Archives for September 2012

Best of The Brazos Blog – Between the Lines

It is the one year anniversary of The Brazos Blog! To celebrate we are posting the best of the blog – along with a variety of giveaways (we will have one per day – see below).

Today we are featuring our “Between the Lines” blog posts. In these posts, we share conversations with our authors about their book, its inspiration, and its reception. You can see all of our “Between the Lines” posts here.

Over the last year, we have posted interviews with Charles Gutenson, David Benner, Gary Colledge, Eric O. Jacobsen, and many others.

Today we would like to feature our interview with Brazos author Miroslav Volf about his book A Public Faith: How Followers of Christ Should Serve the Common Good.

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To whom was this book written and what do you hope that they take away from their experience with it?

We live in an inescapably pluralistic world. In many countries, Christians are one among many religious communities. Positively, the purpose of the book is to suggest a way—an authentically Christian way—of being engaged in promoting human flourishing and the common good while seeing oneself as just one among many communities living “under a the same roof.” Negatively, my goal is to suggest a way to avoid the twin dangers of faith’s public “idleness” and “coerciveness.”

In your book, you argue that religious points of view should have a place in the political or public arena. In what ways do religious voices do this well? In what ways do they do this poorly?

Religious folks participate in public life poorly when they seek to impose their own “true vision of human flourishing and of the common good” on others. Now, believing that I know what makes for human flourishing and serves the public good is not a problem—provided I don’t claim infallibility and am willing to learn; indeed, such belief is a precondition of vigorous engagement in public life. Conversely, religious folks participate in public life well when, in addition to embracing the truth of their own position, they respect those who disagree with them (in obedience to the injunction in 1 Peter to “honor everyone”). Respect here means giving others space to articulate their position as well as willingness to learn from them.

How has the role of Christianity in the public life of the West changed in the last hundred years? Is this a positive or negative thing?

In many countries in the West, a century ago Christian churches were dominant cultural institutions. Today this is no longer so. Other religions have taken their own share of social space, and, even more importantly, secular institutions have gained in significance. Increasingly, Christian communities have become culturally marginal. Many Christians bemoan this development, fearing loss of power and influence. In contrast, I think that the former social dominance of the Christian churches and their proximity to political power have been more a curse than a blessing. Marginality is much more appropriate to people who worship the crucified Messiah. Does such marginality mean diminished influence? I am not sure it does. A good argument can be made that, close to political power, the Christian churches have historically less shaped the exercise of political power than been harnessed to serve the needs of political power.

How is Christianity’s view of the good life —or “human flourishing”—different from our Western culture’s?

In very broad strokes, I contrast “love of pleasure” and “pleasures of love.” Though with many exceptions, Western culture of today understands human flourishing as “experiential satisfaction” and is organized around love of pleasure. For many reasons, such a conception of human flourishing is deeply problematic and unsustainable. The Christian faith offers an alternative that I, as a committed Christian, find immensely compelling. We flourish when we love God with our whole being and neighbors as ourselves. For many—not just secularists—this is unacceptable. Today we need a vigorous discussion about human flourishing. That is the most important public debate of all.

In your book, you argue that Christians should embrace pluralism as a political project. What do you mean by this?

By pluralism as a political project I mean embrace of political institutions which are on the idea that our societies have become culturally (including religiously) pluralistic and which give “equal voice” to all people, irrespective of their cultural and religious identity. Each person can bring into public debate their own vision of human flourishing, vision derived from their own religious faith or non-religious perspective on life. Pluralism as a political project doesn’t imply that all perspectives are roughly equally true or beneficial; that’s a feature of what one might call “world-view pluralism” (or, in some versions, “relativism”). Pluralism as a political project is rather the idea that people advocating divergent perspectives have all equal right to shape the public space.

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The Weekly Hit List: September 7, 2012

Luke (a Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible) by David Lyle Jeffrey was reviewed in Englewood Review of Books.

Brazos Theological Commentary has, in my opinion, offered a breath of fresh air to the sometimes stale academic air of commentaries.  The newest volume in the series is Luke by David Lyle Jeffrey. . . .

This is a great commentary series for its scholarship and unabashed emphasis on how scripture leads us into the sacred story of self-giving love.  I would commend David Lyle Jeffrey’s volume on Luke in particular for those, especially in ministry, who are looking to dive deeper into the theological power of Luke.

Read the full review here.

 

Quick Hits:

Soulful Spirituality by David G. Benner was reviewed in Englewood Review of Books.

Rachel Held Evans concluded her review of Peter Enns’s Inspiration and Incarnation.

 

Ebook Specials and Other Offers:

September ebook specials are currently running for multiple Brazos Press and Baker Academic titles. All of these are at least 50% off.

Who Is My Enemy? by Lee. C. Camp
A Public Faith by Miroslav Volf
Christians and the Common Good by Charles E. Gutenson
War and the American Difference by Stanley Hauerwas
The Politics of Discipleship by Graham Ward
Christians at the Border by M. Daniel Carroll R.
Hope in Troubled Times by Bob Goudzwaard and David Van Heemst and Mark Vander Vennen

 

A Hobbit Journey Giveaway Winners:

Congratulations to George Mearns, Lynn Kauppi, Caroline Batchelder, Valerio Bernardi, and Jonathan Ruehs.

They have each won a copy of A Hobbit Journey: Discovering the Enchantment of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth by Matthew Dickersonon on The Brazos Blog.

Keep checking back for our next giveaway.

 

Don’t Miss It:

This month we celebrate the one-year anniversary of The Brazos Blog!

During the week of September 10-14 we will be highlighting some of the best posts from our first year of blogging. This will include our interview with Miroslav Volf, videos from Lee C. Camp, and posts written exclusively for the blog from Peter Enns and Christian Scharen.

During this week we will also be giving several Brazos books away.  Don’t miss it!

Lectionary Reflection for the Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost

This excerpt comes from Proverbs & Ecclesiastes (BTCB) by Daniel J. Treier, commenting on Proverbs 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23:

“. . . A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, / and favor is better than silver or gold” (22:1); “Do not wear yourself out to get rich; / be wise enough to desist. / When your eyes light upon it, it is gone; / for suddenly it takes wings to itself, / flying like an eagle toward heaven” (22:4-5); “The rich is wise in self-esteem, / but an intelligent poor person sees through the pose” (28:11; also 28:6).

The rhetorical purpose of quoting so many passages is to establish the prominence of the Proverbs theme that riches do not offer ultimate profit. Scholars debate the exact contours of the book’s approach to wealth. Perhaps the debate stems not only from preoccupation with unanswerable questions about original authors, settings, and editors, but also from common inability to appreciate to sapiential nature of the material.

Proverbs offers myriad sayings with various perspectives, resulting not only in aggregate balance but also in contingent resources for pastoral use. In some settings the value of wealth as a necessary resource and an element of divine blessing should be acknowledged. In other settings emphasis must lie on potential dangers: wealth as a false refuge supplanting God, a means pretending to be an end or pointing merely to proximate ends, or a (mistaken) end that people seek inappropriately or excessively.

If contemporary people complain that Proverbs and the Christian tradition criticize earthly goods too strongly, that may reveal our pastoral imbalance more than the tradition’s weakness. If, alternatively, contemporary people complain that Proverbs and the Christian tradition are too conservative in valuing moderate wealth as a typical result of hard work, then possibly that reveals more about our political commitments or contingent circumstances and the relative emphases they elicit.

Nevertheless, Proverbs contains the resources not for flaccid balance, but instead to address whichever extremes a cultural moment affords. We should not be naïve about the dangerous temptation to interpret Proverbs through bourgeois lenses that justify comforts we hold dear.


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

September Ebook Specials – Political Titles

All this month, we have several political/social issues ebooks from Brazos Press and Baker Academic at deep discounts.

Check out the selection below and visit www.brazospress.com/ebookspecials for links to where you can purchase these ebooks.

Labor Day – Excerpt from Living the Sabbath

In honor of Labor Day here in the US, today’s post is an excerpt from Norman Wirzba’s 2006 Brazos book Living the Sabbath: Discovering the Rhythms of Rest and Delight (a part of the Christian Practice of Everyday Life series).

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Living the Sabbath[A]uthentic work is one of the primary means we have to share in God’s own continuing work of building and maintaining creation. Whatever work we perform, then, is permised on the understanding that our exertion is finally derivative, utterly dependent on God’s grace as its sustaining and inspirational heart. The many indicators of work’s current malfunction–workaholism, worker anxiety and stress, social fragmentation and strife, massive environmental destruction–suggest that at a very deep level we have lost faith in God’s goodness. We have lost our appreciation for the loveliness of others and have turned our faithlessness into widespread abuse and exploitation. Rather than submitting to the grace of God, we have embarked upon the total management of the world. We are unable to let creation be itself, or to receive the world as a gift. We have come to think that whatever value is in this world will be the direct result of our doing, thus forgetting that God’s doing goes before all of our own.

We are in desperate need of a new conception of work and widespread discussion of what it is and what it is finally for. Sabbath people, those who understand that the goal of life is for all of us to share in the delight of God, are ideally situated to help that discussion along. As we proceed, [Wendell] Berry’s words can help us appreciate our work as a contribution in praise of God’s own work:

And yet no leaf or grain is filled
By work of ours; the field is tilled
And left to grace. That we may reap,
Great work is done while we’re asleep.

[Wendell Berry, A Timbered Choir: The Sabbath Poems, 1979-1997 (Washington, DC: Counterpoint, 1998), p. 18]

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

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For more information on Living the Sabbath, click here.