Archives for June 2013

The Weekly Hit List: June 28, 2013

On Gods SideOn God’s Side by Jim Wallis was reviewed in the July/August 2013 issue of Relevant Magazine.

“As the president of Sojourners and editor-in-chief of Sojourners magazine, Jim Wallis has long been an influential voice on Christian ethics and public life.

“But on a three-month sabbatical during the pinnacle of election season, Wallis stepped out of his sphere of influence to become, not a participator, but an observer.

“The result is a fresh take on the interplay of faith and politics in America, inspired by Abraham Lincoln’s line, ‘My concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side.’’

 

 

Other On God’s Side Media:

“Letter: Noted author at Aspen Chapel this Wednesday” in Aspen Times

“Internationally-known social justice advocate, author speaks at Aspen Chapel” in The Aspen Business Journal

“Peacemaking is more than Peace Loving” by Brian Kiley

“Creating a Culture of Unity Through Interfaith Cooperation” by Rachael McNeal for Faith Line Protestants

 

Goodreads Giveaway:

Don’t miss your chance to enter our Goodreads giveaway for one of 15 copies of A Life Observed: A Spiritual Biography of C. S. Lewis by Devin Brown.

Enter here!

And consider becoming our friend on Goodreads, here.

 

 

Ebook Specials and Other Offers:

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

Reclaiming the Body by Joel Shuman and Brian Volck M.D.
From Homer to Harry Potter by Matthew Dickerson and David O’Hara
Conversations with Poppi about God by Robert W. Jenson and Solveig Lucia Gold
Understanding Paul by Stephen Westerholm
What Christians Believe about the Bible 
by Don Thorsen and Keith Reeves

Lectionary Reflection for the Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

Luke BTCBThis excerpt comes from Luke (BTCB) by David Lyle Jeffrey, commenting on Luke 9:51-62:

Intensified is the evident desire of the disciples to find a way of demonstrating to Jesus their loyalty. When the people in a nearby Samaritan village, perceiving that he was heading toward Jerusalem (the city representing much of what they had chosen not to identify with their own pieties), they will not hear him (cf. John 4:9). This is clearly a rejection of Jesus based on established religious prejudice and party spirit.

But the disciples now exhibit an aggrieved sense of party spirit and offense of their own, and much more extremely. Unlike Abraham in Gen. 18, who wanted to delay the judgment of the Lord, they want to use their powers to call down capital judgment on the Samaritans: “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?” (Luke 9:54).

This ill-thought attempt to ingratiate themselves with the Lord is sadly misguided. Jesus, evidently exasperated, rebukes them yet again, ignoring the Samaritans. Most painfully now for the disciples, his rebuke takes on the strong form of saying to them, in effect, “You have no sense of who you are,” or perhaps, “You have no self-knowledge.” Still worse, the phrase “you do not know what manner of spirit you are of” (9:55) soundly refutes the very case for loyalty and affinity they have been trying to make.

Jesus’s words following now add a final blow; the utter inadequacy in their understanding of their own calling derives from a basic misunderstanding of the character of the Lord himself: “The Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives,” says Jesus, “but to save them” (9:56). Could anything be more obvious? Yet they have been blinded to the obvious by ambition and envious jockeying to be regarded as important. Sadly, in this self-righteous impulse, they have had too many successors.

As the now somber group is on the way to the next village, still en route to Jerusalem, they are tagged by a volunteer, a would-be disciple (9:57); Jesus’s well-known reply to him serves to highlight part of the cost of discipleship: “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (9:58). The poignancy of this remark is surely a marker for the loneliness Jesus feels in relation to the persistent incomprehension of those who would follow him.

When he invites another person to follow him, that person demurs, saying he needs first to bury his father—probably an idiom meaning “my father is ill and frail; once he has died I will come.” Jesus’s response, one of his hard sayings, is a figure of speech that here may mean something like “Let those who are dead to the kingdom of God take care of themselves—you take care of the kingdom” (9:60).

Another would-be follower says that he needs to go back first and say good-bye to his family. Jesus treats all of these as dodges, pretexts for holding back on a total commitment. His final remark in this chapter summarizes the challenge to all would would really follow him, identifying with him authentically: “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (9:62).

This, to confused, uncomprehending, and perhaps even double-minded seekers, is the darkest warning of all. Half measures will not do.

 

©2012 by David Lyle Jeffrey. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

Kevin Schut on Escape in Video Games

Here is Kevin Schut, author of Of Games and God: A Christian Exploration of Video Games, speaking on escape in video games.

 

Catching a Glimpse of Joy – by Dean Nelson

This is an original post by Dean Nelson, author of God Hides in Plain Sight: How to See the Sacred in a Chaotic World.

Dean Nelson directs the journalism program at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego. His book, God Hides in Plain Sight: How to See the Sacred in a Chaotic World, was published by Brazos Press in 2009.

———————————————————————————————————————

God Hides in Plain SightMy wife and I had been putting off this task for some time. It was gross. That’s what we kept telling ourselves as we would reach a new Saturday, contemplate the job before us, and then have something conveniently come up to keep us from the work. We didn’t feel like battling the cobwebs, and we really didn’t feel like shoveling out the loads of mice (could they be rat?) droppings.

A few times we actually opened the door to the shed in our backyard, took one look—and maybe a whiff—of what had taken up residence there, and quickly closed the door, trying to wish it all away. Maybe a selective tornado could barrel through and take just the shed?

But I suspect that the grossness of it wasn’t the real reason we avoided cleaning out the shed. More likely it was because it had some of our kids’ bigger toys in it. Our kids are adults now and have moved into their own independent lives. We checked with them and, yes, we could get rid of those things, they said. But we kept putting it off.

So last Saturday we held our noses and our hearts and ventured into that storage space of memories and vermin. The droppings were probably a gift in that they distracted us from being too sentimental about the items we were hosing off so we could give them away. And it wasn’t as hard as we thought it would be.

Except for one thing.

When I was in grad school in Ohio, and our son was two, he broke his femur in a freak accident. The doctor put him in a cast that went from mid-stomach down the broken leg all the way to the ankle, and halfway down the other leg. An opening in the crotch area allowed him to go to the bathroom. That meant about half of his body was covered in plaster. It gets hot in the summer in southern Ohio. It gets even hotter when your skin has no chance to breathe and cool itself. And plaster is kind of heavy.

My wife was pregnant with our daughter, so it was very uncomfortable for her to lift our son if he needed to move. Getting him out of the house, going for walks, changing the scenery, all proved impossible. Cabin fever—plaster fever? —was driving everyone crazy.

Then my parents sent a wagon. It was one of those cool red wooden wagons that looked like it was made years ago, but it was modern and easy to pull. We lined the inside of the wagon with pillows, gently placed our son in the wagon, and took him all over the neighborhood. Even at the 45-degree angle he had to endure, he was overjoyed. Neighbors came out and talked to him. Dogs came over and licked him. When our daughter was born, we could pull the two of them, and he acted like the responsible protector of his baby sister. It was a life and sanity saver.

As they grew older, the wagon’s role evolved. It carried toys from one room to another. It held books and other supplies. It was even a weapons repository when the neighborhood kids made movies. (The weapons were fake, I should make clear.)

For the last several years, though, it has been sitting in the shed collecting dust and rodent waste. When we pulled it out on Saturday and scrubbed it down, all those memories washed over us.

Most of the toys will be picked up by a local charity and sold in their thrift shop. But we felt like the wagon deserved a different outcome. There are lots of families with kids in our neighborhood, and they go on walks and pass by our house. This has always been a neighborhood wagon, and we wanted it to stay that way if possible.

So we cleaned it, dried it, and put it in our driveway with a sign that said “Free! Enjoy!” Then we went in the house.

An hour or two later we heard noise outside. Yelling, maybe? Loud voices at least. We went out and saw two teenagers pulling the wagon down the street, with their little sister inside. She was squealing, and the older girls were chattering about their good fortune.

Neither my wife nor I remembered how gross it was to clean that wagon. We watched as the kids disappeared down the street, full of joy.

Memories of a child in pain, sadness about our kids growing up and moving away, disgust at the rodents we had harbored: all disappeared in an instant. The world was painful, sad, and gross. Then the veil parted, and we caught a glimpse of joy.

The Weekly Hit List: June 21, 2013

A Public Faith by Miroslav Volf was reviewed by Sarita Fowler with J. Scott Horrell for Bibliotheca Sacra.

“This work calls for a close reading but is not out of reach of most readers.

“As he envisions a harmonious world, or the need to strive for one, Volf emerges as a majestic thinker and architect for how public Christian expression can function.

“With careful reading A Public Faith will benefit anyone interested in the intersection of Christianity and other religions.”

Read the rest of the review here.

 

 

On God’s Side Media:

“All Sides with Ann Fisher” on WOSU 89.7 NPR News.

“The Post-Cynical Christian” on Sojourners

“Would Jesus Love Ayn Rand Economics?” on CosortiumNews.com

 

Quick Hits:

Educating All God’s Children by Nicole Baker Fulgham was recommended by Sojourners.

A Hobbit Journey by Matthew Dickerson was reviewed by Sian Williams.

The Evolution of Adam by Peter Enns was reviewed by Matthew Vaughan for Christian Scholar’s Review.

Letters to a Young Calvinist by James K. A. Smith was reviewed by Thomas Creedy.

Letters to a Young Calvinis was also recommended by David G. Moore on Jesus Creed.

 

Ebook Specials and Other Offers:

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

Reclaiming the Body by Joel Shuman and Brian Volck M.D.
From Homer to Harry Potter by Matthew Dickerson and David O’Hara
Conversations with Poppi about God by Robert W. Jenson and Solveig Lucia Gold
Understanding Paul by Stephen Westerholm
What Christians Believe about the Bible 
by Don Thorsen and Keith Reeves

Lectionary Reflection for the Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

Psalms for All SeasonsThis excerpt comes from Psalms for All Seasons, commenting on Psalms 42 and 43:

Psalm 42, the first psalm in the second of the Psalter’s five books, is an expression of profound longing for God in the midst of depression. The psalmist’s hope is buoyed by two memories: a rousing procession into temple worship and the cascading waterfalls that sing God’s praise as they fall from Mt. Herman. Thirst for God amidst tears is quenched with the memory of this cascading water.

Its lament is answered first in Ps. 43, in which the refrain from Ps. 42 is repeated, but now in the context of greater hope and confidence. It is further answered by the visionary words of Ps. 72 (the last psalm in the second book) that portray the shalom of God’s future kingdom.

Psalm 43 is a prayer for justice in the face of injustice. The psalmist believes that God not only commands holiness but enables it by sending out light and truth to lead the people along the way.

Because the psalm concludes with a refrain from Ps. 42, Pss. 42 and 43 are sometimes treated as a single unit and are often sung or prayer together.

 

Prayers for reflection:

O God, our Help in past, present, and future days,
you know our deepest thoughts and needs before we can even express them.
When our world turns upside down, help us to remember happier days—
not as something lost, but as a foretaste of good things yet to come.
We pray in the name of the coming King. Amen.

God, you are light and truth.
When our world seems dark and our days filled with lies,
fill our hearts with your joy and our lips with songs of praise to you,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—now and forever. Amen.

 

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

Kevin Schut Speaking about Of Games and God for Parents

Here is Kevin Schut, author of Of Games and God: A Christian Exploration of Video Games, speaking for parents about his book.

Between the Lines: Edith Humphrey Responding to Critics of Grand Entrance

Edith M. Humphrey (PhD, McGill University) is the William F. Orr Professor of New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She is the author of several books, including Grand Entrance: Worship on Earth as in Heaven and Ecstasy and Intimacy: When the Holy Spirit Meets the Human Spirit. She has also authored numerous articles on the literary and rhetorical study of the Bible.

In today’s post, Edith Humprey responds to critics of Grand Entrance.

——————————————————————————————

Though Grand Entrance made its appearance two years ago, I continue to get feedback, both positive and “suggestive,” for which I am grateful. One of my dear friends in the Anglican/Episcopal world called it “refreshment for a weary church” (Dan Muth, The Living Church [February 2013], 16–17), and Roman Catholics have appreciated its description of worship in other contexts as “most intriguing” (cf. Timothy O’Malley, Church Life: A Journal for the New Evangelization [Winter 2012], 86–87). I am so glad, for this is exactly what I hoped the book would accomplish!

The constructive criticisms have, however, been even more welcome, and I would like to respond to two of these here.

First, there is Grand Entrance’s minimal consideration of the Ascension, which “struck” Tim Perry, for example, “as odd” (http://anglicanplanet.net/tap-review/2011/12/30/grand-entrance-worship-on-earth-as-in-heaven.html).

The second concern is the book’s lack of critique concerning worship in my own liturgical (specifically Eastern) tradition—a weakness registered by Lutheran pastor Clint Schnekloth (review in Word and World Theology for Christian Ministry, summer 2012). I am thankful to both Tim, who is a friend, and Pastor Schnekloth, whom I would love to meet, for these insights.

So, what about the Ascension? I agree entirely with Tim Perry that this climax to the life of our Lord has a significant bearing on worship. This is why, in one of the study questions, I ask, “Why does Peter’s speech in Acts 2 refer to the Ascension . . . when he talks about Christ’s ‘entrance into glory,’ rather than referring back to the Transfiguration?”

At the height of the Divine Liturgy, Orthodox Christians remember not only Jesus’s passion and death but also his resurrection, ascension, and coming again. (Yes, we remember his coming again! But that is the topic for another day.) As a result, whenever I speak of salvation history in my books (as in Grand Entrance), I list all the key moments, including the Ascension.

The premise of the book, that worship is something into which we enter—a greater company, a greater action, a greater space—depends on the fact that Jesus has gone before us, through the veil, so that we can indeed worship with that great host, as he intercedes on our behalf.

And so we “lift up” our hearts, in a spiritual ascension, while God catches us up mystically to his throne. We “mystically represent the cherubim,” taking on the role of those angels who are God’s throne, just as holy Mary was historically and particularly and especially the God-bearer, the Theotokos, enthroning him in her womb and in her arms. The Church exemplifies the worshipping posture of holy Mary, offering Christ to the world and exalting Him.

A closer consideration of how Jesus’s Ascension is related to the scene in Hebrews, where we are described as approaching the holy mountain and the great assembly of angels and firstborn, would be very worthwhile. On the other hand, I want to leave some room for the unimaginable ecstasy to come, when we will see Him as he is, because we shall be like him.

Truly, our worship both joins us to the cross and brings us forward to the New Creation and the heavenly banquet, where we will be truly glorified. In another sense, we look forward in hope and cry out, “Come, Lord Jesus!”

In stressing our spiritual ascension as part of our worship, I do not want to forget that there is a good deal more to come—then, our bodies will be raised and glorified with His, and the Entrance will be ever further in and further up.

And what about my seeming naiveté concerning my new ecclesial home? Can I simply plead here the reserve of a newcomer? It is not fair to ask a newlywed still in love to expose her spouse’s faults! Indeed, during the writing Grand Entrance, I was ineluctably drawn to Orthodox worship, not only positively, by its beauty, but also because it avoids the very pitfalls that I document in chapter six. As Tim Perry puts it, the book demonstrates “deep personal investment.”

Ironically, I have been criticized by some for being too irenic towards contemporary worship in the West. Further, there is a challenge latent in my book for Orthodox who are so enamored with the Eastern liturgies that they discount the long tradition of, say, the Gregorian Western rite—though they ought not to, since this is approved for use in ROCA, the OCA, and my own Antiochian jurisdiction.

However, for those readers who want to see a new insider’s gentle critique (not of the principles but of the practicalities) of Eastern Orthodox worship, I recommend my newest book, Scripture and Tradition: What the Bible Really Says (Baker Academic), in which I attempt to make some careful distinctions between Holy Tradition and mutable traditions in the Church, which can be clung to in a deadly traditionalistic fashion.

As Jaroslav Pelikan of blessed memory quipped, “Tradition is the living faith of the dead; traditionalism is the dead faith of the living.”

The Weekly Hit List: June 14, 2013

Educating All God's ChildrenEducating All God’s Children by Nicole Baker Fulgham was reviewed by Stephanie Summers for the July/August 2013 issue of PRISM Magazine.

“The book is written for lay Christians unfamiliar with the scope of the achievement gap and what ordinary faithful citizens can do to close it.

“Fulgham is multifaceted in her approach to the problem, affirming that teacher quality matters while affirming a significant role for parents and the work of the church to support families.

“She is forthright that public funding for education ‘is necessary, but not sufficient, to improve educational outcomes.'”

Read the rest of the review here.

 

Other Educating All God’s Children media:

“COMMENTARY: A new evangelical engagement with public schools” in The Washington Post On Faith blog by Tom Krattenmaker

“Think God isn’t allowed in schools anymore? Think again!” in Catholic Online

 

Of Games and GodOf Games and God by Kevin Schut was reviewed by Yann Wong of Redeemed Gamer.

Of Games & God is extremely well researched, and Dr Schut makes some new contributions to the discussion through his expertise in media studies. The chapter on violence in particular is some of the most balanced and well-researched work I’ve read on this important issue.

“Throughout the whole book, it is evident that Dr Schut tries hard to be balanced and respectful, yet is underpinned by strong biblical convictions. In particular, his humble and non-defensive attitude when discussing these issues is worth emulating by the Christian gaming community.”

Read the rest of the review here.

 

On God’s Side media:

Radiozine on KBOO-FM, Portland

“Kingdom Gospel” by Agatha Nolen

 

Ebook Specials and Other Offers:

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

Reclaiming the Body by Joel Shuman and Brian Volck M.D.
From Homer to Harry Potter by Matthew Dickerson and David O’Hara
Conversations with Poppi about God by Robert W. Jenson and Solveig Lucia Gold
Understanding Paul by Stephen Westerholm
What Christians Believe about the Bible 
by Don Thorsen and Keith Reeves

 

Lectionary Reflection for the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

Luke BTCBThis excerpt comes from Luke (BTCB) by David Lyle Jeffrey, commenting on Luke 8:1-3:

An unspecified time has intervened, but presumably not long after the meal at Simon’s house Jesus sets out once again throughout the Galilee region “preaching and bringing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God” (8:1). Evidently his retinue of followers is increasing. Luke specifies “the twelve” but now adds that there are “certain women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities” with him (8:2), among whom Luke names three of the more prominent figures.

The first of these is Mary Magdalene, “out of whom went seven devils” (KJV). Bede and Gregory the Great, among others who identify Magdalene with the weeping penitent of Luke 7, suggest that the “seven devils” may be understood as a reference to seven vices (Bede, Homilies on the Gospels 2.4) or to a universal proclivity to a life of vice (Gregory the Great, Homily on the Gospels 33). Luke’s text itself, however, suggests in the episode of the Gadarene swine that ensues that something more dramatic, however unspecified in his narrative, may have been involved.

In any case, Luke is here naming a woman whose repentance and spiritual transformation were especially noteworthy and whose utter faithfulness to Jesus would see her both among the few remaining at the cross itself and, after Jesus’s resurrection, as the one to whom first he would appear, in an episode recorded only in John’s Gospel. Magdalene clearly occupies a place of respect among the disciples.

About Chuza, the steward of Herod, we know little; that his wife, Joanna, should have left the court precincts to follow Jesus indicates that she also may have had “substance” at her disposal with which to provision the Twelve and Jesus. She seems to have become a friend of Mary Magdalene, and she is later named with Mary Magdalene and the other women who returned from the open tomb to inform the disciples (Luke 24:10).

Susanna appears by name only here.

All of these women “ministered” (diakoneō) to Jesus “from their substance” (KJV). The phrase here can mean simply “to wait on tables,” but clearly this is insufficient to explain the role of these women. Though they may have provisioned the group with food, the itinerary does not well support the imagination of cooking and serving at tables; “from their substance” sounds much more like their having had sufficient money to buy food and periodically, perhaps, to rent lodgings.

This is one of several moments in Luke’s narrative in which he reminds us of the mendicant poverty of Christ and the Twelve; Henry comments aptly when he remembers in this context another text: “‘Though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor,’ and lived on alms” (1728: 657).

To see women in such a group of disciples may have perhaps have aroused curiosity in itself; Jewish culture normatively restricted women’s privileges even to speak in public social gatherings, and a woman could not so much as enter a synagogue or pray the Shema. Jesus is different.

Accordingly, women play an important part in Luke’s narratives. Here is a visible sign that Jesus is creating a holistic representation of membership in the kingdom, showing it to be a real koinōnia. All of these people, men and women together, were being trained by example to become productive members of the body of Christ, even as they, though in a material sense poor, were being exposed to the riches of Jesus’s pedagogy.

It is clear that here, as in Luke 6 at the choosing of the disciples, Luke shows us that Jesus has been consciously building up a community of complementarity in roles and gifts, endowing them with instruction and good purpose so that they could become the church.

 

©2012 by David Lyle Jeffrey. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.