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Sunday, 29 April 2012

April 2012 Book Reviews

Eight worthy volumes reviewed this month. 

I know our Diocesan Environmental Officer, Madeleine Holmes, will want us all to read A Heart for Creation. The Cranmer work will be a useful gift for ecumenical partners on the continent who wish to know more about this seminal Anglican theologian and liturgist. The Ward / Coakley volume on Anglicans relating to Islam is written from a UK perspective, but will be valuable to our own, particularly urban congregations in Europe. But there is so much more, just so little time to get through it all! 

Bună lectură!

For  the reviews press the read more button.

R J Berry (ed), The Lion Handbook of Science and Religion, Lion, ISBN 978-0-745953-465, £25.00
Down the years the Lion Handbook series has produced a range of consistently high quality introductions to the Bible, Church History and Theology that have produced a helpful way into serious study of these subjects for the intelligent non-specialist reader. This latest addition to the series, edited by Professor R J Berry of University College London, provides a helpful introduction to the whole range of issues involved in the relationship between Christianity and the natural sciences. In addition to Professor Berry, contributors to this volume include other distinguished writers on science and religion such as Dennis Alexander, Alan Padgett and David Wilkinson and the topics that it covers are ‘The nature of things’, ‘Science, faith and the Bible,’ ‘Physical and earth sciences’, ‘Life sciences’, ‘Humanity and humanness’ and ‘Science, ethics and Christianity’. There is also a list of important people and events in the history of the meeting of science and religion. Fully illustrated and accessibly written, this handbook provides an up-to-date and authoritative survey of the entire history of the relationship between science and Christianity. It covers important historical events in the interaction between science and faith, explores the relationship between scientific knowledge and biblical interpretation and introduces recent scientific developments such as cloning, the human genome, GM crops, nuclear power, artificial intelligence, and gravity as an explanation for the origins of the Universe. The Intelligent Design movement and theories on how the world may end are also covered. At the moment this is the book to give to someone who wants an introduction to science and religion.

Mervyn Davies and Graham Dodds, Leadership in the Church for a People of Hope, T&T Clark, ISBN 978-0-56701-407-8, £18.99 (Kindle Edition also available)
The Reverend Prebendary Dr Graham Dodds is Principal of the School of Formation, Diocese of Bath and Wells and advisor of the Bishop of Bath and Wells in educational matters. Mervyn Davies is Scholar-in-Residence at Sarum College, Salisbury, and honorary Senior Lecturer in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at Bristol University. Their new book looks at church leadership in the twenty first century, asking how forms of leadership in the Church can adapt in order to meet contemporary needs while at the same time remaining true to the Church’s theological foundations. Many leadership studies either ignore the need for leadership to be properly ecclesiologically grounded and hence risk simply uncritically importing secular models, or put forward a simplistic biblical view of leadership which fails to make creative use of what can be learned from secular leadership studies. Davies and Dodds seek to avoid both these errors. This book is intended to bring together the ‘two languages of organisational theory on the one hand and theology and spirituality on the other and to relate them to ecclesiology, that is, the Church’s understanding of itself.’ This volume ‘is intended not so much as a practical manual for leadership (although some suggestions are included), but as a theological exploration which seeks to clarify some of the confusion about the Church and its ministry. It is an ecumenical study bringing together insights from different parts of the Christian Church and their traditions and as such is an example of what is called receptive ecumenism in which denominations of the Church learn from each other rather than emphasising differences and problems.’ This book is aimed at clergy, ordinands, Christians in secular employment and ‘the interested and concerned reader who wishes to explore a practical ecclesiology that tries to unravel some important theological issues and problems.’ All these target audiences will find much which they can learn from this helpful study.  

Jonathan Dean, God Truly Worshipped: A Thomas Cranmer Reader, Canterbury Press: ISBN 978-1-84825-048-2, £19.99 
This volume by the Revd Dr Jonathan Dean, a historian of the Reformation who is the Professor of Religion at Aurora University in the United States, is the latest addition to the ‘Canterbury Studies in Spiritual Theology’ series. It is a book that introduces its readers to Cranmer’s thought through a series of extracts from his writings. Archbishop Cranmer is still generally acknowledged as the major theologian of the English Reformation, the English equivalent of Luther or Calvin. However, actual first hand acquaintance with his writings is becoming rarer. This is because the use of the Book of Common Prayer and the 1662 Ordinal, which are mostly Cranmer’s work, is declining, and because even those in training for ministry are no longer studying Cranmer’s legacy in the Thirty Nine Articles or the First Book of Homilies in the way that they once did. In addition the Parker Society editions of Cranmer’s writing are out of print. Professor Dean addresses this situation by offering a series of selections from Cranmer’s liturgical works, his homilies, his doctrinal writings and statements and his correspondence that together illustrate Cranmer’s growth and development as a theologian, liturgist and leader of the Church. This will be a very useful resource for anyone wanting to introduce students to Cranmer through his own words.  

Chris Polhill, A Heart for Creation, Wild Goose Publications, ISBN 978-1-90501-067-7, £16.99
The fifth of the five Anglican ‘Marks of Mission’ is ‘to strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth.’ Over recent decades Anglicans have become increasingly aware of the importance of this aspect of mission and the new book by the Revd Christine Polhill of the Diocese of Lichfield provides a useful collection of resources to help people play their part in it. The author explains that the book is offered ‘as a space for reflection on the environmental challenges that face us now and which will confront us in the years to come, and as a resource for preparing worship with an environmental theme.’ The book is in five sections, each of which expresses a different aspect of the Christian theological journey. The first section is ‘celebrating creation,’ the second is ‘lamenting the damage to creation,’ the third is ‘action for change,’ the fourth is ‘the struggle to change’ and the fifth is ‘transformation’ showing that ‘there will be good surprises from the changes we make.’ Each section begins with a theological reflection and there are then a selection of liturgical resources combined with further reflections and stories that illustrate ‘how people are already bringing, or trying to bring about, change.’ The section on ‘action for change’ also contains a ‘six week challenge’ in which for each day a fact about an environmental is combined with a practical challenge and a Bible reading/prayer. This book can be recommended for anyone who wants to develop their own understanding of caring for the environment as an integral part of mission or who wants to help their church to reflect on this issue and then take appropriate action.

Stanley E Porter and Jason C Robinson, Hermeneutics: An Introduction to Interpretive Theory, Eerdmans, ISBN 978-0-80286-657-8, £19.99 (Kindle edition also available)
Because of the importance for Christianity of the Bible and other writings, hermeneutics, the theory and practice of the interpretation of written texts, is something that every serious student of theology needs to know about. Discussion of how to interpret texts has been going on for thousands of years, but the modern study of hermeneutics has developed over the past two hundred years. In their new book Professor Stanley Porter of McMaster Divinity College and Professor Jason Robinson of Wilfrid Laurier University provide us with a helpful overview of the way in which hermeneutics has developed during these two centuries, taking a helpful middle line between an all-inclusive survey that moves too quickly over the surface of complex issues and a specialized volume that focuses on a single, narrow topic. They provide a critical analysis of major movements and figures in the development of hermeneutics in the modern era, from Friedrich Schleiermacher and Martin Heidegger to Anthony Thiselton and Alan Culpepper, and explain how these have influenced biblical and theological study. This is a book which will be useful both to those new to hermeneutics who want an orientation in the discipline and to those who already know something about the subject, but want to be stimulated to think further about it.

Paul Valliere  Conciliarism:  A History of Decision Making in the Church, CUP, ISBN 978-1-10701-574-6, £ 60.00 (Kindle Edition also available)
One of the salutary features of the debates about the Anglican Covenant that have been taking place in the dioceses in recent weeks is the way in which these debates have highlighted the widespread ignorance that exists in the Church of England about the nature and importance of the conciliar principle of church government. There seems to be almost no understanding that the traditional ecclesiology of Anglicanism, as reflected in the Anglican Covenant, is an expression of a tradition of governing the Church by means of councils that goes back to the New Testament itself. A good starting point for combating this ignorance is this new book by Professor Paul Valliere, an Anglican scholar from Butler University in the United States. Professor Valliere defines conciliarism as ‘decision making by means of councils, that is to say, by means of formally constituted, trans-local leadership assemblies called together to resolve issues affecting the life and ministry of the Church.’ In his book he traces the roots of conciliarism in the New Testament and then explores its development in the Patristic period and the Middle Ages and its continuing importance since the Reformation. In the final two chapters he looks at the development of conciliarism within Anglicanism. Valliere argues that ‘nothing demonstrates the need for a fresh look at the means of ecclesiastical government than the threatened or emergent schisms assaulting historical churches at the present time’ and in his study of conciliarism he shows how the conciliar tradition of the Christian. past can serve as a resource for resolving the conflicts in the Church today. Professor Valliere presents an understanding of conciliarism which draws on a historical legacy, but which leads us forward, not backward, and which keeps the Church's collective eyes on the prize of the eschatological kingdom of God. Like Paul Avis’ earlier study of conciliarism Beyond the Reformation (T&T Clark 2008), it provides an excellent (if, in Valliere’s case, expensive!) resource for anyone who wants to think seriously about how the churches can combat the divisions with which they are now increasingly threatened.

Timothy B Walsh, To Meet and Satisfy A Very Hungry People, Paternoster Press, ISBN 978-184227-576-4, £24.99.
The Paternoster Press series ‘Studies in Evangelical History and Theology ‘has produced a wealth of important scholarly studies in the history and theology of Evangelicalism. This new study by Dr Timothy Walsh, Associate Lecturer at Regents Theological College, the Elim Bible College at West Malvern, is a worthy new addition to the series. It is an exploration of ‘The origins and fortunes of English Pentecostalism 1907-1925.’  This period covers the initial arrival of Pentecostalism in this country following the original Azusa Street revival in Los Angeles in 1906, its expansion and eventually the founding of the two traditional Pentecostal denominations in England,  the Elim Churches in 1915 and the Assemblies of God in 1924. Dr Walsh’s work looks at how the Pentecostal message initially came to England, highlighting reasons for its appeal to an initially small constituency, and traces its development in specific locations which ranged from an Anglican vestry, to a mission hall platform and a domestic drawing room. Its chief purpose is to examine the origins and emergence of a distinctively English version of the Pentecostal phenomenon. It fills a gap in British Pentecostal scholarship by explaining the original nature of the Pentecostal movement in this country and how its development was shaped by issues of churchmanship and spirituality. It also explains why Pentecostalism eventually developed a separate denominational identity even though it originally took root in an Anglican context at All Saints Monkwearmouth in Sunderland and why that denominational identity took the form of two churches rather than one. This will become a standard reference work for anyone wanting to explore the early history of English Pentecostalism and is well worth reading by anyone who wants to know more about this subject.

Frances Ward and Sarah Coakley (eds), Fear and Friendship: Anglicans engaging with Islam, Continuum, ISBN 978-1-44110-149-5, £14.99
As a result of both immigration and conversion to Islam there are now a large number of places in the UK where Anglican and Muslims live side by side. This fact raises the question of how Anglicans and Muslims should relate to each other and this is the issue that is helpfully explored in this new book edited by Frances Ward, the Dean of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, and Sarah Coakley, Norris-Hulse Professor of Divinity at Cambridge. The book, which is based on stories of actual encounters between Anglicans and Muslims in the life of parishes and cathedrals, first all of explores the reasons why encounters between Anglicans and Muslims can be marked by fear. There can be fear of the unknown and the different and also fear of getting things wrong, of causing offence or of the presence of ulterior motives. The book then goes on to look at how such fear can be addressed by the fostering of friendship. It portrays friendship as a risky venture that involves honest negotiation, self-sacrifice and a seeking after the truth, but argues that when friendship develops it can enable relations of trust and depth to develop and lead to meaningful dialogue rooted in mutual courtesy and respect. The book’s overall contention is even if clergy and congregations feel unprepared for, or wary of, the development of relations with their Muslim neighbours, the practice of friendship can be an important means by which Anglicans can contribute to social cohesion in religiously pluralistic societies. A useful resource for all who want to think further about the issues it covers.

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