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.

Principled Pluralism – an excerpt from Free to Serve

The following is an excerpt from Free to Serve by Stephen Monsma and Stanley Carlson-Thies.

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Principled pluralism—or “civic pluralism” as it is sometimes called—is a political principle, a design for how a diverse people can live together in one political system. It requires neither that we agree completely with each other about our deepest beliefs (we don’t) nor that we stop trying to convince each other about what we think is best (we shouldn’t).

Cover ArtInstead, principled pluralism simply asks us to agree to respect each other’s convictions not only in private life but also in public life. Just as we ask for freedom to live our lives according to our convictions, we believe others with different convictions should be free to live their lives according to their convictions.

This means the public realm, our common life, will be neither Christian nor secular. The public realm ought not to privilege those of us who hold to Christian beliefs (or those of other religious traditions). Nor should secularism be imposed on all by banishing religion to the private world of congregational worship and personal devotions.

Doing so would show little respect for people of faith—people for whom faith is relevant not only for worship but also for how they educate their children, heal the sick, serve the needy, and run a business. People of faith would then not be treated in a neutral, evenhanded manner. But the answer to such favoring of secularism cannot be to favor those with religious convictions and their organizations. That too is wrong.

Central to our position is the basic fact that a thoroughly secular world does not occupy neutral ground between belief and nonbelief. Instead, a nonreligious, secular perspective is a distinct perspective, or worldview, that is in competition with religious perspectives.

Political scientist A. James Reichley was exactly correct when he once wrote, “Banishment of religion does not represent neutrality between religion and secularism; conduct of public institutions without any acknowledgment of religion is secularism.”

This means a thoroughly secularized public realm has taken sides in the contest between religious and nonreligious organizations and their differing views of life and the world. This is why principled pluralism not only seeks public policies that are evenhanded among the faith-based organizations of various religious traditions but also between faith-based organizations and secular organizations. Neither should be favored over the other.

©2015 by Stephen V. Monsma and Stanley W. Carlson-Thies. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

This Just In: Free to Serve, by Stephen Monsma and Stanley Carlson-Thies

Cover ArtWhat do Hobby Lobby, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, Wheaton College, World Vision, the Little Sisters of the Poor, and the University of Notre Dame have in common? All are faith-based organizations that have faced pressure to act in ways contrary to their religious beliefs.

In this book, two policy experts show how faith-based groups–those active in the educational, healthcare, international aid and development, and social service fields–can defend their ability to follow their religiously based beliefs without having to jettison the very faith and faith-based practices that led them to provide services to those in need. They present a pluralist vision for religious freedom for faith-based organizations of all religious traditions.

 

 

Matthew L. Skinner Stephen V. Monsma (PhD, Michigan State University) is a senior research fellow at the Paul B. Henry Institute for the Study of Christianity and Politics at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and professor emeritus of political science at Pepperdine University. He is also a fellow at the Center for Public Justice.

Matthew L. SkinnerStanley W. Carlson-Thies (PhD, University of Toronto) is director of the Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance, a division of the Center for Public Justice (CPJ), in Washington, DC. He is a senior fellow at CPJ and at the Canadian think tank Cardus. Carlson-Thies served with George W. Bush’s White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives and served on a task force of President Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

 

Praise for Free to Serve:

“We have to protect the rights of everyone in our society if we are to protect the rights of anyone. This is an important book for our times.” – Richard Stearns, president, World Vision US

“A must-read for anyone interested in preserving our country’s historic stance on religious freedom.” – Ronald J. Sider, Palmer Seminary, Eastern University

“A timely and compelling case for how the United States can navigate the current changes to social norms.” – Shirley V. Hoogstra, JD, president, Council for Christian Colleges and Universities

“A clarion call and prophetic prescription for those committed to never sacrificing truth on the altar of expediency.” – Samuel Rodriguez, president, NHCLC/CONELA, Hispanic Evangelical Association

“Anyone who cares about the state of religious freedom in America should read this book.” – David Nammo, executive director and CEO, Christian Legal Society

“Monsma and Carlson-Thies offer proactive remedies that nourish the hope of principled pluralism and promote a civil society in which people of all faiths, or none, enjoy expansive freedom.” – Philip G. Ryken, president, Wheaton College

“[A] timely, readable, and intellectually serious book.” – John J. DiIulio Jr., first director, White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives

“If you believe your faith should extend beyond the walls of your place of worship, you simply must read this outstanding book.” – Peter Greer, president and CEO, HOPE International

Free to Serve examines the unintended consequences of violating religious freedom and offers hope for a society where individual beliefs are fully expressed.” – Tami Heim, president and CEO, Christian Leadership Alliance

“An important and timely book. The authors’ call to principled pluralism…is a vital message.” – Alec Hill, president, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA

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: October 2, 2015

Cover ArtAt Acts and More, Steve Walton shared a review of Matthew Skinner’s Intrusive God, Disruptive Gospel.

This book will be eminently helpful to a church Bible study group working through Acts. It will also inform and help preachers or teachers engaging with Acts, and students who want to see ways in which the book’s themes and issues relate to Christian life and experience today. I commend it very warmly.

Spiritual Friendship, by Wesley Hill, was a featured review at The Englewood Review of Books.

Wesley Hill’s spectacular new book, Spiritual Friendship, explores one way gay Christians—especially those who embrace the traditional teaching of the church—are a gift to the church….Spiritual Friendship displays Hill’s considerable intellect, pulls from an astonishing variety of sources, and inspires with its beautiful prose.


Quick Hits:

The Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance announced the forthcoming Free to Serve, from Stephen Monsma and Stanley Carlson-Thies.

Monsma and Carlson-Thies were interviewed about Free to Serve in the latest issue of Christianity Today.

The Christian Examiner reviewed Intrusive God, Disruptive Gospel.

 

 

A Christianity Today Interview with the Authors of Free to Serve

Cover ArtStephen Monsma and Stanley Carlson-Thies, authors of the forthcoming Free to Serve, were interviewed by Matt Reynolds for the October issue of Christianity Today.

An excerpt is below, and you can read the full interview here.

In 2014, Hobby Lobby won a landmark Supreme Court decision that exempted the home-goods chain from providing certain forms of contraception to employees. The Court ruled that closely held for-profit companies whose owners have religious objections are protected under the First Amendment. But the 5–4 ruling left many in confused outrage: How can a for-profit company invoke a Christian identity? Shouldn’t a business operating in the secular sphere have to play by secular rules?

For Stephen Monsma and Stanley Carlson-Thies—two scholars with long experience tracking tensions around institutional religious freedom—such protests rely on cramped notions of what counts as “religious.” Their new book, Free to Serve: Protecting the Religious Freedom of Faith-Based Organizations (Brazos), assesses the dangers an uncomprehending secularism poses to religious businesses, colleges, social service agencies, and student groups. CT associate editor Matt Reynolds spoke with Monsma and Carlson-Thies (fellows with the Center for Public Justice) about the religious-liberty challenges facing faith-based organizations.

What is the basic problem your book addresses?

Monsma: The book grew out of our deep concern over challenges to faith-based organizations seeking to follow the religious commitments at the heart of who they are and what they do. You see this on many fronts. These challenges aren’t random; they reflect prevalent assumptions in our society. Until these assumptions are shown to be false, we’re afraid the religious freedom of faith-based organizations will remain under threat.

Carlson-Thies: We looked at a number of areas. Some issues are matters of internal operations: Can a faith-based organization hold employees to religious standards? Do their health plans have to include coverage for contraception or abortifacients?

Other questions concern how they serve the public, and whether they have to abide by secular protocols: Can religious adoption agencies receiving public money refuse to place children with same-sex couples? Can Catholic agencies serving refugees under a government grant refuse to refer clients to abortion providers? These are just some of the controversies we consider.

 

The Weekly Hit List: July 10, 2015

Cover ArtCraig Blomberg’s Can We Still Believe the Bible? was a featured reviewed at The Englewood Review of Books.

Readers who seriously engage the arguments contained in this book will discover a reflective, reasonable, and rich Christianity that does not shy away from tough questions or hard facts.

In light of the recent supreme court ruling, Comment Magazine shared an excerpt from the forthcoming Free to Serve by Stephen Monsma and Stanley Carlson-Thies.

Principled pluralism seeks public policies that are even-handed not only among the faith-based organizations of various religious traditions but also between faith-based organizations and secular organizations. Neither should be favored over the other.


Quick Hits:

Rejoicing in Lament, by J. Todd Billings, was named one of the best books of the year by Words of Grace.

Stephen Monsma, co-author of Free to Serve, discussed the Obergefell v. Hodges decision at Christianity Today.

And finally, congrats to Dr. David G. Benner whose Presence and Encounter received the silver award in the Body, Mind & Spirit category of the 2014 Foreword Reviews IndieFab Book of the Year Awards.