Honoring the Radical King — and some books to help us learn ON SALE

This was an article that I wrote for our local paper, the York Daily Record, who was kind enough to run it as an op-ed piece on Sunday. It’s on their YDR webpage, too. I’ve added more books below then the few I had in the article in the paper and described them a bit. I thought you might want to see it, and see the books listed. They are on sale and you can use our secure order form page by clicking the link below.

Early morning, April four

Shots ring out in the Memphis sky

Free at last, they took your life

They could not take your pride

A whole generation of millennials learned the date of Martin Luther King’s assassination not from their history books but from the most important rock band of their era, U2, and their powerful song Pride (In the Name of Love.) Those of us who remember that awful date because we followed Dr. King in the harsh days of 1968 were reminded of what happened at the Lorraine Motel by Bono and I, for one, am grateful.

Those shots rang out 50 years ago last Wednesday.

Even those churches with a vision of civil rights and social justice – which is to say Roman Catholics, most mainline denominational Protestant congregations and increasingly, some evangelicals — don’t teach much about King or his vision, let alone his death. My sense is that many historically Black and Latino churches do not much, either.

Which is odd, since Dr. King was one of the most overtly Christian public intellectuals of our time and one of the most eloquent preachers in American history. He remains a lively interpreter of Christ’s call to make a difference in the world. The shallow intellect and lax moral qualities of today’s celebrity preachers, from Jerry Falwell to Franklin Graham to Joel Olsteen, put into high relief the caliber of the likes of King and his colleagues in the civil rights movement.

Granted, King himself had his own besetting sins and foibles. (The scene in the must-see film Selma when King calls gospel singer Mahalia Jackson late at night to sing to him his favorite hymn because he was so scared is based on a true incident.) He and his associates, like all of us, had feet of clay. Yet, America hasn’t in years seen the likes of public theologians such as those that marched with King – just think of the Jewish leader Abraham Heschel, black Baptist preacher and King’s Lieutenant Ralph Abernathy, or the Presbyterian William Sloane Coffin, converted to public justice issues after a stint in the CIA. These were leaders that were well read, deeply conversant in the best American political theory, and profoundly committed to thoughtful engagement with Scripture.

As we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King many have said nice things about him; radio shows played clips from the “I Had a Dream Speech” and even those who care little about his teachings – Christian nonviolence, a radical critique of empire and materialism, the dignity of all people, including the prisoner and the poor – will clamber to pay homage.

I want to cry out when I hear ministers (of any race) and public officials (of any party) quoting King as if they know something about him or care about his social agenda when it is evident they do not. (Mike Huckabee scolded Black Lives Matters activists saying King wouldn’t have approved when that was not self-evident. How dare he suggest he cares what King thought when in so many ways he obviously does not?) I sometimes wonder how many people who cite him have read even a single of his many books?

Do we recall what the great preacher was doing in Memphis that fateful April day? He was taking his stand with underpaid garbage workers, helping their union fight for fair wages against a system stacked against the poor of all colors. He was exhausted, working harder than ever, not just for desegregation – the movement was making headway on the racial integration of lunch counters, schools, and voting rights – but against poverty, against corporate malfeasance and crony capitalism that oppressed those in the third world and kept folks poor here at home. One of his most fiery speeches was preached at a church in New York exactly one year earlier in which he passionately and unequivocally condemned the Vietnam war. It was so blistering even the New York Times criticized it.

As Jason Sokol, author of the new The Heavens Might Crack: The Death and Legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. writes, in a concluding chapter “From Outlaw to Saint”,

Americans were able to admire King because they picked and chose which parts of his career they wanted to embrace. They scrubbed his message and blunted his meaning. Eventually, the historical King – a courageous dissident who unsettled the powerful –would be replaced by a mythical one.  Many white Americans concentrated on that single line from King’s “I Have a Dream” speech and effectively reduced his life to one quotation. They began to appropriate King’s legacy and wield it in their own causes.

In his last years Rev. King increasingly tempered the optimism of “The Dream” insisting that for many it had become a nightmare. Yet, he continued to share his own faith in the gospel. Many have heard his tired but reassuring words on the evening of April 3rd about not being afraid of dying since he knew he’d go to heaven; he was a preacher, after all, and his agenda for social righteousness was motivated by deep, personal faith.

But he also pressed harder than ever to – as the Biblical prophet Amos put it – “let justice roll down” and to (as the prophet Isaiah put it) “break every yoke and let the oppressed go free.” He understood what Jesus meant when he said that the “weightier matters of the law” are justice and mercy. Perhaps because Martin was so rooted in the prophetic ethics of Biblical faith, it isn’t surprising that black Christian philosopher Cornel West has called him “The Radical King.”

We must reject the milk-toast view of King the noble reformer, safe and domesticated. We should familiarize ourselves with his profound theological tradition of Biblical reflection on themes of public justice and liberation. We should ponder his vision of being a global citizen, caring about the hungry abroad and rising up to be assertive peacemakers in a world of warriors. We should honor his commitments to reform the social architecture of society and the values that undergird it, which, of course, demands some willingness to bring prophetic critique to the status quo and the driving forces of the culture. Inspired by the Reverend King we should be glad for those who stand against police brutality, who work for better health care policy, who are welcoming of immigrants and refugees, who demand firm legislation that upholds the cause of the hurting. Like Dr. King, and the Hebrew prophet Isaiah he so loved, we must cry out to legislators saying “Woe to them that decree unrighteous decrees…who turn aside the poor.”

A good place to determine if we want to align ourselves with Dr. King’s vision is to read books by and about him.

At our Dallastown bookstore we once got an alarming, near-death threat shoved under our door for featuring books by the great preacher. But we shall not be moved. We will continue to promote books about King’s philosophy of nonviolence and will continue to resource those who want to work for social change, connecting human flourishing and the common good to the great American experiment that King spoke about so eloquently

Here are several for starters.  All on sale.


The King Years: Historic Moments in the Civil Rights Movement Taylor Branch (Simon & Schuster) $16.00  Taylor Branch is widely respected for his massive, magisterial three-volume history of “American in the King Years.” This one is a smaller, vivid, accessible summary of the bigger set and offers helpful background and texture to King’s work. The best way to learn the most important episodes of the civil rights movement; highly recommended even though they are not all about Dr. King.



March Book One, March Book Two, March Book Three John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Mate Powell (Top Shelf Productions) $14.95, $19.95, $19.95  I hope you know these excellently done, slightly oversized graphic novels that tell the biography of this grand civil rights leader who worked closely with King. Congressman Lewis, as you may know, is the only living main stage speaker from the famous March on Washington and, of course, was a leader at Selma and beyond.  While not only about King, it is a great way into these stories and that era, especially for those who appreciate comic books and graphic novels.

Let the Trumpet Sound: A Life of Martin Luther King, Jr.  Stephen Oates (Harper) $19.99  This has won numerous awards is still widely considered one of the very best biographies of King.

Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference  David Garrow (William Morrow) $22.99  The respected historian won the Pulitzer Prize for this beautiful, painstaking study of King’s SCLC years. We should all know about the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and this book tells it brilliantly.

Martin Luther King Jr. for Armchair Theologians  Rufus Burrow (Westminster John Knox) $18.00  I hope you know these “Armchair Theologians” books — they really are very interesting, complete with a few helpful cartoons. They aren’t really whimsical, but they are designed to study serious stuff about various theologians and their intellectual influences. There are bunches of them (on Luther, Bonhoeffer, Augustine, Calvin, Wesley, Aquinas, and more.) This one is solid, interesting, helpful, fun. You will learn a lot, I’m sure.



Martin Luther King: The Inconvenient Hero Vincent Harding (Orbis) $16.00  I have long admired the colorful Harding, a storyteller of the first order, a passionate and decent leader of the movement. (His There Is a River is another classic in the literature of the black struggle for freedom in America.)  He knows the stories, he knows why we must keep telling them, and he offers here a hard reminder of what King stood for.




Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story Martin Luther King, Jr. (Beacon Press) $16.00  This was King’s first book and wonderfully documents the drama of the famous bus boycott that catapulted him to the national spotlight. I often say this is one of my own personal favorite books and it shows not only King coming to terms with Biblical nonviolence (his seminary professors tried to talk him out of it) and how the famous bus boycott got organized.

Where Do We Go From here: Chaos or Community? Martin Luther King, Jr. (Beacon Press) $16.00 This handsome companion volume to Stride Toward Freedom is the last book Dr. King wrote. This edition has the famous foreword by Coretta and a recent introduction by the great Vincent Harding. Powerful stuff.

Gospel of Freedom: Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail and the Struggle That Changed a Nation Jonathan Rieder (Bloomsbury) $16.00  King’s short letter written from a jail cell to moderate, sympathetic clergy, remains one of the classics of American literature; the rhetoric and eloquence of it is nothing short of brilliant. Professor Rieder explores the setting and the implications of this period of King’s life. It is widely considered a major contribution and was highly reviewed when it came out a few years ago.



Birmingham Revolution: Martin Luther King Jr.’s Epic Challenge to the Church Edward Gilbreath (IVP) $16.00  Gilbreath is an exceptionally thoughtful and well informed black evangelical; his 2008 book Reconciliation Blues is an honest study of white Christianity.  I think this is an excellent bit of research, one which Curtiss Paul DeYoung calls “magnificent.” One reviewer wrote:

 “In this book African American journalist Edward Gilbreath explores the place of that letter in the life and work of Dr. King. Birmingham Revolution is not simply a work of historical reflection. Gilbreath encourages us to reflect on the relevance of King’s work for the church and culture of our day. Whether it’s in debates about immigration, economic redistribution or presidential birth certificates, race continues to play a role in shaping society. What part will the church play in the ongoing struggle?”

I Have A Dream: Sermons and Writings That Changed the World  Martin Luther King, Jr. (Harper) $15.99  There are bigger anthologies (such as the large A Testament of Hope) but this is the best, most economical one-volume collection of his most important writings.

Editor James M. Washington arranged the selections chronologically, providing headnotes for each selection that give a running history of the civil rights movement and related events. In his introduction, Washington assesses King’s times and significance.  A must.


The Radical King edited by Cornel West (Beacon Press) $16.00 The contemporary philosopher, activist, and public intellectual selects and introduces various letters, speeches, and essays of King’s that best illustrate his radical social vision.  I hope you know West and his several books (including a recently re-issued Race Matters.) He has done us a great service to offer this particularly curated selection and a few explanatory notes about each reading.  We have good studies of “the domestication” of King; this one allows you to read his words for yourself.



The Heavens Might Crack: The Death and Legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. Jason Sokol (Basic Books) $32.00  This new hardback is great social history, reminding us well what King was up to his last year, what happened in the immediate aftermath of his murder (where would the funeral be held, how would they move the body, who would attend, why didn’t President Johnson show?) and how the subsequent riots effected the nation. This is a riveting read, highly recommended.



Reflections by Rosa Parks: The Quiet Strength and Faith of a Woman Who Changed a Nation  Rosa Parks (Zondervan) $  This fabulous book used to be out as Quiet Strength and it is great to see it again with this excellent cover and nice, hand-sized, square, gift-book format. This is inspiring, of course, and is a fine way to learn a bit about the early days of the Montgomery Bus Boycott and also to hear about the classic faith of many of Kings friends and influences. Love it!


A White Preacher’s Message on Race and Reconciliation Based on His Experiences Beginning with the Montgomery Bus Boycott Rev. Robert Graetz  (NewSouth Books) $26.95  Graetz was in 1955 when the Montgomery Bus Boycott began, a young white Lutheran pastor of a mostly black church. He has learned quite a lot over the years and some of our friends in the CCO have gone on civil rights tours with him. This is a rare and very special contribution, nicely done. There is a forward by John Lewis.



Called to the Fire: A Witness for God in Mississippi: The Story of Dr. Charles Johnson Chet Bush (Abingdon Press) $21.99 There are so many books like this, quiet, moving, informative stories that you may have never heard, lesser-known saints who served God despite all. This moving tale tells of Dr. Charles Johnson who was the key African American witness to take the stand in the trial famously dubbed the “Mississippi Burning” case by the FBI. Dr. Johnson was a young preacher fresh out of Bible College and became a voice for justice and equality in the segregated south. As the publisher says:

Unwittingly thrust into the heart of a national tragedy – the murder of three civil rights activists – Dr. Johnson overcame fear and adversity to become a leader in the civil rights movement. He played a vital role for the Federal Justice Department, offering clarity to the event that led to the Voting Rights Act of 1965. And, in a shocking turn of events, Johnson offered a path of reconciliation for one of the convicted killers. A story of love, conviction, adversity, and redemption, Called to the Fire is a riveting account of a life in pursuit of the call of God and the fight for justice and equality.


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Brand new: “Grateful: The Transformative Power of Giving Thanks” by Diana Butler Bass. But first: living well after Easter, amidst hard times — music by Bill Mallonee, new paperbacks from N.T. Wright, and classics by Eugene Peterson

“Christ is Risen!” the leader proclaims. We reply with the ancient response, “He is Risen Indeed!” It’s a good ritual, a tad formal, but gets to the heart of things quite quickly, no?

Or, in more modern style, Rob Bell asks, with his face close to the camera in the incredible “Resurrection” video, “You didn’t see that coming, did you?”

It would be interesting, I think, to do a poll to ascertain people’s feelings late on Easter day, or the following Monday. We’ve been through this sober and reflective season of Lent, inhabited the drama of the Triduum — “we need all three days” insists A.J. Swoboda in his excellent A Glorious Dark: Finding Hope in the Tension Between Belief and Experience – and now we are convinced of the bodily resurrection. For me it is rock bottom, nonnegotiable; true.

“Where, O Death, is Thy Sting?” “Death is Swallowed Up.”


Except, resurrectionary as we may be, it still stings.

The hurts of this world continue to haunt; I am myself troubled as I write this for more reasons than you need to know. And you may be too.

I truly believe the words of “Jesus Christ is Risen Today” and can earnestly sing the hearty Ah ah ah ah ah lay-a lu oooh ya, but still am more deeply aware with each passing year that we are in the “already but not yet” time between times. Christ has risen and ascended and sent his Spirit (those congregations that follow the church calendar will celebrate those key aspects of redemptive history soon enough) but we wait for the full coming of the Kingdom.

It is one of the reasons I am so drawn to the hefty and heady book by James K.A. Smith, Awaiting the King: Reforming Public Theology (Baker Academic; $22.99) as it assures us that our awaiting is not passive and it is not merely personal. Waiting for the King to come is serious business and even this side of Easter victory we dare not be complacent. We are missional people, called, sent into a very broken world.

I’m glad we sang in our church “Christ Is Alive,” #246 in Glory to God, the PC(USA) Hymnal, which was written for Easter Sunday, 1968, by United Reformed Church minister and hymn-writer Brian Wren. It was penned for that hard late-60s Easter a few days following the assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. It sings of the historical reality of the resurrection of Christ and, perhaps like Wesley’s famous “Christ the Lord is Risen Today” speaks of Christ alive now, alive in the present tense.

“He comes to claim the here and now and dwell in every place and time.”

And then, according to C. Michael Hawn,

Stanza four is the touchstone for the King assassination – the place where Dr. Wren brings the resurrection into contact with human suffering as expressed in racism, war, and all the ways that we hurt and destroy our fellow human beings. This resurrected One “suffers still yet loves the more” in the midst of the devastation that we bring upon each other.

The final stanza comes full circle and refocuses us on the “good news to this and every age.” The cosmic joining of heaven and earth is explicit here: “till earth and all creation ring…” The cosmos rings with the fullness of the good news of “joy and justice, love and praise.”


I haven’t followed much of a serious Lenten practice this year and I regret not being more disciplined or focused. But what I did do was listen almost exclusively to the latest album by Bill Mallonee, Forest Full of Wolves over and over. (You can order it, and so much more good music, directly from him.)  It is, at first, dreary almost to the point of being devastating, and I intentionally wanted to spend time with its jangly, (beautifully) distorted guitar riffs that do Neil Young better than Neil himself, its piercing guitar obbligatos that could be mistaken for Mark Knopfler, the reverb and the whispered words, the whining, the down-and-out storytelling, the raw lament and dark protest of a world gone haywire. What do you expect from a CD where the first song darkly observes “shadows move over the face of the clock” and the second sings about “In The New Dark Age” and the last is a (Dust-bowl-era?) story about an old beat-up Ford? (“We had Jesus on the dashboard/ but that may not be enough” and the chorus offers, sadly, “I’m sorry.”)

And so it goes, Bill’s big, wounded heart doing what he does, poetically reporting on what the album promo describes as a “scathing look at what created the debris of the American dream… (where) Mallonee’s characters inhabit a world of hardship and incongruity.”

As I listened to this album over and over these Lenten weeks I grew to take great comfort in the struggles and, perhaps not so oddly (knowing Bill’s art as I do) found hope there. I increasingly realized Forest Full… is as much an Easter album as a Lenten one. One reviewer wrote that the characters “still hold resolute in the face of an un-named darkness that haunts them within and without. By holding the smaller, specific shard of broken individual lives up to the light, he has created an arresting album of beauty, tenderness, and fragile-ness stocked with rock and roll convictions.”

I would take me too far afield to explore the signs of life in the seemingly dark, rootsy, Americana album, but between the lines, among the heartache, in each and every song, even in the wailing electric guitar, there are glimmers of redemption, joyful notes, wit and goodness. And hope.

In one catchy melodic tune – it could have been off his classic, fun, Summershine album, maybe – there’s a song alluding to the old gospel tune, “Trimmed and Burning.” No matter if no one sees your witness, “that beautiful sight,” he inspires us to be ready, waiting, and actively so. “Put on your boots and roll up your sleeves,” he sings, as he calls us to offer “an olive branch to the world.”

Here after Easter I wonder what it means to live like that, ready, waiting, active, a peacemaker.


You may tire of me saying it, but N.T. Wright is one of the great authors who can help us exactly with that. I’m reading his new book biography of Paul (Paul: A Biography published by HarperOne; $29.99) and, as I’ve said before, it is big but really interesting.

Two of his major hardback books — one on the cross and  one on resurrection, perfect after Easter for resurrectionary living — have recently been released in paperback and I simply must remind you of them now.

The Day the Revolution Began: Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus’ Crucifixion N.T. Wright (HarperOne) $18.99 This is the one I raved about here (when it first came out) because it powerfully studies every key text in the New Testament about the cross and asks how these passages and their teaching relates to the coming Kingdom of God. That is, if “new creation” is the point of Christ’s death and resurrection, then how does his blood shed and the atonement help get us there? This is really, really good and a very valuable approach. Even if you aren’t convinced of all his deep exegesis, this book is very well worth reading. Now that it is paperback, it’s a great addition to your library.


Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church N.T. Wright (HarperOne) $15.99 Many have said that this book is their favorite of Wright’s and its orthodox commitments and its innovative argument for creation regained is eye-opening and life-changing. We are so glad this is now out in paperback and hope it is widely used in study groups and book clubs. I assume most BookNotes readers know of its importance, especially in showing the grand vision of the restoration of the cosmos prefigured in the bodily resurrection. The implications are vast and he points us in the right direction, in much detail, with much vigor.. Now it is available for the first time in a more affordable paperback. Thanks to God.


While we are offering resources on this topic of living well in the resurrection even as we know the world remains broken and alienated, we surely should suggest two that seem perfect for this post.

First, there is the short, lovely, wise, and useful little book called Living in the Resurrection: The Risen Christ in Everyday Life by Eugene Peterson (NavPress; $17.99.) This is my favorite book on what we call the “post-resurrection appearances” of Jesus, which includes a chapter called “Resurrection Wonder”, another called “Resurrection Meals” and a third called “Resurrection Friends.”  Each is a reflection of Biblical text and he naturally draws out a particular spiritual practice from each. He shows how every day can be a Resurrection Day as we encounter the risen Christ and a formed in His ways by his presence among us.



And then there is the much more hefty study of post-resurrection life that Peterson did by way of insight reflection on Ephesians as the last volume in his majestic five book “spiritual theology’ series. It is called Practice Resurrection: A Conversation on Growing Up in Christ (Eerdmans; $18.00.) This whole series are among the more enduring, intelligent spiritual writing of our lifetime, and this exploration of what it means to become mature in Christ is exceptional. Who couldn’t benefit for a calm and reasoned, yet passionate, look at how Ephesians invites us to a transformed life with God.


Here is a brand new book that certainly will be talked about this Spring and just may the study for you this season after Easter. I haven’t read it carefully yet – it is just arriving this week – but I am sure you’d want to hear about it. Consider it an ideal book for reading “between the times” of already and not yet. Christ is risen, and we are glad. But what shape does that gladness take? And does it matter, really, that we have some deep thankfulness about our faith?

Grateful: The Transformative Power of Giving Thanks Diana Butler Bass (HarperOne) $26.99  I have written often about Diana Butler Bass, a fine scholar of religion, a student of and reporter about healthy congregational life, and a memoirist whose book about being formed by various Episcopal churches (Strength for the Journey: A Pilgrimage of Faith in Community) has recently been updated and re-issued.

I really, really liked (despite a few minor disagreements) her excellent and beautifully-written last book Grounded: Finding God in the World – A Spiritual Revolution (HarperOne; $14.99) It was another wonderful voice in the growing contemporary choir singing “For the Beauty of the Earth” and insisting that knowing God and following Christ, empowered by the Spirit is, in fact, a very down-to-Earth thing. Whether one starts with the goodness of the shalom God created in the primal Genesis narrative or the very material nature of the incarnation or the promised restoration of creation offered in eschatological re-creation, Biblical people are people of the Earth. We are made in the image of a God who created and worked, placing humans – Earthlings might be a good translation of adama – in the Garden. We care about the Earth and we care about the ordinary stuff of real life. Faith enlivens us to the realities of life, and salvation is certainly not a escape route to a “better place” but is an empowerment to image God in Christ in the here and now.

Diana Butler Bass says all that very differently, and much more elegantly, than I do, at times, and my paraphrase of her project is only to whet your appetite for that very provocative, lovely, moving book.

But what does one write next, when one moves from a personal faith memoir to congregational life studies to impassioned writing about creation care and stewarding the public trust?

When I first heard that this was the topic of her research a year or two ago, I wondered if it was a good move. We need her blazing in critique of the status quo, her examination of churches that miss the point of the gospel, her ruminations on the implications of God’s great grace and love and the transforming power of the emerging and missional movements. Moribund mainline churches, especially, need her reminding us of ways to affirm a “faith for the rest of us” and how to engage the increasingly unchurched “nones.”

And, I’ll admit, as smart as Diana is, as impressive of her command of the sociology of the religious landscape is, I wondered if a book about gratitude was, well, a bit less urgent then her previous work. Maybe, I thought, it seemed a bit lightweight.

And that is just stupid on my part. I’ll admit it; what a dumb thing to think.

There are cheesy and simplistic books about gratitude – or prayer or kindness or hope or anything — and there are mature and thoughtful ones. Just because there are clichéd internet sites offering a positive thinking affirmation a day or inviting us to be happy no matter what, doesn’t mean that we don’t need more progressive and stimulating studies of the topic. I should know this about gratitude, because I’ve read some very impressive titles such as Radical Gratitude by Jo Leddy published by Orbis and one with the same title, Radical Gratitude by Ellen Vaugh, published by Zondervan. Some of our customers have been deeply moved by the mystic David Steindl-Rast who wrote Gratefulness: The Heart of Prayer.

Speaking of good books that may lead us to this topic, I am again reminded of the very impressive and theologically sound work of Mike Cosper who not long ago wrote the fabulous Recapturing the Wonder: Transcendent Faith in a Disenchanted World (IVP; $17.00.) It is hard to find gratitude in a “disenchanted” world, after all, which is why deeper studies like Jamie Smith’s How (Not) To Be Secular: Reading Charles Taylor (Eerdmans; $16.00) remain important for anyone wanting a deep level analysis of the roots of Western culture.

So, Diana Butler Bass has done a deep dive, as they say, into the nature of and value of gratitude. I am as eager as any to read this and admit that I need it more than most. I am glad she is a serious social critic and cares about not only individual happiness and personal meaning and resilience and such, but radical social reform and cultural renewal. In fact – surprise! – this is one of the great fruits of being people of gratitude; it is, she says, “what we most need now.” In Butler’s hands, I am sure, this virtue is not recommended as a sentimental or cheap pick-me-up by looking on the bright side. It is a profound spiritual practice that can be transforming and renewing and will help — if practiced — alter the politics of our time. In this regard, it is subversive.

She has done some talks on this and a few early readers got early review copies and almost everyone is surprised to learn so much from Diana, and to come to understand how culturally-important and, yes, subversive, this practice can be when we learn it well and appreciate the political implications of this way of life.  One who heard her commented, “Diana took everything I thought I knew about gratitude and turned it inside out.”

Gratefulness is, in fact, she argues, a civic practice. And she explains why in this book that one reviewer called “an intellectual cousin to Grounded.”

Here is how Butler Bass puts it, insisting that gratitude is “inherently social.”

Gratitude is an emotion we experience as individuals, and we can each practice gratitude as a personal ethic, the foundation of a good life. Yet gratitude is inherently social, it always connects us as individuals to others.”

Here is what her publisher says about her new work:

Just as she did in her award-winning book Grounded, Diana Butler Bass invites readers to understand new dimensions of American spirituality in Grateful.

Although most of us know that gratitude is good — and good for us — there is a gap between our desire to be grateful and our ability to behave gratefully. The implications of the gap are bigger than we realize, affecting both our personal and public lives. In Grateful, Bass weaves together social science research, spiritual wisdom, and contemporary issues as she calls for a richer understanding and practice of gratitude. What emerges are surprising insights about the power of thankful living to change how we treat one another, and how we might transform our world.

Here is a very recent interview with Diana conducted by Catherine Woodiwiss for Sojourners.It is very good. Reading this fascinating conversation you’ll realize what motivated Diana to research this book and what she discovered as she wrote. And, I believe, why it is important for us today. I hope it inspired you to order it from us soon.

You can order Grateful: The Transformative Power of Giving Thanks here at BookNotes at 20% off ($21.59) now, by using our secure order form page.

And, as always, we are grateful for those who send orders our way.


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There are so many wonderful children’s books that we have in the store – old ones, new ones, well-loved classics, obscure one’s you’ve never heard of – we hardly know where to begin.

For those bookish parents who want to give their children, grand-children or God-children something more lasting than chocolate eggs this week, how about a few of these?

By the way, if you are asking us to send an item to another address on your behalf, let us know if we can tuck in a little note (and what it should say.) We do complimentary gift wrapping, too, so do let us know how we can make your gift-giving easy for you.

(Check out last year’s Book Notes column “Easter Basket Suggestions” for some others ones, here).

Growing in God’s Love: A Story Bible Elizabeth F. Caldwell and Carol A. Wertheim (Westminster John Knox) $25.00 I have been wanting to describe this marvelous new children’s Bible for a while now and it never seemed to fit our Book Notes schedule and I now realize I want to shout about it here – it is very thoughtfully done, a rare and intentionally created storybook Bible done by very highly-respected Presbyterian educators. But a longer more serious review will have to wait as I’ve got so much to say about it.

For now, just know these vital facts about it. As I said, Libby Caldwell (of Vanderbilt) and Carol Wertheim (a Christian educator at a church in Princeton NJ) are both really important figures in the literature and conversations about children’s religious education. You may recall an amazing book I touted by Caldwell called I Wonder: Engaging a Child’s Curiosity About the Bible, which, among other things, compares and contrasts and often criticizes many popular children’s Bible storybook bibles. I don’t agree with her, always, but I note this important book because it shows that she has thought long and hard about what should be in a children’s Bible, how to explain the stories, how to capture the best illustrations and so forth. Growing in God’s Love is, in many ways, the outgrowth of their years serving churches and teaching educators and evaluating what is most needed in a resource like this.

Growing in God’s Love has great illustrations – not all the same style, too. They are attentive to issues of accuracy but also aesthetics and playfulness, not to mention happily having it be multi-ethnic and somewhat global-looking. The pictures are wonderful. The design is superb.

They say it is ideal for children ages 4 – 8 I think it could be used with somewhat older children, too. It features 150 stories that are divided into thirteen themes that relate to the lives of children.

At the end of each story there are three reflection questions – Hear, See, Act – to help children and families ponder. I like how the questions leave a few things open-ended, inviting wonder, curiosity, faith, and deeper reflection on the meaning of it all.

Each story starts with a question to the child, so it isn’t just a straight narrative of the Bible in paraphrase. Some may not like this, adding a modern voice directed to the child in the first sentence of every Bible story, but it works.

Prayers for Young Children Martina Steinkuehler, illustrated by Barbara Nascimbeni (Eerdmans) $16.50 We have really liked Steinhuhler’s illustrations in the excellent Images of God for Your Children so was glad to see her slightly modern, just a little choppy artwork to bring interest and color to these marvelous re-telling of Biblical prayers. The prayers are not sentimental or dumbed-down; there is an index showing the Biblical allusions in each of the nearly 80 pages.

Headings follow a pattern of a child expressing a situation and, in italics, a headline of guidance, which is at once is practical and relevant as well as connected to the ancient Scriptures. For instance, one has the heading of “I feel small (and big)and the subtitle of that page is, Pray like Peter when he recognized his own weaknesses. Another says, “I am angry” and the advice is, Pray like Martha when Mary didn’t want to help her.” Another is titled “I am in a new situation” and it is followed by the advice, Pray like Daniel when he arrived in Babylon.”

The prayers are arranged by various themes, naming feelings of worry and happiness and situations like being sick. One called, “I am so happy” is followed by the line Pray like Sarah when she held her son Isaac in her arms. This is truly remarkable, Biblically-literate, thoughtful prayers, maybe not just for young children.

God’s Very Good Idea: A True Story About God’s Delightfully Different Family Trillia Newbell, illustrated by Catalina Echeverri (The Good Book Company) $14.99 We announced this here last fall and thought I’d just copy my review here, again: I think I will name this as our top children’s book of the year, or very near the top. It’s just stunning in how interesting it is, how it relates the simple gospel to remarkable implications, and how it gets the full-orbed vision of the Kingdom of God being that redemptive force which rescues and renews the very creation. We sometimes talk about creation-fall-redemption and this book gets it! God’s very good idea was a good and safe and colorful creation and God is not giving up on God’s good idea. Jesus will come –as the big story of the whole Bible shows in it’s unfolding drama – to save the lost and redeem the creation, which includes a restoration of the (get this!) ethnic and personality and gender diversity of the original creation.

I simply know of know other book that so faithfully tells the gospel story in terms of the rescue of creation, the restoration of humankind’s role in God’s good world, and how racial reconciliation is central to that. God’s Very Idea of a church that models racial and ethnic diversity so that God’s plan of restoration of the diverse creation is seen by the whole world, is nothing short of brilliant. If only adults understood this creation-regained, racially diverse, upbeat and visionary theology! This book is whimsical and clever and witty and fun, and one heckuva story. The author has written an adult book on themes of racial reconciliation (called United) and the artist that did the illustrations is very accomplished. This is the real deal, friends, a gospel-centered, Kingdom book for Christian kids about stuff that matters in our world. And anybody else who needs to hear the old, old story in fresh, fun ways. Highly recommended.

The Garden The Curtain and the Cross: The True Story of Why Jesus Died and Rose Again Carl Laferton illustrated by Catalina Echeverri (The Good Book Company) $14.99 The playfully excellent Cataline Echeverri did the artwork on this one, too, and fits nicely to offer this overview of the big Biblical story – a good garden, a sinful mess, a savior who comes as a serving King, and that great episode of the curtain in the temple torn. God’s redemptive vision of reconciliation and restoration in Christ’s death and resurrection is shown here in a way that is better than almost any children’s book I know – so well done, so creatively offered, so insightfully wise about capturing Christ’s work in the context of the bigger Scriptural framework of promise and deliverance. Do you want kids to be a part of this grand story to be invited in? This is a very useful resource and very cool at that.

Not Especially Special Katie Savage illustrated by Emily Henebrey (Katie Savage) $16.99 This is brand new and I bet you haven’t heard of it yet. But you just might because this book is so good it is only a matter of time until it gets known and widely loved. We so appreciated Katie Savage’s previous book, a wonderfully realized set of thoughtful reflections, sort of a memoir about her finding God in ordinary life called Grace in the Maybe: Instructions on Not Knowing Everything about God (Howard Books; $15.99) that when we heard she was doing a children’s book we just had to see what it would be like. It is, as we expected, very impressive, a fun and winsome story well told, with a lovely message of God’s love for everyone, for the specialness we all have, despite our various callings and gifts.

The story is about the animals being summoned to Noah’s ark and in that sense it is well-worn ground but in Not Especially Special the good words and interesting plot and fun illustrations are less about the redemptive power of God’s historical work in the flood narrative but more about the specialness of each animals role. Mostly the birds. I won’t spoil the whole story but the last line goes like this:

God had used an ordinary dove to bring a bit of hope in the midst of a great storm. And just like you, she did not need to catch up. She did not have to struggle to be heard or feel desperate to be seen. Because, you see, she already was exactly who she needed to be.

Here is a very nice, brief video clip of Katie talking about her book and why she wrote it and what you can expect in sharing this good news of God’s love for each and all with children. Enjoy.  Why not order more than one — it’s exciting to be among the first to support an innovative project like this.

When God Made Light Matthew Paul Turner illustrated by David Catrow (Waterbrook) $11.99 Turner became know a decade ago as a sassy and funny voice for an emerging generation of open-minded, post-evangelical leaders. I think he wrote for the likes of Relevant and wrote some fun books poking at the silly, insular stylings of in-house evangelicalism. One had to like his boldness and his wit. I’m a fan.

A few years ago he and his very creative illustrator David Catrow did a great book called When God Made You that we loved. This one moves from God making you, to when God made everything – starting with light. This powerful book reads well out loud although the illustrations are busy and wild and although not quite surreal, they are a bit weird. As it even says on the back cover “Through lyrical verse and wild, vivid illustrations, When God Made Light encourages young readers to revel in creation’s awe-inspiring light and to ignite the world with the God-given spark found within.” Yep, it shows and shouts:

In the beginning space became bright, ‘cause God filled it with twinkles of yellowy white. Brilliant stars gleamed. Swirls of light streamed. In that once empty space, a galaxy beamed.

And all that light – every bright, golden hue – is the very same light that God put inside you.

We are made of dirt, the Bible says, so I’m good with that. Are we “stardust” like Joni sang? Matthew Paul Turner makes a really good case, and with very nice lines in very nice cadence assures us that light breaks through our own darkness and can inspire us all. I like this odd book a lot. I think your little ones will, too.

Herodotus the Hedgehog Jen-Luc Buquet (Eerdmans) $17.00 Eerdmans Books for Young Readers brings to North America a lot of books from overseas and they are often exceptionally creative, curious, eccentric even. They do solid Biblical and theological stories and then they do stories with good moral messages about kindness or justice or creativity and such. And then do remarkable books like Herodotus the Hedgehog.

I do not like this book on the face of it. I teased my sales rep that the legacy Christian publisher has done over the edge, promoting a book that is both relativistic and pantheistic. Ahh, but there’s the curiosity and possibility – this is a great, fun, tender, interesting, story that opens doors for the very best conversations about the very things that matter most.

Here’s the plot, as they tell it on the back cover:

Herodotus was a curious little hedgehog who loved exploring the gardens and meadows and forests around him.

On day he saw a bear worshipping the Might Bear Spirit, and he began to wonder what other animals believe in.

So he asks them – the fox, the raven, the sheep, the wolf – and he discovers a fascinating range of beliefs different from his own.

The first part of the book shows some lovely things the hedgehog discovers about the natural order; his curiosity and wonder are sweet to behold! But then he starts wondering what animals believe, if they pray and to whom. The animals are confident, which struck me as funny and maybe a bit too close for comfort. Most worship a God who favors their own species and, uh, looks a lot like them. And some of them speak in derogatory ways about the other (false) Great Spirits that the other (foolish) animals believe in. One doesn’t believe in any – atheist critters, who knew? — another mocks others by saying “we’re too modern for that.” Ha.

Dear little Herodotus doesn’t resolve this very well, in my view, which is why a kind and careful parent will have to help talk about all this. But for introduction to what we call pluralism and the religiosity of the human condition, our hedgehog friend helps us model a healthy, respectful curiosity, at least.

The NIV Action Study Bible (David C. Cook) $12.99  This uses some of the art of the graphic novel/comic book stylings of the Action Bible and puts it with the full text of the NIV. If I had this Bible as a boy, I’m telling ya, man… well. Who knows? I do think this will appeal to many, from little ones who like comics to even older ones who like graphic novels and action-adventure stories. There are nice sidebars and introductions to each book and some info graphics but the heart of this Bible are the many Action Bible illustrations. Three cheers!



Reformation ABCs: The People, Places, and Things of the Reformation – from A to Z  Stephen Nichols, illustrated by Ned Bustard (Crossway) $16.99 This came out just one year ago and since we are now in the middle of the extraordinary 500th anniversary of the start of the Protestant reformation (how often does a culture commemorate a 500th anniversary of anything!?) I figured we should run this again, from last year’s Easter Basket Suggestions post.

We cannot tell you how thrilled we are to tell you about this, although a fuller description will wait for some future list about the 500th anniversary of the start of the Protestant Reformation. Steve Nichols is one of our best popularizers of great insights from church history  (seen especially in a good series of biographies he’s done, showing great insights from people in church history.) His book appropriating Bonhoeffer for daily Christian living is remarkably helpful.  So I like Steve a lot.  He serves currently as the President of Reformation Bible College and is the chief academic officer of Ligonier Ministries. Ned Bustard should be a name you recognize as he comes up from time to time here at BookNotes since he is the man guy managing Square Halo Books, known not only for doing my own book, Serious Dreams, but the widely acclaimed recent volume Deeper Magic: The Theology Behind the Writings of C.S. Lewis by Donald T. Williams (Square Halo; $16.99.) Ned’s last Square Halo Book release, by the way, was co-edited with Gregory Thornbury, Bigger on the Inside which pop culture aficionados will immediately recognize as a study of the long-running British TV show, Doctor Who. The subtitle is simply “Christianity and Doctor Who.”  That’s Ned’s work on the cover of that one, too.

Nichols and Bustard teamed up before in a truly wonderful The Church History ABCs (Crossway Books; $16.99) which came out a few years ago as a slightly oversized hardback, counting down all kinds of good stuff from church history as an ABC book.  Like some ABC books, it works on two levels — yes, for young ones learning to play with letters and learn various words across the alphabet. But these sorts of books can be deceiving — there is a lot of content, and will be sure to inform and even delight anyone with a bit of interest in history.  I bet you will learn something!

This new one, of course, is about the themes of the Protestant Reformation Nichols gives us tons of good info, really interesting, usually important (although there is some goofy trivia included, too. Did you know that there were 5 guys named John who drafted the famous Presbyterian Scot’s Confession? Did you know that Lady Jane Grey sat on England’s throne for only nine days before she was martyred for her faith when she was just 16 years ago?  Did you know that the father of the famous Irish leader, Archbishop James Ussher, was actually an usher?  And I bet you’ve never heard of the Walloon Confession of Faith which as signed by 48 men, 18 women and 1 infant. I didn’t think so.)

But it is the artwork that makes this interesting book so incredibly wonderful. I anticipate it will get some award at the end of the year by Christian Publishing associations for being such a fabulously designed book.  Bustard’s playful, colorful, and very well informed illustrations (sometimes cleverly overlaid with photographs) have so much going on in them that not only invites but demands repeated readings.

This book is smaller in shape than their previous The Church History ABC book, and it works marvelously.  This is just perfect for a medium sized gift, fitting nicely in any Easter basket.  It is explicitly Protestant and it is clear that the author and artists are themselves more than fans of the Reformation tenants. They would stake their lives on this stuff, and their passion for teaching kids the background of these tumultuous times is inspiring.

All the Tales from the Ark Avril Towlands (Lion Press) $9.99 In the mid- 1990s there were a set of three books that were very popular, first in England, and then in the US; these tales about Mr. and Mrs. Noah managing a menagerie were fabulously entertaining, curious stories that told the imagined stories of what different animals experienced on the ark. This new edition offers over 400 pages of these great stories in one hand-sized paperback. And what stories they are – what fun! This isn’t a picture book and although you could read it out loud as a family even for little children, the reading level itself is probably about a third grade level.

Here’s how they set it up:

Mr. Noah could not sleep. So he lay in bed, listening to the snuffles and grunts of the animals, and he talked to God. “Listen, God, it’s not too late. You need a lion tamer for this job, or a big-game hunter, or a zookeeper. And I’m scared of spiders and we’ve got two on board.” Spiders aren’t Mr. Noah’s only problem. The lion wants to be in charge and then the animals threaten to revolt!

The Day God Made Church: A Child’s First Book About Pentecost Rebekah McLeod Hutto, illustrated by Stephanie Hig (Paraclete) $15.99  Again, I’ve recommended this here before and we display it at churchy events and folks love it. There is very little on the Pentecost story and this is one which – in really colorful design and creative text — captures the mystery and importance of this day which many consider “the birthday of the church.” This very colorful paperback uses powerful storytelling and healthy Biblical education and a stimulating, creative picture book helping us learn to celebrate a day in the church calendar that is sometimes overlooked. Pentecost is 50 days after Easter so this is great to give now. It is stunning.

The Marvelous Mud House: A Story of Finding Fullness and Joy April Graney illustrated by Alida Massari (B+H) $14.99 I do not have to explain much about this book other than to assure you it is so rich, so lovely, so nicely done that we are very, very enthused about it and happy to suggest it.

The story is interesting, full of details, and readers will learn much about life in the Great Rift Valley of Kenyan when they learn about the homes of George and his farmer mother, there. Yes, it introduced us to third world families and their life, but the bigger back-story is this: Ben and his American family live in a large ranch house the narrator calls “hungry” because they are “always wanting more.”

Here is how they put it on the back cover:

But then they travel far across the world to Kenya and visit the marvelous mud house where George and Mama George live. There, among the mango trees, they discover a marvelous lesson about what it’s like to be full of joy instead.

This beautiful story takes us across the globe to remind us that joy and faith are the truest riches, wherever we may be.


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REVIEW of “Why Should The Devil Have All The Good Music? Larry Norman and the Perils of Christian Rock” by Gregory Alan Thornbury ON SALE AND A FREE CD OFFER (five days only.)

SPECIAL OFFER – ONE FREE MARK HEARD CD WITH PURCHASE OF Why Should the Devil Have All the God Music? Larry Norman and the Perils of Christian Rock regularly $26.00 – BookNotes special 20% OFF (our price $20.80) + free Mark Heard CD while supplies last, limited time only.

or until supplies run out

I am going to try to keep this relatively brief, in part because I don’t want to get overly emotional in reporting about this new book that means so much to me that streets today, a careful, thoughtful, and detailed biography of the “father of Christian rock” Larry Norman written by Gregory Alan Thornbury. But it will be hard as there’s so much that reading this book reminded me of and so many reasons to enjoy reading it. We are thrilled to be selling it now, as it releases today.

Why Should the Devil Have All the God Music? Larry Norman and the Perils of Christian Rock is a fabulously interesting book and, like the best rock and roll biographies – among my personal favorites include Testimony by Robbie Robertson of The Band and the splendid Fire and Rain: The Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, James Taylor, CSNY, and the Lost Story of 1970 and the must-read Beatle’s study by Larry Norman’s friend, Steve Turner, called Beatles ’66: The Revolutionary Year – it includes lots of stuff about music and song lyrics and production of albums and rock tour stories, but also fair amount of fun celebrity gossip and, thank goodness, some social and cultural and religious commentary. How can one reflect on an artist who hung out with The Jefferson Airplane and opened for Jimi Hendrix and chatted with Paul McCartney and sang about racism and poverty and against the rootlessness of a materialistic generation not explain a bit about the ethos of the 1960s? Norman came of age, and gave voice to Christian faith amidst the California counter-culture; his art was a loud and often-controversial critique of bad religion and boring church and it stood (at least in the early days) as part of the broader zeitgeist which critiqued the bankrupt values of the American dream and the sins of the American empire.

The talented and very interesting Dr. Thronbury is well suited to this big task and he does it well.  I do not think Dr. Thornbury – a young, bow-tied scholar (and an obviously thoughtful and appreciative Norman fan) – spent enough time in the otherwise excellent book reflecting deeply on this early era, and it may be because he wasn’t there and couldn’t conjure enough of the pathos and dislocations of those days. Those of us who remember the day King was killed, who feared the riots and the KKK and the guns of the Panthers and the Symbionese Liberation Army, those of us who participated in early Earth Day activities, who marched against the war, who wept at the napalm used in Viet Nam, who grew cynical from Watergate and wondered why our churches seemed less interested in these hugely ethical and spiritual matters in our culture than they should have been, found in Larry’s music a Christian who seemed to understand us. Yes, those of us who listened to Dylan and Simon and Garfunkle and yelled out the chorus of “Four Dead in Ohio” as a lament, we needed the Jesus-drenched lines of Norman, too, and I wished the deep, deep pathos of that longing for relevant Jesus rock came through more in this book. In those days, Larry was the closest thing we had and thinking about it still conjures for me dread and joy and passion and frustration and hope.

But, still, Why Should the Devil… gives us the very best study yet of the odd Christian folkie-rocker and One Way leader and it is nothing short of a must-read for anyone interested in rock music of the 60s & 70s and onward, how the Jesus Movement emerged from the hippy counter-culture, and how this gave rise, oddly – yep, this is true — to the rise of the Christian right in the 1980s and 90s. If you care about issues of “Christ and culture” as we say, this is an important report from the backstory. In that sense, as we try to figure out these odd religious days, this is an important part of the puzzle.

Less grandiose and perhaps more fun, if you’ve ever enjoyed cool Christian rock – think Mark Heard or Keaggy or Charlie Peacock or the 77s or Sam Phillips or the best work of Amy Grant or VOL or POD or Gungor or Lecrae or Switchfoot or Sara Groves or Jennifer Knapp or Crowder – you know that you owe it to yourself to learn a bit more about the grand-daddy of all this.

And, if you’ve ever lamented the cheesy and shallow end of Christian rock, from bad album covers to goofy lyrics to sub-par production to crass commercialization, well, Norman was both an alternative to that (with his manifestos about art, his admiration of Francis Schaeffer, his hopes for artist collectives, and the hope of making mainstream, artful witness in the real entertainment world) and, yes, also, in many ironic ways helped set into place the industry that caused so much dumbing down and commercialization of the CCM subculture. That Thornbury’s book has the subtitle Larry Norman and the Perils of Christian Rock is, in part, a very big nod to this very big quandary.

It is a true biography and less a study of the movement that Larry Norman was a part of, but it explores and reflects on much that is important, that was generative and influential; I believe it would have been an even stronger book if Thornbury had cited seminal works about the way in which rock music had within it the tensions of art and commercialism. If he had explored and reflected more on the meaning and social implications of the details he shares – fascinating ones like how Pat Boone funded early Norman records and how Norman protégé Randy Stonehill had legal battles with producers in England and why agents and DJs and critics – not to mention fans – loved Norman but his record sales were marginal and why we ended up with Christian bookstores that carried gospel music in a way Tower Records didn’t, and so forth. And why-oh-why Christian followers, especially, were confused (and some, outraged) by his less overtly religious recordings (see the great chapter on So Long Ago in the Garden, for instance.) The promo for the book notes that this previously untold story is set “at the dawn of the culture wars” and that is a helpful reminder of the big picture this is about.

Thornbury doesn’t preach, and allows the story to develop, but I still wished for a bit more of his scholarly expertise. For starters, then, I commend two must-reads: the serious Christian scholarship of Pop Culture Wars:  Religion & the Role of Entertainment in American Life by William David Romanowski (Wipf & Stock; $45.00) and the rowdy, must-read The Day Alternative Music Died: Dylan, Zeppelin, Punk, Glam, Alt, Majors, Indies, and the Struggle Between Art and Money for the Soul of Rock by Adam Caress (New Troy Books; $16.99.)

Larry Norman’s good friend Steve Turner, the rock critic from England, is helpful, too, while we’re at it, in framing a larger picture of Christians engaged in the arts and popular culture – see his very nicely done Imagine: A Vision for Christians in the Arts (IVP; $19.00) or, for those engaged in contemporary performance art, see the soon-to-be-released brilliant anthology It Was Good: Performance Art to the Glory of God edited by Ned Bustard (Square Halo Books.; $19.99.)

Fortunately, geeky Greg Thornbury (now serving at the New York Academy of Art) is very aware of these aesthetic and cultural concerns and has spent years ruminating and writing on them – what does it mean to be “in the world but not of it”? How do Christians serve as “salt and light” within the arts and popular culture? What is the role of God’s people to shape and influence cultural trends? How should we think about these things well? Although I may have wished for a bit more direct comment about all this, it is there between the lines, and in some of the footnotes, making Thornbury a very, very appropriate and helpful teller of this big tale. And what a tale it is.

Larry Norman was conflicted, odd, artful, beautiful, serious, funny, perhaps dishonest, perhaps narcissistic, and more. Why Should The Devil doesn’t shy away from explaining his multi-dimensional and complicated personality, his brokenness, his genius. Many who knew him both loved and hated him, and those that like his music – or at least many of us – hold him in high regard, but still wished for more from him. He was a genius, but operating, some think, within the constraints of a conservative church and a quirky theology and at the nexus of the counterculture and the emergence of the new youthful, rock and rock culture. That his huge project of being a Christian in but not of that sub-culture became in many ways exactly opposite – of but not in the world – is a supreme irony. (Read that sentence again.)

This vivid new biography is an important telling of the story of this remarkable character and his remarkable life but it is also a chronicle of so much that has happened for many of us.

This stuff means a lot to me and I trust it means much to many of our readers. I myself tried to learn a few Norman songs on a clunky old acoustic I once had – one of my huge embarrassments is trying to play “Why Don’t You Look Into Jesus” at an Easter Seal Society camp where I worked – and I’ve been moved and inspired by some of his beauties. I’ve also railed plenty against some of the contradictions in his work. (He wrote more overtly about social justice than any similar CCM artist but yet sang wrong-headed rapture songs such as “I Wished We All Were Ready.” It has been featured recently in hit TV show The Leftovers and it still makes me cringe for its Biblical error and it’s anti-cultural legacy.) Since we here at the shop used to have one of the largest and certainly most interesting selections of Christian pop music on the East Coast, we’ve had lots of conversations about the strengths and weaknesses of many an artist, and often conversations circle back to Larry Norman. Before his death we carried all his old and rare stuff in our CD selection here at the shop so often talked with his dad, who ran his business (I learned from the book that Joe was not at all supportive for years) and even talked to Larry once on the phone. This book is personal for me, and I bet it is in many ways for many of you.

In case you wonder, I’m not making this up about how important he was and how much his artful life signified just because I’m a fan. Frankly, I have not been that much of a true fan, and although we happily sold (and continue to sell) his albums in our store, I was more taken with what he stood for and his impact than his actual records, some of which I thought were over-rated. But still, he was something.

And he was, indeed, important, as Thornbury helps us appreciate. Billboard called Norman “the most important songwriter since Paul Simon.” The Huffington Post published an article dubbing him “The Most Amazing Artist You’ve Never Heard Of.” The Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry has honored his album Only Visiting This Planet as a “cultural, artistic, and/or historical treasure.”

When he died, NPR feted him. Thornbury cites The London Times and notes the good reviews in Rolling Stone, and quotes The New York Times about him. Spin magazine did a back page tribute when he died, Thornbury tells us, again making the case that this colorful maverick ended up being a major influence in the culture of our times. Even Dylan liked him, and there’s a tender story to prove it.

Although it isn’t in the (too short) photo section of the book, I own a picture of Larry and Bono; when Bono went to Nashville to recruit CCM stars to his anti-poverty ONE campaign, his first question was “Will Larry Norman be there?” This is not insignificant.

I could explain more about this well-researched book; it covers his earliest days (his early band People! played at the first big Be-In in Haight Asbury with Janis Joplin and the Dead and the beat poet Alan Ginsberg) and nicely notes some of the stars he hung out with and perhaps influenced – some say that The Who’s Tommy was somewhat inspired by Norman’s own work in developing rock operas, even as he crossed paths with the guy who played Jesus in Jesus Christ Superstar. He chatted with Neil Young and Stephen Stills in their Buffalo Springfield days; years later he played on the White House lawn for Jimmy Carter.

There is plenty about the rise and mediocrity of much of the CCM industry. There’s a bit about the business side of things; how could there not be? And some unpleasant stuff about his relationships, his failures.

And there is plenty about his controversy – with good lines like “Larry Norman entered the 1980s like a fugitive on the run from the Christian image police.”

More importantly, as a Jesus person who helped shaped the lingo and theology of the Jesus movement who despised the hypocrisy of the church and distrusted propaganda – especially religious propaganda – his influence was beyond the rock stars he shared the gospel with and the fans that did or didn’t like him. I think much of the tone and texture of casual, non-fundamentalist, but still fiery evangelical outreach among youth in the 70s helped shape the nature of evangelicalism today. Of course some of his songs were in the influential Young Life songbooks that so many used at church camps and youth ministry events and the rise of para-church ministries (even like the CCO) took shape with long-hair and bell bottoms and Good News Bibles and Bible studies while sitting in circles on the lawn like hippies. That there is a sizable non-fundamentalist, culturally-savvy, socially relevant, and yet deeply orthodox Christian movement among baby boomers and their offspring comes in some ways from this legacy of the Jesus Movement days.

There are academic books about all this, and I think they are on to something: whether you liked Norman’s music or not, whether you’ve even heard of Larry Norman or not, the size and zest and non-fundamentalist tone of the local community non-denominational church comes, in many ways, from those who grew up listening to bands like The Second Chapter of Acts and Larry Norman and Randy Stonehill and Daniel Amos and soft-rock Maranatha Praise music. That Bob Dylan added harmonica to a Keith Green album and artists as diverse as Eric Clapton (who was reading Francis Schaeffer) or Barry (“Eve of Destruction”) McGuire or Noel Paul Stookey or Alice Cooper or Earth Wind and Fire’s Philip Bailey were reading theology and talking about Jesus was no small thing. That a generation amidst the sexual and drug experimentation of the 70s was also connecting to evangelical faith in fresh ways with their own vocabulary and soundtrack helped shaped the social landscape of our culture today.

Here are some endorsements that might help illustrate how others are seeing the importance of this book:

“A mind-blowing portrait of evangelical Christianity’s one, and only, rock n’ roll wild child, a high-wire act of daring, revelation and empathy, as original as Larry Norman himself.”
–Charles Marsh, Professor of Religion and Society, University of Virginia, and author of Strange Glory: A Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer 

“If there truly was a great crossroads where the devil traded souls for music, then Larry Norman must have made his own visit. If it’s true that no musical genre can thrive if it does not own its roots, then this book is required reading for artists who have waded into the faith-based genre without tracing its origins back to where it first sprang from the earth.”
–Dan Haseltine, songwriter and producer, Jars of Clay and The Hawk in Paris

“In an American Idol world where trading on the name of Christ and unholy alliances with professional God-talkers can win you the White House, Gregory Alan Thornbury places before us a beautifully complicated Larry Norman, that enigmatic, trickster figure at the heart of the Jesus Movement. By doing so, he invites us to consider again the prophetic genius, the untamable poetic justice of Jesus of Nazareth, to whom Norman remained committed in spite of the dizzyingly false witness and geopolitical catastrophe conducted, even now, in his name. Hear Norman again, and have your senses restored.”
–David Dark, author of Life’s Too Short to Pretend You’re Not Religious

Besides the big legacy of helping to create, for better or worse, the multi-million dollar gospel music industry and subsequent subculture that gave us CCM, and the impact of that on a rising generation, the particular part of the CCM world Larry Norman specifically helped nurture was significant, too, giving us artists like Randy Stonehill (fans know about the on-again, off-again friendship of these two) and, significantly, Mark Heard, considered by some to be one of the great songsmiths of our time. I am glad that there is a bit about Mark Heard in Why Should the Devil including some lines from Larry spoken after Mark’s heart attack while performing at the Cornerstone Festival in August of 1992.

Mark had moved out of the CCM sub-culture for the most part, playing with folks like Buddy Miller and Bruce Cockburn, but for those of us who followed his work from the start, he will always be connected to Larry Norman.


And so, for a limited time – while supplies last – we will give you a free Mark Heard CD with a purchase of Why Should the Devil Have All The Good Music: Larry Norman and the Perils of Christian Rock by Gregory Alan Thornbury. The book is 20% off and you get a free CD.

After Sunday March 25th the book will remain on sale, but the CD offer will be over.

It’s a long story but we have copies of two important, rowdy Mark Heard albums from the early 1980s, Stop the Dominoes and Victims of the Age. Tell us which one you want, absolutely free. You can listen to it while reading Why Should the Devil Have All the God Music? Larry Norman and the Perils of Christian Rock by Gregory Alan Thornbury.



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Here we go again: 13 Great Books ON SALE at 30% off — for THREE DAYS ONLY

Okay, that was fun.

The BookNotes 30% off post-Jubilee clearance sale, that is. Some good folks send us the most moving notes thanking us for the sermon about “all of life redeemed” and living into the big story of God’s people being used to bring restoration and healing to all of life. And our exuberant description of the CCO’s Jubilee conference, the need for serious reading so we can learn to walk in the new Kingdom way of the Lord in our time; we have some thinking to do and books matter. We’re glad you encouraged us to keep inviting folks to be readers.

The sale brought us some extra business this week and we are glad; that’s the cash-flow businessy thing that we sometimes don’t pay enough attention to. We love authors and books, but try not to worry about “the books” and, alas, end up needing to drum up some extra customer attention sometimes.

We’re glad for those who are loyal to us and who allow us to offer a story about books and reading and to regularly suggest a selection of stimulating authors; we so appreciate those who seem to think we help them in their journey. They read BookNotes and send us orders as they get a hankering. They get their churches or organizations or moms and dads to order from us, and we are grateful.

We are equally glad for those that are only able to send us nice notes – it truly helps – or those that are waiting for those larger discounts and bigger savings from time to time. We are glad for those occasional customers, too, and understand that we all need some extra savings sometimes. Thank you for your orders this last week, especially.

Since it was fun keeping our mail-out specialist extra busy – Diana packs your books with immense care and good cheer — let’s just do it again.

Without too much bluster or detail, let me commend these vital books, all, for a very limited time, at 30% off.


Here’s the deal: to get the 30% off, you have to order more than one from the list. Buy two or more of the books shown and get 30% off. Otherwise it’s a complimentary 10% off.

So here’s round two: OUR NEW THREE-DAY SALE while supplies last. This offer expires midnight Sunday March 11, 2018. You’ve got Friday, Saturday, and Sunday for the deep discount deal and then it’s back to 10% off for any of these.

Use the secure order form link below, which will take you to our secure order form page. Just tell us what you want and we’ll confirm via email, doing the discount, sending by USPS. We usually send the cheapest manner, but you can instruct us otherwise — whatever you prefer, just tell us. 

Jesus, Bread, and Chocolate: Crafting a Hand-Made Faith in a Mass Market World John J. Thompson (Zondervan) $15.99  Maybe you recall my vary lively review of this when I described it here at BookNotes in great detail, saying how much fun it was and how very right he is about so much. It is a book about Christian discipleship and whole-life faith formation, but, more obviously, it is a well- written book with chapters about bread baking, beer making, good quality chocolate, and “the best coffee I ever had.” Yep, it is about artisanal culture, from indie music to the DIY “maker” scene. A bunch of the Jubilee students love it, and pass it out to their peers.

There are chapters with titles like “Time Began in a Garden” and “Seeking God’s Table.” He admonishes us not only to enjoy life, to make something of the stuff around us – shades of Andy Crouch’s Culture Making, there – but to also “help someone less fortunate craft their own story.” There’s a few big-picture pieces about “Civilization, Reformation, Discernment and Beer” and some really interesting stories about his own journey in the thoughtfully, underground corners of contemporary Christian music. It covers a lot of ground and tells some lovely stories.

All of this lush description about real, analog life, this call to “hand-crafted” faith, is a colorful, aesthetically-rich invitation to resist the mass marketed nature of modern living and, interestingly, the overly mass-marketed approach to Christian living, spirituality and discipleship, as well. There’s something here for everyone and it’s a blast to read. And, without being heavy handed, it offers up some very important stuff about incarnation, individuality, good taste, and embodied spirituality.  Cheers!

Reconstructing The Gospel: Finding Freedom from Slaveholder Religion Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove (IVP) $20.00v I have read all the other books that Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove has written and he is a thoughtful theologian, serious activist, great storyteller, and a very good author. You may know that, somewhat like his friend Shane Claiborne, he grew up fundamentalist, went to Eastern University and with the help of thoughtful evangelicals there grew into a faith that is Biblically orthodox, prayerful, and deeply committed to a rule of life that includes community living, nurturing a sense of place, serving others, standing with the marginalized and oppressed, and worshiping humbly amongst a diverse family of believers. He has told much of his own story in several other books, all which I recommend heartily.

This new one just arrived and although I had the chance to dip in to an advanced copy, I can’t say I’ve studied it carefully. It deserves our full attention and I promise I will be reading it carefully. It has a coveted starred review from Publisher’s Weekly and there is an important forward by The Reverend Dr. William J. Barber II.

Jonathan, who was raised in the Bible Belt, says, “I’m a man torn in two. And the gospel I inherited is divided.”

He links his own reconstruction to the era of Reconstruction after the Civil War, and wonders about the sort of racial blindness that held sway – and still does – particularly in the American southland.

Drew Hart, author of the powerful The Trouble I’ve Seen says:

Reconstructing the Gospel is an honest reckoning with the mangled, slaveholding religion that continues to pass for the gospel in the United States. It is not self-righteous or accusatory. Instead, Jonathan vulnerably grapples with his own ongoing repentance of white supremacy’s powerful grip. Ultimately, this book is an invitation into the river that has been flowing for centuries in this land, providing a past and present counterwitness to the vandalization of Jesus’ name.

Raising White Kids: Bringing Up Children in a Racially Unjust America Jennifer Harvey (Abingdon Press) $22.99  This is a book many of us have been waiting for. Let me be brief and to the point: few books of which we are familiar are at once this theologically astute, radical in their approach to racial justice, and yet practical as a handbook for parents who need help raising their children. Professor Harvey has been writing about racial justice for decades (and most recently did the heavy, prophetic, Dear White Christians published by Eerdmans.) She is an ordained minister in the American Baptist Church.

Jennifer Harvey’s book has been called “brilliant” and “astonishing” and “required reading.” As Saira Rao, co-founder of In This Together Media says, “If you’re white and have a kid (or have ever been a kid), please read this book.”

Listen to Diana Butler Bass:

Jennifer Harvey’s brilliant work and passion for racial justice come alive on every page. Raising White Kids is a theory-rich, practical guide with wonderfully helpful examples that will equip parents to navigate today’s racial challenges with confidence and grace. For the millions of mothers and fathers who are deeply invested in creating a better tomorrow in an increasingly multi-cultural America, Harvey’s book couldn’t be more helpful or more needed right now.

There is a great endorsement on the back from Debby Irving, author of the very, very impressive Waking Up White, and Finding Myself in the Story of Race and she writes:

Raising White Kids is both an antidote to the racial ignorance and fear most white families unknowingly pass along to their young and a powerful way to call white adults into the process of racial awakening in the name of creating more just and functional communities for all. Buy this book for yourself, for your children’s teachers, and for all parents and grandparents of white children you know.

Kudos to Abingdon Press for doing some good books on race relations in the last year or two. This one is going to be discussed and used for a long time.

Love Big Be Well: Letters to a Small Town Church Winn Collier (Eerdmans) $16.99  We named this as one of the very best books of 2017 and celebrated it as my favorite novel of that year, too. It is a novel, a series of letters from a quiet but eloquent, down-to-Earth but very smart pastor of a cranky, lovely, fascinating, small-town, small church. I love the way pastor Eugene Peterson calls it “a tour de force” and continues:

…an angle on understanding the life of both congregation and pastor that exceeds anything I have ever read.

This is literate, enjoyable, funny, thought provoking, a story that will entertain and inspire any body who loves the church. Or those who don’t. This is a great little book, highly recommended.

Shalom Sistas: Living Wholeheartedly in a Brokenhearted World Osheta Moore, with a foreword by Sarah Bessey (Herald Press) $16.99  Osheta Moore is a great writer, an upbeat, passionate, contemporary black woman with a voice that is unforgettable. Her bio says that her work has been featured at Sojourners and SheLoves Magazine, A Deeper Story, The Art of Simple, ReKnew, and Rachel Held Evans’ blog. Men and women both have endorsed this upbeat book – Dennis Edwards says it is “Practical, engaged, theologically informed, poignant, and witty.” Christina Cleveland says that Moore has “a gift for blazing a path toward liberation, hope, and purpose.”  Maybe you saw her piece this fall in The Christian Century.

I was first struck that this Mennonite publisher was doing a book that got a starred review in Publisher’s Weekly which said, in part, “Fans of Anne Lamott and Nadia Bolz-Weber will be delighted with this new, exciting voice.”

We want to get her book out there so we’re adding it to this list of deeply discounted titles – it is fun and creative and just really good writing. Much is about justice and peace, race and inclusion, but there is stuff that is not only funny but also about humor and laughter. She loves Doctor Who. She quotes the elegant Barbara Brown Taylor and the powerful Ta-Nehisi Coates and the Biblically-solid N.T. Wright. It isn’t too many books – by black authors, no less – that start off with a major epigram from Sally Lloyd’s Jones’s The Jesus Storybook Bible and then cites Walt Brueggemans’s old UCC book on peace, Living Towards a Vision. This is strong, powerful stuff on peace and goodness and – although she lost me here – there’s a few pages of Sista Recipes. I’d have rather had a playlist, but there ya have it. Shalom Sistas. Gives new meaning to wholehearted!

New Worshipping Communities: A Theological Exploration Vera White & Charles Wiley (WJK) $20.00 This slim book deserves a bigger review later, but I have to list it here for a few quick reasons. It is a book that documents the theology of and the stories about the recent effort within the PC(USA) (that’s the mainline Presbyterians) to plant 1001 new congregations. That they call them “new worshipping communities” may bring to mind the Fresh Expressions movement and certainly indicates a missional vision, not just conventional church planting. Friends at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary have been a part of this and some of this book came out of a convocation that met there to draft documents and continue the conversation about this audacious move. Since this is our own denomination, we are thrilled to suggest that it seems like this new book is stellar, a fresh and helpful contribution to the growing literature on church start ups, planting, missional communities, fresh expressions, etcetera.

I am thrilled about this, too, because Vera White is a bit of a friend and one of my our dearest friends and a church he helped start up in Pittsburgh is one of the ones cited. Congrats to B.J. Woodworth and “The Open Door” community in the ‘burgh. We are delighted to see some of your story in this good little book. Whether one is a leader or member of a conventional mainline church or an evangelical church planter or a theological type pondering the meaning of these new expressions of worship springing up all over, New Worshipping Communities is a quick but potent read. Of course if you are a Presbyterian, it’s a no-brainer. You have to know these stories and this book is a great way into the latest move of God in our circles.

Good Faith: Being a Christian When Society Thinks You’re Irrelevant and Extreme David Kinnaman & Gabe Lyons (Baker) $15.99 That this book is co-produced by the Barna Organization and Q  is an indication that it is both research-based and creatively applied, both Biblical and deeply relevant. Kinnaman is the genius and dear man behind Barna and Gabe is the guy who puts together the Q Ideas events, high-class, TED-like gatherings for thoughtful Christians desiring to witness well in our contemporary culture. Both have a passion for equipping churches of all kinds (although they are both evangelical) for navigating the issues of the day, understanding facts and data, and moving towards a vision for cultural flourishing and the common good. I respect them both immensely and hope you’ve read them.

Alas, what to do when we are seeing a generation of younger adults “engage the culture” in new ways and take up vocations of being “salt and light” in the world with renewed vigor, but you’ve come to realize, perhaps more than they, that it is going to be harder than is sounds. Today’s younger adults, even conservative evangelicals ones, are not the cultural warriors of their neo-fundamentalist parents. They want to reach out with great passion for a Christ-like witness in the world, including being open-minded and gracious and hospitable, especially on issues such as racial justice, climate change, religious pluralism, even approaching newer approaches that are less strident about same-sex attraction and the like.

But, despite this sincere effort to be good, and to live out a faith that is for the good, the facts are clear; Barna has helpful reminded us that many outside the church are skeptical of any truth claims, skeptical of religion (no matter how gracious it may in fact be) skeptical and bothered by religiosity which they assume to be at best irrelevant and, often, at worse, extremism gone amuck.

This easy to read book offers some data and helpful reflections about and guidelines for how to live out a good, redemptive faith in a good and helpful manner, given the facts that our neighbors and co-workers most likely think our faith isn’t good, but is harmful. Good Faith: Being a Christian When… is not the full picture and isn’t the final word. But it is very, very helpful and we recommend it to any one new to this sort of desire to witness well in a pluralizing, secularizing world that is laden with anti-Christian assumptions.

Still Evangelical? Insiders Reconsider Political, Social, and Theological Meaning edited by Mark Labberton (IVP) $17.00 This book is one of the most important books for me these past months and I poured my heart into a review that tried to explain to our BookNotes readers who evangelicals are (that is, they are not the same as fundamentalists) and why many are so very disturbed by the way the media has insisted that most evangelicals are pro-Trump. Many have gotten the idea that all evangelicals are nearly white supremacists, very anti-immigration, resistant to the facts about climate change, and are willing to look the other way about sexual violence — from President Trump or the allegations about Judge Roy Moore, say — as long as right wing politicians are elected.

Whether this caricature is even true is a burden I have, but this book is more practical. It is asking it’s contributors – from Focus on the Family’s Jim Daly to Sojourner’s Lisa Sharon Harper, from Liberty University’s Karen Swallow Prior to urban activist Shane Claiborne, and more – to weigh in on the question that if the public perception of evangelicalism is so tarnished, and if some of the blame does, in fact, come from conservative theological voices who have been complicit in this bad witness before the world, what, then, should we do. Do we hang on to this historic name for ourselves, trying to reclaim, renew, and revive it? Should we give it up? How can we adjudicate the confusions this name now brings with it, and, if it has become so greasy from being mishandled, how can we proclaim the gospel of a saving Christ and the advent of a good and wholesome Kingdom of God? These contributors are sharp, some more heartbroken than others; all are deeply concerned about the reputation of our churches and the testimony before a watching world about the goodness of the gospel. This is a very important book for anyone who cares about the religious landscape in our society. Please order some today!

Kingdom Collaborators: Eight Signature Practices of Leaders Who Turn the World Upside Down Reggie McNeal (IVP) $16.00 This is another fantastic book from The IVP Praxis line, a creatively serious line of useful resources to equip leaders for contemporary ministry. Those who know Reggie McNeal know him as a long-standing voice for what we now call the missional church; he was talking about being outward focuses and Kingdom oriented for decades and his vibrant speaking schedule has made him a well-known and well-trust voice among church consultants and leadership coaching. He works for something called GoodCities and is a senior fellow for the Leadership Network. This book is brand new.

I love McNeal’s last book Kingdom Come and this starts there – with an allusion to Acts 17:6 and the reputation the early church had for, as Nancy Ortberg says in her vivid endorsement on the back, “deconstructing what religion had become by painting a compelling picture of the realty of God’s Kingdom.” Then, Kingdom Collaborators lists nine features of effective missional leaders. As I skimmed the table of contents today I am glad we ordered quiet a few. I’m going to pushing it this Spring and figured we should start off with a bigger than usual discount now, right out of the gate. This looks tremendous, thoughtful, but very practical, too.

The Monk’s Record Player: Thomas Merton, Bob Dylan, and the Perilous Summer of 1966 Robert Hudson (Eerdmans) $23.99 I know, I know, we announced this earlier in the week and I raved a bit. I’m so excited, and the foreword itself is just fantastic. What a very cool idea, written by a very reliable author who is obviously bonkers over Dylan and Merton, too. Ya gotta love a book that says that “Cables to the Aces is when Merton went electric.”  If you get that, you’ve gotta get this book!

Here is some of what I wrote last week – I don’t have time to re-write a longer review now, mostly because I want to go read this now! So here ya go, read it again, and know it’s on sale for the next three days at 30% off.

Oh, if time permitted, I’d love to tell you more about this….this splendid, much-anticipated book is one of these works of genius that isn’t what you’d typical expect from Eerdmans, but it seems just right coming from them. Kudos, kudos! It will surely be much discussed and the cover alone is almost worth the price of the book. The Monk’s Record Player is a true telling of an episode that isn’t well known among those who follow – and there are a lot who follow and a lot written about – Bob Dylan or the mystic, activist monk, Thomas Merton. The author, Robert Hudson, is himself a huge Dylan fan, a mystic poet (like Merton, you know) and a man of contemplative prayer (he’s the one who got Four Birds of Noah’s Ark back in print again, a prayer book from the time of Shakespeare that we touted as one of the best books of its kind in 2017.) It has a foreword by David Dalton, a New York Times bestselling author and – please note: a founding editor of Rolling Stone Magazine. What a fabulous, rich, multi-dimensional, creative work this is.

And what a heckuva story.

Everybody knows how eccentric and cryptic Bob Zimmy could be. And most who know of Merton know he took a vow of Cistercian silence but couldn’t shut up. And he had a great sense of calling into the literary world, and he had a great sense of humor. I have met people who knew him, and everybody agrees he was, usually, the life of the party.

You maybe know (if I can be allowed a Dylan-esque stream of consciousness moment) that Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s bravery to resist Hitler was nurtured less by his academic study of liberal theology at Union in the 1940s but from his experience of the African American worship at Abyssinian Baptist and, especially their black gospel choir. He took gospel records back with him to Germany and the rest, as they say, is history.

Perhaps somewhat similarly, Merton, as Hudson shows, took some Bob Dylan albums with him as he strode away from and back into the modern world. This book tells the story (which involves Joan Baez, I might add) and it is a story no one else has noticed. As Publishers Weekly puts it, after noting how many books there are on Merton and Dylan already, “shelf room just must be made for this one.”

Listen to Steve Rabey:

Robert Hudson’s revealing ‘parallel biography’ shows how two of the most prolific and influential figures of the 1960s, both perpetually restless spiritual pilgrims, shared a passion for prophetic poetry, an opposition to the war in Viet Nam, and a boundless inquisitiveness. In this enjoyable and insightful book Hudson connects the dots that other Merton scholars have overlooked

The New Copernicans: Millennials and the Survival of the Church David John Seel, Jr. (Thomas Nelson) $16.99 This is another we did a very long review of in BookNotes a month ago and now want to move more, so hope the extra discount will encourage you to read it, maybe with a group. This includes some sweeping overviews of Western history and the shifts in culture that some call postmodern. It summarizes a lot of the research on Gen X and millennials and Gen Z and such. It isn’t sloppy and it isn’t simplistic, but it does offer a fresh and powerful summary of what’s going on, how it is that churches can build new relationships of honor and trust among their emerging adults, and what we all can do to, like Copernicus of old, navigate a new world that is appearing with new ways of understanding the cosmos and our culture and ourselves. This is a great read and more important than you may know. Highly recommended.

Four Views on the Church’s Mission edited by Jason Sexton (Zondervan) $16.99 I hope you liked my long review of the Jubilee conference in the last BookNotes, and noted that this is a particular way of telling the gospel story, a way that sees the Kingdom of God as the central theme of Jesus’s ministry and work. His community, His people, the Body of Christ, the Church, is core to that story, of course, but, in this reformationally worldviewish telling, God is redeeming all of life and, therefore, thinking Christianly about economics, say, is as important as theology, and the work of the plumber or journalist or midwife is as important as the minister, priest, or nun.

Is that so? What sort of view of the church, then, emerges from that kind of Kingdom vision? And, conversely, what kind of view of the mission of the church emerges from other views of the church? How do we more precisely name the tasks appropriate for the institutional church and what is the more general mission of the people of God, but not the work of the church, per se? These are questions that have captured by attention for decades and this book is another major piece of the puzzle. It offers a good debate and clarifying viewpoints of four classic views, four angles of vision on what the church is and what it should be about. These “Counterpoint” books are very informative and we like many of them. This one is very important.

Barking to the Choir: The Power of Radical Kinship Gregory Boyle (Simon & Schuster) $26.00 I trust I don’t have to say much about this – we raved about it when we first announced it a few months ago, and many heard Father Boyle on NPR’s Fresh Air, I think. Lots of folks were buzzing about how moving this story of “Homeboy Industries” (the job-training program and community Boyle founded in inner city LA, Compton, to be exact.) The first book that was a huge New York Times bestseller was Tattoos on the Heart and this carries the story of Boyle and his homeboys forward. Boyle has been called brave and humane and brilliant. His writing has been called “astonishing” and “jaw-dropping.” Tattoos of the Heart is remarkable and this is no less so. We have a big stack and we are hoping you’ll appreciate the good discount and pick it up now. What a story!



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In our last post where we highlighted some brand new books (and some long-standing hardbacks that have been finally released in paperback) we noted that we had just gotten back from the big Jubilee conference in Pittsburgh. If you are new to BookNotes or the Hearts & Minds bookstore you may not know that this great event for 4000 college student run by the campus ministry organization CCO (with whom Beth and I are involved) is one of the most important things we’ve ever had the privilege of being involved with. We were involved as a member of the early committee for the event over 40 years ago to being an occasional speaker (yep, Beth and I both) and, in the last few decades, as book provider. I suppose, counting up my time on stage promoting books at the event I may have been up front as often as nearly anyone – and they keep allowing us to come back! It is an honor to invite students to “read for the Kingdom” and it is a hard but true joy to choose and lug and curate and set up (and lay out the cash for) a big pop-up bookstore each February in Pittsburgh.

Here’s a little impromptu Facebook video I made on a whim when we were starting to load the rented truck a week or so ago; I could make a less energetic one now that we are trying to get the hundreds of boxes unpacked and in some order in our basement warehouse. If you’ve got any time in your prayer schedule, add us on your list.

Okay, this was pretty impromptu. And there was just one volunteer (plus our hard-working bookstore staff.) We're still at it – looking forward to selling books at #jubilee2018

Posted by Byron Borger on Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The work after events is harder and more stressful than many know and our bodies and minds are aching as we look to the next complicated weeks, in our personal lives and in the store, post-Jubilee. Which includes – oh yes it does! – A FOUR-DAY ONLY AFTER JUBILEE CLEARANCE SALE. While supplies last, the titles shown way below in the list are 30% OFF. This sale is over at the end of the day –11:59 pm EST – the night of March 8th 2018.

To gain admission to these deep discounts, you just have to read through my breathy rumination, so you know what’s behind all this jubilation. Or not – just skip to the bottom to see the clearance sale items. And the free book offer if you buy any three books mentioned.

To be clear, in this first part, my bibliographic essay about Jubilee, I cite a bunch of books. They are on sale for 20% off, if mentioned in passing in this essay portion. The ones shown in the list further below, however, are all 30% off. Buy any combo of any three mentioned or shown and we’ll throw in a freebie by Michael Frost, also shown below. Just use our order form page – click on the ORDER HERE link and it will take you to our secure site. Then, just type in what you want and give us your info and share your digits. Easy. We’ll confirm everything, old school, with a personal email. Unless you state otherwise we’ll send things the least expensive way we can, which usually means media mail.  Okay?


We don’t have reason to believe that the ancient Hebrews ever actually celebrated the Year of Jubilee as commanded in Leviticus 25. We’ve got a line about it on our Liberty Bell commemorating US political freedom from King George and some Tea Party types emblazon it on caps and tees shirts to complain about high taxes and a media they don’t like. But the Biblical teaching of an every-50-year Jubilee as detailed in Leviticus – dreamed about by the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 61) so many years later which then became the first lectionary text Jesus used in his first sermon (Luke 4) – was to be so much more than these cheap misappropriations. I’m sure you know that it included land redistribution, forgiveness of economic debts (it’s why we say “forgive us our debts” in the Lord’s Prayer) and other restorative social and economic policies. Years were shaved off of indentured servant’s obligations, prisoners got out of jail, animals got to rest, the land was to lay fallow, in a move ripe with environmental stewardship and an extraordinary experience of trusting the provisions of an abundance creation overseen by a gracious God. All of this good social policy stuff about second chances and renewed social infrastructure and the revival of stewardly economies, conjuring up the teeming blessing of shalom in Genesis 1 and 2, all was to begin on the day of atonement.

When we are made right with God through the sacrificial grace of a merciful Redeemer – you can see how this points us to the cross – our family hurts and social injustices and broken institutions and our relationship with the land itself changes and we can arrange our economies and our relations with the poor and our criminal justice policies and relationships with animals and our own personal budgets all in fresh, new ways. This is the full-orbed, creation-restored, abundant life envisioned by the Sabbath and Jubilee teachings within the Hebrew Scriptures, and it was the basis for Jesus’ inaugural sermon. He bluntly says the Jubilee is a reality, begun in Him. In so many words he says, after reading Isaiah, You’re looking at it.

Jubilee people realize God’s creation is wondrously covenantal and abundant and that God is trustworthy. We move from fear to freedom and – yes – we can rest. Jubilee, it could be said, is the every-50-year Rest of all Rests, the Sabbath of all Sabbaths; although just social policies were part of it, at its root was a trust in God and God’s promises that allowed a year of rest; it is where we get the idea of a sabbatical, after all. When we embrace this kind of abundance we can be like the Galilean youngster who shared a loaf and a few fish and ended up with holy leftovers to be re-shared. How many baskets were left over, by the way? A Jubilee-ish number to be sure, offering one more clue that Jesus’ proclamation in Luke 4 that he was inaugurating this “favorable year of the Lord” is oh so true.

I’ve mentioned in other Jubilee-related reflections that some Bible scholars (particularly of a few key texts in Chronicles) deduce that the Jewish exile into Babylon in the early 500s BC, and the number of years they were kept away from their homeland, were, in fact, the number of years they would have done the big Jubilee year of rest had they been obedient. That is, God was so faithful to God’s plan that even if the people had to be exiled for a generation or more, the land would get its rest and at least part of the Jubilee would occur. God apparently takes land and rest and what we now call sustainability seriously.

The land merely laying fallow while the people were in exile wasn’t the robust, joyful plan of social restoration that was intended and centuries later we learn how the prophet Isaiah longed for it; indeed he alluded to Jubilee (see Isaiah 61) and prophesied that it would someday happen. Jesus, so many years later, still, preaching his own very first sermon on that very Isaiah text, says, that, in Himself, that time has arrived. 

You know Jesus as the Christ, as Savior, Redeemer, Bread of Life, Lord, King, friend. I suggest you add “Jubilee Bringer” to the names of Jesus you use in your holy imagination and in your prayers and liturgy. Of course, “Kingdom-bringer” is another way to say the same thing: the Kingdom is at hand; the commonwealth of God, the reign of restoration has begun; the future age of new creation has broken into the now of real life! It is simple: we “seek first the Kingdom” (Matthew 6:33) and everything else falls into place. We preach the gospel “to all creation” (Mark 16:15) and long for “all things” to be reconciled (Ephesians 1:10.) We give all we have for that treasure in that field, we enter the Kingdom and, alas, “all things are made new, we are new creations!” Through Christ’s cross the dysfunctions of the idols and powers of this world are undone (Colossians 2:15) and “all things” are reconciled (Colossians 1:20.) All things?

All things?

God wants to heal and re-direct and receive glory from reconciled sports and architecture, nursing and filmmaking, science and business, cooking and international diplomacy? Christ-followers and Kingdom agents are helping renew schooling, philosophy, factories, farming, childbirth, politics, media, home-life, and higher education?

It’s no wonder that a group of people in Pittsburgh in the 1970s studying Dutch Reformed theologian and statesman Abraham (“Every Square Inch”) Kuyper and a Mennonite book called The Politics of Jesus concluded that Jubilee would be a good title for a conference about this big redemptive story of God based on forgiveness and trust, leading to social renewal and public justice, the grand hope of the restoration of all things.


As happens every year, I got teary and occasionally wept as I watched my younger colleagues at the CCO leading their college age students into this broad vision of God’s redemptive work in the world at the annual Jubilee Conference in Pittsburgh. Time and again in powerful main sessions and engaging workshops and vivid, loud worship, nearly 4000 students and lots of others were invited into a view of life that gives account for the goodness of creation and it’s God give orderliness and potential, the brokenness we know that comes from autonomy, sin, idolatries, stupidity, and cruelty, and, further, a vision of God’s grace that leads to redemption in Christ and true hope for the renewal of life as God intends.

It’s the best presentation of the gospel we ever year and the care and creativity obvious in the event is nearly overwhelming to me.

As you may know, the CCO arranges the Jubilee conference in those four major parts, with main stage gatherings moving from presentations on the goodness of creation to the awful fall into sin and the subsequent disruption of the world God made, on to the redemption Jesus brings and ending with a message of hope for the restored creation (what some might call “realized eschatology.”) By Sunday morning the worship and music and speakers inspire students to live into the tension of the “already but not yet” of Christ’s promises of healing the cosmos. “All things (re)new(ed)” promises Revelation 21 and 22 — our lives can be decisively shaped by this hope. Through union with the resurrected, ascended, and returning Christ, we can be the change we want to see. We are pregnant, as it were, with the promise of future hope. We are the light of the world, Jesus said, and we point people (through our good works, He also said) towards the good promises of Kingdom come, which is creation renewed.

The big artful images which served as backdrop for the stage this year were so powerful — I can’t seem to get images copies here, now, but look around for them on line if you like doing that. They were very, very cool.

There is, as N.T Wright wonderful ponders in Surprised By Hope and as Richard Middleton studies in every more detail in A New Heavens and New Earth: Reclaiming Biblical Eschatology (which ends in a great study of Luke 4, by the way), continuity between this world and the next.

It is, I believe, a continuity that provides meaning and structure and direction and purpose for life – for every aspect of life and every sphere of culture, including work and our callings into citizenship, the arts, entertainment, and more – that few churches proclaim with much clarity or gusto. Over and over at Jubilee we hear, even from adults: I’ve never heard this before!

Why is that?

I may be unfairly generalizing and there are grand exceptions, but it seems that more liberal/progressive churches, despite good stands on justice issues and a vision of radical inclusion (see the end of Luke 4 for good Biblical justification of outsiders getting in, so to speak) such churches don’t talk much about future hope or a second coming of Christ or frame ordinary day to day light in such eschatological terms; there isn’t much talk about glory or hope, it seems to me. On the other hand, more conservative evangelical churches still, despite some movement on this, think of “going to heaven” as the real point of all of life. They may be strong in helping individual believers grow in vibrant, personal faith and knowledge of God’s gift of salvation, but they are still weak in relating saving grace to all of life, and equipping folks to live into a hopeful vision of the reign of God that is a-coming, on Earth as it is in Heaven.

Further still, we are glad that both mainline denominational folks and evangelicals are learning from Catholic monastics and contemplatives about spiritual disciplines, but, again, some of the centers for spirituality and formation these days talk more about mystical union with God and intimate friendship with Jesus than being shaped by the virtues of Christ to become vessels for all-of-life, love-of-neighbor, “seek the peace of the city” sort of restorative work. It is why we were so glad to tell people about Kyle Bennett’s Practices of Love: Spiritual Disciplines for the Life of the World (Brazos Press; $17.99) that show how spiritual practices help us reconfigure and live in new ways in the real world. It makes perfect sense that James K.A. Smith wrote the forward to Kyle’s book and that they both have spoken at Jubilee. This Jubilee vision is, if nothing, integral.

So, in this still-too-rare Biblical perspective, all of life is being redeemed because God, in Christ, is redeeming this very world. For God so loved the world (the Greek word is cosmos, which means, literally, the stuff of Earth) you know. This was the sign of the first Jubilee – life renewed in a God-centered vision of the common good for all from the land on to reconfigured finances and jails and jobs – and it was at the heart of Jesus’ first sermon.


Which means, it all matters. Every square inch. Or, as the tag line of Jubilee 2018 put it, “This changes everything.”

Using the creation/fall/redemption framework (or the similar rubric of shalom/alienation/reconciliation offered by Lisa Sharon Harper in her wonderful book The Very Good Gospel: How Everything Wrong Can Be Made Right (Waterbrook; $15.99) is so helpful and generative. Seen through the lens of this story we can see what’s right, what’s wrong, and what is to be done and hoped for. It is helpful beyond words for these students knowing that their hurts and their yearnings (from body issues to racial justice, and more) matter to God and that they can understand them through this framework. We have Lisa’s book listed below on sale for 30% off, so be sure to order if if you’d like.

We sell small books at Jubilee that make a big impact in explaining this; I hope you have some on hand to pass out to those with whom you talk about the full gospel of the Jubilee.

For instance, we love books such as All Things New: Rediscovering the Four Chapter Gospel Why It Matters by Hugh Whelchel (IFWE; $6.99 — although that is one we have under the clearance sale section at 30% off for the next four days) and A Christian Worldview: A Students Guide by Philip Ryken (Crossway; $11.99) which explain the significance of these four “acts” of the Biblical drama. One of our favorite small groups guides for this is the rare and wonderful Reintegrate Your Career with God’s Purposes by Bob Robinson (Good Place Publishing; $14.00) I hardly know any other simple resources that invite conversations about this coherent Biblical story that shapes how we think about all of life being redeemed. Do you? I wish we’d sell these routinely – they are so useful and so rare. They will create some fresh conversations in your circles, I’m sure!

We hope you know Richard Mouw’s thought-provoking book about the continuity between culture and redemption and new creation in his little book When the Kings Come Marching In: Isaiah and the New Jerusalem (Eerdmans; $15.00.) Again, I promise you’ll both enjoy its crisp writing and learn something new from it – some have found it confounding and others have found it clarifying. Will there be Beatles recordings in the New Earth? It is a serious question and he’s got a proof-text based on the ships of Tarshish!

Of course we always promote more serious explorations of this approach such as Creation Regained: The Biblical Basis for a Reformational Worldview by Al Wolters (Eerdmans; $15.00.) Even if you think you get the full implications of the c-f-r stuff, his chapter on “structure and direction” is worth the price of the book and priceless for helping us discern wisely about how to relate to the world and institutions and artifacts and stuff around us.

For those that want to dig into the eschatology of this “cosmic reordering of all things” we highly recommend the aforementioned Richard Middleton’s stunning A New Heavens and a New Earth: Reclaiming Biblical Eschatology (Baker Academic; $27.99) which he summarized in his Jubilee talk shown above. And, of course, again, N.T. Wright’s well-known and very important, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church (HarperOne; $15.99.)

You can pick up the hardback (usually $24.99) at our 30% off sale price now ($17.50) while supplies last, or get the brand new paperback at the 20% discount announced in the previous BookNotes offer. We only have a couple hardbacks so let us know asap if you want one at 30% off.

Yep, the Jubilee conference, informed as it has been by these kinds of books, help participants see the Bible as a shaping narrative, a story that coheres, which has a plot and trajectory, and matters as it points us to original blessing and order and goodness, helps us understand the brokenness and idols of the age, and enables us to trust in God’s promises and faithfulness, the person and work of Christ, and the pressing pull of the Kingdom coming “on Earth as it is in Heaven.” It re-orients the perspective of participants, re-directing their self-understanding and helping them see themselves as part of the big Biblical drama. It’s a light before our path, which is to say it illuminates what we know about the world so we can walk wisely in the ways of the Lord in every zone of life.  Many of the “how to read the Bible” books we promote there have that as a feature, such as Michael Goheen & Craig Bartholomew’s The True Story of the Whole World: Finding Your Place in the Biblical Drama (Faith Alive; $15.99) or Sean Gladding’s The Story of God, the Story of Us: Getting Lost and Found in the Bible (IVP; $17.00 or The Big Story: How the Bible Makes Sense Out of Life by the fun writer Justin Buzzard (Moody Press; $13.99.)

I wish our regular Hearts & Minds customers and BookNotes readers who are not in college could have a similar enthusiastic reminder that our jobs, neighborhoods, citizenship, leisure experiences, home lives, sexuality, technologies, urban spaces and built environment, eating habits, views of the natural world, and the like are all made good by God, but are not now as they are meant to be, and that every aspect and sphere of natural, cultural, social, and personal life is, although distorted as we experience them, claimed by Christ, part of His Jubilee. How beautiful to see our churches and ourselves as missional agents joining God in the transformation of the world and how very wise to frame it not just in terms of people knowing God’s love or even “changing the world” but to see God’s work of redemption as a restoration of creation order and beauty and intent. To be deployed to that vision of the rescue of creation and attentiveness to creational ordinances and norms and potential, as prelude to the restoration of all things is nothing short of life changing.

I’m sorry to be so wordy preaching all this for you. Thank you for reading along, bearing with me.

I hope you know I’m not just happily recalling the reformational, missional theology behind the CCOs Pittsburgh Jubilee event but I’m telling you why our store is the way it is, the animating vision the has shaped Beth and me, and why our bookstore carries books on work and art and politics and sex and spirituality, cookbooks and novels and books on engineering.

We hope it is your story, too, that God is stirring up in your own desires and yearnings, an increasing passion to learn and grow wise in the ways of the world and the ways of God’s Kingdom. Oh how these newly inspired young people need wise elders and church leaders that can learn from them and also help lead them. See my review of John Seel’s excellent The New Copernicans: Millennials and the Survival of the Church (Thomas Nelson; $16.99) for a reminder of that.

If any of this talk about wholistic faith, a worldview where all of life is being redeemed, where vibrant faith can transcend older debates between liberals and conservatives, but can tell this better story, if this touches a nerve, rekindles a desire, inspires a renewed hope for a full-orbed, incarnational way of being a friend of God in all of life, working for Jubilee justice, learning about faith in the marketplace and public spaces, then maybe our bookstore can help. We want to serve all kinds of readers, but we have you in mind, particularly. We have the tools you need.


Books matter. Books are important tools for thinking about the implications of this worldviewish perspective and good authors can be wise guides to help us think deeply about God’s intentions for creation. To be faithful agents of God’s redemptive purposes in our time we need more than the Bible, more than good church services, more than passion for the relevance of the gospel. We have to think it through, un-learn and re-learn some stuff, and work it out. Why did God in all of God’s wisdom, create humans with capacities to mirror God’s own care for the world God so loves? How does our sexuality or our thinking or are propensity to play or our ability to be creative or our deep need to work or the joy of learning or the call to rest or our spending of money or our capacity to make stuff or our kinship in families, not to mention our ethnicity and gender – all human things — fit into our Christian lives, our discipleship, our walking in the way of the Lord through this hard but wonderful world?

We need all the help we can get to learn what it means to be faithful in the modern world as redeemed people.

I’d say we even have to learn to ask the right questions, and good books can stimulate our minds and enlarge our hearts and guide us into this sort of curious, probing wisdom, with a view to working out a Kingdom viewpoint in all of life.

Books are the tools we need, since even the best pastors among us most likely can’t help you much as an mathematician, school teacher, engineer, business person, artist, barista, elected official, radiologist, or social worker.

We take about 160 categories of books to the Jubilee conference so that participants can see what a well-stocked Christian bookstore looks like and the tools for Christian living we can provide.

There are good books on everything, almost, and not enough people have access to these riches. And, more importantly, germane for this “all of life redeemed” missional Jubilee vision, we take so many books to the conference in order to help conferees discover resources about their own passions and pursuits, the offices to which they are called and their various tasks and duties, as students, friends, relatives, church members, citizens and so forth. The conference is for college students and the life of the mind as they think about their studies, of course, but it also means that we show off books on sexuality and dating, learning to step into what is playfully called “adulting,” and stuff like being a better friend or son or daughter. We sell a lot of “self-help” titles about shame and pain and how God’s grace equips us to forgive and move beyond hurts and setbacks and the insecurities many have. (Does your church help hurting people see the gospel as the balm they need to heal their anguish, to cope with their anxiety? I hope so.) And, naturally, for those still trying to figure out the truthfulness of this Christian story (can such good news really be true?) we sell popular-level introductions to the gospel, books for those with questions and doubts and books that make a good case for the credibility of this story we find ourselves in.

I was glad, by the way, to sell the paperback edition of David Dark’s allusive book Life’s Too Short To Pretend Your Not Religious (IVP; $17.00) and David Skeel’s not-quite-postmodern True Paradox: How Christianity Makes Sense of Our Complex World (IVP; $16.00) alongside the more popular Case for Christ and Case for Faith and other books of evidences and apologetics for those wanting to persuade their friends of the goodness of the gospel way. Hooray for good tools, too, like Os Guinness’s Fools Talk: Recovering the Art of Christian Persuasion (IVP; $22.00) and Richard Mouw’s Uncommon Decency: Christian Civility in an Uncivil World (IVP; $16.00) and Winsome Persuasion: Christian Influence in a Post-Christian World by Tim Muehlhoff and Richard Langer (IVP; $22.00.)

Naturally, we promote resources on the big picture Jubilee worldview and try to encourage students to move a bit beyond the most popular Christian growth books into deeper spirituality (if they are ready for that, but for many, even Lewis’s Mere Christianity or Wright’s Simply Christian is a huge first step and a bit demanding) and, also, to buy books about their majors and future careers. Many of their CCO workers have raised some extra money to help those with limited funds to invest in a personal library, and it is beautiful to see. We have a huge selection of books about vocation and calling and we have a large section of books about work; not all Christian bookstores carry this kind of thing, so it’s precious to offer these tools of faithful Christian living to those who care. (Ahhh, if only older, more established Christian adults had half the passion and zeal and openness to learn that these 20-something have!)

Besides the arts and sciences, books about a Christian view of literature or computer science or nursing or film or business or special education – we think they should read a few books just about what we call “the Christian mind.” For this crowd I like John Piper’s passionate Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God (Crossway; $15.99) although I really, really like one by Philip E. Dow called Virtuous Minds: Intellectual Character Development (IVP; $17.99.) It is lovely, nicely written and stimulating new ground; it is one faculty and anyone who prides themselves in thinking well should read too. I like to show off the brief Called to the Life of the Mind: Some Advice for Evangelical Scholars by Richard Mouw (Eerdmans; $10.00) mostly because it is so brief. Students don’t know John Stott, these days, but his very classic book (that we passed out at our grand opening 35 years ago!) called Your Mind Matters (IVP; $9.00) is one that pushes back at the sensationalism and anti-intellectualism in some evangelical circles. This stuff if foundational, I’d say.

I think the late, great James Sire (who has spoken at Jubilee more than once and whose recent death was discussed at the book tables more than once) would have been proud to see books about worldview and the Christian mind, including his own Naming the Elephant: Worldview as a Concept (IVP; $22.00) and Habits of the Mind: Intellectual Life as a Christian Calling IVP; $20.00.) I know Sire loved The Transforming Vision: Shaping a Christian Worldview by Brian Walsh and Richard Middleton (IVP; $22.00) and we had all of Walsh and Middleton’s other books too. Man, I wish folks would order Subversive Christianity: Imaging God in a Dangerous Time by Walsh (Wipf & Stock; $17.00) – it’s incredibly potent, thoughtful, deep, urgent, and one of the chapters was one of the meatier lectures ever given at Jubilee, years and years ago!

These are books that rocked our worlds over the years and I pray that showing them off to the rising generation of CCO staff and their young students will ripple down through the next decades, putting them on a trajectory of life-long, profound discipleship. Steve Garber’s research on how all that works – moving from worldview to way of life with the help of mentors and friends as described in his very significant Fabric of Faithfulness: Moving From Belief to Behavior (IVP; $18.00) – was displayed right there, too, alongside Sire and Walsh and Middleton and Al Wolters and Mark Noll and the like. Steve used to direct the conference decades ago, so it is always special to show Fabric of Faithfulness and Visions of Vocation: Common Grace for the Common Good (IVP; $17.00), too. Both are eloquent, beautiful, stimulating, enduring books of Jubilee vision and whole-life discipleship. 

Increasingly, there are a large number of adults that attend Jubilee; in fact there is a tremendous, pre-Jubilee event for pastors and professionals, entrepreneurs and artists, businesspeople and other leaders who want to work out the Jubilee vision in their own grown-up worlds, called Jubilee Professional. I was again invited to speak briefly to this great group – right after a stunning DVD about coffee recently created by the Acton Institute, and speakers such as Andy Crouch and Tish Warren and Dan Allender. Jubilee Professional is sponsored by the Pittsburgh Leadership Foundation and this year both Acton Institute and the wonderful Made to Flourish (founded by Tom Nelson) helped out. Do you know Tom Nelson’s Work Matters: Moving From Sunday Worship to Monday Work? Tom’s vision of seeing churches and pastors motivated and equipped to encourage their congregants in their work lives is lovely; his new book is on why we should know a bit about how the structures of economics unfold and how church folk can take up their lives not unaware of economic forces is called, beautifully, The Economics of Neighborly Love: Investing in Your Community’s Compassion and Capacity (IVP; $16.00.) If you can, you should sign up for next year’s JubileePro. – it’s a great afternoon event, and then you get in to Jubilee for the big Friday night opening.

It is fabulous to have so many thoughtful, somewhat older adults visit our bookstore at Jubilee, too. Pittsburgh friends come by just to chat and shop; those leading booths (many seminaries, interestingly, but also ministry organizations, camps recruiting college-age summer staff, service opportunities and the like) swing by, to see for themselves what the fuss is about, as do many of the speakers and Jubilee Pro participants. Guests are amazed that we lugged so darn much there, and seem impressed that we have curated this particular mix of books about culture, society, faith development, spiritual formation and books about nearly every sphere of life. I almost cried when John Mark Comer said that “this is what it looks like when a true book lover curates a conference bookstore.” Dan Allender’s literal blessings meant the world to us and will keep us going at least another year. This is hard, hard work, and not particularly lucrative, but having mature Christians who know the book world – authors themselves, especially, and even editors like Bob Hoesak of Baker Academic and Brazos Press – say how much they respect our efforts is such a blessing. We are feeling such gratitude right now. It is an honor to get to work with the CCO and their Jubilee team and you who read our columns and send orders our way are a part of this. You really are as your routine business keeps us going to these sorts of missional events. It is part of what your support of our business enables and we are grateful.


We so wish that you, friend, could experience Jubilee for yourself. We’ve been involved in one way or another in almost every one of the 44 conferences and every year I think that “if only…” others could see what we see, experiencing this grand, bustling, energetic tribe of students struggling with the implications of the gospel for all areas of life, their own faith would be deepened and their own hope for the immediately future would be enhanced.

These kids are rocking their campuses – leading friends to faith in Christ, calling churches into better ministry, getting involved in university life, serving the community and heading off to service projects by the thousands. My, my, any Christian pastor or church leader or youth minister would come away from this event with a boat-load of fresh enthusiasm and good ideas. I have told some clergy to skip their routine professional conferences, the Festival of Homiletics, SBL, the State Pastors Conference, or whatever thing they usually attend and go to this for educational development. There is no event like it on the planet! And, by all accounts, it has the best book display of any gig anywhere.

So why not get next year’s Jubilee dates on your calendar and plan now to make the pilgrimage with us to Pittsburgh in February 22 – 24 in 2019.

I rarely use our BookNotes to promote specific organizations or ministries, but I sure do hope that if anyone has any interest in wholistic, evangelical campus ministry that works so well with this rising generation, that they’d consider donating to the Coalition for Chrisitan Outreach, known popularly as the CCO. The impact they make is fantastic. Or, who knows, maybe you might want to work with them; if you see yourself as wanting to partner with evangelically-minded churches near campuses to reach students (or you attend an evangelically-minded church near a college campus who wishes to reach students) you should contact them.

Here is one particularly vivid example of the impact Jubilee can have on a student – these kinds of stories could be multiplied over and over as young adults find this conference and the CCO’s ministry on their various campuses to be so very life-giving.

Check out this incredible video about our young friend MollyKate, who, after experiencing great hardship and depression (her father committed suicide) sensed God’s love anew through the ministry of the CCO at her campus. Interestingly, she was so taken with the creation-fall-redemption-restoration framework for the meaning of life and the aspects of the gospel story that she did a fashion design project at her school (she is a fashion design major in Ohio) creating dresses that represented these different aspects of the human condition. Her design teachers were so impressed with her couture fashion project – made from salvaged and reused fabrics, by the way – that she was selected to display her dresses with real models during New York Fashion Week. (You’ll see them in the video!) She has even made a little full-color book about her designs to tell the story of how Jubilee gave her a way to think about her calling as a dress designer which we stocked at Jubilee. On the back cover she mentions that those interested in the aesthetics of clothing might read a chapter in Steve Turner’s Pop-Cultured or dig deeper by looking at Calvin Seerveld’s Rainbows for the Fallen World. What a joy to have these conversations with a rising leader in her field. How cool is that — a fashion line inspired by Jubilee and the meta-narrative of Scripture sewn by a woman who has experienced her own, as she puts it, “journey of restoration.”

Life Worth Living

Posted by CCO Campus Ministry on Wednesday, February 28, 2018



Books matter. We hear young people and older friends – from students who are not yet followers of Christ to main-stage speakers – tell stories of how books have impacted them. I know it is cheesy to say, but readers become leaders. These pages of print have long been a primary conduit for knowledge and inspiration, joy and healing. I was with a student who broke down in tears as she told me how a book helped her with her relationship with her mother. Another student cried as I found a book that named her particular area of hurt. Speakers told us of a life-changing book; students mentioned citing a book in a paper they were writing or how they had passed a resource on to a friend in the dorm. Books are gifts and we should rejoice in good authors, pray for publishers and bookstores, and remind ourselves just how God has used books down through the ages to deepen faith and resource disciples to live out their faith in more credible and beautiful ways.

But the corollary is, I suppose, that in our age of blogs and the 24-hour news cycle and YouTube comics and digital overload, we can grow both jaded and dumb. Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman and The Shallows by Nicholas Carr continue to remind us that we are not as well read as we ought to be and our capacity to think well is being eroded daily. We were glad to sell Alan Jacob’s How to Think: A Survival Guide for a World at Odds (Currency; $23.00) and Christopher Smith’s Reading for the Common Good: How Books Help Our Churches and Neighborhoods (IVP; $16.00) two books we love. As much as I rejoice in telling you about how our book display was appreciated at Jubilee and how books have made a difference in so many lives, it is also true that indie bookstores (especially of the religious and theological sort) are increasingly becoming a thing of the past.

Those that know us well know that we are holding on by a thread, that our good sales at Jubilee and a handful of clergy conferences and other fun events we do all year are not enough to keep us afloat. We need a miracle of a renewed love of reading among our circles; we need more people who understand the need for reading widely, buying books, studying and learning and growing. Every year we come away from Jubilee with some bittersweet emotions – it is the very best thing we do all year and we are astonished at how good it is. We are also deeply aware that students do not read like they used to, that campus ministry professionals do not read like they used to, and that pastors and Christian leaders, with some stellar exceptions, don’t promote books like they used to. Bookstores are going extinct for a reason, and we are implicated in this shift away from what Richard Foster calls in Celebration of Discipline the “superficiality of our time” which can be countered by “the discipline of study.”

You say you want a revolution? Read for the Kingdom!

I will write about this more, later, I suppose, but I must note briefly that part of the reason for the demise of healthy bookstores in our culture (especially health religious bookstores) is not just because of this shift away from thoughtful reading, the loss of a love of the disciplines of real learning, and the dumbing down of content in our pulpits and faith communities and para-church ministries. It is also because so many people prefer the convenience and cheapness of shopping at Amazon.

We get the appeal of digital books, especially for those that travel, so we have no large beef there. We are glad that on-line vendors can sell used books at great prices. We are fond of libraries and used bookstores, so we appreciate that. Also, my hat is off to the geniuses at Amazon for their digital technologies and seemingly endless databases. It is scary when advertisers talk about pitching to the algorithms and how they can funnel and limit our knowledge of only certain books, but, manipulative as it is, it is technically impressive. Granted.

But the practice of buying from faceless sources who are mostly motivated by efficiency and speed and greed surely erodes the values that support serious learning and deep maturity. Like the way cheap and glitzy on line “education” fueled by greed and ideology should not be confused with a humane and transformative liberal arts education, so saving a quick buck at Amazon should not be confused with having a relationship with a real bookseller who cares about you and your formation. This is a reminder offered for the sake of your own intellectual health, a strategic plea on behalf of the sustainability of Kingdom living (what tools will we use to “think Christianly” when our best stores close down and all we have left are the algorithms at Amazon telling you what’s “liked” by others?) And I suppose it is a personal reminder that if you want us continuing to curate good book selections at conferences and doing good reviews of resources here on line, you should considering buying your books from us, or somebody like us. Buying good books is a spiritual discipline and sourcing them, as we say nowadays, from places of integrity that can help you well, is also a truly Christian practice. We are grateful for our friends and customers and we think we can provide you with a good service, so we want to remind you of that.

I write about this now in part because of comments occasionally made at conferences like Jubilee – sometimes even speakers stand in our bookstore and tell their followers to get their books at Amazon, stealing our livelihood in our very presence.

But I bring this up now also because, again, Jubilee is one of the best places anywhere to be inspired to live well in all areas of life, to make a difference with all we’ve got, to relate faith and culture, discipleship and our daily habits, to integrate our own lives with God’s story, day by day by day. To “think Christianly” and honor God in everything thing we do is just in the air, there. We learn from the conference to work out what it means to make our daily choices in ways that serve the common good that make sense from a Christian perspective, as we say. Jubilee invites us to live in ways that point to an alternative way of life that what is offered from late consumer capitalism, one that is based on, well, Jubilee principles of shalom and justice and restoration and stewardship, whole-life integrity. Jesus applauded those who were faithful in little things and promised that when we discern what faithfulness looks like in our small choices we will be able to move into deeper areas of impact, maybe even being agents of reformation and cultural renewal and history-making. I am so proud of CCO staff who walk alongside students in their critical years helping them discern a faithful sort of living.

You say you want a revolution? Start small; here’s one idea: buy from trusted sources that care. And, then, read for the Kingdom.



30% OFF THESE TITLES while supplies last

Buy any combo of any three and get the free Frost book shown below

This sale expires end of day, March 8th 2018.

These are all books we routinely stock and you can order them later at 10% off, or at a better discount if ordering in quantity. Give us a call if we can help further. For the next four days, though, while supplies last, we offer these shown below at 30% OFF.

We’ll call it rather inelegantly a clearance sale.

Garden City Work, Rest, and What It Means to Be Human John Mark Comer (Zondervan) $16.99 This is one of the best, refreshing, upbeat, fun books to read about all this good stuff. The design suggests a Rob Bell book. We really appreciated John Mark’s encouragement to us at Jubilee; he’s a good guy and did a great job Sunday morning. Buy a bunch of these and pass them out!




God Has A Name John Mark Comer (Zondervan) $16.99 . This is John Mark’s most recent book and it is oddly breezy yet profound, inviting us to know the name of God, to be in relationship with this God who cares. Interestingly, Comer suggests that the passage where God reveals God’s own name (in Exodus 34) may be the most quoted verse of the Bible in the rest of the Bible. Very nicely done.




The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life Os Guinness (Thomas Nelson) $17.99 Over and over I remind people that this is a beautiful, potent, elegant, thoughtful must-read. I think it is a very important work, one of my own personal favorites, and we highly recommend it. Get it now while on sale and you will want to read it more than once.





Culture Making Discovering Our Creative Callings Andy Crouch (IVP) $22.00 Again, this is one of those books that is nearly a must-read, essential to understand the Jubilee conference and Jubilee Pro as these ideas have been so significant in our community. This is a book that explores the “cultural mandate” of imaging God well in the world by using our creativity and abilities to learn to enhance the world God has given us and make a contribution. Andy did a splendid job at Jubilee –if you saw his video from an older Jubilee (where he plays as Bach piece as he did this year) it will be clear how very thoughtful and articulate he is.


Playing God: Redeeming the Gift of Power Andy Couch (IVP) $25.00 I can’t tell you how powerful and important this is. Most readers of BookNotes have some sort of cultural power and most of us need to be a bit more intentional about considering Christianly the goodness, troubles of, and redemptive practices that might help heal our weird relationship with institutions of power. Highly recommended.




Strong and Weak: Embracing a Life of Love, Risk and True Flourishing Andy Crouch (IVP) $20.00 This small hardback is still being discussed in places who have read it together and it is more than clever, it is a stroke of genius to have this formulation of how to do more than “balance” power and strength on one hand and risk and vulnerability on the other. Can we embody both? What are the implications? How we can learn to be fully human, exercising our gifts in cruciform service? One of the most generative books we’ve read in years…



A Woman’s Place: A Christian Vision for Your Calling in the Office, the Home, and the World Katelyn Beaty (Howard Books) $14.99 With a forward by the energetic, globally-followed justice activist Christian Caine, this may seem like quite the upbeat manifesto. But, although it is very well written – Beatty was a print journalist and eventually editor of CT, after all – but it is sober and wise and thoughtful and down to Earth. As you may know, we love books on calling and vocation and it is no surprise that Beaty has been to both Jubilee and Jubilee Professional… she’s thoughtful and highly respected, offering here the only good book in this field, linking calling and vocation to women’s experiences in the workplace and the world at large. It’s well worth having, a good book to share.

Learning for the Love of God: A Student’s Guide to Academic Faithfulness Derek Melleby & Donald Opitz (Brazos Press) $15.00 Okay, you are reading all of this and you realize you know young adults who are in college who never heard of Jubilee, or are too far away to come (although we had folks there from California and Tennessee and Florida and Michigan and Indiana) or who wouldn’t be inclined to come, even if they could. I get that. Not every young adult is comfortable thinking about God and church and Christ’s Kingdom and they sure don’t get that it connects to their experiences in college. I want to invite you to consider giving this book to them. (I’m not just saying that – I really hope you seriously give it your consideration. Whom do you know who needs this?) It explores how most American’s view college life (either it’s a blast a la Animal House or it’s super studious as a ticket to academic success and a future career with a good paycheck) and how God might be offering a different view of the young adult years. What if we could actually see God in the classroom? What if we study to know God’s world and ourselves better? What if we took up a liturgy of learning that helped us connect religion and life? I suppose you’ve heard that I adore these two authors – they are among my best friends – and that this book is dedicate to me. It is an honor I don’t take lightly, and it is a book I wish I could sell more widely. Please consider it. Now is a time to get it on sale. Your young student friend will be glad you cared.

The Very Good Gospel: How Everything Good Can Be Made Right Lisa Sharon Harper (Waterbrook) $15.99 You may recall that this is one of the books we’ve touted the most lately, and we like the way Lisa does the c-f-r approach, but using fresh and Biblical language.  She shows the blessed shalom of the good creation, the harsh alienation due to sin, and the cosmic reconciliation brought by Christ. In Him, the Prince of Peace, the alienation can be healed — indeed, in the second half of the book she explores how reconciliation can occur in so many areas where there are hostilities and pain, from our own body images to class differences, ethnic tensions to our relationship with the earth itself. This is very good news, indeed.

Go: Returning Discipleship to the Front Lines of Faith Preston Sprinkle (NavPress) $14.99 I am a big fan of this book and I’ll tell you why: discipleship — as in the Cost of Discipleship by Bonhoeffer, say — is something folks are confused about. Are we all called to be disciples? What does that even mean; what does it look like? Does it mean one must also be a disciple-maker, as in a mentor or leader or something? Well, this book tries to clear up some confusion, and uses some nationally-gathered research, too, which is always interesting, to know what church folks across denominational lines think they this this elusive word means. Sprinkle thinks it is a good and useful word, and explores how our minds matter in how we think about life and times, so we should read and learn. (Sound familiar? Right on!) He talks about work and callings, aware that for many of us, the workplace is the main venue in which our faith is lived out. His refusal to have a large gap between Sunday and Monday, or between, say, evangelism and social action, shows he’s a new generation leader, offering a balanced and passionate, relevant and faithful, thoughtful and engaging sort of way to follow Jesus.  Thanks to the Barna Group for working on this project and thanks to Sprinkle for helping us think just a bit deeply (if colorfully) about what sort of renewal we should be seeking in these days.

Breaking the Idols of Your Heart Dan Allender & Tremper Longman (IVP) $16.00 Dan is a good friend of the CCO and his words of kindness and blessing to us meant more than he may realize. What an honest, raw, important storyteller he is, a seasoned therapist, thoughtful Christian psychologist, whose work about shame and hard stuff is informed by a wise, narrative view of the unfolding drama of God’s work in our lives and in the world. I think it is fair to say he was influenced as a young man by the Jubilee vision of the CCO — the creation/fall/redemption worldview stuff talked about in, say, Al Wolters’ Creation Regained or Walsh & Middleton’s Transforming Vision is in his bones. This is a creatively written approach study of Ecclesiastes, actually, colorfully co-written by a respected Old Testament scholar, highlighting the search for life’s ultimate meaning. Really good.

God Loves Sex: An Honest Conversation about Sexual Desire and Holiness Dan Allender & Tremper Longman (Baker Books) $16.99 This is another brilliant collaboration with Hebrew Bible scholar Tremper Longman and, like Breaking the Idols, they use a fictionalized story as a device as they watch a group of women and men walk through the Song of Solomon and struggle with the goodness, hurtfulness, and glories of redeemed sexuality. What a great resource!




To Be Told: God Invites Your to Co-Author Your Future Dan Allender (Waterbrook) $15.99 This was maybe the most popular book at Jubilee this year, and for good reason. It invites us to name our life’s story, to be self-aware about our pains and trauma, and to allow God to re-write a new story. This is really thoughtful material and we very highly recommend it.  A number of CCO staff used this before Jubilee and the conversations, we’re told, here rich and important.




Bold Love Dan Allender & Tremper Longman (NavPress) $17.99 Readers polls have continue to report that this is one of the best books people have read and it is surely one that is necessary and profoundly helpful. It isn’t easy, though, as it pushes us towards a deep and Christ-like love. Can we learn to love even a fool? What about those who have hurt or abused us? Can we love parents that have failed us? What do we make of the desire for revenge? Can we seek justice even as we are gracious? What’s with “turning the other cheek?” How can we avoid contempt and violence—can love be creative and even cunning? Jesus calls us to love and this bold book helps us get there. Brennan Manning called it “dazzling” and Dr. John Miller said it was “the best modern book on love I’ve ever read.” Wow.

Leading with a Limp Dan Allender (Waterbrook) $15.99 The tag line on this, if not exactly a sub-title, says it clearly: “Take Full Advantage of Your Most Powerful Weakness.” Really? Yep, Allender breaks convention and suggests we need not always lead from our strengths; in fact, perhaps our very brokenness is the sore spot that God might use to make us into great leaders. (Shades of the Enneagram, perhaps? He doesn’t mention that.) I think this is counter-intuitive and brilliant, offering a refreshing exploration of weakness and pain, hope and leadership, how to cope with betrayal and loneliness and more. What a good read it is, too – especially with chapters like “No More Jackasses” and stories drawn from the failure of a construction company. And great debates he has, in the endnotes, with his editor. (He admits, when his editor asked him some tough questions, he wrote back, “Ron: Leave me alone.”) What are your flaws? How can you “take advantage” of them? Flawed, but healthy, leaders, Allender says, “are successful because they’re not preoccupied with protecting their image. They are undaunted by chaos and complexity. And they are ready to risk failure in moving an organization from what it is to what it should be.” Hmm. Maybe a “limping leader” is the kind of person God uses to accomplish amazing things.

The Good Life Trip Lee (Moody Press) $11.99 AND/OR Rise: Get Up and Live in God’s Great Story Trip Lee (Thomas Nelson) $16.99 Let’s face it, it’s fun having a bone fide rock star – in this case an expert rapper, star in the hip-hop world along with his friends Lacrae and Sho Baraka and Propaganda (who were at Jubilee last year.) These are Trip’s two books, both really useful, clear, encouraging. The first, The Good Life is compact sized and makes a great gift for one who is seeking faith, who wonders what it means to life a good life, and how faith can help. Is the meaning of it all a nicer car and bigger house, getting what you think you want? Or is there more? Nicely done, for sure! The second, Rise Up, is his dramatic book about taking faith and discipleship seriously, about allowing God to touch you so you are a useful vessel, and being a part of the uprising of God’s Kingdom. Passionate, solid, inspiring, this is a great intro to relevant faith for anyone who might appreciate a book from the world of pop culture. Blurbs on the back are from NBA and NFL stars and the cover is way cool.

Welcome to the Revolution: A Field Guide for New Believers (Thomas Nelson) $12.99 AND/OR Free Book Brian Tome (Thomas Nelson) $14.99 We’ve promoted Tome’s introduction to Christian faith –Welcome to the Revolution on the opening night of Jubilee for years. I like it’s feisty invitation to be a part of some big God movement, but how it reminds newcomers to faith that they must learn the Bible, experience prayer, be involved in community, worship well, and serve. Welcome… is a fine introduction for young Christians who need these basics; I could see it even being used in confirmation classes if the kids are somewhat mature or creative. Free Book, though, is a step deeper, laden with fun and funny stories, really zealous and creatively written and it is about, well, freedom. Christ calls us to follow Him on this revolutionary adventure and that means we have to get away from religiosity and legalism and being tied up. Christ sets us free. Brian says, “I am a fanatic about freedom.” The gospel is about grace. We can be free to live abundantly and take risks for the Kingdom once we get this under our belts. It’s a great book, dissing the world’s systems (even the religious world) that wants people to buckle under, duped into fear and anxiety about being good enough. By the way, as it says on the cover “not that kind of free.” Ha, I wish. But we do have it at 30% off, which ain’t bad.

The Language of Faith and Science: Straight Answers to Genuine Questions Frances Collins & Karl Giberson (IVP) $22.00 Everybody needs a good handle on how to think about science these days. There is no doubt that many of us, even young adults, are curious about faith and science and we sold a lot of various sorts of books on this kind of thing at Jubilee. We have a brand new book in fact, just released by IVP, making the case that a healthy view of faith and science will help the church in its engagement with young adults. (Written by researcher Greg Cootsona it is called Mere Science and Christian Faith: Bridging the Divide with Emerging Adults. Drop me a note if you want more info on it.) I think this popular, sturdy volume by Francis Collins & Karl Giberson is a very good, very accessible work that would be useful for most of us to have on our shelves. 

Mariner: A Theological Voyage with Samuel Taylor Coleridge Malcolm Guite (IVP) $35.00 Okay, I’ll admit this wasn’t a huge feature at Jubilee, but I share it because I wanted you to see some of the specialty sorts of stuff we take for, in this case, mostly, lit majors, I suppose. (Or those who are huge fans of Malcolm Guite and his liturgical poetry, which should be everyone reading this.) We take a lot on the arts, aesthetics, pop culture, music, poetry, writing and such. This very new book is a serious contribution not only to the faith and literature genre, but it the latest in the significant “Studies in Theology and the Arts” series that we so esteem. We have each of the others (which all pertained to contemporary visual arts and aesthetics, so this, on literature, was a surprise.)

Here’s the fairly obvious description from the press, but know it doesn’t do this major book justice, written as it is, by a leading Anglican poet and theologian. What a book!

Poet and theologian Malcolm Guite leads readers on a journey with Samuel Taylor Coleridge, whose own life paralleled the experience in his famous poem “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” On this theological voyage, Guite draws out the continuing relevance of this work and the ability of poetry to communicate the truths of humanity’s fallenness, our need for grace, and the possibility of redemption.

Glimpses of Another Land: Political Hopes, Spiritual Longing Eric Miller (Cascade Books) $22.00 I raved about this a few years ago when it first came out; Eric is a friend (and a former school teacher from here in the York area) who has been a well-loved history professor at Geneva College in Western PA. He is a very thoughtful guy and he writes for places like the Front Porch Republic blog; that is, he makes it a real point to seek a “third way” between the left and the right. He’s a localist, if you will, a story-telling, oral history buff inspired by the likes of Wendell Berry and Bill Kauffman and, more significantly, Christopher Lasch. He helped co-write a major, scholarly book on a Christian philosophy of history and has a lovely blurb on the back of friend John Fea’s substantial, readable, Why Study History. But this – well, it’s a glorious collection of delightful, interesting, dare I say at times prophetic essays, ruminating on Pennsylvania, baseball, football, education, a sense of place, being post-partisan, true patriotism, seeking hope in fallen times, always hope. What does that mean, and, literally, what does it look like?

Mark Galli says “Eric Miller is one of the most thoughtful and graceful writers today – a combination of intelligence, humility, and faithful insight. I try to read everything he writes. What a gift to have so many of his essays collected in one place.” We love telling folks about this, and figured the extra discount might help. If you love good writing and thoughtful, wise, rumination on the state of the world, this is a treasure.

All Things New: Rediscovering the Four Chapter Gospel  Hugh Whelchel (Institute on Faith, Work, and Economics) $6.99 I mentioned this one above, linking it to the structure of the Jubilee conference itself, noting that it is one of the only small, inductive Bib le studies – look up the verses and talk about them – that shows the whole inter-related creation-fall-redemption-restoration story of the gospel. A fifth week shows why salvation cannot be truncated to merely the middle two chapters of the story (we are sinners and God forgives us, the assumption most make about the definition of the gospel) and a sixth session explores why it matters. We are one of the few bookstores carrying this and we’re eager to let you know even selling them at such a low profit margin, here, just because we really, really want to get ‘em out there. Order one, see what you think, and then order more for your small group, leadership team, Bible study, mentoring relationship, work-world fellowship group, or Sunday school class. Hang on — this is good, solid Bible teaching.

Jesus in the Courtroom How Believers Can Engage the Legal System for the Good of the World John W. Mauck (Moody Press) $13.99 AND/OR

Redeeming Law: Christian Calling and the Legal Profession Michael Schutt (IVP) $27.00  It was so exciting to have a workshop, as we often do at Jubilee, for young pre-law or law students. The amazing woman doing it this year was very sharp (and, happily, promoted Bryan Stephenson’s mighty book Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption.) We always encourage law students or attorneys to master the must-read classic in the field –every discipline and career should have such an astute classic book – my our friend Michael Schutt, Redeeming Law but we’ll admit it’s a bit heavy for some, what with the study of jurisprudence and it’s citing philosophers from Dooyeweerd to Aquinas. Dear John Mauck’s book, however, is short and sweet, clear as can be and inspiration for nearly anyone. Mauck is a very well known and widely respected attorney in Chicago and those in his firm are happy to know that John is outspoken about his faith, his own discipleship, and how it motivates him to do good work in his practice. Jesus in the Courtroom is a great little book, reminding us that Christ is King of all and that even something as sticky as legal work can point folks to true justice. Both books are on sale for this limited time, while supplies last. That’s a just ruling, eh?

A Beautiful Mess: How God Recreates Our Lives Danielle Strickland (Monarch) $12.99 Danielle Strickland did an amazing job at Jubilee, upbeat, perky, fun, crazy-funny, and yet serious, thoughtful, well-informed, and deeply passionate about God’s call to serve the poor and be agents of justice. She has been a strong leader and preacher within the Canadian Salvation Army for years and is now involved in a major initiative to stop the pipeline of kids from foster care ending up on the streets, trafficked and abused. You will be hearing more about that, I’m sure. We really recommend this powerful book. Shane Claiborne, after noting that it may feel like a punch at times, says it is “a beautiful book.” Amen.


The Ultimate Exodus: Finding Freedom from What Enslaves You Danielle Strickland (NavPress) $14.99 This book was first published in the UK and here is a fabulous, recent edition published here. I do not know of any book that accomplishes this project so well, exploring the Exodus narrative as a metaphor for our own journey to freedom. She sounds like some upbeat blend of Max Lucado and Walter Brueggemann, drawing on liberation theologians and social change advocates and personally alive conventional evangelicals, offering up a great, great book to read, or to use in a small group.

Brilliant thinker, activist, and cultural creative Ken Wytsma says:

It is common to find a book that would be good for someone you know. It’s rare to fine a book that would be good for everyone you know. Simple, beautiful, and comprehensive. The Ultimate Exodus holds treasures of Danielle’s life experiences and the depth of her spiritual reflections is poetic and life changing… This book is a gem.

Michael Frost, who we respect greatly as a writer, says:

This is a book about getting free and becoming a real and an honest-to-goodness follower of God — disciplined, focused, evangelizing, praying, serving, sabbathing, giving, and believing. And because I know Danielle Strickland, I can say that it’s written by one. You simply must read it.

Other great speakers and writers who live out what they write about endorse it with great gusto – Bob Goff, Jo Saxton, Peter Grieg, Alan Hirsch. Yeah. Order some today!

The Liberating Truth: How Jesus Empowers Women Danielle Strickland (Monarch Books) $12.99   Yes, the rumor is true: I promoted from up front at Jubilee the little book by Nigerian novelist called Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie We Should All Be Feminists. It’s based on her lovely TED talk and we think that in this ages of #metoo, it was important to say, although we’ve said it endlessly for decades. Thoughtful evangelical feminists have spoken at Jubilee in years gone by, from Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen to Elaine Storkey to Mimi Haddid to Lisa Sharon Harper. Anyway, if one wants an inspiringly upbeat, fabulously inspiring, Biblical basis for why I felt compelled to highlight Adichie’s little book, I’d happily recommend Strickland’s The Liberation Truth. 

I mentioned The Liberation Truth and her other ones from the main stage as we introduced her to Jubilee, but, to be honest, there was a lot going on after her talk, and students didn’t make their way to the book display. She was a really dynamic speaker and we are committed to selling her books; they aren’t as known as they should be, and we’re happy to offer them at a deep discount now.

The Songs of Jesus: A Year of Daily Devotions in the Psalms Timothy & Kathy Keller (Penguin) $17.00 AND God’s Wisdom for Navigating Life: A Year of Devotions in the Book of Proverbs Timothy & Kathy Keller (Penguin) $20.00  The famous New York Presbyterian scholar and pastor, Tim Keller (who is one of the most well-known contemporary writers in this crowd) was not a Jubilee (although we are sort of proud to note that Kathy was at the precursor to Jubilee, sponsored by the network that became the CCO in the early 70s.) These two very classy hardback devotionals (and all of his books, actually) were there. They are so nicely done and so solid, we featured them prominently at the conference. We’ve got some left over and figured we’d bless you with a good deal, while supplies last. Very highly recommended.

Awaiting the King: Reforming Public Theology James K.A. Smith (Baker Academic) $22.99  We had a big stack of these at Jubilee and I announced from the main stage that I still think Smith’s You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit is one of the most important books of the decade. But I have to admit, the three big ones that were summarized in You Are What You Love — that would be Desiring the Kingdom, Imagining the Kingdom and the most recent, Awaiting the King — were for the most part too academic for most undergrads who aren’t quite aware of this level of sophisticated Christian public theology. That this new one grapples with questions of public ethics (inspired by the often dense Oliver O’Donovan) and with urgent matters of how we construe race and racism (in engagement with Willie James Jennings’s brilliant and provocative Yale University Press volume, The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race) indicates, I suppose, that these aren’t for everyone. Jamie is coming to York and Lancaster April 6th, so you might want to start working on this one now, though. We’ll offer it at the 30% off sale price for these four days.

Strange Days: Life in the Spirit in a Time of Upheaval Mark Sayers (Moody Press) $13.99   I have said often that I am a huge, huge fan of Mark Sayers, the brilliant Aussie cultural critic and missional church pastor. His lively but insightful Vertical Self is amazing and I still think his playful critique of hyper consumers (The Trouble with Paris) is potent. His study of Kerouac (The Road Trip That Changed the World) is pretty great (it’s really the only Christian approach I’ve ever read.) He has a book on leadership called Facing Leviathan on how to lead and create while in this cultural storm. Sayers has just started a new podcast done with John Mark Comer, so it was fun to give a shout-out about that at Jubilee – Comer wrote to me saying that Sayers is just such a darn fun writer. Well, I figured I could convince young adults to get Strange Days if they were touch a bit with their anxiety about this crazy season we’re living in, what with Trump bragging about the size of our nukes and our tensions with Russian and nearly weekly terrorist attacks and the refugee crisis still looming all over the world. Things are changing fast, with fairly benign changes like transgendered bathrooms and deeply scary things like school shootings. What in the world is going on out there? How do we find the power and comfort of the Holy Spirit in these strange days? I don’t know if the Gen Z gang didn’t get the allusion to the album by The Doors or didn’t get the brilliant move of early 1900s neon on the cover, speaking of strange days. Anyway, we have a big stack of these and I’m a fan. Buy this easy to read book to get a quick handle on the troubles of our times and try to develop discernment about these strange days.

Beyond the Modern Age: An Archaeology of Contemporary Culture by Craig Bartholowme & Bob Goudzwaard (IVP Academic) $30.00 After that, then, as I’ve said often in these pages, you should consider the recent book Beyond the Modern Age by philosopher and Bible scholar Craig Bartholomew and globally recognized economist and social critic Bob Goudzwaard. I named this as one of the most important books of 2017 and still commend it; it really is one of the most insightful studies of the roots of modern culture and the spirits of the age that I have read in a decade. Goudzwaard, by the way, is an amazing man and he spoke about modern idolatry at Jubilee many moons ago. We don’t have many in stock, but we’ll give you 30% off on that, too, if you want a deeper dive into the spirit of the age.


A Book for Hearts & Minds: What You Should Read and Why (A Festschrift in Honor of the Work of Hearts & Minds Bookstore) edited by Ned Bustard (Square Halo Books) $18.99  I suppose you know the story of this, how the owners of Square Halo Books surprised us with it on our store’s 35th anniversary in late November. It has in it all sorts of lovely quotes about Beth and me and our bookstore, but it is mostly a collection of pieces by folks doing book reviews, lists of good stuff that serious readers would want to know about. We hoped we’d move a bunch of these at Jubilee, but it just didn’t happen.Young people starting to develop their libraries need books about books, wise guides and well-written annotated bibliographies, so this book done in our honor (apart from being a delightfully cool memento of our store’s work and anniversary) might have been useful, but we didn’t have time to really get it into the hands of those who are learning to read widely. I suppose knowing that you need books about books like this and wanting to read these engaging ruminations by important folks is itself an acquired taste.  We know some of our regular customers have really, really liked it and even ordered more to give away to their own fellow book-lovers.

A Book for Hearts & Minds is a well-designed book lover’s treasure and a reader’s guide to all kinds of good stuff, as recommended by a whole bunch of remarkable people. Here we have some very informed folks – including Steve Garber and N.T. Wright and Andi Ashworth and Calvin Seerveld and Karen Prior Swallow and Gregory Wolfe and many others telling what books to read and why. More than one chapter mentions Jubilee, in fact – we so love Denis Haack’s description of meeting us amidst our stacks of books on film at a long-ago conference. Square Halo was kind enough to create this book as a surprise for us, but we believe it has much wider usefulness than just among those who want to pay homage to my wordy BookNotes reviews. Here, now, you can get it at 30% off. Don’t miss this chance – do you know book lovers who might appreciate it? I’m not embarrassed (well, not toooo) to say you should buy a few.



Surprise the World! The Five Habits of Highly Missional People by Michael Frost (NavPress) $6.99

If you take us up on any three books at this 30% offer (or even any of the ones I mentioned in the first half, in passing, at 20% off) we will give you, absolutely free, a copy of the small but potent little paperback Surprise the World! The Five Habits of Highly Missional People by Michael Frost (NavPress; $6.99.) We are sure it will help you focus and clarify some of your own habits and help you become more of a conduit for creating signposts pointing the way of God’s Kingdom. It’s very nicely done and we’re happy to share for free.



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12 Great New Books We Wished Had Come a Few Days Earlier So We Could Have Promoted Them at Jubilee But Now You Can the Extra Discount – 20% OFF at Hearts & Minds (And read below for a limited time 40% off for a few hardback editions while supplies remain.)

I wanted to write an epic overview of the great Jubilee conference and although we are swimming in the post-conference mess – hundreds of boxes everywhere, paperwork stacked up, odds and ends of stuff I think I promised to do but now can’t quite remember, payments and bills and paperwork galore – I set to sharing why I think this annual CCO event is so very, very wonderful.

Alas, I haven’t had time to trim my sprawling saga, let alone highlight the great 3-day after-Jubilee clearance sale.

So look for that soon. A great story and some notable savings on very good books.

But for now, well, wow.

We get back from last weekend’s big Jubilee with the ginormous rented truck and start loading the boxes from the large said vehicle into our shop, already jam-packed with books.

And I gasp. And not just because of my dangerously sore back. There sitting right in front of me were over ten brand new titles, books that I sure wished I could have gotten in time to take to Jubilee. Mostly early March releases, here a few days early, but a few days late for the big Jubilee display. So it’s good news/bad news – great books now here, but not in time to show off to over 4000 Jubilee participants.

So, we are thrilled to tell you – yes, you! – that these books are just out, brand new, right here, right now. These are not all the new books that we’ve received into the shop this week, but these are spectacular, each and ever one, I’m sure.

I will refrain from exclaiming much; some I’ve read in manuscript form, some I had early chapters, and some are fabulous-looking new paperbacks of important old hardbacks. (Yeah – finally!) All are noteworthy and we’re delighted to tell you about them now. We’ve got them on sale, too.

12 Books I Wished Had Come a Few Days Earlier So I Could Have Promoted Them at Jubilee But Now You Can the Extra Discount

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The Monk’s Record Player: Thomas Merton, Bob Dylan, and the Perilous Summer of 1966 Robert Hudson (Eerdmans) $23.99 Oh, if time permitted, I’d love to tell you more about this. Eerdmans, of course, is known for super scholarly Bible commentary, thoughtful contemporary theology, books about a Reformed worldview, and, sometimes, sometimes, just spectacular creative nonfiction. Last year saw Holy Spokes on finding God in the midst of urban biking by Rev. Laura Everett and an amazingly creative and deeply interesting study of “the audacity of ambition” in the Bible study/travelogue The Great Wall of China and the Great Salton Sea by Russell Rathbun. Recently there has been the eloquent book Make a List: How a Simple Practice Can Change Our Lives and Open Our Hearts by the must-read Marilyn McEntyre.

Well, this splendid, much-anticipated book is one of these works of genius that isn’t what you’d typical expect from Eerdmans, but it seems just right coming from them. Kudos, kudos! It will surely be much discussed and the cover alone is almost worth the price of the book. The Monk’s Record Player is a true telling of an episode that isn’t well known among those who follow – and there are a lot who follow and a lot written about – Bob Dylan or the mystic, activist monk, Thomas Merton. The author, Robert Hudson, is himself a huge Dylan fan, a mystic poet (like Merton, you know) and a man of contemplative prayer (he’s the one who got Four Birds of Noah’s Ark back in print again, a prayer book from the time of Shakespeare that we touted as one of the best books of its kind in 2017.) It has a foreword by David Dalton, a New York Times bestselling author and – please note: a founding editor of Rolling Stone Magazine. What a fabulous, rich, multi-dimensional, creative work this is.

And what a heckuva story.

Everybody knows how eccentric and cryptic Bob Zimmy could be. And most who know of Merton know he took a vow of Cistercian silence but couldn’t shut up. And he had a great sense of calling into the literary world, and he had a great sense of humor. I have met people who knew him, and everybody agrees he was, usually, the life of the party.

You maybe know (if I can be allowed a Dylan-esque stream of consciousness moment) that Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s bravery to resist Hitler was nurtured less by his academic study of liberal theology at Union in the 1940s but from his experience of the African American worship at Abyssinian Baptist and, especially their black gospel choir. He took gospel records back with him to Germany and the rest, as they say, is history.

Perhaps somewhat similarly, Merton, as Hudson shows, took some Bob Dylan albums with him as he strode away from and back into the modern world. This book tells the story (which involves Joan Baez, I might add) and it is a story no one else has noticed. As Publishers Weekly puts it, after noting how many books there are on Merton and Dylan already, “shelf room just must be made for this one.”

Listen to Steve Rabey:

Robert Hudson’s revealing ‘parallel biography’ shows how two of the most prolific and influential figures of the 1960s, both perpetually restless spiritual pilgrims, shared a passion for prophetic poetry, an opposition to the war in Viet Nam, and a boundless inquisitiveness. In this enjoyable and insightful book Hudson connects the dots that other Merton scholars have overlooked.

Paul: A Biography N.T. Wright (HarperOne) $29.99 I have been working my way through an early version of this and recalling other great books I’ve loved on Paul, including some of Tom’s own. But this really is nothing like anything I’ve read. There are some other fine bios of the great apostle, but none that are so informed by such a fine scholarly awareness of context and culture.

It is, as the great Rabbi Jonathan Sacks says of it:

An enthralling journey into the mind of Paul by one of the great theologians of our time, a work full of insight, depth, and generosity of understanding.

Naturally, we love all sorts of books on all sorts of topics. But anything that can help us understand the Bible better is a great gift and anything that can root us so very deeply in the grand Biblical story, and the great, looming character of the last quarter of the story, is certainly to be received with gratitude and taken seriously. I so hope you consider this big book. It’s a combo beach book/historical novel and a magisterial biography.

You know the great biographical work of the likes of Ron Chernow or Walter Isaacson or Barbara Tuchman or Doris Kearns Goodwin. Who knew preacher, pastor, scholar, historian, and great public speaker Tom Wright could use his writing and historical talents to craft a very lively, witty biography? There are blurbs on the back from everybody from Science Mike (McHargue) to Ben Witherington. Tom Holland says, “It is a dream come true.” Very highly recommended.

What Are We Doing Here? Essays Marilynne Robinson (Farrar Strauss Giroux) $27.00  I loaned out my advanced copy of this to somebody who had need of it a few months ago, so, alas, I have only read a few of these heady, erudite pieces. We are so glad it is now here, and hope some of our fine thinkers and good friends will order it pronto. It is a well made book; it just feels hefty and nice, released by own of the great old publishing houses, FSG. Allow me to aver that this is one of the most important books of the year as it collects together the theological lectures offered by this literary figure, lectures she mostly gave at very prestigious locations.There are pieces from the University of Virginia, from renowned universities in Sweden and England, lectures from Princeton, Veritas Forum presentations, talks given at Stanford and Harvard and the like. There’s a fine lecture on the “theological virtues” given at Regent College in British Columbia and a few pieces that were later published in swanky, literary outlets like Harpers and The Nation. She is, I’d say, one of a handful of renowned public intellectuals in our time, and in these chapters she “trains her incisive mind on our modern political climate and the mysteries of faith”

Robinson has released several other collections of astute and serious prose, including essays on beauty, science, children’s literature, often exploring the limits of the modern ethos, but this may be the very best, at least for those of us who appreciate that she is at once a world-class novelist and theologically aware; she is, in fact, a bone fide Calvin scholar.

Perhaps like Wendell Berry – a very urbane, Reformed Wendell Berry – Robinson is admired and read for her tightly argued essays about public life and beloved for her award-winning novels (Gilead won the Pulitzer, to be followed by the lovely Home and haunting Lila, which allowed for the re-issue of her first book, a gripping, eccentric tale called Homecoming which I hope you’ve read.) What Are We Doing Here? was premiered last week, it is interesting to note, at New York’s Redeemer Presbyterian in Manhattan, at an event sponsored by their important Center for Faith and Work.

Connected in the minds of some to the likes of great thinkers writing about America such as Emerson or Tocqueville, she writes about our American political and cultural life, “deeply impressed by obligation as a great theater of heroic generosity, which, despite, all, is sometimes palpable still.”

Life Without Lack: Living in the Fullness of Psalm 23 Dallas Willard (Thomas Nelson) $22.99  Just a few weeks ago I was lamenting the lack of an adequate amount of high quality books on the beloved 23rd Psalm. There are a few lovely ones, yes, a few standards, a couple of edgy cool ones, but nothing that is meaty enough to be profound, and none that are truly essential. Interestingly, just two weeks ago I was revisiting some Dallas Willard books, watching him on video, reading John Ortberg’s great books about him. Beth and I met Dallas once, years ago, and in a brand new edition of Richard Foster’s seminal Celebration of Discipline we are reminded in a foreword that it was Dallas who first encouraged Richard to write that important, important book. His sense of how inner transformation works, what Christ’s grace means, practically, is extraordinary.

So, with Willard’s great philosophical mind (he taught philosophy at USC) and his remarkable awareness of the history of spirituality, the great, great writers of the early church, the Middle Ages, the Monastics and the Reformers and the modern thinkers, too, we should know that his voice was extraordinary, his enduring insight well worth taking in. Books like Renovation of the Heart and Hearing God and The Spirit of the Disciplines are not too heavy, not academic, but are rich resources showing us just how God transforms us from the inside out, making us more like Christ, day by day by day.

His death a few short years ago has been felt across the thoughtful, religious publishing world and it is beautifully to see the tributes and the anthologies. But this is a new book, drawn from a series of talks he gave in his later years. I have not read this yet, but I am sure it will be precious, and more. Life Without Lack will certainly be challenging and helpful, deep and rich and thoughtful.

John Ortberg says,

If you want to know how to live in abundant satisfaction, or how to actually love somebody, or how to spend a day with Jesus, or what work consists of, or how to die to your self so your self might come alive — I can think of no better gift than this glorious unpacking of these grand old words.

A Gospel of Hope Walter Brueggemann (WJK) $20.00 Old Testament scholar and UCC preacher Walter Brueggemann is endlessly generative – words I’ve heard him say about the Bible itself – and it seems in recent years there has been a good effort to dip into his massive amount of source material and make it available in less daunting and more readily usable ways. There have been some new devotionals and day books, Bible studies and of course collections of sermons. This approach of this slim hardback is a great idea and I hope it is bought widely and shared.

A Gospel of Hope is essentially a collection of paragraphs and sometimes just one or two line quotes from many of his sermons, lectures, Bible studies and scholarly treatises. It is sort of a quotable Brueggemann, picking amazing lines and good quotes and helpful paragraphs, grouped together around 11 different themes.; in his opening introduction he writes about audaciousness and it is both a new piece but vintage Brueggy. Anyway, grouping his ideas by topic and giving us little pieces and quotables is fabulous. From “Abundance and Generosity” to “Alternative Worlds” to “God’s Fidelity and Ours” and on to quotes/sentences about Jesus, Justice, Relinquishment, “Newness and Hope” and more. There is stuff here on public witness and social responsibility and on loving our neighbor. He writes about his own sense of “Evangelical Identity” and invites us to “Faithful Practices.” What a lovely and I think useful little volume.

The Prayer Wheel: A Daily Guide to Renewing Your Faith with a Rediscovered Spiritual Practice Patton Dodd, Jana Riess & David Van Biema (Convergent Books) $23.00  Okay, I’ll admit it. I don’t have any idea if this is all it’s cracked up to be, but I’m intrigued. Or at least I’m intrigued with seeing who out there is intrigued. I’m still learning the basics – still crazy after all these years, ya know – and maybe I need some extra ancient-future trick to deepen my rather ordinary prayer life. Maybe maybe not. For what it is worth, I respect these writers a lot and I think they are doing something brave and very interesting. There is a nice foreword by Fr. James Martin, the writer of all things Jesuit, and I trust him considerably.

As they suggest on the back cover, apparently, from the early Church through the Middle Ages, Christian devoted themselves to prayer with this particular practice that somehow was lost to history. These authors are hoping to re-introduce us to this older practice, inspired by a “stunning medieval artifact that resurfaced in 2015 in a small gallery near New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.”

The seven paths of the twelfth century Liesborn Wheel, arranged in a circle around the word Deus (God), lead believers – now as in past times – to encounter and apply transforming truths of the Christian faith.

They explain that this book tells the story of the wheel, guides us through its teachings, and then provides beautiful prayers for personal or group use.

“As you pray,” they suggest, “you will discover new ways to speak to God about your everyday concerns and deepest longings, and find your faith powerfully refreshed.”

Blurbs on the back include lovely notes from Ann Spangler, whose Zondervan books include Praying the Names of God and the respected United Methodist pastor and evangelist Adam Hamilton. In his preface, James Martin says it is “absolutely fascinating reading for the devout and doubtful alike.”

Fundamentalist U: Keeping Faith in American Higher Education Adam Laats (Oxford University Press) $29.99 Despite the cheesy halo on the cover, and the frustrating conflating of evangelical and fundamentalist – – a move the author acknowledges is problematic – this book would have been ideal to show off at Jubilee, if only it had come in time. It’s a great study! I’d even call it vital for campus ministers, faculty, and serious academics or others who care about higher education, especially Christian higher education. (It is my contention that books about Christian higher education – such as the extraordinary Diversity Matters: Race, Ethnicity, and the Future of Christian Higher Education edited by Karen Longman (which we awarded as a Best Book of 2017) – are important for anyone interested in the integrity and health of college and university life. Even campus workers or staff at secular private colleges or church-related liberal arts schools or major state universities should study up on this parallel story within the history of American higher ed. It is why I loved George Marsden’s classic Soul of the American University so very much, and why I think this kind of book is good to make available to anyone working in colleges or universities.

Fundamentalist U is by Adam Laats, Professor of Education and History at Binghamton University and author of The Other School Reformers: Conservative Activism in American Education, which won the History of Education Society’s Outstanding Book Award in 2016. In it, Laats does what we call these days a “deep dive” into the history and current cultures of a dozen well known Christian colleges and universities, institutions such as Wheaton, Moody, Gordon, Liberty, Biola, and others. (See – there are huge differences between fundamentalist hotspots like Bob Jones and Liberty and more clearly moderate evangelical strongholds like Gordon or Wheaton.) By doing bunches of oral histories, tons of archival studies, Laats looks at the issues that shaped the development of these institutions, including their efforts to band together in the CCCU (Consortium of Christian Colleges and Universities.)

Dipping in I was intrigued as we learn about how issues related to science and evolution were handled decades ago in significant debates on several campuses, how modern art was seen and how art departments did or didn’t develop, and how, just for instance, the anti-war student movement was treated in the late 1960s, how the colleges have navigated changes in culture (such as the rise of outspoken LGBTQ students and staff and the ever elusive desire for racial diversity.) Fascinating and important stuff – especially if you have followed any of my own recent reflections here at BookNotes around the book Still Evangelical? which is asking how the shift from fundamentalism to evangelicalism happened in the 20th century and where they may be leading these days. With Billy Graham’s death a week or so ago, this book and the era of the rapid development and growth of Christian higher education is fully germane and we’re happy to recommend it widely.

Here are some of the back cover endorsements:

“Fundamentalist and conservative evangelical colleges face unique tensions. They represent volatile movements plagued by internal struggles and ever-shifting boundaries. They pursue higher learning on behalf of a movement that accused America’s universities of betraying God’s truth and righteousness. And they function as halfway houses for evangelical students who are called to be in the world, but not of it. Adam Laats went deep into the archives of Bob Jones University, Wheaton College, Moody Bible Institute, Biola University, Liberty University and Gordon College, and he tells their stories with great integrity. The result is a major contribution to the history of Christian higher education and to the understanding of fundamentalism and evangelicalism in America.” — Joel Carpenter, Director of the Nagel Institute for the Study of World Christianity, Calvin College

“Adam Laats’s nuanced, detailed, and exceptionally well researched history of twentieth-century conservative Protestant higher education offers a plethora of fascinating information and perceptive insights. It is essential reading even for those well versed in American evangelical history, because it offers a fresh analysis of the complex ways in which fundamentalist colleges reflected (and shaped) their religious movement’s tenuous balance between the demands of the world and the tenets of faith.” — Daniel K. Williams, author of God’s Own Party: The Making of the Christian Right

Barefoot Revolution: Biblical Spirituality for Finding God  Paul Marshall (Paraclete Press) $16.99 We carry all the lovely books of Paraclete Press and when they did this – the author is a spiritual director in Sydney, Australia, a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary, and the leader of a charity serving the poor and oppressed called Mustard Seed Global — I knew this one looked special. It is for those looking for God, but also, I gather, for anyone wanting a deeper faith, a more disciplined commitment, a relationship with God that is palpable but also responsible. It is very much about one’s interior life, one’s experience of the love of God but yet it is also about the bigger, adventurous response to that. I think of significant books like Kyle Bennett’s Practices of Love: Spiritual Disciplines for the Life of the World (Brazos Press; $17.99) or other books that offer a balanced sort of inner/outer kind of spirituality, that is both about spiritual formation and the cost of a life of service and robust discipleship.

I love what Robert Gallagher (a professor of Intercultural Studies at Wheaton) says of Barefoot Revolution:

This is not for the faint-hearted. If you are sincere, however, about embracing God’s revolutionary love, then take off your shoes and read.

Sex, Jesus, and the Conversations the Church Forgot Mo Isom (Baker) $14.99 I hope you know Mo Isom. Her autobiographical testimony, Wreck My Life was a fun read and popular among young women and men and many sports fans. She is the former All-American goalkeeper for the LSU soccer team that has been featured in all the great sports outlets, from ESPN to Sports Illustrated and has even been featured on SportsCenter Top-10 Plays. She is a widely followed blogger, outspoken Christian who has offered wise and winsome invitations to allow the gospel to shape one’s identity and calling and life.

Here, she worries that the church is relatively quiet on such a huge, huge topic – human sexuality. I am sure it is lively, faithful, creative, if customarily so. “Sex is God’s idea,” they write on the back cover. “It’s time we invited Him back into the bedroom.”

I am not so sure this offers much that is really new since, ad copy and Ms Isom’s insinuation aside, there are hundreds of books saying just this. Yet, it is said to be written with a “raw vulnerability and a bold spirit.” She shares in this book her own sexual testimony and covers all sorts of stuff from misguided rule-following to temptation, porn, promiscuity, false sexpectations, sex in marriage and more.

She resists shame and she places our human sexuality within the broader story of God’s redemptive plan. That it is written by a young woman (she is married with two young children) is a helpful contribution, too. It would have been great to have this at Jubilee, believe me! Maybe you know a young adult who would appreciate it.

Rave, rave reviews appear on the back from beloved pop Christian leaders such as Lisa Bevere, Jefferson Bethke, and Annie Downs who says that, “Mo is a powerful voice rising in our generation.” We thought you should know about it.


And, now, the grand finale — a trio of books just converted from hardcover to less expensive paperbacks. We love, love, love these books and a few we have been wishing for paperback editions for a very long time. We are truly delighted to recommend them to you now, at our 20% off sale price.  If you want a hardback at an deep discount of 40% off, contact us right away as we may be able to do that for you for the next few days. We’ll see what we can do for you.

We may have hardbacks of these three still in stock so if you want hardbacks at 40% off, while supplies last, just this week, let us know.   

The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life in God Dallas Willard (HarperOne) $14.99  Yes, finally, in a brightly-colored, lovely cover (which they have called a 20th Anniversary Edition.) This surely has been one of the great books of the last twenty years and, even though it is a study of the reign of God and the Sermon on the Mount, it is more about spiritual formation, about character formation, about living well within this ecology of a God-given life. Many a reader has found it to be among the best books they’ve ever read. Others find it an introduction to Dallas Willard and some of his other books are among their all time favorites. There is little doubt it is esteemed, wonderful, important.

This is the book about which Richard Foster has said:

I consider The Divine Conspiracy to be the most important book in the field of Christian spirituality written in my lifetime.

Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, The Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church N.T. Wright (HarperOne) $15.99 Since the Jubilee conference goes out of its way to frame Kingdom living as joining God’s mission in the world, hoping for the full restoration of the good but fallen creation, it is a shame this book didn’t arrive until the day after the conference. In many ways, those authors who have most influenced the CCO in these matters – I’m thinking Al Wolter’s and his Creation Regained and Brian Walsh & Richard Middleton’s Transforming Vision – have themselves influenced N.T. Wright, it seems that this is truly one of the most significant books of recent decades for my own Jubilee tribe, saying afresh and with great detail what we said when we started the conference with some Kuyperians more than 40 years ago. Surprised by Hope is more heady and detailed than most undergrads may want to tackle, but it is simply a must-read. (I have used the DVD curriculum for it more than once.)

United Methodist writer and former Bishop Will Willimon says:

This is simply the best book we have on the substance of Christian hope.

Rob Bell writes,

This book is N.T. Wright at his finest: dismantling the tired old theologies of escapism and evacuation to help a whole generation of us more clearly grasp a Jesus revolution for her, now, today.

My, my, this is important stuff. It is an essential study of what heaven is and isn’t, what we mean by the Kingdom of God, what happens when we die, and why in the world the creedal affirmation of the resurrection of the body is essential, and more significant than you ever realized. We are so glad this is more affordable and in a sleek new paperback edition. Get it today.

The new cover design, by the way, sits on the shelf very nicely next to the paperbacks of Case for Psalms, How God Became King, Simply Good News and the brand new paperback of Simply Jesus.  Nice.

The Day the Revolution Began: Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus’s Crucifixion N.T. Wright (HarperOne) $18.99  Well, this could be a perfect book to dive into these very next weeks as we move towards Holy Week and a more intentional time of reflection on the meaning of the cross. Indeed, the popular Adam Hamilton has said that “One of the most important books on the cross ever written.”

I agree. And here’s why: if NT Wright has helped us understand more fully the that true gospel is that the Kingdom of God has been inaugurated, and that God’s redemptive, covenantal, rescue plan has begun (and been decisively vindicated in the cross and resurrection) then we must ask, beyond the resurrection proving that God wins over Death and evil, why did Jesus die? Why the cross? That is, what do we mean by the atonement?

In this stunning, well-documented (440 paperback pages), study, Wright looks at every key New Testament passage about the cross and interprets the meaning of the text in light of the “new creation” paradigm that he proposes. His scholarly books work it out, but his popular level ones like Surprised by Hope and How God Became King all show that God is restoring his good but fallen creation into a renewed Earth, a fresh start for His good world. The reality of “new creation” — which means a (re)new(ed) one, actually, this fallen/disrupted world healed and restored, returned to fully reconciled, God-glorifying beauty – has been our own motivation for selling books for these 35 years; God cares about this world and we need to be attentive to God’s redemptive work within it, both in creation and the promise of new creation.

So, here, Wright explores the cross in light of the big promissory vision of restore creation that he insists upon. If he is right that we aren’t heaven bound, but that God intends to restore his good world, then how does the blood shed, the cross, the Good Friday and Easter story point us there. That is the project of The Day the Revolution Began and I think it is brilliant. We are delighted to offer it to you now at our special sale price.


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NEW BOOKS FOR LENT (mostly) and a few other great resources (including “Subversive Sabbath” by AJ Swoboda) ALL ON SALE

Here are some recent books that I wanted to tell you about as we move towards this Lenten season. Some of them are very, very good and we’re happy to share these good selections with you.  We’ve got others here in the shop, of course, and can order nearly anything, so do give us a call if we can be more helpful. You can order anything by using the secure link at the bottom of this newsletter, or the email address there, or the phone number. We’re at your service.

For another good list of 2017 Lenten devotionals that I posted last year, see HERE. For an older one, with more than a dozen from 2016, see HERE.

Or, I hope you saw the post we did about our friend and neighbor Chris Rodkey, who did an exceptionally interesting coloring book for adults that follows the lectionary, called Coloring Lent: And Adult Coloring Book for the Journey to Resurrection. See our review, HERE. 

A lot of folks like the list I did last year of books that perhaps suggested themselves as good to read during the season of Lent, but that were not devotionals or specifically Lenten. That was my list for those who didn’t want the daily devo format but were at least open to some intentional, reflective reading during this season. Check it out HERE. There’s some really fine writing recommended there.

This new 2018 list includes some that are specifically written to be used during Lent and some that, inspired by that loose list for those that don’t want such an obvious approach, are new titles that seem right to recommend here, now.

All are on sale and can be ordered by using the link below. As a small, family business with tight cash flow, we truly appreciate your support.  We hope you enjoy this curated list and my ruminations on these titles.

The Good of Giving Up: Discovering the Freedom of Lent Aaron Damiani (Moody) $12.99 This is one of the books I highlighted last year, but simply have to describe it briefly again in this list. It is not a daily devotional, but a fine, reflective book –handsomely designed with some purple ink to start off each chapter – offering a fairly conservative, Protestant rumination on why this practice (typically considered more Roman Catholic than evangelical) is healthy and useful. Granted, “giving up something for Lent” can be construed in odd ways, and any ritual can become wooden or routine, but, as Damiani happily explains, his doubts about Lent have been overcome and he now sees it, when done with proper motivation, as a sort of “springtime for the soul.” This is a very helpful resource for those who aren’t familiar with Lenten practices or who want just want to be more intentional about the season, “clearing to make room for new growth.” I know this was really appreciated by a few customers last year, and I wanted to commend it again, now.

The Art of Lent: A Painting a Day from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sister Wendy Beckett (SPCK/IVP) $15.00 This is a small, square-sized paperback made nicely with glossy paper and excellent art reproductions gracing every other page. On the facing pages the esteemed Carmelite sister and art historian, Sister Wendy, offers remarkable insight that is at once a blend of interesting art facts and art historical exploration and inspiring faith-shaping wisdom. There are over forty paintings, some quite famous and others lesser known, each explaining succinctly and with a natural, winsome invitation to use them prayerfully. This is so nice I’d recommend getting a few – it’s a wonderful book to share with the unsuspecting, one who might not ordinarily read a Christian book or who might not take up a more conventional Bible study. The book is wonderfully designed, too, with full color pages and good graphic lay out. Highly recommended.

Hanging By a Thread: The Questions of the Cross Samuel Wells (Church Publishing) $9.95 This is a thin book but the writing is no only eloquent but often profound. Wells was the articulate predecessor to Will Willimon when he left his position as Dean of the Chapel at Duke University. Wells has since returned to England where he is not Vicar of St. Martin in the Fields in London. (I named his Incarnational Ministry: Being With the Church one of the Best Books of 2017; the sequel, Incarnational Mission: Being with the World just arrived.) Hanging by a Thread is also new and includes short provocative pieces circling around this remarkable statement: “There was a time when the cross was an answer: today, the cross is a question.” Each piece “revisits the harrowing story at the very heart of Christianity.” As it says on the back:

With unswerving courage, elegant simplicity, and captivating example, it scrutinizes the assumption that the crucifixion was about fixing human problems, and instead, suggests it was the culmination of God’s disarming purposes to be with us, no matter what. This transformation from “for” to “with” discloses a profound, moving, and inspiring vision of what the central event of the Christian faith was truly all about.

Chapter titles are allusive and full of wonder: story, trust, life, purpose, power, love, story, but here is what he’s getting at: the reliability of history, the fragility of trust, the fact of mortality, the search for meaning, the nature of power, and the character of love. This really could be read, pondered, prayed through, a week at a time. Nicely done.

Holy Solitude: Lenten Reflections with Saints, Hermits, Prophets, and Rebels Heidi Haverkamp (Abingdon) $14.00  Haverkamp is a writer, retreat leader and an ordained Episcopal priest. She is also a Benedictine oblate at the extraordinary, ecumenical, Holy Wisdom Monastery in Wisconsin (and author of the lovely Advent devotional, Advent in Narnia: Reflections for the Season.) In this Lenten guide there are six weeks of reflections, with each week offering meditations on a certain theme, related to the practices of solitude and silence.

For instance, there are five days of “Solitude and Struggle” and “Solitude and Journey” and “Solitude and Hospitality” and “Solitude and Resistance.” The last days for Holy Week are under the rubric of “Solitude and Confinement” and moves from Jesus’ imprisonment to Daniel in the Lion’s Den to John of Patmos and more. I have to admit I’ve jumped ahead to the Holy Saturday reading and the Easter Sunday one, “Mary Magdalene at the Tomb.” There’s an appendix called “Ten Ways to Be Silent.” I’m sure I’m not the only one who needs it. The soft, beautiful cover just makes it just perfect.

The Glory of the Cross: Reflections for Lent from the Gospel of John Tim Chester (The Good Book Company) $12.99 We really like Tim Chester, who has written books from his native UK on this publishing house and on Crossway here in the States. He’s gospel-centered, grace-based, Reformed and missional. I like him a lot, and his energy and clarity about Biblical teaching is helpful. Here he walks readers through the gospel of John with a bit of Lenten tone, although it isn’t deep or mystical, nor heady and visionary. It’s just solid, standard, stuff, a bit of meat amidst the milk, but accessible and interesting and edifying. These meditations really do push us towards the foot of the cross where we “gaze at Christ in all his glory.” And if that doesn’t get you — that God’s glory is most revealed in this horrid, suffering, then maybe you should benefit from this warming and solid work. 47 short readings.

A Way Other Than Our Own: Devotions for Lent Walter Brueggemann (WJK) $13.00 Again, I mentioned this last year, but I’m afraid some won’t click the link offered above to see that list, so I felt like I wanted to be sure it wasn’t missed. It says on the back, “We begin our Lenten journey addressed by the remarkable assurance that the God who summons us is the God who goes along with us.” If I am attending well to this, I can get choked up just reading that line. Of course, this feisty, poetic, scholarly, passionate Old Testament scholar is good on stuff pertaining to times of wilderness and wandering “from newly freed Hebrew slaves in exile to Jesus’s temptation in the desert.” God has always called people out of their save, walled cities into uncomfortable places, revealing paths they would never have chosen.

As it says on the back, “Despite our culture of self-indulgence, we too are called to walk an alternative path – one of humility, justice, and peace.” I think these short readings might be prophetic for you as they are for many. Hold on, this isn’t sentimentality or mere inner piety. This will lead to a life-changing, challenging, beautiful life that comes “with walking in the way of grace.”

Interrupting Silence: God’s Command to Speak Out: A Bible Study for Adults Walter Brueggemann (WJK) $14.00 This is one of those books that is not created as a Lenten study but just cried out to be listed now. It is, in fact, a Bible study, full of Bible notes and discussion questions and stuff to look up and process. Okay, maybe the format isn’t that creative, but a set of short Bible lectures by Brueggemann and then conversation questions, is a remarkable resource. There is nothing quite like it among the dozens of Brueggemann books.

The theme, too, is urgent. There is nothing in print that I know of that gets at this so bluntly. “Silence,” he says, “is a complex matter. It can refer to awe before unutterable holiness, but it can also refer to the coercion where some voices are silences in the interest of control by the dominant voices.” It is the later silence that Walt, not surprisingly, explores here, urging us to speak up in situations of injustice.

Here is a bit how the publisher describes it:

Interrupting Silence illustrates that the Bible is filled with stories where marginalized people break repressive silence and speak against it. Examining how maintaining silence allows the powerful to keep control, Brueggemann motivates readers to consider situations in their lives where they need to either interrupt silence or be part of the problem, convincing us that God is active and wanting us to act for justice.

If you are involved in any social justice work, desire to be an agent of reform, maybe feel called to be some kind of whistle-blower, or just desire to be more wise and vocal and faithful in taking your stand, you will find this to be emboldening. If you are not there, not sure if we should stand up and speak out, or are afraid of the price such outspokenness might cost, I doubly recommend this set of short Bible reflections. Do it alone if you have to, or, speak up, and invite others to join you in this courageous study.

The Journey to Jerusalem: A Story of Jesus’s Last Days John Pritchard (WJK) $14.00 There has been so much written – scholarly and popular – about Jesus’ last week. Last year, for instance, we commended the excellent academic study by Andreas Kostenberger & Justin Taylor called The Final Days of Jesus: The Most Important Week and the Most Important Person Who Ever Lived. This year has seen a fabulously, short resource that is an imaginative retelling of the Gospel of Luke, from Luke 9:51 where Jesus “sets his face to go to Jerusalem.” This is good for anyone who wants to learn a bit, “get in the mood” (which is a crass way of putting it) or needs to get reacquainted with the story if a fresh way. It is great for small groups, too, and includes weekday readings for Lent, from Ash Wednesday to Good Friday. There is a poem for each Saturday, too, so, with the format and the reflection and discussion apparatus, it is more than just a historical novella. This is a fine small group option, written by the last Bishop of Oxford and Archdean of Canterbury. Pretty darn nifty, eh?

Messy Easter: Three Complete Sessions and a Treasure Trove of Ideas for Lent, Holy Week, and Easter Jane Leadbetter (IVP) $14.00 I hope you know about the innovative, intergenerational creative arts programs for churches to us — or anyone, for that matter — as a way to express worship and invite newcomers into an experience of one’s faith community. These “Messy Church” services started in the UK and we carried their creative guides as imports several years ago. (Thanks to Fresh Expressions, by the way for introducing us to the British MC volumes.) Now they are increasingly popular here and IVP has released a US-version of the “Messy Church” volumes, an Advent/Christmas one (which we told you about before) and this all new one for Lent, Holy Week, and Easter. Not a bad thing to have on hand, even if you don’t intend to do it as a full-on program.  Nice stuff, for sure.

Make a List: How a Simple Practice Can Change our Lives and Open Our Hearts Marilyn McEntyre (Eerdmans) $21.99 I know it might be a bit of a stretch to suggest this as a Lenten reading, but, well, maybe not. Let’s make a list:

  1. It is a daily reading book, so although it isn’t a Bible reflection, it does have that format and vibe.
  2. It is, in a back-door, tell-it-slant kind of way, a book about spirituality. That’s obviously Lenten.
  3. It is about writing, pausing, organizing our lives; inner peace and character formation is ideal for Lent.
  4. Why not give up your crazy-making schedule and disorganized panic for Lent? Marilyn can help.

I make my point: this is a book about inner transformation evoked by new habits, and seeing the “spirituality of the ordinary” when one takes up intentional practices, or frames the common place as liturgies. If you like nice writing, you’ll be delighted. If your interested in discovering deeper meaning in a common practice, you’ll be impressed. But if you’ve read Jamie Smith or Tish Harrison Warren, you’ll really appreciate this. If you haven’t read them, order this, for sure, but get Smith’s You Are What You Love and Tish Warren’s Liturgy of the Ordinary now, too. I’m not kidding. Make a list about which ones to read when.

I hope you know how we routinely rave about this fine writer, literature prof, and poet. We always take her Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies everywhere we go to sell books, and usually her recent Word by Word: A Daily Spiritual Practice. We like her Bible ruminations found in What’s in a Phrase: Pausing Where Scripture Gives You Pause, which itself could be a fruitful Lenten resource.

I love the quotes on the back of the cover that offer praise for the author – Shauna Niequist and Michael Card, Richard Rohr and Samuel Wells. Listen to what Lauren Winner says:

Reframes one of my existing daily habits as spiritual practice… Life giving and edifying.

Blessed are the Unsatisfied: Finding Spiritual Freedom in an Imperfect World Amy Simpson (IVP) $16.00 We were delighted to meet Amy Simpson at a Parish Nursing conference here in Central PA a few years ago, and were blown away by her honest, insightful, riveting telling of her family’s story about her mother’s schizophrenia. Her book Troubled Minds: Mental Illness and the Church’s Mission tells that tale, and offers accessible, wise insight. Her own foibles are shared candidly in Anxious. I greatly suspect that this new one, Blessed are the Unsatisfied, is deeply informed by her own narrative and her deep awareness of mental health issues, but it is a more general book than that, designed for any readers who are pondering how to find meaning amidst life’s disappointments.

As Drew Dyck (himself an author you should know) says on the back, simply, “How freeing it is that being unsatisfied doesn’t mean I’m a defective Christian!” He continues, “Simpson gave me permission to stay hungry for ultimate satisfaction while providing strategies for pursuing the abundant life of which Jesus spoke.”

Of course it seems that Amy – now working as a life and leadership coach –invites us to use our lack of satisfaction in ways that it leads to greater intimacy with God. Obviously. But I trust that she isn’t glib about that, as, here, East of Eden, even that can be fraught with brokenness. I do not know if she exposes the wrong-headed teaches of the likes of Olsteen or the overly pious John Piper on this topic, but I am sure she is balanced, realistic, honest, and sober. And, points us, indeed, to true spiritual heath that surely starts in humility and, yes, un-satisfaction. It seems a perfect read for the season of Lent.

Disruptive Discipleship: The Power of Breaking Routine to Kickstart Your Faith Sam Van Eman (IVP) $16.00  This is one of those books that is perfect for the “I want to read something about spiritual growth that challenges me to a deeper walk with God and a better manifestation of faith, hope, and love but not by reading a Lenten devo” kind of book. I often summarize Sam’s wonderful insight about needing to break our routines and get “outside our comfort zone” to disrupt our spiritual status quo so we might experience some kind of true maturity and growth, by noting that he says that that is why we give something up for Lent. We just do some 40 day experience and see how God shows up, hoping that the little exercise of self-sacrifice might afford some new occasion for growth. (Or maybe, truth be told, we just do it because we heard we should and don’t reflect or maximize or even debrief the experience to see if it bore fruit. Maybe we don’t even think it is supposed to bear any particular fruit.)

Although Mr. Van Eman is very well schooled in outdoor education, experiential learning theory, and has years of experience and expertise in leading wilderness excursions and missions trips, his insight isn’t that unusual – of course we have to do something special to kick-start our faith sometimes; all the great spiritual masters have said as much. Disruptive Discipleship invites us to think about ways that happens for us, tells stories of all kinds of scenarios and experiential learning models he’s played with, and suggests that we might want to form some pilgrim band of fellow seekers who want to be accountable to a process or learning curve or spiritual growth opportunity. It’s not rocket science, but to be honest, I don’t think I know a book like it, that is so intentional about getting at this playful way of true learning.

So, I love this book (and awarded it one of the Best Books of 2017 in case you missed those big lists from early in January and I reviewed it at great length HERE when it first came out.) We are bringing Sam to York on Saturday morning, March 17th (feel welcome if you are in the area) to First Presbyterian Church to guide us through some interesting Lenten type exercises and experiential learning opportunities. I’m not an “experiential education” type learner – give me a good old lecture any day – and am the kind of person on the Enneagram that doesn’t like to do the Enneagram. But I’ll work with Sam, any day. I think maybe you could benefit from this moving book during this season of transformation. It wasn’t written for the Lenten journey, and it is maybe more fun than you might think this season allows. But it really could work for you, and I highly recommend it.

Sam is also doing a break out workshop at the Jubilee Conference in Pittsburgh July 23-25.

Made for a Miracle: From Your Ordinary to God’s Extraordinary Mike Slaughter (Abingdon) $18.99 If this were by another author, I’d leave it off this Lenten list. It seems a bit upbeat for this time of year, and given the great insight in books on spiritual longing and dissatisfaction by Amy Simpson’s and the nuance of Hanging by a Thread by Wells, it might even seem out of synch. But I like Slaughter, an admittedly upbeat United Methodist mega-church guy, who has been surprisingly outspoken against commercialization of Christian holidays and who has written good pastoral stuff on suffering and several books about simple living and faith economics in a needy world. He starts this book about miracles with a rumination on the holocaust-produced masterpiece Mans Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. It has endorsements from Will Willimon (who calls it a “empowering, hope-filled book) and Rachel Billups (who wrote Down to Earth and Sent) who talks about its “grit.”

Okay, so this is a fine, Biblical study about health and wholeness and mission and justice and faith and works and service and the Kingdom breaking into our lives, both personally and in society. It is about the amazing stuff God just might be willing to do and how we can cooperate with that.  In fact, as Slaughter makes clear over and over, miracles are not “for” us, but God working through us, “for others.” As Rev. Slaughter examines two aspects of the miracle stories in Scripture and shows how there are always two components – divine action and human responsibility.

For a real miracle to take place, we must act with God, using the abilities we have, and directing them toward God’s work in the world.

And MfaM is colorful and inspirational, too. And well written – I particularly got a kick out of how he quotes right-wing Eric Metaxas on Bonhoeffer and progressive Lutheran Nadia Bolz-Weber on the wildness of Easter and Latino charismatic Juan Carlos Ortiz on radical discipleship and Richard Rohr and Oswald Chambers and Cardinal John Henry Newman. What fun.

Here is the basic flow: after talking about how we “made for miracles” and that “miracles come with a cost” he has a chapter called “The Miracle of Love.”  Subsequent chapters explore faith and prayer and health and healing.  And, then, it ends with a chapter on Resurrection!

There is also a video curriculum, a leaders guide for the videos, and even youth versions of Made for a Miracle. Let us know if you want more information about any.

Subversive Sabbath: The Surprising Power of Rest in a Nonstop World A.J. Swoboda (Brazos Press) $19.99 Wow, what a gift, a hard, challenging, lovely, grace-filled gift of very good writing, contemporary cultural analysis, spirituality and radical discipleship with the trajectory towards a good, good life. A good life lived in resistance to the ethos of the age, the idols of the times. I am so eager to read this brand new (but long-awaited and much-publicized) major new work by one of my favorite contemporary writers and while I hope it doesn’t supplant more traditional Lenten devotionals, it surely could be the most important book you read this season. Perhaps the most important book you’ll read all year.

Perhaps you will recall my remarks in last year’s Lenten list about Swoboda’s stunning book about the Triduum, A Glorious Dark: Finding Hope in the Tensions Between Belief and Experience. If you didn’t read that last year during the weekend of Good Friday and Holy Saturday, you really should.

And now he has this new one, that isn’t Lenten, per se, but is ideal for a good read this time of late Winter into early Spring. This is, as I will explain in greater detail after I’ve spent more time with it – oh how I wished I had had an advanced copy so I could be on top of telling you all about it now – this is one of the best books on Sabbath I think I have ever seen. Just judging from the table of contents, the many, many footnotes, the authors with whom Swoboda is in conversation, Subversive Sabbath is simply a must-read for anyone serious about this classic spiritual practice. The title (as he notes in the first pages) is an echo of Brueggemann’s much more slim, but equally potent study, Sabbath as Resistance: Saying No to the Culture of Now. Man, do we need that now.

As John Mark Comer (author of the great Garden City: Work, Rest, and the Art of Being Human, who will be at the Jubilee Conference in Pittsburgh in two weeks, by the way) writes on the back of Subversive Sabbath: 

“Few things are as subversive to the hurry addiction in our modern world than the practice of Sabbath. And few things are as life-or-death important.”

Swoboda’s book carries a lovely foreword by Dr. Matthew Sleeth, who, as a Bible-believing medical doctor came to sense a call to resign his medical practice and work on more preventive medicine, namely environmental studies. His several books on creation-care and his wife’s wonderful Almost Amish: One Woman’s Quest for a Slower, Simpler, More Sustainable Life on a more normative, sane, stewardly lifestyle, are all wonderful, and his good words here point us towards the insight that Swoboda isn’t interested in a merely legalistic response to not working on Sunday, just resting up a little. No, this is closer to the remarkable Living the Sabbath: Discovering the Rhythms of Rest and Delight by environmental theologian Norman Wirzba. That book is a serious stunner, too, for how Wirzba (a friend of Wendell Berry’s I might note) shows the counter-cultural lifestyle implications of God’s principles of Jubilee justice, shalom, rest, and stewardship. But  A.J. Swoboda is a poetic writer, too, making his challenging prose sing in a way that isn’t always as present in the books of his mentors in this topic — Marva Dawn, Wirzba, Tilden Edwards, Abraham Heschel, of course. They are wondrous authors in their own right, but John Mark Comer is right in saying AJ is “soulful” and Ken Wytsma is right in called Swoboda’s book “rich and energetic.” A longer review will have to discuss his extraordinarily wide research and the brilliant sources upon which he draws – from the lovely evangelical wordsmith Mark Buchanan (his book The Rest of God is a delight) to patristics and Puritans, to generative thinkers such as Miroslov Volf, Richard Mouw, Celtic mystic John Donoghue to Jewish journalist Judith Shulevitz and back to Wendell Berry and Marva Dawn. To see Moltmann and Barth quoted with Dorothy Bass and Barbara Brown Taylor next to Eugene Peterson is just a delight.

Despite the serious learning and detail to attention, it seems that Subversive Sabbath is not designed as a scholarly treatise or academic project. This hefty book is written for you and me, ordinary Christian people wanted to get beyond platitudes and simple practices to a robust and sustainable sort of discipleship that is faithful, relevant, and a blessing to the world God so loves. It quotes Batman and Tolkien and funny, organic farmer Joel Salatin, not to mention Calvin and Hobbes. I am confident this is going to be on any reliable Best Books of 2018 list.

Shirley Mullen (President of Houghton College) says, “If I were permitted to recommend only one book on Sabbath-keeping, Subversive Sabbath would be it.

The always cool and quite wise Mark Sayers (whose books are all well worth reading — his most recent is called Strange Days) says:

Our smartwatch-driven age can measure every heartbeat, every step, even the quality of our sleep, but it cannot measure the health of our souls. Our limitless freedom has paradoxically imprisoned us in an achievement culture of constant measurement. Escape from the exhaustion of endless opportunity and embrace the singular God behind the singular Sabbath day of rest. Stop, breath, read this profoundly helpful book and be remade.


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“The New Copernicans: Millennials and the Survival of the Church” by David John Seel ON SALE 20% OFF = $13.60

The New Copernicans: Millennials and the Survival of the Church David John Seel (Thomas Nelson) $16.99 ON SALE 20% OFF = $13.60

This is one of the brand new books I’ve been waiting for and am so glad it has released. It will be discussed much this year, I predict, and I am eager to tell you about it. The author is a cogent thinker and an excellent writer, drawing on excellent, important sources, making this a very fine book.

As always, you can order it at our sale price by clicking on our secure order form link at the end of this column.

I happen to know that Dr. Seel has worked long and hard to make this the best manuscript he could and it shows. This is not a simple overstatement of clichés about young adults and our postmodern world, but is a rather astute study of cultural trends and the rising generation of young adults, informed by the work of the likes of Charles Taylor. It is grounded in sharp sociological study and deep awareness of history and theology and what he calls a “frame shift.” Most deeply, I’d say, though, it is the cry from the heart of a dad who wants to see his own young adult kids and their friends remain or find their way into the church of Jesus Christ, living well for God’s Kingdom, amidst a culture that is shifting faster than most of us may realize. Will the church be there for them? Will their voices be honored and considered?

John is a church consultant, now, too, and obviously cares very much about the faithfulness and fruitfulness – indeed, the very survival – of the church.

Seel is clear – “Our millennial children, as well as nonchurchgoing millennials, are both the church’s greatest challenge and its most exciting new opportunity.” It can be a good opportunity, if, that is, we pay attention, if we find communication on-ramps such as those he outlines, and seek “genuine human connection.” Otherwise, we are in serious trouble as older church folks die off and only a meager portion of Christian youth endure to take up leadership role in the churches of tomorrow.

Indeed, this book is serious sociology, offered out of deep considerations for the church, and is informed by real conversations, facilitated by his own commitments to humility and listening.

In fact, it is this blend of scholarship and storytelling, this well-studied cultural discernment supplemented (and informed by) fascinating interviews and engaging episodes on the street, which makes The New Copernicans such an effective and enjoyable read. And such an important one, especially if you care about young people and younger adults.


Please forgive me, or skip ahead, if this is annoying, but I want to circle back to the last BookNotes post about how many, including many younger people, are struggling with the identity and character of evangelicalism these days. In a way The New Copernicans is a must-read companion volume to Still Evangelical?


In the last BookNotes I explained a bit about the US faith tradition called “evangelical” in order to commend a new book called Still Evangelical?  Connected to the word evangelism, and evangelists, it is a tradition that values sharing the good news and helping others come to a transforming encounter with Christ and His grace. It has spawned great evangelists – just think of Billy Graham, one of the handful who popularized the term and created this thoughtful, energetic movement out of a strict and anti-intellectual fundamentalism in the middle of the 20th century — but is also a broader, more complex conservative brand of Protestantism that should not be conflated with fundamentalism, let alone fundamentalist or Pentecostal televangelists. If you watch TV, it’s more Andy Stanley, Ravi Zacharias, or Beth Moore, than Jerry Falwell Jr., Pat Robertson, or the heretical prosperity preachers like Creflo Dollar or Paula White. Evangelical leaders are more serious and more thoughtful and more moderate than most media pundits realize. Evangelicalism in the middle of the 20th century was called neo-fundamentalism, and soon was called neo-evangelicalism because it grew out of and away from fundamentalism. Cru and Compassion International and CCO and IVCF and The C.S. Lewis Institute and CT and Relevant and the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities with their books and funds into working on racial justice and climate change and a renewal of the arts and sciences and the Gospel Coalition and Tim Keller’s City-to-City renewal efforts are a far cry from the God Hates Fags guy or the hard-ball, right wing political operatives that seem evangelical in name only.


The mostly-moderate, formerly almost a-political evangelical movement was co-opted by the far Christian right in the later part of the 20th century; due to the initially well-intended desire for cultural reform, groups like the Moral Majority and others rallied churches to get involved in public affairs. It seems evident that the leadership of this movement became increasingly less interested in the gospel and gospel implications for Biblical politics and just adopted the principles of the far right wing of the Republican Party. (Republican evangelicals as diverse as Wheaton College grad and George W. Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson, who wrote Heroic Conservatives: Why Republicans Need to Embrace America’s Ideals (and Why They Deserve to Fail If They Don’t) and Southern Baptist leader Russell Moore, who has written Onward: Engaging the Culture without Losing the Gospel, have lamented this too often unconsidered blending of far-right politics and evangelical faith and how for some on the religious right, their partisan political passions trumped their religiosity.)

It has been well researched and well-documented how shrewd party operatives, including some hard-ball, vulgar, even atheistic ones, targeted the perhaps naïve evangelicals as important allies for a Republican renaissance. (Although they were slower to reach out to more liberal religious voters, the Democrats did the same thing, a decade later or so later, tailoring their partisan effort to the “faith community.”)


I have written widely in other BookNotes columns (here, here, or here) about what is wrong with this picture – in short, the Bible calls us to have a distinctive and theologically-informed Christian mind, which should yield a theologically-informed social theory; faithful followers of Jesus must nurture the Christian mind out of which can come intentionally non-ideological perspectives on public policy, shaped by the Biblical principles of justice and more. We sometimes call this “third way” thinking, the fruit of “integrating faith and scholarship,” but it is Biblically obvious that we are to “take every idea captive” and be “non-conformed to the ways of this world by the renewal of our minds.” This makes an intentionally Christian political option one that may lead us to be out of step with both major political parties; a prudent and Biblically-shaped sort of citizenship will most likely be less than enthusiastic with most candidates and policy formulations. As African American evangelical preacher Tony Evans puts it, when Jesus comes back He won’t be riding an elephant or a donkey. So our loyalty to any party on any side of the isles is provisional, submitted to our first loyalty to the Lordship of Christ and some consistent Christian political vision.


I say all this to bring up the obvious: the near take-over and partisan co-option of evangelicals in the Reagan years as the Moral Majority attempted to build a moral and somewhat Christian case for right wing politics is kid’s stuff compared to the ways in which the loudest religious Trump supporters now offer no coherent Biblical basis for their support. There is no theological or Christian political reflection offered by his inner circle of weirdo fundamentalist and Pentecostal advisers. I have argued with the late Jerry Falwell, Sr. about the Bible and public life (as did more astute leaders, from Jim Wallis to Ronald Sider) and while his lack of consistent Christian thinking was exasperating, one could at least have a debate. (Ditto with the former Southern Baptist political leader, the conservative Richard Land, just for instance.) However, the “religious” right of our times cannot even be argued with; as far as I can tell, most have no Christian principles for the public square, no Biblically coherent platform, they cite no Christian political thinkers, they are disconnected to the broad tradition of Christian social thinkers, from Augustine to Luther, Calvin to Wesley, Kuyper to Bonhoeffer.

With a few noble exceptions, there’s just nothing of substance there. President Trump’s council of what evangelical historian John Fea calls “court prophets” (in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump, a book coming out this summer from Eerdmans which you can pre-order now from us) are mostly not evangelicals in the historic sense (in my view) even though they use the word. The old line from the swordsman Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride couldn’t be more apropos: “You keep using that word, but I do not think it means what you think it means.” Whether they are Evangelicals or Pentecostals or Fundamentalists, it seems to me that they are far from being studious, wisely Christian political thinkers who deserve to be informing a President. Christian citizens should not be swayed or deceived by them.


This is not to say that there were not thoughtful Christian citizens who voted for Mr. Trump while holding their noses, thinking him the lesser of several evils; they put many eggs in the basket of Supreme Court nominees mostly to stop abortion and affirm religious liberty, and I can respect that. I am not now commenting on the wisdom of voting for Trump one way or the other, for those that have considered things seriously. Good people can disagree about the prudence and wisdom of voting for any particular candidate, but no one can say with a straight face that Mr. Trump is a Godly man or has any sort of theologically-shaped Christian political program or that most of his faith advisors are informed by evangelical thought about public life. I believe that those who speak as if Trump is a brother in Christ with righteous plans and Godly purposes have no coherent logic or theology or spirituality informing them and are disastrously wrong in failing to develop a Christian perspective on politics – what it is and what it isn’t. Again, fine and dedicated Christians can disagree about the content and shape and policies of a Christian political perspective, but we dare not offer enthusiastic, public support for any candidate without some reason, discerned with the Christian heart and mind, shaped by key Bible texts about government and political life, and coherently put together in light of what the broader church has generally said for centuries.

Ron Sider has wonderfully offered a fairly complex strategy for going through this process in his book Just Politics: A Guide for Christian Engagement (Brazos Press; $22.00) and it seems the least one could do is expect Christian leaders who speak about government to be fluent in this template, or something like it. Also, as I’ve described in BookNotes, CPJ founder James Skillen has offered an exceptional overview of the ways in which varying Christians down through church history have understood the Bible’s teaching on the task and role of the State in his The Good of Politics: A Biblical, Historical, and Contemporary Introduction (Baker Academic; $24.00.) Again, if one is advising a President of the United States – or hosting conferences and speaking out or blogging or writing about politics as a faith leader – and remains unfamiliar with this sort of content (at least) I submit you are disqualified from being taken seriously as a leader in this field.


Which brings me to my quick reminder of the last BookNotes post and our promotion of the wonderful and very important book Still Christian: Insiders Reconsider Political, Social, and Theological Meaning edited by Mark Labberton (IVP; $17.00.) As we announced last week, we have this at 20% OFF (making it $13.60) and you can order it easily at our webpage’s order form page by following the link below.

Still Evangelical?, as I explained, offers a set of essays and testimonies by various evangelicals about whether or not the recent public perception of evangelicalism as connected to the alt-right and the Trump platform, is fatal. Can we still in good conscience identify with a religious movement that has sold its soul for some right-wing secular pottage? Can those who know that the Bible teaches us to have solidarity with the poor, the prisoner, the refugee, the sick, continue to use the very word, evangelical, that has come to be seen as harsh to the poor, the prisoner, the refugee, the sick? Can those who want to emphasize salvation by grace alone continue to use that descriptor, evangelical, when so many so-called evangelicals have been reported to support obviously ungracious attitudes and policies? When some so-called evangelicals happily and loudly support a candidate that seemed proud of his sexual exploits, who has mocked the disabled, and spouted racist nonsense, it seems that the word and the movement it represents has lost its meaning. When the far religious right seems to offer comfort and support to a dangerous movement that may even be aligned with the neo-Nazis and the like, and when that fundamentalist movement is mislabeled as evangelical, what are real evangelicals to do?

One could, it seems to me, learn something about this mess by reading the fine big biography of Dietrich Bonheoffer, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy: A Righteous Gentile vs. the Third Reich by Eric Metaxas (Nelson; $19.99) or other reflections on the German Christians who had to navigate a church largely accommodated to political ideology. (My own denomination, by the way, the PC(USA), has as part of its own Constitution, in its Book of Confessions, the famous anti-Hitler document, “The Barman Declaration” that insisted that if Jesus Christ was Lord, the fuehrer was not. This Bonhoeffer-related statement, while written in more awful times than our own, is relevant to any evangelical worried about accommodating faith to any partisan regime.)

As I tried to say in the last BookNotes review, Still Evangelical? is timely, urgent, and offers no simple answers, but it is a must for these very times; the authors are variously loyal or not so loyal to the name and the movement that converted and shaped them. If you haven’t, I hope you read my review, explaining why many folks should read these inspiring pieces.

They write out of the crisis of the last year or so, but the problem has been debated well for decades.


In the early 1990s, in what seems a lifetime ago, a somewhat stuffy, conservative evangelical seminary professor named David Wells began a series of books (published by Eerdmans) offering a blistering critique of evangelicalism. In No Place for Truth: Or, Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology and God in the Wasteland: The Reality of Truth in a World of Fading Dreams and Above All Earthly Pow’rs Wells eloquently warned about the way a drive to grow and succeed, fascinated with relevance and perception and power, influenced by the pressures of modernity such as markets and advertising and new technologies and, especially, postmodern assumptions about truth eroded evangelical fidelity. The revised second edition that came out last year of The Courage to Be Protestant: Reformation Faith in Today’s World (Eerdmans; $22.00) might be a good one to start with to understand Dr. Well’s sociologically informed but deeply theological approach. Or, at least, see a small staple bound booklet published by The Banner of Truth (now out of print) called The Bleeding of the Evangelical Church of which we have a left.


Nearly a decade ago a conservative, Reformed author, Michael Horton, published a blunt book called Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church (Baker; $17.00) which lamented the shallow theology and self-affirming psychology of contemporary evangelicalism, warning that it will not end well. It remains a vital read for moderate mainline congregations and evangelicals that want to hold on to the first things of their gospel-centered orientation and he roundly pushed all of us to consider what we truly believe and why, and how it does or doesn’t stand firm on Christ the solid rock.


A book I really, really recommend (and that I highlighted here when it came out) offered a conversation back and forth between a wise and socially engaged older evangelical, Dr. Ronald J. Sider, and a younger, equally wise and socially engaged, younger evangelical, Ben Lowe. The Future of Our Faith: An Intergenerational Conversation on Critical Issues Facing the Church (Brazos Press; $18.99) is a great book on how the changes in our world in these new times (culturally and theologically) may or may not alter the very face of evangelicalism. That book was very interesting, and should have been read more widely than it was. It was a rare work that honored the fact that a younger generation of leaders are rising to take the place of older evangelical leaders and that there needs to be candid conversations about the different angles of vision. I respect both Ron and Ben and they agree on much, but it is their generational differences that make this a conversation so very well worth listening to. Written well before the Trump-era controversies, The Future of Our Faith: An Intergenerational Conversation explores questions of the future viability of evangelicalism itself, written by two fine insiders.


I find it interesting, by the way, and notable, that from the more liberal end of the spectrum of rising evangelical authors (think, for instance, of Rachel Held Evans or Jonathan Merritt or Shane Claiborne) to the more conservative young evangelical authors (think, maybe of Jefferson Bethke or Francis Chan or Priscilla Shirer) none of these vibrant leaders are part of the religious right. They just aren’t.


Just look at the beautiful range of speakers – many young – at the excellent Jubilee Conference for another glance at the shape of evangelicalism these days.

(You know we are very involved in this event organized by our colleagues in the evangelically-rooted CCO – you should come to Pittsburgh for this fabulous event! in it’s 43rd year telling a better story of what the gospel is as it relates to God’s redemptive work in all areas of life and culture.)

The younger voices of evangelicalism are not interested in the culture wars and frankly are holding out a more authentic vision of gospel ministry than many of their elders in the fundamentalist camp.


Which brings me to this, a book that I wish I could describe in greater detail, that I read in manuscript form months ago, and in which I have a strong endorsement in the inside, alongside all kinds of thoughtful writers, leaders, pundits, and cultural creatives. It’s called The New Copernicans: Understanding the Millennial Contributions to the Church by David John Seel (Nelson; $16.99) and it’s great. Really great.

The book is wonderfully written and an excellent story of a middle-aged evangelical leader who learned perhaps the hard way of why we who are older must lean in and move towards the younger generation. We must take seriously the cultural concerns they bring and seriously engage the world they are creating and inheriting.

It starts with an ominous warning with a vivid telling of the disaster of the Titanic (and how it was warned, in fact, but the radio warnings never got to the bridge!) Oh my, I thought, as I finished this impressive overview, what if even half of this stuff is right? And what if our churches ignore the signals?

John Seel, the fascinating author of The New Copernicans: Understanding the Millennial Contributions to the Church is an old acquaintance who I have long admired.

He wrote a small book years ago on why evangelicals should not capitulate to the culture, insisting that what we lose in accommodating to the culture too much is too high a price to pay to seem relevant. If perhaps the decline and sidelining of the mainline church at the end of the 20th century can be traced to their own capitulation to the intellectual and cultural trends of the previous century, Seel warned that, in like manner, the new evangelicals and their seeker-oriented mega-churches seeking to be relevant and influential, could end up similarly faddish and thin and compromised. I appreciated that a lot, by the way, although feared it seemed a bit smug, a bit too traditionalist, maybe even alarmist. But it was mostly right and full of insights from the likes of Peter Berger; I was the sort of reader who needed that reminder and rebuke.

Dr. Seel co-edited a book on similar themes with a hero of mine, the eminent Os Guinness, which illustrated how sharp and learned John is. (To see what Os has been thinking and saying in recent years on these matters, still holding out a concern that we not be too placid in confronting the idols of the age, see his must-read The Impossible People: Christian Courage and the Struggle for the Soul of Civilization (IVP; $20.00) which is, as you would expect, a bracing, well-written, and very important read.)

After his work with Guinness, for many years Seel was the Headmaster of an exceptionally thoughtful classical Christian school, so, as you can see, his culturally conservative bone fides are exceptional.

He would not have written this book twenty years ago.

But, alas, life happens.

John’s kids grew up (he had nurtured them well, it seems, and his book about raising teens remains one of my favorites, Parenting Without Perfection: Being a Kingdom Influence in a Toxic World) and got involved in social justice ministries, standing with immigrants and hanging out with a Black Lives Matters group. They challenged him to get to know some of their friends, to hear well their concerns about the drift of our society and the way the evangelical church, especially, seemed complicit in the status quo that created a culture too often blind to injustices, harmful to the Earth, and disinterested in beauty and wonder and imagination. The kids woke him up, to say the least.

At the same time, as John explains in the preface of this remarkable book, he started to read and get to know some exceptional scholars and leaders who were influential in his own grappling with fresh ideas. These included the brilliant Sir John Templeton and historian Iain McGilchrist, the philosopher Charles Taylor, the missiologist Leslie Newbigin, and (I was delighted to hear) Christian teacher and philosopher of culture, James K.A. Smith.

Did I mention that Seel is one smart cookie?


Also, it seems John had to take seriously the debates about “generational” thinking – I suspect he previously looked askance at the popular scholarship that makes confident generalizations about this or that generation. Of course we ought not overstate themes or attitudes that are common to a certain era or generation – believe it or not, not all young people in the late 60s were hippies and not all 90s youth were despondent slackers. Given how ubiquitous smart phones are and how many hours a day most kids spend in front of screens, it may be that there are unusually significant commonalities among this current iGen. See Jean Twenge’s much-discussed, sobering iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy–And Completely Unprepared for Adulthood (Atria Books; $27.00) for one serious study of those born after 1995. If ever generalizations might be made, it might make most sense now. Since many evangelical kids were raised in churches organized around “contemporary worship” there are themes and tendencies and instincts that have been formed in significant ways by that, too.

So, it seems evident that John Seel is right: there are certainly some ways we can generalize and document trends and shifts and commonalities among cohorts. One hardly needs semiotics gurus like, say, the observant and always keen Leonard Sweet to point out that we aren’t in Kansas anymore, Toto. (To know the texture and background and implications of the sea-change, Len Sweet is, by the way, still very important, and I commend his many books. His prophetic warnings made in remarkable books like Soul Tsunami or Aqua Church or Soul Salsa in the last century have all come true, from the rise of interactive TV shows to postmodern double entendres shaping our attitudes to the ubiquity of social media and the leading role of images alongside words. And, yes, the need to pay attention to the digital natives, those that were “born here” as he so colorfully put it.)

So, sure, there are certain tendencies and themes that might characterize certain generational cohorts.


I recall a few years back when my friend Gabe Lyon wrote The Next Christians: Seven Ways You Can Live the Gospel and Restore the World (Multnomah Books; $15.99), a book I really, really like and still highly recommend. I quipped that I hoped he was right, that younger Christians had in fact shifted away from and to the stuff he describes in that book. I’m not so sure most young adults necessarily find themselves championing those shifts and seven new ways of understanding discipleship that Gabe lists, and I know a number of us elders have been calling for these exact changes for decades. But the point is well taken – younger church kids transitioning into adulthood, especially evangelical ones that are robust about their piety and in heavy conversations about the nature and demands of faith these days, really do seem to resonate with a new kind of evangelicalism.

Again, just look at the upcoming Jubilee Conference to get a glimpse of a robust, full-bodied faith that isn’t primarily conservative or liberal, but about transforming al of life through the gospel of Christ and by sharing the goodness of God’s redemptive story.

And so, Seel has shed some of his rather doctrinaire conservatism, some of his high-class traditionalism, and some of his resistance to generational thinking.


Inspired by these good scholars like Sir John Templeton and in conversation with important consultants (like Mike Metzger and Peter Enns and Sarah Withrow King – each very different, but bringing new insight and passion to his journey) Seel set out to see what in the heck is really going on out there.

I so admire his willingness to re-think some stuff in mid-life and his candor about that struck me as deeply admirable. Agree or not with all of his conclusions we should all applaud an author who changes his mind if his study and discernment and the bread trail of evidences lead a certain way.


He is not the first, by far, to do a deep dive into the cultural and philosophical and emotional shifts in contemporary young adult culture, but he is, I think, the best I’ve yet read. His take is both philosophically astute and experiential; he has listened to old scholars and younger kids; he has spent time in the library and on the streets, literally. His report from all of this listening and learning is wonderfully written, and surprisingly fresh – even if you’ve been down this road before, reading other stuff on Generation X or Generation Z or the Nones or whatever. The New Copernicans tells a great story and it is a great read.

If you care at all about the church, if you care at all about the culture, I am convinced, with Seel, that this is a topic you must study a bit. The New Copernicans: Millennials and the Survival of the Church is one good and pleasant and interesting way into the topic and the many voices in the conversation about it. Happily, it includes the voices of the generation being studied.

As Craig Detweiler, formerly of Pepperdine University, and now the new President of The Seattle School of Theology & Psychology, puts it, Seel has done “deep pastoral listening…” Read this remarkable quote (and not the only one with such robust enthusiasm):

Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. That is how many exclamation points, check marks, and underlines accompany my reading of John Seel’s The New Copernicans. He has clearly engaged in deep, pastoral listening in an effort to understand, affirm, and champion the next generation. This is theological sociology of the highest order. Utterly essential.


Of course, The New Copernicans works with a metaphor from Nicolaus Copernicus, the faith-based scientist in who influenced Galileo in the early 1600s. (Come on, cue the Indigo Girls song Galileo right about now.)

That is, Seel nicely frames the conversation about and with young adults by a bigger story of social change in the modern era. It’s a big, big story very nicely told – he’s in some similar territory as Pete Enns in his The Sin of Certainty: Why God Desires Our Trust More Than Our ‘Correct’ Beliefs (HarperOne; $25.00) that documents in a lively combo memoir and theological reflection the faithfulness of a post-realist epistemology, exposing the dangers of a faith built on the search for certitude. Seel also draws heavily on the exceptionally potent, sprawling book by the fascinating Iain McGilchrist, The Master and his Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World (Yale University Press; $25.00) which offers a study of left-brained vs. right-brained thinking as a conceptual key to understand the ping-ponging in Western culture between rationalism and romanticism, between the rigid dominant culture and the passionate counter-culture. For those paying close attention, this is not too dissimilar, but a lot more interesting, than the Dutch Kuyperian neo-Calvinist philosopher Herman Dooyeweerd’s schema as explained in books like The Roots of Western Culture.

So Seel is telling this bigger story of culture and how the younger generation finds itself within these paradigms and shifts within our age. And he works this Copernicus thing to great effect.

In a wonderful foreword by Eric Swanson, the metaphor is introduced and explained by telling a bit about the famous book Galileo published in 1632 that took the form of a dialogue (between one character who represents the Copernican heliocentric view and the other, who represents the Ptolemaic/Aristotelian geocentric viewpoint. “The book was not without its controversies,” he wryly notes. Well, yeah. Galileo, as most know, was condemned of heresy for rejecting Aristotelian views and placed under house arrest for the rest of his life. His book was put on the infamous Index of Forbidden Books where it remained until 1835!

(Read that last sentence again.  Aren’t you glad you tune in to BookNotes to learn this stuff?)

As Swanson continues,

Galileo was a man caught between shadow and substance, in that liminal space where the world was changing. The established church held to the Ptolemaic view of the universe and they had the verses to prove it, “He set the earth on its foundations/it can never be moved…

…Galileo was a Copernican caught in an Aristotle age. Everything about his experience told him reality was different that what the established order was telling him. He was seeing the world through different lenses with different implications. He carefully brought facts and evidence to the bench, but old entrenched ideas, theories, and believes have a stickiness that is hard to displace. He couldn’t find a place at the table….

Today a new generation of Copernicans is emerging – those John Seel identifies as the New Copernicans – who are experiencing and navigating life in a way that is different than their spiritual ancestors. This shift in frame is just as profound as going from a geocentric to a heliocentric view of the solar system. And like Copernicus, they are generally not taken seriously. The New Copernicans are modern explorers. Many are millennial, but other generations are part of this journey as well.

Swanson’s few pages are themselves wonderful reminders of what is at stake. After a helpful summary of much that characterizes today’s younger generations, he notes:

John Seel helps us understand the why behind the whats and hows. This book serves as a primer to introduce how an increasing number of people are thinking and experiencing life….

Today the New Copernicans are here. They bring with them new ideas, new approaches, and new perspective we have not considered or perhaps even heard before. As Apple Computer said about such pioneers in their advertising, “You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them.” We cannot dismiss them. We’ll need to embrace a fresh humility that breaths, “for we know in part…” (I Cor. 13:9) and ask for help from others on our common journey. I hope John Seel will be part of that journey for all of us.

Which is why this book is so important. My fear is that those who need it most — which is most church leaders, as far as I can tell — won’t care enough to read it. If you order it from us, I will be grateful, but, more, you congregation will be glad. It’s important; urgent, even. The subtitle about “the survival of the church” isn’t hyperbole.


Here is an overview of the book’s excellent structure. My descriptions don’t do the lively prose justice. The chapters are short and the whole book is very lively with much to ponder and, hopefully, discuss with others.

At the end of each chapter there are, in fact, “take-away” bullet points so you can recall the most salient matters, and excellent discussion questions. This makes TNC a great small group study.

There are six major parts to TNC.

Part One has five short chapters exploring “An Ignored Warning.” This is hard stuff, reminding us that young adults are leaving the church, that evangelical congregations, too, are declining, and that if we project the loss of younger folks into the future, we will be facing a perhaps unprecedented disaster. He introduces some “left braining thinking” to explore the legacy of the rationalism of the Enlightenment. Whew, this is important stuff.

Part Two has several chapters under the rubric of “Sizing Up the Impending Frame Shift” and looks at the visible shift in culture and what characterizes the spirituality of the newer generation. “All Who Wander Are Not Lost” he reminds us and explores the role of experience (“before thinking”) as we come to appreciate the way many folks these days take in their life and times. He does this without judgment or critical assessment, as his project is to help us understand and appreciate the way in which the rising generations do life – like it or not. (And, there are good reasons to like the approach of the new Copernicans, which is another strength of the book; perhaps we older ones don’t only have to hear and understand these new ways, but perhaps these new ways are more right than we first thought!) In this regard, this is a lovely and good way to enter this arena, less as a critic and more as an explorer and learner.

Part Three offers assessment of several classic responses to the warnings. There is self-righteous blindness, there are the religiously tone-deaf, he explores the “haunted doubters” and calls us to “humility in theology.” Seel may be hard on some of us in these sections, but it is important stuff. I hope you take it in, study the take-aways, and have folks around you to talk through the reflection exercises.

Part Four offers a handful of heavy chapters – not too heavy, though, as he tells stories and gives examples – of how to better understand the shift in frame. This draws on Charles Taylor a bit, and on Jamie Smith’s insights found in How Not To Be Secular: Reading Charles Taylor. This applies those insights with wonderful skill, and you are sure to learn something fresh from these colorful chapters. His emphasis, again, on experiential learning, on “boutique hospitality” and on the differences between “verbs and nouns” as we realize the different way people view relationships are all very stimulating. I could tell more about his take on “court jesters” and what it means to be in this “haunted” era (to use Taylor’s image for the not-fully-secular age.

Part Five offers four “survival strategies” and I commend these to anyone wanting to have a lasting, healthy relationship with younger adults these days. Certainly church leaders must grapple with these concerns, wondering together how to embody justice and beauty and love and spirituality

Part Six offers inspiring if challenging reflections on “What Crisis Leadership Demands.” These are short chapters, but moved me deeply as he explores, anew, what it may mean to be faithful as evangelicals, within the current habitus. One chapter ponders the way in which older, white evangelicals supported the Trump movement, and, naturally, raises important questions about where we go next. This is very important stuff, and I cannot underestimate how useful and insightful and good these pages are.

Here are just a few of the remarkable writers and leaders who have endorsed this new book. Interestingly, folks from across the theological spectrum, too, have offered encouragement to read The New Copernicans. From liberal mystic Richard Rohr to neo-Calvinist James K.A. Smith, from conservative Catholic Christopher West to the post-modernish podcaster Science Mike, from Reformed artist and cultural steward Mako Fujimura to President of the campus ministry CCO Vince Burens, from prestigious UVa scholar James Davison Hunter to Karen Covell of the Hollywood Prayer Network. Not to mention one by a small town bookseller Byron Borger, right across from one by an RUF campus minister, Chase Daws, who says he is “beyond grateful for this work.”

Yup. In fact, I wrote several blurbs, and they are all shown at John’s New Copernican website. Man, I seem like such a fanboy.

I loved these very fine blurbs, some from people I really trust; I hope you find them compelling:

“John Seel begins The New Copernicans innocently enough, with two unassailable sociological facts about the millennial generation. They are leaving the evangelical church and they embody a significant shift about how reality and truth are apprehended and lived. Old news, you say. But Seel wants us to reconsider what’s really occurring. Young adults are abandoning the church, he says, because the church is needlessly alienating them. And although the church is aware of the cultural shift in thinking and living, just about everything the church believes about it is wrong. “This new way of processing reality,” he argues, “is not only different—but better. If evangelical leaders will take it seriously, it will make the church more like Jesus.” You owe it to yourself to let Seel make his case even if you don’t agree at every point. That goes double if you are a leader in the church. And if you are a parent or grandparent, The New Copernicans will help you better listen to and love the young adults in your life.”

—Denis Haack, director, Ransom Fellowship and editor, Critique

Do not miss reading this book. Full of wisdom, research and passion, John Seel helps us to view this tectonic shift toward millennials’s influence in culture as a generative opportunity. As an artist, I have seen this shift already taken place in the art world for some time now. The ‘iceberg’ is right in front of us! It’s now the churches responsibility to respond to principles that John carefully traces in this fine work.”

—Mako Fujimura, artist, vision director of Brehm Center, Fuller Theological Seminary

“John Seel’s The New Copernicans, is a godsend. He makes the compelling case that the millennials can help us understand our cultural moment as well as our own faith. This insightful cultural analysis of the millennial generation and the modern evangelical church comes with a warning label: disregard at your own peril.”

—Frank A. James III, president, professor of historical theology, Biblical Theological Seminary

“I’m a millennial as well as a college professor and a cultural critic, and I find John Seel’s way of thinking about my generation compelling and grounded in a generosity that’s extremely rare. I wish I could put a copy of this book into the hands of every person tasked with leading the church.”

—Alissa Wilkinson, English professor at The King’s College and film reviewer at Vox

“We are, I believe, in the midst of a shift in the plate tectonics of American religious culture. A work like Taylor’s A Secular Age has resonated because it has so accurately uncovered the genealogy that leads to this moment. What has been missing, however, is the kind of careful listening to and nuanced observation of those who are the vanguard generation of this shift. The New Copernicans fills this gap, providing important insights into this massive generational shift.”

—James Davison Hunter, author, To Change the World

“Life is full of landmarks to be discovered. Great explorers find them, note them, and keep going forward learning by what they see and experience. They then tell others so they can see also. In The New Copernicans John Seel is a great explorer pointing out the landmarks of a new reality that is dawning and will touch every aspect of the church and life in general. John’s insights paint the picture of a way forward in these turbulent times that are bursting with exploration and opportunity for those who have ears to hear.”

—Dwight Gibson, Chief Explorer, The Exploration Group, DVD For the Life of the World



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FIVE DIFFERENT AUDIENCES FOR A VERY IMPORTANT NEW BOOK: “Still Evangelical? Insiders Reconsider Political, Social, and Theological Meaning” edited by Mark Labberton 20% OFF

We here at the bookstore are very excited about this book and I have been eager to tell you about it.

As always you can click on our button below to link to our secure order form page where you can order this on sale, or any other title you may want. Just tell us what your looking for and we’ll get back to you and confirm everything. Anything mentioned here is 20% off, too.

It is called Still Evangelical? Insiders Reconsider Political, Social, and Theological Meaning and is edited by Mark Labberton (IVP) regularly $17.00; our sale price = $13.60.)

It seems to me that here are five audiences for this important book, five kinds of readers for whom I want to recommend it.

After an opening admittedly wordy rumination that I hope is helpful, I’ll quickly list the five kinds of readers who I think should order this book. And I am asking you to order it from us right away.

I’ll admit it is difficult to widely promote a book called Still Evangelical? I’m afraid half our readers won’t give it a chance so I’m asking you to hang in there with me. Some of you won’t like the question mark and others don’t like the word “evangelical.”

It’s tricky, too, because many don’t even know what the word means (including many in the religious media, and in many churches, too.) Many young adults raised in independent, non-denominational, evangelical churches don’t know that they themselves are “evangelicals” and don’t know that other churches are theologically and liturgically different. It’s weird, but I’m amazed at how mainline folks don’t know much about evangelical congregations and that evangelical folk have rarely experienced worship in a mainline church. So a book on this particular sub-culture is hard to explain (even though it is by far the largest sub-section within the Protestant church and doubtlessly the most important faith community within the North American religious landscape.) So I’ll try to explain a few things at the outset.

Maybe you are a theological progressive or fairly standard mainline church member – Lutheran, Episcopalian, UCC, United Methodist, PCUSA, RCA, and the like – and don’t think this book matters to you. I will suggest you are wrong, this book is urgent for you, too, and I’m sure you find it helpful.

Whether you are unfamiliar with the phrase or disinterested in it, I want to make the case that everyone should read this book. Roman Catholics, too, for that matter.

If you are a North American evangelical, whether you were born again at a non-denominational evangelistic rally or were led to Christ through Young Life, Youth for Christ, Cru, or CCO, or have had your heart strangely warmed at a United Methodist church camp or have come to affirm the classic, historic doctrines of theologically conservative denominations like the PCA or E Free or Southern Baptists, or maybe you attend one of the ubiquitous non-denominational community congregations or multi-site simulcast seeker churches, you most likely know who you are.

You most likely appreciate Max Lucado and Beth Moore and maybe R.C. Sproul or Ravi Zacheras; before he got too controversial, you liked Tony Campolo – man, could that guy preach. You have been involved in a small group Bible study you know about MOPS and maybe AWANA and your church uses the NIV or the ESV. Maybe you worry about the orthodoxy of outliers like Rachel Held Evans and Brian McLaren; you maybe know you are supposed to like C.S. Lewis but maybe haven’t read much of him; you like your daily devotional reading to be practical and lively and your terms of endearment with your Savior roll off your tongue easily. Your church is comfortable with talking about how God is real to you (and you might even call it “testimony.”) You desire to talk to your neighbor about Jesus and you know that His free, saving grace is the core of faith and gratitude for that can lead to passionate worship, whether in old hymns or contemporary praise and worship. You want to cling to the cross and you don’t mind saying so. You like it when sports stars give the credit to God and when movie stars give a shout out to their family values and to God’s blessings. You know people who send their kids to Christian day schools and you know people who go to Christian colleges. I’ll bet you’ve had a Compassion child, and you support any number of self-supporting missionaries; it’s what we do. You can’t imagine why anybody would mind the evangelism of Billy Graham or mind some of the good shows on Christian radio and you believe that walking with God day by day is the key to finding joy; again, you are eager to share your own story of awakening to that truth. Maybe you don’t talk about getting “saved by the blood” but that’s really how you see it, just like in that song “The Wondrous Cross.” Once you were blind, but now you see.

Of course, more seriously, there are a lot of different sorts of evangelicalism and just like within other movements or denominations or ideologies, there are vigorous discussions and debates about what counts as true evangelicalism. One good debate back and forth is in the “Counterpoint” series and is called Four Views on The Spectrum of Evangelicalism edited by Andrew David Naselli and Collin Hansen (Zondervan; $16.99.)

For a look at a formerly evangelical theologian, ethicists and leader who has come to a Biblically-based social vision that is not conservative, and who has slowly left his own identity and self-identification as an evangelical, see the very moving memoir by my friend David Gushee. It’s called Still Christian: Following Jesus Out of Evangelicalism (Westminster/John Knox; $16.00) and is a very good read if you want a tender, moving religious memoir of a faith journey, and particularly if you want a glimpse of these sorts of issues and what one person came to believe about leaving his former affiliation (including his relationships with well known Southern Baptist conservatives) and taking up a new sense as a small church pastor and a professor at Mercer University.


Evangelicalism in America is not the same as fundamentalism, though, and this is important, very important.

The God Hates Fags guy is not an evangelical, and neither are the name-it-and-claim-it Pentecostal prosperity preachers nor the “Jesus Only” heretics.

Many evangelicals are not tied to a literal six-day creation story and would rather talk about faith at Disney World than the oddball Creation Science museum in Kentucky. Evangelicalism was, in its earliest days, called neo-fundamentalism because they took the historic fundamentals seriously, but was a new thing, rejecting the sectarianism, literalism, anti-intellectualism, and right-wing nuttiness (“Kill a commie for Christ” Carl McIntyre used to say, and no hand-holding on campus, let alone inter-racial dating, Bob Jones used to say) that plagued those who proudly called themselves the “Fightin’ Fundies.”

Especially in the US South, I understand, the lines sort of blur between fundamentalists and evangelicals, but it is important that, by definition, evangelicalism is a movement and subculture that broke away from the anti-intellectualism and bigotry of fundamentalists.

Billy Graham helped pioneer that movement in the middle of the 20th century and it is helpful to recall that he was routinely protested by fundamentalists (they thought he was theologically too liberal and too willing to work with mainline churches and, yes, he stood quietly for racial integration. King himself appreciated Billy’s concerns and encouraged him to keep doing what he was doing, preaching the gospel to all, holding his inter-racial rallies.)

Yes it’s true: fundamentalists didn’t like Billy Graham because he was too liberal.

Billy was one of the founders of the flagship magazine of evangelicalism, Christianity Today, still what I’d say is the most important religious magazine in America.

Although CT has become much more politically and culturally progressive than it once was – they editorialized against Trump more profoundly that the mainline organ, The Christian Century, by the way – they remain mostly true to their theologically conservative and conventional founding vision. They encouraged social networks of likeminded missional types and started para-church ministries and publishing houses and Bible study programs and radio ministries and global relief organizations and rescue missions and church planting efforts and developed uniquely Christian scholarship at Christian colleges, energized by zeal learned from old-school preachers.

While in the middle and last half of the 20th century mainline church seminaries used books by authors like Rudolf Bultmann (who denied every key tenant of historic faith) and Paul Tillich (who called God the “ground of Being” and an “ultimate concern”) and Harvey Cox (who called us to embrace “the secular city”) and often faddish scholars who so critiqued the authority of the Bible that Biblical illiteracy and skepticism became a given in even the most successful Protestant churches, evangelicals were busy teaching Calvin and Luther and Wesley and heady scholars like Jonathan Edwards and Charles Hodge, alongside popular writers like C.S. Lewis and John Stott and Francis Schaeffer, preparing to figure out how to speak truth and grace into the rumblings of a postmodern culture coming apart at the seams. It is much more complicated than this, of course (as writers like Diana Butler Bass have documented) but it is generally true that mainline churches declined precipitously and evangelical churches took off almost everywhere.

From evangelicalism’s post-World War founders like Billy Graham and the socially engaged, moderate, Carl F.H. Henry, and the Presbyterian Harold Ockenga we ended up in 1976 with what Time magazine called “The Year of the Evangelical.” We had thoughtful, evangelical stars from Southern Baptist Sunday school teacher Jimmy Carter to the redeemed Chuck Colson working for prison reform to the racial-reconciliation leader John Perkins (himself with a third grade education, tortured by white cops, converted at an evangelical’s churches children’s ministry program, becoming a more evangelically-vivid civil rights leader) and a young quadriplegic best seller simply named Joni, who has gone on to be an inspiration, advocate for the disabled, and a thoughtful theological popularizer in her own right. Soon, we had intellectually respected scholars becoming better known, from world-renowned philosopher Alvin Plantinga to world-class geneticist Frances Collins to award-winning historian Mark Noll. From the (sadly now-defunct) Books & Culture to the brilliant Mars Hill Audio by former NPR correspondent Ken Meyers, we can see that evangelicalism is a faith tradition much more serious and thoughtful than the impression some have. With mostly men up front, and mostly white spokespeople, still, evangelicalism at its best has nonetheless been a thoughtful, middle ground between fundamentalists on the right who seemed disinterested in contextualizing the gospel in any way to the contemporary culture and modernist, liberal theology on the left that was largely accommodated to the increasingly secularized vales of the West.

ASIDE: (This is another story, but there are those that don’t fit the narrative of theologically conventional evangelicals who preached personal salvation and the inerrancy of the Bible vs mainline liberals who drifted from talk of personal salvation and fudged their view of the Bible. For instance, Mennonites and others in the Anabaptist tradition take the Bible and personal piety very, very seriously, but not in a way that was exactly evangelical. Latino and black gospel churches, Pentecostalism within established denominations like the Assembly of God, not to mention charismatic renewal happening within liturgical churches, and the Dutch neo-Calvinists in the reformational Kuyper tradition are all examples of those who were not theologically liberal, but were never quite at home in the Billy-Graham-Christian Today-National Religious Broadcasters/Christian Booksellers Association epicenter that shifted from the Wheaton College mid-West area to Colorado Springs.)

Evangelicalism gave rise to some of the most thoughtful, creative, and energetic para-church ministries we’ve seen in our lifetime, from the likes of the large and extraordinary World Vision International and Compassion International and the micro-financers Hope International to a network of fantastic liberal arts colleges like Calvin, Westmont, Eastern, Messiah, Seattle Pacific, Taylor, Gordon, Geneva, Asbury, Azusa Pacific and the like. Progressive theological pundits and secular media folks are just wrong to put, oh, say, Hope College or Kings in New York or Eastern University or Pepperdine University in the same category as fundamentalist Bible colleges. Again, evangelicalism is diverse and less odd and generally much more interesting than many know.

Evangelicals are behind profession-specific ministries like the intellectually fascinating Christian Legal Society and the aesthetically creative CIVA (Christians in the Visual Arts) and a host of think-tanks and work-world ministries like New York’s Center for Faith and Work or the Pittsburgh Leadership Foundation and remarkable scientific groups like BioLogos or The Colossians Forum. This energetic evangelical movement has given rise to the world’s leading voice against sexual trafficking (International Justice Mission) and a little conference in Pittsburgh that has in some ways connected with many of the above organizations called Jubilee.

Evangelicals use of mass media in the 20th century was second to none and their missionary impulse was historic, to put it mildly. Their great passion for sharing the gospel and reaching the nations compelled them to excel in communications, Bible translations, missionary endeavors, literature distribution, educational outreaches, including camps and camp meetings, and more disciple-making programs than you can count. It is no surprise that there was a huge rise in Christian publishing and mostly conservative evangelical bookstores in the last decades of the 20th century. Our ecumenicism was confusing to many in our early years because evangelical faith so clearly dominated the religious publishing world; it confuses folks today, still, as liturgical and mainline Protestant stores have one by one by one closed their doors.

When one thinks of evangelicalism we can think of altar calls and Focus on the Family and Amy Grant being criticized for “crossing over” to mainstream music. We know about bad inspirational art and cheap inspirational romances novels with happy conversion stories always included and cheesy rapture bumper stickers. And — the context for Still Evangelical? Insiders Reconsider, of course — eventually evangelical faith in some quarters got mixed up with right wing politics and, now, with alt-right politics and Trumpism. That story has been told elsewhere, but now, one year after the Trump inauguration, this is a huge factor in the perception of the credibility of evangelicalism as a movement and the gospel itself.

But despite the right wing take-over (or the perception of such a take-over, which I think is over-stated) we should also think of the important history of how 19th century evangelists signed people up for the abolitionist cause, how evangelical colleges were among the first to enroll women, about the lively evangelical faith that caused many to give their lives to the poor and the destitute, including revivalists like D.L. Moody. We can think of Young Life volunteers leading lost kids – from suburban high schools and inner city ghettos – to know Jesus in their zany meetings and fabulously fun camps.

We should think of a number of important women like Dr. Shirley Mullen and Dr. Kim Phipps, to name just two, who are Presidents of evangelical colleges who are mentoring a new generation of women leaders who are firm in historic faith and stepping into roles of Christian leadership all over the land. Some evangelicals have been advancing Biblical feminism for years.

And we should consider Christian converts like Mako Fujimura, who is now one of the esteemed abstract artists of our time and young author Michael Ware who was one of the youngest staffers to have worked in the White House (and who wrote the fascinating Reclaiming Hope: Lessons Learned in the Obama White House About the Future of Faith in America.) We can think of modern sociologist Os Guinness talking about civility when he worked at The Brookings Institution and how one of the best known contemporary evangelicals, PCA pastor Timothy Keller, is hosting Pulitzer Prize novelist and public intellectual Marilyn Robinson in Manhattan next month.  As I said here a few weeks ago, it is the decidedly evangelical InterVarsity Press that has published the most faith-based books on racism in the last 40 years, and the evangelical Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) is by far the most energetic and wide-spread faith-based community development organization working today, who have been for decades nurturing a generation of savvy urban activists that can organize like ACORN and preach like the most fiery of old-school evangelists.

The very best theological discourse in some urban centers is led by people of color who identify as evangelical. The “Fellows” program is nurturing sophisticated next-generation leadership for the common good in most major cities in the US, reading together curriculum as diverse as Wendell Berry and John Stott, Tim Keller and Steve Garber along with poetry by Luci Shaw and the hip hop poetry by Grammy-award winning rapper Lecrae and the brilliant spoken word artist Propaganda. Neighborhood Bible studies and work-world prayer meetings and one-on-one mentoring to make disciples have influenced literally millions of folks who can talk with clarity about their own personal faith in God, the relevance of the Bible for their own daily discipleship, and how their church (or para-church ministry) has helped them learn how to live a vibrant Christian life. Even though this is sometimes seen as a bit simplistic or clichéd, there is no doubt that evangelical ministries have had a wonderfully life-giving and transformative influence that has born beautiful fruit in a way that no other church movement has in our time.


In our generation we have seen an interesting rapprochement between evangelicals who have become more open and engaged in mainline institutions and churches and (on the other hand) mainline folks who have become more appreciative of evangelical piety. (It used to be that in many denominations if one graduated from an evangelical seminary – such as Gordon Conwell, that by nearly all accounts is more rigorous than their nearby consortium members Harvard Divinity School, say –  it was very hard to get a ministerial call, as mainliners distrusted evangelicals as pastors,  but that is changing.)

Young evangelicals are now teaching at mainline seminaries; until his death of cancer, former IVCF leader Dr. Stephen Hayner was the President of PCUSA Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia and places like Gordon Conwell and Fuller Theological Seminary routinely read UCC scholar Walter Brueggemann; one of his recent books, Journey to the Common Good, were lectures delivered at Regent College in British Columbia, a place where Puritan scholar J. I. Packer taught.

Some evangelicals for thoughtful reasons are classic conservatives and identify with the religious right and some, like, say, Ron Sider, and, I suspect, Tim Keller, are Democrats or Independents. Most evangelicals cheer for the balanced leadership on social issues offered by the clearly gospel-centered and non-partisan Russell Moore within the Southern Baptists (illustrated in his book Onward: Engaging the Culture without Losing the Gospel) and many mainline denominational leaders draw on the evangelically-influenced spiritual direction training of Richard Foster’s Renovare or the well-loved Transforming Center run by former Willow Creek spiritual director Ruth Haley Barton.

It was evangelical Richard Foster, after all, who introduced many Protestants to the medieval mystics and the monastic practices of meditation and lectio devina. I swear there are more evangelicals doing Ignatian spiritual examen these days then Jesuits! Mainline liberals, especially, love the contemplative Richard Rohr who, as most know, found his own faith deeply impacted in the 1970s by the evangelically-influenced charismatic renewal. All of this is to suggest that the old days of liberals and evangelicals disavowing each other are waning.


So, I say: when the media talks about how many white evangelicals are far-right Trump nuts, don’t buy it. Maybe a lot of fundamentalists and unusual Pentecostals supported him, but few in the mainstream evangelical world resonate with his message or style. Evangelicalism – centered around evangelistic ministries like Youth for Christ or The Salvation Army or Christian Colleges like Wheaton or magazines like CT or World and church renewal networks like The Gospel Coalition or Alpha and prayer ministries and disciple-making agencies and the huge Urbana Missions Conference or Passion conferences or Q Ideas gatherings – do not see themselves working to Make America Great Again.

Evangelicals, by definition, are people who grew up singing “To God Be The Glory” and “Shine Jesus Shine” and asking “What Would Jesus Do?” Sure many have watched the horrid “Left Behind” movies, but many roll their eyes, and are drawn to the likes of Amazing Grace the powerfully evangelical film about William Wilberforce and his campaign to stop slavery in England. There is a renewed interested in recent years in Dietrich Bonhoeffer, even, because of Eric Metaxas’s telling of Bonheoffer’s deeply religious transformation as he was inspired by the gospel preaching and singing at a black church during his time in New York.

As Jim Daly – who became the theological and culturally conservative head of Focus on the Family after Dr. Dobson left – shares in Still Evangelical? he felt compelled to reach out to one of the leading LGTBQ activists, despite their disagreements about sexual ethics and public policy, and was delighted that this understandably wary gay leader responded in what became a friendship based on a search for common ground. Granted, Daly lost some supporters and friends over this outreach, but it’s a new day within evangelicalism when that kind of conversation happens and those kinds of friendships form.

Q Ideas leader Gabe Lyon, author of The Next Christians and, more recently, co-author of Good Faith (who hosted the two gentleman in one of his Q Ideas conferences, by the way) sees this stuff all the time, fresh and creative projects initiated by evangelicals building partnerships with others in ways that wouldn’t have happen a few decades ago.

Still, despite all this, and my own insistence that evangelicalism does not equal fundamentalism, the media has widely, widely reported that the disastrous rise of the alt-right and the Trump administration has been significantly supported by the majority of evangelicals.

Which has caused a flurry of introspection and bunches of folks saying they are done with evangelical Christianity. Some have said they can no longer stomach the Christian faith at all. The gospel message as undoubtedly been confused and comprised these past few years and evangelicalism has, at best, a PR problem.


All of that to say that if you think you have evangelicals pegged as right-wing fundamentalists like Falwell or heretics like Pat Robertson or the duped ladies campaigning for Roy Moore with their garish God Bless America outfits, you need to read this book.

Still Evangelical? Insiders Reconsider Political, Social, and Theological Meaning shows the theological, ethnic, and wide cultural variety of evangelical thought leaders – from pacifist urban activist and Red Letter Christian Shane Claiborne to Focus on the Family’s Jim Daly, from evangelical seminary profs like Mark Young of Denver Seminary to CT editor and ordained PCUSA pastor Mark Galli, from evangelical Christian college profs like Allen Yeh from Biola University to literary figure, writer and professor Karen Swallow Prior, who teaches at Falwell’s Liberty University.

Karen’s wonderful chapter is quintessentially evangelical – it is very thoughtful, very well written, and a lovely blend of personal narrative (giving testimony is in the DNA of any true evangelical) and social analysis. It is strong on theological essentials and attentive to the nuances and diversity of how others see things. Fundamentalists of various sorts – of the right or the left, I might add – are dogmatic and often stern. Karen’s story and contribution to Still Evangelical? is upbeat about the gospel, clear about her own story, and eager to ruminate helpfully about the strengths and weakness of her own inherited faith tradition. Can we save evangelicalism? Should we? How does she navigate her own evangelical commitments in a place like Liberty? Her chapter “Why I Am An Evangelical” is simply must reading for those that want a delightful glimpse into the best of evangelical writers these days.

Another quintessential narrative that I really, really enjoyed is the piece by Lisa Sharon Harper, in her chapter called “Will Evangelicalism Surrender?” This chapter is very strong and in some ways it is the most clear about the experience of growing up within evangelicalism. Lisa tells of her heart-felt and tear-stained walk down a sawdust trail at a camp meeting where she received Christ as her Savior and found herself, as a black girl, involved in the mostly white evangelical sub-culture in rural South Jersey. Those that know Sharon know of her journey as a woman leader within the evangelical campus ministry IVCF and her fight for an evangelical vision for racial justice and social righteousness. (She contributed the “left” part of the helpful back-and-forth book Left, Right, and Christ: Evangelical Faith in Politics co-written with Orthodox Presbyterian pastor and thinker D.C. Innes.)

It made sense that Ms Harper ended up at the ecumenical Sojourners that, although appreciated by mainline liberal activists and social-justice-minded nuns is still animated by an evangelical zeal from their earliest days when they were kicked out of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School for organizing campus anti-Viet Nam protests. Jim Wallis, their founder, was part of the Plymouth Brethren denomination, a classic evangelical denomination with a strict, holiness ethos and serious Bible teaching and he still preaches in the style of an evangelical.

I cannot imagine how Sharon emotionally holds up as a self-professed evangelical, since she is also a vivacious, radical activist – she’s been arrested in anti-poverty sit-ins, travelled in the third world with African liberationists, preached on the streets at anti-war marches, and fasted in front of the Capitol for immigrants, and counseled young Black Lives Matters activists; she captures and embodies the early vibe and lifestyles of mid-70s Jim Wallis and Sojourners more than anybody I’ve seen in decades. Like Shane Claiborne, Lisa Sharon Harper is a new century version of the folks described in the University of Pennsylvania Press volume, Moral Minority The Evangelical Left in an Age of Conservatism by David Swartz combining heart-felt evangelical piety and Bible teaching with this radical social vision. She loves telling her story of what Jesus means to her, she loves talking about his amazing grace and the power of the Bible to point us to the Kingdom of God where we can know forgiveness and meaning and be restored and reconciled to God, self, others, and the land itself. Her book The Very Good Gospel: How Everything Wrong Can Be Made Right (published by evangelical publisher Waterbook Press) explores this stuff well, giving the phrase “gospel centered” a very socially-relevant meaning and embodied expression. Again, her chapter here in Still Evangelical? is well worth pondering. It is hard hitting but tells her story nicely. Kudos!

So, if one wants to know a bit about evangelicalism, these sorts of testimonials are a good place to start.

Other chapters in this book do a very good job in telling the historical/sociological story that I only quickly rushed through above. (Admittedly, too, I told it a certain way, to accentuate my concern that we don’t conflate all religious conservatives together into one big bunch.) Several of the other chapters in this nice volume are wonderful overviews of the missional distinctives of evangelicalism and how that has or hasn’t (re)shaped evangelicals engagement in the world. I loved these brief, historical/sociological essays and appreciated their insight in connecting stuff of the past with stuff going on today. I think it’s a great window into understanding not only our work here at Hearts & Minds but much of what has gone on in the broader religious communities in recent decades.


I will be brief in naming five sorts of readers who should study this.

First, again, it is for anyone who wants to know what we mean by evangelicalism. There are other more scholarly explorations of what this often-mentioned religious movement in the US is, and what the word means, but these chapters get at it wonderfully, and it’s a great intro to the largest Protestant movement in the country. I really, really hope that Episcopalians and Lutherans and UCC and Catholic and Methodist friends buy this book and study it together in their parishes. It’s that good.

Secondly, this is a must-read for evangelicals themselves, especially anyone in leadership or who is older. It is essential to own and study Still Evangelical? if one is on the more conservative end of the spectrum; reading and pondering this mix of authors asking how to navigate the changing world and how to hold true to our deepest convictions – keeping the first things first, as we sometimes put it – is vital. If you wonder what the fuss is about, if you don’t quite understand why younger folks, especially, are leaving evangelical churches, or why many aren’t so sure they want to use this phrase about themselves any more, then you have to get this book right away. If you have any desire to keep conservative theological views alive and well and keep our beloved evangelical tradition healthy, we have to grapple with this stuff within our own circles. Just for instance, Soong-Chan Rah’s piece on “Evangelical Futures” is a lively, short summary of his major work and it might inspire you to read his other vital books. It’s important for all of us, but especially conventional evangelicals who are fretting about the changes spinning around them.

Thirdly, if you are a social activist of any sort, you know that many of the people on the streets are motivated by faith, even if they feel a bit exiled from their old churches. Those resisting Trump’s draconian immigration attitudes or racist tweets or his cavalier attitude about sexual abuse or his dishonesty on economics or his despicable policies rolling back stewardly care for creation or his frightening nonsense about the size of his nuclear button, are often former evangelicals or somehow motivated by values learned in Sunday school. Some say they are “spiritual but not religious” and some say they are “recovering evangelicals” and some aren’t Christ-followers but they can quote Martin Luther King and Desmond Tutu and other Christians. I think this book might be a life-line to those who have drifted away from church, or are tempted to jettison clear-headed, Biblically-solid, theologically-sound, spiritually-faithful sorts of faith.

There are other books that link evangelical faith and progressive social action, and there are books that tend to abandon evangelicalism for more progressive but still robust sorts of faith, so there are no shortage of resources to build bridges with activists who need reminded of God’s call and the significance of church life, but this up-front conversation about what we can reasonably expect of evangelicalism might be just interesting enough to reach some, to help engage them in good conversations. (See, I’m an evangelical myself so I think in terms of “reaching” people groups, like, in this case, left-wing, anti-Trump activists who have soured on church because they think that evangelicalism is bigoted and retrograde, not worthy of deep consideration.) These good, balanced, chapters in Still Evangelical? while not firstly apologetics, could be helpful witnesses to a faith tradition that they have mostly not given up on. I’d love to see it shared with some of those we learned about in the Barna research that became the book by Barna guy David Kinnaman, You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church . . . and Rethinking Faith. Or for those who are so vividly portrayed in the book Rescuing Jesus: How People of Color, Women, and Queer Christians Are Reclaiming Evangelicalism reported vividly by former evangelical Deborah Jian Lee. I firmly believe that some who are most critical of evangelicalism need to listen in to this self-aware and candid conversation among evangelical insiders; it isn’t as self-critical or radical as it might be as these authors really are mostly very invested in the evangelical sub-culture and have a palpable love for Christ and his good news. It just might restore their faith or at least remove some of the cynicism and bitterness if they give it a chance. Maybe you know somebody you could give it to.

Fourthly, I think this is a great book for anyone who likes to keep an open mind by pondering what different people think, holding together reasonable insights that sometimes might be in tension. You could obviously pick other books on other topics to learn about this process of good learning, of dialogue and conversation, but this one is as hot as any in religious circles, even among non-Christians, as we consider the way in which religion has played a role in our national politics.

Still Evangelical? Ten Insiders Reconsider… would be even more useful if there was some push-back and responses from each of the authors back and forth rather than just being a collection of random essays, but, still, the fact that this includes authors representing “right, left, and center” within broad evangelicalism is itself just a great example of a somewhat diverse conversation. There are fairly young evangelicals and older ones and a good number of people of color, women and men, those who are more on the fringe of classic evangelicalism and those who – like Jim Daly, of Focus on the Family — are at the very center of it. That the President of the large InterVarsity Christian Fellowship college ministry (Tom Lin) is here talking about the next generation of Christ followers (and his hope that they remain firmly evangelical) is notable.

It is great that the book was envisioned and edited by Mark Labberton, the President of the world’s most multi-ethnic and multi-national seminary (Fuller Theological Seminary) who is both a PCUSA clergyman and a respected evangelical who has written about worship and evangelism and justice and discipleship. I would have wished for Reformed thinker Richard Mouw’s wise and civil voice in here – his wonderful memoir published a year ago is called Adventures in Evangelical Civility: A Lifelong Quest for Common Ground and it is utterly germane. I’d have also wished for a non-evangelical like a liberal Lutheran or progressive United Methodist or standard Episcopalian reply to all of this. Still, it’s got a lot of different views and some varying answers to this question.

Should we retain the name, or re-brand ourselves? Can we remain faithful to Jesus and the gospel and be affiliated with this odd movement which seems to have been co-opted by a unethical religiosity in support of a terrible man with disturbing political plans? These evangelical leaders and “insiders” have varying levels of concern and different sorts of answers to this provocative question and it is urgent to answer this question, as I’ve suggested, but it is also just good to see how good people can disagree somewhat. I don’t think anyone can disagree that the religious right’s support of the playboy Trump is odd at best. What we should do about the PR crisis this has created and the faith-crisis that is growing in our evangelical ranks is a live question, so it’s good to see a bunch of different folks weighing in.

This isn’t a book about conflict resolution or civility, but it’s good to have such reasonable, thoughtful voices in the same book. Why not read it, gentle readers, just to be reminded of the practice of listening well and keeping an open mind. In our deeply polarized age, this is a breath of fresh air.

Fifth. This is simple, and I am sincere in saying this. Regardless of your theological and denominational affiliations, it is refreshing (and, more — vital) to be reminded just what we should be about. I guess I think that at our very best, we all agree on this stuff – we are all trying to respond well to God’s love that is seen in the person of Jesus. We all want to recall the grace and goodness of the gospel, right? We all want to build churches and ministries and communities that embody God’s goodness, as best we can, don’t we? We want to live a better story. Most of the writers in this book – even though they differ considerably – agree that no matter what we call ourselves or in what ways social, religious, and media forces confuse theological terms and meanings before the watching world, we are to focus on the truest truths about what matters most.

As Mark Young puts it in his good chapter “Recapturing Evangelical Identity and Mission”,

To the degree that evangelicalism continues to define itself by anything other than the gospel, answering my friends question [about why I am an evangelical] will remain problematic for those of us who care about how the broader culture hears the gospel. If we are not radically and persistently intentional about defining evangelicalism in terms of the gospel, I see no reason to continue to use a label that now misrepresents our true identity and it counterproductive to our calling…

Or, as Mark Labberton himself puts it in his lengthy introduction, after surveying everything from the recent waning of denominational loyalties to the crisis of rural and Rust Belt congregations to the plight of those in the LGBTQ communities, and more, when he clarifies what’s finally at stake:

Evangelical has value only if it names our commitment to seek and to demonstrate the heart and mind of God in Jesus Christ, who is the evangel. To be evangelical is to respond to God’s call to deeper faith and greater humility…. the only evangelicalism worthy of its name must be one that both faithfully points to and mirrors Jesus Christ.

Labberton quips that maybe the question isn’t “still evangelical?” but “yet evangelical?”

This is the question for all of us, isn’t it? This book will remind us of this large looming question. I highly recommend it.



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