It's "back to school time" at Church, and for those who are eager to crack open some current theology, here are reviews of 10 new volumes which may be of interest. One author, Paul Bradshaw, is the Liturgical Advisor to this diocese, and may be well known by our clergy and readers.
For the reviews, click the read more button.
Paul F Bradshaw and Maxwell E Johnson, The Eucharistic Liturgies: Their Evolution and Interpretation, SPCK, 978-0-28106-807-4, £20.00
Paul F. Bradshaw is an Anglican, the Professor of Liturgy at the University of Notre Dame in the United States and a priest-vicar of Westminster Abbey. He is also the Liturgical Advisor for this Diocese in Europe. Maxwell E. Johnson is a Lutheran who is also Professor of Liturgy at the University of Notre Dame and a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Their new book is about the liturgical history and theology of the Eucharist from the time of the New Testament up to and including the liturgical reforms of the modern period, in the mid-twentieth and now early twenty-first centuries. After the introduction the book is in eight chapters. Chapter one looks at ‘Origins.’ Chapter two looks at the Eucharist in ‘The second and third centuries.’ Chapters three and four look at the fourth and fifth centuries in terms of the ‘Historical context and rites’ and ‘Questions of Anaphoral development and Eucharistic theology.’ Chapters five and six look at the development of Eucharistic liturgy and theology in ‘The Christian East’ and ‘The Medieval West’ respectively. Chapter seven looks at the development of Eucharistic theology and practice in ‘The Protestant and Catholic Reformations.’ Finally chapter eight looks at developments in ‘The modern period.’ The book gives particular attention to the development of the diverse Eucharistic liturgies of the Eastern churches and as well as looking at the development of the Roman rite it also explores other Western Eucharistic rites such as the Ambrosian, the Gallican and the Mozarabic. Bradshaw and Johnson give special attention to the topics of real presence and Eucharistic sacrifice, the two topics which have been the most central and most ecumenically challenging since the Reformation. Each chapter of the book contains an abundance of liturgical texts for ease of reference and each chapter also has summary points at the end to assist teachers and students.
Raymond Brown, Spirituality in Adversity, Authentic Media, ISBN 978-184227-785-0, £34.99
The period between the restoration of the monarchy in 1660 and the Toleration Act of 1689 was one in which Protestant dissenters faced sustained persecution for their refusal to conform to the Church of England. In this new volume in the series ‘Studies in Evangelical History and Theology,’ the former Principal of Spurgeon’s College looks at this period of persecution and its aftermath and the way in which those who were being persecuted responded to the hardships they were facing. Brown explores their faith, their worship and their perseverance and describes how in the midst of adversity they developed a spirituality centred on Jesus Christ and an awareness of God’s Fatherly love for them even in the midst of their sufferings. Many people know John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, but comparatively few are aware of the historical background from which it emerged and the tradition of spirituality that it represents. Spirituality in Adversity challenges this ignorance and draws attention to a neglected aspect of the English spiritual tradition. It will be of interest to anyone who wants to know more about this era of English church history or the way in which Christians are given the resources to endure and grow in their faith even when humanly speaking everything seems to be against them.
Mark Earey, Worship that Cares: An Introduction to Pastoral Liturgy, SCM, ISBN 978-0-33404-411-6, £19.99 (Kindle edition also available)
One of the key challenges facing all the Christian churches is how to develop forms of worship which meet the range of spiritual needs of those inside and outside the Church. It is this challenge that is addressed in a new book by the Revd Mark Earey, the Co-director of the Centre for Ministerial Formation at the Queen's Foundation,
Birmingham, where he is also tutor in liturgy
and worship. This book has its origins in his liturgy module at Queens, and offers
an introduction to the principles and skills of ‘pastoral liturgy.’ The book
begins by giving an overview of the ways that worship can be a means of
pastoral care, how regular Sunday worship can offer care to those who attend it.
It then goes on to look at forms of worship that take place in response to
particular pastoral needs, such as baptisms, weddings and funerals. Earey also
explores how the liturgical principles which underlie these ‘standard’ rites
can also be applied to ‘new’ pastoral contexts and needs (such as retirement or
leaving home) and to pastoral situations which are often unacknowledged in
church circles (such as divorce and miscarriage). In the final section of the
book, ‘Moving on and out’ Earey
discusses ways in which the Church can move out into the community, offering
what Ann Morrisey called ‘apt’ liturgies to help community groups to mark
moments of crisis or joy with ‘non churchy’ rituals which nonetheless help
people to connect with God and the Christian story. The former Bishop of Salisbury,
David Stancliffe, writes that Earey: ‘has produced a splendid guide to the
Church’s pastoral rites, musing on how they enable people to experience God’s
love and the church’s pastoral care. Drawing from his own considerable pastoral
experience as well as his years of teaching people how to use the church’s
liturgy, he sets out a whole range of pastoral possibilities from birth rituals
though marriage, wholeness and healing to death, charting their theological and
anthropological background as well as their sociological and implications. He
explains in clear terms how the rites ‘work’, and then like the good teacher
that he is, allows the reader to weigh up the possibilities and make informed
choices about how they will balance the church’s provision with their pastoral
responsibilities and opportunities. It is a model of how to approach these
questions in an increasingly demanding yet frequently ill-informed society,
which longs to find meaning in life and the best for their nearest and dearest’.
Richard Higginson, Faith, Hope and the Global Economy, IVP, ISBN 978-1-84474-580-7, £9.99
Richard Higginson is Director of 'Faith in Business' at Ridley Hall, Cambridge, where he also lectures in Christian Ethics and Leadership. The central claim that he makes in this new book is that ‘The Christian faith, rightly understood, can be an enormous power for good in the global economy. It stimulates enterprise, reduces poverty, promotes integrity, ensures sustainability and fosters discipleship.’ He acknowledges that this is a claim that will seem very odd to many people today. As he notes, ‘Christian faith and the global economy …occupy very different categories in the minds of most people who are not practising Christians. Christian faith is thought to be concerned with a spiritual realm: with personal salvation, forgiveness of sins and eternal life – and so, in part, it is. Economics is about the world of money and material goods. When I introduce myself as a theologian whose major area of interest is business, people look surprised.’ Furthermore, he says, even for most Christians in Western Europe: ’being a power for good in the global economy may not be a high priority. Many work in business, and all play an indirect role in the global economy as consumers and investors. But the effect of Christian faith on the way they work and spend seems to be marginal. It is widely accepted that the world of business operates along predetermined lines. There are economic laws – the laws of supply and demand, for instance, in determining wages and prices – which decide how things are, and the feeling is that Christians can do little to change them.’ However, this book 'will give many specific examples of Christians whose business activities have brought life and hope to their communities and countries.’ The lesson that Higginson draws from these examples is that since Christians can make an economic difference they should seek to do so. His book challenges business men and women to think deeply about what they do and why they do it. It argues that every episode in the biblical story of salvation has something important, challenging and hopeful to say about business practice. It explores alternative business models that provide signs of hope, and also offers insight and encouragement to those working for mainstream companies. The overall aim of the book is to inspire Christians to see the relevance of their faith to their work – and to see themselves as God's agent in transforming the world for the better, not only spiritually, but in economic terms as well. This is a very significant book that issues an important challenge to all Christians to think about how economic activity and Christian faith can and should go hand in hand to serve the purposes of God.
Eric Ives, The Reformation Experience, Lion Hudson, ISBN 978-0-74595-277-2, £9.99, (Kindle edition also available)
To use American sporting terminology, in historical terms the Reformation was a ‘game changer.’ It altered the religious, social and political history of the world and we are still experiencing the consequences today. Historians have been trying to make sense of what took place. Professor Eric Ives explains in the introduction, ‘Until the last generation or so, the majority of Reformation scholars adopted a top-down perspective. They concentrated on major events, on theological ideas, and the impact of significant individuals. Even though many good studies of local events were written, these tended to take the Reformation as a ‘given.’ Today, historians recognise the need to re-tell the story from the bottom up; that is, how the Reformation came to individuals and communities and what it meant to them.’ Ives says we should ask, ‘how new religious ideas reached ordinary men and women, whether (and why) the ideas were or were not accepted and how this changed lives.’ This volume reflects this new approach to the history of the Reformation. The story it tells is a familiar one; what
was like prior to the Reformation, what took place ‘across the channel’ and how
the Reformation then developed in England itself. However, it draws
on the latest scholarship and research to tell this story from a new angle, asking
how people coped when some of their dearest beliefs were challenged, then
reaffirmed, only to be challenged again and what happened to both individuals
and communities, as conflicting beliefs and loyalties drove them apart. This is
an excellent and accessible introduction to what the Reformation meant on the
ground to the ordinary men and women involved. It can be recommended both for
students approaching the Reformation for the first time and for anyone who
wants a refresher course in the English Reformation from a fresh perspective.
J Gordon McConville and Mark J Boda (eds), Dictionary of the Old Testament Prophets, IVP, ISBN 978-1-8447-4581-4, £39.99
This new volume edited by Professor Gordon McConville of the University of Gloucestershire and Professor Mark Boda of McMaster Divinity College in Canada is the latest in a series of IVP dictionaries covering the books of the Old and New Testaments. It provides one hundred and fifteen articles by ninety authors covering all aspects of the prophetic books of the Old Testament. As McConville and Boda explain in their Preface, they were keenly aware when approaching and undertaking their work on this project: ‘that some issues in interpreting the prophets are fiercely debated because matters of fundamental importance are perceived to be at stake. Was it our task to make a case for a particular viewpoint or to try to resolve contentious issues?' The editors have chosen, instead, to let the volume portray a broad picture of contemporary scholarship on the Prophets, and have invited contributions from scholars from all points on the scholarly spectrum, Jewish as well as Christian. They not only include articles on each of the individual prophetic books and on the reception history of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel, but also articles on aspects of prophetic language and imagery, on textual and historical topics, on prophetic genres, on hermeneutics, and on important conceptual and theological themes. In addition, they also included articles on a range of critical methodologies currently in use in the study of the Prophets such as Conversation Analysis, Performance Criticism, and Psychological and Social-Scientific approaches. McConvillle and Broda have produced, without doubt, the most comprehensive and up-to-date scholarly introduction to all aspects of the Old Testament prophetic literature current available. Any on who is interested in serious study of the Prophetic books of the Old Testament should certainly buy this book.
Paul Murray, In the Grip of Light: The Dark and Bright Journey of Christian Contemplation, Continuum, ISBN 978-1-44114-550-5, £10.99 (Kindle edition also available)
As part of the continuing growth in interest in Christian spirituality, there is a growing interest in the Christian contemplative tradition and in the experiences of those men and women who have helped to shape it. In his new book the Irish Dominican writer Paul Murray, who teaches the literature of the mystical tradition at the Angelicum University in Rome, offers a fresh introduction to the contemplative tradition, looking at the writings of authors such as Catherine of Siena, John of the Cross, Meister Eckhart, and Teresa of Avila and exploring what they have to tell us about what it means in practice to draw close to the light and fire of God. Following an introduction the book is in three chapters. Chapter one, ‘Fire and Fountain,’ looks at ‘the living experience of God.’ Chapter two, ‘The mystery into words,’ looks at ‘St Bernard of Clairvaux and the experience of God’ and Chapter three, ‘Searching for God,’ looks at ‘contemplative prayer in the Dominican tradition.’ Murray’s states that, ‘The most celebrated among the Christian saints and mystics are often regarded, and for good reason, as men and women possessing special knowledge of the higher states and stages of the Christian life. But what also characterizes them is something of much greater importance: they are outstanding preachers of the good news. To the often despairing and unbelieving hearts of our generation, their words, their writings, speak with an authority and a freshness that is unique. Any why? – because to begin with, both in life and in prayer, they themselves have been to the very depths, the pain and longing of the dark night and the terrible hurt of abandonment. And yet, over and over again, what they have discovered, even at the heart of their misery, is the wonderful kindness and mercy of God.’ This is an excellent starting point for anyone who wants to learn more about the Christian contemplative tradition and what it has to teach us about what it means to know God.
Rik Van Nieuwenhove, An Introduction to Medieval Theology, CUP, ISBN 978- 052172-232-2, £17.99 (Kindle edition also available)
Because of the traditional pattern of Anglican theological education many clergy and laity in the Church of England are unsure of how theology developed between the end of the Patristic era and the English Reformation. They may have heard of names such as St.Anselm, and St Thomas Aquinas, but their knowledge does not go much further than that. This new book by Rik Van Nieuwenhove who lectures in theology at Limerick in
a useful resource to address this gap in people’s theological knowledge. As Van
Nieuvenhove explains in his introduction, this book is not written for experts
in medieval theology, but for anybody who is new to the field and who wants to
find out more about the thought of some of the major Christian thinkers of the
medieval period. Rather than offer a survey of a myriad of theologians, he
focuses on a limited number of key thinkers, expounding their thought in some
depth. He takes a text based approach to these thinkers, giving frequent
quotations from primary sources to allow them to speak for themselves as much
as possible. He also gives a short introduction to the historical and cultural
background to each period he covers in order to set the thought of that period
in its context. The author invites the reader ‘to think along with the medieval authors’. Van Nieuwenhove notes that Medieval
theology, in all its diversity, was radically theo-centric, Trinitarian,
Scriptural and sacramental. In a post-modern climate, in which the modern views
on 'autonomous reason' are increasingly being questioned, he argues that it may
prove fruitful to re-engage with pre-modern thinkers who, obviously, did not
share our modern and post-modern presuppositions. Their different perspective
does not antiquate their thought, as some of the 'cultured despisers' of
medieval thought might imagine. On the contrary, rather than rendering their
views obsolete it makes them profoundly challenging and enriching for theology
today. This is a valuable book, both as a reliable introduction to selected
medieval theologians and as a challenge to accept that medieval theologians are
thinkers from whom we have potentially much to learn and to whom we should
therefore learn to listen with attention.
Sue Pickering, On Holiday with God, Canterbury Press, ISBN 978-1-84825-213-4, £9.99
Making a retreat is becoming increasingly recognised as an important part of Christian spiritual development by Christians of various traditions and denominations. Many Christians are, however, unsure of what making a retreat involves and how to get the most out of a retreat if they do go on one. They go away to a retreat house, enter into silence, and are then unsure what to do next. Sue Pickering, who is Canon of New Plymouth Cathedral in New Zealand and chaplain to a retirement community, is an experienced retreat guide and spiritual director and in her new book she addresses the needs of those who want to know what going on retreat involves and how to get the best out of it by offering a 'travel companion' for those who want to make a personal retreat in the either at home or away, alone or with others. Her book is in three parts. The first part encourages people to listen to the Spirit, to pay attention to their inner restlessness and to notice their need to get away to spend time with God. It outlines the different types of retreats that may best suit different individual personalities and circumstances and offers essential 'tips for the trip' looking in turn at the nature of contemplative prayer, how to pray with Scripture, how to notice God in the everyday, how to resist the temptation to busyness and how to record your spiritual journey in a prayer journal. The second part sets out a varied and imaginative range of guided spiritual exercises for people to try when they are on retreat and offers support for the unexpected things that may emerge when they engage in them. Finally, the third part offers suggestions to help people to re-adjust to normal life after they return from their retreat and looks at the question of how people can build on what they have learned during their time away and continue to grow with God in the future as a result. This is a good basic introduction to the art of making a spiritually beneficial retreat which is well worth lending or giving away to people who are going on retreat for the first time or who are thinking of doing so.
Dustin Resch, Barth’s Interpretation of the Virgin Birth, Ashgate, ISBN 978-1-4094-4117-5, £55.00
Although belief in the Virgin Birth has been an integral part of the Christian faith since the earliest days of the Church and is confessed in the historic creeds and confessions of the churches in both East and West, the doctrine of the Virgin Birth of Christ came under sustained criticism in Protestant circles from the nineteenth century onwards and by the twentieth century it had been rejected by many mainstream Protestant theologians in Europe and North America. The great Swiss theologian Karl Barth stood against this tide, however, and argued strongly that when it was rightly understood the doctrine of the Virgin Birth played a crucial role in Christian theology. In his new book the Canadian theologian Dr Dustin Resch examines this teaching in detail, providing a comprehensive account and analysis of Barth's interpretation of the doctrine of the Virgin Birth. He sets Barth’s teaching about the Virgin Birth in the context of the wider western Christian tradition and looks at how it fits into Barth’s discussions about Christology, pneumatology and the interpretation of Scripture. Resch explores the way in which Barth demonstrates continuity and discontinuity with both the classical Augustinian tradition of interpreting the Virgin Birth and the criticisms of the doctrine of the Virgin Birth in the modern era, and notes the way in which Barth's doctrine of the Virgin Birth reveals his beliefs about the nature of history, humanity and the identity of Jesus Christ. This is an important study both for those who want to know more about Barth and for those who want to think more deeply about the doctrine of the Virgin Birth and its significance within the overall shape of Christian theology.