The Weekly Hit List: December 18, 2015

 Cover ArtWe are very pleased to announce that Wesley Hill’s Spiritual Friendship received an Award of Merit in the Beautiful Orthodoxy category of the Christianity Today Book Awards.

The book makes an acute diagnosis of our atomized lives in a world that imagines sex as the only source of real intimacy, and marriage as the only setting for real commitment. It retrieves elements of the historic church tradition relating to friendship and commitment. And all this is presented in sensitive, evocative language, with a reverence for literature, language, and art that makes it a delight to read. Hill’s account has a raw, even wrenching, honesty that’s essential to authentic Christian testimony in our broken world. —Andy Crouch

Wes wrote a brief response here.

To have the flagship magazine of evangelical Christianity turning its attention to the beauty and power of relationships other than romantic ones, and turning its attention thereby to the actual lived experience of celibate, gay people — well, let’s just say it feels not only like a professional honor but also like a deeply, deeply personal one.

Also, our congratulations Stephen Monsma and Stanley Carlson-Thies, whose Free to Serve won an Award of Merit in Politics and Public Life, and to Jonathan Grant, whose Divine Sex tied in Christian Living/Discipleship.

“The church’s response to the seemingly limitless trajectory of hypersexualization has been puny, negative, and ineffective…Divine Sex properly widens the frame, delivering an incisive and nearly comprehensive analysis of our present state”

“Religious liberty desperately needs defending as a matter of public policy, and Free to Serve shows how it’s done.”


Quick Hits:

Todd Wilson reviewed Scot McKnight’s Kingdom Conspiracy at Books at a Glance.

Rejoicing in Lament, by J. Todd Billings, was recommended at Pastoral Backstory.

Matthew Skinner, author of Intrusive God, Disruptive Gospel, wrote Learning from Mary in Our Age of Endless War for Odyssey Networks.

The Weekly Hit List: December 4, 2015

 Cover ArtLisa Graham McMinn, author of the forthcoming To the Table, was interviewed at Publishers Weekly.

Sacramental eating calls forth a humble gratitude that inclines us to eat in ways that fosters the flourishing of other life. So we learn about and begin to pursue “just” food untainted with human exploitation, animal misery, or ecosystem degradation. We begin to open our hearts and minds to an ever-expanding community that changes how and what we eat. Perhaps we will influence how our partners and children eat, and introduce our friends and extended family to eating with an eye toward the flourishing of all life.

Alastair Roberts, at The Gospel Coalition, reviewed Jonathan Grant’s Divine Sex.

Grant presents a wide-angled-lens account of Christian sexual ethics within the context of contemporary culture. Rather than focus on discrete questions—he only lightly grazes on some of the fiercest prevailing controversies—Grant’s concern is to expose the nature of the shared cultural matrix from which they arise….This is a book I’ve already personally recommended to several friends and acquaintances. I highly encourage you to read it too.


Quick Hits:

Free to Serve, by Stephen Monsma and Stanley Carlson-Thies, was reviewed at Influence Magazine.

At Reformedish, Derek Rishmawy used Peter Leithart’s commentary on 1 & 2 Kings to discuss lessons for the church from the time of king Ahab’s reign.

Lisa Graham McMinn announced To the Table on her blog, Preserving Life.

The Weekly Hit List: October 23, 2015

Free to Serve: Grand Rapids EventJoin us Monday the 26th in Grand Rapids, for a special launch event for Free to Serve! The author and practitioner panel will continue a conversation launched by Free to Serve — on how faith-based organizations can meaningfully relate to one another, community leaders, government, and the media as we serve.


Jonathan Grant’s Divine Sex was reviewed at AJ Cerda.

This is the best book on Biblical sexuality that I have ever read….Jonathan Grant has done the Christian community a gigantic favor by meticulously pealing apart the layers of the modern sexual imaginary to expose the pathologies which are at the heart of the secularization of sexuality. This will satisfy the intellectual curiosities of your inner philosopher; but Grant does not leave the reader with a philosophical assessment of the sexual imaginary, he offers a solidly Biblical and deeply profound vision for the future of sexuality. The church, for her part, would be wise to listen.


Quick Hits:

Medieval Wisdom for Modern Christians, by Chris Armstrong, appeared in the Publishers Weekly article Exploring C. S. Lewis’s Lasting Popularity—52 Years After His Death.

Drew McIntyre, at Plowshares Into Swords, reviewed Darkness is My Only Companion, by Kathryn Greene-McCreight.

 

 

The Weekly Hit List: August 28, 2015

Cover ArtJonathan Grant’s Divine Sex was reviewed at Christianity Today.

By providing such a thoughtful, well-rounded, and compelling account of our society’s view of sex, Grant provides the resources we need to challenge, deconstruct, and ultimately subvert it. After all, if our vision of sexuality gives rise to a parade of horribles—a hypersexualized culture, sexual dissatisfaction, rampant porn use, unhappier marriages, and young men who deny, with a straight face, that sex has any mystery—then why would we keep it?

Peter Leithart, author of Traces of the Trinity, was interviewed at Books at a Glance.

The Father is in the Son but never becomes the Son; the Son is in the Father, but never becomes Father. That is part of the beauty and mystery, the fascination, of the Trinity: That three Persons are utterly united and yet utterly distinct.


Quick Hits:

Matthew Skinner wrote On Why (Some) People Don’t Give Money to Their Church for The Huffington Post, which drew from his forthcoming Intrusive God, Disruptive Gospel.

 

 

An Interview with Jonathan Grant, author of Divine Sex

Cover ArtJonathan Grant, author of Divine Sex: A Compelling Vision for Christian Relationships in a Hypersexualized Age, was recently interviewed at Life Lessons.

You can listen below.

 

 

 

 

 

Making the Perfect Woman: Consumerism as a Religious Narrative – an excerpt from Divine Sex

The following is an excerpt from Divine Sex: A Compelling Vision for Christian Relationships in a Hypersexualized Age by Jonathan Grant.

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Jesse Epstein’s short documentary 34 x 25 x 36 provides a philosophical window into a company that makes female mannequins. As the firm’s owner declares at the outset, “There are no perfect bodies out there . . . we make the perfect body.”

The goal, he says, is to “stir up the adrenaline in the buyer to say, hmmm, I could look like that.”

Describing a sculptor creating a template from a real human model, the chief designer says, “He’s taking the essence of her [the human model] and capturing what her features are about into an image that is actually more than what she is. We have the ability to alter things.” Comparing his work to medieval religious art, which captured the form of saints, he goes on:

We replicate what the perfect girl is for the times because actually it’s a continuation of the same thing [i.e., religious art]. I can see where it would be believing in something or, in a way, worshiping something because it’s something that you aim for. Do we worship perfect women? Do we worship people that dress in very expensive clothes? It’s playing with people’s minds about what their ideal is. In religion the ideal is salvation. What is salvation in our current society? Is it being looked upon, being photographed everywhere you go? To some people it is very important. People have to believe in something.

This modern “religious art” presents idealized saints to be emulated, and yet they are always out of reach. Whereas the purpose of medieval art lay in spiritual emulation, salvation within the lower horizons of the modern world is now found through embodied perfection.

This notion points to the myth of attainability within consumerism. Although this myth seeks to mimic and displace the religious narrative, there is a critical difference between them. Whereas Gregory’s vision is fueled by the progressive satisfaction of our spiritual yearning, which spurs us on to experience more of God, consumerism—like all forms of idolatry—is driven by intensifying promises that end up giving us nothing. Happiness and fulfillment always lie just out of reach.

In contrast to the progressive fulfillment of the Christian journey, consumerism is a form of institutionalized dissatisfaction that whets our appetite but leaves us hungry, revealing the myth of freedom within consumerism.

Having presented themselves as priests offering salvation, consumption and acquisition become gods in their own right. As we follow these false gods up the mountain, they offer us progressive self-realization and control through personal choice. In reality, we are caught in a downward spiral of provisional commitments.

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

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.

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)

 

The Weekly Hit List: May 8, 2015

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

Part of what makes my friend Wesley Hill’s slender new book so intriguing is that it is an attempt to give an account of friendship that is grounded in history, theology, and literature—yet forward-looking.

Spiritual Friendship: Finding Love in the Church as a Gay Christian is an essayistic collection of provocations, not a tome intended to be “the last word” on friendship or its relationship to Christian community.

It’s a book about hope and hope’s uncertainty, about trust and taking chances; it’s not a look back at a friendship well-lived. It’s an unfinished story.

Read “Friendship with a Future Tense” here.

 

Other Spiritual Friendship Media:

Wesley Hill will appear live in-studio with The Ride Home with John & Kathy on May 12 at 5:10 p.m. ET.

Eve Tushnet mentioned Spiritual Friendship in “Detachment in Friendship.”

Matthew Loftus mentioned Spiritual Friendship.

Michael Spalione reviewed  Spiritual Friendship.

Sam Heath wrote some discussion questions for Spiritual Friendship.

 

 

Christianity Today reviewed Nonviolent Action by Ronald J. Sider.

G. K. Chesterton famously said that the Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting, but instead been found difficult and left untried. If you read most proponents of Christian nonviolence, you’ll find that they generally feel the same way about pacifism.

This is why Ron Sider’s latest book is so helpful. In Nonviolent Action: What Christian Ethics Demands but Most Christians Have Never Really Tried, Sider, a Mennonite ethicist who teaches at Palmer Theological Seminary, demonstrates that nonviolence has been far more effective than most people realize. . . .

Nonviolent Action is a welcome addition to discussions of just war and nonviolence, particularly for how it opens our imaginations to the moral and spiritual dimensions of decisions on war and peace. Sider forces us to recognize the imago dei in our enemies.

No matter your theological tradition, this is an essential discipline to cultivate.

Read the entire review here.

 

Quick Hits:

Jonathan Grant, author of Divine Sex, will speak at a plenary, a forum, and a workshop att Missio Alliance’s Being Truly Human conference today (May 8). Live video stream is available to subscribers here.

Nonviolent Action was reviewed by Matthew Forrest Lowe.

Rejoicing in Lament by J. Todd Billings was reviewed by Matthew Forrest Lowe and Jordan Mark Stone , and recommended by Grace Bible Chapel blog.

M. Daniel Carroll R., author of Christians at the Border, wrote “Evangelicals Are Hungry for Leadership, Teaching on Immigration” for The Christian Post.

Scot McKnight discussed Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory.

Sex, Discipleship, and Intentionality about the Church as a Formative Community – James K. A. Smith on Divine Sex by Jonathan Grant

The following is an excerpt from James K. A. Smith’s Foreword to Divine Sex: A Compelling Vision for Christian Relationships in a Hypersexualized Age by Jonathan Grant (releasing summer 2015).

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Grant sympathetically recognizes the ways in which Christians are embedded in cultural patterns that shape us without our realizing it. We have to appreciate, he rightly points out, “the extent to which the modern self, with its focus on being free in the negative sense of being free from other people, has seeped into the Christian imagination and distorted our vision of sexuality and relationships.” Or as he puts it a little later, “The red thread running throughout this book is the conviction that we are, more than we realize, made by our context.”

This is why the first half of Divine Sex is focused on a diagnosis of the cultural milieu that forms and shapes our imagination—including how we imagine sex in ways we might never articulate. And Grant’s analysis is stellar: it is pointed and honest without being alarmist and despairing.

Drawing on (and lucidly translating) the important work of scholars and social scientists like Charles Taylor, Christian Smith, and Mark Regnerus, as well as engaging some of my own work, Grant helps us understand how and why the world that forms us has changed—and hence what effective Christian counterformation would look like.

The diagnosis of our cultural condition is not then taken as license for revision of biblical norms; instead, it provides the impetus for a fresh articulation of why those norms could be received as liberating us from the enslavement that parades itself as sexual “freedom” today.

The result is pastoral theology as ethnography, written from the front lines of our secular age and growing out of ministry in London and elsewhere. Grant isn’t writing from some protected enclave where traditional plausibility structures are alive and well. No, this book is written from the trenches of ministry in some of our most pluralistic—and hedonistic—global cities. Its voice is at once theological and pastoral: a brilliant work of cultural analysis that seems to always keep embodied names and faces in view.

(I also have to admit that I am jealous of Grant’s uncanny facility with metaphor, simile, and the word pictures that paint his argument. As my Pentecostal sisters and brothers like to say, “This stuff will preach!”)

This is a book that needed to be written. I pray that it will make its way into the hands of not only pastors and parents but also the wide array of those leaders who care for the body of Christ in the twenty-first century.

It speaks both to those who are single and to those who are married. And it is a must-read for anyone working with young people today; it should be read by youth pastors and university chaplains as well as by student-life divisions at Christian colleges and universities.

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: our sexual lives are hidden with Christ in God.

 

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