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Monday, 12 April 2010
April 2010 Book Selection
This month a wide range of subjects is covered: liturgy, Pauline writings, Christology, pastoral theology, apologetics, ethics and social teaching, and spirituality. Of particular note is the new book by the Revd Dr Charlotte Methuen, a former Director of Training in this diocese.
10 reviews are below. Just click on the read more link. Bonne lecture!
In his new book, the Bishop of Ebbsfleet considers the issue of whether the simplification of liturgical practice that has taken place in recent years is connected with the decline in the appeal of public worship during the same period. Has this decline been linked to the loss of a sense of mystery in worship that has resulted from the attempt to make the language and style of worship more accessible? Looking at the history of the development of Anglican worship of the last five centuries and drawing on the wider Catholic and Orthodox traditions, Bishop Andrew also explores what a renewal of the liturgy for today’s church might look like and how what he calls the ‘re-enchantment of worship’ would work in practice. This book is an important call to re-consider the way in which the Church of England’s liturgical practice has developed in recent years and its argument needs to be pondered by all those responsible for the future development of Anglican public worship.
Tim Chester, Captured by a Better Vision, IVP, ISBN 978-1-84474-435-0, £8.99.
Aided in part by the development of the internet, pornography has now reached epidemic proportions in British society and is now a major problem within the Church as well as outside it. In his new book, Tim Chester, who was formerly research and policy director for Tearfund and is now involved in a church planting initiative in Sheffield, addresses this problem. He exposes the lies and deceptions involved in pornography and invites us to be fully free from it, showing positively and practically how this can be possible. He argues that as human beings we were made to be satisfied with God alone and that the proper alternative to the enticements of pornography is the ‘better vision’ of the glory and beauty of Christ, a vision that, like pornography, can captivate us, but that, unlike pornography, does not lead to embarrassment, shame, or remorse. This is an important book for those struggling with pornography and those seeking to help them.
We live at a time in which there is a vigorous secularist lobby that argues that the continuing existence of religion is an impediment to the development of a civilized society. As its subtitle suggests, this new book by the journalist, author and broadcaster Peter Hitchens puts the opposite point of view. In it Hitchens charts his own return to traditional Christian faith from far left politics and explains why he believes that modern western social democratic politics is a form of false religion, that political utopianism is positively dangerous and that liberty and law are attainable human objectives and are the by-products of Christian faith. Hitchens contends that the best antidote to utopianism is faith because it counters the idea of earthly perfection, discourages people from acting as if they were God and encourages them instead to act in the belief that there is a God and consequently an ordered, purposeful universe, governed by an unalterable law. This is a helpful antidote to the current wave of secularist propaganda and a useful book to give away to people influenced by it.
In his new book the well-known Roman Catholic journalist and commentator Austen Ivereigh looks at the issue of how it is possible to build on Roman Catholic social teaching in order to make a positive difference to the society of which we are a part. He focuses on the work of London Citizens, an alliance of grass-roots organisations including churches, mosques and trade unions and shows how it puts into everyday practice the themes and methods of papal teaching on the common good, subsidiarity, solidarity and justice through building the power of civil society to hold decision makers to account. Drawing on interviews with those involved with London Citizens, Ivereigh shows how its victories in areas such as combating low wages, creating safer neighbourhoods and helping undocumented immigrants are achieved through the methods of community organising, first developed in the poor areas of Chicago in the 1940s and recently made famous by President Obama. This book will be of interest to those who want to know more about the practical importance of Catholic social teaching for today’s world.
Much modern biblical scholarship sees the Song of Songs as simply a collection of lyrics about human love. This understanding of the book raises questions about the place of the book within the biblical canon and its significance for Christian theology. Is the book simply to be seen as an encouragement to the acceptance of the value of human love? Going back to an older tradition of reading which understood the book in mystical terms, Sister Edmée Kingsmill suggests an alternative way of reading it. In her new study of the Song of Songs, which is based on her Oxford D.Phil thesis, she argues that it needs to read against the background of the Old Testament’s use of human love as a symbol for the love between God and human beings. As she sees it, a close study of its allusions to other biblical writings shows that the purpose of the book is to provide an alternative picture to the description of spiritual adultery in the Old Testament prophets. In contrast to this it describes what the relationship between God and his people is meant to be like and as such its canonical function is to encourage all people to love the God of love. Although expensive, this book is worth getting hold of as an important study of a part of the Old Testament that is often either neglected or misunderstood.
Martin Luther and John Calvin are hugely important and hugely controversial figures in the history of the Christian Church. However, what they actually believed and taught has often been misunderstood and misrepresented. In her new book, Dr Charlotte Methuen, who lectures in Church history at Ripon College, Cuddesdon, seeks to dispel this misunderstanding and to explain what Luther and Calvin really said. In the book she explores why it is important for us to know what Luther and Calvin thought and looks in turn at Luther and Calvin in their historical context, what Luther said and what Calvin said, the arguments that developed about what Luther and Calvin said and how Luther and Calvin have shaped our world. This book will be very useful to anyone who wants an accessible introduction to (or refresher course in) the life, teaching and influence of Luther and Calvin written in the light of up-to-date historical scholarship.
Steve Moyise, Paul and Scripture, SPCK, ISBN 978-0-28106-103-7, £12.99. Even a cursory glance at the letters of St. Paul will soon show that the use of the Old Testament is at the heart of his theology. This means that in order to understand St Paul’s theology rightly we have to understand properly his use of the Old Testament. This new book by the Professor of New Testament at the University of Chichester provides a very helpful exploration of this issue. It explains the various ways in which Scripture is used in St Paul’s writings and how particular Old Testament texts were influential in his overall understanding of God’s purposes for the world and his approach to particular issues such as the constitution of the Church, the nature of faith and the role of the law. Professor Moyise is one of the leading international experts in this field and this accessible introduction will be useful for anyone who wants to update their own thinking about St Paul’s use of the Old Testament or who wants a reliable text to recommend to those who are beginning their studies in this area.
The starting point of this book by two Roman Catholic scholars is the observation that although in recent years there have been many studies in the areas of Christology and soteriology and important ecumenical statements on ministry, there has been relatively little reflection on the priesthood of Christ, even though this is the foundation of all Christian ministry, whether ordained or lay. In order to rectify the neglect of this topic, the book examines in the light of Scripture and the Christian tradition what it means to call Jesus our priest. The bulk of the books traces the development of thinking about Jesus’ priesthood from the Bible to the Second Vatican Council and looks at the contribution to this development made by both Roman Catholic and Protestant theologians. Two concluding chapters then look at twelve theses setting out the key characteristics of Jesus’ priesthood and what it means to share in that priesthood through baptism and ordination. This is an important and up-to-date study that will help anyone who wants to think about the relationship between Jesus’ ministry and our own.
Archbishop Rowan’s new book, written in partnership with the American Benedictine writer Joan Chittister, looks at what it means to use the word ‘alleluia,’ a word that is often used in Christian worship, but the meaning of which is rarely considered. Drawing on the use of the word in the Old and New Testaments and in the liturgical tradition of the Orthodox Church, the book suggests that using the word summons us to see the whole of life ‘as one long Alleluia moment.’ That is to says, it calls us to discover the richness and manifestations of God even when they are hidden from us and to learn to give thanks even for those aspects of life for which we are not normally grateful. The book also seeks to provide practical answers to the question of how we develop this way of viewing the word so that we can say, in the famous words of Dag Hammerskold, ‘For all that has been, thanks…for all that shall be, yes.’ This book will be helpful to many people as an important exploration of what it means to live a thankful Christian life.
Given the inescapable importance of money in our own lives and in the life of the world, the issue of how we should understand money theologically and how we should therefore use it is one with which all Christians need to be concerned. Because of New Testament is foundational for Christian theology we need to begin our thinking about money by looking at what the New Testament has to say about it and this is where the new book by the distinguished American New Testament scholar Ben Witherington comes into the picture. In this book Professor Witherington explores what the Bible does and does not say about the subject of money. He provides a clear and concise account of what Jesus and the Early Church taught about wealth, poverty, money, debt, tithing, and sacrificial giving. This is a helpful book for anyone, whether ordained or lay, who wants to think about the proper role of money in modern Christian life from a New Testament perspective.