The Weekly Hit List: May 22, 2015

Jonathan Merritt interviewed J. Todd Billings, author of Rejoicing in Lament, for Religion News Service blog On Faith & Culture.

In a classroom in Holland, Michigan, a 39-year-old man in a bowtie stands to deliver a lecture. Peeking out from behind his glasses, he surveys the eager students who have come expecting a lecture on theology. Instead, he tells them that he has just been diagnosed with a rare and incurable cancer.

J. Todd Billings is the Gordon H. Girod research professor of Reformed theology at Western Theological Seminary and author of several award-winning books such as The Word of God for The People of God and Union With Christ. After being diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2012, Billings and his wife decided to be open with others about his condition. But they didn’t know what they would learn through the process.

The knowledge that he faces a “narrowed future” has raised fresh theological questions about life, death, and faith for Billings and taught him how to rejoice in the face of possible death. He has recorded his thoughts in a critically-acclaimed book, Rejoicing in Lament: Wrestling With Incurable Cancer and Life With Christ. Here we discuss what he has learned and hopes to teach others in the time he has left.

Read all of “Prominent theologian finds joy amid incurable cancer diagnosis” here.

 

Spiritual Friendship (Wesley Hill) Media:

Wesley Hill’s interview with Peter Smith for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette was picked up by LaCrosse Tribune and by My San Antonio.

James Matichuk reviewed Spiritual Friendship and gave it five stars.

 

Quick Hits:

On Word on Fire, Robert Barron announced his 2 Samuel contribution to the Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible series, and he shared the entire introduction to his commentary.

Scot McKnight, author of Kingdom Conspiracy, appeared on White Horse Inn.

Rejoicing in Lament was recommended by Liberti Church: “This book on lament, hope, and prayer is both deeply personal and profoundly theological.”

Dennis Okholm, author of Dangerous Passions, Deadly Sins, was interviewed on Jesus Creed blog.

Learning for the Love of God by Donald Opitz and Derek Melleby was recommended by Byron Borger of Hearts & Minds Books.

Scot  McKnight began discussing Glittering Vices by Rebecca Konyndyk DeYoung on Jesus Creed.

The Weekly Hit List: January 23, 2015

Rejoicing in Lament by J. Todd Billings received a starred review from Publishers Weekly.

“An exploration of complex, age-old questions about suffering and God’s nature leads Billings to extol the beauty of mystery and the limits of human wisdom: ‘humans don’t have an answer to the problem of evil, and we shouldn’t claim that we have one.’

“Along with disclosing his wrenching questions, fears, and hopes, Billings explores ‘the ways in which God’s story intersects with the cancer story.’

“His poignant insight into the role of lament in faithful Christian living makes this a work of both astute scholarship and powerful testimony.”

Read the entire review here.

 

Quick Hits:

The Justice Calling by Bethany Hanke Hoang and Kristen Deede Johnson (July 2015) was recommended by Relevant Magazine as one of “12 Books We’re Excited About This Year.”

Dangerous Passions, Deadly Sins by Dennis Okholm was reviewed by Denver Journal.

Kingdom Conspiracy by Scot McKnight was reviewed by Chris Hennessey and by Johnny Walker.

Scot McKnight was appointed by Bishop Todd Hunter as a Canon Theologian for the Diocese of Churches for the Sake of Others.

Craig Detweiler, author of iGods, spoke at Calvin College’s January Series on “Apple, Google, and other ‘iGods’.”

Generous Spaciousness by Wendy VanderWal-Gritter was recommended on Hearts & Minds Books and reviewed on Anabaptist Redux.

A Beautiful Disaster by Marlena Graves was recommended on Hearts & Minds Books.

Presence and Encounter by David G. Benner was recommended by Eddie Olliffe.

A Public Faith by Miroslav Volf was reviewed on The Christian Mind.

Between the Lines: A Conversation with Dennis Okholm – Part 2

We recently had the chance to talk with Dennis Okholm about his book Dangerous Passions, Deadly Sins: Learning from the Psychology of Ancient Monks.

Dennis Okholm (PhD, Princeton Theological Seminary), a Benedictine oblate, speaks frequently in church and youth group settings and serves as assistant pastor at Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Costa Mesa, California. He is also professor of theology at Azusa Pacific University and adjunct professor at Fuller Theological Seminary. Okholm is the author or editor of many books, including Monk Habits for Everyday People.

Part 1 of this interview is available here.

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You write that “chastity is the queen of the virtues”; how so? How is chastity different from abstinence? What role does grace play in our purity?

As I did for all seven deadly sins, in the chapter on lust I related what I found in the monastic literature to what I found in psychological literature—in this case, what I found out about sexual addiction. Along the way, one of the scholars of early monasticism who helped me understand what the monks were proposing as a counterveiling virtue to lust—namely, chastity—was Columba Stewart, a Benedictine who teaches at St. John’s in Collegeville, Minnesota. Both in conversations with him and in his book Cassian the Monk, he helped me to see that chastity was the queen of the virtues because it really had to do with sound spiritual health—an “abiding tranquility” that is very different from the constant struggle that mere abstinence requires. In fact, in Father Stewart’s words, abstinence just wrestles lust to a truce.

He helped me to see that, in one respect, when the monks insisted upon certain disciplines to keep lust in check, those disciplines also helped the monk to realize the limits of human effort to combat lustful thoughts. In other words, success cannot be achieved by human effort alone; ultimately, it requires God’s grace.

Interestingly, Cassian “proves” this by discussing our dreams—our unconscious states. Those who have conquered lust will not even have salacious dreams, and this is something that is impossible by mere abstinence (or continence). I think that this corresponds to the first of the twelve steps that tackle addiction—the admission that the addicted person is not in control but must depend on a higher power. Or, as one book title asserts, “willpower is not enough.” This recognition ought to be acknowledged by youth ministers in our churches!

By the way, I thought Cassian’s discussion about what we refer to as “wet dreams” (the monks are not as queasy as we often are when talking candidly about our embodied lives) goes well with Luther’s evening prayer that concludes, “and graciously keep me this night. For into your hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let your holy angel be with me, that the wicked Foe may have no power over me. Amen.”

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For more information on Dr. Okholm’s new book, Dangerous Passions, Deadly Sins, click here.

Between the Lines: A Conversation with Dennis Okholm – Part 1

We recently had the chance to talk with Dennis Okholm about his book Dangerous Passions, Deadly Sins: Learning from the Psychology of Ancient Monks.

Dennis Okholm (PhD, Princeton Theological Seminary), a Benedictine oblate, speaks frequently in church and youth group settings and serves as assistant pastor at Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Costa Mesa, California. He is also professor of theology at Azusa Pacific University and adjunct professor at Fuller Theological Seminary. Okholm is the author or editor of many books, including Monk Habits for Everyday People.

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What are the seven deadly sins? What makes a sin cardinal, mortal, or venial?

The so-called “deadly sins” didn’t start out as a list of seven but as a list of eight thoughts that plague us simply because we are fallen human beings. They were listed and reflected upon by Evagrius (fourth century) and John Cassian (fifth century). The list included gluttony, lust, greed, anger, dejection (tristitia), weariness of heart (acedia), vainglory, and pride. Gregory the Great (sixth century) did some rearranging and came up with our list of seven, essentially combining tristitia and acedia into “sloth,” taking pride out as the font of all, and adding envy.

These are “cardinal” sins because they give birth to progeny, as it were: lesser but related sins. But they don’t become “deadly” (just “venial”) until they so consume your thoughts that they clog up your spiritual arteries so that God’s grace cannot flow through your life; as a result, spiritual death ensues and, sometimes, even physical death. You get an idea of this if you compare what they said about gluttony—our thoughts about food—to contemporary research on eating disorders. In fact, that’s what I am doing throughout the book—noting that what they said about these sins has much in common with what we think we’ve recently learned about similar issues in psychology and sociology.

 

How would monks have pursued emotional health, and what did that look like? What can we learn from them? What can we imitate?

The monks I write about in this book—monks who lived centuries before us—were living together in close relationship with others day in and day out. In the process they dealt with all the issues with which we deal every day—how to think about food intake, lust, anger issues, envious thoughts about fellow monks, desiring more than is needed for daily life, and so on. When it comes to our spiritual, emotional, and bodily health, things really haven’t changed that much over the centuries; so their insights can be very helpful for us, particularly because they were processing it all from a specifically Christian understanding.

They analyzed these problems—causes, symptoms. Essentially, they were providing an etiology of psychological and sociological problems that ail us. Then they prescribed strategies to deal with these problems. As an example, in their discussions about anger they recommend, among other strategies, what we would call “reframing”; that is, they encourage me to think what might have caused someone on the LA freeway to cut me off—such as word that a family member has just gone to the hospital—before I impulsively vent in a fit of road rage. And they recommend the cultivation of counterveiling virtues, such as patience in the case of anger—the virtue of expansion of the heart to relieve the built-up pressure that is anger.

Along the way I discovered that at times the ancient monks anticipated cures that we only recently discovered. To use anger as an example again, I discovered in psychological literature that research reversed the long-held supposition that cathartic venting was the best way to deal with anger; in the 1960s research began to demonstrate that a response of verbal aggression actually increased anger—something that Cassian said 1500 years ago.

There is much wisdom in the writings of these early Christian monks that I have tried to unpack so that it will help us to diagnose what ails us and to develop strategies and cultivate virtues so as to be healthier human beings. I can honestly say that I myself have taken their wisdom to heart, analyzing my own sins and developing strategies for dealing with them based on what they have recommended.

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Next week Dr. Okholm will explain how “chastity is the queen of the virtues” and what role grace plays in our purity.

For more information on Dr. Okholm’s new book, Dangerous Passions, Deadly Sins, click here.

The Weekly Hit List: November 14, 2014

Chicago residents: If you haven’t already registered, there are a limited number of on-site registrations available for tomorrow’s special Kingdom Conspiracy event with Scot McKnight and Missio Alliance at Northern Seminary.

Click here for more information.

 

Quick Hits:

Craig Blomberg appeared on The Janet Mefferd Show to discuss Can We Still Believe the Bible?

David Fitch continued his review of Kingdom Conspiracy.

Dangerous Passions, Deadly Sins by Dennis Okholm was reviewed by Pastor Drew McIntyre.

The Drama of Living by David F. Ford was reviewed by Jonathan K. Dodson.

Presence and Encounter by David G. Benner was quoted by Stephen P. Carlson.

 

Ebook Specials:

Untamed Hospitality: Welcoming God and Other Strangers by Elizabeth Newman is only $1.99 (92%off) from participating retailers through November 19.

The Weekly Hit List: November 7, 2014

Scot McKnight, author of Kingdom Conspiracy, was interviewed by Publishers Weekly.

“About a dozen years ago, Scot McKnight, professor of New Testament at North Park Seminary and the author of 24 books, was sitting in church and heard the pastor say some things about Jesus and the Jewish world that didn’t sound quite right. ‘We can do better than this,’ he thought.

“The kingdom mission, McKnight writes, is ‘the local church mission: evangelism, worship, catechesis (wisdom), fellowship (love), edification (advocacy), discipleship (nurture), gifts (Spirit unleashed).’

“By illuminating Jesus’ view of the kingdom, Kingdom Conspiracy fleshes out the ideas McKnight wrote about in The Jesus Creed: that the church must be all about loving God and neighbor, and that those simple principles are the foundation of a loving kingdom community.”

Read the entire interview here.

 

 

Drama of LivingThe Drama of Living by David Ford was recommended by Byron Borger of Hearts & Minds Books.

“With this release, Brazos shows themselves to be one of the most important presses in the North American religious publishing landscape.

“I’ve been waiting for this sequel to The Shape of Living for, oh, gee, maybe fifteen years.

“Subtle, nuanced, deep, beautiful without being flamboyant, this wise, thoughtful theologian has given us practical theology and a spirituality of life itself. It isn’t simple, but it is eloquent.”

Read the entire review here.

 

Quick Hits:

David Fitch continued his review of Kingdom Conspiracy by Scot McKnight.

Dangerous Passions, Deadly Sins by Dennis Okholm was reviewed by Stephen Shaffer.

Generous Spaciousness by Wendy VanderWal-Gritter was recommended by Joshua Torrey: “The must buy book of the month.”

Can We Still Believe the Bible? by Craig Blomberg was discussed by Andrew Sullivan on The Dish.

Jerry L. Walls, author of Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory (January 2015), was mentioned in Desert News National.

Kicking at the Darkness by Brian J. Walsh was mentioned in The Toronto Star.

 

Ebook Specials:

Just Politics: A Guide for Christian Engagement by Ronald J. Sider is only $3.99 (80% off) from participating retailers through November 9.

The Weekly Hit List: October 10, 2014

Scot McKnight, author of Kingdom Conspiracy, was interviewed by Paul Pastor for PARSE: Ministry and Culture from Leadership Journal.

“Kingdom is misused because we all assume we know what it means. Like the word ‘gospel,’ which I examined in King Jesus Gospel, which constantly is used for ‘how to get saved’ or the ‘message that can be shaped into the plan of salvation.’ This is not how ‘gospel’ was used in the New Testament. So with the word ‘kingdom,’ which has become nearly synonymous with two different standard uses.

“For some ‘kingdom’ means acting in the public sector for the common good in order to create a world with better conditions, and for others it has come to mean little more than salvation, or what I often call ‘redemptive moments.’ If we care to shape our theology and our use of terms like “kingdom” on the basis of what the Bible says, then those two definitions are gross reductions of what the Bible says.

“Yes, of course, kingdom includes ethics (though they are not to be secularized as progressives sometimes do) and it brings redemption (as many Christians are prone to say), but those are only two aspects of a much fuller story about kingdom in the Bible. Until we get each of the elements into play we are not looking at what the Bible is saying.”

Read the entire interview here.

 

Other Kingdom Conspiracy Media:

Publishers Weekly included Kingdom Conspiracy as one of their October 2014 Religion Books of Note: “Over the past decade, McKnight has emerged as America’s theologian . . . . This is must reading for church leaders today.”

Hearts & Minds Books reviewed Kingdom Conspiracy.

Alvin Rapien reviewed Kingdom Conspiracy.

Claude Mariottini recommended Kingdom Conspiracy.

Chris Woznicki quoted Kingdom Conspiracy.

 

Quick Hits:

Dangerous Passions, Deadly Sins by Dennis Okholm was reviewed by Dr. Conrade Yap.

A Beautiful Disaster by Marlena Graves was reviewed by Aleah Marsden.

Letters to a Young Calvinist by James K. A. Smith was reviewed on Bookwi.se.

Nonviolent Action by Ronald Sider (February 2015) was mentioned by Preston Sprinkle.

Presence and Encounter by David G. Benner was quoted on Stilling Learning.

 

Ebook Specials:

Living into Focus: Choosing What Matters Most in an Age of Distraction by Arthur Boers is only $2.99 (85% off) from participating retailers through October 15.

The Weekly Hit List: September 12, 2014

Dangerous Passions, Deadly Sins by Dennis Okholm was reviewed by Leadership ConneXtions.

“In his extraordinarily insightful book . . . Dennis Okholm has done a great service, especially for those called to roles of ministry and leadership. Okholm, who is a Benedictine oblate, a pastor at Holy Trinity Anglican Church and a seminary professor takes us deep into the spiritual psychology of several great monastics. 

“Evagrius, Cassian, Gregory the Great and Thomas Aquinas are the important authors and developers of the Seven Deadly Sins. Okholm is intimately familiar with their writing, their theology, their spirituality and their contexts. . . .

For every deadly sin, Okholm provides the best practical remedies from the monastic tradition. He makes possible a greater self-awareness about these passions and sins.”

Read the entire review here.

 

Quick Hits:

Craig Detweiler, author of iGods, was interviewed by C. J. Stunkard.

Colossians (Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible) by Christopher Seitz was recommended by Chris Woznicki.

Monk Habits for Everyday People by Dennis Okholm was reviewed by Michele Morin.

The Weekly Hit List: September 5, 2014

Kingdom Conspiracy: Returning to the Radical Mission of the Local Church (October 2014) by Scot McKnight was reviewed by Publishers Weekly.

“Over the past decade, McKnight (The Jesus Creed) has emerged as America’s theologian, a breezier, more down-home version of the British N.T. Wright. His works provide an extra layer of theological undergirding for pastors and lay people who wish to go deeper in Bible study and live more consciously under the rule of ‘King Jesus,’ as he refers to Jesus Christ.

“McKnight’s writing is vivid, occasionally a little quirky. His book is valuable because he begins with the present state of churches: divided between what he calls the ‘skinny jeans’ and ‘pleated pants’ approaches.

“The skinny-jeans types want to present everything in terms of social activism and justice—’kingdom work for the common good’—but they often miss the boat when calling people to do everything under King Jesus. The pleated-pants crowd wants to understand everything as related to personal salvation, but they too miss the larger picture of the implications for the saved life under King Jesus.

“This is a must-read for church leaders today.”

 

Quick Hits:

Can We Still Believe the Bible? by Craig Blomberg was reviewed by Towers and by Brave Reviews.

Craig Blomberg wrote “Does the Bible Ever Get it Wrong? Facing Scripture’s Difficult Passages” for Canon Fodder.

Jim Wallis, author of The (Un)Common Good, appeared on CNBCAfrica to discuss “the role of social movements in politics.”

Dangerous Passions, Deadly Sins by Dennis Okholm was reviewed by Michael Philliber.

iGods by Craig Detweiler was reviewed by Chris Altrock.

 

Ebook Specials:

Conversations with Poppi about God: An Eight-Year-Old and Her Theologian Grandfather Trade Questions by Robert W. Jenson and Solveig Lucia Gold is only $0.99 from Amazon through September 2.

 

The Weekly Hit List: August 1, 2014

Colossians (BTCB) by Christopher R. Seitz was reviewed by Robert Gundry in the July/August issue of Books & Culture.

“Seitz offers a wealth of canonical and theological commentary on the text of Colossians. . . . Readers will be enriched both theologically and historically. . . .

“Happily for me, Seitz’s commentary, while paying due attention to the history and importance of theological interpretation as represented in the Nicene tradition, seems to prioritize the scriptural text.

“Well done!”

Subscribers can read the rest of the review here.

 

Quick Hits:

Dangerous Passions, Deadly Sins by Dennis Okholm was reviewed by Byron Borger on Hearts & Minds.

Devin Brown, author of A Life Observed, will be the guest speaker on the Educational Opportunies Tours’ May 2015 tour through England, “A Journey with C.S. Lewis & J.R.R. Tolkien.”

Darkness Is My Only Companion by Kathryn Greene-McCreight was reviewed by Michele Morin.