The Weekly Hit List: April 24, 2015

Eve Tushnet wrote about Wesley Hill’s Spiritual Friendship for The American Conservative.

Hill explores how our cultural expectations affect people who, for whatever reason, don’t expect to marry or have kids. How do we give and receive love? How do we lead lives which are fruitful and not just lonely expanses of time-before-death?

So often gay people in the “traditional” (for lack of a better word) churches receive no hint that we, too, have vocations—that we, too, are called to love specific other people. So Hill is trying to restore “spiritual friendship”—intimate, lasting friendship which draws the friends closer to God—as a vocation for gay or same-sex attracted Christians.

Read the rest of “No Marriage Is an Island” here.

 

Other Spiritual Friendship Media:

Stephen Shaffer reviewed Spiritual Friendship.

Patrick Schreiner reviewed Spiritual Friendship.

Adam Shields reviewed Spiritual Friendship.

 

 

The Drama of Living by David F. Ford was recommended and reviewed by D. Brent Laytham for The Christian Century:

This rich, relevant volume, a sequel to Ford’s stunning The Shape of Living, is an author’s report on his past books, a participant’s report on Scriptural Reasoning meetings, an annotated anthology of the poetry of Micheal O’Siadhail, and a dramatic reading of the Gospel of John.

The surprising thing about the book is its wholeness, as Ford seeks to draw readers (and rereaders) to wiser living.

 

Quick Hits:

Traces of the Trinity by Peter J. Leithart was reviewed by James Matichuk.

Evangelicals for Social Action shared an excerpt from Nonviolent Action by Ronald J. Sider.

Nonviolent Action by Ronald J. Sider was reviewed by Bob Trube.

Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory by Jerry L. Walls was reviewed by David Baggett.

Scot McKnight discussed Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory.

 

Ebook Specials:

A Life Observed: A Spiritual Biography of C. S. Lewis by Devin Brown is on sale for $2.99 (82% off) from participating retailers through April  26.

Lectionary Reflection for the Fourth Sunday of Easter

This excerpt comes from Psalms for All Seasons, commenting on Psalm 23:

Psalm 23, like Ps. 16, is a psalm of trust. It is filled with memorable imagery: grassy pastures, restful waters, dark valleys, the protecting and correcting rod and staff, sumptuous feasts, and fragrant oil.

It makes a journey from “rest” to “shadow” to “feast,” narrating God’s presence in moments of orientation, disorientation, and reorientation.

 

Prayer for reflection:
Jesus, loving shepherd, we hear your voice,
and we know the price you paid because of your love for us.
Help us to move beyond hearing and knowing
to accepting the life you offer us and committing ourselves to serving others,
giving you all honor, glory, and praise. Amen.

 

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

Ebook Special for A Life Observed by Devin Brown

Now through April 26, the ebook for A Life Observed: A Spiritual Biography of C. S. Lewis by Devin Brown is only $2.99 (82% off) from the following participating retailers:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

CBD

 

“Lewis believed that Christianity was first and foremost about experiencing God in one’s life. . . . Quite appropriately then, Brown’s biography recounts events from Lewis’ life and quotes from his books, letters, and diary in order to tell the story of his spiritual journey. And it’s a fascinating tale, especially when one considers that Lewis was not always a Christian. . . . Fans of Lewis will find much here to savor. So, too, will those interested in a man’s lifelong attempt to live out his faith.”
Booklist

“[Brown] chronicles Lewis’s journey from atheist to Christian, tracing Lewis’s lifelong search for his mysterious object of desirejoy. He provides a close reading of Lewis’s writings and an examination of Lewis’s friendships with J. R. R. Tolkien and the rest of the literary circle known as the Inklings. . . . [This book] perform[s] the task that all critical books should and also plant[s] a desire in readers to pick up and read Lewis’s own work. . . . [It] illuminate[s] this gifted author, whose passion for good writing and deep desire to bring pleasure to readers make his work timeless.”
Publishers Weekly

 

C. S. Lewis is one of the most influential Christian writers of our time. The Chronicles of Narnia has sold more than 100 million copies worldwide and all Lewis’s works are estimated to sell 6 million copies annually. At the fiftieth anniversary of his death, Lewis expert Devin Brown brings the beloved author’s story to life in a fresh, accessible, and moving biography through focusing on Lewis’s spiritual journey.

Although it was clear from the start that Lewis would be a writer, it was not always clear he would become a Christian. Drawing on Lewis’s autobiographical works, books by those who knew him personally, and his apologetic and fictional writing, this book tells the inspiring story of Lewis’s journey from cynical atheist to joyous Christian and challenges readers to follow their own calling. The book allows Lewis to tell his own life story in a uniquely powerful manner while shedding light on his best-known works.

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.

The Weekly Hit List: April 17, 2015

Congratulations to Wendy VanderWal-Gritter! Generous Spaciousness is a finalist in the 2015 Word Awards in the Christian Living category.

Focusing on the church’s engagement with gay and lesbian Christians, this book invites readers into a gracious conversation regarding human sexuality.

The Word Awards are designed to bring attention to excellence in Canadian Christian writing in all genres.

Award winners will be announced at a gala on June 13, 2015, in Toronto, Ontario.

The complete shortlist is available here, and a complete press release can be found here.

 

Amy Plantinga Pauw reviewed and recommended Rejoicing in Lament by J. Todd Billings for Christian Century.

Buoyed by the psalmists, who trusted God in the midst of their anxiety, joy, anger, and suffering, Billings wrestles theologically with the daily realities and implications of his cancer diagnosis.

His honest witness can help Christians avoid glibness or sentimentality in supporting those facing serious illness.

 

Other Rejoicing in Lament Media:

Todd Billings appeared on Connecting Faith with Neil Stavem (Faith Radio network).

Paul Nierengarten reviewed Rejoicing in Lament.

April Fiet referenced Rejoicing in Lament.

Ted Schroder reviewed Rejoicing in Lament.

 

Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory  (Jerry L. Walls) Media:

Scot McKnight discussed Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory in several posts: April 10; April 14April 16

Drew McCarthy reviewed Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory for Seedbed.

Joshua Torrey reviewed Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory.

Matthew Manry reviewed Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory.

 

Spiritual Friendship (Wesley Hill) Media:

Byron Borger of Hearts & Minds Books recommended Spiritual Friendship:

It is one of the most important books of our time, vital, important, rare, wise, exceptional.  It is exactly about our embodiedness, yes, even about the redemption of our sexuality.

It is beautifully written, exquisite at times, and more candid then one might expect in an evangelical Christian book.  We are proud to carry it, and eager to commend it to one and all.

Matthew Loftus reviewed Spiritual Friendship for Mere Orthodoxy.

Wesley Hill will be appearing at Christ Church Anglican on May 2 with Tim Otto and Julie Rodgers.

Conciliar Post reviewed Spiritual Friendship.

Dr. Conrade Yap reviewed Spiritual Friendship.

Tim Perry reviewed Spiritual Friendship.

 

Quick Hits:

Traces of the Trinity by Peter J. Leithart was reviewed by Tim Perry and recommended by Kuyperian Commentary.

Scot McKnight, author of Kingdom Conspiracy, will appear at Lipscomb University on April 23.

The (Un)Common Good by Jim Wallis was reviewed by Conversation in Faith.

Real Sex by Lauren Winner was mentioned by Publishers Weekly.

Lectionary Reflection for the Third Sunday of Easter

This excerpt comes from Luke (BTCB) by David Lyle Jeffrey, commenting on Luke 24:36b-48:

After the Lord has left them, at “that very hour” the pair return to Jerusalem, presumably arriving later in the same evening, to find “the eleven and those who were with them gathered together [athroizō]” (24:33), already talking in amazement about the Lord having appeared by now to Simon Peter (24:34). And so Cleopas and the other tell their story too, notably “how he was known to them in the breaking of bread” (24:35).

But even while they are in this joyous exchange, flushed with the excitement and wonder of it all, suddenly Jesus is standing “in the midst of them” and saying, “Peace to you” (24:36).

Despite the collective witness of previous encounters with the risen Lord, they are “terrified and affrighted” (ptoeō and emphobos—the doubling indicates extremity of apprehensive emotion) and think he is a ghost (24:37).

As so often, he calms them down: “Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts?” (24:38). He points to his hands and his feet, inviting them to touch him, “for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have” (24:39). When he does this (24:40), they can scarcely believe for their joy and wonderment (thaumazō has the sense we employ when we refer to something wonderful as “fantastic” or “incredible,” not meaning the word literally but hyperbolically for something so marvelous our minds cannot take it in).

Luke here is as emphatic about the physicality of the resurrected body of Jesus as Paul will be later (1 Cor. 15:35–49); it is of the essence of what he is showing to have happened that every expectation of mortal nature in death has been broken through, the corruptible body having been restored and now, recognizably flesh and bones, yet an entirely new phenomenon.

It can scarcely be overstressed how contrary Luke and Paul are to modernist metaphorizing and sidestepping of this absolute foundation of Christian faith and hope.

John Updike, himself a modern and no pietist, nevertheless underscores this point beautifully in a poem directed against the evasive liberalism of many theologians when he insists that Jesus’s bodily resurrection is the lynch-pin of any plausible Christian future: “if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the molecules / reknit, the amino acids rekindle,” he says, “the Church will fall.”

 

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

 

The Power of Nonviolent Action (an excerpt from Nonviolent Action by Ronald J. Sider)

The following is an excerpt from Chapter 11 of Nonviolent Action: What Christian Ethics Demands but Most Christians Have Never Really Tried by Ronald J. Sider.

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Too often, power is understood only in terms of lethal coercion. Mao Zedong said that power is what comes from the barrel of a gun. Certainly power includes the ability to control people’s actions by the threat or use of lethal violence; however, the people also possess nonviolent collective power because they can choose to withdraw their support from rulers.

Nonviolent activists possess strong moral power. Praying, reconciling teams of Christian peacemakers risking their lives for others would share something of the moral power that Jesus exercised in the temple. He was able singlehandedly to drive the crowds of angry, oppressive moneychangers out of the temple, not because he was stronger or his disciples were more numerous. It was because deep in their hearts they knew that he was right.

International public opinion would also be influential. The daring of the teams of Christian peacemakers would sometimes make headline news around the world. Any group or nation that battered or killed prominent, internationally famous Christian leaders or even ordinary peacemakers would suffer substantial international disapproval.

A mandate also provides authority and therefore power. A mandate to intervene internationally, if issued by an organization such as the Organization of African States or the United Nations, could legitimize nonviolent teams of peacemakers. So too—at least to a certain, if lesser, degree—would an invitation by prominent Christian leaders and established churches, as well as recognized leaders of other religious groups.

Self-sacrificial love has innate power. It often weakens even vicious opponents—though not always, of course. People ready to suffer for others sometimes get crucified. But often, too, they evoke a more human, loving response, even from brutal foes.

The discipline, training, and coordination of an organized body with visible symbols of identity and cohesion are also powerful. Part of the power of a large group of police or soldiers lies in their uniforms, careful coordination, and ability to act quickly, decisively, and collectively. Highly trained and disciplined peacemaker teams would possess some of this same power.

Finally, there is the divine power of the Lord of history. What the Almighty will do if thousands of praying, loving Christians nonviolently face death in the search for peace and justice will remain shrouded in mystery—at least until we have the courage to try it. But what believer will doubt that there may be surprises ahead?

Death will be tragically intertwined with any serious test of the effectiveness of nonviolent action. But that will not prove that the effort has failed; it will only underline the depth of human sin, and also the fact that Christians are willing to imitate the One they worship. Nor is that all. The death of courageous nonviolent activists will also lead to the birth of a more powerful belief in and practice of successful nonviolent movements for peace and justice.

 

©2015 by Ronald J. Sider. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

The Weekly Hit List: April 10, 2015

Wesley Hill, author of Spiritual Friendship, was interviewed by Jonathan Merritt for his Religion News Service blog.

RNS: How do you hope reimagining friendship will help shape the debate over same-sex erotic behavior?

WH: My sense of the debate in the Christian churches is that many people think there are two options: Be gay and celibate and therefore lonely, or be gay and partnered and therefore not alone. What I’m trying to say is that I don’t think those are the only two options. I’m trying to live in a different place: openly acknowledging that I’m gay, pursuing a life of sexual abstinence in obedience to what the Bible teaches, and seeking to fill that life full of friendship and community.

How would our debates about how to love gay and lesbian people in our churches look different if celibacy seemed like a viable option, because deep friendships were a normal part of the Christian life, rather than the bleak occasion for marginalization that it so often appears to be now?

Read the entire article, “Celibate gay Christian leader urges faithful to ‘normalize’ committed friendships,” here.

 

Quick Hits:

Wesley Hill was mentioned by Ross Douthat in The New York Times.

Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory by Jerry L. Walls was reviewed by Dr. Conrade Yap and discussed by Scot McKnight.

Nonviolent Action by Ronald J. Sider was reviewed by Elliot Ritzema and Andrew Spencer.

Rejoicing in Lament by J. Todd Billings was quoted by Together for Adoption.

Lectionary Reflection for the Second Sunday of Easter

This excerpt comes from Psalms for All Seasons, commenting on Psalm 133:

Psalm 133, the fourteenth of the Psalms of Ascents, is a celebration of the unity of God’s people, a unity that is not to be taken for granted as the history of Israel attests.

The psalm uses dramatic imagery to convey the beauty of unity, comparing it to fragrant oil and mountain dew.

 

A prayer for reflection:

O God, let the overflowing of your Holy Spirit
cover your church with the blessing of unity
and the anointing of your peace,
through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

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

The Gift of Friendship – by Wesley Hill

This is an original post by Wesley Hill, author of Spiritual Friendship: Finding Love in the Church as a Celibate Gay Christian.

Wesley Hill (PhD, University of Durham) is assistant professor of biblical studies at Trinity School for Ministry. He is the author of Paul and the Trinity: Persons, Relations, and the Pauline Letters and the much-discussed Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality. Hill is on the editorial board of and is a columnist for Christianity Today. He also contributes to Books & Culture and First Things.

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Several years ago, during a time in my life when I was feeling especially lonely, I read a blog post by the gay Catholic writer Eve Tushnet on the theme of friendship. It was a short post, and it made one simple point. Its main idea was contained in one sentence, even. “My actual experience of friendship,” Tushnet wrote, “very strongly suggests a need and desire for friendships to become, over time, understood as given.”

What did she mean?

Well, there is a popular conception about friendship that goes back hundreds of years. Friendship, we have often been told, is the least “given,” the least constrained and committed and biologically driven, of all human loves. By contrast with our siblings, we get to choose our friends. Unlike our parents, our friends are connected to us by sheer liking. And in a way that differs from our spouses, to whom we’ve made vows for life, whether we go on liking them or not, our friends are simply our preferred ones. We aren’t bound to them, promised to them, “stuck” with them. And that, it is usually said, is what makes friendship so unique—and so precious.

But Tushnet’s post cuts against that conception. In her experience, she wrote, if a friendship lasts long enough and goes deep enough, it starts to edge away from the “free and unconstrained” territory and starts to move into the realm of “bound for life.” Friendship, in other words, starts to look more familial, more permanent, more “wedded.” As the Russian Orthodox writer Pavel Florensky once put it, oftentimes friendship strives to merge into the concept of brotherhood or sisterhood. It wants to become more constant.

When I read Tushnet’s post, I immediately resonated with it. I think the reason it struck me so powerfully had a lot to do with the fact that I’m gay. Because I’m a Christian of a pretty traditional sort and I accept the classic Christian teaching that marriage is a covenant between male and female and is ordered toward the bearing and rearing of children, I’m also celibate.

Being gay and celibate can leave you wondering whether you’re left out in the cold when it comes to committed, stable, intimate relationships. Watching many of your friends pair up and get married, you wonder if you have to settle for something less than that—for relationships that always end with separation or distance. And sometimes friendship, which is all too fleeting in our mobile society, comes to seem like a consolation prize. As blogger Casey Pick has written, “No community is quite so sensitive to the reality that, for all its virtues, friendship isn’t family.”

But what if Christian friendships, or at least some of them, were able to become more committed, more bound by promises, and more recognized as integral, lasting parts of gay Christians’ lives? What if friendship were able to look more familial?

If I were to describe the hope and joy I’ve found in my own gay, celibate life, I would point to moments where that shift has happened in my friendships. I talk about some of those moments in my new book Spiritual Friendship: Finding Love in the Church as a Celibate Gay Christian.

For instance, there was the time when my friend Jono called me and asked me to be a godfather to his and his wife Megan’s daughter Callie. Jono and Megan wanted to seal, with the sacrament of baptism, my relationship to Callie and to themselves. In an email I wrote to him afterward, I said, “I take comfort from this—that, in Jesus’ economy, leaving the prospect of being a husband and father myself does not mean being without a family.”

Or there was the time when my married friends Aidan and Melanie and I, recognizing how much we’d come to mean to each other, asked our minister friend Amy to come and pray a blessing over our friendship, solemnizing it and reminding us of the sort of commitment we’d embraced. In our living room, Amy set up an icon of Aelred of Rievaulx, the unofficial patron saint of friendship. She preached a brief homily from Psalm 121 on the theme of pilgrimage. “You three are companions on a pilgrimage to the heavenly city,” she said. And then she consecrated bread and wine on our coffee table, pointing us to the ultimate Friend who gave his body and blood to make our love for each other possible.

In those moments, among others, I’ve remembered those words I read several years ago from Tushnet’s blog: there is “a need and desire for friendships to become, over time, understood as given.” Thankfully, in Christ, they can be.

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To learn more about Spiritual Friendship, click here.

 

The Weekly Hit List: April 3, 2015

Wiman_blog_web

J. Todd Billings (author of Rejoicing in Lament) appeared with Christian Wiman (author of My Bright Abyss) at Western Theological Seminary on March 31. 

View the video of their conversation about being diagnosed with incurable cancer in the prime of life here.

 

Other Rejoicing in Lament Media:

One Billings’s articles was translated into Portugese for Reforma21.

Matthew Forrest Lowe reviewed Rejoicing in Lament.

Rejoicing in Lament was mentioned by Dr. Adam DeVille.

 

Christianity Today featured Ronald Sider and his new book, Nonviolent Action, in their April 2015 issue: “My Top 5 Books on Nonviolence.”

Ron Sider’s many books—about poverty, politics, and global justice—emphasize some of the most difficult and easily overlooked ethical obligations of following Christ.

In Nonviolent Action: What Christian Ethics Demands But Most Christians Have Never Really Tried (Brazos Press), the author of the now-classic Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger makes the biblical case for pursuing peaceful alternatives to conflict.

Here, Sider chooses 5 books on how nonviolence really works.

Read the entire article here.

 

Christianity Today included Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory by Jerry L. Walls as one of their April 2015 “New & Noteworthy Books.”

Walls, who teaches philosophy at Houston Baptist University, has written a trio of scholarly books defending the doctrines of heaven, hell, and—more controversially among Protestants—purgatory. Here, he packages those arguments into a single volume pitched at ordinary readers, delivered at a moment when debates about the hereafter have picked up steam.

“The Christian story is extraordinary, to be sure,” Walls maintains, “but it is radically incomplete and ultimately unsatisfying without a robust doctrine of the afterlife, and one simply cannot seriously affirm Trinity, incarnation, atonement, and resurrection without going on to heartily affirm ‘the life everlasting.’ ”

 

Quick Hits:

Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory was reviewed by John Mark N. Reynolds and discussed by Scot McKnight.

Traces of the Trinity by Peter J. Leithart was recommended on Faithlife.

Of Games and God by Kevin Schut was recommended by Byron Borger of Hearts & Minds Books.