Hearts & Minds BookNotes

annotations, blurbs and ruminations

to enlarge the heart & stimulate the mind

and to happily generate mail order business for Hearts & Minds bookstore

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Location: Dallastown, PA

My lovely wife Beth and I own and operate--proprietors makes us sound more classy than we really are--a cluttered, diverse and independent bookstore in Central Pennsylvania. After well over 20 years, we are still not sure what to say when people ask if our shop is a "Christian bookstore." I do a monthly book review column over at our website; we hope that these new blogged bits will afford friends and customers the chance to see other books I happen to be reading, wishing to read, pretending that I read or at least believe that others should, if not read, know about. We have three children, attend a Presbyterian church in York, PA and have no hobbies.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Waging Reconciliation with the Anglicans

Theological diversity. Globalization. Postmodern insights. Social justice. Ancient liturgy. Ecumenism. Reconciliation. The lingering problems with the privelege of race, class, gender. God's unfolding process of bringing New Creation. The United Nation's MDGs (Millenium Development Goals) and what one person can do to help seek justice. Faithful worship.

These were only some of the themes discussed in a three day retreat for Episopalian priests, a gathering where we are invited to participate each year. Episcopal Divinity School prof Dr. Ian T. Douglas was the speaker, and I was very impressed with his integrity, enjoyed his style, and think he brought great gifts and passions to these hard-working clergy. It is not unknown that the Anglican communion is facing complex and painful matters, holding together diverse theological and cultural perspectives.

Rev. Douglas has edited and contributed to several books (and, yep, we were so impressed we want to tell all our blog faithful about them.) One we've promoted before is called Waging Reconciliation: God's Mission in a Time of Globalization and Crisis (Church Publishing; $22.00) which has Anglican leaders from through-out the world offering insight about peacemaking, the unity of the church, the call to enact God's justice in a broken, broken world. An earlier book studies the diversity of the global Anglican church, and particular works on how to get beyond older missionary stylings that imagined the West as the "real" church and those in the Southern hemisphere to be younger or dependent. Beyond Colonial Anglicanism: The Anglican Communion in the Twenty-First Century (co-edited with Kwok Pui-Lan) is important for any of us trying to make sense of the new era of a truly global faith community. It, too, is publsihed by Church Publishing ($27.00.)

A wonderful resource on working on the MDG's is called What Can One Person Do? Faith To Heal a Broken World edited by Sabina Alkire & Edmund Newell (Church Publishing; $18.00.) Ian's good chapter offers an overview of the Biblical story, from creation, fall, covanant, prophets, priests, kings, incarnation, Spirit, new Community, New Creation---my phrases as much as his, I suppose, but you get the Big Picture--- is a good piece, reminding us that knowing the Biblical basis for wise action is one of the most urgent tasks for activists. It is just one of a handful of helpful essays; What Can One Person Do? is loaded with discussion questions, practical application suggestions and reflection pieces making this useful for small groups wanting to engage the crisis of global poverty, AIDS, injustice and sustainability.

Something of Ian's passion for reconciliation is seen in one fascinating book he co-wrote, Understanding the Windsor Report: Two Leaders in the American Church Speak Across the Divide (Church Publishing; $20.00) the study of, among other things, what to do about homosexuality in the church, the Gene Robinson installation, and how to hold together a world-wide church with huge fissures around issues of Biblical authority and such. What is so very interesting is that he co-wrote this study with his friend the Very Reverend Paul Zahl, of Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry, a theologically orthodox Episopal seminary, located in the relatively conservative Diocese of Pittsburgh. That a professor from one of the more liberal theological seminaries in the country is irenic and thoughtful in his discussion with such an evangelical leader is surely a sign not only of new creation breaking out (where else have we seen such vigorous and kindly debate?) but of a (postmodern?) willingness to break out of the typical liberal vs conservative mindsets. Although I was happily quite impressed with Ian (and he said the best things about our work and ministry) I suppose I should say, too, that I tend to be partial to Dr. Zahl's position.

There is a book that I wish would have sold better at the clergy retreat, a book that, as a non-Episcopalian, still interests me, and surely seems important for my Episopalian friends, The Fate of Communion: The Agony of Anglicanism and the Future of a Global Church by Ephraim Radner & Philip Turner (Eerdmans; $32.00.) With a title like that, it may seem that it is only for those who are part of that denomination. But read the back jacket blurbs, composed by some of the most vital theologians in the world today:

Stanley Hauerwas
— from the foreword
“Even if you have no interest in the Episcopal Church of America or Anglicanism; even if you have no interest in Christianity; even if you have no interest in the disputes surrounding homosexuality in our culture at large; you should benefit from this book. . . . Radner and Turner have written an extremely intelligent love letter to the church.”

George Lindbeck
— Yale University
“This book is both powerful and illuminating, both passionate and scholarly. No better study exists of the pros and cons regarding whether the worldwide Anglican Communion will hold together in the present crisis. Unlike many collaborative works, The Fate of Communion is lucid and readable. As a non-Anglican, I can testify to its importance for all those concerned about the future of communion not only in a global church, as the subtitle carefully states, but also in the church universal.”

Christopher Seitz
— University of St. Andrews
“A timely, sober, and intelligent account of Anglicanism’s travails, equally matched by a bold call to holiness of life in communion and in conciliar forbearance in Christ. In the end this is a hopeful book about God’s vocation for Anglican Christianity, that is, for a communion which finds its calling in obedience, mutual submission, and missionary service. In its trenchant analysis of American culture, The Fate of Communion is much more than a book for Anglicans alone.”

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

new Hauerwas, new Campolo, new Borgman

Since some of you will be reading this new post over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, I thought I might reflect on things for which we are thankful. But that could get ponderous, and that isn't why you've subscribed to this site. I considered leaving the last post up, since that book, on praying wisely for peace and justice, seemed quite timely. But I've got so many new books to tell about, including three that just came yesterday...

Among the things I am thankful for, and I trust you are to, is the ability to have books, relatively cheaply, the freedom of the press, good authors, indie bookstores (what few of us are left) and helpful, bold publishers and authors. And, without being maudlin, I must say that Beth and I and the staff here are greatful for our commuity of readers, supporters, friends. Thanks for caring about our work, and spending a few of your dollars with us. We do not take it for granted.

And so:

I should have announced a month or so ago the second release in the formitable new series published by Brazos called the "Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible" which was a commentary on I and II Kings, written by Reformed scholar and wide-ranging author Peter Leithart. The first came out less than a year ago, on Acts, published by Orthodox theologian Jaroslav Pelikan, which we duly celebrated. I & II Kings came out earlier this fall. And now, yesterday, the much-anticipated commentary on Matthew done by Stanley Hauerwas (Brazos; $29.99) arrived. How interesting will that be!? Even if you aren't a huge fan of the spittin' Methodist cowboy pacifist philosopher from Duke Divinty School, to read him on Matthew will be a fabulously stretching experience. All of these commentaries, under the senior leadership of Rusty Reno, will prove to be excellent in their own way, and we are glad for the project. I've had reason to use a few commentaries myself these past weeks, and I give thanks for those who help us take a fresh---or first---look at Holy Scripture. Thanks be to God.

Speaking of controversial speakers, Tony Campolo's new book, Letters to a Young Evangelical has come out in the "Art of Mentoring" series (Basic Books; $23.00.) (These have included all kinds of fabulous books, written in the style of letters from an older person to a younger, in fields such as lawyering, counseling, being a conservative, being an activist, being a Catholic, a journalist, as golfer, a chef, even a mathematician.) I have read this in three sittings, and found myself grateful for Campolo's balance, candor, wise advise and great stories. Of course he has been pushing the "Red Letter Christian" movement as a way to describe those trying to forge a non-partisan alternative to the Christian right, so that keeps coming up.

There is no doubt that Campolo has been deeply involved in working with younger Christians, college students, especially, for decades. I have seen him in action talking one on one with a troubled kid, or taking time with smaller groups of young adults. Here, he gives advise to younger evangelicals about being involved in daily spiritual practices, he describes charismatic renewal, suggests ways of doing effective evangelism, being good stewards through active creation-care, making service to the poor a priority, having a heart for global missions, discerning a sense of vocation and finding meaningful work, being active in church, and other such practical matters. He weighs in on gay rights (and opposes gay marriage), the role of women, a bit about the emergent conversation, the dangers of fundamentalism, dispensationalism, peacemaking and abortion (which he opposes, even if he calls for dialogue and understanding.) I think he sounds nearly the right tone at each place, and Letters... would make a fine gift to nearly any younger Christian. I am not ashamed to say that I admire this man immensly, find myself agreeing with him mostly, and have been blessed to know him a bit for years, now. I offer thanks to God for Tony's boldness and the lives he's impacted, including my own.

Albert Borgman
is a name we have been trying to get readers to recognize and it seems he and his work is increasingly known. From his books on information technology, to his fine book on postmodernism, his theology of technology to other important work, he has been cited appreciatively from Christian authors as diverse as Brian Walsh to Eugene Peterson to Marva Dawn. His new one just came, and I must say I am itching to take a longer look. You can be the first to know, and be thankful, for such a serious Christian philospher who is working hard to offer sound scholarship in service of making the world a better place. Dr. Borgman's new one is simply called Real American Ethics: Taking Responsibility for Our Country (University of Chicago Press; $25.00.) Bound in a nice hardcover, with endorsements from Robert Bellah and Bill McKibben on the back, I hope you would consider this as not only an important volume, but as a nice gift to give those who would like this sort of thing.

McKibben says this may be "a summation of Borgman's lifetime project which is neither liberal nor conservative but instead invested in a concrete reality and human satisfaction." With stuff on real virtues (and the dangers of being "virtual") in a world of consumerism, which invite us to households of care and stewardship, I think this may offer a grounded bit of reflection for our upcoming hectic season. Real-world ethics are needed now more than ever. Thanks be to God for voices like this.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Lord Have Mercy

This afternoon I had the privilege of delivering a message at an annual Thanksgiving service which is designed to give thanks for the good gifts of cultural diversity; this local celebration of York County's heritage---except for native peoples, obviously, all of us are immigrants--- is a small gesture of a group of folks who have been involved for years in a ministry of advocacy for those who are seeking political asylum here. As you may know, our local prison is one of the largest holding facilities in the nation for asylees and so we have imprisoned refugees and activists fleeing repression in their homelands, literally, jailed while running for their lives. Any given day we have Africans and Chinese, South Americans and Middle Easterners, people who were freedom-seeking, pro-democracy activists and people of faith trying merely to live out their religion in a homeland of repression. I cannot even write about some of the horrific matters that these folks face, and yet, our government, more often than not, makes life very, very difficult for these imprisoned asylum-seekers. Regardless of what one thinks of illegal immigration and the complexities of that crisis, the detention of those who are seeking legal political asylum is a mess in need of reform.

And so, we started a network of pro bono lawyers, para-legals and others willing to help navigate the complicated asylum proccess, and a non-profit to try to fund the work of preventing these brave souls from getting deported to a surely awful fate. Eventually, we bought a house--we named it the International Friendship House--to give a temporary home to those who actually get legal parole or asylum. Our annual Thanksgiving service not only thanks God for the beauty and joy of diverse ethnic customs, but gives our guests a time to cook for us, to bring food and stories from their homelands. Tonight, after the service, I had some amazing food cooked by a Middle Eastern gent on the run from terrorist thugs, some Vietnamese egg rolls, African cooked chicken---I think it was Angolan---and a store-bought cake to celebrate a new job earned by a mom from Jordan who is working two jobs and raising some lovely kids with the help of a local Brethren farm family.

My message followed the features of the classic reformational worldview spelled out in Al Wolter's Creation Regained--- the flow and relationship between good creation, radical fall and wholistic redemption. I suggested that the local tastes, colors, stories, dances and songs of various cultures are there because we live in a good, matieral world, well-ordered by a creator God who invites human innovation and style, but that due to sin, pride and ideology, these cultural goods can be disfigured and no longer serve as a blessing but become a cause of alienation, exclusion, and pain (seen in racism, reverse racism, and even the horrors of "ethnic cleansing.") Thanks be to God for grace from guilt, because through God's redemption in Christ, reconciliation can bring restoration to the proper delight of cultural diversity. Good, but often distorted and hurtful human realities of race, language differences, and different politcal systems, can be helped and healed and turned about.

I ended with an explanation of the social context (tension between Jews and Gentiles) in the early church of Rome and preached from Paul's call to endurance and hope for unity as he wrote into that messy, ethnically and religiously conflicted setting (Romans 15:1-7.) I am not sure our Muslim friends (or even our Unitarian partners) went all the way down the Romans road with me, but it was an honor and joy to try to preach the gospel in a contextualized way amidst a multi-cultural celebration with political refugees, asylum activists and Amnesty International folk.

And so, I ask for your prayers, as Hearts & Minds continues to serve not only book displays here and there, working conferences and setting up book displays (where we've come to know some of our most faithful readers) but as we attempt to stay rooted in the issues that face us here, locally. I feel like we need your prayers, facing, as all of us do, I'm sure, personal concerns of frustration, finances, stress and the like.

But, if you really want to deepen your prayer life, may I suggest a rather appropriate read given the theme of our posts this past week? Check out the latest in the Jossey Bass "Practices" series entitled Lord Have Mercy: Praying for Justice With Conviction and Humility by Claire E. Wolfteich (Jossey-Bass) $21.95. One good friend, himself a serious worker at a serious Christian think-tank that educates about and engages civic issues has himself assured me that this has been a real blessing as it has helped him to intergrate his deep passion for spiritual formation and his vocation as political thinker and writer.

There are many, many good resources on spirituality and prayer. There are many about social justice, politics and the public good. There are only just a few that do what Lord Have Mercy does in joining the two.

Lord Have Mercy: Praying for Justice With Conviction and Humility
Claire E. Wolfteich (Jossey-Bass) $21.95

save $7.00
read@heartsandmindsbooks.com or call 717.246.3333

Friday, November 17, 2006

Local Church in a Global Era

The Hearts & Minds travelin’ book show was set up at the annual Pennsylvania State Pastor’s Conference in Harrisburg the last three days and, despite an all night set up, two flat tires before-hand, and a van (full of heavy boxes) needing to be towed home due to engine problems (just try getting a heavy, low-riding, overweight van on a tow truck!) we had a great, great time. Greetings to new readers who may drop in here because we met there. We hope you subscribe to the blog, so you will be notified whenever I post a new review.

The theme was fascinating and important---globalization, world poverty and the need for a ministry of justice and social transformation. And, then, how that effects our worship, specifically around the question of how and what is best to sing. Perkins School of Theology prof C. Michael Hawn has written several good books on using global music in traditional worship, and we found him to be not only theologically solid, but an absolutely delight. From teaching South American hymns to African choruses, from leading a Taize service to helping us all think how to make slow, careful, but intentional changes in worship, he showed the wisdom and joy that are present in his books. We’ve have taken his Gather Into One: Praying and Singing Globally to nearly every event that we’ve done (where worship books are relevant) since it came out several years ago from Eerdmans ($28.00.) A more recent book was published last year by the Alban Institute, entitled, One Bread, One Body: Exploring Cultural Diversity in Worship ($16.00.) Both are really important.

Others have said this, of course, including Marva Dawn in her books on worship. A great, succint, article that would be worth sharing with your worship leaders at your church can be found in the catapult e-zine, put out by the good folks at *cino, written by Toronto friend, Angela Strauss. See her brief piece, here.

This trend of being aware of the global and multi-cultural nature of the body of Christ reminds us of the Penn State event we did a few weeks back where we had the immense privilege of meeting Dr. Philip Jenkins. His The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity (Oxford University Press; $15.95) has been on everyone’s “must-read” lists, and I am in the middle of the excellent and fascinating follow-up, The New Faces of Christianity: Reading the Bible in the Global South (Oxford University Press; $26.00.) Had I had more time to present recommended titles at the State Pastor’s Conference, I surely would have explained the significance of Jenkin’s pair of books. His friend, Lamin Sanneh, of Yale Divinity School, was speaking at the conference, and it was a privilege to extend greetings between the two. Sanneh, a native of Gambia, gave a great overview of his important little book, Whose Religion is Christianity? The Gospel Beyond the West (Eerdmans; $12.00) It is interesting to me that he commended the provocative little book by the Spiritan missionary Vincent Donovan, Christianity Rediscovered, about his experiences in learning more about the New Testament realities of Jesus, as he experienced life among the Masai in Tanzania. The recent 25th anniversary edition published by Orbis ($18.00) has a new afterward by Sanneh. It not only is a classic of missionary thinking, cross cultural theology, and post-colonial perspectives on faith, but it has recently been noted by folks in the emerging church dialogues. I recall McLaren recently sharing how helpful he found it, and I've happily seen it footnoted a few places. We carried the first edition when we first opened decades ago.

There is only so much one can do in an event like this, so it is understandable that not every global concern or geographic locale was mentioned. Still, anyone interested in the world-wide church simply must pay attention to China. Just this week, a very important book was re-issued in paperback, Jesus in Beijing by David Aikman (Regnery; $16.95.) The subtitle proclaims: “How Christianity Is Transforming China and Changing the Global Balance of Power.” Highly recommended, written by the former Time magazine bureau chief in Beijing.

The conference ending was a major presentation by social ethics professor and award winning author Rebecca Todd Peters. After a broad call to seek justice, she told of efforts for faithfulness in small things----changing habits, like where we shop and the kinds of products we support (fair trade stuff, for instance) and how we can examine the responsibilities of those of us who live with great privilege such as relative wealth, education, racial advantage. She called upon church folks to use their collective power to make a difference, and shared stories such as the recent Taco Bell boycott that helped get better conditions for migrant workers who pick tomatoes in the Southeast. (Those who know us best know of my long-standing admiration for nonviolent, Catholic unionist, Cesar Chavez, so I wanted to clap when she spoke of the Imokalle Workers strike.) Peter's book, In Search of a Good Life: The Ethics of Globalization (Continuum; $16.95) looks seriously at the big picture, and invites local responses. It has been highly regarded by the likes of Cornel West if that gives you a hint to it's reputation!

If I were to pick one book that I really wish I could have announced in my public book blurbs at the gathering that I failed to promote, I would shout out one that came out a few years back, a stellar anthology, gleaned from larger, more academic works, edited by Max Stackhouse, Tim Dearborn and Scott Paeth. I am so excited about this collection that I will offer as great blog special (see below.) The Church in a Global Era: Reflections for a New Century (Eerdmans; $15.00) is a treasure trove of ideas, data, theologically-informed cultural studies, missionary inspiration and ways local churches can be increasingly aware of and involved in global issues. From the debt crisis to involvement in higher education, from gender studies to ways to think about war and peacemaking, from science stuff to economics, interfaith discussions to environmental concerns, this book covers it all, showing how globalizing influences have impacted various spheres of life. And, quite specifically, it allows these global realities to shape the way we think about the local parish. Want to care about the world? Passionate about wholistic, missional outreach? Concerned about the integrity of your local church? This book really could be useful as a resource, and would be a great follow up to the visionary work of this year’s State Pastor’s Conference (whether you were there or not.)

Regularly priced $15.00
While supplies last
The Local Church in a Global Era: Reflections for a New Century
edited by Max Stackhouse, Tim Dearborn, Scott Paeth (Eerdmans)
usually $15.00 HERE, $10.00

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Learning the Language of the Fields and Living the Sabbath

The last two posts have announced new books about culture. Not culcha as in high society and the fine arts, but books which explore how Christian faith impacts and interacts with the surrounding society, the ethos, values, habits and institutions of "the world" of which we are a part. Both of these books are very interesting to us, and I wanted to make sure you knew about them. The first I mentioned, by Craig Carter, is mostly a theological study of the legitimacy of Richard Niebuhr's famous book Christ and Culture. The one by Mark Toulouse offers a typography of four kinds of faith that interact with "public life" these days. Both, it seems are more about political and legal matters than other aspects of culture, let alone the deeper driving forces which animate the 21st century culture.

And so, today I want to tell you---sings the praises of--- two different kinds of book that reflect on our role in our world, that invite profound, spiritual thinking that impacts civic society and political life, but are not so much overtly about government, public battles, the culture wars, or social action. The first is about---have an open mind, now---farming.

Learning the Language of the Fields: Tilling and Keeping as Christian Vocation by Daniel G. Deffenbaugh (Cowley; $14.95) would be more than adequate as a book about a Christian view of ecology and enviromental stewardship. And heaven knows we need to be reading those kinds of creation-care books. But it is more. As the back cover states, it "connects ecology with ritual and spirituality with community" Deffenbaugh writes in gentle, flowing prose even as he argues forcefully that our agressive agricultural models have been disasterous. It is a very nice book.

I trust you will immediately think of Wendell Berry, as well you should. This, though, seems a bit more overtly Christian and spiritual; one moment he is reflecting on a sense of place and bio-communities and the next he is preaching nicely about vocation and calling. One section he writes movingly of Appalachian homecoming rituals, the next he extols the benefits of organic gardening. Even as he ponders Genesis 1 & 2, he is talking about sacred space and our sense of belonging to the rhythms of the creation.

I don't do much of this stuff. Like prayer, though, I like reading about it, and hope that somehow, as these words whirl around my heart and mind and conversations, I might learn to care more about my place, my town, my land. This is a lovely and attractive book, suitable for careful, spiritual reading.

The next one is about Sabbath, so is obviously useful for your quiet time reading. Living the Sabbath: Discovering the Rhythms of Rest and Delight by Norman Wirzba (Brazos; $19.99) deserves much more sustained reviewing than I am able to do here. Wirzba is a Wendell Berry scholar, teaches at a college in Kentucky, has contributed to the immensely imporant School(s) for Conversion and is the author of a major, scholarly work on how religion has effected enviromental movement (The Paradise of God.) He also edited the agarian essays of Mr. Berry into a very, very nice volume, so it makes sense that Wendell wrote the forward to this book. It is, most likely, the first time Berry has written for a Christian publishing house, even though his faith is clearly evident in many of his books and essays. He was interviewed in Sojourners not long ago, which was nice, too...but a forward, well, that is just cool!

Living the Sabbath is part of a Brazos Press (and The Ekklesia Project) series of books, "The Christian Practice of Everyday Life." These have covered topics such as matieralism and the middle class lifestyle, eating, technology, medicine. Each are exceptionally thoughtful studies, and this one looks similiarly brillant. And, it is just lovely, a wonderful book---as James Smith says, it is "a cup of cold wather for thirsty souls."

Saturday, November 11, 2006

God in Public: Four Ways...

Last night I wrote about a new book, a powerful and important interaction with and critique of the classic Niehbur book Christ and Culture. If you didn't, please scroll down and take a gander not only at my ruminations about the call and difficulties of being "in but not of" the world, but at my announcement of the new book by Craig Carter, Rethinking Christ and Culture: A Post-Christiandom Perspective.

Today, this book came in, and it is one I really wish I could have had to sell at the Christian Legal Society conference (one of their presentors, Carl Esbeck, is noted and footnoted.) God in Public: Four Ways American Christianity and Public Life Relate by Mark G. Toulouse (Westminister/John Knox; $19.95) looks just fabulous. Its presence reminds us that we at the BookNotes blog are not making this stuff up: evaulating and thinking critically about the most faithful ways to engage culture as followers of Christ is part of the most urgent tasks of our day. This book looks like it could be very, very helpful.

I'm not a big chart person (as you may have picked up from my little note yesterday.) But near the end of God in Public is a great summarizing chart about various aspects of his four types. He names them Iconic Faith, Priestly Faith, Public Christian, and Public Church. I am sure there will be much to learn from this, and I am pretty sure there will be some things I would say differently. I am grateful, though, that he is attentive to some of the more thoughtful evangelicals in this arena---Richard Mouw or James Skillen (even if he mis-spells Jim's name) and the aforementioned Esbeck, Esq.

There is an extend bit of study in the early chapters about the First Amendment and the establishment clause, and a nice survey of various court rulings about church/state stuff. (He cites Witte, even, whom I mentioned yesterday!) And, happily, he covers the more activist social prophets as well, and explains nicely various sorts and nuances of those who insist on radical cultural critique. Most book jackets can not be as nuanced as the text inside, and this is no different. Still, it is a powerful pair of photos that grace the front.

There are some wonderful endorsements on the back cover---raves from Randall Balmer, Peter J. Paris (from Princeton Theo.), R. Scott Appleby (Notre Dame), and Amanda Porterfield. The forward by Marty Marty is sweet and clear and clever (what else would you expect?) This a work that will be significantly reviewed, I'm sure. Toulouse is at Brite Divinity School at Texas Christian University. I suspect we will be hearing even more from him in years to come.

God In Public: Four Ways American Christianity and Public Life Relate Mark C. Toulouse (Westminister/John Knox) $19.95

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Yoder & Gruder, etc. vs Niebuhr et al

H. Richard Niebuhr's name comes up in these posts from time to time. Indeed, in just the last post, I mentioned in passing that a book I featured at the Christian Legal Society gig, Allegretti's The Lawyer's Calling, appropriates his catagories of how Christians have related "Christ and Culture." I often use some of his basic types in talks I give, showing, in simplified form, how mainline denominational folks in the 20th century had too often proposed a theology, and certainly a way of being in the world, that accodmoated a robust Christian set of principles and lifestyle to the American way of life; this, I've said, is rather like Niebuhr described and what I call "Christ and culture." In mirror image, I've often noted, fundamentalists have done the opposite, rejecting culture altogether, seeming to be as Niehbuhr described as "Christ against culture." In short, neither of these major wings of the church have nurtured a Biblically obedient "in the world but not of it" approach. Some are in (good) but also of (bad.) Some are not of (good) but not even in (bad.) The mainline churches have, to their credit, attempted to be relevant even if they've too often failed in radical holiness. Evangelicals have majored in piety and holiness, only to be, too often, culturally irrelevant. (And, before I lose you entirely, let me opine that liberal relevance, their strong suite, is, frankly, irrelevant, since it loses God's transcendent Word; fundamentalist pietism, that which it would seem to be their best asset, isn't even real holiness, since, Biblically, authentic holiness must be involved in the struggles of society. So we seen generations of cultural irrelevance in the liberal mainline, and pseudo-holiness in the conservative churches. But few, few, few, living out "holy worldliness" which is faithful in navigating the call to be "in/not of."

And, so, I am convinced, and our bookstore daily ends up bumping up against, the limits and confusions, failures and foibles, of how Christian faith has related to the cultural mandate, involved itself in social issues, and how, as the H. Richard book famously put it, related "Christ and culture." Written in 1951, much has changed (ahhh---mainline folk are finding renewal and conservatives are surely no longer anti-worldly.) And, of course, other Calvinists (especially those in the tradition of Kuyper) have written much about these very matters. Go here for just one serious and useful article that tells this story; visit *culture is not optional, whose wisdom and activism on these things is not only spectacular, but way cool.

Astute readers will know not only that I've greatly simplified and distorted Mr. N's typography. And even more astute readers will know that, even to the extent that I've helpfully summarized some Niebuhrian types, the whole project---his view of Christ, his view of culture---is itself fraught with problems.

And so, we are eager to announce that Craig A. Carter's new book has arrived which addresses these important concerns. Rethinking Christ and Culture: A Post-Christendom Perspective was released by our friends at Brazos, proving themselves, again, to be one of the most important publishers around. Kudos to Rodney Clapp and others there for bringing this work to us all. Carter is not the first to say this, but it may be one of the most important critiques done in the 5o-plus years since C&C become popular.

You may know Carter from his earlier, helpful overview of John Howard Yoder's work (The Politics of the Cross) or his scholarly articles. He brings this radically Biblical, pacifist insight to bear in his reading of Christ and Culture. It looks, really, really good (and even includes charts for those who like that sort of thing!)

Blurbs on the back come from important voices (David Gushee, Jonathan R. Wilson, Mark Thiessen Nation, for instance) indicating it is an important read, and not just for Mennonites or those who read Hauerwas. As Gushee says "In his effort to determine what is wrong with Niebugh's oft-cited typology, Carter digs deeply into two fundamental problems affecting not just Niebuhr bu the majority of Western Christians---the church's embrace of Christendom and its unblinking support for state violence."

I know that I myself really need to read and wrestle with these matters. I think you may, too.

Rethinking Christ and Culture: A Post-Christendom Perspective
Craig A. Carter (Brazos Press) $19.99


If you don't have Neihbur's classic Christ and Culture order Carter's book and we will sell you Neihbur's for about 25% off. Usually, it sells for $15.95 but we will, if coupled with Rethinking... sell it for only $12.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

back from Texas, finally

Sorry I haven't posted in a while, but, although there are new books in the shop and I"ve got my tote bag loaded with titles I'm trying to read, we were in the big 'ol state of Texas. And what a wonderful time it was for us! We had the privelege of selling books at the national Christian Legal Society conference where we served lawyers, judges, law professors, idealistic young law students and mediation specialists of all sorts.

With our ample collection of titles on Christian views of jurisprudence and books on Christian lawyering we sat around our book display from 7:30 am until 11:30 pm or later...talking books and all sorts of stuff about justice, faith and fidelity in an increasingly anti-Christian legal environment. What kind of titles? We had tables and tables, packed. For starters, Joseph Allegretti's wonderful The Lawyer's Calling: Christian Faith and Legal Practice ---written by a Roman Catholic who takes up Niehbur's "Christ & culture" catagories and calls for "transforming" approaches, or Howard Zehr's Mennonite book on restorative justice, Changing Lenses: A New Focus for Crime and Justice nicely illustrate some of our basic titles. We of course displayed all kinds of public policy books on civil liberties, church/state stuff and the American constitutional legacy. (And that was just that section of books!)

For a look at a scholarly, faith-based book which is highly esteemed on law, these days, a title that ought to be better known, consider the recent two-volume collection (from Columbia University Press) co-authored by the amazing legal scholar from Emory Law School, John Witte, Jr. (mentored by Harvard Law's Harold Berman, himself a 20th century genius and man of deep faith.) These are called The Teaching of Modern Christianity on Law, Politics and Human Nature. At $75 a piece, they may best be borrowed from inter-library loan, but please know that we stock them! Go here for a bit of a glimpse. (Please be sure to come back here if you need to order, though.) For a bit less ($30) his brand new, forthcoming one should come soon from Eerdmans entitled God's Joust: Law and Religion in the Western Tradition and it should be quite good.

So, thanks, CLS, for the good work you do, nurturing networks of attoneys who want to make a difference in their field, learn the ways of God's Kingdom, also in modern-day legal matters, and who desire to give good witness to Christ's redemptive ways. From family law to peacemaking mediation, from human rights activism to standing up for God's ways in public policy, from mentoring young law students (who often find themselves misunderstood and mocked by professors and classmates) to doing relational evangelism among peers in the guild, you encourage and equip, strengthen and support those lawyers who are in strategic positions to accomplish much for Christ. Thanks for letting us sell books, make conversation, and profit a bit by serving this astute organization.

Once again, those who "get" the Hearts & Minds bookstore vision will understand how thrilled we are to be promoting academic books on legal theory and vocational resources on serving God in one's marketplace calling. Even if you aren't intersted in these books (although you may know someone who is) I hope your heart is encouraged just a bit that an organization like this exists and that we get to offer our wares to them.

Of course they had dozens of workshops and many seminar leaders recommended specific titles. And we promoted certain stuff we are fond of---ahh, it was fun talking about Barack Obama's The Audacity of Hope to this largely Republican crowd, or talking about the worldview behind reformational books like Paul Marshall's excellent primer on faith and politics, God and the Constitution: Christianity and American Politics or David Koyzis' serious study Political Visions and Illusions: A Survey and Christian Critique of Contemporary Ideologies (all booksI truly wish I would have sold more of.)

There were excellent keynote speakers there, too, and we were happy to host autograph sessions with some of them. Bill Hull, whose many books on dicipleship and disciplemaking are well worth reading (we now have his Choose the Life DVD's that have his dynamic teaching for small groups use; they follow the matieral in the book by the same name. Go here to learn about it, and then call us if you think it would be useful for your group.) It was a particular delight to meet novelist Randy Singer (himself a lawyer and cheerleader for the mission and ministry of CLS) and we not only sold his legal thrillers, but his co-authored book on vocational calling and discernment Made To Count: Discovering What to Do With Your Life. Particularly charming and inspiring is his novella The Judge Who Stole Christmas. His newest is the clever The Cross Examination of Oliver Finney which includes the story line of a book the lead character, a kidnapped judge (I won't say more) writes which, in fact, is a nonfiction apologetic work Singer has actually released, The Cross Examination of Jesus Christ. A book within a book deal, and you can read either, or both. Cool.

For me personally, it was a great blessing to dine with Gary Moon, an author I've long admired, who most recently edited a volume on how different religious traditions do "spiritual direction" (Spiritual Direction and the Care of Souls: A Guide to Christian Approaches and Practices was co-edited by fellow psychologist, David Benner and published by the scholarly arm of InterVarsity Press.) I love his thoughtful book on spiritual formation, Falling for God: Saying Yes to His Extravagent Proposal (published by Waterbrook.) It is highly recommended not only for being well-written and mature, but how it nicely introduces classic writers (such as Julian of Norwich) with excerpts of a few devotional classics. Thanks, Gary, for your good work, kind heart, and encouragement to us to keep at this bookselling thing.

And for those who care, not only do Beth and I thank CLS, but our ever-faithful behind the scenes servant, heavy-lifter and van driver (who is still out somewhere in Appalachia as I type), Gus C. Perhaps you didn't see the proverbial face of Jesus in a tortilla down near the border, but you saw the face of Garber in Jay Farrar's sideman, and that is pretty awesome! May God's blessings be upon you and yours.