Archives for August 2012

The Weekly Hit List: August 31, 2012

Who Is My Enemy? by Lee C. Camp was recommended by Richard Beck on Experimental Theology.

Beck re-printed one of Camp’s essays; following is an excerpt.

“With this sort of starting point, we take an altogether different approach: our task, short of the full in-breaking of the Kingdom of God, can never be any partisan agenda. This is because anything short of the full consummation of the Kingdom of God will necessarily still be tainted, or worse, corrupted, by sin.

“All political activism then—in the sense of being active in talking to the contemporary powers-that-be in western culture—is always and necessarily ad hoc, never utopian, and never idealistic. We deal with each concrete question and issue as it arises, and seek to bear faithful witness as best we are able.”

You can read the rest of “History Never Sits Still. Thus Neither Can Our Politics,” here.

 

Don’t Miss It:

Miroslav Volf has started a series of political posts on his Facebook page. He writes:

In this year of presidential elections, I decided to summarize key values that guide me as I make the decision for whom to cast my vote. It takes knowing three basic things to choose a candidate for public office responsibly:

1. values we hope the candidate will stand for and the order of priority among them;
2. ways in which and means by which these values are best implemented in any given situation;
3. capacity—ability and determination—to contribute to the implementation of these values.

Most important are the values. As I identified each value, I thought it important to (1) name the basic content of the value, (2) give a brief rationale for holding it, (3) suggest some parameters of legitimate debate about it, and (4) identify key questions for the candidate.

I write as a Christian theologian, from the perspective of my own understanding of the Christian faith. Whole books have been written on each of these values, explicating them and adjudicating complex debates about them. In giving rationale for a given value, I only take one or two verses from the Bible to back up my position, more to flag the direction in which giving a rationale would need to go than in fact strictly to offer a rationale. I have identified some 20 such values. In coming days I will post one a day.

 

Quick Hits:

We are giving away 5 copies of A Hobbit Journey: Discovering the Enchantment of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth by Matthew Dickerson. Click here to enter.

Our fall 2012 catalog is now available on the Brazos Press web site, here.

Speaking of Dying by Fred Craddock, Dale Goldsmith, and Joy V. Goldsmith was recommended by Ed Searcy on his blog.

A Public Faith by Miroslav Volf was recommended by Russell Almon on his blog.

 

Ebook Specials and Other Offers:

Today is the last day our August ebook specials are running for multiple Brazos Press and Baker Academic titles. All of these ebooks are at least 60% off:

Proverbs and Ecclesiastes by Daniel J. Treier
Adventures in Daily Prayer by Bert Ghezzi
Letters to a Young Calvinist by James K. A. Smith
Seven Deadly Spirits by T. Scott Daniels
Be Not Afraid by Samuel Wells
Creating a Spiritual Legacy by Daniel Taylor
The Truth Shall Make You Odd by Frank G. Honeycutt

Lectionary Reflection for the Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost

This excerpt comes from Song of Songs (BTCB) by Paul J. Griffiths, commenting on Song of Songs 2:8-13:

If the lover is the Lord and his beloved his Israel-church, then there are rich possibilities for thinking about additional meanings for these phrases.

The Lord’s partial or full invisibility to us is one: he is there and can see us, but we cannot see him.

The Lord may seem to choose to conceal himself from us: he “stands behind our wall” (a word that occurs only here in the Song). But this is a barrier we have erected, and its presence here may suggest that it is our actions rather than the Lord’s that separate us from him.

We have enclosed ourselves by sin in a place in which the Lord’s voice  can be heard, yes, but where he cannot be seen. There are, however, openings even in this wall, openings that let in the Lord’s light. Through those openings he approaches more closely to us, and through them he speaks to us.

On this reading, scripture itself, and especially the words of the Song under discussion, serve as just such openings: in reading or hearing the Song we are looked at by the Lord as our lover through the windows and latticework of scripture.

A conceit, it may seem, but a nice one. The Song here performs what it figures: an opening to the “voice”—and proleptically the vision and the touch—of the Lord.

 

©2011 by Paul J. Griffiths. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

This Just In (and Giveaway): A Hobbit Journey

A Hobbit JourneyThe Lord of the Rings trilogy has delighted millions of fans worldwide in book and movie form. With the theatrical release of a film trilogy The Hobbit slated for 2012-2014, attention will once again turn to J. R. R. Tolkien’s classic works. In a culture where truth is relative and morality is viewed as old-fashioned, we welcome the chance to view the world through hobbit eyes: we have free will, our choices matter, and living a morally heroic life is possible.

In this engaging and thought-provoking book, Tolkien expert Matthew Dickerson shows how a Christian worldview and Christian themes undergird Tolkien’s Middle-earth writings and how they are fundamentally important to understanding his vision. This revised and expanded edition of Following Gandalf includes new material on torture, social justice, and the importance of the body.

Matthew Dickerson (PhD, Cornell University) is professor of computer science and environmental studies at Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vermont, and a popular speaker on Tolkien. He directs the New England Young Writers’ Conference at Bread Loaf and is the author of From Homer to Harry Potter; Narnia and the Fields of Arbol; and Ents, Elves, and Eriador.

Praise for A Hobbit Journey

A Hobbit Journey is a grand accomplishment: a thoughtful exploration of the virtues and values that sustain the heartbeat of Tolkien’s Middle-earth. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I expect that you will too.”
Diana Pavlac Glyer, author of The Company They Keep: C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien as Writers in Community

“What are the costs of military victory? Is mercy sometimes too expensive? Can torture ever be justified? Are there any moral absolutes in a world of competing faiths and cultures? Matt Dickerson’s A Hobbit Journey traces these and many other issues through their surprisingly detailed presentation in Tolkien’s fiction. If anyone should still doubt Tolkien’s applicability and relevance to the twenty-first century, this is the book to put in their hands.”
-Thomas Shippey, author of J. R. R. Tolkien: Author of the Century

A Hobbit Journey instantly engages readers with its combination of scholarly knowledge and love for J. R. R. Tolkien’s work. Matthew Dickerson resists imposing his own rigid, limiting thesis and instead interprets the text by simply pointing out to fellow readers what is there. In doing so he illuminates the power of Tolkien’s stories to challenge, delight, and transform us.”
-Colin Duriez, author of Tolkien and C. S. Lewis: The Gift of Friendship and J. R. R. Tolkien: The Making of a Legend

Enter to win a copy of A Hobbit Journey

This giveaway is closed.

The Weekly Hit List: August 24, 2012

James K. A. Smith was interviewed about Letters to a Young Calvinist by Kyle McDanell of Blogizomai. Here’s an excerpt:

“In my experience, the resurgence in interest in Calvinism is in response to the vapid, anti-intellectual versions of Christianity that we’ve been fed in the megachurch era.  So at least in part, the new interest in Calvinism and Reformed theology is because it represents a much more robust intellectual tradition in Protestant Christianity.  It also represents a renewal of appreciation for the centrality of grace.  In this respect, the Reformation–on my account–is an Augustinian renewal movement within the church catholic, and I see the young, restless, Reformed movement as a kind of indirect renewal of Augustinian theology.  (Though, as you’ll see in Letters to a Young Calvinist, I think our generation could profit from encountering Augustine first-hand.)

“I think where this new trend differs from “old” Calvinism is that in the YRR movement, Calvin’s soteriology is unhooked from the rest of the package that drove his project of reform.  So you get people who eagerly adopt his doctrines of election and predestination, but don’t see how that is tied to his ecclesiology, his doctrine of the sacraments (including baptism), his vision for political reform, etc.  This is why I think some (like Ray Pennings) are correct to say that these aren’t really new Calvinists, they’re neo-Puritans.”

You can read the rest of the interview here.

 

Quick Hits:

Nicole Baker Fulgham, author of the forthcoming Brazos book Educating All God’s Children, has an article on the four traits of successful public school reform in the September-October 2012 issue of Sojourners: “Beyond ‘Superman'”

James K. A. Smith had an article featured on Christianity Today’s blog This Is Our City: “How (Not) to Be Worldly: Tracing the Borders of the ‘Earthly City'”

 

Ebook Specials and Other Offers:

August ebook specials are currently running for multiple Brazos Press and Baker Academic titles. All of these ebooks are at least 60% off:

Proverbs and Ecclesiastes by Daniel J. Treier
Adventures in Daily Prayer by Bert Ghezzi
Letters to a Young Calvinist by James K. A. Smith
Seven Deadly Spirits by T. Scott Daniels
Be Not Afraid by Samuel Wells
Creating a Spiritual Legacy by Daniel Taylor
The Truth Shall Make You Odd by Frank G. Honeycutt

Lectionary Reflection for the Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost

This excerpt comes from 1 & 2 Kings (BTCB) by Peter J. Leithart, commenting on 1 Kings 8: (1, 6, 10, 11) 22-30, 41-43:

First Kings 8 is the climax of the Solomonic narratives in 1-2 Kings and stands out as an event of world-historical importance.

Yahweh, the creator of heaven and earth, settles in Jerusalem, in the nation of Israel, and the seven petitions at the center of the passage offer a rough preview of the trials that Israel will face in the subsequent centuries:

oath before altar reign of Solomon
defeat by enemies division of the kingdom
no rain Elijah and Omrides
famine, siege, plagues siege and famine in Samaria
foreigner prays fall of northern kingdom
sent out to battle last days of Judah
exile exile of Judah

Though many of the plagues that Solomon mentions in the prayer happen in the course of 1-2 Kings, few kings ever resort to prayer or the temple for forgiveness and healing.

Occasionally kings prayer or ask for prayer, and Hezekiah actually goes into the temple during the Assyrian siege of Jerusalem (2 Kgs. 19), but such example are few and far between. More often, kings plunder the temple for gold and silver to pay off Gentile invaders. When the Babylonians comes to destroy the temple, the Jews treat it as a talisman whose mere physical presence will save them from national destruction (Jer. 7).

Yahweh establishes his house at the center of Israel and stretches his arms out in invitation to a stubborn people, who refuse to turn to him and be healed. This too is christologically significant, for when the human temple appears, the Jews refuse to turn toward him as well.

The story of 1-2 Kings is a story of a rejected temple, a rejected and suffering Messiah and mediator, a temple destroyed but destined to be raised on the third day. A temple Christology thus works out in a narrative of cross and empty tomb.

 

©2006 by Peter J. Leithart. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

This Just In: The Bible Made Impossible – in Paperback

The Bible Made ImpossibleIncludes a new afterword from Christian Smith addressing the reception of his book.

Biblicism, an approach to the Bible common among some American evangelicals, emphasizes together the Bible’s exclusive authority, infallibility, clarity, self-sufficiency, internal consistency, self-evident meaning, and universal applicability. Acclaimed sociologist Christian Smith argues that this approach is misguided and unable to live up to its own claims. Far from challenging the inspiration and authority of Scripture, Smith critiques a particular rendering of it, encouraging evangelicals to seek a more responsible, coherent, and defensible approach to biblical authority.

This important book has generated lively discussion and debate. The paperback edition adds a new chapter responding to the conversation that the cloth edition has sparked.

Praise for The Bible Made Impossible:
2011 Jesus Creed Book of the Year
Named a “Best Book of 2011” by Englewood Review of Books

“Buy this book, read it slowly and carefully, and ponder it . . . because this book is a very serious call for us to develop a more robust approach to the Bible.” –Scot McKnight, Jesus Creed blog

“One of the best books on how Christians should approach the Bible. . . . I heartily recommend [it] to every follower of Jesus.” –Frank Viola, Beyond Evangelical blog

The Bible Made Impossible is a friendly, albeit frank (and with no pulling of punches), confrontation. One that every thoughtful Evangelical Bible reader should agree to accept. This is a must read! Buy [it,] read it, discuss it. I’ll keep mulling it over myself.” –Joel Willitts, Euangelion blog

“I loved this book, and finished it on a single plane ride. Rather than discounting the authority and inspiration of Scripture, Smith provides better, more constructive and honest ways of reading it that put Christ at the center of our faith as the Word made flesh.” –Rachel Held Evans, blog (rachelheldevans.com)

An Excerpt from the New Afterword:

Assertions without Evidence

Another favorite strategy of critics of The Bible Made Impossible has been to offer forceful assertions against the book without providing a shred of evidence to back those assertions up. The hope seems to be that simply saying something is so will make it so without any need to explain or justify the claim. It is not very convincing for those not already convinced. I suspect, however, that this strategy is often used not to seriously engage the book’s argument or convince the unconvinced, but rather merely to reinforce the views of followers already convinced and to immunize potential readers from ever picking up the book. Its success relies heavily on the presence of an existing in-group agreement about certain ideas, such that all a reviewer needs to do is simply assert the belief, with no justification, and everyone in the community can be counted on to nod in agreement. So, for example, some critics of my book have asserted that biblicism as I describe it could very well be reasonably expected to produce or accommodate pervasive interpretive pluralism, that the latter is no problem for the former, but they provide literally no explanation of or evidence for how or why that could be so. The claim is just asserted and left.

Such critics are not actually arguing against the case in the book, but ignoring it and restating their preferred position. They are using my book not as the basis of a serious debate but rather as a convenient platform on which to stand to pronounce their already-established truths that are immune from critique. Oftentimes critics, having plunked down their undefended assertions, then immediately change the subject to another point of negative reaction, thereby suggesting that the matter is settled–when in fact it has not yet been engaged. Stated plainly, this is a diversionary tactic designed to survive and win (within tight communities of like-minded believers), not any real argument meriting respect.

©2012 by Christian Smith. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

 

The Weekly Hit List: August 17, 2012

Living into Focus by Arthur Boers was reviewed by Comment Magazine.

In his latest book, Living into Focus: Choosing What Matters in an Age of Distraction, Arthur Boers (a colleague of mine at Tyndale Seminary) aims to be both prophetic and helpful to Christians in an age of increasing distraction provided by technology: prophetic, in alerting us to and warning us of our growing dependence on technology and the manner in which it has changed our world and patterns; helpful, in equipping people to be discerning as they engage with the fruit of technology.

To read the whole review, click here.

 

Quick Hits:

Kicking at the Darkness by Brian J. Walsh was reviewed by YouthWorker Journal.

Peter Enns responded to a Themelios review of The Evolution of Adam.

Broken Hallelujahs by Christian Scharen was reviewed by YouthWorker Journal.

Letters to a Young Calvinist by James K. A. Smith was reviewed on Kyle McDanell’s blog.

The Bible Made Impossible by Christian Smith was reviewed on David D. Flower’s blog.

Englewood Review of Books featured Brian J. Walsh’s recent interview with Bruce Cockburn.

 

And in case you missed it:

Living into Focus by Arthur Boers was reviewed by Canadian Mennonite Magazine.

Phillip Cary was interviewed on ReformedCast about Good News for Anxious Christians.

Dale Goldsmith and Joy V. Goldsmith, co-authors of Speaking of Dying, appeared on Dr. Bill Maier Live.

 

Ebook Specials and Other Offers:

August ebook specials are currently running for multiple Brazos Press and Baker Academic titles. All of these ebooks are at least 60% off:

Proverbs and Ecclesiastes by Daniel J. Treier
Adventures in Daily Prayer by Bert Ghezzi
Letters to a Young Calvinist by James K. A. Smith
Seven Deadly Spirits by T. Scott Daniels
Be Not Afraid by Samuel Wells
Creating a Spiritual Legacy by Daniel Taylor
The Truth Shall Make You Odd by Frank G. Honeycutt

Lectionary Reflection for the Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost

This excerpt comes from 1 & 2 Kings (BTCB) by Peter J. Leithart, commenting on 1 Kings 3:3-14:

Solomon asks for wisdom, more specifically for “discernment of good and evil” (3:9), using a phrase similar to that found in Gen. 2–3 to describe the tree in the garden, a tree that gives wisdom (Deurloo 1989, 12). Solomon’s request can thus be described as a request for access to the tree forbidden to Adam.

Like Adam, Solomon goes into “deep sleep” in order to receive a bride, but Solomon awakes in the company of Lady Wisdom. As in 1 Kgs. 2, Solomon is a new and improved Adam.

In asking for wisdom to “judge” (3:9), Solomon seeks the skill to rule well; he wants to be a royal Bezalel (Exod. 31:2–5) so that his nation will, like the tabernacle, become a place of glory. Carried out with wisdom, politics is a craft, the product of which is social harmony and beauty.

Yahweh’s promise to add to Solomon all the things he does not request (1 Kgs. 3:10–14) no doubt inspires Solomon’s teaching in Proverbs, where he emphasizes that wisdom is the chief thing to seek and that honor, riches, and supremacy come through pursuit of wisdom (e.g., Prov. 8:12–21).

Yahweh, as Paul writes, gives abundantly beyond what we can ask or imagine (Eph. 3:20). He is the giving God.

 

©2006 by Peter J. Leithart. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

Between the Lines: A Conversation with Eric O. Jacobsen -Part 2

Eric O. JacobsenBrazos readers know Eric O. Jacobsen from his 2003 book Sidewalks in the Kingdom: New Urbanism and the Christian Faith. Eric has just released a new work with our sister division, Baker Academic, titled The Space Between: A Christian Engagement with the Built Environment.

Eric O. Jacobsen (PhD, Fuller Theological Seminary) is senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Tacoma, Washington. Along with Sidewalks in the Kingdom and The Space Between, he is the author of numerous articles exploring connections between the Christian community, the church, and traditional neighborhoods.

We recently got a chance to ask Eric a few questions about The Space Between.

Last week, Eric discussed the relationship between his latest work and Sidewalks in the Kingdom.

Today, he tells us more about the history and message of The Space Between.

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Tell us a little bit about The Space Between. What is the main argument or purpose of your book? Why did you feel compelled to write it?

I sense that there is a major cultural discussion going on right now about geography.  On the one hand, the popularity of the internet, cell phones, and social networking technologies seems to be telling us that geography doesn’t matter and we can have a rich experience of community wherever we happen to be. On the other hand, there seems to be an equally strong localist movement that wants to assert that geography and place are intensely important. Farmers’ markets are popping up all over the place, cities are tearing up arterial streets to put in bike lanes, and there is a lot of emphasis on shopping local and investing in our neighborhoods. This discussion is going on all around us, but we lack a comprehensive framework and a vocabulary to make sense of it. If public interaction with other people is important, why is it so, and how does the shape of our public spaces impact our experience of community? I wrote The Space Between to help the Christian community understand this conversation and to equip us to engage it in meaningful ways.

In your book, you challenge your readers to look at the built environment theologically as a place for human thriving and Christian discipleship. What do you believe are the greatest obstacles for this? What are a few examples of how this plays out on a practical level?

The Space BetweenI think that the greatest obstacle to understanding the theological implications of the built environment is our fragmented pattern of thinking. We think about each day in terms of what we need to accomplish, and then we think of each of those things as separate activities to be done in separate places. We need to run a few errands, we need to work out, and we need to spend time with our kids, so we schedule a trip to the grocery store, the gym, and the park. The automobile allows us to accomplish these things in a single afternoon, even though each activity may be twenty to thirty minutes away from the others. We can get those things accomplished, but the experience of getting through that list is going to leave us feeling harried and disconnected.

In the not too distant past, a person might have walked to the grocery store with her kids, which would have allowed all three activities to be accomplished in an overlapping and holistic way. Putting together communities that allow for this kind of multivalent interaction takes more work then just building a strip mall in the middle of nowhere, but ultimately it is these settings that help us live as integrated beings and build up human community. In The Space Between, I try to lay some of the groundwork for building settings that do a better job connecting us to one another and to our world.

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For more information on The Space Between, click here.
To read an excerpt, click here.

The Weekly Hit List: August 10, 2012

Good News for Anxious Christians by Phillip Cary was reviewed on the Patheos blog Mind Over Media.

“There are at least two reasons to read Phillip Cary’s Good News for Anxious Christians: to help you think about what being ‘guided’ by the Holy Spirit means, and to think about the problem of pain in greater depth.

“Written for his students, Cary’s goal is to remind us that Christianity is a message of Good News about Jesus Christ rather than a requirement that we experience a certain emotion or receive some form of internal message from God.

“Additionally, his chapter on suffering is good enough (the best in the book, as far as I’m concerned) to merit special attention.”

 

Quick Hits:

Dale Goldsmith and Joy V. Goldsmith, authors of Speaking of Dying, wrote an article for The Huffington Post, “Is There Such a Thing as a Good Death?

The August issue of Border Crossings (the Brazos Press e-newsletter) is now available.

Lee C. Camp, author of Who Is My Enemy?, wrote an article titled “Batman, Neo-Nazis and the Good News of Jesus” for The Huffington Post.

 

Ebook Specials and Other Offers:

August ebook specials are currently running for multiple Brazos Press and Baker Academic titles. All of these ebooks are at least 60% off:

Proverbs and Ecclesiastes by Daniel J. Treier
Adventures in Daily Prayer by Bert Ghezzi
Letters to a Young Calvinist by James K. A. Smith
Seven Deadly Spirits by T. Scott Daniels
Be Not Afraid by Samuel Wells
Creating a Spiritual Legacy by Daniel Taylor
The Truth Shall Make You Odd by Frank G. Honeycutt