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Tuesday, 5 January 2010
January 2010 Book Selection
The subtitle of this new book by the American writer Dwight Friesen is ‘What the Church can learn from Facebook, the Internet and other networks ’ and, as this subtitle suggests, the purpose of this book is to explain how Friesen thinks the Church can learn to operate more effectively in the networked world in which we now exist. Friesen’s argument is that rather than decrying the modern disintegration of things like authority and structure the Church needs to learn how our new networked world operates and how to utilise this knowledge to further the Gospel. Friesen provides a practical, easy to understand guide to the complex theories of networking and explains how those involved in ministry can make use of existing connections between people in order to spread the Gospel and help people become more involved in their churches and grow together as disciples. Friesen is primarily writing for an American Evangelical context, but what he says will nonetheless be of interest to all those who are concerned with mission and ministry in today’s culture.
This book by the Bishop of Bradwell is a revised and updated edition of his critically acclaimed set text on theological method which has been described by Professor Elaine Graham as ‘a classic text in contextual theology.’ This is a very practical book which draws on examples from parish life and educational practice both in this country and internationally. It puts forward a method for doing theology that starts from experience and the exploration of a particular context, then moves on to reflection on this experience and context in the light of the Bible and the Christian tradition and finishes by thinking about how to respond appropriately and practically to what has been learned. The book also provides a survey of ‘other styles of theology’ and an introduction to Christian spirituality. This is a book that is both accessible and challenging and will help students and others to see the connection between theological study and living out the Christian faith in everyday life.
Underlying the issues that are dividing Anglicans and Christians of other traditions at the moment there is the single overarching issue of how to relate the teaching of Scripture to the moral issues facing Christians in the modern world. It is this issue which is addressed in the latest volume in Zondervan’s Counterpoint series. Although the title might suggest a broader remit, the focus of this volume is on how we can use the specific teachings contained in the Bible to make responsible Christian judgements about issues such as slavery, gambling or human sexuality. In the volume four Evangelical scholars, Walter C Kaiser, Daniel Doriani, Kevin Vanhoozer and William J Webb, offer four approaches to this issue, a ‘principilizing model’, a ‘redemptive historical model,’ a ‘drama of redemption model’ and a ‘redemptive movement model’ and each writer also offers a critique of the three alternative approaches. At the end of the volume there are also additional reflections from Mark L. Strauss, Al Wolters and Christopher Wright from the Church of England on the issues raised by these approaches. This volume could be seen as reflecting a purely intra-Evangelical debate. However, this is in fact a debate that should be of interest to any Christian of whatever tradition who accepts the Bible’s teaching as authoritative and wants to apply this teaching in an informed and responsible way.
The Armchair Theologians series from Westminster has been a consistently high quality series that has offered concise, accessible, but accurate accounts of the life and thought of a range of important figures from the Christian tradition including Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin and Martin Luther King. The latest volume in the series maintains the same high standards as its predecessors. It covers Bonhoeffer’s background and theological education; his time at Union Seminary in New York City; his involvement in the theological and political resistance to Nazism, his participation in the plot to assassinate Hitler and his imprisonment and final execution. It also gives a clear introduction to the main features of his thought. The cartoons by Ron Hill illustrating the text are humorous, though provoking and sometimes moving. Highly recommended to anyone wanting a brief, clear introduction to Bonhoeffer.
Thomas Long is the Professor of Preaching at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University in the United States. His new book argues the case for attempting to reclaim the classic Christian understanding of the purpose of funerals. He explains how the Christian funeral developed historically, theologically and liturgically and contends that at its heart there has been the idea of the deceased as a saint travelling on a baptismal journey toward God, accompanied by the community of faith on "the last mile of the way." He contends that this understanding of what a funeral is for is being eroded by a trend towards memorial services that focus primarily on helping mourners express and cope with grief and calls for the Church to seek to uphold the traditional view of the purpose of funerals. Long also describes the basic pattern for a funeral service, details options in funeral planning, identifies characteristics of a "good funeral," and provides thoughtful guidance for preaching at a funeral. This book reflects an American setting, but the trend that Long critiques is also powerful in this country and the book will be of interest to all who are responsible for thinking about the nature and conduct of funerals.
In this new study of the gospel accounts of Jesus’ relationships with women Joanna McGrath, who lectures in psychology at Heythrop College, explores what Jesus reveals about himself both as a real historical figure and a continuing living presence through these relationships. McGrath notes that there is a tendency for many Christians to see Jesus as a romantic hero akin to Jane Austen’s Mr Darcy. In her first chapter she explores what makes Mr Darcy so attractive and on the resonances with Jesus. She then goes on to argue that we need to move beyond seeing Jesus as a romantic hero and to see what the gospels tell us about what he was really like. In her view, the gospel accounts of Jesus’ encounters with women tell us that Jesus is fundamentally someone who raises people up by enabling them to reach their God given potential and thus become fully adult human beings. In her words ‘there is a direction of movement from a simple child-parent relationship with God to a child-parent and adult-adult relationship with God.’ This study will be of interest not just because of its conclusions about how Jesus related to women, but also because of what it says about how he relates to all human beings, both female and male.
This new history of the Mothers’ Union tells the story of what was originally a parish women’s meeting founded by a Victorian vicar’s wife developed into a global organisation that is now seen as a model of grass roots Christian engagement with issues of poverty and social transformation. The history arranges its material both chronologically and thematically. It describes how the Mothers’ Union empowered women in their homes, churches and communities and how the beliefs of its members led them to become advocates and activists long before women were able to vote or be ordained. It also explains how the Mothers’ Union survived a crisis over social and theological liberalism in the 1960s and is now able to provide a model of reconciled diversity to the wider Church. Case studies from Australia, Ghana and South Africa show how Mothers’ Union branches that were initially run by white women became indigenous organisations. This history will be of interest not only to those who want to know more about the story of the Mother’s Union itself , but also to those who want to know about the development of the role of women in the Church and the emergence of global Anglicanism.
In his new book, which is a fruit of study leave in 2007, the Bishop of Lincoln notes that while religion and faith are often seen as synonymous they are in fact radically different. He then further argues that what the world needs is more faith and less religion. ‘If religion is characterised by the recruitment of God to serve our agendas, and faith is about putting our agendas at the service of God, then clearly there is too much religion in the world and not enough faith.’ The book as a whole then works out this basic thesis in two parts. The first part, in the first eight chapters, apply this distinction between religion and faith to a number of areas of interest to those who desire to be people of faith in a world that is full of religion, looking at issues such as ‘faith, religion and redemption,’ ‘faith religion and revelation’ and ‘ministers of religion and people of faith.’ The second part, in the final three chapters, addresses a number of issues crucial for the future of organised religion in general and the Church of England in particular. This is a provocative and challenging work in the tradition of Kierkegaard, which forces its readers to think afresh about the relationship between organised religion and the Christian faith and whether it may be necessary to make a choice between them.