Archives for November 2011

Video: Why Pop Music Matters to Those Seeking God

Here is the first of several videos and posts from Christian Scharen, author of our new Broken Hallelujahs. This video introduces Scharen’s contention that pop music matters to those seeking God. Find out more about Scharen at his website and blog, www.ChristianScharen.com, and be sure to check out a new post by Scharen on U2 and Advent at the Rock and Theology blog (http://www.rockandtheology.com/?p=4602).

Giveaway: Creating a Spiritual Legacy

Yesterday we started a series of posts by Daniel Taylor introducing the new Brazos book Creating a Spiritual Legacy: How to Share Your Stories, Values, and Wisdom.

In celebration of this release, we are giving away five copies of Taylor’s important book.

To enter, simply fill out the form below. Winners will be announced December 9th.

Keep checking back for more posts from Daniel Taylor!

This giveaway has expired.

Behind the Book: Dan Taylor

In this first of three posts Dan Taylor introduces his new Brazos book and shares the story behind its birth.

I have written about spiritual legacy because I have myself been blessed by the spiritual legacy of others to me. As have you.

I first began thinking about spiritual legacy in the 1980’s when teaching life writing courses for seniors. In the beginning, I thought I was simply teaching a memoir course, letting people get some of their life down on paper. In reading their work, however, I discovered that they were telling powerful stories soaked in values, life lessons, and how they came to understand the world.

Most of these stories involved characters from their lives—family, friends, co-workers, teachers, and the like. I came to see how people are shaped by their stories and how stories are the primary vehicle for passing on what I came to see as a spiritual legacy.

It was also around this time that I became more keenly aware of the spiritual legacies that had shaped my own life. I come from a story-telling family, primarily because my father was a man who lived his life in light of the stories of his past (for better and worse). He was the main story-teller of the family, and once he discovered that I was likely to write some books, he started looking to me, I believe, to be the preserver of his stories.

Also in the 1980’s I wrote a book, Letters to My Children: A Father Passes on His Values, that explicitly tried to pass on values to my then young children through stories from my life. I wrote these letters with no thought of them being a book, but eventually they were collected. I had been blessed by the stories of others, and it was my turn to tell some of my own.

In the 1990’s I wrote another book, Tell Me a Story: The Life-Shaping Power of Our Stories, that explored how we all are shaped by the stories that surround us—from family, church, education, and popular culture. And I later helped start The Legacy Center, an organization devoted to helping people and institutions tell their stories.

So Creating a Spiritual Legacy grows out of a life time of learning and teaching about stories and how they tell us who we are and how to live. This new book is a practical, step-by-step guide to discovering your own spiritual legacy and contributing to the legacy of those you care about.

Animated Corpses as Romantic Heroes?

Here is the final post in our series from Susannah Clements, author of The Vampire Defanged.

Animated corpses might not be likely romantic heroes, but recently they have become so. Writers like Bram Stoker used to use vampires to tell stories about sin and how to defeat it. Sometimes they still do. But the most popular vampires today are telling us a very different story.

Stephenie Meyer’s the Twilight Saga wasn’t the first story to turn vampires into objects of romantic desire. Romance novels with vampire heroes and television shows featuring vampire love interests like Buffy the Vampire Slayer have been around for several decades. But the huge popularity of Twilight has focused the popular romantic imagination around the figure of the vampire in a way it never was before.

Instead of an ugly, animalistic vampire like Count Dracula, Edward Cullen in the Twilight Saga is pale, beautiful, and sparkly like a diamond. He is invested with all of the power, charisma, and brooding angst of a hero in any romance novel—amplified by his superhuman characteristics. It’s no wonder he has become the embodiment of so many romantic dreams.

The Twilight books and movies have certainly had their critics in recent years, but their popularity should be no surprise to us. In addition to giving us two deeply attractive romantic heroes (a vampire and a werewolf, to suit readers of diverse tastes), they’re also telling us other stories we want to hear. They tell us a story of how an average person can get pulled into drama, romance and excitement beyond her wildest dreams. They tell us a story of how our free will is so strong it can determine the fate of our lives, often without any lasting negative consequences. They tell us a story of how family can offer us eternal security. They tell us a story of how the life of an unexceptional girl can be transformed by the love of a powerful man.

Not all of these stories are true – but we desperately want to hear them. So the Twilight Saga speaks to us powerfully. It also develops into a gripping plot in the last half of Breaking Dawn, where Meyer demonstrates her best quality as a writer.

Vampire books and films used to tell a true story—not that vampires exist, but that sin exists and can be defeated only through Christ. The Twilight Saga tells us stories we want to hear, but it doesn’t tell that story anymore.

 

Brazos at ETS in San Francisco

BJ selling books

Greetings from San Francisco!

We are currently setting up our booth for the 63rd annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society. We look forward to the annual conferences as we get a chance to meet face-to-face with many of our authors and readers.

If you will be attending ETS this year (or AAR/SBL this weekend), we encourage you go come and say hello.

Alongside titles from Baker Academic (our sister division), there will be many Brazos Press books available at 40% off.

Among the many Brazos titles available at our booth are:

Broken Hallelujahs by Christian Scharen

Who Is My Enemy? by Lee C. Camp

Be Not Afraid by Samuel Wells

A Public Faith by Miroslav Volf

The Bible Made Impossible by Smith

Testing Scripture by John Polkinghorne

Cross-Shattered Christ by Stanley Hauerwas

Proverbs & Ecclesiastes by Daniel J. Treier

If you are in San Francisco for the conference, be sure to check out the Baker Academic & Brazos Press booth (#601) to say hello and to grab these titles (plus many more) at a 40% discount!

 

Mars Hill Audio Interview with Susannah Clements and Book Excerpt

We have been posting a series of blog entries from Brazos author Susannah Clements featuring new content on themes developed in her book The Vampire Defanged: How the Embodiment of Evil Became a Romantic Hero:

post #1 – “Why Are We So Attracted to Vampires?”

post #2 – “The Best Weapon against Vampires Has Always Been the Cross”

This will culminate with a final installment this Friday (the opening day of the new Twilight film, we might add).

 

 

Our good friends at Mars Hill Audio Journal recently published their latest volume which features an interview with Susannah Clements. They have graciously provided an excerpt of that interview for The Brazos Blog readers. You can listen to it here:

MARS HILL AUDIO is committed to assisting Christians who desire to move from thoughtless consumption of contemporary culture to a vantage point of thoughtful engagement.

They release an “audio journal” featuring over 90 minutes of interviews on each bi-monthly CD or MP3 edition. For more information on Mars Hill Audio, visit www.marshillaudio.org

Additionally, we thought it might be fun to provide an excerpt from The Vampire Defanged for your reading pleasure. Here is the Table of Contents and the first chapter:

Click here for the excerpt

The Weekly Hit List: November 11, 2011

The big news this week is that Miroslav Volf’s A Public Faith: How Followers of Christ Should Serve the Common Good has been named among the top 100 books of 2011 and the top 10 Religion books by Publishers Weekly.

You can check out the official press release from Brazos Press here.

The list of those included in the Publishers Weekly list can be viewed here.

Matthew Miller over at the Christianbook.com Academic Blog posted about this honor.

 

Bobby Maddex of Ancient Faith Radio recently interviewed Edith Humphrey, author of Grand Entrance: Worship on Earth as in Heaven.

You can listen to the interview right here:

Winners of The Vampire Defanged Giveaway

Congratulations to Fred Clark, Harry Mueller, Douglas Fyfe, Laura Elliott, and Valerio Bernardi – who have each won a copy of Susannah Clement’s The Vampire Defanged: How the Embodiment of Evil Became a Romantic Hero (just in time for that new Twilight movie!).

Next Week:

Be sure to check The Brazos Blog next week for a preview of our booth at the annual ETS/AAR/SBL conferences in San Francisco as well as a new post from Susannah Clements!

Lectionary Reflection for the Twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost

From Matthew (BTCB) by Stanley Hauerwas, commenting on Matthew 25: 14-30

 No parable has been more misused than Jesus’s parable of the talents. Once any parable is abstracted from Jesus proclamation of the kingdom, once any parable is divorced from its apocalyptic context, misreading is inevitable. Speculation begins, for example, about how much a talent might be or whether the master’s observation that the money could have been put in a bank might mean that Jesus approves of taking interest. Speculative uses of the parable have even been employed to justify economic practices that are antithetical to Jesus’s clear judgment that we cannot serve God and mammon. Jesus is not using this parable to recommend that we should work hard, make all we can, to give all we can. Rather, the parable is a clear judgment against those who think they deserve what they have earned, as well as those who do not know how precious is the gift they have been given.

 The slaves have not earned their five, two, and one talents. They have been given those talents. In the parable of the sower (Matt. 13:1–9), Jesus had indicated that those called to the kingdom would produce different yields. Those differences should not be the basis for envy and jealousy, because our differences are gifts given in service to one another. So are the talents given to the slaves of the man going on a journey. It is not unfair that the slaves were given different amounts. Rather, what is crucial is how they regarded what they had been given. Jesus makes clear in this parable that we can do only what we have been given.

 The one who received one talent feared the giver. He did so because he assumed that the giver had given a gift that could only be lost or used up. In other words the one with one talent assumed that he or she was part of a zero-sum game. Those who assume that life is a zero-sum game think that if one person receives an honor then someone else is made poorer. So the slave with one talent feared losing what he had been given, with the result that he tried to turn the gift into a possession. In contrast, the first two slaves recognized that to try to secure the gifts they had been given means that the gifts would be lost. The joy of the wedding banquet and the joy into which the master invites his slaves that had not tried to protect what they had been given is the joy that comes from learning to receive a gift without regret.

 The parable of the talents and the parable of the ten bridesmaids are commentaries on the slave who continued to work, to feed his fellow slaves, until his master returns. Each of these parables teach us how to wait patiently as those who have received the gift of being called to be a disciple of Jesus. Jesus’s disciples are not called to do great things, although great things may happen. Rather, Jesus’s disciples are called to do the work that Jesus has given us to do—work as simple and hard as learning to tell the truth and to love our enemies. Such work is the joy that our master invites us to share.

 ©2006 by Stanley Hauerwas. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

 

 

The Best Weapon Against Vampires Has Always Been The Cross

Here is the second post in our new series from Susannah Clements, author of The Vampire Defanged.

The best weapon we have against a vampire has always been the Christian cross.

Until recently, at least.

In traditional vampire stories, the cross and other Christian symbols are effective against vampires because only the power of God can overcome the forces of darkness. Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula is shaped by Christian theology. Because Stoker popularized the vampire story in Western culture, we can look to Dracula to see how the vampire story used to be Christian.

Stoker used the vampire—the monster with a mostly human face—as a vivid representation of sin. As Jonathon Harker encounters Count Dracula in the first chapters of the novel, the vampire is associated with traditional sins. Dracula explodes in fits of wrath. He gorges on blood until he is bloated and lethargic. He hoards gold and lets it molder in his castle.

But, as the novel continues, this picture of sin becomes even more complex. Dracula’s darkly hypnotic power shows the dangerous lure of temptation. Once infected by a vampire, human victims like Lucy and Mina are helpless against the evil that slowly overtakes them. There is nothing they can do to save themselves, to make themselves good again. And the consequence of a vampire’s bite is always death.

Professor Van Helsing and his small group of allies wage a war against Dracula using an arsenal of weapons, the most powerful of which are Christian symbols (the cross and the Host). These weapons are not random, disconnected objects. The characters use them to consciously invoke the power of Christ. They see themselves as Christian warriors in a spiritual battle against the enemy and against the power of sin. The only way to save Mina, who has fallen under Dracula’s curse, is to destroy the vampire itself. Sin must be defeated before salvation is assured, and victory in the novel comes only through faith.

Christian theology has continued to be an aspect of many vampire stories, although in later stories it is often a spiritual struggle within the consciousness of the vampire itself. Anne Rice’s Louis enters a cathedral to ponder his guilt and God’s existence in Interview with a Vampire. Angel, the vampire with a soul in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, acknowledges himself as a sinner and desperately tries to do good in the world.

Despite this long tradition, vampires are no longer representations of sin in many stories today. Often, they aren’t even afraid of the cross anymore. But the heart of the vampire story has always been a picture of what it means to be a sinner whose only hope for salvation is the finished work of Christ.

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Enter to win a copy of Susannah Clements’s The Vampire Defanged in our current giveaway.

 

A Public Faith Named One of the Top 100 Books of 2011

Publishers Weekly has named Miroslav Volf’s A Public Faith: How Followers of Christ Should Serve the Common Good among the top 100 books of 2011 and the top 10 in the Religion category.

To check out the list, click here.

In their description, Publishers Weekly writes of A Public Faith: “The gifted Christian theologian answers a pressing question in a pluralistic culture, arguing that nonexclusionary theological truth is not only possible but also socially healthy.”

A Public Faith was included alongside another title from Baker Publishing Group (of which Brazos Press is an imprint), A Good and Perfect Gift by Amy Julia Becker (Bethany House).

In a press release, Dwight Baker, President of Baker Publishing Group, said, “We are honored that these titles and authors have been recognized by Publishers Weekly and identified as among the best books of the year.”

Publishers Weekly gave A Public Faith a starred review when it released (click here) and featured Volf in their October 7, 2011 issue (click).

Here on The Brazos Blog we have posted a ton of great info on A Public Faith – including an interview with Miroslav Volf and a series of videos.

For more info on A Public Faith, click here.