November 18, 2015 By Mason Slater
The prophetic message itself now follows: “One who rules over people justly, ruling in the fear of God, is like the light of morning, like the sun rising on a cloudless morning, gleaming from the rain on the grassy land” (2 Sam. 23:3–4). The trope of sun for king is a fairly common one throughout the ancient Near East—Hammurabi comes readily to mind—and the morning dew probably refers to the fruitfulness that comes from the meeting of just leadership and an obedient people.
To be sure, the classical philosophical tradition placed great emphasis on the indispensability of upright rule. One needs only to think of Plato’s philosopher-king or Aristotle’s just monarch who reigns for the sake of the common good. But what is most interesting in this context is how the line functions as a summary of the entire Davidic narrative, which has been a sustained meditation on kingship.
From the time of Adam, the human race has required good leadership. Without rightly ordered kingship, the garden devolves into a desert, and human beings become the victims of threatening powers. David’s emergence as a righteous king, ruling in accord with divine purposes, was the condition for the possibility of Israel’s flourishing as a prosperous empire. And his devolution into unrighteous leadership led by a short road to disaster both political and religious. When law, governance, and power become simply the means for the king’s aggrandizement or tools by which he can manipulate the people, the nation falls into deep dysfunction.
If Plato’s criterion for measuring right rule is the realm of the forms and Aristotle’s the intuition of virtue, the Bible’s criterion is none other than the lordship of God. Next, the singer makes another reference to the Nathan prophecy: “Is not my house like this with God? For he has made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and secure” (2 Sam. 23:5). The tragedy, of course, is that the well-ordered kingdom began to fall apart in David’s own lifetime and definitively splintered during the reign of his son. The only house that fulfills the expectation expressed here is the house of Christ’s body, which proves across time that the God of Israel is eternally faithful to his promises.
©2015 by Robert Barron. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.
November 17, 2015 By Mason Slater
This one-volume guide, the first collection of the ECT statements, explores the key accomplishments of this groundbreaking, ongoing dialogue. Introductions and notes provide context and discuss history and future prospects. The book also includes prefaces by J. I. Packer and Cardinal Timothy Dolan, a foreword by George Weigel, and an epilogue by R. R. Reno and Kevin J. Vanhoozer.
You can read the excerpt in full here.
“Since the founding of ECT more than twenty years ago, Evangelicals and Catholics have learned much from one another and our joint commitment to biblical and doctrinal truth. We live in an age when the very idea of truth is often called into question. And yet we believe that the Bible teaches God’s truth, a truth that is able to be known and understood, appropriated and lived, under the agency of the Holy Spirit. It is the task of ECT to formulate that truth in a way that assists contemporary men and women to live as committed disciples of Jesus of Nazareth.
Not long before his death in 2009, Richard Neuhaus made clear that he wished to see the important work undertaken by ECT continue. Chuck Colson, too, just months before his own passage to God in 2012, was insistent that ECT was one of the most powerful initiatives in the United States for communicating the truth of the gospel. No matter the obstacles, he said, Evangelicals and Catholics must stand side by side in their public witness to biblical truth. The intention of ECT is to continue the prophetic mission of its founders.
Evangelicals and Catholics do not know how or when Christian unity will come about but look forward to that day when we are fully united in the common witness for which Jesus Christ himself prayed. Our prayer is that God may continue to bless the work of Evangelicals and Catholics Together.”
November 12, 2015 By Mason Slater
Psalm 16 takes its place in Christian scripture and eventually in the creed through Peter’s speech to the baffled Jews gathered in Jerusalem on the festival of Shavuot (Pentecost), which celebrates the giving of the law at Sinai. Acts reports that the Holy Spirit rushed upon the disciples, undoing the curse of Babel to enable them to become apostles and proclaim the news in all languages; Jesus of Nazareth had risen from death (Acts 2).
Peter quotes Ps. 16:8–11 (Acts 2:25–28) to explain that David (in Ps. 16) spoke of Jesus’s resurrection in the psalm’s promise of escaping death and abiding forever (16:9–11). Furthermore, the author of Acts reads the resurrection through Ps. 16 to suggest that Jesus was exalted at the right hand of God (Acts 2:33 reflecting Ps. 16:10). Reading this interpretation of the psalm in Acts (reinforced by Ps. 110:1), the later theological tradition inscribed it in the second article of both the Apostles’ and the Nicene creeds to teach the ascension and session of Christ at the right hand of the Father.
The Christian reception of Ps. 16 illustrates a reading strategy that quite transforms the original pedagogy. The general counsel for a morally flourishing and satisfying life with God morphs into a uniquely Christian vision of adhering to the risen Lord, with the commendation to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins and the reception of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).
Christianity is born by wrestling with ancient texts in light of startling events that require textual grounding in order to be theologically warranted. The Christian reading of David’s psalm is a fresh instruction for people in a quite different context than the one the psalmist originally attributed to David. But the underlying hope is the same. The psalmist reads David’s life, and the author of Acts reads Peter reading the psalmist’s read of David’s experience to the same end: as the “way of life” (Ps. 16:11) for those who “set the Lord always before them” (Ps. 16:8).
©2015 by Ellen T. Charry. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.
November 10, 2015 By Mason Slater
The biblical psalms are perhaps the most commented-upon texts in human history. They are at once deeply alluring and deeply troubling.
In this addition to the acclaimed Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible, Ellen Charry offers a theological reading of Psalms 1-50, exploring the various voices in the poems to discern the conversation they engage about God, suffering, and hope as well as ways of community belonging. The commentary examines the context of the psalms as worship–tending to both their original setting and their subsequent Jewish and Christian appropriation–and explores the psychological dynamics facing the speaker.
The book includes a foreword by William P. Brown.
Ellen T. Charry (PhD, Temple University) is Margaret W. Harmon Professor of Theology at Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, New Jersey. She is the author of numerous articles and several books, including God and the Art of Happiness. Charry has served on the editorial boards of the Scottish Journal of Theology and Pro Ecclesia and currently serves as an editor-at-large for The Christian Century.
Praise for Psalms 1-50:
“It is a wonder and a gift to have a systematic theologian slow down and focus attention on the particularity of biblical texts. No one doing theology can do that more effectively than Charry.” – Walter Brueggemann, Columbia Theological Seminary
“Ellen Charry’s exposition of Psalms 1-50 is in a class of its own as a theological exposition of an Old Testament book….I shall often come back to this commentary.” – John Goldingay, Fuller Theological Seminary
“A very thoughtful, theological reflection on the Psalter. Truly to be commended is the seriousness with which Charry takes up the settings provided by the Psalm titles themselves as well as the questions raised by Jewish and Christian interpreters over the centuries….Allows the theological depth of the Psalter to open up new vistas for the religious life.” – Gary A. Anderson, University of Notre Dame
“Grounded in a close reading of the text, this widely useful volume steadily demonstrates how the psalmists discover and rediscover God’s faithfulness.” – Ellen F. Davis, Duke Divinity School
“Bringing deep theological wisdom and human experience to reading and hearing the Psalms, Ellen Charry has given us a beautiful commentary in every way–exegetical, theological, and pastoral.” – Patrick D. Miller, Princeton Theological Seminary
“The Psalms are daily bread for the broken hearted. Ellen Charry reads them this way and in doing so opens her commentary for my Jewish eyes as well as the eyes of her many Christian readers.” – Peter Ochs, University of Virginia
“By asking how psalms relate to but also challenge later Christian theology, Ellen Charry reads them as part of the Christian’s Bible without claiming they speak specifically of Christ. As a result, her commentary will interest–and truly guide–people of more than one faith.” – Benjamin D. Sommer, Jewish Theological Seminary
November 6, 2015 By Mason Slater
James K.A. Smith was interviewed at The Living Church.
Do you plan to write a book at a more popular level, more in line with your talks that have been broadcast on YouTube?
Yes, it’s called You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit (2016). When I wrote Desiring the Kingdom, I thought it was a popular book. Only an academic could make that mistake! In my talks I translate more of my concepts into metaphors. With this new book I reworked what works in the talks and developed some stickier metaphors. I’ve added new material on family and household, children and youth, and faith and work. I’ve tried to write it with a little more verve and scriptural cadences. It’s coming out in March.
An invaluable resource, not only for understanding the operation of the Trinity in the everyday stuff of life, but for the shaping of worldviews and ideas we hold of what God has to do with our personal lives. I can’t recommend this volume enough. It crosses literary boundaries and may be enjoyed by the apologist and the layman, the pastor and the congregant.
November 4, 2015 By Mason Slater
Wherever Elijah goes, life breaks out, abundantly, since he is the bearer of the word and presence of the life-giving creator. By providing food for the widow of Zarephath, a Canaanite counterpart to Jezebel, Yahweh shows his superiority to Baal, who, after all, is unable to provide a bit of bread for a Sidonian widow and her household.
In the midst of drought and famine, Elijah’s arrival makes her house a place of uninterrupted provision. When she honors the prophet by giving him her first cake of bread, Yahweh gives her a prophet’s reward (Matt. 10:41), replenishing her oil and flour. In the midst of Baal’s territory, Yahweh provides bread for his prophet and for the widow who supports him. In faith, the woman puts bread upon the waters and receives an abundant return.
The greatest test is the last. After Elijah saves the widow and her house from starvation, after Elijah brings new life to the house, suddenly death invades the house. The widow blames Elijah, and we can hear the disappointment and dismay in her accusing question: “I thought you were coming to save me and my son, but you’ve come to kill. I thought you came as a mediator of life, but you come instead with death.”
This complaint raises a climactic challenge. Yahweh crosses into the wilderness and gives life; he gives life in Baal’s territory. But can he cross the boundary to rescue a boy from Sheol? Yahweh is the lord of life: but is he the lord of death? Again, the answer is yes.
Elijah brings the widow’s accusation to Yahweh and then prays that the Lord will revive the boy. Yahweh listens to Elijah’s voice and restores the boy’s soul to his body. Yahweh is not only superior to Baal, the Canaanite god of fertility and life, but also greater than Mot, the Canaanite god of the underworld, snatching the dead boy from the grave (Provan 1995, 132).
©2006 by Peter J. Leithart. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.
November 3, 2015 By Mason Slater
The following is an excerpt from Free to Serve by Stephen Monsma and Stanley Carlson-Thies.
Principled pluralism—or “civic pluralism” as it is sometimes called—is a political principle, a design for how a diverse people can live together in one political system. It requires neither that we agree completely with each other about our deepest beliefs (we don’t) nor that we stop trying to convince each other about what we think is best (we shouldn’t).
Instead, principled pluralism simply asks us to agree to respect each other’s convictions not only in private life but also in public life. Just as we ask for freedom to live our lives according to our convictions, we believe others with different convictions should be free to live their lives according to their convictions.
This means the public realm, our common life, will be neither Christian nor secular. The public realm ought not to privilege those of us who hold to Christian beliefs (or those of other religious traditions). Nor should secularism be imposed on all by banishing religion to the private world of congregational worship and personal devotions.
Doing so would show little respect for people of faith—people for whom faith is relevant not only for worship but also for how they educate their children, heal the sick, serve the needy, and run a business. People of faith would then not be treated in a neutral, evenhanded manner. But the answer to such favoring of secularism cannot be to favor those with religious convictions and their organizations. That too is wrong.
Central to our position is the basic fact that a thoroughly secular world does not occupy neutral ground between belief and nonbelief. Instead, a nonreligious, secular perspective is a distinct perspective, or worldview, that is in competition with religious perspectives.
Political scientist A. James Reichley was exactly correct when he once wrote, “Banishment of religion does not represent neutrality between religion and secularism; conduct of public institutions without any acknowledgment of religion is secularism.”
This means a thoroughly secularized public realm has taken sides in the contest between religious and nonreligious organizations and their differing views of life and the world. This is why principled pluralism not only seeks public policies that are evenhanded among the faith-based organizations of various religious traditions but also between faith-based organizations and secular organizations. Neither should be favored over the other.
©2015 by Stephen V. Monsma and Stanley W. Carlson-Thies. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.
October 28, 2015 By Mason Slater
While it opens proposing a grand view of divine sovereignty, Ps. 24 sets aside the view of God as distant as it moves quickly to moral exhortation with the explanation that abiding in God is not the side effect or reward for the pursuit of a pure way of life but is the ascent to that holy dwelling of God.
God’s power in establishing the cosmos may make him seem distant, but an excellent life will enable those who desire God to experience him as nearby. By drawing near to God, those who seek him will be blessed, and that blessing will infuse community life by their participation in it.
For the distant God of creation to enter the human heart as more than the idea of majestic power, heads must lift and gates of the hearts must open to make room for God to enter one’s life. Taken together then, the questions posed in Ps. 24 can be reduced to the question of how the transcendent creator who is also the commander in chief of armed battalions finds his way into human lives to lift them to himself.
Theodoret and Augustine read the upward-turning images in this psalm in terms of the ascension and resurrection of Christ. For us, “up” is moral-spiritual improvement. The exhortation of the psalmist and later Christian interpreters adjure readers to lift their sights to morally uplifted lives. It is a poem of possibility and encouragement.
For the Christian writers, to look up is to be brought near to God by the incarnate one who leads by going on ahead, first in resurrection and then in ascent to God. Both the psalmist and his Christian readers want to expand the self upward, thus giving hope.
©2015 by Ellen T. Charry. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.
October 27, 2015 By Mason Slater
What do Hobby Lobby, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, Wheaton College, World Vision, the Little Sisters of the Poor, and the University of Notre Dame have in common? All are faith-based organizations that have faced pressure to act in ways contrary to their religious beliefs.
In this book, two policy experts show how faith-based groups–those active in the educational, healthcare, international aid and development, and social service fields–can defend their ability to follow their religiously based beliefs without having to jettison the very faith and faith-based practices that led them to provide services to those in need. They present a pluralist vision for religious freedom for faith-based organizations of all religious traditions.
Stephen V. Monsma (PhD, Michigan State University) is a senior research fellow at the Paul B. Henry Institute for the Study of Christianity and Politics at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and professor emeritus of political science at Pepperdine University. He is also a fellow at the Center for Public Justice.
Stanley W. Carlson-Thies (PhD, University of Toronto) is director of the Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance, a division of the Center for Public Justice (CPJ), in Washington, DC. He is a senior fellow at CPJ and at the Canadian think tank Cardus. Carlson-Thies served with George W. Bush’s White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives and served on a task force of President Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
Praise for Free to Serve:
“We have to protect the rights of everyone in our society if we are to protect the rights of anyone. This is an important book for our times.” – Richard Stearns, president, World Vision US
“A must-read for anyone interested in preserving our country’s historic stance on religious freedom.” – Ronald J. Sider, Palmer Seminary, Eastern University
“A timely and compelling case for how the United States can navigate the current changes to social norms.” – Shirley V. Hoogstra, JD, president, Council for Christian Colleges and Universities
“A clarion call and prophetic prescription for those committed to never sacrificing truth on the altar of expediency.” – Samuel Rodriguez, president, NHCLC/CONELA, Hispanic Evangelical Association
“Anyone who cares about the state of religious freedom in America should read this book.” – David Nammo, executive director and CEO, Christian Legal Society
“Monsma and Carlson-Thies offer proactive remedies that nourish the hope of principled pluralism and promote a civil society in which people of all faiths, or none, enjoy expansive freedom.” – Philip G. Ryken, president, Wheaton College
“[A] timely, readable, and intellectually serious book.” – John J. DiIulio Jr., first director, White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives
“If you believe your faith should extend beyond the walls of your place of worship, you simply must read this outstanding book.” – Peter Greer, president and CEO, HOPE International
“Free to Serve examines the unintended consequences of violating religious freedom and offers hope for a society where individual beliefs are fully expressed.” – Tami Heim, president and CEO, Christian Leadership Alliance
“An important and timely book. The authors’ call to principled pluralism…is a vital message.” – Alec Hill, president, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA
October 23, 2015 By Mason Slater
Join us Monday the 26th in Grand Rapids, for a special launch event for Free to Serve! The author and practitioner panel will continue a conversation launched by Free to Serve — on how faith-based organizations can meaningfully relate to one another, community leaders, government, and the media as we serve.
This is the best book on Biblical sexuality that I have ever read….Jonathan Grant has done the Christian community a gigantic favor by meticulously pealing apart the layers of the modern sexual imaginary to expose the pathologies which are at the heart of the secularization of sexuality. This will satisfy the intellectual curiosities of your inner philosopher; but Grant does not leave the reader with a philosophical assessment of the sexual imaginary, he offers a solidly Biblical and deeply profound vision for the future of sexuality. The church, for her part, would be wise to listen.
Medieval Wisdom for Modern Christians, by Chris Armstrong, appeared in the Publishers Weekly article Exploring C. S. Lewis’s Lasting Popularity—52 Years After His Death.