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Monday, 15 February 2010
February 2010 Book Selection
This new book on mission by the Director of Research at Ripon College Cuddesdon offers practical theological reflection on mission, combining theological expertise with reflections on a selection of case studies. There can often be a divide between theological thinking about mission and practical questions about how to best utilise the time and resources available to local churches. Helen Cameron seeks to bridge this divide by showing how practical theology and mission and ministry need to come together to strengthen the mission of the Church and by discussing specific issues such as the use of available time and money, different models of income, different models of leadership, the use of buildings, changing patterns of risk and regulation and approaches to decision making. This is a very useful study for anyone thinking about mission or engaged in it.
In recent years well known atheist authors such as Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens have published a series of well publicised books that have attacked both Christian belief and religion in general. In his new book Ian Markham, who taught theology in this country and is now President and Dean of Virginia Theological Seminary in the United States, takes on these authors on their own ground. He argues that they do not understand the nature of atheism, or the nature of theology and ethics. Drawing on ideas taken from Nietzsche, cosmology and art Markham also sets out a powerful case for a faith that is both grounded and yet also allows room for a proper uncertainty. This is a useful addition to the existing Christian responses to the ‘new atheism’ both in its criticism of the atheist case and in its positive account of the case for faith.
The publication of the book Jesus of Nazareth by Pope Benedict XVI was the first time that a reigning Pope had published his personal reflections on Jesus. In this book the Pope engaged with the witness of the New Testament and the Christian tradition and raised fundamental questions about the nature of New Testament scholarship and the historical criticism of the Bible. In this new volume edited by two theologians from the universities of Nottingham and Winchester leading scholars from the Britain, continental Europe and the United States engage with Pope Benedict’s study of Jesus from critical, cross disciplinary and different faith perspectives. Contributors to the volume include John Milbank, Richard Hays, Fergus Kerr and Mona Siddiqui. The volume will be of interest to all those who want to think further about the important issues concerning the study of the New Testament and the identity and significance of Jesus Christ raised by Pope Benedict’s work.
This new volume by Angus Paddison from the University of Winchester is a contribution to the continuing debate about the proper way to read and study the Bible. As the title of the volume suggests, Paddison’s proposal is that in order to be understood and read properly it has to be viewed in a theological context. Engaging with the work of P T Forsyth, Stanley Hauerwas and other recent writers on Scripture, he argues that Scripture is a text drawn into the activity of the Triune God of Israel, its ultimate destination is the worshiping church, it has a ministry in shaping Christian thinking and acting, and it cannot be isolated both from attention to Christ and the church in whose life it is embedded. Paddison also looks at the relationship between Scripture and ethics and Scripture and preaching and concludes by exploring what kind of university would be a hospitable place for the kind of theological study of the Bible that he describes. According to Professor John Webster ‘For clarity, penetration and purposefulness, the book has few equals, and it will surely prompt its readers to fresh attention to Scripture’s place in God’s saving communication.’
The issues of how to understand and care for the environment are becoming increasingly important in today’s world. Christians quite properly look to the Bible to provide resources for addressing these issues and although the Bible is full of material about how God created nature, the place of human beings within nature and how the natural world fits into the big story of God’s justice, love and redemption it is not always clear how what it has to say addresses the specific environmental issues that we now face. This new book from SPCK attempts to address this problem by providing seven Bible studies which look at how the Bible helps us to address contemporary questions such as ‘How well rooted are you in God’s creation?,’ ‘Can you take your ethics to the shops?’, ‘Does what you eat really make a difference?’ and ‘Is an environmentally friendly lifestyle just too painful to contemplate?’ This will be a very helpful resource for small groups wanting to think more deeply about environmental issues from a Christian perspective.
Because books and lecture courses on the Fathers often tend to concentrate on their contribution to the development of doctrine, liturgy and ecclesiology it can be easy to overlook the fact that the Fathers were also deeply concerned about social issues. The homilies by St Basil on the subject of wealth and poverty are good example of this concern. This volume in the SVS press Popular Patristics series, introduced and translated by the American Orthodox scholar C Paul Schroeder, contains four homilies from St Basil, To the Rich, I Will Tear Down My Barns, In Time of Famine and Drought and Against Those Who Lend at Interest, as well as the Pseudo-Basilian Homily On Mercy and Justice. Taken together these homilies contain a clear message ‘Simplify your life, so you have something to share with others.’ In a time when the disparity between rich and poor is growing and overuse of limited environmental resources is becoming a matter of increasing concern this message from St Basil remains startlingly relevant and this volume provides a very useful and accessible resource for helping Christians to understand it.
This new book from IVP is the final book from John Stott, who for over fifty years has been a leading Evangelical Anglican preacher, writer and statesman. As he explains in the Preface, Stott’s concern in this book is to encourage people into genuine, that is to say wholehearted, discipleship. Wholehearted discipleship is what Stott means by ‘radical’ discipleship and, as he says: ‘Our common way of avoiding radical discipleship is to be selective; choosing those areas in which commitment suits us and staying away from those areas in which it will be costly. But because Jesus is Lord, we have no right to pick and choose the areas in which we will submit to his authority.’ In order to explore the nature of radical discipleship in more detail, he then goes on in the rest of the book to explore eight characteristics of Christian discipleship, non-conformity, Christlikeness, maturity, creation-care, simplicity, balance, dependence and death. The chapters in this book are uneven in tone and some of the material has been published elsewhere, but the volume as a whole is marked by Stott’s hallmarks of fidelity to Scripture, thoroughness, clarity and balance and it is well worth reading (perhaps for Lent?) by any one who wants to reflect on the wholeheartedness of their own personal discipleship.
The Croatian theologian Miroslav Volf, who now teaches at Yale, has been widely admired for his previous books on reconciliation, Exclusion and Embrace, and ecclesiology, After Our Likeness: The Church As The Image Of The Trinity. His new book gathers together a series of essays that were first published in the journal The Christian Century from 1996-2008. The topics covered in these essays are ‘God and the Self,’ ‘The Reality of Evil and the Possibility of Hope,’ ‘Family Matters,‘ ‘Church,’ ‘Mission and Other Faiths,’ ‘Culture and Politics,’ ‘Giving and Forgiving,’ ‘Hope and Reconciliation’ and ‘Perspective.’ As Volf explains in his introduction to the collection,what gives unity to these essays is that they all ‘urge Christians to reflect on how to live the love that God is’ and that ‘all call for Christians to love ‘against the tide.’’ A compelling collection and a cohesive book that unerringly points away from pettiness and selfishness and toward the love Christians are called to exemplify. For readers just making Volf’s acquaintance, there could be no better introduction to this indispensable Christian thinker.