the conservative Dutch Reformed faith community – her father was a theology professor at Dordt College in Iowa. So she is both a scholar of conservative American religion and very much a part of it.

A few years ago, by the way, Du Mez wrote a major, scholarly work on Katharine Bushnell and 19th century Christian feminism called A New Gospel for Women published by Oxford University Press ($34.95.) I once quipped that this new book, Jesus and John Wayne, is in a way a continuation of that story, the 20th century push-back against the dignity of women with the intentional celebration of macho-men and what some used to call “muscular Christianity.” The result has not been good and this oddly American expression of faith has had huge consequences for the witness of the evangelical church in the last few generations. And now, there’s, well, you know.

Of the many books out these days wondering how the far Christian right could have possibly gotten so deeply involved with and excited about a hedonistic, divorced, playboy (who has paid hush money to porn stars) — and there are a lot of books as it is just such a unbelievably breathtaking historical development nobody could have seen coming — Jesus and John Wayne is truly one of the most important. Dr. Du Mez is not just looking at the currentextreme leaders of the Trumpian religious right like the bombastic Jerry Falwell Jr. and millionaire Pentecostal Paula White, but she explores Dr. Dobson, Promise Keepers, the purity ring/purity culture movement, the gonzo macho stuff of Wild at Heart. She offers astute and lively observation of much of the material culture of evangelicalism, from Veggie Tales to the Left Behind novels, the rage in anti-Muslim books after 9-11 and so much more, bringing insight about how all of that white evangelical stuff collided, forming a civil religious nationalism that was more than patriotic, but militaristic and nearly idolatrous.

Agree or not with her assessment or conclusions (and I am not prepared to say either, yet) this is a book for anyone who has lived through the past fifty or so years of evangelicalism. From Christianity Today and Billy Graham’s stance on Martin Luther King, to the impact of the cult-like Bill Gothard, from the  DeVoss family’s Amway to the celebration of Ollie North, from the partnership of evangelicals with Catholic dynamo Phyllis Schafly to the recent popularity of Wayne Grudem and John Piper’s teaching about traditional gender roles, this book offers a truly wide-ranging account of much that influenced the culture that gave us both Anita Bryant, say, on one hand, and Amy Grant, on another; Pat Robertson on one hand and Francis Schaeffer or Ron Sider on other hands. What a movement it has been, and Du Mez knows it well.

And if you are not part of the evangelical subculture, this will be an ideal guide to learning about what makes it tick, where it all came from, and how it got oddly harnessed to a vision of life that isn’t particular Biblical, but nationalist, militaristic, materialistic  and, at worse, racist.

Read these two quotes which capture her thesis and explain why this book is an important bit of American history and why it is so very important now.

Jesus and John Wayne demolishes the myth that Christian nationalists simply held their noses to form a pragmatic alliance with Donald Trump. With brilliant analysis and detailed scholarship, Kristin Kobes Du Mez shows how conservative evangelical leaders have promoted the authoritarian, patriarchal values that have achieved their finest representative in Trump. A stunning exploration of the relationship between modern evangelicalism, militarism, and American masculinity. — Katherine Stewart, author of The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism

Wielding supreme command of evangelical theology, popular culture, history and politics, as well as rare skill with the pen, Kristin Kobes Du Mez explodes the myth that evangelicals voted for Donald Trump in spite of his crude machismo. It turns out that the opposite is true: for generations, white male evangelical leaders and their supportive wives have been building a movement of brazen masculinity and patriarchal authority, with hopes of finding a warrior who could extend their power to the White House. In Trump they found their man. This is a searing and sobering book, one that should be read by anyone who wants to grasp our political moment and the religious movement that helped get us here. — Darren Dochuk, author of Anointed With Oil: How Christianity and Crude Made Modern America

To Think Christianly: A History of L’Abri, Regent College, and the Christian Study Center Movement Charles E. Cotherman (IVP Academic) $35.00 – OUR SALE PRICE = $28.00

Before the pandemic and the necessary shut-down this past spring, causing a shift in our business and work flow, we dreamed about having our friend Charles Cotherman do some sort of event, some way we could celebrate this very, very important book that means a lot to us. For many, it is about something that is nearly invisible, an underground movement that you may not have heard of. But for Beth and I, this book captures a stream of evangelical thinking that means very much to us (and is in vivid contrast o the macho militaristic piety described in the book by Dr. Du Mez, above.) It is one of the streams that has made us who we are, and, as I described in detail in the comments exclaiming why we value Richard Mouw’s wonderful study All That God Cares About: Common Grace and Divine Delight, we may not be here doing what we do at Hearts & Minds if it were not for some of the people and movements described in this new book.

To put the start of the story too simply, Francis and Edith Schaeffer were conservative, evangelical Presbyterians — he of Philadelphia blue collar working class stock, she of a more sophisticated, elite family — who, together, concluded that with the rise of the beatniks and the hippies of the mid sixties, and the intransigent, anti-cultural, world-denying tone of American evangelical churches they simply had to create a better expression of Christian truth. They wanted to create a place that would allow seekers and drifters, drop-outs and disillusioned protestors, to hear the whole truth of the Biblical gospel in conversation with the philosophies of the day and a healthy dose of real community and good art. They started an intentional community and drop-in study center in Switzerland and named it L’Abri, promising “real answers to real questions.” Together they would listen carefully to “Sgt. Pepper” and read Dante out loud and follow the line of despair from Nietzche to the painter Francis Bacon or to art-house French cinema. Some of our favorite authors and friends — Bill Edgar, Nancy Pearcey, Paul Marshal, Sharon Gallagher, Steve Turner, Os Guinness, Steve Garber come to mind — had significant experiences there. (Guinness was actually on staff in Huémoz, one of the great influences there for a time.)

As the place became known and Schaeffer’s interesting lectures blending an overview of Western history and philosophy and a call to a relevant but true spirituality, led to books and speaking tours, others caught the vision for somewhat similar study centers and residential communities to attract the unchurched and strengthen evangelicals in making sense of Christianity to an early 70s zeitgeist. I used to visit one such study center with R.C. Sproul who at the time perhaps fancied his Western Pennsylvanian Ligonier Valley Study Center with his lodges and cabins and gardening and multiple, charismatic, well-educated staff akin to Schaeffer’s Swiss L’Abri. Both stood on Reformed faith, drew upon philosophical and cultural apologetics, and encouraged a serious, if tame, activism for social righteousness and cultural renewal.

Sproul in Western Pennsylvania wasn’t the only Christian intellectual wanting to work within the counter-cultural youth movements. Even before him there was New College of Berkeley, with the energetic, Jacques Ellul-influenced David Gill and the incredibly insightful, evangelical hippy community called the Christian World Liberation Front with an underground paper focusing on “lay theological education” called Right On. Eventually as the times changed, they had a marvelous paper called Radix and, eventually, an intense learning community, inspired a bit by the likes of Toronto’s Institute for Christian Studies, called The Crucible.

In Cotherman’s heretofore untold narrative, it is a hop, skip, and a jump from L’Abri and the influence of a reasoned and culturally relevant sort of youthful evangelicalism to learning centers like the New College of Berkeley and The Crucible. And from there, Cotherman connects the dots to the founding of the remarkably generative college in Vancouver, British Columbia called Regent College. To this day it is one of the finest establishments for adult learning out of a mature and balanced evangelical perspective in all the world. With visiting faculty as fabulous interesting as Marva Dawn, N.T. Wright, J. I. Packer, Craig Gay, and so many others, it remains a splendid example of historic faith freshly proclaimed for the living in our times.  As those familiar with the courses offered there know, and as Cotherman’s book explains, it was founded by the extraordinary scholar and deeply pastoral leader (himself a bit of a mystic, well versed in the classics of contemplative spirituality) Dr. James Houston. And, yes, Houston knew Schaeffer. As Cotherman documents, Houston had some concerns about Schaeffer’s scholarship and leadership styles which they talked about in correspondance and face-to-face. Fun fact: when Dr. Houston retired from Regent College, his replacement was Eugene Peterson, who moved to British Columbia to become a professor of “spiritual theology” there.

To Think Christianly advances the plot and continues to show overlap and collaboration with other great chapters in this story — chapters about para-church ministries and organizations that we have supported, that have purchased books from us, even, so much so that we almost feel a part of this story, if only in a secondary way. For instance, there are several fabulous chapters exploring the founding of study centers offering a robust and intellectually credible Christian witness near major, secular universities. From Drew Trotter taking leadership of the renowned Charlottesville Study Center at the University of Virginia to Karl Johnson and his remarkable project founding The Chesterton House on the campus of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, these are stories that show how a missionary movement among university students and faculty emerged with the founding of these intellectually rooted residential communities into what is now a network, a consortium, of such study centers throughout the country.

Further, some of the study centers, or local churches inspired by them, then, formed Fellows programs where post-college young adults gather for intensive discipleship and mentoring, being, formed in vocation and marketplace mission. These many Fellows programs are yet another fruit of this loose network and movement (a fruit that Cotherman does not explore, but surely could have.) What a joy for us to have had connections with the Gotham Fellows out of the Redeemer Center for Faith and Work in New York, the Washington area Falls Church Fellows started by Falls Church Episcopal, now Anglican, the great Pittsburgh Fellows program, the Triangle Fellows in Chapel Hill, NC.  These internships and seriously thoughtful Christian formation programs seem to me to be a direct result of the sorts of substantial work documented in this volume.

None of all of this would have existed as they do, Charles Cotherman suggests, rightly I think, if a generation of thoughtful evangelicals — sons and daughter of Issachar, if I can quote 1 Chronicles 12:32 — decades ago, influenced in one way of another by Francis and Edith Schaeffer at L’Abri (and their many books) had not forged into North American settings and founded organizations, networks, collaborations, intentional living houses, study centers and even accredited institutions of higher education.

Above, I recommend the powerful Jesus and John Wayne by Kristin Kobes Du Mez which documents much of the macho foolishness and right wing militarism that pervades much of popular evangelicalism and neo-fundamentalism. Happily, the people documented in this amazing book, To Think Christianly, by Charles E. Cotherman, raise up a different sort of expression of historic, evangelical faith. This is a well-written and inspiring account of some of the streams the flow into contemporary evangelical culture, one that has nurtured us and inspired us. We are glad that Charles did this amazing archival research, conducted so many interviews, offers so much first-hand testimony of the connections between L’Abri and Chesterton House, between Ligonier Valley Study Center and the C.S. Lewis Institute, between the New College of Berkley and the important, on-going Regent College in Vancouver.

We applaud these organizations, unique as they each were, disagreeable as they may have been in some areas, wrong-headed, too, at times, for their dedicated efforts to help followers of Christ live out faith in the complexities of the secularizing, modern world. Each emphasized the life of the mind, but usually not to the exclusion of the wholistic vision of embodied faith, caring about neighborhoods and place, speaking out against injustice and serving the poor as they could.

This stimulating history proves that some people were trying to stave off the shallowness of much evangelical thought and were hoping to offer a counter-perspective to those held captive by ideologies of the far left or right. They really did want to encourage students and public leaders to “take every thought captive” and “think Christianly” about all of life (and they still are!) In this, they honor Schaeffer’s hope to offer a “true spirituality” (as one of this books in those years) put it. They honor the historical relevance of Os Guinness’s book about the Kingdom of God being a “third way” between the poles of culture and counter-culture described in the 1970s book that came out of those years, The Dust of Death (newly reissued as we celebrated at BookNotes in March.) As historian Mark Noll notes, “This well-written and compelling book is a sign of hope.”

Dorothy Day: Dissenting Voice of the American Century John Loughery & Blythe Randolph (Simon & Schuster) $30.00 – OUR SALE PRICE = $24.00

In the late winter into the Spring I was telling anyone I could — which, admittedly was not many — that this was my favorite book so far in the new year. It remains one of the most remarkable books I have ever read. I’ve read a bit about and by Dorothy Day but this filled in so much detail with such good prose it not only made me glad to have learned so much, but it inspired me to turn to a few other biographies, relearning a new appreciation for the art form and the scholarship and the joy of reading a top-class historical biography. I am a huge fan of this book and glad it got some very prominent reviews in major newspapers and journals.

Loughery and Randolph did a superb job in both focusing on the remarkable conversion of this far left social activist in the early twentieth century (who famously cavorted with the likes of Eugene O’Neil and other intellectual and bohemians and artists) into a socially active but devout Catholic, known for her Catholic Worker “houses of hospitality” for the poor and homeless and her world-renown Catholic Worker “penny a copy” newspaper. She was a voracious reader and writer and, eventually, tireless public speaker and while this volume explores her life and faith and piety it does so with a wide angle lens looking at what some call “the American Century.” Yes, Loughery & Randolph are excellent biographers but they are also astute and lively historians. I very highly recommend this big book and assure you that you will learn things, important things, that you did not know, and for many events — strikes in the 30s and anti-war activities in the 40s and Southern civil rights work in the 50s and anti-nuclear weapons protests in the 60s, and on and on — you will have a front row seat. And not just any front row view, but a profoundly religious, decidedly Christ-centered one. From the opening story of Dorthy being arrested as an old woman in solidarity with Latina migrant workers in the fields of California, you realized this is going to be one great read.

I was asked to write a review of this book for the Pittsburgh Post Gazette and it was a great honor. There have been CW houses in Pittsburgh and Dorothy herself had a spiritual director who lived there, so she (unknown to most) visited there from time to time. (She had been also there as a young woman to show solidarity and report on the coal strikers and the steel mill conditions early in the century before her conversion and had affection for the scrappy place.) So I wrote this piece, shorter than I wanted, and didn’t tell much about the dramatic last half of the book — Dorothy’s relationship with the Cesar Chavez and the Berrigan brothers, the shift in the communities that formed in her name (some no longer serious Catholics) and the struggles with her dream to have farms, as well, playing a part in a renewal of local agriculture and radial agrarianism. And, oh my, the poignant stuff about her strained relationship with her daughter and grandchildren.  Dorothy Day moves from the epic sweep of history to the tender and anguishing human story of a hurting family, caught up in radical service and church politics, fame and yet no fortune. And now, playing catch up here in this catch-all column of the dozens of books I wanted to review earlier in the year, I must, again, postpone.

This Protestant reader was thoroughly taken with this excellently drawn story of a contemporary Catholic saint. It is without doubt one of the best books of the year and a must-read for anyone who wants to know more about the remarkable, daring, one-of-a-kind, Dorothy Day. Or who wants extra insight about the controversies and causes that pervaded the 20th century. Please, please, click on this link and read my short review of Dorothy Day: Dissenting Voice of the American Century from the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. Send it around to others if you can — I could love to get some orders for this extraordinary historical survey and detailed, thoughtful biography. What a book!

The Lost Art of Dying: Reviving Forgotten Wisdom L.S. Dugdale, MD  (HarperOne) $27.99 – OUR SALE PRICE = $22.39

When this book came out we hardly had time to think, let alone read tenderly wise books about death and dying. Our business was struggling with lack of staff and yet a surge in complicated mail orders, causes us to work long hours. Very late one night I was exhausted, thinking of the worst — praying for people we knew who had died or were dying of Covid-19. Lifting up friends in New York who were devastated. Holding back our fears of our own future as a business possibly reaching an end It is fair to say many of us have been melancholy at best, often worried and sad these hard days. And many of us know people who were sick.

That night I picked up this book about the morbid subject of dying. Written by a doctor, it offers insights discovered, the first pages tell us, from a once popular document created (get this) during the black death; the famous plagues of the 1400s. It was a document on dying well, but, in fact, it is a book about living well. Dr, Dugdale, we learn, discovered the medieval Latin texts on how the living were to prepare for a good death. This notion from the late Middle Ages, was called ars moriendi — the art of dying — and it made clear that “to die well, one first had to live well.”

And with that, I was hooked. As she was as she gleaned much for this ancient wisdom and added what she learned from her best medical training. This is not quite like Being Mortal by Atul Gawande but it is in that ballpark, with a bit of the the writerly grace of When Breath Becomes Air thrown in.

As Siddhartha Mukherjee (the Pulitzer Prize winning scholar of the extraordinary book about cancer, The Emperor of All Maladies) writes, “In this profound and compassionate book about death and its nearness, Dugdale demystifies one of the essential mysteries of our time.” That mystery, it seems to me, is not just about the mystery of mortality, but the question of how and why we have so medicalized life and death that we have lost touch with the very meaning of our lives and the habits of dying well. Why do we do this to ourselves? The opening sequence is vivid and painful as the harsh stuff of prolonging life unfolds with caring family (not to mention dying patient and medical staff) traumatized by the unpleasantness of the extreme interventions. And, within the opening pages, the Christian faith comes in to play. I found out later that this author is, in fact, a Christian believer who is active in her own faith community.  She is known as an extraordinary person, caring and kind. In fact,  Dr. Abraham Nussbaum, author of the wonderful book about reforming medicine, The Finest Traditions of My Calling, says,  “When I lay dying, I hope I will have a doctor like Dr. Dugdale at the bedside.”

Curiously, here in this mainstream book not pitched to a religious audience, is an endorsing blurb by a well known New York pastor and evangelical theologian, one aquatinted with illness, himself, Rev. Timothy Keller:

Lydia Dugdale’s The Lost Art of Dying proves that there is often nothing more relevant to our present cultural moment than the wisdom of the past — in this instance, on the subject of how to face death. The book is based on a great deal of painstaking scholarship but is written in the most accessible style. It will not only be of enormous help to people facing their own death or the death of a loved one, but also to professionals in various fields who attend the dying.

Besides walking us through the various points and teachings of the ars moriendi. She tells lots of stories, offers important contemporary insight, but like Keller says, draws on the wisdom of the past. And she does all this with a deft touch — as poet and Christian thinker, Yale professor Christian Wiman says of The Lost Art of Dying, it is a “lucid, learned, humane, and utterly necessary book.”

One final delight for all of us — and especially for anyone local to us here in York County. Dr. Dugdale brilliantly commissioned an artist to do pen and ink drawings, original creations to go along with each of the chapters. The art pieces that form a wonderful, major appendix to the book, are done by York, PA visual artist Michael W. Dugger. The artwork is modern and yet not odd, moving without being sentimental. (If you know Barry Moser’s work, it has that sort of look, I’d say, which is a huge compliment.) This is good, nuanced art, with each black and white illustration accompanied by a one page reflection/explanation by the artist. It makes a significant contribution to the book and we look forward to discovering more of Mr. Dugger’s provocative work. Well done.

Beyond Hashtag Activism: Comprehensive Justice in a Complicated Age Mae Elise Cannon (IVP) $22.00 – OUR SALE PRICE = $17.60

Over and over as the pandemic season evolved into the seasons of protests, in part over the murder of George Floyd with many people taking to the streets (usually with masks and peaceful) to protest systemic racism and police brutality, I kept wishing I could find a way to announce this book. Why our work flow and limits here precluded that is another story but, sadly, I suppose, the need for this book has only grown in recent months. We need to be informed. We need to amp up our daily citizenship initiatives. We need to live out our faith and better in and for our world. As important as this upcoming election is, politics is more than about elections and voting, and doing justice (as the Bible demands of us) is often more than mere politics. We can be agents of change in so many venues and ways and we can be socially and politically engaged in every season. The current election year drama just makes it that much more urgent that we know our stuff and live out our faith by doing what we claim we want our elected officials to stand for. Help get out the vote, yes. But study up and learn about ways to more actively engage the issues of the day.

Enter Mae Cannon, here with an almost one-stop shop, giving you in one simple book enough information to make you the most informed person in your neighborhood, no doubt. In one place she will help you help others with talking points and ideas for activism on any number of causes, concerns, topics, and issues. This book is a handbook like no other and I very highly recommend it. I really, really hope you buy it.

Mae offers this practical resource which is a bit more in-depth and user-friendly, I think, but a good advanced companion to her 2009 Social Justice Handbook. It emerges out of her growing awareness that for some of us, we think offering a pithy statement on twitter or using a hashtag somehow makes us a social justice warrior. Nope, not quite. Of course, for some of us who are homebound or with exceptional limitations, this may actually be the best way to engage and, heaven knows, we need wise, thoughtful, kind, and well informed people on line and in the social media spaces. So she isn’t disparaging those called to stand for justice in contemporary media venues. She is not against hashtags. But, surely, she is right that most of us must embody our deepest values, live into the work of public justice, actually do something concrete (usually in concert with others) to get policy enacted or reformed. We must get off line and into the streets. Liking protest pictures and hashtags and facebook memes can be part of that, for sure, but we need more. Much more.

But first, we have to know what we think, know some facts about the complex issues, and learn a bit about how the system works. Beyond Hashtag Activism helps us wonderfully.

The first couple chapters are very informative and will help you solve this problem of knowing how to begin. It clearly explains a bit about advocacy and justice work and what that may entail. She looks briefly at different aspects such as prophetic action, social relationships and concerns, economic advocacy, spirituality, and politics, as such. What does it look like to take up “legal advocacy” say, or “spiritual advocacy”? What are the “four best practices” for social change agents? She names them all and while some experienced activist might quibble, or wish for other good points, it is an excellent overview and great starting place. (For those who have started this work, this portion is still a great clarifying reminder of what we might already know, but need to be reminded of. It’s well worth reading and re-reading.) I can’t say enough about her succinct, inspiring and Biblically-informed framework and rubrics, so to speak.

(By the way, Mae has tons of experience — on the streets, doing face-to-face social outreach and service ministry and she has done bigger level organizing and even macro-level legislative advocacy. She has expertise in local issues as well as considerable global connections. She previously served as the director of advocacy for World Vision US on Capitol Hill in Washington and is currently the Executive Director of Churches for Middle East Peace. Among other volumes, she edited Land Full of God which explores contemporary issues in the Holy Land.)

She doesn’t cover everything in this Beyond Hashtag Activism book, but she offers a lot. Here’s the basic table of contents so you can see what she teaching us; there are great discussion questions after each section to help individual readers or small groups to clarify what they think and to prayerfully discern next steps.

Part 1. Biblical Justice and the Gospel
1. God’s Justice and Prophetic Advocacy
2. Politics and the Gospel
Part 2: Poverty
3. Global Poverty
4. Domestic Poverty
Part 3: Race
5. White Supremacy and American Christianity
6. Racial Violence, Police Brutality, and the Age of Incarceration
7. Global Immigration and Battles at the Border
8. Divisions of Race and Ethnicity Around the World
Part 4: Gender
9. #MeToo, Women in the Workplace, and Women in the Church
10. The Liberation of Women Around the World
Part 5: Twenty-First-Century Divides
11. Marriage and Sexuality
12. The Middle East, Israel, and Palestine
13. Religious Freedom

Rally: Communal Prayers for Lovers of Jesus and Justice edited and compiled by Britney Winn Lee (Upper Room/FreshAir Books) $16.99 – OUR SALE PRICE = $13.59

I so wish we could have gathered together at some of our clergy events this Spring — I’m thinking of you, Penn South-East and North-East Conferences of the UCC, at least, and the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania, and the conferees of the annual Mercersburg Society — because I know you’d have found this exceptionally useful. It’s one I would have featured in my little up-front announcements. And I would have had some fun reading with great gusto this clever quote from our friend Shane Claiborne, who wrote the foreword.

As Shane Claiborne says,

This is not your grandmother’s prayer book. Or if it is, I would really like to meet your grandmother.

There is a cry for action here, and a comfort for our anxious souls. It is a guidebook full of prayers and litanies and liturgies for all sorts of justice issues and deeply social concerns. It is mostly pretty conventional theologically but pressing our historic convictions into fresh new ways to offer solidarity with the most vulnerable and to evoke God’s guidance as we lament, celebrate, repent and resist. As we lift our hearts to the God who is there, this books helps the socially-active (or at least those who care) to new voice, to express our outrage and longing.

Britney Winn Lee, who directs an arts program in Shreveport, Louisiana that builds community among the hurting, pulls together here remarkable prayers and litanies penned by pastors, activists, scholars and writers from across the Christian community. Contributors includes, among others, Kaitlin Curtice, Rachel Hackenberg, Dee Dee Risher, Austen Harke, D.L. Mayfiield, Osheta Moore, Bruce Reyes-Chow, Brandan Robertson, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, Patrice Gopo, and Sandra Maria Van Opstal.

The prayers include good words about topics such as racial and gender inequality, economic disparity, white privilege, abuse of power, violence, mistreatment of migrants and refugees, and prayers for those pushed to the margins of society, including those who identify  LGBTQIA. Some of the prayers are artful and gentle, liturgically sound, and others are loud and raw. Some are quite suitable for a Sunday morning worship service, others are designed for meetings or events.

Rally: Communal Prayers for Lovers of Jesus and Justice is done in cooperation with The Academy for Spiritual Formation and we are grateful. I suppose not every prayer will be used by every faith community but it is a very useful resource to have. If you are a worship leader or planner, a small group leader or pastor, you should order one of these right away.

The NIV Bible Speaks Today Study Bible (IVP-UK) $50.00 – OUR SALE PRICE = $40.00

We have gotten so many new Bibles into the shop in the past half a year I suppose one of these days I should do a BookNotes just highlighting newly released editions, updated classics like the updated Life Application Study Bible notes in the NLT or NIV and the brand new updated NIV Study Bible, the recent NET Study Bible, the CEB Navigation Bible, the phone or tablet enhanced Filiment Bible in the NTL, the great, new selections of NRSVs and some wonderfully made new Roman Catholic editions. And,of course the never-ended new, excellently crafted editions of the ESV put out by Crossway.

But I was very excited when this NIV Bible Speaks Today study edition came out late last Spring. Let me say why.

You see, when folks write to ask us for our best suggestions for Bible commentaries (go ahead, ask us our favorites on Luke or Leviticus or Micah or Matthew) and we will inevitably suggest one of the paperbacks in the solid and reliable “Bible Speaks Today” series. The title of each in the BST series starts with the phrase, The Message of (enter the book of the Bible) and they are almost always workmanlike and useful, not too academic, but serious enough that you get out of it what you want in a commentary. They are mid-level, so to speak, aware of and sometimes engaged with the critical issues, but with an evangelical tone that wants to respect the text among the gathered people of God, helping us understand the passage’s relevance and how we might hear God speak. There are even discussion questions in the back of each of these books in this fine commentary series. And so, we recommend them often.

What the Bible Speaks Today Study Bible brilliantly does is to take pertinent and helpful excerpts from the many volumes of the commentary series and splice them into the pages of a sturdy NIV hardback Bible. So this is a new study edition that includes helpful insights from the authors of the BST commentaries. What a great idea!

Who are these authors? Fair enough. Many are names you may know not, but it might be useful to know that John Stott was the original chief editor of the New Testament and he did several, and J.Alec Moyter edited the Old Testament. Their authors include balanced British evangelicals and US scholars and preachers, as well. They include men and women from a variety of denominations, all with exceptional training and credentials, authors like Joyce Baldwin, Michael Green, Raymond Brown, Derek Kidner, Christopher Wright, and more.  I am not alone in often suggesting these paperback volumes — Tim Keller is known to have once quipped that they were his own favorite go-to set.

Anyway, this new (white) hardback Bible is a great resource. It is a nicely made, no-nonsense study Bible with some of best evangelical scholars weighing in, page by page by page. And, there are study questions included, making this a really useful tool for personal devotions but also for leading small group Bible studies and conversational classes.

By the way, there is also a nice, black leather edition boxed in a handsome slipcase that sells for $70.00.

Our 20% off sale price on that one makes it just $56.00.

 

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Join us online to meet Gina Dalfonzo and Karen Swallow Prior as we celebrate the new book “The Gospel in Charles Dickens” (Plough Publishing) THIS TUESDAY – SEPTEMBER 22, 2020 at 7:30 PM

Our BookNotes posts are known for often lengthy reviews and diverse lists of books that we sell here at Hearts & Minds. We curate and suggest different sorts of authors and titles that we think our fairly unique readership would find helpful, or at least interesting. We help you cut through the noise of the gigantic publishing industry to focus on titles we are excited about and think you should know about. We are glad you sometimes share these lists with other book lovers and we’re glad for our readers interest in supporting indie bookstores like ours.

Especially during this time when we are still not open for in-store shopping, we are grateful for our many on-line and mail-order friends.

This time, though, we just want to quickly mention one main thing (and spin off a very few related items.) We want to invite you to sign up right away for an on-line author event this Tuesday, September 22, 2020. (You must pre-register, so click on that link asap.)

We hope you read about this event in our previous BookNotes or saw the announcement at our bookstore facebook page, but if not, please know you can join us (for free) for this virtual book launch party — okay it’s basically an interview with an author and I don’t think she’ll be wearing a party hat, but I suppose one never knows — for her brand new book, The Gospel in Dickens: Selections from His Works, compiled and edited by Gina Dalfanzo (and published by Plough Publishing House.) The Facebook Live event in this Tuesday, September 22, 2020, and I will be the host, allowing Gina to tell us about the book. We will be joined by a very special guest and conversation partner, Karen Swallow Prior who wrote the marvelous foreword to The Gospel in Dickens. 

Here is how Plough Publishing has described this event:

Spend an online evening with Gina, as she launches The Gospel in Dickens, her contribution to Plough’s Gospel in Great Writers series. She’ll be joined by Karen Swallow Prior, who wrote the book’s foreword, and Byron Borger of Hearts and Minds Bookstore, who hosts the discussion.

 

In spite of – or perhaps because of – his own failings, Dickens never stopped exploring the themes of sin, guilt, repentance, redemption, and restoration found in the gospel.

 

In some passages the Christian elements are explicit, in others implicit, but, as Dickens himself said, they all reflect his understanding of and reverence for the gospel.

Celebrate these timeless themes as discovered in the pages of a rich new anthology. All attendees will be entered in a drawing for 5 free books!

You can sign up here:  https://www.plough.com/en/events/2020/the-faith-of-charles-dickens

With these two splendid women, both practiced, wise, readers and writers, my job will be an easy delight as I invite them to talk about the spiritual and moral value of reading the great Charles Dickens. I might try to crack a joke about Mr. Dickens’s penchant for wacky names in many stories (Uncle Pumblechook? Paul Sweedlepipe? Martin Chuzzlewit? Wackford Squeers? The Old Testament characters in Judges or Haggai can’t beat these!) but mostly we’ll allow these thoughtful women to teach us the good stuff. As the publisher promises, in The Gospel in Dickens, Gina “teases out dozens of the most memorable scenes [in Dickens’ body of novels and short stories] to reveal the Christian vision and values that suffuse all his work.” Before each excerpt, by the way, she has a fabulous little introduction to that reading, explaining what book it is from, setting the stage of what is happening in the chosen scene, and a phrase or line about why religious theme is to be seen in this passage. These are brief (the point it to expose us to the real depth of Dickens’s many stories and lively characters,) but really helpful.  Her introduction to the whole volume, by the way, is also outstanding and very interesting.

And Dalfonzo is clearly the one to do this — she is editor of the popular Dickensblog. She also likes old movies and is a columnist at Christ and Pop Culture, so that’s pretty cool. She has been an editor at BreakPoint and Christianity Today. Her writing has appeared in the Atlantic, National Review, The Gospel Coalition, First Things, and Guideposts.

Sign up right away for this evening of literary analysis through the eyes of Christian faith. The good folks at Plough will be giving away some free autographed books, too. And we have some signed book plates so those that want to order these with Ms. Dalfonzo’s autograph can get them from us now or then. Would make a nice Christmas gift, yes?

As we noted in the last BookNotes that went out a week or so ago, The Gospel in Dickens: Selections from His Works edited by Gina Dalfonzo (Plough Publishing) sells regularly for $18.00 but OUR 20% off BookNotes SALE PRICE = $14.40.

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Just so you know, this marvelous book, the release of which into the world we will celebrate on Tuesday night, The Gospel in Dickens: Selections from His Works, is part of a series of other such titles done by Plough.  We stock all of these, which include:

We’ve said it before at BookNotes, but Gina Dalfonzo has authored other books, which are, of course, always available here at Hearts & Minds. We are impressed with her good writing and salute her for One by One: Welcoming the Singles in Your Church (Baker Publishing; $16.00) which  s so good on this topic that it is nearly is one-of-a-kind and deserves to be known among church folks, for sure.

Her very recent Dorothy and Jack: The Transforming Friendship of Dorothy L. Sayers and C. S. Lewis is also published by Baker ($16.99.)

Dorothy and Jack just came out mid-August and it is simply a great read, exploring not only good stuff about the extraordinary Dorothy Sayers (see the above Plough volume to dip into a great anthology of her various writings) and the well known C.S. Lewis (who is, II’m afraid, very well known but not read as much as he should be.) But more importantly, this is a study of the relationship of the two, their friendship.

We need really good books on friendship. (I loved Wesley Hill’s good volume, Spiritual Friendship, which includes a wonderful postscript chapter which reviews various friendships in novels. The brand new Friendship: The Heart of Being Human by Victor Lee Austin is excellent.) I think we especially need good models of men and women who are friends, and Gina’s study of Saint Dorothy and Saint Jack really does open up their relationship in a way that models how brothers and sisters in Christ can also be good pals.

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What a great move to have Gina’s book on Dickens carry an astute foreword by Dr. Karen Swallow Prior. Prior is Research Professor of English and Christianity and Culture at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. We stock all three of her books, including the memoir Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me (T.S. Poetry Press), Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More — Poet, Reformed, Abolitionist (Thomas Nelson) and the exceptionally relevant On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life through Great Books (Brazos Press.) We appreciate one she co-edited, as well (with Josh Chatraw) called Cultural Engagement: A Crash Course in Contemporary Issues

On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life through Great Books (Brazos Press) sells regularly for $19.99 but at our 20% off price for our BookNotes readers, it is just $15.99. We named it one of the Best Books of 2018 and enjoyed  hosting Karen here at the store when the book first released that fall.

If you are not familiar with that stellar book, it basically opens with an excellent chapter or two about how reading well written and profound literature can help us grow in Christian virtue. She talks a bit about virtue theory, faith formation, discipleship and growing in one’s faith by way of reading fiction. And then she dives right in, doing a series of excellent book reflections, each novel (or short story) connected to a particular Christian virtue. I say all this to tell you (or remind you if you forgot) that she has a chapter dedicated there to Dickens’s masterpiece, A Tale of Two Cities. That’s the one that starts with those famous words, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” Do you know what virtue she says we can gain as we spend time reading Tale of Two Cities? 

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By the way, Plough Publishing is one of the most interesting indie publishing ventures we’ve seen in our almost 40 years of bookselling and we’ve stocked most of their books since they started publishing. They are firmly planted in the intentional Anabaptist faith communities called The Bruderhof and their books and beautiful journal The Plough Quarterly journal are a true delight and a challenge to both hearts and minds. We thank them for their work and witness in the world, for those who have visited here to our bookstore, and for their willingness to allow us to host their virtual book launch event celebrating Gina’s The Gospel in Dickens. Vielen Dank.

 

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11 books you should PRE-ORDER now. Some of the best, soon to come. 20% off at Hearts & Minds.

 

Here are two shots of Beth and me in book-themed masks specially made and sent to us by good out-of-state Hearts & Minds customers. Nice huh? Thanks, friends.

We are still not open for in-store traffic here in Dallastown. Covid-19 continues to spread in our area and we just don’t feel right about opening up our space. For one thing, there may not be enough ventilation in some of our several rooms.

We enjoy taking things out back to our yard by the rear parking area, serving you al fresco. We can set up a card table and bring out all kinds of things you may want to consider.

If your in the area and the weather is okay, give us a call at 717-246-3333. As always, we’re here 10:00 am – 6:00 pm, Monday through Saturday.

We are doing curbside pick-up and lots of phone consultations, responding to online inquiries and a large number of mail orders. Even though we miss our off site book displays, we’re glad to be in touch with so many of our on-line customers and mail-order friends. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Keep supporting small and indie businesses that you appreciate — believe me, they need the business. I know we do. Stay well, support public health efforts, keep safe. In these hard days, read on!

***PLEASE NOTE:  IF YOU ARE ORDERING MORE THAN ONE TITLE, PLEASE TELL US IF YOU WANT US TO HOLD UP ONE WHEN IT COMES OUT, UNTIL ANOTHER RELEASES, LATER,  CONSOLIDATING THEM TO SHIP TOGETHER  – OR – IF YOU WANT US TO SEND EACH  BY ITSELF PROMPTLY AS EACH RELEASES. Notice the release dates we show and PLEASE LET US KNOW YOUR PREFERENCES.

***TELLING US HOW YOU WANT US TO SHIP IS VERY HELPFUL, TOO. AS WE SUGGEST AT THE ORDER FORM PAGE, WE  RECOMMEND EITHER USPS MEDIA MAIL (which for one or two books is usually about $3.00, depending on the weight and size.) THIS IS CHEAP BUT SLOW – OR – USPS PRIORITY MAIL (which for one or several  books is usually about $7.00 or so, depending on how many, but much cheaper than UPS, It is as quick or quicker that UPS.) PLEASE DON’T SAY “US MAIL” AS THAT ISN’T CLEAR. IT IS HELPFUL IF YOU STATE WHETHER YOU PREFER USPS MEDIA MAIL (again, cheap but slow) or PRIORITY MAIL (faster, but a bit more expensive.) WE CAN DO UPS BUT IT IS REALLY EXPENSIVE UNLESS YOUR BOX IS BIG AND HEAVY. THANKS FOR YOUR COOPERATION AS WE TRY TO SERVE YOU WELL.

The Gospel in Dickens: Selections from His Works edited by Gina Dalfonzo (Plough Publishing) $18.00  OUR SALE PRICE = $14.40  Due September 22, 2020

We gave a brief Victorian top-hat tip to this splendid forthcoming volume when we mentioned in the last BookNotes review of Gina’s other new book (Dorothy and Jack: The Transforming Friendship of Dorothy L. Sayers and C. S. Lewis) that just released. That one is fabulous and is a must for any fans of the Inklings, of course. But this Dickensonian one?

Well, it is one we are very excited about.

In fact, the good people at Plough Publishing — one of our favorite indie presses created by folks at the Bruderhof community who also publish the wonderful Plough quarterly — have helped us set up a Facebook Live event with Gina which I will host with special guest, literary rock star Karen Swallow Prior. How I’ve been considered qualified to join these two astute readers and writers to talk about one of the most legendary literary figures in all of human history, well, it just baffles me. But I’m foolishly game, so will serve as your intrepid host for an hour or so of conversation, insight, inspirational reading from the great Charles Dickens, and the opportunity to win an autographed copy of Dalfanzo’s brand new The Gospel in Dickens. I have offered to forge Saint Charles’s scribbly signature, but the morally impeccable folk at Plough didn’t go for that. It will be, happily, Ms Dalfonzo’s real signature.

You can sign up for this free on-line virtual launch party by registering at the Plough website: https://www.plough.com/en/events/2020/the-faith-of-charles-dickens

For those that may not know, Karen Swallow Prior, who wrote the foreword to this one, has written several books, including On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life Through Great Books (Brazos Press; $19.99) which we helped launch in the old pre-Covid days when we had actual in-store events. It will be fun to connect with the Notorious KSP again on Facebook Live. She’s been as busy as Gina these days, having recently edited and annotated beautiful and sturdy editions of Austen’s Sense and Sensibility and Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. She also co-edited the very useful Cultural Engagement: A Crash Course in Contemporary Issues which came out about a year ago. She’s especially eager to be in on this upcoming launch event with us because she wrote the introduction to The Gospel in Dickens.

Gina Delfanzo is very fine writer; her Dorothy and Jack, as I mentioned, is quite good and an important contribution to both Lewis and Sayers studies. She has what may be the best book on how churches can effectively and winsomely reach single folks in her 2017 book One By One: Welcoming Singles in Your Church. She blogs and offers other writerly pieces for the great “Christ and Pop Culture” website. And she knows her Dickens. Her choices for inclusion in this new volume illustrate her deep and wide fluency. There will be excerpts that some you most likely will expect. For many of us, though, some of these excerpts will be pieces we’ve never read before. It will surely whet your appetite.

This Gospel in Dickens book, by the way, is part of a larger series that Plough has done; you might be tempted to get the whole set, including The Gospel in George MacDonald,  The Gospel in Dostoyevsky, The Gospel in Dorothy Sayers, The Gospel in Gerard Manley Hopkins, The Gopsel in Tolstoy. There are great touches in these well-edited compilations of meaningful excerpts by the famous author, not least the good introductions (J.I. Packer does the one on Dostoyevsky, altough they included a tribute by Malcom Muggeridge) and in some cases, artwork — woodcuts by Fritz Eichenberg enhance the one on Tolstoy. The one with pieces from Dorothy Sayers includes “An Appreciation from C.S. Lewis.” The one that includes selections from the poems, journals, letters, and spiritual writings of Fr. Hopkins has a forward by the former head of the National Endowments of the Arts, Dana Gioia. As you can see, this is a remarkable, affordable, series that carries a certain gravitas alongside the joy of reading some of best literature you will ever find.

And so, we invite you to pre-order this book (by clicking on the “order here” button at the very bottom of this column) and if you are able, join us for a celebration and good conversation with Gina Delfanzo, Karen Swallow Prior and me on September 22nd at 7:00 PM (EST.) We are grateful for your interest and support.

Join us for a celebration and good conversation with Gina Delfanzo, Karen Swallow Prior and me on September 22nd at 7:00 PM (EST.)

Again, to register for the Facebook Live event, click on the link above which will take you to the Plough Publishing website where you can let the know of your interest in attending.

Breaking Bread with the Dead: A Reader’s Guide to a More Tranquil Mind Alan Jacobs (Penguin Press) $25.00  OUR SALE PRICE = $20.00   DUE  September 8, 2020

Well, speaking of the role of older books and significant literature, this is surely one of the books I’ve been most eager to see this year. And it is good, so good. About a year ago I had the great privilege of serving an Epsiopalian Church in the Philadelphia Diocese who had brought Alan Jacobs in to lecture on his extraordinary The Year of Our Lord: 1943 which should have won a Pulitzer Prize, in my view. During that morning of bookselling, Jacobs told me about this project he was working on and it was a true joy to hear a college prof (he teaches at Baylor University) reflect with empathy how so many of his students — perhaps more than before — struggle with anxiety and depress, not to mention distraction and a too frantic pace of life. He wondered if and how reading older authors who wrote about these same things (ha!) might help. Jacobs has two other volumes that are sort of in this genre of literary self help books, making a case for serious reading to help us cope with the perplexities of the modern age — The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction (Oxford University Press; $19.95) and How to Think: A Survival Guide for a World at Odds (Currenty; $24.00.) We used to take them everywhere we went when much of our business was doing off-site book displays. We will simply have to start mentioning them more here — they are tremendous for lovers of good essays, lovely for those who like good writing, and a life-live for most of us who, in this fast-pace world of social media quips and tweets and links and feeds, need to (re)learn the art of reading well and thinking well. Jacobs is a writerly mentor to us all and we can thank God for his work.

And so, Breaking Bread with the Dead helps us.   As the publisher describes it,

In his brilliant and compulsively readable new treatise Breaking Bread with the Dead, distinguished professor and author Alan Jacobs shows us that engaging with the great writings of the past might help us live less anxiously in the present. Today we are battling too much information, a society changing at lightning speed, algorithms aimed at shaping our every move, and a sense that history is not a resource, only something to be vanquished. The modern solution to our problems is turn inwards, to surround ourselves only with that which is like us. Jacobs’ answer is just the opposite: to be in conversation with, and to be challenged by, the great thinkers of the past. What can Homer teach us about force? What does Frederick Douglass have to say about our difficulties with the Founding Fathers? And what can we learn from modern authors who are doing this work? How can Ursula K. Le Guin teach us to see the women of the canon differently? Breaking Bread with the Dead is a close reading with a gifted scholar of texts from across the ages… By agreeing to a conversation with the past, we can draw on more wisdom than the modern consciousness offers.

Here, now, I can only entice you with a few quick lines from others, hoping it will reassure you that this will be a few bucks well spent and a few hours that might be just exactly what you need — regardless of your age. But if you know any college students, it would make a great gift, especially for them, eh?

Alan Jacobs has given us a toolbox stocked with concepts that balance the pop of a self-help book with the depth of a college seminar. Breaking Bread With the Dead is an invitation, but even more than that, an emancipation: from the buzzing prison of the here and now, into the wide-open field of the past. –Robin Sloan, author of Sourdough

A provocative self-help book that challenges conventional wisdom about why we read and where it can bring us. We are distracted and today our reading, from link to link, has left us light. We need engagement and most of all, we need the grounding and weight from knowing our past. This elegant book moved me, especially when it led me to rethink time with my mentors and how they taught me, to paraphrase Wordsworth, what to love and how to love. On so many pages, I found things I know I will carry forward. –Sherry Turkle, Professor of Social Studies of Science and Technology at MIT, best-selling author of Reclaiming Conversation and Alone Together

Alan Jacobs captures the nervous joy of helping students discover that writers of “the long ago and far away” can mitigate the feeling of unmoored loneliness that afflicts so many young people today. Never scolding or didactic, Breaking Bread with the Dead is a compassionate book about the saving power of reading, and a moving account of how writers of the past can help us cope in the frantic present. –Andrew Delbanco, author of The War Before the War

A beautiful case for reading old books as a way to cultivate personal depth in shallow times. Breaking Bread with the Dead is timely and timeless — the perfect ending to the trilogy Alan Jacobs began with The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction and continued with How To Think. I’ve stolen so much from these books. So will you. –Austin Kleon, bestselling author of Steal Like An Artist

The title, by the way, of this great new hardback, comes from the poet and Christian convert W. H. Auden, who said that “art is our chief means of breaking bread with the dead.”  Pre-order this or any other title you want by clicking on the order form link at the very end of this BookNotes post.

Work and Worship: Reconnecting Our Labor and Liturgy Matthew Kaemingk & Cory B. Wilson (Baker Academic) $29.99   OUR SALE PRICE = $23.99   Due November 17, 2020

This extraordinary volume isn’t due until mid-November but since I am sending this BookNotes out on Labor Day weekend, I wanted to put this one up here near the top of my list of great forthcoming titles. It deserves to be high on your list, too. What a work of love and Christian scholarship, thoughtful and relevant, powerful and true. We need this book to be widely read and taken to heart. My own advanced reader manuscript — thanks to Baker for providing this to help me do my own job! — is dog-eared and highlighted and your volume will be to, I’m sure. It’s that good. And, to be honest, rare. Few books (even the many, many good ones on a theology of culture, a Christian view of culture, and the many or liturgical reform or deepening our view of worship) accomplish as much as this one does.

Since we serve church groups, pastors and worship leaders of various sorts, I suppose you know we have a large selection of books about church worship, about liturgy and gathered church. From contemporary to ancient (to those that combine ancient-future styles) we have a plethora of books about worship and resources for worship planning. But none do what this book does.

As I said at the Hearts & Minds facebook group yesterday, we are proud that we have done a good number of BookNotes columns offering lists of books about faith and work, about vocation, calling, careers and jobs. I’ve told some of my own stories of work history, offered a video clip of James Taylor singing “Millworker” and, of course, annotated dozens of books, Christian and otherwise. From deep reporting like the incredible Factory Man: How One Furniture Maker Battled Offshoring, Stayed Local, and Helped Save and American Town by Joanne Macy to luminous literary reflections like Finding Livelihood: A Progress of Work and Leisure by Nancy Nordenson to philosophical studies of blue collar work like Matthew Crawford’s remarkable Shop Class as Soulcraft to wise Christian standards like Work Matters by Tom Nelson, Every Good Endeavor by Timothy Keller & Katherine Leary Alsdorf, and Kingdom Callings: Vocational Stewardship for the Common Good by Amy Sherman (and so, so many more) we’ve offered more varied resources perhaps than any other store in America. Helping ordinary congregants of Christian churches relate their faith outside of the church walls, even at work on Monday morning, was one of the driving motivations for why we opened Hearts & Minds and curate the sorts of books we do.

Just when I thought we had enough books on this topic with not too much more to say, we celebrated the fun, provocative, insightful must-read paperback by my friend John Van Sloten, nicely called Every Job a Parable: What Walmart Greeters, Nurses, and Astronauts Tell Us about God (NavPress; $14.99.) It is laden with delightful insights drawn from John’s workplace interviews, pastoral care offered for his parishioners in their jobs, and sermons he’s done on how various jobs can reveal to us not only good stuff about God’s good world but about God’s own character. I’m telling you, this is the real deal and a great read.

We were delighted to honor Working in the Presence of God:  Spiritual Practices for Everyday Work by Denise Daniels & Shannon Vandkewarker (Hendrickson; $24.95) as one of the best books of 2019 — released last fall, this is, again, a master work by someone who has worked in a variety of jobs and has thought deeply about a theology of and spirituality for the workplace. It’s now on my must-read list for those wanting a library on this growing body of literate and this frutiful twenty-first century mission field because it brings to us a thoughtful guide to work-related spiritual disciplines and practices (think of Tish Warren’s Liturgy of the Ordinary or Jamie Smith’s books on habits and cultural liturgies.)

The spiritual practices outlined in the book can be seen in these chapter-titles — The Liturgy of Commute, Workplace as Holy Ground, Surrendering the Calendar, Reading Scripture in Your Workspace, Affirmation of Calling, Gratitude for God’s Blessing, Celebrating Success at Work, Confession at Work, Lamenting Work, Solitude: Working in God’s Presence, Prayer of Examen for Work, and Sabbath: Ceasing from Work.

Good stuff, eh? It is a book that could be read in tandem with Work and Worship.

We frame this call to think Christianly about our careers and the practices of actually how to embody our ideas about serving God in the workplace by more general books on vocation and calling — from the likes of the upbeat Garden City by John Mark Comer to the gentle Let Your Life Speak by the Quaker Parker Palmer to the eloquent and profound The Call by Os Guinness to more general works (like, obviously, Visions of Vocation: Common Grace for the Common Good and the lovely little hardback A Seamless Life: A Tapestry of Love & Learning, Worship & Work by Steve Garber, and everything by Andy Crouch, especially Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling and Playing God: Redeeming the Gift of Power.)

A uniquely Christian worldview or social imagination undergirds it all, so we routinely promote books like Transforming Vision by Brian Walsh & Richard Middleton, Creation Regained by Al Wolters, and almost everything by James K.A. Smith.  In the last half of year I’ve been thrilled with fresh conversations about this missional vision of the meaning of public life found in great volumes such as The Symphony of Mission: Playing Your Part in God’s Work in the World by Mike Goheen & Jim Mullins and, even more recently, the stunning Exiles on Mission: How Christians Can Thrive in a Post-Christian World by Paul Williams.

Which brings me back to this invitation to pre-order Work and Worship: Reconnecting Our Labor and Liturgy by Kaemingk and Willson, releasing as a thick paperback in November.  It is simply extraordinary, thoughtful, interesting, deeply aware, inspirational. It has tons of serious footnotes and while rooted in the neo-Calvinism of Kuyperian tradition (see the great foreword by Nicholas Wolterstorff) it is widely ecumenical. There are pictures of early church artwork, illustrations from Medieval woodcuts,  sidebars of Puritan prayers, reprints of prayers for the global church, and photos of some modern-day churches that have done artful worship space designs honoring the gifts and callings and tools of the ordinary workplaces of the parishioners. Designed to help us think about how better worship might inspire more fruitful cultural engagement and work-world reform, it is for both professional church folks and worship leaders and those who, like most of us, spend our days outside of the congregational space.

I appreciate that right up front in the introduction,

While this is an academic work of theology, it does not subscribe to the traditional theory-praxis method (theology first, application second.) Instead, it takes the work of the people, their lives and labors, as its starting point for biblical and theological investigation and reflection.

I will surely be naming Work and Worship as one of the Best Books of 2020 and will tell you more about it later, as time allows. There are very few books like it, and none that take up this project as seriously as they do. For now, I offer these great endorsements by leaders in this whole movement of inviting conversation and equipping of folks for relating calling and careers, Sunday and Monday, liturgy and life, faith and work..

Read these endorsements carefully, and send us an order. It means a lot to us to sell books like this and we hope you’ll take us up on this opportunity for a very important reading experience.

“Here, finally, is the book that will take the ‘faith and work’ conversation to new depths of intentionality. With theological clarity and real-world accountability, Kaemingk and Willson mend what we have rent asunder. Advancing scholarship in theology of culture, it is also a must-read for those who lead worship for workers–which includes, of course, everyone. This should become a standard textbook, for the sake of the church and for the sake of the world.”
— James K. A. Smith, Calvin University; author of Desiring the KingdomYou Are What You Love, and On the Road with Saint Augustine

“Kaemingk and Willson make an inspired contribution to the underdeveloped connection between work and worship in Christian life. They do not take the predictable approach of beginning with a theology of work and applying it to worship; rather, they come at it from the opposite direction, proposing that when references to labor are faithfully represented in the liturgy, it forms us for the work we ultimately present to God in all vocations.”
— Constance M. Cherry, Indiana Wesleyan University; author of The Worship Architect

“Born of years of deepening commitment and maturing insight, the great gift of this groundbreaking book is its remarkably rich study of Scripture and history, showing that the deepest, truest witness through the centuries comes from an understanding of liturgy and labor–which is surprisingly seamless. Work and Worship is a gift to the church.”
— Steven Garber, Regent College; author of The Seamless Life: A Tapestry of Love and Learning, Worship and Work

“In this beautiful and timely tome, Kaemingk and Willson argue quite persuasively and winsomely how work and worship were meant to be seamlessly coupled. They skillfully and methodically trace the rich biblical, theological, and historical foundation of this work and worship coupling across diverse people groups and cultures, ancient and modern. It is my earnest prayer that this book finally reunites and binds together–forever–these two vital segments of our lives.”
— Luke Bobo, director of strategic partnerships, Made to Flourish

You can order this easily by following the directions at our secure order form page. Just click on the “order here” link at the very. bottom of this BookNotes newsletter. Not much work at all.

The Liturgy of Politics: Spiritual Formation for the Sake of Our Neighbor Kaitlyn Schiess (IVP) $17.00  OUR SALE PRICE = $13.60                        Due September 6, 2020

Well, if the above, ecumenically-minded book rooted in the neo-Calvinist tradition of Dutch Reformed “all of life redeemed” theologian Abraham Kuyper relates the formative power of worship to our understanding of work, relating liturgy and labor, then this book similarly asks what kind of liturgy can give rise to faithful citizenship. In a sense, to maintain my alliteration, it relates prayer and politics.

Like the topic of faith and the work-world, this, too, is a defining topic for us here at Hearts & Minds and I suspect we have more (and more varied) books about Christian views of politics and public life then nearly any Christian bookstore in the country. Again, our passion for seeing Christ’s own Lordship known and God’s own glory offered (done, or so the Bible says, by doing justice and loving others well) has been our motivation to stock books and write BookNotes columns on thoughtful, non-partisan views of faith and public justice, Christian views of statecraft and our citizenship. I’ve weighed in on a lot and you can use the search engine at our archived BookNotes reviews to see many important resources. My lefty friends think I read too much moderately conservative authors and my conservative friends think I’m way off base. As hard as that is (and it is!), we end up where we are often by reading about faithful efforts to integrate a Biblical social theology with the complexities of modern political life. We’ve been mentored mostly through organizations, magazines, speakers, conference, and books that offer this “neither left nor right” but distinctively Christian third way approach. I bet if yoiu are like me, you don’t hear your church telling you to honor God by being something other than what the current political imagination offers. (My own good church does implore us to be kind and socially involved, and I suppose yours at least does that. But we need more, much more.)

I often recommend Shane Clairborne’s colorful book Jesus for President: Politics for Ordinary Radicals (Zondervan; $19.99) for a healthy dose of Biblical politics but as I sometimes say, Jesus isn’t running this year. Which leads us to harder thinking about social ethics and public theology and — if we want to “take every thought captive” (2 Corinthian 10:5) and not be “taken captive” by worldly ideologies (Colossians 2:8) then we have to dig into the deeper political theories that shape the main movements of our time and learn to be discerning about what is consistent with Biblical truth about the nature of things civic. David Koyzis’s Political Visions & Illusions: A Survey & Christian Critique of Contemporary Ideologies (IVP Academic; $33.00) is hefty and a bit deep but the go-to book on this very thing. It is exceptionally important. James Skillen’s The Good of Politics: A Biblical, Historical, and Contemporary Introduction (Baker Academic; $24.00) offers a comprehensive look at how different Christian theologians and thinkers and leaders down through the ages have viewed the task of the state; if we want a Christian perspective we have to do this kind of interpretive work about this central matter: what is God’s good gift of government supposed to be doing? I’ve often said that one of the most useful resources to get a process of developing a wise and prudent and Christianly conceived policy platform is Ron Sider’s excellent Just Politics: A Guide for Christian Engagement (Brazos Press; $24.00.) In other BookNotes columns I’ve recommended some that offer debate between those with different views so you can sort through the various options on offer within the Christian tradition, at least being informed of legitimate options.

I share these reminders now because I want you to know what some of the best, most foundational books are in this particular (political) field and to suggest this, too: most of us don’t have pastors or preachers or worship services or prayer groups that are significantly informed by any of this. Congregations I know are mostly a-political, not really underscoring how our liturgy effects life, how our prayers shape us into citizens. Some do have a missional sort of scope of vision but just tend to tilt left while some tilt right; not too many seem very intentional about a deeply integrated Biblical orientation that might give rise to what might be fairly called Christianly faithful politics.

The brand new book by Kaitlyn Schiess fits into this conversation, I think, of longing for a better way to think faithfully about public life and political culture than (as is too often the case) to merely mirror either the right or the left or muddled middle. It calls us to fresh thinking and faithful public witness. One of the chief assumptions is that many younger adults, especially, are just weary of the political legacy they’ve inherited with their churches and they hunger for a better approach. At least that is what it says boldly on the back cover.

The Liturgy of Politics isn’t just a shrill protest about the religious right or the often goofy ways some Christians (without much intentionally Christian insight praise) MAGA and Trumpian power. That is fairly low-hanging fruit and we need more. No, this author is digger deeper, asking why it is that many of us (left, right and center) have adopted values and assumptions and habits of heart and practices about civic life from the political culture itself; we have allowed ourselves to somehow be taken captive and fundamentally shaped in our public views and attitudes by forces other than the gospel. If you’ve read even the first part of Jamie Smith’s You Are What You Love you’ll recognize some of her argument. If you appreciate even some of Jim Wallis’s recent Christ in Crisis? Reclaiming Jesus in a Time of Fear, Hate, and Violence I think you’ll see what she is getting at; we resort to political views and parties without much consideration of how the Bible itself and Jesus Himself informs those choices. Our misguided and unfaithful citizenship is an example, she shows, of inadequate spiritual formation. We’ve not lived into the hope of Romans 12: 1-2, and a few motivational sermons to get involved or finger wagging exhortations aren’t going to have the gospel-centered, transformative impact we need.

Of course if you were one of the many who expressed enthusiasm for the (&) project and the recent release of their wonderful Compassion (&) Conviction: The and Campaign’s Guide to Faithful Civic Engagement by Justin Giboney, Chris Butler, and Michael Ware (IVP; $22.00) you will understand more of why we so urgently need to examine our faith and spiritual formation practices so we can become the kind of people who live well in the public square and vote their consciences in light of the Biblical principles of public justice. I think many of us are wishing for fresh insights about the mess we’re in and what to do about it. Michael Wear, in fact, wrote the foreword to The Liturgy of Politics.

Here is what Matthew Kaemingk (author of the forthcoming Work and Worship) says of The Liturgy of Politics:

Many young evangelicals — weary of politics and the culture wars — have begun to disengage from political life. Tired of the narrow-minded politics of the right and left, these evangelicals long for something more–something beyond ideology and sound bites. Kaitlyn Schiess has answered her generation’s call. Drawing on Scripture, history, and contemporary political theology, she offers a robust and accessible political ethic that avoids the old pitfalls of the Christian right and left. She deftly explores how worship and spiritual disciplines can not only liberate evangelicals from destructive political ideologies but actively move them into God’s alternative political mission of public justice and shalom. —Matthew Kaemingk, assistant professor of Christian ethics and associate dean, Fuller Theological Seminary
I love the work of Kristin Deede Johnson who is a dean and teacher of Christian formation at Western Theological Seminary and co-author the the excellent Justice Calling:  Where Passion Meets Perseverance (Brazos Press; $20.00.) If she recommends something, you know it’s going to be good:
This is the book I have been waiting for! There could hardly be a more important topic for our cultural moment than the connection between Christian formation and politics. Kaitlyn Schiess persuasively and powerfully argues that Christians are being deeply formed by the political currents in which we swim, although we don’t often realize it. She then casts a beautiful biblical and theological vision for intentional Christian formation that, by God’s grace, shapes us into disciples who love God as we attend to the life of the world. While giving detailed attention to how and why we practice prayer, Bible reading, worship, Sabbath, and the sacraments, Schiess casts a sweeping and winsome vision of the Christian life, including political engagement and so much more. This book will itself be deeply formative for all who read it. It needs to be read by pastors, youth ministers, worship leaders, small groups, college and seminary students, and all who care about faithful discipleship and formation today.”  —Kristin Deede Johnson, dean and professor of theology and Christian formation at Western Theological Seminary

I hope you get this new book for yourself as a citizen. I hope you suggest it to your Bible study or prayer group. I hope you get it for your preacher and your spiritual director, too, if you’ve got one. If you know any worship leaders, they need it. This really is a key work on the importance of intentional church life, disciple-making, good worship, and spiritual formation practices that are for the world and help us with better engagement with our political system.

I mentioned above one of my mentors in all of this, the brilliant James Skillen, founder of the Center for Public Justice. He says “read this book now!” Jim doesn’t endorse many books, but here is what he nicely says about The Liturgy of Politics:

This is a powerful challenge from a young heart and a mature mind. Schiess seems to touch every unexamined habit of Christian thought, work, leisure, and worship. With a wide sweep of life’s liturgies and church liturgies, of spiritual formation and political responsibility, of Bible reading and communication with others, Schiess goes straight for the heart in relaxed conversation that packs a prophetic punch about our complacency, ignorance of Scripture, cultural conformity, and more. Her urgent message is for communities of Christian faith to repent and turn ourselves over entirely to God, as disciples of Jesus Christ have always been called to do. It is hard to imagine how this young woman has been able to read so widely and think so profoundly about so much of life. Here you’ll find fresh insight and compelling hope that will renew your labors for the coming of God’s kingdom. Young people, old folks like me, and everyone in between, read this book now! —James W. Skillen, author of The Good of Politics, former president of the Center for Public Justice

Skillen is right — she has thought well about a lot and her footnotes are simply spectacular. She’s read a lot and cited all kinds of authors. Wow. This is quite a book. Order it today by scrolling down to our “order here” button at the end of this column. It’ll take you to our secure order form page. Fill in the info. We’ll send your book out right away.

The Sacred Overlap: Learning to Live Faithfully in the Space Between J.R. Briggs (Zondervan) $19.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $15.99  Due September 8, 2020

Oh, how glad I was to get an early copy of this and be given the opportunity to take a look. J.R. is an energetic church leader, founder of Kairos Partnership, an excellent author of several great books, and a friend of Hearts & Minds. That he wanted to send some of his fans and readers our way means so much. What a great “sacred overlap” between author and booksellers. We are jazzed, honored and energized to think of this simple partnership, an overlap of sorts.

Well, that may be a bit allusive, but here’s my point for saying that, other than to affirm that we feel close to this author and his brand new book. The book is (among other things) about that nearly mystical sense of overlap, of God’s ways and our own, of God’s Spirit and the ordinariness of daily life. It is about embodiment, living in the real world, and yet realizing — on our good days, thanks to God’s active grace in our lives — a holy sense of God’s own presence. We don’t have to choose between the ordinary stuff of the quotidian and the spiritual, say, but can honor the mystery of both/and.

Picture one of those Venn diagrams like on the colorful cover, two circles, maybe think of the Earth and Heaven, or, in common parlance, the secular and the sacred. Think about our daily experiences, fine and bad, meaningful and crappy. And think about God’s realm, glorious and good. Might those two circles overlap? A little? Can we live with one foot in this world and another in the new creation that is yet to come? Might the future break into the present?

Of course, Jesus is the One in which we see the fully human and fully divine combined most clearly. He is the sacred overlap par excellance. And he made this world and is alive and well, reigning over it, even as the promise of newness is yet to be fully seen; we all know in our bones that things are not as they are meant to be, as they someday will be. It’s both/and, Kingdom come and Kingdom yet to come.

Christians at their best honor the glories of creation and the wonder of this good world and want to even affirm that it “declares” the God’s speech, as Psalm 19 puts it. But we are not pantheists; we do not worship the creation, but the Creator. (By the way, I think it is a cheap shot offered by some that those Christians who take seriously the Biblical call to care for the earth, to steward well and even celebrate our oneness with all created things are thereby pantheists; I am confident that most of those Christians working for sustainability and against climate change are not pantheists. We care about creation because God does; one only need recall Psalm 96 or John 3:16 or Colossians 1:16 to be reminded of this. We find spiritual motivation to enjoy the outdoors and to be vigorous in protecting the Earth from those that want to hurt it, but that doesn’t mean we worship it. It’s a cheesy, mean-spirited cheap shot and those that have made it — usually those on the Christian right who claim to believe the Bible but on this score seem not to have read it very carefully — ought to ponder God’s redemptive love for and presence among the creation itself. We attend to the glorious creation and we worship the Creator; it’s not either/or but both/and.

I use this example to suggest that we all could use a refresher course on the relationship of Heaven and Earth, the divine and the commonplace, the spiritual and the mundane, and JR Brigg’s new book is  a unique and fruitful way to accomplish this. The Sacred Overlap: Learning to Live Faithfully in the Space Between is fun and interesting and learned and missional, it’s firing on so many pistons and raising so many fascinating matters that I cannot think of a reader who won’t enjoy it and be edified by it. It’s a call to wholistic living, honoring both/and approaches and wholistic practices. It will help you “embrace the tensions of living in two worlds” as he puts it

Two worlds? Well, not exactly — we live in one world but our experience is both temporal and eternal, profane and sacred. Jesus said the Kingdom is here, but yet told us to pray for it yet to come in fullness. Some call this the “already but not yet.”

At the very least, to get at this paradoxical truth, we need Briggs’s reminder that a radical trust in God (and a radical love for others) emerges best from a perspective that is less either/or but embracing both/and.

Jen Pollock Michel wrote an award winning book on this exact thing (Surprised by Paradox: The Promise of And in an Either/Or World) and it’s great to see her lively endorsement on the back of Sacred Overlap. She writes:

To embrace both/and faith is risky—and rewarding— business. It’s risky for those who prefer control to trust, simplification to nuance. It’s rewarding for those who appreciate just how much surprise is involved in following Jesus. The Sacred Overlap will prove immensely helpful for both personal discipleship and corporate mission.

Briggs writes,

Read the gospels and you’ll see how Jesus was committed to crossing cultural, social, political and religious either/or waters, engaging in many and/also activities. He comforted the disturbed and also disturbed the comfortable. He was too religious for the pagans and also too pagan for the religious elites. He hung out with filthy lepers and also dined with the filthy rich. He was alarming and disarming at the same time.

Maybe this “both/and” worldview can help us not only get beyond the debilitation “sacred vs secular” dualism that plagues us, but can push us into the public square with a gracious and ground-breaking, ground-finding mission of reconciliation. We can embrace words and deeds, so to speak. We can become, like Jesus, a “scandalous  misfit” (as JR puts it) “hanging with saints and sinners.”  With wit worthy of one of his mentors, Leonard Sweet, je says we can all “double major” — embracing justice and grace. Our faithful presence, shaped by a realization of a sacred overlap, can perhaps offer a healing balm which our country so badly needs, allowing us to embrace the tension of both conviction and civility. A deep appreciation of a sacred overlap allows us to be surprising, unexpected, refreshing, even. (It is no surprise that the Fresh Expressions church planting movement is part of his backstory.) This rejection of either/or, line-in-the-sand binaries and a creative embrace of “the space between” is bound to bear good fruit, in our own personal growth and in our ministries and public witness.

Here is what author Tod Bolsinger says:

“This book should be read by all those who want to be formed into someone who can personally participate in crossing divides and working for a genuinely restorative common good—and are willing to have their assumptions challenged every step of the way.”

Pre-order this book today by clicking on the order form link at the end of this BookNotes column. If the book is right, it will be a religious experience, with a divine overlap between commerce and spirituality.  And if that is so, who knows where it will all lead. As Len Sweet says of Sacred Overlap, “J.R. Briggs has written the book we have been waiting for.”

I Am Restored: How I Lost My Religion but Found My Faith Lecrae Moore (Zondervan) $26.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $21.59  Due October 13, 2020 

I can hardly think of another figure in pop culture who represents some of the best impulses these days of culturally-savvy evangelical faith than the writing, speaking, activism, and music (recording and performance) of the hip hop artist known as Lecrae. Lecrae is, to be honest, more thoughtful and well informed and mentored than many Christian pop music stars and celebrity worship leaders, some who wouldn’t read a book if their life depended on it and spout all kinds of bland nonsense on stage and even on their records.) I respect Lecrae and know he has been deeply influenced by some of the very books and theological traditions I’ve mentioned above (see my prelude to the description of Work and Worship, for instance, where I mention Al Wolter’s Creation Regained or Andy Crouch’s Culture Making, etc.) As a black man of informed, serious faith in the hip hop culture (and within the predominantly white, evangelical youth and young adult subculture) Lecrae has navigated things well. His first book, Unashamed is powerful and inspiring in many ways.

I Am Restored, I am told, is every bit as good, perhaps an even more riveting read. It explores his own past, his own experiences of abuse and trauma. (I think of the amazing, unforgettable, vulgar, tender, memoir by Laymon Kiese, entitled Heavy: An American Memoir.) I know Lecrae in his forthcoming book will talk about his own pain, his doubts, his reading of Reformed theology, his involvement with various sorts of religious organizations; he will surely talk about BLM; he will offer insights about his own fears and struggles, about therapy and self-care, even in these hard times.

If you want to get this as soon as it is released, use our order form which is found at the end of this column. The “order here” takes you to our secure order form page where you can follow the directions about safely entering credit card info and we’ll take care of the rest.

Broken Signposts: How Christianity Makes Sense of the World N.T. Wright (HarperOne) $27.99   OUR SALE PRICE $23.39  Due October 6, 2020

I have not yet seen this although I will say without hesitation that this should be on the stack of anyone who is a reader of books about our cultural malaise, about how to understand our moment in social history, and, more, about how the gospel of Christ’s Kingdom can offer a compelling and relevant explanation for our world. Certainly if you are into apologetics you need this. If you want good but accesible writing, a serious but popular level apologetic that is astute about society, about the human heart, about the Biblical worldview and about the Gospel of John (especially, in this one) this book is a must-have. You should pre-order it from us today. As much as I truly appreciated his great little volume God and the Pandemic that came out a few months ago (best read in tandem with Walt Brueggemann’s brief but amazing Virus as a Summons to Faith) many of us have been waiting for this particular project for a long time. It is a sequel to his excellent Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense.

To explain  Broken Signposts I should remind you about Simply Christian.

Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense, you should know, is designed for those who are inquirers to the Christian faith, seekers and skeptics (or, probably more realistically, those who want to enter into better conversations with post-Christian seekers and skeptics.) I have suggested it often as it does, intentionally, what C.S. Lewis does in Mere Christianity, with several unique improvements.

One significant difference, is that the middle portion of Simply Christian is a good overview of the entire Biblical story. Unlike Lewis, Wright is a Bible teacher and the Word is central to his argument that that Story, the drama of Scripture itself, gives an account for and offers meaning into, our own stories, our lives, such as they are.

Secondly, there’s this: C.S. Lewis is famously making an argument from our lived experiences, our longings and desires and wishes and aches. There must be more to life if  we sense some longing; there must be some ultimate Home if we all experience some profound homesickness. He writes in lovely prose about his own sweet home with lots of books and big cups of tea. Don’t we all want to be back to that safe place and is not that exact wistful longing some signal of transcendence? That is, if there is a place we long for, maybe there is exactly such a place. Maybe the call we hear from home is coming from a real Caller. God and heaven are most likely real because we are seem wired for this wishful thinking, this near universal desire for Something, based on some memory wired deep within us..

This is all well and good (and it is!) except here’s the thing: few postmodern, contemporary readers feel about their homes the way Lewis in the early-mid 20th century felt about his. The concern is more complicated than this, but many college-age young adults have told me — I bet they’ve told you if you’ve had this kind of conversation with them, which I hope you have — that Mere Christianity just doesn’t cut it. They do not resonate with it, as some may say. Others are enraged by the assumptions that home was a safe haven and that God is a good daddy; this is not their experience, in their childhood homes or in this culture. Lewis’s elevated prose and classical arguments made with these pleasant images may have worked for certain sorts of readers in earlier times but it is increasingly obvious that many can’t go there nowadays.

Enter Tom Wright with his version of Mere Christianity, Simply Christian, first published in 2010. NT Wright suggests that Lewis (whose books were very important in his own coming to faith, by the way) is correct — we are built for something, we are wired, so to speak, we hear echos of deep meaning coming from somewhere or Someone. But the deep, nearly universal instincts that give us these longings are not about homesickness for our quaint British home with lovely tea; it is our longing for justice. Is that not the cry of every child — “That’s not fair!”? Where does that come from? And it is for our aching loneliness and anxiety — our longing for good relationships.  Do we not all long for healthy relationships? Is this not why debates about sexuality and LGBTQ+ persons, these days, are so tender and wrought — we all long for intimacy and it is so very, very close to the bone for us all. (I suppose it isn’t true for all of us but as the singer of The Head and the Heart sings in the song “Gone” from their album Let’s Be Still, “We wear our broken hearts on our sleeves.”) Another key “signal of transcendence” that Wright explores in Simply is especially powerful after 9-11 and the rise in global terrorism and mass shootings (perhaps now experienced also as a fear of global pandemics) and that is the longing for security. We all want to be safe, free from persecution and war and danger. And then there is beauty. Who among us doesn’t gasp at a beautify sunset or double rainbow or other exquisite scenes that conjure up an innate appreciation for beauty.

These are the signals or signposts that point us to a reality that, in fact, honors these universal human longings and can explain why they are there and how they went so very badly for so many of us. Our very lived lives in the world God has made points us to the plausible truth of the Biblical teachings about a good creation that went sinfully wrong but that is being answered, redeemed, healed, renewed. (Or as Wright often says in his British way, “sorted out.”)

In the words of Dallas Willard, we told that “N.T. Wright is uniquely qualified to convey the enduring substance of Christian life and thought to contemporary people.” J.I. Packer, called this book “brilliant” said “Bishop Wright is one of God’s best gifts to our decaying Western church…”

And, now, in Broken Signposts: How Christianity Makes Sense of the World he does it again. I’m told Wright expands his “signposts” to seven (adding longings for and experience of freedom, truth, and power) and insists that every worldview must somehow given an account of these “indicators” that are “inherent to humanity.” Why do we long so for right experiences of these things?  Using the Gospel of John as his main source, he shows how Christianity defines each signpost and shows why we so often see them as being “broken.”  And what good news there is about what can and will be done to “sort it all out.”

As the publisher has promised:

Drawing on the wisdom of the Gospels, Wright explains why these signposts are fractured and damaged and how Christianity provides the vision, guidance, and hope for making them whole once again, ultimately healing ourselves and our world.

Pre-order this now at our discount price using our link to our secure order form page at the bottom of this column. We are grateful.

Nailed It: 365 Readings for Angry or Worn-Out People (Revised and Expanded) Anne Kennedy (Square Halo Books) $18.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $15.19   Due October 1, 2020

Do you want a daily devotional that isn’t, um, overly sweet and full of religious cliches?  Want a collection of daily meditations that is as messy and complex and (at times) funny as the Bible itself actually is?  Are you maybe tired of the worn sentiments of evangelical faith but need some boost that isn’t off-the-charts sacrilegious. Well, do we have good news for you.

Anne Kennedy, allow me to say, is one heckuva writer. She’s snarky and sarcastic and witty and bold. And, as any reader can tell, loves the God of the Bible revealed in Jesus the Christ. That is, she’s precise and faithfully orthodox in theological concerns that matter most. But let’s face it, sometimes those who are most seriously committed to good theology are nearly insufferable.  And sometimes devotionals can almost make things worse, seemingly unaware of our deep hurts, our anger, and our need for something more real and raw. They writers are often lovely and spiritually mature, but we get bored.

Nailed It was a vibrant collection of Biblical reflections that was previously published by the distinguished by now defunct Kalos Press. Kudos to them for recognizing Kennedy’s good writing and taking a risk or putting out this fiesty anti-devotional.  And Kudos to my pals Ned & Leslie Bustard over at Square Halo Books for seeing something there that needed to be preserved. They bought the rights to this, commissioned her to create new content to make it into a volume with a year’s worth of entries, gave it a striking new cover — the previous drawing of Jael in Judges maybe was a bit much — and we now have one of the great new devotionals for 2020. We hear it will be available in early October; with the Covid complications and supply chain disruptions who knows exactly how smaller, indie presses can get their stuff out there?  We invite you to get this in order to support this artful, sound, publisher.

I like this endorsement by Karen Swallow Prior:

If you think the Christian life is one precious moment after another, you should read this book. And if you think the Gospel is all pap and saccharine, you really should read this book. But if you, like me, long for a devotional that is sharpening, witty, and downright real, well then, you simply must read this book. You will never see the story of the Bible-or your own place within that story-the same way again. Karen Swallow Prior, Ph.D., Author of On Reading Well

Don’t ya love the little snipe at “precious moments.” Well done, SKP; you’ve been reading Anne Kennedy, I see.

Anne Kennedy, by the way, has a B.A. from Cornell University and an M.Div. from Virginia Theological Seminary. She grew up in French-speaking West Africa and traveled all over the world, only to find herself now living in upstate New York, where she mothers her six young children and helps her husband pastor a small Anglican church. Anne blogs at Patheos.com.

Use our button at the end of this BookNotes column to be sent to our secure order form page here at the bookshop in Dallastown. Pre-order it now at our 20% off discount. Then, after you hit send, cry, “Nailed it.”  Okay, that was dumb. But, let’s face it, you can’t do that part over the phone.

The Monster in the Hollows: The Wingfeather Saga Book 3  Andrew Peterson (Waterbrook Press) $13.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $11.19  Due October 6, 2020

The Warden and the Wolf King: The Wingfeather Saga Book 4  Andrew Peterson (Waterbrook Press) $13.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $11.19  Due October 6, 2020

Oh my, the new editions (Books 3 and 4) of the Wingfeather Saga are soon to be released and many of our early/middle elementary age and older customers have been waiting and waiting. (Some of those awaiting are quite a bit older, actually, as these kid’s fantasy books really do have a wide appeal.) You may know that they were written by the multi-talented singer songwriter Andrew Peterson, the head bunny at Rabbit Room. They were, for a while, done in paperback by the cool and very indie Rabbit Room outfit. (You may know their publishing work best for doing the exquisite and very blessed leathery Every Moment Holy prayer books, the large and the small editions, both which we carry, or the lovely leather bound edition of The Light Princess which we’ve reviewed at BookNotes when it first came out.) Andrew Peterson is a thoughtful and good writer and a great individual and we’re delighted that this major publisher picked up and are re-doing all four of the main Wingfeather books. (The previous Book Five, Wingfeather Tales: Six Thrilling Stories from the World of Aerwiar (which we still have in paperback, by the way) will be reissued in hardback in March 2021.)

As we explained at BookNotes back in the early spring when Book 1 and Book 2 were reissued by Waterbrook (that’s On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness and North! or Be Eaten) the fantasy-world stories are not changed from the originals. The re-set type font is a bit better, the black & white illustrated artwork, I think, is better, and they are now casebound (sans dust jacket) hardbacks. At the same price as the old paperbacks. Yay. These are great, fun, adventurous reads and we do recommend them. You should have all four!

Just scroll down to below our logo and click on the “order here” button which will take you to our secure order form page. You can tell us what you want and how you want it sent. Easy.

Howard Thurman and the Disinherited: A Religious Biography Paul Harvey (Eerdmans) $28.99 OUR SALE PRICE = $23.19.  Due October 27, 2020

I could spend much time typing out for you how important Howard Thurman was (and is) as one of the chief thinkers and spiritual writers that fueled the leaders of the Civil Rights Movement. Those who know even a little of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. will know that Thurman was important to him, King’s own ragged copy of Jesus and the Disinherited often carried with him from study to march, pulpit to hotel, church to protest. It remains a very important book and we are always glad when folks order it from us.

Dr. Thurman was a very significant leader in mid to late 20th century black culture. Ebony Magazine, I believe, named him one of the top 50 most important figures in African American history. Naturally, there are several books about him, including his own autobiography that we carried soon after we opened and still stock entitled With Head and Heart.

This forthcoming one by the insightful Paul Harvey is, I predict, going to become known as the standard, the gold-standard, of biographies of the great leader.

And what a book it is. Thanks to a helpful Eerdmans staff member, I got an early draft of the manuscript and it is excellent. Publishers Weekly raved with a starred review. The author seems to really capture the various sides of the complicated Thurman, known variously as a mystic and activist and theologian and institutional leader. He was the dean of the chapel at  Howard University, a chaplain at Boston University (1953-1965), met with Gandhi, wrote for the Quakers, spoke out in favor of nonviolence, planted an interracial church in San Francisco, became a mentor to King and others, and eventually took other leadership roles.

I appreciate Harvey’s good writing and his sensitivity to these various roles, Thurmans inner life and spirituality, his passion for the poor, his articulate hope for a just and meaningful faith for the modern culture. Dr. Harvey is obviously fluent in this material and has been studying this topic for a long time. More than a decade ago he published the provocative and widely reviewed The Color of Christ: The Son of God and the Saga of Race in America. That he has done this work, now, is a major contribution.  I like what the publisher says:

Few historical figures represent such diverse parts of the American religious tradition as Howard Thurman did. By telling the story of his religious lives, Paul Harvey gives the reader a window into many of the main currents of twentieth-century American religious expression.

Howard Thurman and the Disinherited: A Religious Biography by Paul Harvey is part of the very highly-regarded seres of religious biographies published over the years by Eerdmans. The list of this series is remarkable and the biographers are most often historians who are respected in their fields. I’m very excited about this important new release. It will be good for anyone interested in the civil rights movement, the spiritual formation of mid-20th century black intellectuals like King, and, further, for how this living tradition of gospel-based and deeply spiritual lives can motivate and shape those who are servants of the public good, or, as King put it, extremists for love. Very highly recommended. You can pre-order it by clicking on the link that says “order here” below. Thanks.

PLEASE NOTE; IF YOU ARE ORDERING MORE THAN ONE TITLE, PLEASE TELL US IF YOU WANT US TO HOLD UP ONE WHEN IT COMES OUT, UNTIL ANOTHER RELEASES,  CONSOLIDATING THEM TO SHIP TOGETHER  –OR-  IF YOU WANT US TO SEND EACH PROMPTLY AS IT RELEASES. PLEASE LET US KNOW YOUR PREFERENCES.

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Brand new or forthcoming books by friends of Hearts & Minds: ORDER or PRE-ORDER now to help out our indie author friends. 20% OFF

That we remain closed to in-store traffic here in August is surprising, sad, and complicated for us here at the bookstore; we’re still doing lots of out-back curbside/parking lot delivery and appreciate our local friends that have reached out to us. We’re happy to help by bringing things out to you to peruse; we’re at your service! The pandemic remains a huge threat to our land and we are convinced that for the common good and public safety we must play it safe in our little shop here in Dallastown. We beg you to follow the protocols established by the health departments and be careful out there, for all our sakes.

It is agonizing for us to not be out on the road selling books at the conferences, retreats, convocations, training events, and other off-site gigs that connect us with so many of our friends and mail-order customers; we miss seeing some of our favorite people and most loyal bookstore lovers and good organizations.That we’ve lost this major source of income is a serious hit. Please pray for us as we cope with this.

We are glad there continues to be a steady amount of on-line and phone orders and we are working long hours to wrap things carefully and send out orders promptly. That many American books were printed in China (not a possibility, now, obviously) has come back to haunt the publishing industry as many titles are out of stock from the publishers and in between printings for longer than usual as publishers scramble to get in line for the U.S. based, large-scale printers and book binderies that remain. We’re doing our best to fill orders from our various warehouse sources and, we’re told, we are generally doing a bit better than some other providers out there. We are grateful for the chance to serve you in this way and we appreciate your patience as we work with these unusual constraints. Thanks to those in the industry who serve us well even as they are being conscientious.

In this special edition of BookNotes we offer some books that are soon to be released or that have just come out, all authored by friends and supporters of Hearts & Minds. Some of these you may never have heard of and we are eager to give them a bit of a boost and a congenial place for you to place your orders if you want to avoid the greedsters over at that other place that so many justice-seeking book lovers want to avoid. Each of these has a story, each has a Hearts & Minds connection, each are books that we unequivocally endorse for your reading pleasure.

Join us in supporting these under-the-radar books authored by folks we know and trust. ORDER or PRE-ORDER TODAY at 20% off. Read on!

  • If you are ordering more than one title, it is helpful if you tell us if you want us to consolidate your order and ship all books in one package when they are all released or if you want us to send them out as they become available. Or maybe some sensible combo — a few one week, a few others later. Please let us know.
  • As we suggest at the order form page at the website, we can send things the least expensive way (“Media Mail” which for one book is $3) but that is the slowest; it could take a week or more, depending on where you live.  Or, some like to request “Priority Mail”  (about $7) which is as quick as or quicker than UPS but a lot cheaper than UPS… PLEASE let us know your preferences by typing it into the order form page.

Ten forthcoming or brand new books by friends of Hearts & Minds: ORDER or PRE-ORDER now to help out our indie author friends. All 20% OFF

 

What Is Beautiful? written by Abbie Smith Sprunger, illustrated by Ashley Lauren Snyder (Parent Cue /reThink) $24.99  |  OUR SALE PRICE = $19.99

AVAILABLE MID AUGUST

Some of you may know of Abbie (Smith) Sprunger as we have promoted other books she has done, from the very useful Can You Keep Your Faith in College?: Students from 50 Campuses Tell You How (Multnomah Books) to the wonderfully written, exceedingly honest reflections called Stretch Marks I Wasn’t Expecting: A Memoir on Early Marriage and Motherhood (Kalos Press.) She has spoken at the beloved Jubilee conference in Pittsburgh and she now (with her husband Micah) cares for property and souls at a beautiful retreat center near Savanah, Georgia, called Wesley Gardens.

This soon to be released kids book was years in the making and we tried to be cheerleaders and advocates for it as several publishers considered it and artwork was imagined and re-imagined. This very contemporary, very cool version is thrilling, combing a sentimental, lovely affirmation of a girl’s worth with an artful, even edgy, sort of modern design. It’s a great match, the work of Sprunger and Snyder, touching lively prose and captivating colorful images.  It offers a delightful message about what real beauty is, what it is to be beloved, how we can honor ethnic diversity, and more. The art wonderful evokes and matches this hope.

Here is what the publisher is saying about it in the advanced info:

What is beautiful?

It’s a question we all ask at some point in our lives. It’s also a question many of us struggle to answer in a way that satisfies or affirms us. But what if we could change that for our daughters? And our daughters’ daughters? What if we could give them a picture of beauty they can embrace, a picture they can see every day looking back at them in the mirror?

A rhyming illustrated book appropriate for ages 6-12, What Is Beautiful? is a whimsical and refreshing reflection on beauty for every girl at every age.

We hope many consider buying this beautiful gift book and sharing it with girls (or boys, for that matter.) Abbie and Micah are the parents of three children, including one who is adopted from India. As she has allowed her publisher to write, “Given the differences of ethnicity in their home, and raising two daughters, What Is Beautiful? runs personal. Abbie’s story holds lengthy seasons trapped in eating disorders and exercise addictions. Her journey of healing and discovering beauty is reflected in these pages.”

Sustaining Grace: Innovative Ecosystems for New Faith Communities edited by Scott U. Hagley, Karen Rohrer, and Michael Gehrling (Wipf & Stock) $21.00 | OUR SALE PRICE = $16.80

AVAILABLE NOW

This new book is just now hot off the presses and we are very happy, even proud, to be among the first bookstores to welcome it into the world. Now only have we met these editors (and some of the authors, such as an old Pennsylvania pastor pal, Rev. Aisha Brooks-Lytle (now the Executive Presbyter at the PC(USA) Presbytery of Great Atlanta.) I’ve often said I’m an evangelical in a mainline denomination and so, naturally, have been very glad that our PC(USA) began, a few years back, a concerted effort to do what some call “church planting” or “new church starts.” We call the initiative 1001 New Worshipping Communities and it has been quite a journey for those stepping up to begin new faith communities that can, offering safe spaces for often quite fresh expressions of faith, become new and lasting congregations.

This book is not mostly telling that story, though. What the eleven essays in Sustaining Grace does is captured in the subtitle — it “explores the dynamic between new faith communities and denominational systems through the lens of stewardship and sustainability.”  To do that — get this! — they insist that “to facilitate ecologies for innovation in our current era, established congregations and new faith communities must model the sustaining grace of God to one another in creative ways.” You see, there are large, looming questions about how new church plants and start-up congregations can be sustained and that includes conversations and strategies that involve others — other churches, others leaders, congregational systems, denominational judicatories, and more.

In this day and age all congregations, but in very special ways, mainline denominational parishes, simply must grapple with who they are and what they are about; these are foundational questions about discipleship and fidelity to the gospel itself.  And, naturally, this includes how we understand the many implications of our doctrine of stewardship — stewardship of our money, our power, our privilege, and more.

Scott Hagley is a professor of missiology at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and wrote Eat What Is Set Before You: A Missiology of the Congregation in Context (published by the very edgy and important missional press Urban Loft Publishers.) Karen Rohrer is the director of the Church Planting Initiative at PTS (and before that was a co-pastor of Beacon, a new faith community in Philadelphia.) Mike Gehrling is an old friend from his IVCF days and now serves the PC)USA) as an associate for the 1001 New Worshipping Communities project. He was one of the organizing pastors of the Upper Room, a new faith community in PIttsburgh. As you might guess, we’re thrilled that the did this serious volume, helping us refect on and strategize on how traditional churches and new emerging faith communities can work together to advance God’s work in the world.

A non-Presbyterian leader in this space, author and church planter J.R. Woodwood (of V3 and author of the excellent Creating a Missional Culture: Equipping the Church for the Sake of the World) writes:

It takes eleven essays of lived wisdom, from a micro to macro level, from the call of a new church planter, to life in the larger ecosystem of a denomination, to bring a fuller picture of what it means to develop a posture conducive to receive sustaining grace from God and others. As you carefully read through these stories, you will find gems of engaging truth, reminding you God still opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.

Here are two more endorsements well worth pondering, illustrating the unique vibe of this book — it brings together professors and practitioners, denominational execs and local pastors:

Here’s a book on sustainable ministry that is not a drab why-and-how-to-fundraise manual but instead a stirring invitation to imagine the precarity of new worshiping communities as a gift to the whole church. It will prove to be a fruitful conversation starter for all who are involved and invested in seeing new worshiping communities–and not-so-new worshiping communities–flourish.  –Christopher B. James, University of Dubuque Theological Seminary

Hurray for Scott Hagley and his team for taking on the most challenging obstacle for most new worshiping communities, how to become sustainable for longer than the first couple of years. Sustaining Grace helps us to see that starting new churches is not an optional luxury item in the expense line for thriving churches. Instead it is essential for the sustainability of God’s church in all its expressions.  –Vera Karn White, 1001 New Worshiping Communities (Presbyterian Church [USA])

A Sort of Homecoming: Essays Honoring the Academic and Community Work of Brian Walsh edited by Marcia Boniferro, Amanda Jagt, and Andrew Stephens-Rennie (Cascade) $34.00 | OUR SALE PRICE = $27.20

AVAILABLE MID AUGUST

This may be one of the books released in this hard year of our Lord 2020 that I feel as close to as any; it is a manuscript that I’ve had an early version of but was sworn to secrecy about it because it really was a true festschrift — a surprise collection of essays and contributions in honor of the retirement of an important scholar and leader. They kept Brian in the dark for most of the publishing process of this even though there were folks all over the world in on it (from Brian’s wife, Biblical teacher Sylvia Keesmaat and their good friend N.T. Wright and his early partner-in-writing, Richard Middleton.) I will be writing more about this in greater detail as I am just nearly overwhelmed with the brilliance of some of these pieces. It is an honor to help celebrate his ministry (and his friendship with us his encouragement of our work.)

So, I hope you order this now — it releases soon, maybe early in August, and we highly recommend it.

Here, in fact, is something I sent them as an endorsement and blurb for their own publicity.

It is fabulously fun that a book in honor of author, chaplain, activist, and scholar, Brian Walsh is cribbed from a U2 song; Brian has exegeted popular music (including the boys from Dublin) in all of his work, scholarly and pastoral, for 40 years or more. Most of these contributors in this surprise festschrift are not musicians but their writing here sings, rocks, even, as it amplifies the good work of Walsh, offering creative, brilliant chapters about the things Brian has taught us to care about. And what a book it is, deliciously filled with essays on faith and public life, theology and place, justice and passion, city life and ecology, the church of Jesus the suffering King and its mission to include the outsider, the excluded, the ignored, the hurt. And the Bible; always the Bible, speaking wild and free to those with ears to hear. This book will open your ears to the hope and homecoming embedded in the Scripture’s story, with a chorus of voices serving as an encore to the vivid work of Brian Walsh. You should take in this show, and then read it again. It’s that good. And that important.

Seminary prof and author Christopher James puts it even better:

“Be forewarned, this collection will leave you with a case of holy homesickness. This bouquet of contributions explores a range of themes in Brian’s work–eschatology, empire, ecology, and exegesis–held together by a robust thread of home. Poetry, places, and stories make it more than a festschrift; it’s an ode to the beauty of home and a prayer of longing to be at home–with God, one another, and all creation.”

–Christopher B. James, author of Church Planting in Post-Christian Soil

There are great women and men in this book, some you may know (James Olthius and Henk Hart from the early days of the Institute for Christian Studies in Toronto, Stephen Bouma-Predigar, who teaches ecological studies at Hope College in Holland, MI, to the aforementioned Tom Wright) and a few you may not recognize. Every chapter is excellent, each author honoring Brian with her or his unique contribution.

I’ll be saying more later — for now, here is how the back cover puts it:

We live in a culture of collective fear over climate change and mass migration, and we experience increasing intense personal anxiety and despair. How might the Bible’s themes of homecoming and homemaking address our physical, emotional, and spiritual displacement? This collection of essays honors the academic and community work of Brian J. Walsh upon his retirement as Campus Minister at the University of Toronto Christian Reformed Campus Ministry. The collection is a stunning mosaic at once academic and personal—representing the many elements of Brian’s life as pastor, theologian, professor, farmer, mentor, and friend. In an age when “home” feels physically and spiritually elusive for so many, this volume reawakens our imaginations to the foundational biblical themes of homecoming and homemaking. Academic, pastoral, personal, and timely, this volume honors Brian’s career and equips readers to engage the fear and anxiety of our age with the hope of the gospel.

Dreaming Dreams for Christian Higher Education David S. Guthrie (Falls City Press) $18.99  | OUR SALE PRICE = $15.19

AVAILABLE AUGUST 18, 2020

Oh my, is this ever a great, great book. Releasing very soon, it is a collection of essays by a very good friend (and very big encouragement to us, even going to bat for me to earn an honorary PhD a few years back — talk about sticking his neck out!) Many of us (those in the field of higher education and just those who know him and his passion for Kingdom thinking) have long wanted him to write a book.  And this is him at his best — a collection of talks, sermons, lectures, articles, essays, together offering a mosaic of glimmering insights, pieced together beautifully, offering a living example of a person fully committed to the ways of Jesus Christ the true King of the cosmos. Want to know what the implications of this creedal declaration (“Christ is Lord”) might be? Want a glimpse into somebody who earnestly endeavors to have the mind of Christian, developing what might be called a uniquely Christian perspective in his field? Want to know what it’s like to take up a calling and stick to it for a career, trying to make a difference as salt and light and leaven? Dreaming Dreams is a great illustration of that.

Let me be clear: this is a collection of essays about higher education, especially Christian higher education. These are talks or keynote addresses or rousing speeches or down-to-Earth workshops done in places like Calvin University or Messiah College or Grove City College. These are chapters drawn from his call to be better, to be more, to be distinctive and faithful even in how we think about education, about learning, about student development and student affairs. Sure, these are going to be appealing to those of us who care about colleges, but it is not just for faculty or staff in higher ed. Those who work in campus ministry should own this — obviously. But I also think that nearly anyone who is eager to see how a guy thinks about his given vocation, who wants to watch someone working out big dreams and concrete practices that become signposts of the new creation, proposing initiatives that might embody the norms and values of the Kingdom of God within often stubborn and complicated institutions, anybody like that would be energized and instructed by Dreaming Dreams.

The brand new cover is a bit dark and foreboding, it seems. You know that line about it’s just darkest before the dawn, right? I don’t know if that’s what the good folks at Falls City were thinking but the old school college spire and the swirling clouds and the glimmers of light — Guthrie is there. This book is deeply aware that things in our world (and certainly in our institutions of higher learning, not even our faith-based ones) are what they should or could be. Times are tough. Quo vadis?

I am proud of this classy little publisher in Beaver Falls, PA and I’m proud to call this author my friend. I’m eager to commend his collection to you, especially if you are an educator, and certainly if you are involved in higher education at all. You may know not this from full page ads in The Chronicle of Higher Education (although one could wish.) But you can get it from us as we celebrate this small press and this very important book.

By the way, there is an excellent foreword by sociology prof and long time friend and customer, Dr. Bradshaw Frey. And there is an excellent afterword by historian and author Eric Miller. These enhance the book and offer more insight into why it is so very important. Kudos.

Just to show how I value this, here’s an endorsement I sent to them to use in their own PR. Since I’m not in the field, I doubt if my words should grace the back cover, but it’s sincere:

All of us dream dreams, I’m sure we do. But few — even those who loudly proclaim the name of Jesus — dream in a way that is really consistent with the deepest truths of the universe: that in this good, fallen, but being restored world, Christ’s Lordship requires us to rethink everything. For some, it may seem too difficult, but for others, it opens up vistas of adventure and new possibilities, summoning us to become agents of critique, change and reform. Dr. David Guthrie has always seemed to me a dreamer of this second and best kind: critical, hopeful, imaginative, playful, Biblically-inspired, serious, but whimsical; demanding but kind. After reading through this incredible collection of talks, essays, presentations, and reports from the field of higher education, I am sure he is the kind of dreamer that makes God smile. Dreaming Dreams for Christian Higher Education is simply a must read for anyone who wants to “think Christianly” about this particular arena, but I think it should be read by anyone who wants to see how it’s done — how to integrate one’s deepest convictions with one’s vocation, how to resist compartmentalization, and live a hope-filled, seamless life. It is my own great pleasure to recommend this amazing collection of fascinating pieces and dream with Guthrie that this volume could make a real difference.

Thirteen Turns: A Theology Resurrected From the Gallows of Jim Crow Christianity  Rev. Dr. Larry Donell Covin, Jr with a foreword by Sabrina L. Valente  (Wipf & Stock) $19.00  | OUR SALE PRICE = $15.20

AVAILABLE NOW

Rev. Covin is a local UCC clergy-person, a pastor and theologian-in- residence at the historic Trinity United Church of Christ in downtown York. If it were not for the Covid pandemic, we surely would have had him do a live presentation here at the store, celebrating this brand new book with refreshments and autographs all around. What a joy that would have been, redeeming this very space where — decades ago — our bookstore received death threats from the KKK for our promoting of books about Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. Covin’s book has a heavy and hard-hitting theme, important for these hard days. Thirteen turns, you see, is how many loops they would use to make a lynching noose. Ugh, can you believe that such a phrase even exists in the language of white supremacy? But it is a phrase that must be known, a history that must be owned, a context for the doing of faithful Christ like theology in our day and in our place. Yes, even here in Southern York County, and perhaps where you live, too.

Covin’s book, which brings to mind, of course, the important James Cone volume, The Cross and the Lynching Tree, seems to me to redeem the noose allusion by using the phrase “turns” in the way the postmodern scholars sometimes do, meaning shifts or pivots — we even hear of “the postmodern turn.” What turns must we make, what shifts in awareness and orientation do we need to do contemporary theology in its most fruitful context? How can the evil twists of a lynchman’s noose give way to transforming turns, healing insights, what the Bible calls repentance? Dr. Covin ruminates on these, coming up with a baker’s dozen worth of principles. He notes that he learned to think like this, theologically, while studying at Princeton. He has studied and taught in several important places and we are honored to have him here in York.

This small volume of thirteen chapters (some seemingly disconnected at first glance but all profoundly interrelated) deserves to be read carefully. Some chapters are more dense than others, some more analytical, others more sermonic and hopeful. These are the musings of a working pastor, a mainline denominational black theologian, an urban leader and activist.

Here is how the always brilliant Dr. Lee Barrett, professor of theology at Lancaster Theological Seminary describes Thirteen Turns.

“This slender volume is a remarkable and timely achievement. Marshaling insights from a diverse spectrum of thinkers, ranging from Friedrich Schleiermacher to James Cone, the book articulates a powerful African American message of life in the midst of death. Its reflections are both visceral and critical, informed by the memory of Jim Crow lynchings and by the eschatological speculations of Jürgen Moltmann. In the face of the resurgent white nationalism that plagues our era, Dr. Covin offers a revitalizing vision of resilient hope and undaunted resistance.”

The Early Creeds: The Mercersburg Theologians Appropriate the Creedal Heritage edited by Charles Yrigoyen & Lee C. Barrett (WIpf & Stock) $28.00 | OUR SALE PRICE = $22.40

AVAILABLE SOON

One of the events at which we sold books every year was the annual Mercersburg Society conference held at the historic Lancaster Theological Seminary, there near the corner of Nevin and Schaff Avenues, there where there two seminal German Reformed thinkers taught in the late 1800s. Many years the delightfully ecumenical conference — with those from admittedly progressive denominations and profs and scholars from conservative places like Westminister Theological Seminary in conversation about appropriating the brilliance of these older German-American thinkers — are among the most interesting things we do. My theologically minded oldest daughter (an elder at our own church) usually attended and we both miss our foray into this eccentric and often pretty heady sub-culture of theology geeks. Had we gathered this Spring we’d have celebrated this brand new volume in the on-going Mercersburg Theology Study Series. We stock them all, and this new one (obviously on how Nevin, Schaff and others (like John Williams Proudfit )used the ancient creeds looks really useful. The editors not only culled the important polemics from these authors but offer good annotations and introductions. Ask us about the whole series if you like; we got ’em, right here in Dallastown — this one is really important!

Conversations of Faith Anywhere: 31 Sure Conversations Scott Evans (Scott Evans) $10.99 |  OUR SALE PRICE = $8.79

AVAILABLE NOW

It is exciting when one of our good friends and regular customers publishes a book. Scott Evans has worked with the CCO in a variety of capacities and has been a good pal for years, now. Currently he works with atheletes at Franklin & Marshall, a prestigious liberal arts college in Lancaster, PA. It’s been a joy to watch him with students, watching him develop sincere friendships and to appropriately and winsomely  raise questions of faith with them. I hate to use the word “evangelism” but this is a collection of stories, self published first as an ebook and now in print so you can look over his shoulder and listen in to 31 true conversations he has had. Some have been very revealing about faith; some, less so. Some the conversation partner showed great hunger for the things of God while other times there were objections, fears, or conflicts. Scott wrote ’em down as he remembered them, changing some names (getting permission from those who wanted their story told.) I was surprised to see my own name in one as he quoted something he heard me say once — ha; talk about a connection to a book!

We commend this to anyone interested in real conversations as they happened in real time as a way to learn about effective ways to listen well and speak well in evangelistic conversations.

Each chapter has a question to ponder — gives it in the beginning rather than at the end, and you can see why. It ends with a “May you…” invitation, almost spoken like a benediction, maybe like the old Rob Bell videos. This book is nicely crafted to help you think through the faith, stumbling blocks you may have to sharing the gopsel message with others, or questions you have about how to proceed. This isn’t fancy or complicated and therein lies its beauty and strengths. It’s a moving collection of stories, real stories, of real people he met and talked to. Thanks, Scott, for caring about others and for wanting to know God and make Him known to others.

A Burning in My Bones: The Authorized Biography of Eugene Peterson Winn Collier (Waterbrook) $28.00  | OUR SALE PRICE = $22.40

DELAYED — TO BE AVAILABLE MARCH 2021

This is not from an indie press, although the subject, the often quiet, yet fiercely independent Presbyterian pastor from Montana, Eugene Peterson, was indie before that was a thing. He appreciated our independent efforts, applauded us for trying to create something a bit different then the commercialized, cookie-cutter religious shoppes that were so prevalent as he was a rising author. We sometimes commiserated about going to some evangelical trade shows where there were flags and fads and flimflam.  We talked about doing a poetry reading here (although it never worked out although he eventually published a poetry volume, Holy Fool) and after he moved from near us in Maryland, first to Pittsburgh, then to Vancouver, he ordered books from us regularly. Sometimes he’d mail the orders in, then he got a fax machine. We crossed paths from time to time and he told more than one person that we were his sole bookseller, and he didn’t want to change to some newfangled, faceless, system. It was an honor to be one of his mail-order book suppliers. So I list this here as a book we feel deeply connected to.

The writer of this authorized biography, Winn Collier, is one whom we’ve had correspondance with for years. He wants to send business our way not only because he likes us and believes in the ministry of Hearts & Minds, but because he thought Peterson would smile on that effort. Sure, this major release will be available everywhere — on on-line places Peterson didn’t care for and mega chain stores he most likely never visited himself. So we’re grateful to Winn for his help in helping us get the joy of selling A Fire in My Bones. By the way, I absolutely adored Collier’s novel of small church life, Love Big Be Well (which, Peterson himself called a tour de force.)

For those that PRE-ORDER A Fire in Your Bones you can get a special gift, a download of some very nice extra content based on Peterson’s pastoral prayers, transcribed from rare tapes from his time at Christ Our King Presbyterian in Bel Air, MD.  Collier and his publisher have arranged for these to be printed up with some reflections from Winn as an extra blessing for those who order this early.  It would be our great delight to help with that.

God’s Law and Order: The Politics of Punishment in Evangelical America Aaron Griffith (Harvard University Press) $35.00  |  OUR SALE PRICE = $28.00

AVAILABLE NOVEMBER 10, 2020

Okay, this isn’t a small indie press; indeed, Harvard is one of the oldest publishers in America.  But this book deserves a place on this list as Dr. Griffith is a new friend and customer here at Hearts & Minds and we, not too surprisingly, have a bunch of overlapping friends. It’s a delight to know of his work at the fairly recently founded Sattler College in Boston (named after the famous Mennonite martyr; my ears perked up when I heard of a college with that as part of their founding vision!) Aaron is a good guy and has a great heart for the disadvantaged and is profoundly aware issues of race and injustice. In this forthcoming book we will see the fruit of his many years of research and writing. God’s Law and Order: The Politics of Punishment in Evangelical America is important for a number of good reasons and once it releases late this fall, I hope to review it in earnest.

Know this: this book is a fair and mostly appreciative study of the role of faith-based ministries in criminal justice; he especially studies the remarkable prison ministries performed by those in the evangelical tradition. Famously, former Nixon hatchet-man and Watergate crook Charles Colson found a personal relationship with Christ when he was being sent off to prison and after experiencing life in even a minimum security prison, his heart grew soft towards prisoners and he started an evangelistic ministry, still called Prison Fellowship. After reading more wholistic theology and social ethics, even stuff like Abraham Kuyper (I know this personally) Colson grew to realize that doing conventional evangelistic outreach among the incarcerated wasn’t enough so he started Justice Fellowship to offer a uniquely Christian perspective on criminal justice issues (with his team even credited with coming up with a new school of thought within this field, known as “restorative justice.”) I digress, here, because Aaron’s book is not primarily a study of Prison Fellowship, let alone Colson, but that illustrates the territory he is exploring. Have these well intended evangelical outreaches and prison ministries — even those with some deeper commitments to structural engagement and prison reform — been mostly helpful or not? What can we learn about the role of race and racism within these ministries?

And more, how have the very notions of sin and punishment, law and redemption, grace and atonement, God’s ways and social order effect how we tend to think about crime and law? Might conservative Christian theology have influenced how contemporary judges and policy makers do (or don’t do) justice?

Allow me to quote at length the ad copy for the book from the Harvard University Press website. It shows you what this is about and it might give a glimpse of why we here at Hearts & Minds (unlike many Christian bookstores, or so we gather) are eager to stock and take orders for this important scholarly work:

America incarcerates on a massive scale. Despite recent reforms, the United States locks up large numbers of people—disproportionately poor and nonwhite—for long periods and offers little opportunity for restoration. Aaron Griffith reveals a key component in the origins of American mass incarceration: evangelical Christianity.

Evangelicals in the postwar era made crime concern a major religious issue and found new platforms for shaping public life through punitive politics. Religious leaders like Billy Graham and David Wilkerson mobilized fears of lawbreaking and concern for offenders to sharpen appeals for Christian conversion, setting the stage for evangelicals who began advocating tough-on-crime politics in the 1960s. Building on religious campaigns for public safety earlier in the twentieth century, some preachers and politicians pushed for “law and order,” urging support for harsh sentences and expanded policing. Other evangelicals saw crime as a missionary opportunity, launching innovative ministries that reshaped the practice of religion in prisons. From the 1980s on, evangelicals were instrumental in popularizing criminal justice reform, making it a central cause in the compassionate conservative movement. At every stage in their work, evangelicals framed their efforts as colorblind, which only masked racial inequality in incarceration and delayed real change.

Today evangelicals play an ambiguous role in reform, pressing for reduced imprisonment while backing law-and-order politicians. God’s Law and Order shows that we cannot understand the criminal justice system without accounting for evangelicalism’s impact on its historical development.

So, God’s Law and Order: The Politics of Punishment in Evangelical America is going to be an important work. If you have read The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander or the Cambridge University Press book in response to it by our friend Anthony Bradley (Ending Overcriminalization and Mass Incarceration: Hope from Civil Society) or even the amazing must-read Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson you surely know why a book like this is important. Exploring the interface of religious faith and criminal justice is vital and we’re glad to commend to you this contribution by our friend Dr. Aaron Griffith.

Before the book comes out in November, check out his recent article in Christianity Today “Burl Cain Promises ‘Good Praying’ for Mississippi Prisons. It’s Not Enough,” Or listen to the interview in the June 3, 2020 “Quick to Listen” podcast “Do White Evangelicals Love Police More Than Their Neighbors?”

Without Oars: Casting Off Into a Life of Pilgrimage Wesley Granberg-Michaelson (Broadleaf Books) $16.99 |  OUR SALE PRICE = $13.59

AVAILABLE NOVEMBER 17, 2020

This is a forthcoming book that we are very excited to tell you about. Again, it is not out for a while so I can’t say much, but please know that we are often encouraged by the good Wes G-M; he sends notes of encouragement and reminds us why we do this work that we do, selling books about faith, navigating the conversations that arise when we are ecumenical and wanting to encourage reading widely, even across one’s most comfortable theological silos. Wes was raised a conservative evangelical and rose to a remarkably significant role in the World Council of Churches, a matter that has long given him a global vision and care for the world-wide Body of Christ.

He tells about his own journey of faith in the great Eerdmans-published memoir Unexpected Destinations: An Evangelical Pilgrimage to World Christianity in a book which is described by the publisher like this: Unexpected Destinations reveals a unique encounter with evangelical piety, Catholic contemplative spirituality, Reformed theology, Pentecostal practice, and ecumenical efforts — an encounter that dares to envision unity between all these strands of Christianity. It provides fresh historical insights into the evangelical subculture of the 1970s, sheds new light on how denominations today grapple inwardly with such issues as homosexuality and missional renewal, and poignantly relates the joy and pain of one man’s spiritual life journey.”

He brought so much of that global wisdom to bear on his excellent volume published by Fortress in 2018 (with a foreword by the always interesting Soong-Chan Rah) called  Future Faith: Ten Challenges Reshaping Christianity in the 21st Century. He’s done ecological theology and congregational leadership stuff; he did an amazing book on how the expansion of the church of the global south has impacted North American congregations and his most recent was co-authored with Lutheran renewal leader Patrick Keifert, entitled How Change Comes to Your Church: A Guidebook for Church Innovations. 

I’ve written about Wes before at our BookNotes columns and stock all of his books. I think I first met him when I was once visiting the late great Senator Mark Hatfield (who Wes worked for at the time on Capitol Hill) and learned to appreciate his insight and prose stylings when we was an associate editor in the early, heady days of Sojourners.

This forthcoming book is one I’ve been waiting for. As much as we need his wise voice amplifying the call to ecumenicity and nurturing leadership for wise, contemporary churches, and much as I value his deep roots in the broad Dutch Reformed community friends with authors we admire like Nicholas Wolterstorff or Richard Mouw) who speak about the flourishing of culture and visions of shalom regained, this book, I believe, is going to share about his own awareness of spirituality and the “letting go” we are called to in these times.

I’ve not seen the forward, but I am on the edge of my seat just wondering what our friend Diana Butler Bass will say as an introduction. Like Wes, she early on embraced a sincere and deep evangelicalism but grew to find a home in the more ecumenical churches. She was a scholar of religion and an expert on congregational renewal, having written helpful books about parish life. She has a huge heart for social justice and peacemaking (and lost a job over it, as documented in the heart-rending Broken We Kneel.) Her last two books have been about an earthy spirituality (Grounded) and the spiritual practice of thankfulness (Gratitude.) She’s a good and famous writer to lend her support to Granberg-Michaelson’s new one.

In fact, this “letting go” that Without Oars evokes is essential for all aspects of our faith life, it seems, whether one is thinking perhaps in new ways about social ethics and cultural engagement, grappling with new forms of church and parish life, or whether one is embracing the life of pilgrimage, as sojourners and disciples that we are.

I love how the Broadleaf publisher (a new imprint owned by the ELCA folks at Augsburg-Fortess) puts it:

The way of the pilgrim begins with what we leave behind–not so much a journey to a holy place, but a holy practice of leaving the comforts of the familiar for a radical vulnerability, letting the very breath of God direct us on the unknown, stripped-down path of trust. In Without Oars, Wes Granberg-Michaelson blends history, storytelling, biblical insights, personal reflections, and spiritual formation in an inviting call to discover pilgrimage as a way of life. This book offers a unique perspective on the faith journey as an embodied practice of heading into the unknown and unknowable–with all the excitement, risk, and rewards that come with letting go.
Here are just a few of the many wonderful, upbeat, fascinating reviews coming in on this forthcoming volume. It makes us happy to know that a book by our friend is so widely anticipated among different folks.

“Up until now, when you think of spirituality and prayer, you may think of churches, sermons, organs, and words, words, words. If you dare to read this beautiful, courageous, and truly unforgettable book, you will think of feet, dirt, water, food, and dancing. As I read, I saw my past in a new light, and my present and future as well. This book stands out and gives extraordinary gifts.” –Brian D. McLaren, author of The Galápagos Islands: A Spiritual Journey

“Wes’s pilgrim journey invites us into places of disruption, uncertainty, even surrender. He’s a wise guide for this necessary journey. I commend this book to anyone who is open to discovering the treasure found in the detours and disruptions of an authentic faith journey.” –Chuck DeGroat, Professor of Pastoral Care and Christian Spirituality, Western Theological Seminary

Without Oars is a lovely reminder that walking with Christ is a pilgrimage where we are accompanied and nourished in ways that touch the body and soul. This book is soothing and centering without ignoring the hard truths of our lives.” –Rev. Dr. Alexia Salvatierra, Professor of Development Studies, Fuller Theological Seminary

“In Without Oars, Wes Granberg-Michaelson shares the deep wisdom he has gained as a lifelong and contemplative pilgrim whose spiritual practice leads him to strong and effective social action for justice. This book is a genuine must-read for anyone who wants to apply faith to public life. I can’t recommend it highly enough.” –Jim Wallis, Founder and President of Sojourners

House on Fire! A Story of Loss, Love & Servant Leadership Ken Jennings & Mike McCormick (Morgan James) $14.99  |  OUR SALE PRICE = $11.99

AVAILABLE NOW

These are writers from Pittsburgh and this new book is set in the context of (among other things) campus ministry. Wow.

I suppose you know that we lived in Pittsburgh for a few formative years of our lives, affiliated ourselves with the CCO (Coalition for Christian Outreach), worked for the Catholic social action ministry, The Thomas Merton Center, and help form a small intentional community of folks living together in the then gritty East end of the City of Steel. We like Pittsburgh authors, we like stories from Western Pennsylvania church life, and — thanks to the CCO — we still love the time we get to spend with college students. We truly believe that one of the great ways to impact the world for God’s Kingdom is to reach and mentor young adults, especially those studying to go in to strategic profession in their college learning.  It is why we always talk to those who care about college students about books like Learning for the Love of God: A Student’s Guide to Academic Faithfulness (by Derek Melleby and Donald Opitz) and Greg Jao’s little but powerful Your Minds Mission and why I edited my own volume for college graduates, Serious Dreams: Bold Ideas for the Rest of Your Life (published by Square Halo Books.) Yes, college matters and we should help students make it count.

Well. Mike McCormick used to pastor in ‘the burgh and Ken Jennings still does leadership development and training there. He’s part of a PC(USA) church a dear friend of our pastors. He cares about CCO and college work and this new book — one of several that he’s done offering leadership principles by way of a story — is set mostly on a college campus. That is not to say it is written primarily for college students; I do not think it is. It is written for all of us, offering a glimpse into how faith is nurtured and developed as people of good character and capacities (described often as servant leaders) naturally “invest” in the lives of others. Through this easy-to-read, captivating story, we learn about service, faith, transformation, and more.

That the famous Ken Blanchard, who has written often about servant styles of leadership, offers the foreword here is pretty nifty. Not only does he call is “a fast paced adventure about a young woman on a quest” he notes,

I believe House on Fire! will light a flame inside you to  serve, lead, and commit to pursuing the Ultimate Servant Leader in the company of others. …at the end, the call to action by the Rev. Lee Scott will help you think about how you can connect to the servant leadership movement in which Ken, Mike and I all play a part.  Enjoy the story! Join the movement!

I didn’t realize it until I got to the end, but my good, good friend Lee Scott has an afterword. And he never even told, me, so that’s yet another connection with Hearts & Minds and this new book.

(That one of the lead characters is named Byron I am sure has nothing to do with anything, but, hey, I might as well mention that, too, since I’m on a roll naming why we care about this book. I’m not going to say anything about what happens to Byron in the store, but on the second page it says, “Byron is a vascular mess.”  Thanks, Jennings.

Here is the bare-bones summary Ken offers for the story plot:

House on Fire! follows Sophie, a young investigative journalist searching for answers whose sources for a story on leadership principles in a high-purpose organization get mixed up in a series of mysterious fires around Pittsburgh. Along the way Sophie meets Jeb, a handsome firefighter and leadership partner at The House who is working to determine who is behind the mysterious fires targeting local Christians. Despite herself, Sophie finds herself falling for Jeb and tension mounts as she comes face to face with her past. Will Sophie confront her fear of fire and help solve the arsons before Jeb gets hurt―or worse?

And here is really why they wrote it, even after having written other books of faith-based leadership principles for those in the work-world.

Based on the conviction that leadership transformation in the real world is more caught in the context of community than taught by a single textbook, Ken Jennings and Mike McCormick brilliantly bring leadership development to life through an integrated team of characters, each contributing to the personal growth of the others. Fit for the new landscape of leadership, House on Fire! specifically helps those navigating the shift from leading a company to leading a cause, from command and control to team empowerment, or from leading an organization to transforming a community. Readers follow Sophie as she explores the intersection of faith and Servant Leadership in high purpose organizations and discover how to put Serving Leadership to work in their own high-purpose organization today.

The Spiritual Danger of Donald Trump: 30 Evangelical Christians on Justice, Truth, Moral Integrity edited by Ronald J. Sider (Cascade) $25.00  |  OUR SALE PRICE = $20.00

AVAILABLE NOW

I wish time permitted me to do an in-depth review of this; hopefully our BookNotes schedule will become more regular and I’ll be able to do this book the justice it deserves. I list it here for a couple of reasons that will come as no surprise to those who have followed our bookish ministry here for the last almost four decades.

For decades I have gladly counted Ron Sider as a friend, a bit of a long distance mentor, and an older brother in faith, guiding evangelicals towards a pious, Biblically, theologically sound worldview that challenges us to pick up the cross of our suffering servant King Jesus and live for him in all areas of life. Sider has written on evangelism, prayer, family matters, being consistently pro-life, which, for him, means being not only against killing the unborn, but not killing, through apathy or bad policy, the poor, the starving, the imprisoned, the handicapped. He holds traditionally evangelical faith and doctrine and yet pushes us all toward being fully Biblical in our concern for justice. Although he was (foolishly and erroneously) mocked as a socialist years ago, he has shown himself to be mostly an ecumenically-minded Mennonite farm boy who wants to follow Jesus in light of gospel teachings. And so, he’s a voice we listen to, a person we esteem, and we commend every one of his many books. Believe me, we’ve got ’em all.
We list this brand new book in this shout out to friends of Hearts & Minds because Ron has been a friend. But more, we name this one here (even if we intend to review it more substantially later) now because we know a number of the 30 authors who appear here. I’m not bragging or wanting to name drop, but we want to affirm that there are good folks who have purchased books from us and whose books we’ve cared about, authors, leaders, now friends, and they deserve some acclaim. Among others are James Skillen and John Fea. Folks we esteem like Miroslav Volf and Julia Stronks are here, as are a few well known evangelicals like Mark Galli (we reviewed his book When Did We Start Forgetting God?: The Root of the Evangelical Crisis and Hope for the Future in a BookNotes early last Spring.)
There are some names here I don’t know, and some are authors who we know from their books and showing up at uniquely evangelical conferences and organizations like Vicki Courtney and Chris Thurman and Samuel Escobar. A few are nationally known public intellectuals like Peter Wehner or historians like Randall Balmer.
So, this is our tribe in many ways, and they offer over 25 chapters to make a case that support for the character and (many of) the policies of President Trump are so egregiously bad that they could be called a spiritual danger. This is no idle talk, not cheap. A few are a bit more blustery than necessary, but most are calm and reasoned, drawing on our best Biblical, theological, spiritual, and ethical mandates.
After the surprising election of Donald Trump four years ago many were noticing what seemed to be a higher than usual and odder sort of dishonest than one gets from usual politicians, a style of speaking and acting that were perhaps examples of a dangerous sort of narcism, a lack of self-awareness that bordered on the pathological. A group of trained psychologists (pulled together and edited by an evangelical counselor herself, Bandy X. Lee, put out The The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 37 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President. It was not a hatchet job or meant to be unkind; it was a cry to be aware that the most powerful man in the world was a troubled soul. Dr. Lee was a motivating force for this new one, The Spiritual Danger of Donald Trump and invited Sider to help her find well-spoken and reliable Bible-based evangelicals would could write about the spiritual questions of supporting this obviously contentious and troubled administration.
Blurbs on the back include solid folks who we admire, from missional thinker Al Tizon to former college President and Presbyterian minister, Roberta Hestenes, Fuller Seminary President Mark Labberton and Ambassador Tony Hall, Bible scholar Tremper Longman and author and faith at work leader, Amy Sherman. We want to acknowledge these many voices who are inviting us to read this and think hard about public faithfulness in these hard times. I commend this to you — please, even if your not inclined to read it, give it a chance — and would say this even if we didn’t know some of the authors. We’d be happy to send it out to you asap.
Bewondering God’s Dumbfounding Doings: God Talking to Us Little People in the Final Book of the Bible Calvin Seerveld (Paideia Press) $16.00 | OUR SALE PRICE = $12.80
How to Read the Biblical Book of Proverbs Calvin Seerveld (Dordt College Press) $15.00 | OUR SALE PRICE = $12.00
BOTH AVAILABLE NOW

Our store feels very close to these two brand new books and we surely wanted to add them to this particular listing of books from sources you won’t find on the best-sellers list or in the giant mega-stores. Indie authors we care about and that you should know about.

Here are two extra fascinating, rare and vital ones from two lesser known publishers. You’re not going to find these just any old place, I’m tellin’ ya.

They are serious enough and interesting enough, though, that I’d review them in any “new books” list or add them to any good bibliography on either Revelation or Proverbs; Seerveld is a master of the Biblical Hebrew and Greek languages and a very (very) creative English writer, making these just remarkable, extraordinary, blurring the line between scholarly commentary and simple, inspirational sermons. They are written in joyful yet demanding prose, presume some interest in exegesis and hermeneutics, but are, mostly real church sermons (the first one) or magazine level articles (the second) designed (as Seerveld says in the subtitle of the bewondering one on Revelation, for “us little people”, a line he swipes from Kuyper, I gather.) We esteem this author so much and are among the first bookstores to carry and promote these two. You should order them from us and get reading for an reading experience unlike many you’ve ever had.
You may know of our fondness for the colorful, preacherly language of Dr. Seerveld and you may know that many people view him as a one-of-a-kind scholar who knows Biblical studies and theology very well but made his living as a philosopher with a specialty in aesthetics. He could lecture on the pre-Socratics or the dangers of Christians cozying up to Plato or Descarte, Kant or Derrida as well as anyone, but he wrote wisely on aesthetics — not, by the way, the theology of the beauty of God a la Urs Von Balthasar or vapid stuff about being “creative” that fuels the self-help pop charts — as well as on redemptive art, on art history, and on how art could be a blessing in a very broken, warring world. Few people I know are as culturally/historically literate and as passionate for the plight of the poor, who could lecture about an obscure painter from the 17th century and what philosophy influence him and weigh in on details of public policy that effected the working class and poor in modern-day North America. He esteemed ordinary blue-collar work (his father was a fishmonger in Jersey) and loved local craftspeople, but his calling has been to often work double shifts in his scholarly office, reading and discerning the spirit of the age.
I wrote about him extensively here when a set of miscellaneous papers, articles, reviews, and essays were published by Dordt College Press in five big volumes, to take their place alongside his more standard books (like the beloved Rainbows for the Fallen World.)
Not long ago Cal sent us a signed copy of his latest, a collection of sermons preached on the “bewondering” ways of God found in the book of the Bible known as the Revelation of Jesus Christ. His encouragement has meant a lot.  I loved the lovely paper and French folds on the nice made glossy paperback and how he explained the artwork chosen for the cover. (The plainspoken, sweet children’s sermon he offered using a few paintings of Jesus in the front of the book made my eyes water, actually, as I read them out loud to Beth.) The rest of the book did more than make my eyes water, though — whew. I’ve got my favorite books on the Apocalypse, including one by Seerveld’s admirer Eugene Peterson. Bewondering God’s Dumbfounding Doings is now on that short list.
Seerveld had also noted to us that our mutual friend John Kok, himself a neo-Calvinist philosopher and editor at Dordt College Press, was working on a book bringing (finally) in to print a collection of pieces Seerveld had written (mostly in Vanguard magazine, a Toronto-based reformational journal I devoured as a college student in the 1970s.) Seerveld on the wisdom book was eagerly awaiting by many of his fans and followers all over the world, and Kok was finally going to get it done. (Like his important work on Song of Songs, by the way,he has made some literary insights as how to best understand the texts, and if you are a serious Bible student, you are going to find this perhaps even groundbreaking.) What good news!
In the midst of our Covid quarantining  editor and manager of Dordt Press John Kok worked hard to bring the Seerveld book to fruition and then got suddenly sick and died; I suppose that working on How to Read the Biblical Book of Proverbs was the last professional thing he did here on Earth. We know he will rest in peace and rise in glory in the new creation Jesus is bringing.
Now, thanks to his diligence and God’s providence, we’ve got Seerveld’s new book hot off the press and are honored to announce it to you now.
Here are some folks we respect who agree that Seerveld on Proverbs is something well worth considering:

Rooted in solid scholarship, written in arresting and fresh prose and inspired by a childlike trust in the Scriptures, these meditations on the biblical book of Proverbs will stir your heart to hear the voice of God in startlingly new and yet bracingly edifying ways. It is rare indeed to hear Scripture opened up and illuminated with such a combination of scholarly virtuosity, cultural immediacy and faith-full receptivity.             Al Wolters, Professor of Religion and Theology/Classical Languages, Emeritus // Redeemer University College

Reading Cal Seerveld on biblical wisdom is like taking a rocket ship to another world – strange territory, until we start to see our world from its point of view. Cal’s prose is rocket fuel – How I loved to hear him talk! Cal studied Old Testament with the greatest scholars of his generation, but it’s his biblical insight that surprises and rewards us again and again. Take, for example, “full-bodied knowledge” as a translation for the Hebrew דָּ֑עַת (Proverbs 1:7). That just nails it. I’m not envious, honestly, just thankful! Ray VanLeeuwen, Professor Emeritus of Biblical Studies // Eastern University

How to Read Proverbs provides rich biblical guidance and nourishment for today shaped by Seerveld’s unparalleled gifts for fresh translation, gentle correctives to strengthen Bible reading habits, continual interweavings from the entire canon of Scripture, and prophetic commentary that addresses the contemporary context. These sparkling and illuminating meditations give sound sustenance for personal reflection and group conversation, as well as lifelong guidance for reading the good book.                      Syd Hielema, Project Director // Connections II Project, CRCNA

We once had a chapel speaker who, most unusually for our protestant community, asked us to close our eyes. He then read several portions of the Book of Revelation out loud and then invited us to open our eyes again. For the first time, many of us saw what John was talking about. Calvin Seerveld has in effect done this for us in this beautiful set of meditations on the Book of Proverbs. Everyone, from professionals to laypersons, ought to read this book. It will bring great profit.                              = William Edgar, Professor of Apologetics // Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia

 

Mixed Blessing: Embracing the Fullness of Your Multiethnic Identity Chandra Crane (IVP) $17.00 |  OUR SALE PRICE = $13.60
AVAILABLE DECEMBER 15, 2020
It is hard to not be enthusiastic about a book like this — written by a dear friend and Hearts & Minds customer and cheerleader, that is — pay attention, now, folks: one of a kind! This really is a major release in part because there just isn’t anything like it.
There are (thanks be to God) many books to help white folks understand their black, Asian, and Latinex brothers and sisters in Christ. There are books to help people of color understand the dominant culture, some that are uniquely Christian, some that are just wise and useful. Of all the various sorts of books about race and ethnicity, there are very, very few that are about this: being a person of mixed races, of being multiethnic, literally. Brian Bantum has a scholarly work expensively published by Baylor University Press (Redeeming Mulatto: A Theology of Race and Christian Hybridity) but only scholars are going to wade through that sort of academic work. There was a great Christian one decades ago that is no longer in print. We have long needed a thoughtful, Christian, honest, inspiring book by a person of color who is, well, mixed.
Chandra Crane — our good friend, a fun woman who works in campus ministry, who as studied to get an MDiv, and continues to do good ministry in her place in Jackson, Mississippi — is this person. This, Mixed Blessing, is the book, the one we’ve needed, the title to put in the hands of anyone who feels they need some help in stewarding well their multiethnic identity. Or, heck, I’d say that anyone should read it, learning from our sister in Christ what she and so many others go through, day by day as people who are in between, neither this nor that. Can you imagine the dislocation and awkwardness this may create? Chandra has felt it, she has pondered it, she has engaged the best thinkers about race and diversity and she serves as a Kingdom signpost, how identity in Chirst does not eliminate but enhances our own ethnic and gender identities.
Mixed Blessing is just that. A mixed blessing, some hard-hitting (dare we say prophetic) critique and a whole lot of grace and goodness. It’s a book we need, a book that should be widely read, and a book we’re honored to get to tell you about, long before it releases late this fall.  I hope to write more about it after it comes out. Look for it, I bet, in the year’s ending lists of most important books of 2020.
Chandra’s friend Jemar Tisby did a powerful foreword for it. He writes:
Mixed Blessing reminds us that people are not created for boxes but for God’s glory. This book helps fill an inexcusable gap in our understanding of racial and ethnic dynamics. . . . Is Mixed Blessing an easy read? Certainly not. But it is an essential one.

PLEASE NOTE; IF YOU ARE ORDERING MORE THAN ONE, PLEASE TELL USIF YOU WANT US TO HOLD UP ONE WHEN IT COMES OUT, UNTIL ANOTHER RELEASES,  CONSOLIDATING THEM TO SHIP TOGETHER  -OR-  IF YOU WANT US TO SEND EACH PROMPTLY AS IT RELEASES. DO LET US KNOW YOUR PREFERENCES.

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20 forthcoming books you should PRE-ORDER now – 20% off at Hearts & Minds

We are still closed for walk-in traffic, at least as of this writing in early July during this season of Coronatide. We’re doing curb-side delivery out by our back parking area and are happily donning masks to do some outside customer service show and tell, too. If you’re in the area and want to see some options to browse through, we can bring to your car a bin-full of books or cards or Bibles. The other day we took a few higher-end rosaries out and our customer was delighted.

No, Beth was not wearing drive-in waitress roller skates and knee socks, but it crossed my mind.

Please pray for our discernment as we try to figure out what it means to be safe and wise in these complicated times and how to properly reconfigure our workspaces for our staff once they come back in full. Pray for our health and for public health. We hope you, dear reader, are playing it safe, mourning your losses, lamenting this hard season. I suppose most of us know somebody who has died and we offer our condolences.

I’m sorry that we have not done BookNotes much these past months. It has just been too stressful. Soon, though, we’ll play some catch-up ball and share a few lists of great books we would have promoted had we not been hit by the pandemic. I can’t wait.

But first, we are eager to invite you to PRE-ORDER any number of truly great forthcoming titles. Most we’ve selected below are in our exact wheelhouse; this is a list we’ve necessarily curated for your reading edification. Some are even penned by writer friends and we couldn’t be more glad than to amplify their good gifts of thinking and writing. If you want to pre-order any other book you’ve heard about, just let us know. We can get almost anything and would appreciate the chance to serve you in this way.

I suppose I don’t have to tell you that the book industry is hurting; the loss of book tours and big releases and author events and in-store appearances (and, for us, not doing off-site events) have seriously hurt sales. (There has been a notable surge in interest in books about racial justice, a demand unlike anything we’ve ever seen, for which we are glad, even if it has been frustrating since many book manufacturers and printers are backlogged and the supply chain is strained.) Publishers and sales reps and booksellers are all stressed. We know that some of us will not recover. Imagine how these authors feel having the book they’ve worked on for years (and years, in some cases) finally being released into the realities of death and illness, pandemic and quarantining, pitched into these times when even Amazon has “de-prioritized” sending books. 

Please consider spending a bit more this season in support of these good authors. Like us, they need generous readers and we, like them, are grateful for your support. Read on!

PRE-ORDER NOW — use our secure order form page by clicking the tab and the end of the column.

Here are the ones we most want you to consider that are coming out yet this summer.

The Way Up Is Down: Becoming Yourself by Forgetting Yourself Marlena Graves (IVP) $22.00 | OUR SALE PRICE = $17.60  DUE JULY 14, 2020 

Those who follow BookNotes carefully know that we have been a big fan of Marlena’s remarkable premier release A Beautiful Disaster (Brazos Press; $19.00) where she narrates her coming of age in rural Pennsylvania as a Latina woman in a family with considerable hardships and how she discovered the desert fathers and the practices of contemplative spirituality. That book tells a remarkable story and from that great book, we came to follow her activism, growing increasingly into a strong voice for gender and racial justice, for the poor, for immigrants. She has pursed this Christ-like advocacy and teaching in the context of the local church, where she has served as a church educator and spiritual director. She has desired to be Christ-like, mature, deep. She has studied the meaning of love, of hope, faith. The Way Up is Down, it seems to me, is the fruit of these growing years and a beautiful follow up to her first great book.

The Way Up Is Down is about renunciation, about humility, about letting go of the American dream of upward mobility and success. It is about embracing brokenness and limits and finding God in the move towards that posture famously spoken by John the Baptist ” “He must increase, I must decrease.”  Marlena is chatty and conversational, moving adeptly from citing Russian Orthodox monks to telling common place stories about her own daily life as she seeks authentic and life-giving wholeness by trusting God. She brings in dramatic stories of folks she has encountered although the most powerful ones are mundane, almost — telling about a special needs fellowship in her church, for instance. The stories bring home in a disarming way some heavy truths about transformation, what it means to live into the sacred heart of Jesus, to be (as one chapter puts it) “cradled in the heart of God.”

The book did not feel over-wrought to me, as some do. Yet, there is honest stuff here. As Paul Pastor (author of The Face of the Deep) wrote, “It is a rare and sacred gift for a writer to serve her raw heart―tender and salted with tears―to nourish the world.”

Time doesn’t allow me to do this fabulous book justice but I respect Marlena greatly and commend her book about the simple ways of Christ and his merciful, serving ways and we can grow into that sort of life of faith.

Listen to this reviewer:

“Breathtaking. A stunning achievement. This book aches for us, daring to offer its own raw beauty, courage, and unflinching light. What’s most gorgeous about Marlena Graves’s humbling book, however, is its call for moral imagination, even among we who are wounded. If we fall broken at Jesus’ feet, she teaches, we will all heal by his grace–mended and scarred but lifted together. What a brave, rare book for these unlikely times. An honor to read, it’s one of the most exciting theological reflections in recent memory.”

 

Compassion (&) Conviction: The AND Campaign’s Guide to Faithful Civic Engagement Justin Giboney, Michael Wear & Chris Butler (IVP) $22.00 | OUR SALE PRICE = $17.60   DUE JULY 21, 2020

This is certainly one of the soon to be released books that many of our customers — mostly, younger, it seems — are most eager to see. The authors have been on social media and doing podcasts sharing their vision for their “third way” public justice mission for quite some time. (They’ve been at our Pittsburgh Jubilee conference, too! Woot!) So there’s a buzz on this one that you should pay attention to. I’ve read it and it is excellent.

{check out their Church Politics podcast here.}

Their theme of “and” (rather than more binary “either/or” attitudes) shine through wisely, over and over. I have written at great length about the complicated and controversial interface of faith and politics (use a key word search at the search engine at BookNotes and hopefully several past posts will pop up) and I would love to write much more about this energetic and very wise book. I know it deserves a much longer review later — there are distinctives in Compassion (&) Conviction that make this a major contribution to the discussions about faith and public life. I mostly agree with most of it; almost all of it is amazingly fantastic, there are things in this one short book that I’ve wished were in othres, so it is a must-have resource.  For now, please know that this is an important book and, in God’s timing, perhaps one of the most necessary voices to appear in quite a while. Call it timely or much-needed or — in the spirit of I Chronicles 12:32 — Issacharian, it really does capture something that the times cry out for, that many are longing for, a view of civic engagement that is more than partisan politics and that puts principles above partisanship.

That is, it is compassionate and convicted, what Richard Mouw has called “convicted civility. But it is much more than an etiquette manual for public engagement.

Three things that Hearts & Minds friends might want to know about this. First: two of the authors are black; Michael, who is white, has a story that is deeply entwined with soul and gospel music, and he ended up working in the Obama White House, a prestigious position from which he eventually walked away. (That is a story he told in the excellent Reclaiming Hope: Lessons Learned in the Obama White House about the Future of Faith in America.) So it is multi-ethnic and although it is not only about race, there is a keen awareness about this throughout. For those interested in BLM protests, there is a good chapter here called “Advocacy (&) Protest.” I have been waiting for decades for an evangelically-minded book to offer some basic Biblical examples of dramatic protest and civil disobedience. This chapter is worth the price of the book. But it is also about going beyond protest to constructive efforts to actually bring about concrete change.

Secondly, Compassion (&) Conviction has good discussion apparatus, sidebars, a good leader’s guide, and some helpful exercises to experiment with maturing in our civic engagement and how to actually get involved. It has this “both/and” interest in theory and practice, theology and action, politics proper and citizen activism. Few books (and I’ve read dozens) on Christian political engagement have such a delightful and wise balance of Biblical studies, public theology, justice theory and ordinary, practical guidance on civic involvement. Kudos to this fun trio, Christ Butler, Justin Giboney, and Michael Wear for making this book so darn useful.

Thirdly (no surprise) I want to hold up its exquisite commitment to an exciting sort of principled civility, calling for partnership and cooperation and common ground, even when there are times for partisanship and even protest. This is no boring “can’t we all just get along” idealism nor a muddled middle that tries to blend the best of all views. No, this really does try to offer an imaginative new way, a fresh approach that is creatively rooted in their “(&)” brand. Check out the And Campaign and join up. It is more than a brand or logo or clever pitch; they really believe this stuff, as those loyal to Jesus and wanting to be good citizens in a pluralistic society. The book is a thoughtful exploration of important stuff that many have not gotten quite right, so it’s a needed blessing. But, in a way, it is also a manifesto, and call to build coalitions and alliances and get busy in the name of Jesus to build a better world.

Some of the marketing for the book invites readers who are disillusioned with the far right and the far left and the muddled middle, by saying this:

Have you ever felt too progressive for conservatives, but too conservative for progressives? It’s easy for faithful Christians to grow disillusioned with civic engagement or fall into tribal extremes. Representing the AND Campaign, the authors of this book lay out the biblical case for political engagement and help Christians navigate the complex world of politics with integrity.

There are bunches of stunning endorsements of this by folks from across the political and theological spectrum. When I have more time as the election season draws nearer, I’m sure I will describe my own thoughts more carefully about its many strengths and how I respect these authors and their good work. For now, here are two advanced blurbs that capture the books excellent reputation, showing why we hope many order it as soon as possible:

The partisanship, point-scoring, bickering, and pettiness that mark Christians’ engagement with politics often belies the message of hope offered in Jesus. If we, as a church, do not learn how to seek the good of our neighbor and the broader world without being beholden to a particular political party, we will, however inadvertently, preach a false gospel in our actions and public life. Because of this, reconstructing a political theology that is wise, humane, just, and deeply biblical is the most urgent calling facing the church in America today. The AND Campaign is a leader in this vital work of reconstruction, casting an alternative vision for a politics rooted in faith, hope, and love. In this book, Giboney, Wear, and Butler provide basic tutoring in civics, Scripture, race, justice, and political engagement that will help us, as a church, find a more faithful and truthful way of walking as Christians in this world of political turmoil. I want every church in America to give an ear to these men as they help us walk the way of Jesus as a community and a political people.  Tish Harrison Warren, author of Liturgy of the Ordinary

People commonly lament our age’s political division and tribalism. Some have lived at the poles of political discourse, and they’ve forgotten their way back to a commonly shared center. Finding our way back to one another can only happen if we learn not to bifurcate our politics. We need a movement to reunite ourselves, reunite with our neighbors, and reunite political ideals that never should have been divided in the first place. That reunion will feel like a strange new land for many us, so we need guides, pathways, tools, and discipline for talking and working together for the common good. You hold in your hands a creative struggle for wholeness, just the kind of help we need in our age.  Thabiti M. Anyabwile, pastor of Anacostia River Church, author of Reviving the Black Church

 

Interpreting Scripture: Essays on the Bible and Hermeneutics  N.T. Wright (Zondervan Academics) $52.99 | OUR SALE PRICE = $42.39                                            DUE JULY 14, 2020

 

 

 

 

Interpreting Jesus: Essays on the Gospels N.T. Wright (Zondervan Academics) $52.99 | OUR SALE PRICE = $42.39  DUE JULY 14, 2020                                           

 

 

 

 

Interpreting Paul: Essays on the Apostle and His Letters N.T. Wright (Zondervan Academics) $44.99 |              OUR SALE PRICE = $35.99                                              DUE JULY 14, 2020

 

 

 

What can we say to explain the significance of these three anthologies by one of the most important theological voices of our lifetime? Agree or not with all of Wright’s brilliantly considered views, he has not only been exceedingly gifted in Christian wisdom based on a rare ability to connect the dots of Biblical texts and teaching but has been almost super-human his prodigious output. We can list only a small handful of similar scholars who do both excellent academic work and serve the church well with more popular level books and who do so very, very much. Tom is a remarkable person and we should rejoice that he has offered his gifts to both the academy and the church.

These three volumes are collections of pieces from academic journals, scholarly chapters of other books, articles, essays, sermons and the like. Hardly anyone could collect all of these as some are from international sources or journals that are not widely available. So while these are not new chapters for most of us they will be as good as new. These are pieces you most likely have not seen or owned.

And, as a matter of fact, there are some brand new essays as well that have not yet be published. Wow.

What a labor of love it was to the editors and compilers to find some of Wright’s best “unsung” work. I know I’ve read chapters in books that I wished were more widely available and now we have it. Thanks be to God.

To make it even more useful, as the publisher explains, Each of the essays “are preceded by brief reflections written by N. T. Wright; these reflections serve to contextualize the writing of each essay and to highlight their place and significance within Wright’s voluminous corpus.”

Just when I wondered what N. T. Wright might write next we get a 3 volume circus of revolving themes and perspectives and worldviews that illustrate why Wright is the most influential biblical scholar in the English-speaking world: Wright is one of the few who shapes conversations in both Gospels studies and Pauline studies. These essays bring to the front Wright’s engaging prose, his undeniable courage to go where few have gone, and his joy to bridge the work of the academy and the church. Another treasure trove of studies.   Dr. Scot McKnight, Professor of New Testament Northern Seminary

A trilogy of N. T. Wright’s seminal essays on Scripture and hermeneutics, Jesus and the Gospels, and Paul and his Letters with a number of brand-new contributions thrown in for good measure? Count me in! For roughly three decades now, Wright’s voice has been among the most valuable and valued by both the church and the academy. Rightly so! This three-volume collection–which will prove to be a treasure trove for serious students as well as for scholars of Bible, history, and theology–reveals why time and again.  Todd D. Still, Dean & Professor of Christian Scriptures, Baylor University, Truett Seminary

Few, if any, modern biblical scholars have written with the depth and breadth of N. T. Wright. These essays, from a wide variety of settings and publications, are full of treasures, old and new–even some modifications of earlier positions. They will delight Wright enthusiasts, challenge his critics, and educate all readers. No biblical scholar, theologian, or theological student should be ignorant of the most recent Wright perspectives on so many aspects of Scripture, Jesus, and Paul.  Michael J. Gorman, Raymond E. Brown Chair in Biblical Studies and Theology St. Mary’s Seminary & University, Baltimore

 

Beautiful Resistance: The Joy of Conviction in a Culture of Compromise Jon Tyson (Waterbrook) $17.00 | OUR SALE PRICE = $13.60  DUE JULY 21, 2020

I read an early version of this in almost one sitting; I was so enthralled I wanted race ahead to see more of where he was going, what his take would be, what he meant by resistance and compromise, and how he’d appropriate his hero, the late Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I’ve heard Jon speak — he did one of the all-time best-ever talks at the Jubilee conference in Pittsburgh that has been proclaiming the Lordship of Christ over all aspects of life, all careers and callings, for over 40 years. At that event he talked about his work back in Australia in a butcher shop and his conversion and renewal in an upbeat charismatic church. It wasn’t until he heard of Abraham Kuyper and other such thinkers who understood redemption as a wide-as-creation story that his life in the world became to have new meaning and vigor. So much so that he wanted to become a preacher and pastor (and was quite remarkably gifted for it, I think) so that he could help shephard others towards a sort of faith that was neither fundamentalist nor progressive, that was fresh and incarnational, relating worship and work, liturgy and life. He’s my kind of guy, and while his last two books (one on grace and how not to be burdened by legalism or perfectionism and another on redeeming how we speak) were excellent, they didn’t seem to display his robust, creation-regained sort of Kingdom theology that so captured me during his impressive Jubilee conference presentation.

Beautiful Resistance does not rehash that ground, either, actually (although I wished he had cited Schaeffer or Kuyper or Al Wolters, at least) but it pulses with a vivid vision of a faithful sort of discipleship that is joyous and serious, sacrificial and rewarding, that knows to say no to some things in order to say yes to other, better things. (And, man, it sure does cite some fabulous works.) It’s a great title, the two words bringing together themes that are important to historic discipleship but, perhaps not so well known in either mainline Protestant denominational congregations or moderate, efficient, evangelical mega-churches — that there are things in the culture which we are wise to resist, and that to do so, as a Christian counterculture, can be a beautiful thing.

This really is interesting and helpful.

As I paged through this great little book I over and over rejoiced that such stuff was being said by a fairly conventional evangelical leader on a fairly traditional evangelical press. Kudos to Waterbrook for again bringing a lively and even surprising book of life and joy, costly discipleship and resistance, habits nurtured by a community that does life together for the sake of the world.

Thank you to Jon Tyson for his honest concern about how we may have “fit in” to the cool culture a bit too much and may have absorbed some of the worst values that are not consistent with Jesus’s own upside down kingdom. It is rare and good to see lively, Chirst-loving piety and such thoughtful social ethics portrayed in such accesible, chatty conversational prose. This is a great book to share with folks who want to be challenged to a deeper more subversive sort of faith. Get a group together and pre-order a bunch right away.  There’s a big study guide in the back making it ideal for conversations, small groups, and (yes) Zoom conversations.

Western culture is increasingly hostile to the teachings and ways of Jesus. The pressure to compromise is the highest it’s been in my lifetime. The urge to back down on Jesus’s compelling vision of life in the kingdom is greater than ever. This book comes at just the right time–a pastoral, yet prophetic call from one of our generation’s greatest leaders. I was moved in my heart to trust Jesus’s vision of life over that of my culture’s.  John Mark Comer, author of The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry

I believe Jon is one of the great prolific and prophetic voices of our generation. He’s been a pastor in my life for over a decade, starting with my years in New York. Jon casts a timely and compelling vision in his latest work, Beautiful Resistance. He writes with such astute analysis and poignant clarity that several times throughout these pages, I wanted to stand and shout, ‘I’m in!’ May these words be a clarion call to the church to fortify our faith through sacrifice and love.  Rebekah Lyons, author of Rhythms of Renewal and You Are Free

It’s one thing to write on the beauties of the kingdom and how the way of Jesus must be esteemed as better and stronger than the kingdom of this world; it’s another thing altogether to live this. Jon Tyson lives this. He writes and preaches with a uniquely compelling conviction, because it flows from a figure that truly believes that the words and ways of Jesus are better than all this world has to offer. By the end of this book, you will find yourself compelled to join with the likes of Dietrich Bonhoeffer who knew that the beauties of the kingdom of heaven are better than the allure of this world.     Dr. Bryan Loritts, author of Insider Outsider: My Journey as a Stranger in White Evangelicalism and My Hope for Us All

Here is a six minute reading from the first chapter of Beautiful Resistance: The Joy of Conviction in a Culture of Compromise (although not with Jon’s nifty Aussie accent. Enjoy.)

 

 

 

The Grown Woman’s Guide to Online Dating: Lessons Learned While Swiping Right, Snapping Selfies, and Analyzing Emojis Margot Starbuck (Thomas Nelson) $18.99 | OUR SALE PRICE = $15.19  DUE AUGUST 11, 2020

This is another book I am so eager to read — due to Covid, I guess, the publisher couldn’t get a review copy out to me in time. Alas, this is no problem as I’d happily promote anything Margot wrote (and she has written quite a lot.) I was thoroughly won over to her fascinating view of faith and life and the world — not to mention her amazing wordsmithing — when I was bowled over by her memoir Girl in the Orange Dress: Searching for a Father Who Will Not Fail (IVP; $19.00.) Even as a guy, I adored her book Unsqueezed: Springing Free from Skinny Jeans, Nose Jobs, Highlights and Stilettos (IVP; $16.00) and literally just today had reason to recommend her must-read Small Things with Great Love: Adventures in Loving Your Neighbor (Baker; $16.00.) Perhaps you have seen our review of her co-authored book that wisely explores the role of sports in the lives of our kids, Overplayed: A Parent’s Guide to Sanity in the World of Youth Sports (Herald Press; $15.99.) Just this week she released a nice new book, a devotional for women called God Calls You Worthy: 180 Devotions and Prayers to Inspire Your Soul (Barbour Books; $12.99.) You should order as a gift for somebody, maybe. At our 20% off discount you could give a bunch away.

Ms Starbuck has helped numerous authors find their voices and does writing workshops and consulting an co-writing that is very widely esteemed. Few people are so deliriously fun, so earnestly faithful and hopeful about serving others and social change. Like I said Beth and I love her and her work. We recommend reading any of her fabulously interesting, energetically written works.

But now there’s this. It is a bit of a memoir — man, good on her for being so honest as a divorced, almost middled-age post-modern hippy Christian about this — from which we can all learn about relationships, integrity, longing, seeking. There will be lessons learned and if you in the online dating world (and more folks are than I think like to admit it) this book will be a must. I’m sure there is nothing like it as it offers bunches of very specific pointers.

But then she gets busy helping you out.

But I’m going out on a limb and guessing that — promising that — there will be lessons here for all of us. Do you know, deep in your bones, even broken bones, that you are loved? That you are worthy? Do you want to thrive emotionally and spiritually with a freedom that comes from a sure awareness that you are adopted by God, called beloved? I think this is going to move in the direct of truly profound books like Brennan Manning’s Ragamuffin Gospel or Nouwen’s The Return of the Prodigal Son. But it will be more fun, I guarantee that, too.

Dating or not, unmarried or not, middle-aged or not, whether you even know what the heck swiping right even means, The Grown Woman’s Guide to Online Dating is a book you are going to love. Order it today.

By the way, lot of amazing people have raved about this book. Such as Rashad Jennings (former NFL running back and Dancing with the Stars champion) and the amazing theological writer Kendall Vanderclice (author of We Will Feast: Rethinking Dinner, Worship, and the Community of God.). But here is one I really loved:

“The very day I received Margot Starbuck’s new book I tore into it eagerly, reading until midnight. Which is strange since I’m not in the dating market. But I am in the ‘good reading’ and ‘wise and witty’ market, which is another way of saying ‘I’m in the Margot Starbuck market.’ Pass this book on to anyone who’s dating or thinking of it. They’ll laugh, take notes, avoid tons of awkward dates, and gain buckets of godly savvy. I can’t think of a better guide than Starbuck.”

Leslie Leyland Fields, author of Your Story Matters: Finding, Writing, and Living the Truth of Your Life

 

Dorothy and Jack: The Transforming Friendship of Dorothy L. Sayers and C. S. Lewis Gina Dalfonzo (Baker) $16.99 | OUR SALE PRICE = $13.59          DUE AUGUST 18, 2020

I hope you are like me and are eager to see this — really eager!  This is a book many of us have been waiting for for decades, and Gina Dalfonzo seems to be just the right person for the job. She is a good writer, a thoughtful woman who has published much about faith and culture, theology and the arts, the church and our societal contexts. That is, she’s been influenced by Lewis and Sayers, both who were known as serious thinkers (but not theologians as such) who brought the light of the gospel to, well, to everything from prose to politics.

You may have heard that the fabulous mystery writer and dramatist and early Christian feminist (the first woman to graduate from Oxford) often corresponded with C.S. Lewis. Sayers was happily married and Jack, as his friends called him, was a confirmed bachelor for most of his life. And yet, despite great odds in post-war, no longer Victorian England, they became equals in thought, colleagues in writing, and good friends. Gina Dalfonzo is a great writer to explore this topic — she’s quite the literary student and has a book coming out soon which collates some of the deeply spiritual themes in Charles Dickens that will be in the Plough Press series The Gospel in… called The Gospel in Dickens: Selections from His Works. It will be published by Plough Press in September ($18.00) and carries a foreword by Karen Swallow Prior. We carry this whole great line of books, by the way.

Dorothy and Jack: The Transforming Friendship of Dorothy L. Sayers and C. S. Lewis will be a great addition to the libraries of anyone who collects books by Lewis and/or Sayers. And it would be an excellent introduction to either for those who haven’t yet become serious fans. Ms. Dalfonzo has been deeply engaged in this literature for a long while but is an easy-to-read popularizer, not an arcane scholar. This makes this book a great choice for most of us, and we highly recommend it.

Perhaps you long for deeper relationships that allow for both intellectual and spiritual growth. Sayers and Lewis modeled this for us and Dalfanzo (who received a Clyde Kilby Research Grant to work on this project) is ideal to help us learn from these famous friends. (She, by the way, wrote about friendship a bit in her helpful book called One by One: Welcoming the Singles in Your Church published by Baker a few years ago; $16.00.  She cites both Lewis and Sayers in that important book.) This theme of friendship is actually a good part of this work and it would do many of us well to allow this historic friendship to inspire us in stewarding this gift of friendship.

One of those keeping the Lewis/Inklings world alive is Dr. Crystal Downing who (with her husband David Downing) co-directs the famous Marion Wade Center at Wheaton Center. Downing is particularly known for her books and creative lectures on Ms Sayers. (I suspect it was Downing who first inspired Dalfonzo to become interested in Sayers when Gina studied under her as a lit major at Messiah College.)

Listen to this lovely endorsement by Crystal Downing, who, like Sayers, wouldn’t dare say something she couldn’t defend:

Beautifully written, Dorothy and Jack will transform not only common understanding of both Lewis and Sayers but also common assumptions about male/female friendships.

By the way, it’s a bit in the distance so we’ll tell you more about it later, but Dr. Downing herself has a serious book on the nearly unprecedented Dorothy Sayers. That can be pre-ordered, now, of course, too. Due in mid-November, we’re eager for Subversive: Christ, Culture, and the Shocking Dorothy L. Sayers from a new imprint of Fortress Press called Broadleaf Books. It’s a hardcover for $24.95. More on that anon.

Vesper Flights Helen MacDonald (Grove Press) $27.00 | OUR SALE PRICE = $21.60                    DUE AUGUST 25, 2020

I cannot say too much about this as I have not yet set eyes upon it, which makes me all the more eager as we anticipate its release date. I am sure we will have it before its official street date, but it is one of those books the publishing world honors with a strictly adhered to official date before which we cannot put it out. That is because it will be one of the big books of the early fall, and many throughout the world have been eagerly awaiting it.

Why, you may ask? Her last book, the New York Times bestselling H is for Hawk was exceptionally well reviewed and beloved from when it first came out in London I think is 2014. Among other accolades it was awarded the Samuel Johnson Prize for nonfiction, and was beloved as a lovely birding book even for those that don’t usually read about bird-watching. The author, you see, was coping with grieve and took up the life-log dream of becoming a falconer.  It was a nearly transcendent story of her relationship with this wildest of birds (a goshawk.) It was called “breathtaking” and “beautiful” and “astonishing” and “indelible.” What a memorable story, what a writer she is. It was often said that after reading H is for Hawk “you’ll never think see a bird overhead the same way again.” Or, think of the pain and beauty of being alive the same way.

This forthcoming new one, Vesper Flights, will surely be equally respected as the poet and naturalist Helen MacDonald offers a collection of essays about the human relationship to the natural world. Here is how the publisher’s catalog puts it:

In Vesper Flights Helen Macdonald brings together a collection of her best loved essays, along with new pieces on topics ranging from nostalgia for a vanishing countryside to the tribulations of farming ostriches to her own private vespers while trying to fall asleep.

Meditating on notions of captivity and freedom, immigration and flight, Helen invites us into her most intimate experiences: observing the massive migration of songbirds from the top of the Empire State Building, watching tens of thousands of cranes in Hungary, seeking the last golden orioles in Suffolk’s poplar forests. She writes with heart-tugging clarity about wild boar, swifts, mushroom hunting, migraines, the strangeness of birds’ nests, and the unexpected guidance and comfort we find when watching wildlife.

I bet you know someone who would love it as a great gift this fall. Pre-order it from us and we’ll be happy to send it wherever you say.

 

Becoming Brave: Finding the Courage to Pursue Racial Justice Now Brenda Salter McNeil (Brazos Press) $21.99 | OUR SALE PRICE = $17.59           DUE AUGUST 25, 2020

We have met this insightful sister and she is a stunning Christian leader, a great communicator, an excellent teacher, an evangelist, and author of a good number of books. In our last post where we listed, after the police murder of George Floyd, books about racism written by people of color, we naturally highlighted her recent Roadmap to Reconciliation 2.0: Moving Communities Into Unity, Wholeness and Justice an updated and expanded edition of a previous classic (IVP; $20.00.) It’s very good.

When we heard she had moved to a new publisher, we thought it might be good for her, shifting a bit to a different, perhaps broader audience, maybe tweaking her work and tone a bit. I do not know if in Becoming Brave she shifts in any significant ways (I suspect that she does not.) It does seem to be painfully urgent, an anguished cry to deepen our faith, step up, being bolder than ever. I am sure it will be stimulating, passionate, Biblical, and written with a charming touch, even if the material is at times difficult. I’m sure it will be wise and useful guidance for anyone wanting to, as the subtitle explains, “purse racial justice now.” Becoming Brave takes its cue from the book of Esther, and I am sure that this will become a classic study of the book.

That Austin Channing Brown (increasingly known for the exquisite  I’m Still Here) did the foreword is important, too. That’s good to see.

Allow me to share what other esteemed and discerning folks say about Brenda Salter McNeil, her work and witness, and, particularly, this soon to be released very important new work. Reading these descriptions will help you determine if you should pre-order this now; I think it is obvious that you should.

“Part confession, part biblical reflection, part call to storm the gates, Becoming Brave declares that the Christian call to do justice cannot and shall no longer be guided, shaped, and defanged by sensibilities more loyal to white people’s comfort than to God. A must-read.”
— Lisa Sharon Harper, founder and president, Freedom Road

“There is no one who understands more clearly what is necessary to move white evangelicals forward beyond their racial captivity than Brenda Salter McNeil, and there is no more important book that must find its way into the hands of students, pastors, Christian activists, and all those who understand the urgency of this moment than Becoming Brave.”
— Willie James Jennings, professor, Yale Divinity School; author of After Whiteness: An Education in Belonging

“Real prophets lovingly criticize and truthfully energize. McNeil does both with clarity and rare vulnerability. This book will move your heart and compel your feet to move as well, with others, in response to God’s call to do justice.”
— Jennifer Harvey, author of Raising White Kids: Bringing Up Children in a Racially Unjust America

“There is not a more credible, seasoned, and dynamic voice in the country that could speak to us about leadership and reconciliation than Brenda Salter McNeil. I cannot recommend Becoming Brave strongly enough.”
— Daniel Hill, pastor; author of White Awake

“Once again, Dr. McNeil proves herself as a leading theologian and practitioner of reconciliation and justice. She brilliantly uncovers, through the book of Esther, how God uses the marginalized as brave vessels of transformation. I am grateful for her reminding us of the courageous women of the Bible and how they can inspire justice-oriented disciplemakers today.”
— Efrem Smith, co-senior pastor, Bayside Church Midtown, Granite Bay, California; author of Killing Us Softly

“Rev. Brenda, one of the American church’s great leaders of racial reconciliation, delves into the unexpected disruptions she has encountered during her journey toward deep reconciliation. She models and illuminates a path for others. A fantastic resource for advocating for and embodying justice.”
— Nikki Toyama-Szeto, executive director, Evangelicals for Social Action at the Sider Center of Eastern University”I want to be a leader for racial reconciliation. Dr. McNeil’s book is an essential tool for my leadership education. And while I was inspired by the wisdom of the book, it’s going to challenge you. It pulls no punches. For these reasons, it is an essential read.”
— Shirley Hoogstra, president, Council for Christian Colleges and Universities”This book is a clarion call that cuts through the fog of our partisan arguments and blazes a path to abundant life for all. All of those who are suffering unjustly at this time need you to read this book and respond.”
— Alexia Salvatierra, Centro Latino professor, School of Intercultural Studies, Fuller Theological Seminary
The Dust of Death: The Sixties Counterculture and How It Changed America Forever (IVP Signature Collection) Os Guinness (IVP) $24.00        | OUR SALE PRICE = $19.20                                   DUE SEPTEMBER 1, 2020
I will simply have to review this more properly when we get some time; I have long said it is one of the most influential books in my own life and a personal favorite which I have revisited often since the 1970s when it first came out.  It has been out of print for years, and we are thrilled that it is being re-issued with what I am sure will be an important new introduction. It was pioneering, a milestone, and it is oddly as important now as ever before. We hope many people order it and find themselves learning more than they perhaps realized about how very important the content of this book is.

Dr. Guinness is a hero of ours, a person who has encouraged me and Beth considerably and whose books we routinely name as among the most important, year after year after year. Some have been more popular than others, naturally, and I have appreciated them each differently. But there is a very special place for The Dust of Death because it was so very insightful and because it introduced me to a robust and substantive Christian worldview, illustrated that those I’d eventually learn were called evangelicals were often quite thoughtful, deeply committed to the most important matters in human life, and could be a helpful, healing movement to bring God’s perspective and redemption to bear on our very broken world. In the ’70s, as I recall, there simply was no book like this that grappled with the things the late and post 60s generation was taking in. 

And so, the Dust of Death uses brilliant analysis and wonderful prose to explore the strengths and weaknesses of the culture and the counterculture.  Guinness visited the US (from England) in 1968 and some of his experiences and many, many conversations make their way into this major book. It seemed at the time to be offering a very profound critique of the right and the left, and a serious hope which Guinness nicely and somewhat evocatively called “a third way.” I had never seen anything like it.
This was before the rise of the Christian right, of course, before the hardening of the American left, during the time of domestic bombings and airplanes being highjacked, Black power salutes at the Olympics, Woodstock, Watergate, the rise of mysticism and a rise in post-rationalist fantasy literature. There had been a philosophy of drug use and yet there was a revival among the youth — Jesus Freaks we sometimes called ourselves.
By the turn of that pivotal decade, The Beatles had broken up, youth pop culture was influencing fashion and TV, and by the mid-70s Nixon was out and disco was in; the times they were a-changin’. And yet with social change movements still doing civil disobedience and massive protests, alongside the increasing bureaucracies emerging everywhere, the contrast between the culture and the counterculture deepened. And few Christians offered incisive, Biblically-informed analysis let alone wisdom on “how should we then live.” Guinness pointed in the right direction and my discipleship was shaped in decisive ways. I thank God for this author and for this book.
The Dust of Death is being reprinted, happily, by its original publisher and it will take its place alongside a growing shelf of “Signature Classics.” These are books that IVP has found to be influential and classic, important to be reintroduced to a new generation. For instance, my friend Steve Garber (another who was influenced by the seriousness of the vision behind Guinness’s Dust of Death, by the way) recently did a wonderful new introduction to a “Signature Classics” re-release of Francis Schaeffer’s The God Who Is There, which has been in print for over 50 years. I happen to have a nice blurb on the inside of the great handbook for basic Christian growth called The Fight by John White, also just re-issued. In the last BookNotes I shared my enthusiasm for the re-issue as a “IVP Signature Classic” the great, great book by Carl Ellis called Free at Last?: The Gospel in the African American Experience.

Later this Fall we will see the beloved allegory of Christ come to Earth that was once hugely popular, The Singer by the great Calvin Miller.

This whole series is to be commended and we are glad for some older books from decades ago re-appearing with new covers and some new introductions explaining why they are still so relevant. Among them all, I think The Dust of Death:The Sixties Counterculture and How It Changed America by Os Guinness is perhaps the most significant, and we invite you to pre-order it now. It would make us glad and you will be challenged to think well about our American past in these past generations. Thanks for caring.

“Anyone interested in the history of evangelical Christianity in the US during the turbulence of the sixties should read this thoughtful cultural analysis, which not only critiqued the establishment and the counter culture but also, since its publication fifty years ago, has shaped a generation of American evangelicals. Os Guinness stands in a line of Europeans—including Alexis de Tocqueville, G. K. Chesterton, and Frances Trollope—who have helped us see ourselves in the context of world history and cultures. Whether you find The Dust of Death prophetic or myopic, enlightening or provoking, it will most definitely make you think. It may also engender your hope for the future of the Christian faith in even our, again, very turbulent times.”  Susan S. Phillips, executive director and professor of sociology and Christianity at New College Berkeley, author of The Cultivated Life

“To make sense of contemporary ‘mainstream’ America, one has to understand the countercultural revolution of the 1960s. The ‘dust of death’ it threw up is now settling across every aspect of American life. Os Guinness’s study of that movement remains a magisterial work—nothing short of required reading for anyone seeking wisdom and understanding to cope with its challenges in this present day.”  J. Stanley Mattson, founder and president of the C. S. Lewis Foundation

 

Who Will Be a Witness? Igniting Activism for God’s Justice, Love, and Deliverance Drew G.I. Hart (Herald Press) $18.99 | OUR SALE PRICE = $15.19  DUE SEPTEMBER 1, 2020

I hope you know Drew Hart’s very important, well written and honest analysis of racism, his 2016 Trouble I’ve Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism. We’ve promoted it the best we could and taken it to almost every event we’ve done these past years. Partially, we promote it earnestly because it’s clear and accesible, honest and raw, Biblical and faithful. Also, it is set partially here in Central Pennsylvania and Hart narrates some time living in urban Harrisburg. He got his PhD from the Lutheran Seminary in Philadelphia (now called United Lutheran Seminary having merged in 2017 with Gettysburg Lutheran Seminary) and is a popular professor at Messiah College. When a local author makes such a contribution, we’re eager to get the word out.

Which is why we’d are very eager to encourage you to pre-order this riveting, blistering, vitally urgent new book. Who Will Be a Witness? is, I am sure, one of the books that will be used to encourage those wanting to move beyond sadness about racial injustice to bold action and faithful public reform. Hart has evolved as an ecumenical public theologian and here interacts with a variety of voices from the breadth of church history — the early church fathers, Augustine, the Anabaptists, American black heroes (Ida B. Wells, Howard Thurman, the radical King, Vincent Harding), various liberation theologians, and vital contemporary thinkers from Chad Meyers to N.T. Wright to Alan Kreider. It is a mature study, indeed, but with the feel of a manifesto.

And, I really enjoyed that Professor Hart, in nice teacherly fashion, often narrates the book in first person, saying what he learned in this book or why he loves this Biblical text or that contemporary social critic. That is, there are moments of good scholarship and deep theological formation but the writing is conversational, making the material accesible. That doesn’t mean he just dumbs it down; no. He’s just a good teacher and good writer, and we get to learn along with him as he teases out the implications of Scripture and history and modern writers. It’s a very good book.

Not only is Who Will Be a Witness? energetic and crisply written and clear, it does offer instruction on things congregations can do. It is a call to action and a guide to actually getting involved. There are chapter titles such as “The Politics of the Church” and “Justice and the Worshipping Community” that point to his deep ecclesiology. And there are chapters like “The Things That Make for Peace: Conducive Strategies for Ecclesial Grassroots Justice Work.” It’s an exciting chapter, actually and shows how to actually live out, locally, his call to be part of a “politics of love.” Professor Hart knows enough to know that we need on-ramps and helpful advice, even some maps and compasses, if not exactly blueprints.

As thoughtful and challenging as Who Will Be a Witness? Igniting Activism for God’s Justice, Love, and Deliverance will be for some, it will be very useful for many that want to take next steps towards incarnating the ways of Christ and to be the radical community of disciples to which He calls us.

Drew Hart has written the most challenging and enriching book that I have read in a very long time — a book brimming over with moral urgency, uncommon wisdom, and spiritual insight. At its core, it summons the church to do what the American church has seldom done — to discern and then burst the bonds of nationalism, capitalism, American exceptionalism, and white supremacy, and to embrace instead the revolutionary vocation of Jesus…

Richard Hughes, author of  Myths America Lives By: White Supremacy and the Stories That Give Us Meaning

 

Reading While Black: African American Biblical Interpretation as an Exercise in Hope Esau McCaulley (IVP Academic) $20.00 | OUR SALE PRICE = $16.00  DUE SEPTEMBER 1, 2020

In some circles in which we travel — especially among the staff of the CCO (Coalition for Christian Outreach) — this has been the most anticipated book of the year. Dr. McCaulley (who teaches Biblical studies at Wheaton College) has done some of our staff training for CCO and last year spoke at the Pittsburgh Jubilee Conference. To say he was appreciated is putting it mildly; his wit and Biblical insight, his candor about race and commitment to rigorous evangelical hermeneutics was powerful. Young adults (mostly white, but not all) adored his academic insight, his pastoral care, and his prophetic willingness to speak the truth in love. He is an Anglican Canon, has worked with churches in Japan and Scotland, and brings an important appreciation for how the local church is shaped by worship and he draws here on a variety of approaches and moves learned from the heart of the African American church. He got his PhD, by the way, under N.T. Wright at Saint Andrews.

There have been other books collecting essays on black Bible reading, on African American hermeneutics, even on black woman’s hermeneutics. Reading While Black not only has a great, punchy title, but brings a unique level of insight and Anglican faith to this project. Our friends who have pre-ordered it already have reason to be on the waiting list. Dr. Esau McCaulley is a vital rising voice (catch his blogs and podcasts, too) and this new book is very, very important.

I think the publicity from the publisher puts it well, so I will share that for your consideration:

Growing up in the American South, Esau McCaulley knew firsthand the ongoing struggle between despair and hope that marks the lives of some in the African American context.

A key element in the fight for hope, he discovered, has long been the practice of Bible reading and interpretation that comes out of traditional Black churches. This ecclesial tradition is often disregarded or viewed with suspicion by much of the wider church and academy, but it has something vital to say. Reading While Black is a personal and scholarly testament to the power and hope of Black biblical interpretation. At a time in which some within the African American community are questioning the place of the Christian faith in the struggle for justice, New Testament scholar McCaulley argues that reading Scripture from the perspective of Black church tradition is invaluable for connecting with a rich faith history and addressing the urgent issues of our times. He advocates for a model of interpretation that involves an ongoing conversation between the collective Black experience and the Bible, in which the particular questions coming out of Black communities are given pride of place and the Bible is given space to respond by affirming, challenging, and, at times, reshaping Black concerns. McCaulley demonstrates this model with studies on how Scripture speaks to topics often overlooked by white interpreters, such as ethnicity, political protest, policing, and slavery. Ultimately McCaulley calls the church to a dynamic theological engagement with Scripture, in which Christians of diverse backgrounds dialogue with their own social location as well as the cultures of others. Reading While Black moves the conversation forward.

“I’m extremely grateful to have a voice in my time to speak with nuance, grace, and cultural awareness. Esau has given us a healthy marriage for understanding theology and blackness. This is a must-read!” Lecrae, hip hop recording artist

“It is enlightening, moving, and galvanizing to overhear these notes of appreciation and reciprocated encouragement from a son of the Black church to the Black ecclesial interpreters who nurtured and continue to nourish him. From here on out, this book will be required reading in any course on biblical hermeneutics that I teach.”  Wesley Hill, associate professor of biblical studies, Trinity School for Ministry

“When I was a student, I was explicitly and implicitly trained to focus exclusively on the ancient context of Scripture and read ‘objectively.’ Bible study could easily become a disembodied experience. McCaulley makes a compelling case, in this engagement with African American biblical interpretation, that not only is the reader’s culture and experience not a hindrance to interpretation per se but can enrich it greatly. Reading While Black is a unique and successful blend of biblical hermeneutics, autobiography, black history and spirituality, incisive cultural commentary on race matters in America, and insightful exegesis of select New Testament texts.” Nijay K. Gupta, professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary

“Esau McCaulley’s voice is one we urgently need to hear. This book is prophetic, biblical, measured, wise, friendly, and well-reasoned—and thus all the more hard-hitting. A powerful word for our times.”  N. T. Wright, professor of New Testament at the University of St Andrews, senior research fellow at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford

 

A Year of Playing Catch: What a Simple Daily Experiment Taught Me about Life               Ethan D. Bryan (Zondervan) $18.99 | OUR SALE PRICE = $15.19  DUE SEPTEMBER 8, 2020

I’ve been waiting to tell you about this book for a while — it is a book that is so interesting and earnest and honest and inspiring and fun that I think it could become a huge cross-over best seller.

A Year of Playing Catch has it all. Baseball? Check. Playfulness? Check. Family-focused? Check. Social justice minded? Memoir? History? Check, check, check. Faith? Yes. Well written? Yes, yes. I don’t know the magic that allows a book to become truly famous but I invite you to spread the word on this winner of a book that will most likely best be described as a sleeper. Surprisingly, it’s awesome. And it really should take off, like his beloved  Kansas City Royals unexpectedly did a few year back.

Let me get this out of the way: Ethan has been a good friend of our store and I’ve reviewed his other sports-related books (he’s a Royals fan, did I mention?) and book about him and his dad, a book about music, a wonderful little kid’s book, and his splendid back-to-high-school novel Dreamfield. He did a book about playing catch to raise awareness about human trafficking and set captives free cleverly called Catch and Release. I’m mentioned in at least one of them, and I’m grateful. But, look: my reputation as bookseller and reviewer won’t last if I rave about books just because friends wrote them or because I happen to like the character and lifestyle of the author. Lots of great people do bad books and (also true) bad people do some great books.

I gotta call ’em as I see ’em.

It really is special when truly wonderful people hone their craft, work hard at being a writer, write small books, self publish, offer poetry and stories and songs for free, putting themselves and their art out there for the good of others. And it is really special when somebody in the big leagues recognizes them and give them their big break. With a major publisher working with Ethan now, I couldn’t be happier. He deserves it.

He deserves to have this book be widely known also because it is such a oddly fascinating little story. He decided to play a game of catch every day for a year with at least 365 different people. It’s one of those from the field reports of a year-long experiments, clever reality journalism. I did not participate, although I’ve been kicking myself for a year that I didn’t. (Maybe in the sequel, Ethan!) Whether one is a baseball fan or not, whether one has good memories of playing catch as a kid –and he discovered that many do, often children with their dads, which becomes important, as you can imagine — Playing Catch is a page turner where in quiet sorts of ways, Ethan brings really important stuff to the fore. He writes about fear and hope, about goals and social change, about family and hospitality, about sexism and racism, about money and power, about seeing the good in others as we listen to their stories. In his gentle, nice way, he notices a lot and it is worth listening to him tell us about it. Plus, the antics he has to preform to make this daily dream a reality is captivating. The drama makes this quixotic plan that took him across the country into a very good story and a really great book.

Give this book to anybody who has ever put on a glove or pitched a ball back and forth. Certainly give it to anybody who is interested in baseball history. (I won’t give a way too much, but if you like the movie Field of Dreams you’ve got to read this. And if, like Beth and I, you adore A League of Their Own, you have got to pick this book up right away.)

Give it to anybody who likes to goof around, or maybe better, to anyone who has become too busy and forgotten the value of play. Do you want to find joy in simple things? Read A Year of Playing Catch.

But as much baseball as is in this sparkling, surprising book, I’d say give it to anybody who likes to read a wholesome story about a crazy dream and pulling it off. Who wants to make a difference. Who believe in the power of grace and redemption. Do you like Bob Goff? Ethan is a small town Bob Goff. A Year of Playing Catch tells his story of this unexpected ministry. Ethan is a blast his hope is contagious. He has a bag of gloves in his old car to prove it. He’ll share them with you.

“This book is a gem like baseball itself — everyday, interesting, thoughtful and funny. It is an inside the book home run.”  Robert Benson, author of The Game: One Man, Nine Innings & a Love Affair With Baseball 

 

 

Marriage in the Middle: Embracing Midlife Surprises, Challenges, and Joys Dorothy Littell Greco (IVP) $16.00 | OUR SALE PRICE = $12.80   DUE SEPTEMBER 15, 2020

I cannot say much about this as we have not seen the manuscript — just one of my little Covid complaints — but I am positive that it is a book we want to honor, celebrate, promote. We encourage you to consider it, even if you aren’t in the mid-life years of marriage. And if you are, I’m sure it is a must-read.

I am eager to say at least these three main things and hope our readers take them to heart: these odd times of quarantine has hurt extended families in many ways and has made supportive community (small groups, dinner parties, book clubs) hard to come by. This sad season has, for many, been hard on family life, intimacy, and marriage. Almost everyone can benefit from a good family or marriage book from time to time and I recommend reading something along these lines at least once a year. But now, with the extra stresses and complications we would be wise to go out of our way — be intentional as the kids say — to strengthen up our relationships. Reading Dorothy Greco will be nicely helpful, at the very least; maybe marriage saving, even for those who might really need it. These times certainly call for some extra help for all of us and we happily recommend her as an author whose books can serve as a friend, guide, conversation partner; it’s cheaper than couple’s therapy, eh? So, know that you are not alone in this and you’ve can get help. That’s first: the time is right to read this book, or something like it.

Secondly, I’m very eager to remind you that we loved Ms Greco’s previous book on marriage that we have commended often for any number of good reasons. It is called Making Marriage Beautiful: Lifelong Love, Joy, and Intimacy Start with You (David C. Cook; $16.99) and we liked it just because of how nicely it was written with this theme of beauty and goodness, and how it avoided many of the cliches and downright offensive stuff found in many Christian marriage books. I trust her voice, her theology, her wisdom, and her cultural concerns — speaking out for the dignity of women, the rights of immigrants, the worth of the poor — so her earlier Making Marriage Beautiful or the forthcoming Marriage in the Middle are great and reliable gifts. Frankly, most of the best marriage books are written by men, so it is good to have couples read a thoughtful and writerly woman for a change. She is an author whose name you should know.

Thirdly, this book does fill a real need, that of the middle aged readers for whom the latest martial spat or joy is not their first rodeo. Many otherwise fabulous marriage books seem to be written (and some obliviously are) for newly weds or the fairly young. Not Marriage in the Middle which takes the mid-life stage of life seriously. I happen to know she did a ton of research on this, and there is a section in the book that narrates a whole batch of fascinating, illuminating interviews she did with couples talking about the ups and downs, challenges and joys, of this particular season of life. As the publisher has written,

Midlife is a season of challenge and change–professionally, relationally, physically, and spiritually. But “midlife” doesn’t have to be synonymous with “crisis” within our marriages. With vulnerability and insight, this book will inspire and encourage you to invest in your relationship with your spouse, enabling you both to thrive as you face this era together.

There will be plenty here for all sorts of readers, from the first interesting chapter (“The Paradox of Midlife Marriage: Crisis of Opportunity?”) to good writing on the “telos” of the whole marital thing. She looks at sex, disappointment, changes, sex, community. (“We’ll get by with a little — or a lot — of help from our friends.”) The blurbs on the back are from a wide range of folks, including many who are racial and ethnic minorities — I am grateful that this suggests the book is sensitive (as I am sure it is) to a variety of social settings for those of us in these mid-life marriages. She suggests, I believe, that the book is ideal for readers ages 40 – 65.  Yay.

I so appreciate this commendation quote by an early reader:

I am so grateful for this book and for Dorothy Greco. After forty-two years of marriage, typical marriage books just don’t cut it. I need a book and an author who gets the wildly textured ups and downs of long, shared histories, who still can inspire me forward. Greco does this brilliantly. She has woven together an astonishing blend of research, theology, interviews, and personal stories; I am nearly breathless with insight and encouragement. This book will change your marriage.

 

The Colors of Culture: The Beauty of Diverse Friendships  Melindajoy Mingo (IVP) $14.00 | OUR SALE PRICE = $11.20                                      DUE SEPTEMBER 15, 2020

This was one of those books that was delayed in its Spring release date by the complications of the Covid-19 virus and pandemic but we are truly glad to be able to announce it now, here. This is a book that should be of great interest to so many good folks and we hope a lot of people consider it. It is in that sweet spot of being thoughtful and well informed by serious cross-cultural scholarship, theology, and ministry experience and, yet, is a pretty simple guidebook, a very useful tool, like a honest conversation with a savvy friend who can tell you what you really need to know. There are stories from all over the world showing how many different sorts of cultural “colors” can cross barriers and set aside (often through mistakes and struggle) prejudice and bias and become real friends.

We are glad that there has been a huge uptick in reading about racial justice; nation-wide it is an unexpected phenomenon. The murder of George Floyd and too many leaders less than sensitive to the deep pain experienced by people of color in this country in the weeks following (as witnessed by the knee jerk conservative reactions to much of the BLM protests) just pushed many of us from vague interest to intentional action, wanting to learn, to listen, to read, to become allies. We have sold many copies of How to Be An Antiracist and White Fragility and Color of Compromise and I’m Still Here. From Stamped from the Beginning to Cone’s Cross and the Lynching Tree to Eric Mason’s Woke Church there has been deepening desires to understand and dismantle institutional racism and systemic injustices. Some might say “it’s about time” but, no matter, we are grateful. We are proud of our Hears & Minds customers for taking this up so eagerly.

And yet. We must all reach out beyond our (often) homogeneous reading groups and (usually) fairly mono-culture churches and workplaces and, well, develop cross cultural friendships. We have books about this, but many seem rather heady about cultural theories and anthropology, maybe written for cross cultural travelers or missionaries. Call us if you need a list. But for fairly ordinary folks wanting to be more culturally and ethnically intelligent so that he or she might be a better friend to folks from others cultures, The Colors of Culture by this lovely educator and  pastor and Christian leader is just what is needed.  Don’t you just love the sub-title — “the beauty of diverse friendships”? This surely is a great little book and we are happy to celebrate its release this fall.

MelindaJoy Mingo is an ordained minister, professor, cultural capacity expert, and entrepreneur based in Colorado Springs. She is the founder of Je-Nai International Ministry and Significant Life Change, Inc., and has developed multicultural initiatives both at home and abroad. She holds a PhD in global leadership and an honorary doctorate in urban transformative leadership and has been widely recognized for her teaching and training in cross-cultural competency.

Listen to these beautiful and energetic endorsements, all recommending that folks consider The Colors of Culture:

“A must-read with an open embrace is right here in The Colors of Culture! This book is an astounding body of work with truth and remedy on topics that have been misinterpreted and misunderstood for far too long. The message in this book comes straight from our Holy Great Spirit Creator. Dr. MelindaJoy’s compelling accounts of humanness come through both her personal life’s encounters and how she has observed others. This is evidenced in how she has built relationships and bridges in places that are close to her heart.

“I am honored to say that we have more than ten years of working together both on the reservations, within the inner cities, and in multicultural communities all over Turtle Island (US). She is one who makes no apology in the book with regard to her ancestry or her birthright and has a remarkably rooted confidence in her beautiful indigenous (Native First Nation and African) heritage. She is both compassionate and courageous with her message during this moment in time and presents a compelling viewpoint of our humanness and how we intersect in life with others more than we realize.

The Colors of Culture is a sacred bundle of wisdom and truly an eloquent delivery of raw remedy. I will strongly suggest this book to my First Nations people. Pilamaya~in gratitude.”   Cahuilla K. M. Red Elk, retired tribal attorney, founder and CEO of the Center on Human Rights and American Indian Law Advocacy

“You need to read The Colors of Culture with an open heart and posture of a learner! The message woven throughout the book of stepping out of our places of comfort and being intentional in building authentic relationships in order to reach diverse people is needed now in our society more than ever before.

“Dr. MelindaJoy Mingo brings a fresh, new, and powerful voice in the arena of unity, diversity, and the role of the gospel in moving us beyond past hurts to the beauty and joy of cultivating and sustaining diverse relationships. The winsome art of personal storytelling from around the world allows us to follow the message of the value and worth of all people while pointing to deeper implications of change that occur when we allow the truth of the gospel to bring transformation in our lives and those we journey with in life. This book is written with authenticity of heart and the truth of the gospel. It will be both a joyful and thought-provoking read. This book presents a timely and compelling message not just for this generation but for generations to come.”  John M. Perkins, cofounder and president emeritus of the John and Vera Mae Perkins Foundation and Christian Community Development Association

Everything Is Spiritual: Who We Are and What We’re Doing Here Rob Bell (St. Martin’s Press) $27.99 | OUR SALE PRICE = $21.60                    DUE SEPTEMBER 15, 2020

I wondered if I needed to put this here as a great one to pre-order since, well, a lot of folks have given up on the relevance of Bell’s books to their current lives. And those that do follow him are true fans and probably ordered it at some slick place a half a year ago. If I recommend him, some will roll their eyes (unfairly, I think) and others will be glad, but not place an order.

Still, I loved Rob’s work when he was doing sort of stand up lectures out at clubs and bars and cool lecture venues. Some of you will recall that he filled up a big white board writing stuff about quantum physics. It was better (and longer) than a TED talk, but that sort of extended stand up performance art, half lecture, half storytelling, half testimony and half comedy. That that doesn’t add  up is part of the mystery — okay, that’s my dumb joke; he is much deeper than than. There was a DVD of that lecture tour called, yep, Everything Is Spiritual and I gather that this book is drawn from those electrifying  presentations.

(Watch these couple minutes of Rob Bell on Youtube to see a quick glimpse of a small portion of the old “Everything is Spiritual” presentation. You can find the whole out there if you want, I bet.)

Can understanding the creation’s intricacies and postmodern science help us know who we are? Job 12:8 says so, so maybe Bell is on to something. I haven’t see the book yet, but wanted to suggest you pre-order it now if you’d like and we can send it out as soon as it arrives mid-September.

Preacher, justice activist, and author of Tears We Cannot Stop, Michael Dyson, says this about this forthcoming book:

In Everything Is Spiritual, Rob Bell updates Teilhard de Chardin’s Catholic mysticism, makes sexier Werner Heisenberg’s quantum physics, and baptizes Jewish Kabbalah in an exciting vision of the future of human evolution. Bell challenges the notion that science and belief are at war with his sublime fusion of Christian faith and modern evolutionary science. Bell’s book is the perfect antidote to the plague of an evangelical worldview that is captive to imperial dreams and a literalism that kills the spirit of Christianity. Everything Is Spiritual is a bracing and stirring manifesto for a fresh contemporary vision of an ancient faith

That may or may not be all that’s going on in this forthcoming release that is sure to be talked about and even critiqued (fairly, and unfairly, I’d bet) this fall. I’m sure it will be interesting and provocative and, like his pal Mike the Science Guy McHargue, will appeal to many. There are other books to read that are more precisely about science, some written by very solid theologians who also have degrees in science; you could start with Francis Collins or Deborah Haarsma. But this Bell book, too, could be a really stimulating read for those who aren’t going to wade through Alister McGrath or John Lennox or even John Polkinghorne. Give us a call if you want some of those sorts. If you want to pre-order Everything Is Spiritual, we’d be delighted to send it out as soon as it hits.

Bavinck: A Critical Biography James Eglinton (Baker Academic) $44.99 | OUR SALE PRICE = $35.99  DUE SEPTEMBER 29, 2020 

I don’t know if we’ll have bunches of folks rushing to buy this hefty historical biography (480 pages) but I hope we do. I’m telling you, in so many ways, Herman Bavinck (1852-1921) was a fascinating figure, and  hugely important thinker and activist and apologist for a sort of faith that demands our all because Christ is the King of all areas of life. Some say he helped define what has become known as neo-Calvinism with its emphasis on a truly intregal/organic Christian philosophical world and life view. Bavinck was one of the enduring conversation partners with the more famous Abraham Kuyper whose life and teaching transformed much of Holland and certain set the stage for a certain sort of cultural engagement in the middle of the 20th century onward here in North America.

He not only argued for a broad vision of redemption and public theology, but also needed to engage a modernist threat within theology and culture. He in his life was in discussion with (modern theologian) Schleiermacher on one hand and coping with the rise of a Nietzsche cult in Holland. He grappled with issues of faith as it relates to science, the existential threat of the nihilists, and the deep philosophical questions about the nature of the human person.

If any Dutch Reformed theologian needs to be better understood alongside Kuyper, Bavinck is the one. And if anybody — anybody — in the world should be chosen to help us, it is the extraordinary scholar (and, let’s just say it, fanboy) the eminent Scottish scholar James Eglinton. Dr. Eglinton earned his PhD from the prestigious University of Edinburgh and is Meldrum Senior Lecturer in Reformed Theology at the University of Edinburgh in Edinburgh, Scotland. He previously served as senior researcher in systematic and historical theology at the Theologische Universiteit Kampen. Eglinton is the author or editor of several books, including Herman Bavinck on Preaching and Preachers. He also serves as associate editor of the Journal of Reformed Theology. He brings some new insights to Bavinck studies — or so I gather; in a stimulating introduction he says as much — and for this, many who realize the importance of this stuff are very grateful.

Here is a couple of minutes dialogue with Eglinton about Bavinck (and his relationship with Kuyper) and why Calvinism ought to be seen as a big and broad theology to see how the gospel can inform every area of life. Both lectured at Princeton in the early 1900s and neither felt their American audience quite got it.  Here is an hour-long conversation (with Dr. Eglinton only one of several guests) on their translation of a book on worldview by Bavinck. There is a bit of a renaissance of Bavinck studies, so this is good to know about. And here is a delightful  lecture in honor of Bavinck by Richard Mouw, given last year in Holland. Some of the ideas here are nicely shared in his new book All That God Cares about: Common Grace and Divine Delight. More on that, soon.

Eglinton’s big forthcoming biography is obviously “impeccably researched” as Kristen Deede Johnston (author of The Justice Calling) from Western Seminary has said, but it is also accessible. It is informative about the wide ranging theological and cultural work in which Bavinck was engaged and it somehow make it relevant for us a century later.

Just take in these excellent assessments of the importance of this forthcoming volume:

“When it comes to theologians that contemporary church leaders should be reading, I don’t know of a more important one than Herman Bavinck. No one can grasp the theology of an Augustine or Aquinas, a Calvin or Luther, without knowing their life and context. James Eglinton has provided this in his new critical biography of the greatest Reformed theologian of the twentieth century. A very important yet highly readable volume.”
— Timothy Keller, pastor emeritus, Redeemer Presbyterian Church of New York City”Impeccably researched and thoroughly readable, James Eglinton’s biography of Herman Bavinck deserves a wide readership. As Eglinton invites us into Bavinck’s faithful and creative engagement with pluralism, psychology, Nietzsche, education for women, evangelism, missions, racism in America, and politics, we see that we still have much to learn from this member of the great cloud of witnesses.”
— Kristen Deede Johnson, Western Theological Seminary”Eglinton demonstrates that Bavinck was a brilliant, creative theologian. For those who are discovering that brilliance in Bavinck’s writings newly translated into English, we now have the gift of a wonderfully readable and informative narrative of Bavinck’s spiritual and theological journey. This important book confirms what many of us have been convinced of for some time now: Bavinck’s time has come as a world-class theologian for our own day.”
— Richard Mouw, president emeritus, Fuller Theological Seminary

“Eglinton is the modern biographer Herman Bavinck deserves. Eglinton is a theologian who is inspired by Bavinck’s search for an orthodox engagement with the modern world, knows this world and Bavinck’s works well, reads them in Dutch, has researched Bavinck’s papers meticulously as a historian, and composes and writes smoothly, as Bavinck himself did. What a treat that Bavinck has this kindred spirit as biographer.”
— George Harinck, historian, The Neo-Calvinism Research Institute, TU Kampen

“Eglinton’s biography of Bavinck is outstanding. Scholarly but accessible, it offers an account of Bavinck’s life and work in its historical context. The picture that emerges here is neither that of a reactionary conservative nor that of a man divided against himself, as others have claimed, but that of a churchman navigating the waters of modernity with the tools of a deep and devout theological tradition. A wonderful companion volume to the Dogmatics.”
— Carl R. Trueman, Grove City College

“In James Eglinton, Herman Bavinck has the biographer he so richly deserves, his own Scottish James Boswell. Using fresh archival sources, Eglinton provides new insights into the man, the churchman, and the thinker who was, alongside Abraham Kuyper, the most important figure in the revival of Dutch Calvinism in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Through careful historical research Eglinton places Bavinck in his broader intellectual and spiritual context as a modern person and effectively challenges some of the oft-repeated myths about him and his secession Christian Reformed community. This will be the definitive Bavinck biography for generations.”
— John Bolt, Calvin Theological Seminary (emeritus)”Here is an elegantly written and intimate portrait of a theological giant in the Reformed tradition, based on a thorough reading of all of Bavinck’s published and unpublished writings. Eglinton superbly documents Bavinck’s intense personal, spiritual, and intellectual wanderings and wonderings that ultimately led him to the creation of his four-volume masterwork on Christian dogma. This book is destined to be the standard biographical introduction to Herman Bavinck for years to come.”
— John Witte Jr., Emory University”Doctrine is forged on the anvil of life, and thus any attempt to understand a theologian’s works must factor in the foundry of personal history. Devotees of Herman Bavinck can celebrate that they now have a biography that serves this task. Eglinton has written an exceptionally well-researched account for anyone seeking to understand Bavinck and the modern Reformed tradition. Eglinton pairs in-depth research with insightful analysis. Readers will not be disappointed with the fruit of his outstanding labors.”
— J. V. Fesko, Reformed Theological Seminary, Jackson, Mississippi
“Eglinton’s critical biography of Herman Bavinck is the first that gives an in-depth account of the unity-in-diversity and diversity-in-unity of the theologian’s thought and life. I can hardly express how grateful I am for this publication. I cannot wait to see how Eglinton’s biography reshapes our understanding of Bavinck’s life, as well as our conceptions of Christian scholarship in particular and Christian calling in general.”
— Shao Kai Tseng, Institute of Religious Studies, Zhejiang University, China

 

Jack: A Novel Marilynne Robinson (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) $27.00 | OUR SALE PRICE = $21.60         DUE SEPTEMBER 29, 2020

Oh my, I’m saving the best for last — at least that is what some will surely say. This is the publishing world’s biggest announcement this fall (perhaps this year) and many of our friends have had hearts aflutter over this, rightfully so. Us too. Can you believe it? After the artistic, literary and even theological genius of Gilead, Home, and Lila, followed by years of several dense, mature, literary collections culled from her writing in the nation’s leading journals, years of projects as diverse as editing a collection of John Calvin’s work to interrogating the meaning of modern thought (see, The Death of Adam, for instance, or the extraordinary What Are We Doing Here essays), after that, who expected a fourth book in the series about these Iowa church families?

(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Jack is a character that appears in her novels that have won a Pulitzer Prize, two National Book Critics Circle Awards, and a National Humanities Medal, which are considered by some to be among the great works of contemporary American fiction.

Jack is actually the character John Ames Boughton, the prodigal son of Gilead’s Presbyterian minister, the Rev. Boughton. Robinson tells the story of John and his romance with Della Miles, a high school teacher who is also the child of a preacher. As the publisher notes, “Their deeply felt, tormented, star-crossed interracial romance resonates with all the paradoxes of American life, then and now.”

We in the bookselling biz often look to reviews from these sorts of industry sources. These are important comments, and I hope they inspire you to take up these works this fall.

“A sometimes tender, sometimes fraught story of interracial love in a time of trouble . . . The story flows swiftly — and without a hint of inevitability — as Robinson explores a favorite theme, ‘guilt and grace met together.’ An elegantly written proof of the thesis that love conquers all — but not without considerable pain.”  Kirkus (Starred review)

Robinson’s latest glorious work of metaphysical and moral inquiry, nuanced feelings, intricate imagination, and exquisite sensuousness . . .Myriad manifestations of pain are evoked, but here, too, are beauty, mystery, and joy as Robinson holds us rapt with the exactitude of her perceptions and the exhilaration of her hymnal cadence, and so gracefully elucidates the complex sorrows and wonders of life and spirit.”         Booklist (Starred review)

“Robinson’s stellar, revelatory fourth entry in her Gilead cycle . . . is a beautiful, superbly crafted meditation on the redemption and transcendence that love affords.”  Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

By the way, for those who are interested in such things, the first three in this cycle (Gilead, Home, and Lila) are being reissued with new uniform paperback covers, matching the new hardcover of Jack. We’ll have those, too, of course, by the end of the summer. Ahhhhh.

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Books written by people of color on the topic of racism and racial justice (May 31, 2020) ORDER NOW

Due to the Covid crisis and our desire to continue to play it safe, Hearts & Minds is still closed to walk in traffic, but we are busy with curbside delivery and are doing tons of labor-intensive mail-out business, sending carefully wrapped packages all over the world. 

With our staff on furlough and so many complications in these difficult days, I regret that I’ve not done our weekly BookNotes book review columns in quite some time. Thanks to those who said they missed them. There are so many brand new books I’d like to tell you about, but we just haven’t had the time or energy to write.

I have been asked by several customers in the last few days for a list of books about racism written by people of color. Because there seems to be a (Pentecostal?) eagerness to listen and learn right now, I felt like I should refocus from answering emails today and processing orders and pause to offer this quick list. Sorry I don’t have the hours it takes to download and show the wonderful covers. As I write, all of these books are in stock here at the shop and we can mail them out (although there will be a bit of a delay; even working 15 hours straight some days, we’re a bit behind in our shipping.)

Allow me to say three things about this list.

Firstly, it should be obvious but I want to say it: people of color write books about topics other than race and racism. There are Black and Latinx and Asian-American and Native authors who write about prayer and marriage and science and literature, theology, psychology, parenting, politics, and art and who create novels and children’s books and poetry. Just saying.

Secondly, it should be admitted that not all people of color (again, this should be obvious but sometimes is not) have the same ideological, theological, or political convictions, not even about this topic of racism. There are black political conservatives, for instance, and there are legitimate conversations to be had about policy (and, more deeply, worldview) differences among us all. Just for instance, my friend Dr. Anthony Bradley has a different analysis of mass incarceration in his scholarly book Ending Overcriminalization and Mass Incarceration than does Michelle Alexander in her seminal The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in an Age of Colorblindness. Robert Chao Romero (author of Brown Church Five Centuries of Latina/o Social Justice, Theology, and Identity) has a different slant than does, say, Samuel Rodriguez of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference. The gay Lutheran pastor and author Lenny Duncan, author of Dear Church: A Love Letter from a Black Preacher to the Whitest Denomination in the US has a different story to tell than does Thabitit Anyabwile, for instance, in his important The Decline of African American Theology: From Biblical Faith to Cultural Captivity or than the late Lakota/Sioux elder Richard Twiss in his One Church Many Tribes: Following Jesus the Way God Made You. Just as for white folk, no one author or public figure (not even Bey or Obama) gets to speak for all people of color.

Thirdly, while it is vital for people of all races and ethnicities (and genders and classes, while we’re at it) to read widely, to hear and learn from each other, it is also true that in this whole area of race, it is unfair to expect people of color to do all the heavy lifting in these conversations. Not all minorities feel comfortable or even want to talk much about this, even though they may be glad others are doing so. It is good that white people want to read books by people of color to get their unique experience, but it is also true that there are important books about this topic by white writers that everyone should read. I have mentioned them often at BookNotes.

Not all of us are gifted with the skills and capacities to analyze events, to explain ourselves well, to articulate things in the way that good writers can. We thank God for the artful gifts of writers who bring their abilities to the page, who have worked hard to tell us what they’ve experience, what they know, what they think and hope for. Yet, we all have stories to tell, don’t we? It is why we commend books like (just for instance) Your Story Matters: Finding, Writing, and Living the Truth of Your Life by Leslie Leyland Fields (NavPress; $16.99) and Raise Your Voice: Why We Stay Silent and How to Speak Up by Kathy Khang (IVP; $16.00.)

I put this list together hastily and is of course not comprehensive. These are books by people of color that we want to promote and minority voices we want to amplify. Most are by people of evangelical faith, but not all. We are glad that our customers are interested in these sorts of things and we appreciate your support for us as a family owned business that has long attempted to offer resources like these for living faithfully as Christians in the material world God so loves. 

As always, please send an order our way by using the secure order form tab below, where it says “order here.” That will take you to our secure order form page where you can safely enter credit card info and tell us what you want to order. We don’t keep people’s credit card information on hand, unless you ask us to so unless you’ve authorized us to do that recently, it is best to enter that info again so we know just what you want us to do. If we are to bill you peronally, just tell us. If we are billing your church, just say that. Being as specific as possible about how we can help will be appreciated. 

 

We will reply promptly with a personal confirmation and sincere word of appreciation. It helps if you tells is if you’d rather we send it slow and cheap (about $3 or so via “media mail” for a small order) or if you want it to ship more quickly via Priority Mail, which is about $7 or so for a few books, more if the package is heavier.

SOME BOOKS TO READ ABOUT RACISM 2020 WRITTEN BY PEOPLE OF COLOR

Many Colors: Cultural Intelligence for a Changing Church Soong-Chan Rah (Moody Press) $14.99. This isn’t exactly scholarly but it is a good study of the changing demographics in American, how former minorities are increasing in number and how mostly white churches, ministries, nonprofits and other organizations (not to mention all of us in our lives and neighborhoods) have to learn to navigate this newer diverse society. I’d read anything he does, including Prophetic Lament: A Call for Justice in Troubled Times, a remarkable study of the book of Lamentations, offered through the lens of protest and lament of contemporary racial injustices. This isn’t a passionate narrative about social reform or a poignant memoir, but solid, useful content we should all know.

Living in Color: Embracing God’s Passion for Ethnic Diversity Randy Woodley (IVP) $18.00 Randy is a Native American and brings a great Biblical perspective, with a hint of his own indigenous background. This is a great primer on this topic that I often encourage people to start with. Praise the Lord for this!

Beyond Colorblind: Redeeming Our Ethnic Journey  Sarah Shin (IVP) $17.00. This makes a good, good case for not being “colorblind” and to see our ethnicity in light of God’s good creation and how it has been harmed/distorted by sin and the fallen world. So, yep, it’s really wise. She’s Asian American and a very, very solid and insightful Bible teacher. I highlight this most years at the big Jubilee conference in Pittsburgh, placing the goodness of God’s gift of race and color in the created order (not something that is primarily a result of the fall or sin.) We have to learn to steward the gift of race in a fallen world, and that is where this really gets interesting. Good stuff.

The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church’s Complicity in Racism Jemar Tisby (Zondervan) $19.99  Tisby is one of the bright young scholars of American history and this overview of the church’s complicity with racial terror is a must read. I’m grateful that this well-known evangelical publishing house did such a bold book. We carry the DVD curriculum on this, too, which is highly recommended. We were honored to be one of the first stores to really get behind this book, promoting it as we could.  Lecrae wrote the foreword, which is cool. But more, it is important. We need to know this stuff and, some of us may think, adapt some of his radical calls to action near the end of the book. Let’s go!

Free at Last? The Gospel in the African American Experience Carl Ellis (foreword to the new edition by Sho Baraka) (IVP) $21.00 I think this is really, really important, a great black church history by an African American scholar and leader in the PCA denomination. This brand new edition was just released as a “classic” commemorative version, and we’re so glad. Very highly recommended.

Just to show I’m not alone in esteeming this amazing man of God and his important book, listen to these testimonials; do not take this lightly — when leaders say they read and re-read a book, you should take notice:

“Outside the Bible, Free at Last? has had the most influence upon my life, ministry, and identity. My twenty-five-year-old copy is wrinkled, tattered, and dog-eared on virtually every page. I reread it at least once a year and have counseled countless others to do the same. This book nourishes my soul and quickens me to action, which is why it has traveled with me to Uganda, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Ethiopia, Ghana, and back to these shores we call home. In Free at Last? Carl Ellis invites us to believe that we too might be a jazz theologian—one who can see the way to the Promised Land.”

Robert Gelinas, lead pastor at Colorado Community Church, author of Finding the Groove: Composing a Jazz-Shaped Faith

“Dr. Carl Ellis was and is ahead of his time. This book was first introduced in the early 1980s; however, the items Ellis deals with have been timeless issues to African Americans. I have read and reread this book and quoted from it more than I can say. In essence, this is a classic work. It has found new life, as the same question of black identity is rearing its head again. The gospel must be applied to our issues contextually without changing its content. The scope of the gospel must be engaged in the black experience. Dr. Ellis is a brilliant theologian and sage! I recommend Free at Last? as foundational cross-ethnic reading for thinking through and dealing with the issues of today. Kudos to IVP for rereleasing the seminal work. I’ll be continuing to refer to it in my ministry and recommend it to the lost and the found for shaping their journey.”

Eric M. Mason, lead pastor of Epiphany Fellowship Church, Philadelphia, author of Woke Church.

“I was a first-year seminary student in 2001 when I first heard the name Carl Ellis. My professor, John Frame, listed Free at Last? among the list of recommended books in his course syllabus. I was at a majority-white seminary in need of resources written by black authors. Little did I know the gift this book would be for my formation as a disciple of Jesus Christ and shepherd in his church. Everyone should read this book. Learn of the faithfulness of God to a particular people from this elder and sage. Thank you IVP for putting it in the hands of a new generation!”

Irwyn L. Ince, director of the Grace DC Institute for Cross-Cultural Mission, author of The Beautiful Community

Is Christianity White Man’s Religion? How the Bible is Good News for People of Color Atipas L. Harris (IVP) $22.00 This is new and in another pre-pandemic era – in a time when Beth and I weren’t working 15 hours a day to keep up with our work here – this would have been on my own “must read” list and I’d have written about it at BookNotes. Rev. Harris exemplifies, I think, what is not uncommon among rising African American scholars and pastors: he bridges theological divides. This brother has advanced degrees from Candler School of Theology (at Emory) and Yale Divinity School and he works for Bishop T.D. Jakes. He is a contemporary church musician that has a book about worship, another about the Holy Spirit in the work of social justice, and he has now founded the Urban Renewal Center in Norfolk, VA. As Nikki Toyama-Szeto (director of Evangelicals for Social Action) says, “This book is a gift for those seeking authentic spirituality, but feeling dissonance between their spiritual hunger and how Christianity is lived out.” As T.D. Jakes puts it, “Dr. Atipas Harris courageously confronts the spiritual ramifications of a debate that has existed in the black community and beyond for years!”

Rescuing the Gospel from the Cowboys: A Native American Expression of the Jesus Way Richard Twiss (IVP) $23.00  For a contextualized Native perspective that is specific about American injustice, see the important work by the late, great Richard Twiss.

Listen to Nijay Gupta, a brilliant, young, New Testament scholar:

This is a provocative, engaging book. It brought me to tears. It challenged many of my assumptions. I did not agree with every jot and tittle of Richard’s approach to contextualization, but this is a book every thoughtful Christian should read. Pastors, missionaries, and educators in particular need to chew on the issues Richard raises about contextualizing the gospel in light of the many cultures and peoples in the world, not least those who have been condemned and silenced and forced to ‘unbecome’ themselves, whether under the authority cowboys or others.

I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness Austin Channing (Waterbrook Press) $25.00  This woman named Austin Channing Brown is an amazing writer, giftne and honest, just telling her story. It is powerful, important, one of our best sellers and nearly a must-read, we’d say. Don’t miss it!  Exactly a year ago (the end of March 2019)  I did a special BookNotes column about recent books on race and said there why we had named I’m Still Here one of the very best books of 2018 and still wanted to promote it. I noted that “…we highly recommend this moving memoir of a young Christian woman who has particularly been involved in white middle-class evangelicalism. She tells us what it has been like for her and I am sure many will enjoy, be moved by, be horrified by, and be changed by her brave telling of her own story.”

All the Colors We Will See: A Memoir Patrice Gopo (W Publishing Groups) $16.99 We wrote a bit about this memoir at our BookNotes when it first came out and then awarded it as one of the best books of last year. She is a black skinned woman whose parents are from Jamaica who was raised in Alaska and then moved to the deep South. It’s a story of her life, her experience of race, and of not exactly fitting into the conventional African American experience. Fascinating and poignant.

Mother to Son: Letters to a Black Boy on Identity and Hope Jasmine Holmes (IVP) $20.00 I hope BookNotes readers recall my comments about this a few months ago when it was brand new. These are wonderfully written, poignant, tender, and honest letters by a Godly, evangelical black woman to her son, raising all kinds of concern about all sorts of things (as a mother would.) She writes about Christian identity, discipleship, sexuality, and, of course, being a black boy on the way to become a black man in racist America. This is a great gift to us all and a helpful window into the lives of black Christian families.

Parable of the Brown Girl: The Sacred Lives of Girls of Color Khristi Lauren Adams (Fortress) $18.99 Khristi Adams is a speaker, chaplain, and ordained Baptist minister, philosophy teacher and the founder of The Becoming Conference (which was designed to empower and inspire teenage girls.) This brand new book offers stories to celebrate the voices and experiences of black girls. I’ve only dipped in a bit but it looks like a stimulating and provocative collection of stories, some about resilience, some not, many related, then to Biblical and religious formation for us all.

A Sojourner’s Truth: Choosing Freedom and Courage in a Divided World Natasha Robinson Sistruck (IVP) $16.00 This is one of those books that was a great read, well written and moving, interesting and captivating, and that teaches much without being overly didactic. It is essentially a memoir, a good narration of her life from the rural South to the US Naval Academy, but also offering a sense of how to discern one’s own calling, finding purpose and direction. She does some good Bible study along the way (drawing on Moses, especially) inspiring us all to find ways to navigate fidelity in the midst of division, racism, poverty, and other obstacles that divide us. This is a great book, what one reviewed called “a bridge over troubled water” and what another said was “hard-won truth” spoken honestly.

Called to Forgive: The Charleston Church Shooting, A Victim’s Husband, and the Path to Healing and Peace Anthony B. Thompson (Bethany House) $17.99 In BookNotes a while ago I exclaimed how much I was moved by reading this gripping report from the husband of Myra Thompson, who was gunned down by Dylann Roof during a prayer meeting in the infamous shooting at Emmanuel AME Church. How could Thompson (himself a clergy-person in the Reformed Episcopal denomination) follow his conscience and his Lord’s teaching and forgive Roof? How would others respond if he went public with a statement of that sort? How might he minister to Roof during the ugly trial and publicity about how was he influenced by the teachings of white supremacy those on the alt-right? This is one account of that horrible episode and its aftermath.

Trouble I’ve Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism Drew G.I. Hart (Herald Press) $16.99  We recommend this book often in part because Drew is an old friend and has a background in doing campus ministry in central Pennsylvania – he mentions living in Harrisburg in this narrative – but also because it is a great read, deftly telling his own story as a black young adult in a mostly white denomination (the Brethren in Christ) with Biblical, theological, and social analysis. This is a thoughtful primer on race, a great tool to learn more about Christian discipleship and wholistic theology, and a lively testimonial about his own experiences. Dr. Hart earned his PhD from the Lutheran seminary in Philadelphia and now teaches at Messiah College. You can PRE-ORDER from us his eagerly anticipated next book that comes out this September that will be called Who Will Be a Witness: Igniting Activism for God’s Justice, Love, and Deliverance (Herald Press; $18.99.) It’s going to be very useful, I’m sure.

Dream with Me: Race, Love, and the Struggle We Must Win John Perkins (Baker Books) $15.99  No list of contemporary writers about race and social justice from a Christian perspective would be complete without several books by this elder statesman and remarkable leader, the great John Perkins. Read any of his many books; this one I mention here is recent… His first is still a classic, Let Justice Roll Down (Baker Publishing; $17.00) and his newest is He Calls Me Friend: The Healing Power of Friendship in a Lonely World (Moody Press; $14.99.) By the way, we were given the permission to transcribe a commencement speech he gave a few years ago for my book for college grads, Serious Dreams: Bold Ideas for the Rest of Your Life. I thought if I were compiling great graduation speeches into a little anthology, I wouldn’t want to go to press without a chapter from John. We are honored and grateful. You should know his work.

Aliens in the Promised Land: Why Minority Leadership Is Overlooked in White Christian Churches and Institutions edited by Anthony B. Bradley (P&R) $15.99. I mentioned Dr. Bradley in my prelude — he is a theologically conservative Reformed scholar and yet serious as a black Christian about attending to the ways institutional racism (and, yes, individual prejudice) offends God’s holiness and hurts God’s people. Here he compiled a series of top notch essays offering  wise insight, protest and lament, and calls for reformation and change within mostly white mostly evangelical church and para-church organizations. Whether you are evangelical or not, engaged in leadership of ministries or not, these fairly scholarly essays by leading writers of various ethnic backgrounds are very much worth reading. I am glad for the brilliant Reformed theologian John Frame’s comment when he says says “this is a terrific book, a game changer. If you are tired of the usual arguments about race, as I am, this book will wake you up with some new ideas.”

Insider Outsider: My Journey as a Stranger in White Evangelicalism and My Hope for Us All Bryan Loritts (Zondervan) $17.99. I have read several of Loritts’s good books and he is known in evangelical circles, a respected pastor, thought leader, author. He loves the Lord, he loves the church, and serves largely within the context of the mostly white evangelical sub-culture. (This is not to be confused with the far right fundamentalism culture, by the way.) Still, even in the broader, more socially relevant world of the moderate evangelicals, he has experienced racism, a sense of his own outsider status, this journey of being in the middle. He says it is “tiring to always play the part of a stranger. We long for home.” This is a very good read, a helpful expose of how the white evangelicals world creates contexts where folks like Bryan feel like they are not really at home. The poignant, freighted title of this really says it all — “insider outsider.” Very good.

Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America 
Michael Eric Dyson (St. Martin’s Press) $24.99  Dyson is a scholar, professor, pastor, writer, radio host and pop culture icon who is very well respected in some circles.  From Philly, he now teaches sociology at Georgetown. We should know his fierce work. This is honest, hard, real.

The Cross and the Lynching Tree James Cones (Orbis Books) $27.00 This is one of the most important books in recent years, a major contribution from the grandfather of radical, black theology. I have written more about this important author before. His final book was a reluctantly-written memoir, published before his death in 2018, Said I Wasn’t Gonna Tell Nobody: The Making of a Black Theologian (Orbis; $26.00.)

Race Matters Cornel West (Beacon) $15.00  You know know this scholar, university professor, philosopher, pop culture guru and street activist, one of the most lively public intellectuals working today. He is deeply and very intentionally rooted in the grand American tradition of revolutionary thinking, he is a serious theologian (his first book published by Westminster/John Knox Press) and clearly in the line of Dr. Martin Luther King, committed to faith-based, nonviolent social change. West is a great writer, a serious moral thinker and public philosopher and whether one agrees with his verbose and colorful public style or not, he is one to be read. This is the place to start, I think.

(By the way, God bless The Trinity Forum for hosting a wonderfully robust civil discussion between West and his dear friend, the conservative white Princeton scholar Robert George. They did their lively debate amidst accolades for each others integrity and their genuine friendship shined through. Check that out here if you’d like and you’ll be edified and entertained, learning much and seeing how to disagree and yet be friends.)

Healing Racial Trauma: The Road to Resilience Sheila Wise Rowe (IVP) $17.00 When I reviewed this at our BookNotes newsletter (which, as I’ve said, has been on sad hiatus in recent weeks due to the stress of quarantining, etc.) I observed that it has two audiences: firstly, for people of color who need to find healing from the stress and trauma of all they face, but also, I think, also, for white brothers and sisters to learn what our friends might be going through. One can’t be an ally in solidarity without understanding how it is for others and what sorts of deep healing they may need. It is really important. Foreword by Soong-Chan Rah.

Woke Church: An Urgent Call for Christians in America to Confront Racism and Injustice Eric Mason (Moody Press) $14.99  Mason is a powerful, feisty, strong black pastor in urban Philly. He’s a lively character and fun speaker and serious Bible teacher. This is hard hitting while still being utterly gospel centered. Wow.

Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God Kelly Brown Douglas (Orbis Press) $24.00 Written in the agonizing days after Trevon Martin’s death and the discussion of “stand your ground” laws, this former Dean of the Episcopal Divinity School at Union Theological Seminary, a black priest and professor and street activist and black mother, writes profoundly about the historical, cultural, even philosophical forces that have shaped our current individualism and idolatrous views of property and our twisted views of racial differences. Womanist theologian Katie Cannon says it is a “theological touchstone…an incredibly important and timely examination…” We must insist, as Jim Wallis writes on the back, endorsing this serious text, “that violent enforcement of white supremacy is no longer acceptable.”

Roadmap to Reconciliation 2.0: Moving Communities Into Unity, Wholeness and Justice Brenda Salter McNeil (IVP) $20.00 This is a brand new expanded and updated edition of an evangelical classic by a lively evangelist for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. This book is really excellent and there is a discussion guide, too, for congregations wanting to work through some of this.

Listen to the great Curtis Paul DeYoung, who writes:

Dr. Brenda Salter McNeil is one of the most admired and powerful witnesses to the ministry of reconciliation in the United States. Roadmap to Reconciliation is Brenda Salter McNeil’s magnum opus! Here she distills for us the wisdom of a life’s work of significant reconciliation engagement with congregations, universities, denominations and communities. Salter McNeil calls us to embrace transformed worldviews and practical action. Pastors, seminarians, lay leaders, university students, activists and anyone hoping for a more reconciled world should read this book!”

Be the Bridge: Pursuing God’s Heart for Racial Reconciliation Latasha Morrison (Waterbrook Press) $17.99  She has a ministry of starting these multi-racial conversation groups, and this page-turner of a book is honest, raw, Godly, good. It’s an amazing, hard ministry, but really good stuff. Keep an eye on this woman, she is a rising star. Beautiful.

Here is what her publisher info says about her:  Ebony magazine recognized her as one of their 2017 Power 100 for her work as a community crusader. Tasha has spoken across the country at events that include: IF: Gathering, Justice Conference, Youth Specialties, Catalyst, Orange Conference, MOPS International and many others. A native of North Carolina, Tasha earned degrees in human development and business leadership. In 2016 she founded Be the Bridge to inspire and equip ambassadors of racial reconciliation. In addition to equipping more than 1,000 sub-groups across five countries, Be the Bridge hosts a closed, moderated online community of bridge-builders on Facebook with more than 20,000 members.

Here is what Lisa Sharon Harper, founder of Freedom Road and author of the above mentioned Very Good Gospel says:

“Through Be the Bridge Latasha Morrison offers a feast to the body of Christ. Vivid storytelling combines with sharp exegesis to draw readers onto the bridge of racial healing and justice. There, Morrison calls the body to face the truth–the whole truth and nothing but the truth. She does not pull punches. She does not make it pretty. Yet, this consummate bridge-builder lays foundations that hold the tension–and hold us together on the journey toward God’s kind of love.” –Lisa Sharon Harper 

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A FEW KEY BOOKS BY AUTHORS OF COLOR THAT ARE NOT EXCLUSIVELY ABOUT RACISM, BUT ARE VERY HELPFUL IN THIS CONVERSATION

The Very Good Gospel: How Everything Wrong Can Be Made Right Lisa Sharon Harper (Waterbrook) Press $17.00  Lisa is a friend and one of the most important public voices in the faith communities these days; you should follow her on social media. She runs Freedom Road and has written or co-written several books about Biblical social ethics and just policy perspectives. This is her best-known book and the first half is about how reconciliation is a theme of the Bible — the world was made in shalom, sin caused alienation, and God promises reconciliation, which is accomplished in Christ. She is trying to formulate a way to tell the gospel story in a manner that would be perceived as truly good news to her enslaved forebears. (Her genealogy also includes Cherokee ancestors and she tells in the beginning about going on a commemorative, historical tour learning about the Trail of Tears. Whew.) The second half, after this “very good news” of real restoration and hope through the Christ-centered Kingdom of reconciliation, she explores what reconciliation might look like. There are chapters about race, but also about gender, the earth, immigration, our own bodies, even between nations. This is excellent, Biblical, theology made practical for all of us. Highly recommended.

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption Bryan Stevenson (OneWorld Publishing) $17.00 Simply one of the most powerful books I’ve ever read (have you seen the movie?) Bryan Stevenson is an amazing person and we have long been evangelists for this book. It’s about his work with those imprisoned unfairly, attempting to get them a fair trial and true justice, so it is mostly about the courts and prison and institutional racism. What a great writer and justice champion. He went to Eastern University before graduating from Harvard Law School and now directs the Equal Justice Initiative. Fans of his should know he is one of four conversation partners in a small book edited by central Pennsylvania Sherrilyn Ifill, called A Perilous Path: Talking Race, Inequality, and the Law (New Press; $15.99.)

Rethinking Incarceration: Advocating for Justice That Restores Dominique DuBois Gilliard (IVP) $18.00 There is so much we could suggest about this whole area of studying mass incarceration  — the phrase made famous by Michelle Alexander and her serious The New Jim Crow — but this is one by a vibrant, young African American leader that offers Christian insights about reforming the criminal justice system. Very impressive for those in this particular struggle.

Race and Place: How Urban Geography Shapes the Journey to Reconciliation David Leong (IVP) $20.00 Yes, this is about racism, but it is also about urban planning, city life, geography, place, and how all of that material built environment influences cultural divides that are both caused by racism and continue to reinforce it. An amazing, informative read.

The Soul of Hip Hop: Rims, Timbs and a Cultural Theology Daniel White Hodge (IVP) $22.00 There are a lot of books reflecting on the interface of black culture, hip hop, rap, and God’s mission of justice. Hodge is a name we should know; he has some scholarly work on this topic as well. This is an eye-opening and (if you’re into pop culture) fun.  In BookNotes a year or so ago I raved about the more academic and hard-hitting Homeland Insecurity: A Hip Hop Missiology for the Post-Civil Rights Context (IVP Academic; $27.00.)

Healing Our Broken Humanity: Practices for Revitalizing the Church and Renewing the World Grace Ji-Sun Kim and Graham Hill (with a foreword by Willie James Jennings) (IVP) $17.00  Wow, what a scholar and leader Dr. Kim is – she has done academic works, popular magazine writing, activism, missional conferencing, and here brings it all together on how congregations can be renewed in ways that lead to awareness about racial injustice and forming communities that foster action for healing the world. This is less directly about racism, as such, and more a feisty guide to activating the missional church to be a new humanity in Christ and all that that may mean. Her early chapter on renewing the practice of lament is worth the price of the book. Her chapter on reinforcing agency is potent. There are useful appendices for leading conversations and even an “accountability form” for the nine transforming practices.

Native: Identity, Belonging, and Rediscovering God Kaitlin Curtice (Brazos Press) $17.99. This new book is getting a lot of press right now and she is a really great writer. (We loved her book about the spirituality of the ordinary Glory Happens.) This really is a blending of her deepening Native experience and her Christianity. Not exactly or only on racism, but it’s a powerful voice and a major new author. Highly recommended by folks as diverse as Nick Estes (founder of The Red Nation) and Barbara Brown Taylor and Sarah Bessey.

Being Latino in Christ: Finding Wholeness in Your Ethnic Identity Orlando Crespo (VIP) $16.00. Not just on racism, but on the experience of evangelical Christ followers who are Latinx, especially those that are second generation Latino. It’s for those who are Latino/a but it’s a great read for anyone wanting a window into that experience. Very nicely done.

Hermanas: Deepening Our Identity and Growing Our Influence  Natalia Kohn Rivera, Noemi Vega Quiñones, Kristy Garza Robinson (IVP) $16.00  Not on racism directly, but this is a great Bible study, or set of Biblical reflections, by Latina women. What a great book to see how the lived experience of these minority sisters informs how they see the Scriptures. Really, really good stuff, for men or women.

His Testimonies, My Heritage: Women of Color on the Word of God edited by Kristie Anyabwile (Good Book Co.) $16.99  Again, not on racism as such but it is great to hear the Biblical insight and testimony of women of color.  We loved writing about this at our BookNotes newsletter and wish more people would consider it. This is a great, inspiring read, helpful insight into Psalm 119 by solid Christian leaders.

Voices Rising: Women of Color Finding and Restoring Hope in the City edited by Shabrae Jackson Krieg, Janet Balasiri Singleterry (Servant Partners Press) $15.99  We celebrated this rare one at BookNotes when one of our customers alerted us to it. This offers the voices of women of color doing urban ministry from all over the world, actually. This is a vital, remarkable work.

Honoring the Generations: Learning with Asian North American Congregations edited by M. Sydney Park, Soong-Chan Rah, and Al Tizon (Judson Press) $19.99 There are many kinds of Asian American churches and many struggle – as do many others – with being cross-cultural and cross generational. This is a richly theological volume but aimed at those working in (or wanting to understand) the dynamics of many Asian congregations in North America. It is not mostly about racism, but wanted to include it as a few chapters about church life within marginalized communities are very good. Dr. Park is a leading Korean-American scholar (she co-wrote The Post Racial Church years in 2011.) Dr. Rah is an urban ministry scholar who teaches at North Park; before that he founded Boston’s multiethnic Cambridge Community Fellowship and is a leading voice for racial justice. Dr. Tizon is Filipino; he got his PhD from the Graduate Union and long been a good friend of Hearts & Minds. Al was formerly on staff at Palmer Theological Seminary and worked for Evangelicals for Social Action. Now at North Park Seminary, he serves as executive minister of Serve Globally, the international ministries arm of the Evangelical Covenant Church. Tizon’s latest book is Whole and Reconciled: Gospel, Church, and Mission in a Fractured World.

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Well, I haven’t even mentioned any of the mainstream best sellers, notable and important works such as Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates to the jarring memoir Heavy by Kiese Laymon to the beautifully written essays Black Is the Body: Stories from My Grandmother’s Time, My Mother’s Time, and Mine by Emily Bernard or the delightful “part memoir, part manifesto” Not Quite Not White: Losing and Finding Race in America by the South Asian American Sharmila Sen.

And you must know the passionate, award winning work of Ibram X. Kendi, Stamped from the Beginning and his recent Becoming an Antiracist. We have the new “remixed” version for younger readers that abridges and edits these two into one called Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You: A Remix of the National Book Award-Winning Stamped from the Beginning.

I am glad that The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks About Race edited by Jesmyn Ward, is now in paperback. I should list White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of our Racial Divide by Chandler’s Carol Anderson. And, of course, there are the classics, from Dr. King, of course, as well as Ida B. Wells, Howard Thurman, Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks, Vincent Harding, Malcom X, the works of James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison, bell hooks, and more.

We are grateful for folks to support these sorts of books by these splendid authors. We are a bit backlogged due to the pandemic, but we would still be very glad to get to send some of these out.

As always, please place an order using our secure order form page. Just click on the order tab below and fill out the necessary info. If we don’t get back to you with 24 hours, that means something went haywire, so do call us as soon as we are able. We look forward to confirming your order and send out these good books. Despite all, read on!

 

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Hearts & Minds 234 East Main Street  Dallastown  PA  17313
read@heartsandmindsbooks.com
717-246-3333

Not open for in-store traffic, but still doing “grab and go” curb-side delivery by our rear parking lot, and a lot of mail-outs.

No, we’re not open yet, even though our Governor’s team has declared Dallastown’s York County in the “yellow” zone. That is, we could open if we could abide by CDC-inspired safety precautions for our customers and staff. Our back offices and mail-out work rooms are simply not configured for social distancing so we can’t have our wonderful team in place quite yet. We miss Amy, Diana, and Patti, but we will not put them in danger. We tend to be conservative on this whole “opening up” business and think it wise to care well for the common good by playing it safe. The CDC is still recommending that retailers, like restaurants, only be open for curbside delivery.

Beth and I (with some help from a volunteer relative) have been working hard to keep up with our curb-side deliveries and the appreciated but taxing upsurge in online mail-orders. For now, we are glad our friends and fans are praying for our stamina and wisdom and sending orders our way. It really helps and we are grateful.

This may be the first BookNotes that isn’t highlighting new titles, offering book reviews, and making reading suggestions. I’m really, really sorry — I suspect it might hurt my heart more than it does yours, but we just can’t swing doing our typical weekly BookNotes columns these days. I’ve got stacks of new titles I’m longing to tell you about, but just don’t have the bandwidth to do so. (So, I invite you to go back over some of those hefty BookNotes columns that you skipped in months and years gone by. There’s a lot of content at our website even though our inventory isn’t listed. I’m sure you can find something inspiring there.)

With the surge in online inquiries and phone consultations and mail out orders, we are just swamped. Since we lost our socially-rewarding and in-come producing off-site events this Spring (not to mention all the cancellations of events planned for this Summer, another which was announced just today) we are financially taking a huge hit. It’s bad. Those retreats and conferences and clergy gatherings and book displays that we do each season provided a good bit of our reliable income. Of course, due to the Covid crisis, the walk-in traffic from friends and customers here at the shop are also all gone.

I’ve said it in our personal email notes back to customers and mentioned it at Facebook, but it is ironic that now that we don’t have staff or employees here, we are blessed with an uptick in orders. That Amazon has said they are “de-prioritizing books” has caused a lot of folks to come to us. Sure, it’s awkward being second or third choice (pray for my attitude, friends) but we’ll take it. We are pleased, truly, to serve folks who need personalized customer service in these hard times. The feedback we’ve gotten has been remarkable, really, and we are deeply touched to have helped so many people in these hard times.

What a joy it has been (if joy is the right word to utilize in such poignant matters) to get to tuck  little notes into children’s books, saying that their grandparents are eager to Zoom with them to read the book together, since they are apart. I never thought we’d get to write notes to people who could not attend real funerals, but pastors have sent us lists of bereaved folks and asked us to send books to them, with encouraging notes of consolation. Pastors doing pre-marital counseling have asked us to send a workbook to the guy and the gal at different addresses. We have sent books to prisoners, praying for their well-being in those dangerous locations. Beth and I have been given lists addresses to send books to partipants in on-line book clubs or studies and we’ve been asked to correspond with seekers who might want to read a book about faith. We’ve been asked for novels, for online Bible study suggestions, for suggestions about thinking faithfully about this digital age.

Of course, it’s been fun to send out graduation gifts to these dozen high-schoolers or those dozen college grads. (A special thanks to those who have ordered my book, Serious Dreams: Bold Ideas for the Rest of Your Life. It’s been fun autographing those to graduating collegiates.)

Still, we need more business in these complicated days and we invite you to hang in there with us. Browse through our old BookNotes columns and consider those titles I raved about which I proclaimed would be good for you. Send us an inquiry if you’d like, or, better, a real order.  Or pre-order anything you are anticipating. We can handle that for you easily. We’d be grateful.

(If you want us to send something to someone else on your behalf, do tell us if you want us to enclose a note or gift wrap the item. That’s helpful info to give us up front, and we’re glad to customize your order any way you’d like.)

We’d be grateful if we knew that you knew that we are a bit backlogged. We pride ourselves in great customer service, but we’ve blown it a time or two this season. We apologize if we fouled anything up. We’re sorry that our supply chain is itself backlogged, although we are glad that publisher and distributor warehouses are being conscientious, even if it means we must be a bit more patient than usual. Also, despite the complications that feel disappointing to us, we’ve been told by many that we’ve served them well, and that makes us glad. Give the glory to God who keeps us going, even in difficult circumstances. We thank God for our sales reps, publisher friends, authors, and book cheerleaders who have tried to alert the public about new titles. We’ll be back doing Booknotes soon, we hope, so we’ll be describing all sorts of new, good titles. In the mean time, we salute those who have helped us stay busy these past weeks.

And we offer condolences to those who have been ill, who have lost loved ones, who have been stressed by serving in the front lines of the pandemic and serving the sick. You are doing God’s work, and pray that you sense Christ’s presence and hope even in your sadness.

In such hard days, books can be real sources of wisdom, self-improvement, and even stimulating entertainment. How can we help you deepen your own discipleship and expand your heart in these times? How might we encourage your own reading habits? Give us a call, send us a note, fill out the order form page. Be as specific as you can and we’ll do our best to meet your needs. After so many decades of selling books and talking about the spiritual significance of reading widely, we’re not about to stop. We may be a bit slower, but we are sure you understand. Books matter, especially in times like these.  Be safe. Read on.

 

BookNotes

Hearts & Minds logo

order here

this takes you to the secure Hearts & Minds order form page
just tell us what you want

inquire here

if you have questions or need more information
just ask us what you want to know

Hearts & Minds 234 East Main Street  Dallastown  PA  17313
read@heartsandmindsbooks.com
717-246-3333