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.
The last few posts have been about books that we care about, and wish were better known within the circle of those who follow religious publishing. Those that know us hopefully know that we invite our friends to buy and discuss these books because we believe deeply that the Bible teaches that we must care about the world and it's problems. Whether these particular books get it all perfectly---they may not---they are current and inspiring and thoughtful. We commend them sincerely and hope they help you live more faithfully in these times.
So, while on this roll, a good friend forwarded me a link to Think Christian, a fine website that shares our concerns about evangelical cultural engagement. Here, they offer the nine minute youtube clip of rock star Bono getting an award from the NAACP. It includes a great tribute, but then he comes to the podium. He tells of how the vision that poured forth from black pulpits about racial unity during the civil rights struggles inspired him as a teen-ager in the violent and religiously-segregated Ireland. Anyone that knows anything about the Irish troubles, or the rise of u2, can see how that very white Irish punk was changed by an understanding of the black experience in America, and the music and preaching that gripped his soul and shaped his politics.
Let this clip load well because you won't want it to stall on ya. By the end, you will be on your feet, or maybe on your knees. And maybe--- I say this with all seriousness and righteous hope---you will buy more books on the great issues of our time, pass them around, review them, form book clubs, give them to preachers and teachers. That is, you know, how McLaren starts his Everything Must Change, wondering what the world's biggest problems are, and what Jesus might say about them. Bono gives us a way into that question, and calls us to action, finding God among the poor and abused, and learning to love in a global way. His stirring speech reminds us of some very important things...
Blog Special Buy any book I've mentioned in the last several posts, and we will offer a free copy of the little book of pictures Bono took in Africa On the Move which has the text of his famous National Prayer Breakfast Speech. Buy a book, get a free one. Thanks for your involvement in our work.
It is after 3 am, and it has been a hard day in many ways. I won't renumerate the ways here. Yet, despite a hefty speaking engagement set for tomorrow morning---and more books to set up, first---I just have to tell you about two new items that we got in the store today. They have brought me joy and some hope, even amidst my goofy mood.
Brian McLaren's long-awaiting new book arrived, a bit earlier than I had expected. It is called Everything Must Change: Jesus, Global Crisis and a Revolution of Hope (Word; $21.99.) I have been carrying around a beat-up early draft for a while, now, and have been itching to write about it, and now, the time has come, and I don't have time or energy. Still, this is not a sleep-deprived rant, but a well-considered evaluation: this really, really, is a very, very important book. Brian (or the publisher, at least) has billed it as a sequel to the very good The Secret Message of Jesus, which was a great book about the Kingdom of God. I would highly recommend reading that, but EMC would still be useful and inspiring and informative for many of our readers, even if you passed on the Jesus book. It may be his most complex book, yet, and will stretch readers into some important new territory. Good.
Everything Must Change starts, as many of Brian's books do, with some casual and, I find, charmingly honest statements about himself, how the book came to be, and inviting the reader to either agree or not. He says that it may seem presumptuous but he has long had two big questions---very big questions---that have burned within him. Since I gave a talk tonight with an amazing group of 30 some college students on 1 Chronicals 12:32 (look it up, if you have to) and talked about Barth's famous quip about "reading the Bible with the newspaper in the other hand" Brian's two big questions surely resonate. He asks, firstly, what is the biggest problem in the world? And, next, what does Jesus have to do with that? Not a bad way to drawn this reader in. I hope you fall for it, too.
I don't think McLaren would mind if I note here (my lack of sleep may be causing a lowering of inhabitions) that we sent him a manuscript that a friend of mine co-wrote, back before it was published. It was Hope For Troubled Times: A New Vision for Confronting Global Crisis by Bob Goudzewaard, Mark VanderVennen, David Van Heemst(See the April book review column over at the website for some more on that one!) I'm excited to note that Brian cites it several times, and says some very nice things about it. So, if you are a Bob Goudzewaard fan, as some BookNotes readers surely are, know that his imprint is on McLaren's heart and mind. Brian is not new to this struggle of living out Kingdom faithfulness in a complicated and impoverished world. His affiliation with the Call to Renewal--and his own activism in creation care, explained in even his earliest books---give him the right to speak authoritatively on this global stuff. We will write more about it later, but for now, consider ordering it, or at least saying a pray of thanksgiving for one more contribution of deep faithfulness, as I described in my last posting. Things are changing, as church folk connect the dots, live into the promises of God, and dare to dream the biggest dreams. As McLaren puts it, we join a revolution of hope.
The new David Crowder Band CD released today as well. I've listened to it for days, now, and, as I told my wife, while up late packing books last night, it "brought me to my knees." His simple addition of a brief bridge in O For A Thousand Tongues to Sing that there are, "few words that last" and that there is "one great love--Jesus" just made me weep. The second to last cut is called Remedy and it is a splendid, slightly nuanced but not obscure telling of the tale of redemption. Remedy. A good way to say it, eh?
The last song could be the sweet soundtrack to your reading of Brian's new book. It is called Surely We Can Change and it calls us to experience change, to be change, to realize that the whole world is going to change; that is, it is a song about hope--modest hope, on one hand ("surely we can change, something") and grand, eschatological hope, as well. (Yes, Crowder, unlike most CCM stars, knows what that word means.) My description doesn't do it justice---it is a powerfully poetic song, an acoustically driven quiet tune, with a very, very compelling lyric. Other songs are by turn rowdy, electronica, very contemporary. He is a thoughtful writer, a clever lyricist, has a strong and wholistic passion. The last two songs are worth the price of the whole disc. Highly recommended.
Three Books about Justice: in the burbs and around the globe
Last week I mentioned this important classic of the social gospel movement, by Walter Rauschenbusch, Christianity and the Social Crisis. This new anniversary edition not only retains the original classic, but offers insights by the likes of Cornel West, Stanley Hauerwas or Tony Campolo. I found it thrilling and informative, an important work we should know, made only more important with these contemporary reflections.
And, as you may have seen, I mentioned this great new book, Shaking the System, by Tim Stafford, offering things that he learned about, and from, the great faith-based movements of social reform, from abolition to civil rights, etc. Great, great stuff.
I thought I would mention just three other books which offer a radical social critique, and that give resource, aid and support to those of us who desire to be "morally serious" in our historical setting. These are each more practical than the historical and theological ones I mentioned in the last post. It is fascinating that there are more faith-based books out now about social action and prophetic critique of the ideologies of our time than I've seen in recent decades, and the extraordinary things is that many of these are being published by evangelical or charismatic publishing houses, Christian industry pillars who have not been known in recent memory for doing these kinds of books. Resisting the sex trade or standing for ecological practices, working for racial justice or getting involved in short term mission work, younger evangelicals, especially, are everywhere talking and acting on Biblically-based principles for social transformation. Some, even who indentify themselves as politically conservative are out there doing great socially significant work. (As opposed to decades ago when there were many who identified themselves as liberal socially, but didn't get very involved in actual social activism.)
I have reasons to think why this is, and as one who has spoken for, taught about, hawked books on and generally tried to make a bit of a racket around these things for thirty years, I am now very, very glad, if a bit perplexed, to see these concerns popping up in the evangelical religious press. I am grateful for having known and in some cases worked with (or protested alongside of) with stalwarts like Tony Campolo, Jim Wallis, Ron Sider or John Perkins---great saints whose books you should have on your shelves, if you don't--- but the new generation of activists are coming with fresh voices, often clear, if progressive, evangelical faith, and a connection to spirituality and worship that these older men would surely affirm. These are exciting times to be about the work of nurturing the Christian political vision. Here are three examples of new titles that might not have even gotten published six or seven years ago...
Shaking the Gates of Hell: Faith-Led Resistance to Corporate Globalization Sharon Delgado (Fortress) $20.00 Perhaps the edgiest-looking book this mainline Lutheran publisher has released, this eye-opening journey into the heart of the anti-globalization movement is provocative and disturbing. It makes your heart beat, wondering if her radical critique is really true, whether her lived out resistance to the powers is an authentic example of Kingdom hope, whether, you, too, should be involved in active protest, resistance and forming communities who model different ways of living and being that are not co-opted by the forces of conformity and complicity to injustice.
Rev. Delgado so badly wants to teach about the horrors of our abuse of the Earth, the trampling of the poor, the dangers of arms escalation and the spread of toxic fumes and ideologies, that she doesn't worry about every theological jot and tittle--she blazes away, building a powerful critique and a persuasive call for serious change. This book reminds me of stuff I read by Phil Berrigan decades ago, indeed, draws on Phil's old teacher and pal, William Stringfellow (and his fellow contemplative protester, Jim Douglas.) If you wonder how to best understand "the principalities and powers" and you've read, say, Walter Wink, (or even Sojourners magazine) this spiritually-motivated call to witness against the forces of globalization is a must-read. Sharon has been at this for years, working for sustainable communities and economic empowerment as an ordained United Methodist minister and Director of the interfaith Earth Justice Ministries.
Dangerous Faith: Growing in God and Service to the World Joel Vestal (NavPress) $13.99 First this: this is the first in a great new series called Deliberate, an imprint of books that seem to speak the language of emerging evangelicals, with the tone and passion of newer generation voices, somewhat in the mold of Donald Miller, say. (It is, happily, also a line that is committed to a green approach to book manufacturing, with the vital Earth stats listed for each book. Way to go, NavPress!) This book is seriously evangelical, very wholistic, profoundly cross-cultural, yet it is committed less to the political resistance of globalization as Delgado's book is, but more to missionary partnerships that serve, reach out, care for the needy, showing Christ's compassion and love to the hurting around the globe. Deliberate intends their books to be voices of the new generation, and they combine writing about passionate worship (Louie Giglio of the Passion worship conferences wrote the forward--you can check out his podcast about it here), prayer, simplicity, compassion and justice. It is fun and feisty and, it, too makes the heart race, and invites us to think how we can be agents of global outreach, God's Kingdom coming, serving others, seeking social transformation in Christ-honoring ways. Vestal is the founder of the amazing ServLife International, (check out the great website!) and his story includes traipsing off to all sorts of dangerous places, as hands and feet of a Holy God who calls us to serve the lost. You will learn a lot about the world here, and some of these stories will send shivers down your spine; it is not your mama's missionary story (ahh, but maybe it is. Some of those old timers did extraordinary things, despite the bad rap some of 'em get from novels like the powerful Poisonwood Bible.) Forget those old stereotypes. This here is the real deal. You won't be able to put it down. And it will draw you closer to God in the process.
Justice in the Burbs: Being the Hands of Jesus Wherever You Live Will and Lisa Sampson (Baker/emergent village) $14.99 Wow, what a gentle and challenging little book, the perfect guide to the conversation happening all over---how evangelicals, who major in Bible reading and evangelism, have so often missed the cultural engagement piece, the call to action for the oppressed, the structural stuff about economics, justice and racial reconciliation. Has life in the 'burbs made us immune to how many folks really live, and what, in life, really matters? Has the American Dream edged out the dream of God's shalom, coming in our midst? This is a lovely set of stories to guide us into taking small steps towards what Shane Clairborn called "The Irresitible Revolution" but explored in the middle class context. It is no surprise that dear Shane--urban activist and radical prophet, more akin to Delgado's liberation movement than with most suburban mega-churches, offers a sweet and insightful endorsement to Will and Lisa.
Here's something else you should know. This is the same Lisa Sampson who writes very well-done and truly enjoyable, thoughtful and contemporary Christian fiction. She starts each chapter in this book with a story device, a fictional episode which unfolds as the book goes on. In these vignettes, we watch as fairly ordinary Christian folks in the fairly ordinary suburbs, grapple with bigger questions, and take steps to align their hearts with the passions and demands of God's story. After excellent teaching in each chapter, too, unpacking Bible truth and sharing their own journey toward these issues, there are devotional sidebars, reflections and meditations by friends and collegues of the Sampsons, who, like them, have attempted to live out the implications of Christ's way amidst the complicated 21st century world. From Len Sweet to Brian McLaren, Shane to Luci Shaw, Tony Jones to Christine Pohl, Christine Sine to Kester Brewin, these important voices add a community conversation feel to the book. This is a great book to study, easy (on one hand) to understand and not at all alienating. It would be a great small group study or book for your reading group. From the delightful fictional portions to the insightful discussion questions, this is a great resource. Highly recommended.
PLEASE check out this great youtube video of them talking about the book. If this doesn't get you interested, I don't know what will....come on back and order from us. Thanks.
Christianity and the Social Crisis in the 21st Century and Shaking the SystemTwo Great Books---and a free book offer
As an evangelical with theology that is historically orthodox, I have nonetheless often come back to the theme of the feeble way the church-- mainline and evangelical-- has often failed to engage the culture in prophetic and transforming ways. In terms of broader questions of worldview and vocation, or more specific matters of social concerns, we've too often not lived up to our high and holy calling to be agents of God's Kingdom.
Perhaps one of the most significant books, and certainly one of the most controversial, of the last 100 years was the important book Christianity and the Social Crisis by one of the founders of the so-called "social gospel" movement, Rev. Walter Rauschenbusch. I am not the first evangelical who came of age, politically and theologically, in the middle of the 20th century and was surprised when I finally got around to reading Rauschenbusch, who wasn't nearly as theologically shallow as we had been lead to believe by our conservative elders. While there remains huge problems with the social gospel tradition, the good Rev. R, and other liberal theologians, it is simply untrue that W.R. wasn't interested in Biblical truth, spirituality, evangelism or Christ's atoning work.
Now, to celebrate that important book's 100th anniversary, there is a spectacular new edition, being called Christianity and the Social Crisis in the 21st Century (HarperOne; $27.95) Here, each chapter of the original Rauschenbusch text is followed up by a new chapter by a contemporary public theologian, preacher, or Christian activist. Each contemporary author offers both praise and some critique, and it makes the reading of the book an exceptionally helpful learning experience. New essays are by Tony Campolo**, Joan Chittister, James Forbes, Stanely Hauerwas, Phyllis Trible, Jim Wallis and Cornel West. One who is not a follower of Christ, the important pragmatist philosopher Richard Rorty has an afterward that itself is very interesting.
What a great idea! We need this conversation in 2007 as much as we did in 1907, and, to be honest, I trust this zealous reformer more than some of the exceptionally odd and arcane theological voices out there these days. This is a handsome book, a helpful resource and a very provocative approach. It is edited, with telling comments throughout, by the great minister's great, grandson, Paul, who is now a dean of religious life at Princeton. Way to go, HarperOne! This one is fabulous.
**I hope you buy this book and read it carefully. Still, for those who may not, you may want to know, for the record, that Tony notes a concern about Rauschenbusch's lack of clarity about the full divinity of Christ and his understanding of the nature of the Scriptures.
One of the great misunderstandings, a misunderstanding that helped create the mood that generated the "social gospel" is the accusation that conservative evangelicals, in their passion for soul-winning evangelism and personal piety, failed to develop a wholistic social witness. And while there are ways in which this is so, it is not fully true. This fallacy has been countered often, and now another new book will help dispel these inaccurate stereotypes of the socially unaware evangelical. Tim Stafford's marvelous Shaking the System: What I Learned from the Great American Reform Movements (IVP: $17) looks like one of the best books of the year, and has been eager anticipated. (Publisher's Weekly gave it a starred review, calling it "required reading for every evangelical with a social conscience.") Ron Sider, John Perkins, Charles Marsh, Jim Wallis and others have all endorsed it. Passionate, well-written, historically colorful, this shows that many of the great reform movements (from temperance to abolition, women's suffrage to civil rights) have been led by people of faith. As Wallis says, "Stafford closes withthe most important reminder---that what ultimately calls us into activism is the Kingdom of God breaking into our world. We are motivated not by partisan politics but by the message of Jesus." He says, "I heartily recommend Shaking the System to all those who seek both a deeper faithulness and a better world."
BLOG SPECIAL buy either of these two remarkable books and we will give you a free copy of Practical Justice: Living Off-Center in a Self-Centered World Kevin Blue (IVP) $13.oo This small brief is a truly fabulous book---John Perkins calls it "a prophetic new voice that will stir your soul." Practical, clear, passionate, this is packed full of ideas and insights about how to be more faithful and just in our efforts to serve a broken world.
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I thought you might like to see the poster my friend Ned Bustard (World's End Images) did for a Sunday school class I am teaching. I am convinced that mature, sustainable, multi-faceted, faithful Christian engagement with culture--from social action to the arts to marketplace witness to a renewal of education to care for the Earth to the restoration of our towns and cities---will demand an urgent and passionate recovery of the grand themes of the Kingdom of God, the calling of laypeople to vocations of social innovation, the spirituality of the ordinary and a recovery of a high regard for good doctrine, a wise and proper use of the Bible, and the vast implications of Christ's Kingship for every zone of life. This urgency animates much of what we do here at BookNotes, and our desire to sell books to like-minded friends across the country.
I am tickled to do this worldview class at First Presbyterian Church in York, and grateful for the chance to teach in the adult ed ministry of my church. Pray for us. Order books from the lists last week. Thanks.
More new theology books---Scot McKnight, Rowan Williams, John Inge, Hans Kung, Stephen Nichols
The other day I listed a few serious theology books---although not so academic as to be out of reach for thoughtful lay readers--by important Reformed theologian Michael Horton. Good and significant stuff, to be sure.If that got you curious, I thought I'd just list a couple other books of theology that we have gotten in here at the shop the last week. These are just a few, mind you, but may picque your interest in reading in this discipline.
A Community Called Atonement (Living Theology) Scot McKnight (Abingdon) $17 You may know of our admiration for this author, a friendly theologian who is adept at various sorts of writing-- doing heavy theology, moving devotional meditations, essays of grace-full prose, Biblical scholarship, balanced stuff about the emergent conversations.... Scot here offers the first of a series (edited by Tony Jones) called "Living Theology." If this is any indication, it is going to be a terrific series, and this will be a vital and important contribution.
I would hope that many readers of our BookNotes blog know that there are serious debates raging now in many parts of the church about the nature of the atonement, how justification happens, the ways in which the Bible portrays our salvation, and the role of the Cross and Christ's death in Christian theology. What a mouthful, what a heart-full...this stuff surely matters much to those of us who love the gospels, love the cross, care about matters of orthodoxy, but are eager to always explore new ideas and formulations and insights. Although it is more than a reply to the so-called "New Perspective on Paul" it does, obviously, explore similiar concerns. And so, here, McKnight reminds us that even our most cherished doctrines are lived, theological formulations offered in community. The title itself is intriguing, isn't it?
One of the most important authors on these matters these days is J.I. Packer professor of theology at Regent, Hans Boersma (whose magnificent book, Violence, Hospitality and the Cross: Reappropriating the Atonement Tradition[now out in paperback] is well worth the serious time it takes to work through it.) Of McKnight's A Community Called Atonement, he writes,
Atonement theology, McKnight rightly insists, cannot operate with only one theory; it needs all of the biblical metaphors and each of the traditional atonement models. They all come together, he points out, in the patristic model of recapitulation--or, as he calls it, identification for incorporation. More than just being gutsy, orthodox, creative, as well as scholarly in character, this book actually atones; it models what it sets out to demonstrate, namely, that the church is summoned to work with God in his atoning work.
Tokens of Trust: An Introduction to Christian Belief Rowan Williams (Westminister/John Knox) $16.95 Printed on heavy nearly glossy paper, this small, attractive hardback is a gem to hold, a rare and blessed book which seems to just sing. Here is what Theology Today says, "How rare to find someone who, simultaneously, is thoughtfully and constructively involved both with the main teachings of Christian theology (from the Bible through its formative periods to the present) and also with contemporary culture, politics, education and spirituality."
The Christian Century says "It is a happy coincidence that the most important Protestant theologian in the world is also the best." Agree or not, this is a lovely little book, great for a renewal of your convictions, or as a gift to one who might appreciate a learned and caring intro.
A Christian Theology of Place John Inge (Ashgate) $33.95 Not exactly new, but new to us. This was shortlisted for the prestigious (Anglican) "Michael Ramsey Prize last year. Brueggemann says that he finds it "on target in powerful and compelling ways." Anybody interested in the distinctions between "place" and "space"? On implications of a sacramental vision for land use? A critique of Hellenistic backgrounds to the topic? This looks really fine.
The Beginning of All Things: Science and Religion Hans Kung (Eerdmans) $22 I believe I mentioned this last month in a post about my favorite three publishers (Eerdmans was one of 'em.) Kung is a world class theologian--not my favorite for any number of reasons--but here, he weighs in as a theologian, on the faith/science conversation. Polkinghorne says it is fascinating, and I'll believe him. Anybody want to check it out?? A major new work.
For Us and Our Salvation: The Doctrine of Christ in the Early Church Stephen J. Nichols (Crossway) $14.99 Steve is a prolific writer and professor at Lancaster Bible College. I love this guy and his many books because they are at once historically solid, theologically orthodox, precise, and happily readable---interesting, accessible. Of course, especially these days in popular culture (and too often, in the church) clarity about who Christ is, and who the church has declared him to be, is lacking. In these brief chapters, we get original sources and explanatory stuff, historical theology and up-to-the-minute urgency. With a glossary and all kinds of teacherly helps, this is the best intro to the creedal debates and heresy--and eventual Christology--of the earliest church. What a great little book! Highly recommended.
Every six weeks I have the opportunity to write a column for our local Sunday paper, the York Sunday News. It is a good chance to practice writing non-book review pieces---man, I hate the word limit---for a public audience. Here, I try to offer hints of a Christian view of work and how the broader story of what God is doing in the world might inform our view of our jobs and callings.
The original draft had more about structural change and social innovation, even telling just a bit about our friends in the Christian labor movement in Canada. I had to cut a lot out, but I hope you still enjoy it. You understand why I have the Modern Times photo when you read it.
For a short and Biblically punchy essay that will knock your socks off on this topic, see the always fabulous pieces by my friend Mike Metzgar, at his Clapham Institute, especially the new one called "Labored Day." If this makes you scratch your head a bit, call us asap and we will sell ya some books that develope his point. If you like it, sign up for his automatic notification (like ours, ) and read him regularly. Mike's work is unique, insightful and fun. Good stuff!
And, for a longer, tender and very thoughtful piece written by Steve Garber, please read (and re-read, and send to your pastor to read and re-read) his A Wound in My Heart Has Been Healed. I have mentioned his Washington Institute website before, and it is well worth the visit.