Archives for June 2015

The Weekly Hit List: June 26, 2015

Traces of the TrinityCover Art, by Peter Leithart, was reviewed by Andrew Stout at The Englewood Review of Books.

The theological propositions here are bold, far-reaching, and endlessly suggestive. Leithart creatively and entertainingly illuminates the traditional concept of perichoresis at the same time that he extends the scope of its application. He deftly intertwines, philosophical, theological, and literary allusions as he articulates a vision of the world that is given shape by Scripture.

At Jesus Creed, John Frye discussed the vice of Lust, as part of his series on Rebecca Konyndyk DeYoung’s Glittering Vices.

Our culture expects lust to deliver only what love can deliver. Thus, more sexual encounters build up and the more empty men and women feel. Physical pleasure, whether eating and drinking or sexual intercourse, cannot in themselves meet our spiritual needs..

Quick Hits:

Matthew H. Young, at First Things, read James K. A. Smith’s Letters to a Young Calvinist.

Jonathan Grant’s Divine Sex was reviewed by Conrade Yap at Panorama of a Book Saint.

Stephen J. Bedard reviewed Nonviolent Action by Ron Sider.

Lectionary Reflection for the Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

This excerpt comes from 2 Samuel (BTCB) by Robert Barron, commenting on 2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27:

Cover Art

One should not overlook the importance of David’s intense friendship with the son of Saul. From Jonathan’s side, it signals the orientation of true love, which is directed toward the other. Jonathan willingly surrendered his status and position in favor of David, easily, even gratefully, acknowledging that David and not he would one day succeed Saul. And despite the enormous danger to himself, Jonathan consistently defended and protected David.

John Chrysostom comments that Jonathan ought to have been jealous of the upstart shepherd who was rivaling him for the throne, “but he [ Jonathan] favored David obtaining the sovereignty; and he didn’t spare his father for the sake of his friend. . . . Instead of envying, Jonathan joined in obtaining the kingdom for him.” This lovely surrender to the other is what led Aelred of Rievaulx and many others to see in Jonathan’s relationship to David the model of true friendship.

From David’s side, the relationship shows once more his intense tie with the house of Saul despite Saul’s murderous opposition. A number of times in the course of 2 Samuel David will endeavor to show kindness to members of Saul’s house “for the sake of Jonathan and Saul,” answering violence with favor. Chrysostom goes so far as to hint that David’s behavior is a model to all those who would show favor to both the living and the dead. Certainly one of the most powerful ways that David demonstrated his love for his friend slain on the slopes of Mount Gilboa was the composition of an elegy read and admired three thousand years after its composition.

©2015 by Robert Barron. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

The Weekly Hit List: June 19, 2015

Cover ArtJ. Todd Billings, author of Rejoicing in Lament, was interviewed by Anna at An Inch of Gray.

My book is called Rejoicing in Lament with a double-sense: taking joy in rediscovering the healing balm of biblical lament, and also rejoicing in the midst of lament. I’ve not only shed tears of grief, but tears of joy in my cancer journey. Ultimately, this is a book that shows how lament can go hand in hand with gratitude and hope.

At Jesus Creed, McKnight finished his series on Wesley Hill’s Spiritual Friendship.

Love is a genuine and rugged commitment to another person, first, to be with that person, and second, to be for that person, and third, in that context those who genuinely love journey into Christlikeness. I don’t think that can happen without friendships being formed.

Quick Hits:

Scot McKnight’s Kingdom Conspiracy was reviewed by T. D. Hurst at Where the Wild Things Are.

Stratford Caldecott‘s Beauty for Truth’s Sake was reviewed by Roy Peachey at Humanum.

At School of Religion, Vincent Williams reviewed A Public Faith by Miroslav Volf.

Lectionary Reflection for the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

This excerpt comes from 1 Samuel (BTCB) by Francesca Aran Murphy, commenting on 1 Samuel 17: (1a, 4-11, 19-23), 32-49:

None of the scenes of single-handed combat in Homer’s epic of war or in Vergil’s Roman successor has achieved the mythic universality of this historical, biblical tale. One reason is that it is much simpler and more naïve. Both Achilles’ fight with Hector in the Iliad and Aeneas’s climactic defeat of Turnus in the Aeneid are psychologically and artistically complex. Achilles and Hector, kings of the Greeks and the Trojans, and “Trojan” Aeneas and Turnus king of the indigenous Sabines, are evenly matched in their social status and military prowess. The deaths of Hector and Turnus both have tragic overtones. They participate in the grandeur of the epic milieu from which they spring. No Greek or Roman epic poet would dream of matching a shepherd against a giant. As against the tragic endings of the Homeric and Vergilian epics of war, the slaying of the hulking Goliath by the youthful shepherd is a straightforward happy dénouement.

At the same time, all is not quite what it seems, and we know that. It is not the uneven conquest of a Philistine champion by an anonymous boy that it looks like on the surface. Few are taken in. It is not about a habiru, a socially marginal migrant, taking on a terrifying tyrant, and anyone who has read the preceding chapters of 1 Samuel knows that. In this story, a secretly anointed king throws down the gauntlet to a representative member of the most God-mocked tribe in sacred scripture.

…You don’t have to know God’s injunction to Samuel, “Man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (16:7 ESV), to intuit that this is what the story is about. It is the secret of its universal, mythic appeal, because everyone knows that appearances are deceptive and because everyone likes it that way. Or, they’d like to like it that way.

The truth that Plato wrote a philosophy to expound is told in 1 Sam. 17 as an adventure story. But Platonists are not all that sure that the deceptiveness of appearance is amiable. It is a conundrum for them, and a tragedy: Socrates was a martyr to truth over the common opinions of the Athenian jurors, their susceptibility to false appearances. Whereas, for the Bible, the deceptiveness of appearance is weighted to winning: it launches the heart to triumph over the appearance. It is because we yearn to believe that “strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9) that the inspired authority of scripture is humanly gripping. That weakness is deceptive is what launches the underdog to victory. This is why David is a great comic hero, and the biblical vision is ultimately a comedy.

©2010 by Francesca Aran Murphy. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

The Weekly Hit List: June 12, 2015

Cover ArtScot McKnight, at Jesus Creed, continued his series on Wesley Hill’s Spiritual Friendship.

One of the marks of “friendship” in our world is that they are the “freest, the least constrained, the least fixed and determined, of all human loves.” This from Wesley Hill, Spiritual Friendship, xiii, and a theme throughout his book.

A theme, in fact, that is seriously challenged by a proposal that Wes Hill offers, namely, that friendships ought perhaps to be more formally framed.

Other Spiritual Friendship Media:

Tim Challies reviewed Spiritual Friendship.

Spiritual Friendship was reviewed at Bob on Books.

Quick Hits:

Nonviolent Action by Ron Sider was reviewed at Panorama of a Book Saint.

A Vice Worth Pondering?” John Frye discusses avarice after reading Glittering Vices by Rebecca Konyndyk DeYoung.


Lectionary Reflection for the Third Sunday after Pentecost

This excerpt comes from 1 Samuel (BTCB) by Francesca Aran Murphy, commenting on 1 Samuel 15:34-16:13:

On God’s instruction, Samuel anoints David, and his name is then shared out too: “Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward” (16:13 NKJV). No ugly duckling, David is the jolt to the system that the all-knowing God had selected. The Psalms speak of the striking innovation of this election, which overturns the traditional familial hierarchy known to all tribal cultures:

I made a lad ruler in preference to a warrior, I exalted a youth above a hero.

I found David my servant, with my holy oil I anointed him. (Ps. 89:19– 20, trans. Flanagan 1988: 201)

A transition is occurring within Israel’s religious self-understanding, bound up with its cultural self-understanding and with the self-understanding of all peoples after Christ.

To modern Western readers, instructed by countless fairy tales, bypassing of the elder sons for the youngest is about as surprising as the appearance of an unlikely hero in a Disney movie. Our culture has been steeped in the Christ event for so long that it takes an imaginative effort to see that, because Samuel’s culture was one in which “the elders were an important component of the social stratum” and the “gods of the progenitors,” their own “ancestors influenced the Israelites to structure themselves hierarchically according to age. To be a gibbor (‘firstborn’) accorded a son special status, not because the firstborn was stronger, wiser, or more experienced, but because he was the closest one in line to the ancestors.”

What we, no less than the “African and Israelite communities . . . organized along family hierarchical structures,” have to learn from the upheaval and transformation represented by the anointing of the youngest son is that Christ, and like him his forefather David, creates a change in the register of God’s action. In the world of the patriarchs and the tribal cultures of the judges, where God acted in the seen (the naturally beautiful), the order and beauty of the family and tribe, henceforth God will often act in the unseen (the invisible and yet providential gesture). There are no miracles in 1 Sam. 16–31. God’s working has gone underground, and hence a signature theme must be the contrast of the heart and the externals that mortal family members can see.

©2010 by Francesca Aran Murphy. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

The Weekly Hit List: June 5, 2015

Cover ArtPeter Leithart, author of Traces of the Trinity, wrote “How to Glimpse the Trinity” for Christianity Today.

When Jesus talks about mutual indwelling, he stresses the similarities—rather than the dissimilarities—between the relationship of the Father and the Son, the church’s relationship with him and the Father, and Christians’ relations with one another. All this helps us to understand not only the God we worship, but also who we are and what we experience on a day-to-day basis.

At The Englewood Review of Books, Andrew Stout reviewed Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory by Jerry Walls.

Walls’ imaginatively reasoned and defended account of these traditional doctrines will do much to persuade those with different visions of the faith. It also offers a thoughtful, appealing, and narratively coherent account of the Christian drama to those not of the faith.

Quick Hits:

Scot McKnight began a series on Wesley Hill’s Spiritual Friendship.

Stuart Dunn reviewed 2 Samuel and Colossians in the Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible.


Lectionary Reflection for the Second Sunday after Pentecost

This excerpt comes from Genesis (BTCB) by R. R. Reno, commenting on Genesis 3:8-15:

God creates for a purpose, and when the original choices of the man and woman go against his purpose, God does not wash his hands of creation. “They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden” (3:8).

He speaks to the man and woman: “I will question you, and you shall declare to me” ( Job 38:3). Both respond, “I ate” (Gen. 3:12–13). Now the initiative returns to God, and he fulfills their choices. The man and woman chose sentient life, the realm of physical pleasures and the project of natural survival. Their punishment is to have what they have chosen.

As Chrysostom says, imagining God speaking directly to the man and woman, “Lo, you have become what you expected—or rather, not what you expected but what you deserved to become” (Homilies on Genesis 18.6 in FC 82.7). Divine justice is not only incorruptible and beneficent (“the Lord reproves him whom he loves”; Prov. 3:12); it is also fitting. According to Augustine, “The retribution for disobedience is simply disobedience itself. For man’s wretchedness is nothing but his own disobedience to himself ” (City of God 14.15, quoted from Bettenson 1972: 575).

We try to live according to Satan’s lie, as if the material world were sufficient for life. But just as the restless loneliness that Adam experienced extends beyond the bodily union of man and woman, so also do we twist and turn in order to extract more than survival from our innerworldly projects. We tie ourselves into knots of self-contradiction in our efforts to use finite goods to satisfy our infinite longing.

©2010 by R. R. Reno. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

This Just In: Divine Sex by Jonathan Grant

Cover ArtThe digital revolution has ushered in a series of sexual revolutions, all contributing to a perfect storm for modern relationships. Online dating, social media, internet pornography, and the phenomenon of the smartphone generation have created an avalanche of change with far-reaching consequences for sexuality today. The church has struggled to address this new moral ecology because it has focused on clarity of belief rather than quality of formation. The real challenge for spiritual formation lies in addressing the underlying moral intuitions we carry subconsciously, which are shaped by the convictions of our age.

In this book, a fresh new voice offers a persuasive Christian vision of sex and relationships, calling young adults to faithful discipleship in a hypersexualized world. Drawing from his pastoral experience with young people and from cutting-edge research across multiple disciplines, Jonathan Grant helps Christian leaders understand the cultural forces that make the church’s teaching on sex and relationships ineffective in the lives of today’s young adults. He also sets forth pastoral strategies for addressing the underlying fault lines in modern sexuality.


Jonathan GrantJonathan Grant (ThM, Regent College, Vancouver) is the leader of St. Paul’s Symonds Street, one of the largest Anglican congregations in Australasia, located in the heart of Auckland, New Zealand. After beginning his career in law and investment banking, Grant pursued ordination training in the Church of England, serving in pastoral ministry at St. Mary’s Bryanston Square, London.


Praise for Divine Sex:

“There are few issues in life that confront each of us multiple times a day like human sexuality….Every man and woman wrestles with the lies of sensualized culture while holding at bay the effects of pervasive isolation and intense loneliness. In Divine Sex Jonathan Grant guides us through this journey with wit, grace, and honesty while being both wholly theological and profoundly real.” – Chap Clark, Fuller Theological Seminary

“This is an exceptionally important and timely book….Grant addresses the issues directly yet sympathetically, countering contemporary folly with solid data, biblical wisdom, and grace.” – Craig M. Gay, Regent College

“With well-researched pastoral truth and grace, Grant moves us beyond denial and dissonance, deception, or despair. He compassionately exposes the powerful influences that orient us away from the heart of the Christian story by disordering our desires, explores the Christian reality of our shared life as sexual human beings in communion, and encourages us toward practices that embody the wholeness of cruciform life together–and he does so with candor, wisdom, and hope.” – Cherith Nordling, Northern Seminary

“In the intensely sexualized culture of the secularized West, Grant’s thoughtful treatment is a valuable contribution to our understanding not just of our cultural conditioning but of God’s design and the true sexual liberation we can experience as followers of Jesus.” – Sam Metcalf, president, CRM-US

“This is a book that needed to be written….Absorbing Grant’s insight, analysis, and constructive argument should not only deepen how we are talking about sex and discipleship; it should also give us new intentionality about the church as a formative community, enabling us to live into a different script that is good news–that our sexual lives are hidden with Christ in God.” – James K. A. Smith (from the foreword)