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Monday, 5 July 2010

July 2010 Book Selection

Here is a selection of books for July, all reviewed by Dr Martin Davie, the Theological Secretary to the bishops of the Church of England. All who are keen to keep up with current theology will find this selection a good place to start.

9 reviews are below, featuring works on ethics, inter-religious dialogue, contemplative prayer, video games and theology (!), a commentary on Joshua, and a systematic theology from the brilliant Jürgen Moltmann.

Just click on the read more link. Gute Lektüre!

Martyn Atkins, Resourcing Renewal: Shaping Churches for the Emerging Future, Epworth, ISBN 978-0-71620-668-2, £14.99
The Revd Dr Martyn Atkins is General Secretary of the Methodist Church in Great Britain and former Principal of Cliff College. The issue that he addresses in his new book is how the Church (in England) should respond to failing attendance; members who are leaving an organization they feel is no longer 'their' Church; and, the fact that the Church is seen as largely irrelevant in an increasingly secular age. One response would be to despair and give up, accepting that terminal decline is inevitable, but Atkins argues, by contrast, that times of fatigue and loss such as the Church is currently undergoing are in fact times of transition that can lead to genuine renewal and greater opportunities for the work of the Holy Spirit. Resourcing Renewal points to ways in which such renewal is taking place, giving snapshots of new and innovative worship, new forms of evangelism and exciting new ministries. Atkins summons clergy, laity and Christian organizations to remember their calling, and to 'prepare for renewal as it if all depended on you and to know that it depends completely on God.’ A helpful call to look for and work for renewal rather than simply try to manage decline.

Malcolm Brown, Tensions in Christian Ethics: An Introduction, SPCK, ISBN 978-0-28105-827-3, £9.99
The Revd Dr Malcolm Brown is head of the Church of England’s Mission and Public Affairs division, having previously been Principal of the Eastern Region Ministry Course (ERMC) within the Cambridge Theological Federation. (Many of our Diocese in Europe clergy have trained at ERMC). Dr Brown’s academic specialisation is Christian ethics and this new book builds on his experience of teaching this subject at undergraduate and postgraduate level at Cambridge. Its purpose is to introduce the reader to central issues in Christian ethics through a careful examination of the fundamental questions posed for ethics by our contemporary context, whether this is viewed as a new phase of modernity or as post-modernity. Drawing on sources and authors from a variety of Christian traditions, and from Britain, the USA and Europe, Brown explores the main figures and theories currently important in the field of Christian ethics and considers a range of key ethical issues, including just war theory, human rights, the market and human sexuality. This is an important resource for students and for all those wishing for an up-to-date introduction to Christian ethical thinking.

Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales, Meeting God in Friend and Stranger, CTS, ISBN 978-1860826634, £5.95
Sub titled ‘fostering respect and mutual understanding between the religions',Meeting God in Friend and Stranger is a teaching document of the [Roman] Catholic Bishops of England and Wales. Its purpose is to encourage members of the Roman Catholic community to look upon interreligious dialogue as an essential part of their Christian witness in Britain today. This document draws on the teaching of Scripture, the Second Vatican Council and the Popes, and in it the bishops reflect on dialogue with believers of other religions as a contemporary challenge for Roman Catholics within their local communities. They start by looking at the changing face of Britain today, they then explain what interreligious dialogue means in the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church and finally they provide guidance for the more practical aspects of interreligious dialogue, giving examples of good practice from the Roman Catholic community within England and Wales. Although it is primarily addressed to Roman Catholics there is nonetheless much in this document that Anglicans and Christian of other traditions will also find helpful. It forms a useful complement to the work recently undertaken by the Church of England in this area.

Craig Detweiler (ed), Halos and Avatars: Playing Video Games with God, Westminister/ John Knox Press, ISBN 978-0664232771, £12.99
An increasingly important feature of our modern culture is the role played within it by video games and other online media. This new book of essays edited by the American scholar Craig Detweiler provides an up-to-date introduction to the theological issues raised by this phenomenon. In these essays well informed contributors address timely topics such as video games as the new storytelling medium; the theological implications of violent or apocalyptic video games like Halo 3, Grand Theft Auto IV, and Resident Evil; the impact of avatars, “second lives,” and social networks on our spiritual lives; the competitive aspects of gaming and the nature of play in Madden NFL and Guitar Hero; the active future of gaming (and faith) accompanying the Wii; medical ethics and theology in controversial games such as BioShock; and the rise of Islamogaming, analyzing how games can function as tools of identity formation and social protest for minority religions. Additional material includes interviews with current game designers, including Rand Miller, co- creator of Myst and Riven, and a helpful chapter from the Fuller Youth Institute on how parents and ministers can effectively talk to teens about gaming. Although this book reflects an American perspective, the international nature of the video games industry makes what it says relevant to Europe as well. This is a helpful tool for anyone who wants to begin to engage theologically with a key aspect of contemporary life, particularly amongst young people.

Robin Gill, New Challenges for Christians, SPCK, ISBN 978-0-28106-280-5, £12.99
The sub-title of this new book by the Michael Ramsey Professor of Theology at the University of Kent is ‘from test tube babies to euthanasia’ and this sub-title indicates what the book is about. Building in part on material previously published in the Church Times, Professor Gill explains the new challenges for Christians raised by recent developments in ethical thinking and medical and scientific research and invites them to think how to respond to these challenges in a well-informed and responsible fashion. The topics which are covered are genetics and stem cells, abortion and fertility treatment, doctors and patients, sexuality and families and assisted dying. This book is an accessible introduction to a key set of issues which are central to current public discussion of ethical matters and on which Christians need to make an informed contribution.

John Main OSB, Moment of Christ: Prayer as the Way to God’s Fullness, Canterbury Press, ISBN 978-1-84825-020-8, £9.99
This is the last book written by the Benedictine writer on spirituality John Main. In it he addresses the issue of Christian meditation and declares 'Learning to meditate is the most practical thing in the world. You require only one quality when you begin. That is seriously to want to learn - The central message of the New Testament is that there is really only one prayer and that this prayer is the prayer of Christ. It is a prayer that continues in our heart day and night.' According to Main, this ‘prayer of Christ’ is the stream of love that flows constantly between Jesus and his Father. The most important goal for any fully human life is that we should become receptive to this stream of love and the way that we achieve this is through stillness and silence before God. As Archbishop Rowan has noted, Main takes the understanding of prayer developed by the Desert Fathers of the fourth and fifth centuries, and by John Cassian in particular, and puts it to work in our day and the result is an important resource for individuals and groups of Christians wanting to explore the tradition of contemplative prayer.

J G McConville and Stephen Williams, Joshua, Eerdmans, ISBN 978-0-80282-702-9 £12.99
This new commentary on Joshua is part of the Eerdmans ‘two horizons’ commentary series that attempts to bring together ‘theological exegesis and theological reflection.’ In the case of the book of Joshua the key theological question that is raised for many people is how to make Christian sense of a book in which the violent occupation of land is not simply presented, but celebrated? How can we reconcile that with the key role the book plays in the biblical drama of salvation? How can we understand the God revealed in Joshua in relation to the God revealed in Christ? In their commentary McConville and Williams address such questions and place the book in its proper place in the biblical canon as a whole. McConville deals specifically with the commentary and exegesis of the text. Williams then moves in to focus on issues of interpretation. He addresses key theological themes, such as land, covenant, law, miracle, judgment (with the problem of genocide), and idolatry. The authors argue that the theological topics addressed in Joshua are not limited by the horizons of the author and first readers of the book, but that Joshua forms part of a much larger biblical testimony about God and his ways which is still relevant to readers today. This is an important commentary for anyone wanting to understand Joshua either exegetically or theologically.

Jürgen Moltmann, Sun of Righteousness Arise! – God’s Future for Humanity and the Earth, SCM, ISBN 978-0-33404-348-5, £25.00
Jürgen Moltmann is Professor Emeritus of Systematic Theology at the University of Tübingen. He is one of the most important post-war, post-Holocaust theologians and his books such as Theology of Hope, The Crucified God and God in Creation have influenced the last two generations of theological thought both in Germany and around the world. In his latest book, which draws together the ways in which his thought has developed since Theology of Hope, Moltmann seeks to put forward an integrated Christian vision of the world that is based on the Bible, history and the Christian theological tradition and that also reflects our contemporary understandings of nature and the evolving universe. This vision is anchored in the resurrection of Jesus and affirms that God is the God of resurrection promise, that God is present in justice and righteousness, that Jesus is the son of righteousness, and nature can be seen as the site of God's work toward the fulfilment of life. A useful book for anyone who wants to think through what an overall big picture account of ‘life, the universe and everything’ should look like from a Christian perspective.

John Pritchard, Living Jesus, SPCK, ISBN 978-0281060405, £9.99
In this new book the Bishop of Oxford considers the effect that Jesus’ life, teaching, death and resurrection have had on the world, the Church, culture, and above all human lives. John Pritchard’s aim is described by the publisher as being ‘to present Jesus as a fascinating, multi-dimensional figure who is worth any reflective person's serious engagement.’ Archbishop Desmond Tutu calls the book a ‘richly engaging study’ that ‘vividly conveys how opening our hearts to Christ can release the transformative power of love to flow through our lives and into our broken and needy world.’ Although it is not overtly evangelistic, this book would make a good basis for evangelistic presentations about Jesus and would be something useful to give to a serious enquirer seeking to understand the significance of Jesus both as a historical figure and as someone who lives today.

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