Archives for August 2013

The Weekly Hit List: August 30, 2013

Educating All God’s Children by Nicole Baker Fulgham was reviewed in WORLD Magazine

“Fulgham poses a question: ‘To what extent is the Christian community working to help improve public schools for poor children—regardless of where we choose to send our own children?’

“She argues that most poor kids go to public schools, and if we care about children, the poor, and justice, we need to be involved in making those schools better. She provides a history of evangelical engagement with and withdrawal from public education, and spotlights churches and faith-based organizations that are successfully partnering with urban schools.

“The book hopes to inspire Christians to engage with low-income public schools and lays out practical ways to do it.”

 

Quick Hits:

Douglas Gresham (C. S. Lewis’s closest relative and consultant for all of the Narnia films) will make three U.S. appearances, speaking on the world of Narnia and the life and legacy of C. S. Lewis. Gresham will also be signing copies of A Life Observed: A Spiritual Biography of C. S. Lewis by Devin Brown, for which Gresham wrote the foreword.

Arthur Boers, author of Living into Focus, was interviewed by Andy Byers for The Big Bible Project.

The Bible Made Impossible by Christian Smith was reviewed by Bob Trube for Intervarsity Emerging Scholars Blog.

Esther & Daniel  (BTCB) by Samuel Wells and George Sumner was reviewed by Steve Bishop.

 

Ebook Specials:

One Step Closer: Why U2 Matters to Those Seeking God by Christian Scharen is only $3.99 (75% off) through September 7.

We Were the Least of These: Reading the Bible with Survivors of Sexual Abuse by Elaine A. Heath is only $3.99 (80%) off through September 5.

Lectionary Reflection for the Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost

This excerpt comes from Luke (BTCB) by David Lyle Jeffrey, commenting on Luke 14:1, 7-14:

Luke BTCB

Hospitality, as we have seen, can actually mask inhospitable intentions. Appearing to be generous, it can be disingenuous. In the view of Jesus, no hospitality driven by political motives, or employed as a strategem for social positioning, is virtuous.

As he has watched the guests scramble for preferred seats, positions they imagine to be indicative of their status (14:7), he has noticed this further mark of inauthenticity in the afikomen of the Pharisees. As the parable he tells makes clear enough, the virtue of self-effacement is a corollary of the practice of hospitiality.

The parable and its context, unique to Luke, call for a reflection of the divine principle laid down in scripture (e.g., Lev. 19:15; Num. 16:15) and given by Luke as Peter’s summary of Christ’s teaching concerning the gracious outreach of God to “all the world”: “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of person” (Acts 10:34 KJV). Peter then tells of the ministry and teaching of Jesus (10:35-43), following which immediately the Holy Spirit falls on all who hear the word, Gentiles included (cf. Jas. 2:1-5).

Both the Old Testament remembrances and the later account in the book of Acts of Peter’s sermon following the conversion of Cornelius help us to understand Luke’s persistence in underscoring this aspect of Jesus’s message. It is not just that the poor matter to God and must be served but also clearly that “worth” as measured in human eyes does not correspond to the way God sees things.

Scrabbling after the “seats of honor” (prōtoklisiai) is not only unseemly; it is imprudent. The “parable” (parabolē) Jesus gives here is a counsel of wisdom concerning the virtue of humility. In pursuing ambition for the place of honor, or fame, overreaching may result in profound embarrassment, even shame (Luke 14:9). Accordingly, humility is also a form of prudential wisdom; by sitting in the lowest seat the wise person avoids both offense and embarrassment (cf. Prov. 25:6-7).

Jesus offers out of his treasure here “something old,” but that has by his present company been forgotten (Luke 14:10). The principle that one day the last shall be first and the first last is, in 14:11, given in words that recall the Magnificat of Mary, but they also echo Jesus’s earlier warnings that in the eschaton the judgment of God and God alone pertains, and accordingly a lot of people are due for a surprise (Matt. 19:30; 20:16; Mark 10:31; Luke 13:30).

This repeated warning transforms the idea of social prudence into something “new,” grounding it in an eschatological principle (but cf. Ezek. 21:25-26). As the word “humility” suggests (from Latin humus), this virtue is no more than a candid recognition of the limitations appropriate to the human being as a creature of the Creator.

Yet, as citation of this verse in The Rule of Benedict 7 and as the schema in Bernard of Clairvaux’s Steps of Humility demonstrate, a careful practice of humility in our relationship with others is essential to our coming to an authentic knowledge of God.

 

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

Ebook special for One Step Closer by Christian Scharen

Now through September 7, the ebook for One Step Closer: Why U2 Matters to Those Seeking God by Christian Scharen is only $3.99—75% off! 

More information and a list of participating retailers is available here.

 

“Scharen organizes his book around scriptural and theological themes: prophecy, parables, apocalypse, faith, hope and love. In each case he offers an accessible description of the theological locus. . . . U2 in conversation with a professional theologian is rich fare indeed.”
—Jason Byassee, Christian Century

U2 is widely hailed as the greatest rock and roll band in the world, and lead singer Bono is often seen in the media touting humanitarian goals. Now Christian Scharen provides a thoughtful look at the driving force behind the band.

Bono and other band members are marked by the Christian faith of their Irish backgrounds. Scharen reflects on how U2 “fits within the longer Christian tradition of voices that point us to the cross, to Jesus, and to the power of God’s ways in the world” as he explores the music’s honest spiritual questioning.

Music lovers, pastors, and anyone on the path to God will value this book.

Christian Scharen (PhD, Emory University) is assistant professor of worship and theology and codirector of the Learning Pastoral Imagination Project at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. He has authored a number of books, including One Step Closer and Faith as a Way of Life. An ordained pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Scharen has served congregations in California, Georgia, and Connecticut.

Video: Devin Brown on the Imaginative Writings of C. S. Lewis

Here is the second of three videos with Devin Brown, author of the new book A Life Observed: A Spiritual Biography of C. S. Lewis.

In the first video, Brown spoke on the legacy of C. S. Lewis.

 

Free ebook for One Step Closer by Christian Scharen

Now through August 27, the ebook for One Step Closer: Why U2 Matters to Those Seeking God by Christian Scharen is free from participating retailers. 

More information and a list of participating retailers is available here.

 

“Scharen organizes his book around scriptural and theological themes: prophecy, parables, apocalypse, faith, hope and love. In each case he offers an accessible description of the theological locus. . . . U2 in conversation with a professional theologian is rich fare indeed.”
—Jason Byassee, Christian Century

U2 is widely hailed as the greatest rock and roll band in the world, and lead singer Bono is often seen in the media touting humanitarian goals. Now Christian Scharen provides a thoughtful look at the driving force behind the band.

Bono and other band members are marked by the Christian faith of their Irish backgrounds. Scharen reflects on how U2 “fits within the longer Christian tradition of voices that point us to the cross, to Jesus, and to the power of God’s ways in the world” as he explores the music’s honest spiritual questioning.

Music lovers, pastors, and anyone on the path to God will value this book.

Christian Scharen (PhD, Emory University) is assistant professor of worship and theology and codirector of the Learning Pastoral Imagination Project at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. He has authored a number of books, including One Step Closer and Faith as a Way of Life. An ordained pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Scharen has served congregations in California, Georgia, and Connecticut.

The Weekly Hit List: August 23, 2013

On Gods Side

Jim Wallis, author of On God’s Side,  is touring in the United Kingdom and Ireland August 23 through September 5. Following is a list of locations and dates for these events.

Cheltenham:
 Greenbelt 2013, Cheltenham Racecourse – Saturday, August 24 through Monday, August 26 (see the full list of appearances here)

London:
– Holy Trinity Clapham – Sunday, September 1, evening service
– Oasis/Faithworks event – Monday, September 2, 7:00 p.m.
– London Institute for Contemporary Christianity, St Peter’s Church – Tuesday, September 3, 6:30 p.m.

Belfast:
– Fitzroy Presbyterian Church – Wednesday, August 28, 7:30 p.m.

Manchester:
– Elmwood Church – Friday, August 30, 7:30 p.m.

Edinburgh:
– Cornerstone Bookshop – book signing – Thursday, August 29, 5:00 p.m.
– St Johns Church – Q&A session – Thursday, August 29, 6:00 p.m.
– St Paul’s and St George’s Church – Thursday, August 29, 7:30 p.m.

Additional information on events can be found here.

 

A Life Observed Giveaway Winner:

Congratulations to Anthony, Adam, John, Brandon, and Jeremy!

They have each won a copy of A Life Observed: A Spiritual Biography of C. S. Lewis by Devin Brown.

Keep checking back for our next giveaway.

 

Ebook Specials:

Everyday Apocalypse: The Sacred Revealed in Radiohead, The Simpsons, and Other Pop Culture by David Dark is only $3.99 (77% off) through August 24.

The Truth Shall Make You Odd: Speaking with Pastoral Integrity in Awkward Situations by Frank G. Honeycutt is only $3.99 (79% off) through August 29.

Ebook special for The Truth Shall Make You Odd by Frank G. Honeycutt

Now through August 29, the ebook for The Truth Shall Make You Odd: Speaking with Pastoral Integrity in Awkward Situations by Frank G. Honeycutt is only $3.99—79% off! 

More information and a list of participating retailers is available here.

 

In the life of a pastor, it can be tempting to offer half-truths that make everyone happy and the pastor popular. Speaking difficult truths may anger or alienate church members, but authentic pastoral care sometimes requires it. How can those in ministry speak honestly in the inevitable awkward situations they face?

Here a wise and witty pastor-storyteller draws on his church life experiences over the past twenty-five yearsincluding sermons, funerals, and board meetingsto offer nitty-gritty guidance on handling the uncomfortable situations that all pastors face. Utilizing humor and encouragement and speaking across denominational lines, Frank Honeycutt examines a variety of biblical contexts where the truth of Jesus is difficult to hear, but direly neededespecially in settings where half-truths are the norm. He shows pastors how to courageously speak the truth no matter the risk or cost.

Frank G. Honeycutt (DMin, Lutheran School of Theology, Chicago), a Lutheran (ELCA) pastor for twenty-five years, is senior pastor of Ebenezer Lutheran Church in Columbia, South Carolina. He is the author of many magazine articles and six books, including Preaching to Skeptics and Seekers and Sanctified Living.

Lectionary Reflection for the Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost

This excerpt comes from Luke (BTCB) by David Lyle Jeffrey, commenting on Luke 13:10-17:

Luke BTCBIn this bent-over woman, the beauty and dignity of her created humanity have been defaced for eighteen years. The proximate cause is described by Luke as “a spirit of infirmity” (Luke 13:11), a term that can cover considerable territory.

Jesus looks at her, calls her to come to him, simply says, “Woman, you are loosed from your infirmity” (13:12), lays hands on her, and “immediately” (parachrēma), as Luke likes to say, she straightens up and, now erect, gives glory to God (13:13). There is here no address to sin and forgiveness—just a compassionate, instant healing. It must have been stunning for those present.

But not for one, namely the ruler of the synagogue. He is angry; perhaps, as Cyril says, “He condemns the miracle that he might appear jealous for the Sabbath.” Of his sympathy for the woman in her suffering, gratitude for her healing, or empathy with her giving praise to God, there is not a hint. . . .

There may or may not be a direct personal cause in her own life, but there cannot help but be a cause of evil and suffering to which she is heir as a member of the human race: she is one “whom Satan has bound . . . for eighteen years.” Now she is “loosed” on the Sabbath, symbolically the day of rest for creation that returns it to God’s intended šālôm, his health and peace (13:16).

There are here echoes of the deep meaning of the Sabbath that had become lost, it seems, to such as this synagogue ruler; the Sabbath spirit of Exod. 20:8-11—which suggests a renewal of and delight in God’s creation, its beauty and fruitfulness (isa. 58:13-14)—should have set the tone for his response to what he saw. . .

Augustine’s allegorical or spiritual reading of the woman herself in this light is most appropriate. At one level, she symbolizes Israel, bowed down with the burden of its iniquities. But at another, he suggests, “the whole human race is like this woman, bent over and bowed down to the ground” (Sermon 162).

At the personal or immediate level, it makes little difference, as Cyril says, whether she suffered “because of her own crimes or for the transgression of Adam”; Satan often, as Cyril notes, receives authority over certain persons because of their sins, and, as Augustine has it, this certainly applies to the human race as a whole—even to the very creation itself, which, in Paul’s words, “groans and labors with birth pangs together until now . . . waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body” (Rom. 8:22-23).

In this added light we can see the healing of the bent-over woman anagogically, as a sign of the ultimate Sabbath rest, the final redemption of those for whom Christ died.

 

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

Behind the Book: Devin Brown on A Life Observed: A Spiritual Biography of C. S. Lewis

Today Devin Brown shares why he wrote A Life Observed: A Spiritual Biography of C. S. Lewis.

There have been a number of good biographies written about C. S. Lewis. The first one was released in 1974, eleven years after Lewis’s death, by Roger Lancelyn Green and Walter Hooper, who knew Lewis personally. Then in 1988, George Sayer, who had been Lewis’s pupil and later his close friend, published Jack. In 2005, Douglas Gresham, Lewis’s stepson and a producer of the Narnia films, gave us Jack’s Life, and Alan Jacobs gave us The Narnian. And there have been others.

So a normal reaction to my recent offering, A Life Observed: A Spiritual Biography of C. S. Lewis, might be: Why another biography of Lewis?

In A Life Observed, a title intended to echo Lewis’s A Grief Observed, I take a somewhat different tack. Previous biographies about Lewis have been more or less comprehensive in the sense that they tell a little bit about everything. For example, readers might learn who Lewis’s great grandfather was and when and where he lived.

My approach was more focused. I put Lewis’s spiritual journey—both the steps that led to his conversion and the steps he took afterward—at the center. This allowed me to go into more depth in describing his search for the object of the mysterious longing he felt, a feeling he called “Joy,” and in tracing his growth in the years after he became a Christian.

I am also one of the few biographers who makes a living as an English professor, as did Lewis—which means that I have been trained to think and read in the same way that he did. For example, in A Life Observed, I discuss the importance of the epigrams which Lewis uses in his autobiography, Surprised by Joy. Readers might be amazed to discover all that Lewis packed into them.

English teachers always tell their students write what you know. Lewis was able to provide such penetrating portraits of temptation and redemption because he himself had been greatly tempted and greatly redeemed. I try to connect aspects from Lewis’s fictional accounts of faith with his own journey.

Another aspect of A Life Observed that is different from most other biographies is what might be called authorial stance. Some Lewis biographers have wanted to seem very objective and have been almost scientific in their approach. Though they clearly appreciated and admired Lewis, they did not want to seem biased. In order to do this, they always kept Lewis at arm’s length and never became personally involved in the story they were telling. For some of them, it seems to me, this meant going a bit overboard to make sure they pointed out every real or imagined flaw he may have had.

I hope I never went overboard in the other direction, but rather than keeping Lewis at arm’s length, I fully embraced him and tried to bring his amazing story to life with all the excitement it warrants.

Readers of A Life Observed will find that hardly a page goes by where I do not quote from Lewis directly—from his letters, diary, autobiographical works, apologetics, or fiction. My goal was to allow him to tell his own story whenever possible. Not every biographer of Lewis has tried to do this. A number have intentionally imposed their own agenda on his story and have reinterpreted his life to fit their needs.

Finally, Lewis’s story is the story of a man who wandered, struggled, and was lost for many years but in the end was found and made his way on the right path. In this sense it is biographical. It is also a universal story, because a loving Father in heaven pursues each of us and will not stop until each lost one has been found. In this sense, I hope that A Life Observed will be inspiring and uplifting and will point readers to Christ, for surely this was Lewis’s own goal.

—————————————————————

Devin Brown (PhD, University of South Carolina) is a Lilly scholar and professor of English at Asbury University. A C. S. Lewis aficionado, Brown has written, taught, and lectured on Lewis extensively for more than ten years. He has authored a number of books related to Lewis, including Inside Narnia and Inside Prince Caspian, and lives in Kentucky. In 2008 Brown was invited to serve as scholar-in-residence at the Kilns, Lewis’s home in Oxford.

For more information on A Life Observed, click here.

Video: Devin Brown on the Legacy of C. S. Lewis

Here is the first of three videos with Devin Brown, author of the new book A Life Observed: A Spiritual Biography of C. S. Lewis.