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Saturday, 15 January 2011
January 2011 Book Selection
Just click on the read more link for the selection. Feliç lectura!
This new book by the Director of Ministry for the Diocese of Durham is the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Lent Book for 2011. In it Cherry addresses the issue of what it means to practice the Christian virtue of humility in today’s celebrity obsessed culture in which self promotion is taken for granted, and in which humility is either humility is either dismissed or confused with the cringing, false humility of Dickens’ Uriah Heep. Against this setting Cherry contends that when true humility is combined with real passion fresh and exciting light is shone on the challenge of following Jesus Christ today and humility is rediscovered as a healthy, life-giving and community-building virtue. Cherry uses stories and concrete examples, as well as allusions to fiction, poetry and art, in order to engage his reader’s imagination and he unpacks big theological ideas in a very accessible fashion. Studying this book will provide a good Lenten discipline, but even after Lent is over it will continue to be a very useful resource for anyone wanting to re-think what it means to be a truly humble follower of Jesus Christ.
As anyone who has studied the Bible will be aware, the Bible uses a wide variety of different images for describe for us the saving work of God. The new study guide from CHP by the Bishop of Sheffield looks at five of these images which are central to the Bible and have continued to be central to the subsequent Christian tradition –‘lost and finding the way,’ ‘trapped and set free,’ ‘sick in soul and healed,’ ‘in turmoil and being at peace,’ and ‘barren and becoming fruitful.’ Each chapter of the guide explores one of these images through the use of stories, popular culture, biblical material and material from the Christian tradition, and also contains information about YouTube clips and further film suggestions. The material also includes discussion starters, questions, prayers and a leader's guide. This guide would be useful as a resource for Lent Groups or could serve as an introductory course to the Christian faith at any time of the year.
Because the focus of recent discussions in the General Synod has been on the details of the draft legislation for the introduction of female bishops it can be easy to assume that we have moved beyond the debate about the ordination of women as such. In reality however, this debate is still alive and well within the Church, not only in the Anglo-Catholic circles that are the focus of media attention, but also in Evangelical circles as well. In this new book from IVP two female Evangelical Church of England ministers, one of whom is a priest and other of whom is a permanent deacon, address this continuing debate. They share their contrasting approaches to the role of women in the Church through an e mail exchange in which they work through the Bible from the creation stories to the Pastoral Epistles and look at what they each think the biblical material has to say to us today. In the course of their exchange they also describe their own personal life journeys and explain how they cope with the day to day demands of combining their ministry with family life and friendships. In her Foreword Canon Anne Dyer describes this book as ‘a model of theological discourse from which many – men as well as women – can learn.’ It is a very useful resource for anyone who wants a user friendly introduction to what the debate about women’s ordination is about.
Origen was one of the most prolific and important theologians and biblical scholars of the Early Church. His writings included works on the biblical text, commentaries and sermons on most of the books of the Bible, Against Celsus, a major defence of the Christian faith against the attack on it by a philosophical sceptic and On First Principles, the first ever attempt to write a systematic theology. In his new study of Origen, Professor Ronald Heine of North Western Christian University in the United States provides a chronological account of the development of Origen’s thought that sets it in the context of the two cities where he lived, Alexandria in Egypt and Caesarea in Palestine. Heine argues that the pastoral responsibilities that Origen assumed following his move to Caesarea put him in touch with that city’s large Jewish population and that in line with this Origen's thought shifts in this period from his earlier Alexandrian occupation with Gnostic issues to the complex questions concerning the relationship between Church and Synagogue and the ultimate fate of the Jews. He also suggests that in his final years Origen was rethinking some of the views he had espoused in his earlier work. Professor Heine’s work engages with recent scholarship on Origen and provides an up to date account of the man and his work that will be useful to specialists, but which will also be accessible to non-specialists as well. Recommended reading for anyone wanting to learn more about Origen and his world.
The Jesuit theologian and philosopher Gerard J Hughes (not to be confused with another Jesuit Gerard W Hughes the author of God of Surprises) examines the issue of fundamentalism and how it relates to fidelity to the Christian tradition. In his introduction Hughes notes that, contrary to the impression sometimes given in the media, fundamentalism is not a synonym for terrorism and it is not something that is confined to any particular religion. He then goes on to consider fundamentalism within a Christian context and maintains that fidelity to the original tenets of Christianity does not demand a fundamentalist, literalist approach to the translation and interpretation of Scripture. He illustrates the problems and misunderstandings that arise from a fundamentalist approach with reference to a series of issues including evolution, ecumenism, the reality of the Holy Eucharist, pacifism, and the ordination of women and suggests that the best way of remaining faithful to the Christian tradition while avoiding the problems associated with fundamentalism is through good translation skills and sound teaching which take account of the ever changing mores of humankind and the variety of world cultures. This is a thought provoking book that merits careful reading by anyone who wants to think through the issue of how fidelity to the Christian faith can go hand in hand with the need to proclaim the gospel in ever new ways in relation to different cultures and different circumstances. In Newman’s terms how can we change and yet stay the same?
At the heart of the Christian faith is the claim that Jesus Christ rose again from the dead. This new book by the Research Professor of New Testament at Southern Evangelical Seminary in the United States is a major scholarly defence of this traditional Christian claim. The study is divided into five chapters. In chapter one Licona looks at issues concerning the philosophy of history and historical method in order to develop a proper basis for his own investigation into the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus. In chapter two he looks at the issue of whether historians are barred from investigating the miraculous. He argues that this is not the case and discusses how the claim that a miracle has occurred affects the burden of historical proof. In chapter three he surveys the primary literature relevant to investigation of the resurrection, looking at Christian and non-Christian sources from the first two hundred years after Jesus’ death and identifying the sources that are the most promising for determining what actually happened. In chapter four he uses the sources identified in the previous chapter to put together what he calls ‘a collection of facts that are so strongly evidenced that they enjoy a heterogeneous and nearly universal consensus’ and that compose the historical bedrock on which all hypotheses regarding what happened to Jesus must be built. Finally in chapter five he draws on the historical methodology developed in chapter one to measure against this historical bedrock six hypotheses ‘largely representative of those being offered in the beginning of the twenty-first century pertaining to the question of the resurrection of Jesus.’ These hypotheses are offered by Geza Vermes, Michael Goulder, Gerd Lüdemann, John Dominic Crossan, Pieter Craffert and Dale Allison and they all deny in a variety of different ways the historicity of Jesus’ bodily resurrection. Licona argues that none of these alternative hypothesis are historically convincing and that the most historically plausible explanation remains that Jesus really did rise from the dead. As the length of this review indicates, Licona’s book, which is a version of his doctoral thesis, is a very thorough and comprehensive treatment of its subject matter and it must now rank alongside NT Wright’s The Resurrection of the Son of God as a key resource for anyone wishing to explore and defend the Christian faith in the resurrection of Christ.
Even a cursory glance at the pages of the gospels makes it clear that Jesus made extensive use of what we would call the Old Testament Scripture. This observation then raises the issues of how Jesus used Scripture and why he used it in the way that he did. This new book by the Professor of New Testament at the University of Chichester, which is a companion volume to his Paul and Scripture published last year, is an accessible introduction to Jesus’ use of Scripture that provides a user friendly way in to looking at these issues. It begins with an introductory chapter on the forms of the Old Testament text that Jesus might have known. It then analyses the way that the four Gospels portray Jesus' use of Scripture, under the headings 'Jesus and the Law', 'Jesus and the Prophets' and 'Jesus and the Writings'. Next it considers the different interpretations of the historical Jesus offered by scholars such as John Dominic Crossan, Geza Vermes, E P Sanders, James Dunn and NT Wright and explains how these different interpretations affect one’s understanding of Jesus’use of Scripture. Finally it assesses how far Jesus' use of Scripture can be seen as formative for St. Paul and other New Testament writers. This will be a useful resource for anyone who wants a beginners’ guide to, or a refresher course in, the topics that it covers. It could profitably be read alongside the older study by R T France Jesus and the Old Testament (reprinted by Regent College Publishing 2000).
It is often thought that the Byzantine rite is an example of a static and unchanging liturgical tradition. However, this new book from SVS Press by Fr. Thomas Pott, who is a monk of the Monastery of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross in Chevetogne in Belgium and Professor of Liturgical Theology at Sant Anselmo University and at the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome, demonstrates that this is far from being the case. The book is in two parts. In first part Pott explains that deliberate liturgical reform, as distinguished from the organic, spontaneous development of a liturgical tradition, is nothing new in the Byzantine rite. In the second part he explores four examples of such reform, describing the cultural and religious context of each example, and the theological rationale underlying it. The examples he looks at are the Studite reform led by St Theodore and his successors beginning at the end of the 8th century, the development of the Paschal triduum from the 8th to the 13th century, the development of the prothesis from the 11th to the 14th century; and finally three 17th-century reforms among Catholic Ruthenians, among the Orthodox in Kiev under Metropolitan Peter Moghila, and in Moscow under Patriarch Nikon. This book will be helpful to anyone who wants to understand the development of the Bryzantine liturgical tradition and it also contains a useful series of guidelines for categorizing and evaluating liturgical reform that can be applied equally to reforms in all Christian traditions, in both the East and the West.
Martin Luther is one of the most important figures in the history of Christianity. His break with Rome and the subsequent emergence of separate Protestant churches has continued to shape the religious, political and social life of Europe and the wider world to this day. Reflecting his continuing importance more books have been written about Luther than nearly any other historical figure. However, he remains an enigmatic figure and thus a source of perplexity to many people. This new volume in the T & T Clark ‘Guide for the Perplexed’ series, written by the Professor of the History of Christianity at United Theological Seminary in Ohio aims to address this perplexity. It looks in turn at Luther’s life and times, the key elements of his theology and his social and political engagement. It also provides an introduction to the primary sources available to a student and important secondary works that ought to be consulted. This is a useful up to date overview of Luther’s life and thought and introduction to Luther studies that can be recommended to anyone who wants to know more about the German reformer and the resources available for studying him.
Eberhard Busch is Professor Emeritus of Systematic Theology at the University of Göttingen in Germany and is probably best known for his classic biography of Karl Barth. In his new book Busch explores how the Heidelberg Catechism, the classic 1563 statement of Reformed faith, still speaks with power to Christians living in the twenty-first-century. In the course of his study Busch interacts with theologians, philosophers, musicians, and scientists as he considers what the Catechism has to say to us today about true freedom in relation to God, life-and-death comfort for believers, pertinent personal concerns and social issues, and how it continues to provide rich gospel insights into the nature of the Christian life. Walter Brueggemann describes Busch’s work as ‘a bold, compelling portrayal of an alternative existence in the world that in every dimension challenges common assumptions of modern autonomy.’ This is recommended reading for anyone wanting to know how Reformation theology can continue to illuminate the contemporary Church.