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, August 30, 2007

Some new theology books

As much as Hearts & Minds is oriented towards helping folks read widely across the spectrum of life's topics, relating faith and work, politics, family, or culture, thinking Christianly out of a coherent, Biblical worldview, we do really stock a lot of theology, proper. Interestingly, we sell more theology books to laypeople, it seems, than we do to pastors. Let's hope that they are keeping up their theological chops somehow. I read a piece just this week where John Piper was citing Ron Sider--gotta love that!---reminding us all that we must teach to our youth good doctrine. "Good Doctrine Makes Better (Teenage) Saints." I agree.

We just got in the eagerly anticipated third serious volume by Michael S. Horton, Covenant and Salvation: Union With Christ (Westminster/John Knox; $34.95.) It is the follow up to the solid paperbacks Covenant and Eschatology: The Divine Drama and Lord and Servant: A Covenant Christology. Here, Horton examines Christian salvation from the perspective of covenant theology. It is clear that he goes into serious depth, looking at the relationship of law and gospel, union with Christ, justification, the very meaning of salvation. He is fluent in a wide range of views, and draws upon insights both classical and contemporary.

Blurbs on the back come from world class theologians like Colin Gunton and David Kelsey, from King's College in London, and Yale Divinity School, respectively. Fellow Pennsylvanian John Franke (Biblical Seminary in Hatfield, PA) writes,
Michael Horton has done more to demonstrate the ongoing vitality of Protestant orthodoxy for contemporary theological reflection than any other current writer.
He continues on, saying this book is "pivotal." J. Todd Billings (from Western Theological Seminary in Holland, MI) says his synthesis of biblical, historical and systematic argumentation is "stunning."

From Radical Orthodoxy to Eastern Orthodoxy, from the covenants at Sinai and Zion to the controversial new perspective on Paul, Horton is clear, passionate and offers a vital view. One wouldn't have to read all three volumes, either, although all are clearly important contibutions to the theological conversations in our day. I must say I am particularly happy that a mainline denominational publishing house (W/JK) does this important work of a seriously Reformed evangelical. Check out more about the elequant and fiesty Horton by checking out the journal he has edited, Modern Reformation. Check out his radio show, the amazingly thoughtful White Horse Inn,

Here is another fabulous new book, one that I cannot say much about yet. Not Ashamed of the Gospel: Sermons From Paul's Letter to the Romans by Fleming Rutledge (Eerdmans; $19) just arrived. You may know her---I might describe her as one with the elequance and charm and insight as Barbara Brown Taylor, but with a more rigorous commitment to historic orthodoxy. She is now known as one of America's finest preachers, and all of her books are fabulously interesting and edifying. She is not like Horton, in perspective, really, and, mostly, because she is not a professional theologian, but a preacher of the Bible.

As a NYC Episcopal priest, she has held forth well, preaching hard truth in relevant, sophisticated ways. With endorsements on the back from William Willimon---he plays with the (Biblical) word that Rutledge uses (she calls Romans "theological dynamite") and goes from there---and Beverly Roberts Gaventa, from Princeton, her mainline bone fides are well-established. Yet, she is surely preaching nothing but the gospel of God's grace and victory. Dunamis, indeed.

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Monday, August 27, 2007

Top Books on the Christian Mind

In my last posting I listed my top ten bibliography that I passed out for faculty at a Christian college where I had the privilege of bringing some challenge and encouragement last week. It named my favorite books about worldviews and worldview formation.

Here is another handout I used in my talk, a listing of books that, like the ones on worldview, should be of interest to any readers of BookNotes and friends of Hearts & Minds. If you don't care about this stuff, you might be on the wrong blog spot. To care about books, and how serious-minded Christian books can help us move towards redemptive social engagement, we must first overcome the obstacles of a shallow Christian mind, the lack of intellectual habits within the church, and ramp up our conversations about the nature of Christian learning and wholistic discipleship. Think of Romans 12:1-2...

Let us know if you have found any of these helpful, or have a distaste for any. Because I snuck in just a few more than ten titles, I couldn't call this a top ten list, so I named it only
SOME GREAT BOOKS ON THE NATURE OF CHRISTIAN SCHOLARSHIP. I wish every church library and Christian leader's bookshelf included a few of these.

The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind Mark Noll (Eerdmans) $20 Surely one of the most important books of our time, this named the crisis of evangelical anti-intellectualism, traced its colorful history and charted an agenda for a renewal of the life of the mind. Called “brilliant” by Publisher’s Weekly and a “landmark” by J.I. Packer.

Fit Bodies, Fat Minds: Why Evangelicals Don’t Think and What to Do About It Os Guinness (Baker) $9.99 This is a punchy and powerful set of two extended essays, similar to the more thorough Noll text, but considerably more accessible. The first examines 8 reasons (in 8 short chapters) why American evangelicals failed to think well throughout their development. The second half examines 8 reasons why it remains difficult to recapture a “Christian mind” in our contemporary era. Brilliant cultural criticism, fascinating social history, sober assessment, and a thrilling call for thoughtful, culturally-engaged and innovative thinking.

The Vocation of the Christian Scholar: How the Christian Faith Can Sustain the Life of the Mind (revised) Richard Hughes (Eerdmans) $15 Although the thoughtful and winsome Dr. Hughes has not answered many of the tough questions about worldviewish and perspectival learning, his elegant call to be human and good in the classroom is deeply, deeply moving.

The Outrageous Idea of Christian Scholarship George M. Marsden (Oxford University Press) $16.95 After a New York Times reviewer called Marsden’s call to Christian scholarship “outrageous” his publisher invited him to do this essay on just what this project is about. Lucid, persuasive and solid.

Engaging God’s World: A Christian Vision of Faith, Learning and Living Cornelius Plantinga, Jr. (Eerdmans) $15 So eloquent and caring, this beautiful book was initially done for incoming students at Calvin College, and is now considered a classic in the literature about the meaning of a uniquely Christian college education.

Finding God At Harvard: Spiritual Journeys of Thinking Christians edited by Kelly Monroe Kullberg (IVP/Veritas) $15 A remarkable bargain, this anthology is a collection of various thinkers who have shared their stories and insights with the evangelical student group at Harvard. From Robert Coles to Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, from Nicholas Wolterstorff to Owen Gingerich, this is a stellar collection of top-rate scholars. A fabulous resource. Her thoughtful Veritas Forum website is a real treasure trove.

The Integration of Faith and Learning: A Worldview Approach Robert A. Harris (Cascade) $30 A handbook of ideas about relating faith and learning in worldviewish ways. This could be used with students in a variety of settings and, although basic, offers good insights, and engenders a love for truth and a critical mind.

Discipleship of the Mind: Learning to Love God in the Way We Think and Habits of the Mind: The Intellectual Life as a Christian Calling (IVP) $15/$16 Two wonderful, thoughtful and provocative books, a bit meaty for most under-grads, and yet rich enough for the most learned professors. Thank goodness for Mr. Sire’s long life of writing about his own intellectual curiosity, and his insights theological, philosophical, and imminently practical. Bravo!

A Mind for God James Emery White (IVP) $12 A smallish, pocket-sized hardcover, this handsome little volume is an extended essay on which the life of the mind matters, why it is important to read deeply and widely, and how the Christian call to serve our neighbors and impact our world is dependent upon serious learning, in Godly perspective.
A good reminder why what we do matters, the grand impact we hope our teaching will have.

Loving God With All Your Mind: Thinking as a Christian in a Postmodern World Gene Edward Veith, Jr. (Crossway) $19.99 A wonderful guide for beginners, this explores higher education by doing a helpful Bible study of the situation of Daniel and his friends in “Babylon U.” Fun, creative, and a good call to think faithfully and wisely in our “new dark ages.”

The Life of the Mind: A Christian Perspective Clifford Williams (Baker/CCCU) $10.99 Brief, nicely written, with endorsements from the likes of Mark Noll, Art Holmes, Robert Andringa, David Dockery and Harold Heie, this philosophy prof here offers under-grads an argument for Christian thinking and honoring God in our scholarship. Those who are called upon to aid students in their academic discipleship would do well to know these qualities.

The Outrageous Idea of Academic Faithfulness: A Guide for Students Donald Opitz & Derek Melleby (Brazos) $13.99 I have raved about this on line, and nearly everywhere I go. Delightfully enjoyable, passionately Christ-exalting, socially relevant and clearly informed by the best literature, this is the best introduction to being a Christian student that has yet been done. A wonderful invitation to the world of worldviews and thinking and learning. They have an awesome website, growing better each week. I will even get to chime in there on occasion, as will anyone with stories or resources or ideas for this terrific, outrageous movement of nurturing the life of the mind among undergrads. Check it out, here at www.academicfaithfulness.com.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Top Ten Books on a Christian Worldview

This was part of a bibliography I gave out in my presentation at Geneva earlier this week. Hope you read my last post, as it is a heart-felt cry about integrated Christian living and the call to develop a "thick" reading of a Christian worldview. Even though I wrote this for college professors, I think anyone interested in social action, cultural engagement or church renewal should own a few of these essential, life-changing books. Let us know what you think.

Creation Regained: Biblical Basics for a Reformational Worldview Al Wolters (Eerdmans) $12.00 Often cited, this is truly one of the most succinct, insightful, Biblically-based and philosophically thoughtful books on the topic; a must-read. The second edition includes a newer chapter, relating his neo-Calvinist reformational perspective to the missional vision of Newbigin and the narrative theology of N.T. Wright. Classic.

The Transforming Vision: Shaping a Christian Worldview Brian Walsh & Richard Middleton (IVP) $15 Perhaps my favorite single worldview book, this (briefly) traces the rise of dualism, brings diagnostic insight into the nature of the problem, shows the resultant rise of secularization and idolatry, and calls for a wholistic and culturally-engaged Kingdom vision, starting with a philosophically-aware and Biblically-faithful recovery of the Christian mind amongst collegiates. Wow.

Subversive Christianity: Imaging God in a Dangerous Time Brian Walsh (forward by N.T. Wright) (Alta Vista Press) $10.95 Four stunning talks, sermonic in their passionate delivery and insightful in their academic rigor, these Biblical studies are largely asking the big question: is a refinement of our worldviews what is needed, and how can “worldview studies” actually help bear fruit in faithful ways of life? Hint: unlike some voices in these conversations, he is particularly interested in the role of the Bible, and how it shapes our imaginations.

The Universe Next Door: A Basic Worldview Catalog James Sire (IVP) $17 Now in it’s 4th edition, this handbook describes the way the most prevalent worldviews answer the most deep human questions. Not quite a guidebook to world religions (he looks at naturalism, nihilism, new-age pantheism, postmodernism and such) it is arranged as a fairly standard text showing comparative views. Very useful.

Naming the Elephant: Worldview as a Concept James Sire (IVP) $15 After being widely known as a scholar of worldviews, Sire tells of his growing awareness that he never fully explained (in fact, never settled in his own mind) just what worldviews are. A philosophy of life? A set of presuppositions? An imaginative construct? Here, he dissects the concept and offers helpful reflections on this very important matter. And, he offers his revised definition of worldviews. He jokingly calls this “Naugle for Dummies.”

Worldview: The History of a Concept David Naugle (Eerdmans) $26 Magisterial, thoughtful, researched with extraordinary insight and grace, this is the definitive book about the rise of the word “worldview”, the use of the idea from it’s first coinage, the different ways in which various Christian writers have used the notion. Al Wolters has called it “a tour de force.” Visit the wonderful website of Dr. Naugle for bonus material, lecture transcripts, bibliographies and other cool stuff. http://www.dbu.edu/Naugle/index.asp

Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity Nancy Pearcey (Crossway) $25 A thick and fascinating hardback, with a useful study guide in the back, this is one of the important, popular guides to the fact/value split, the consequences of this dualism, and the call for an integrated perspective. As with the popular book she co-authored with Charles Colson, How Now Shall We Live? she uses as a case study the impact of naturalism in the sciences. A very important work.

Heaven Is a Place on Earth: Why Everything You Do Matters To God Michael E. Wittmer (Zondervan) $16.99 Delightfully written, theologically insightful but very sound, this pleasant and helpfully Biblical work includes a great study guide and reflective case studies for further conversations. Although thoroughly covering the standard material this may have an appeal to those not used to deeper theological, philosophical or worldviewish texts. Nice!

The Fabric of Faithfulness: Weaving Together Belief and Behavior Steven Garber (IVP) $16 Although initially written to be helpful for developing a serious and coherent view of university education, the newer chapters and the change in sub-title indicates that the book is not just for students, and is more broadly about finding a worldview and way of life that can be sustained as followers of Christ allow their deepest convictions to energize them as agents of cultural transformation over the longer haul of their lives. Truly one of the most important books of our time, to be read and re-read, cherished and discussed. See his wonderfully crafted essays at http://washingtoninst.org

Heaven Is Not My Home: Living in the Now of God’s Creation Paul Marshall (Word/Lightening Source) $19 With playful illustrations, great stories and a wholistic vision of integrated Christian living, Marshal offers chapters on “thinking Christianly” and living joyfully in various sides of life. A veritable worldviewish handbook for considering work, leisure, art, politics, science, technology, business, worship and more. What a fun and radical guide to Kingdom living in every sphere of life.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Selling Books & Giving a Talk: Teaching Faithfully at a Christian College

After the requisite heavy lifting, I'm taking a rented van full of boxes of books out to Western Pennsylvania to the Reformed Presbyterian-owned Geneva College. (Yes, our hefty family van finally died with about 240,000 hard miles on it, and we are in a bit of confusion what to do next.) I will set up a book display for their faculty to have some sort of buyin' frenzy. I hope I bring home less than I take, at least.

Tuesday affords me, due to the gracious and trusting hospitality of their Academic Dean, the chance to do a lecture for their faculty. As I've done with under-grads, and occasionally with college staff, I get to offer some reminders of the urgency and obstacles facing those that are called to the challenge of integrating faith and learning in a collegiate setting.

I have often lamented the way in which Christian persons, even professionals and leaders, don't read much about their respective fields; that is, few Christian [fill in the profession: doctors, salespeople, teachers, journalists, engineers, artists or lawyers] can articulate what difference their faith makes for the ways in which they think about, and live out, their careers and callings. Because this question has not captured their imaginations, they just don't consider the importance of reading books on the interfaces and implications. Perhaps it would help if there were pastors (or booksellers?) framing their understanding of their jobs as being a Christian doctor or politician or coach or businessperson, rather than just being a doctor, politician, coach or businessperson who happens also to be a Christian.

You can see that if we desire to live out a view of the Kingdom of God where professionals (and others!) are salt and light Christians who read widely and think deeply about the relationship of faith and work, worldview and way of life, then it would be very helpful if their mentors in their college years help get that conversation started, and offer uniquely Christian insights and distinctively Christian notions that would influence their earliest thinking about their fields. This is the high calling of, at least, Christian college professors. At least that is what I'm going to preach to the Genevans.

Ahhh, but where do such professors learn such integration? Where did they do their Ph.D. work? In a place that was conducive to Christian scholarship? Probably not. In a place that was hostile to the gospel? Very likely. A new hire at a vibrant church-related college, or an evangelical institution--even the famous ones like Wheaton and Calvin and Eastern--are asked to think faithfully and creatively about the foundations of their fields, and learn a Christianly shaped vocabulary about their disciplines. And they are to teach this alternative stuff in a Christian manner, no less. They come from largely secularly-spirited learning environments, and, presto, they are supposed to be Christian college teachers with this integrated worldview and wholistic vision and uniquely Christian pedagogy?

I grow frustrated that many Christan lay people don't have much to say when asked how they live faithfully in their work, careers and callings, but I ought not too quickly blame even the evangelical professors. Everyone has inherited an anti-intellectualism, a heritage of bookstores without theological substance, preachers who are more moralistic than prophetic, and a dualism that implies that ordinary people in ordinary jobs only have to learn to be honest and nice and perhaps invite people to church. The connection between Sunday and Monday is shallow at best, and not too many churches make things much better. So we can't just blame the less than revolutionary fruit on less than radical Christian colleges.

I cannot wait for the privilege of sharing with these valiant Christian teachers at this small principled college in this rough blue-collar town. If there is hope for a renewal of the Christian mind, in service to God's coming Kingdom of renewed shalom, if academic learning is to be distinctive and service-oriented, such relevant and faithful learning will come from places like this. That these professors will gather together to think hard about the ways they can contribute to the renewal of the Christian mind and the restoration God may bring to Christ's broken world, is a sign of great hope. Please pray for them, for college teachers and student affairs folks, for campus workers and students. And for me, since we long to sell good books in their important places. It is a long haul, in more ways than one. But I have great hope, and our trip to Geneva College is an example of how our little business tries to make an impact in ways that may ripple into lives and institutions and cultures near and far.

There are many, many books that reflect on Christian higher education, and we carry plenty. If you know any college staff, please send us an email if you want suggested readings. You have seen the books that we've promoted for students, written by Geneva teacher Donald Opitz and CCO staffer Derek Melleby, The Outrageous Idea of Academic Faithfulness and their terrific, ever-expanding website, www.academicfaithfulness.com. (You know, if teachers read this, as simple as it is, they'd be a good way down the road on this journey, and I shall commend it to Don's colleagues at Geneva! I will similiarly commend it to a pastor's gathering later this fall.)

You may want to know that that book's title (that you see blinking over to the left, still) drew its title from the small but significant book by George Marsden, published by Oxford University Press, called The Outrageous Idea of Christian Scholarship. George got that title, by the way (which rather proves a point I made above) when a New York Times reviewer of his prestigious book on the history of higher education noted that Marsden's claim to do "Christian scholarship" was---and I quote---"outrageous." Oxford then invited Dr. Marsden to do a book on that. It documents this recent movement of "thinking Christianly" about various academic disciplines and measures the impact Christian scholars are making in the humanities, the arts, and the sciences. Opitz & Melleby essentially wrote a student version of that impressive Oxford volume.

To show you how varied our reading can be in this field, though, let me note one new book I've almost finished, which I found very, very interesting.

The State of the University: Academic Knowledges and the Knowledge of God Stanley Hauerwas (Blackwell) $34.95. One chapter was especially interesting, "What Would a Christian University Look Like: Some Tentative Answers Inspired by Wendell Berry." My favorite, though, was "Carving Stone, or Learning to Speak Christian." You may recall his earlier comments in After Christendom about bricker layers (drawing on Alister McIntyre, of course) and his realization that their way of passing on knowledge---not abstracted---was instructive for the life of the church. His description here of a book about several generations of stone carvers was just splendid. Another great chapter, from a speech he gave at Baylor, was fabulously called "Pro Ecclesia, Pro Texana: Schooling the Heart in the Heart of Texas." His insightful and clever (and controversial) insistence that "schooling the heart" and teaching ethics is bad for people is classic Hauerwas. The final chapter is called "To Love God, the Poor, and Learning: Lessons Learned from Saint Gregory of Nazianzus." Now that is a set of loves I long to learn, even if it takes a lifetime.

Friday, August 17, 2007

John Shore, good books and the call to support real stores...

Well. Welcome to any new blog readers who have been sent our way by the fun and verbose and---gotta love him---very repentant John Shore. John is an author I've mentioned on occasion and some of you, who have met us out on the road at conferences or booksellin' gigs, have maybe heard me read out loud some of his hilarious book of apologetics . We've corresponded a bit, and if you've followed today's little tussle in the Christian end of the blog-o-sphere, you will know that I shared my beef with John for his having suggested people buy his book from (well, you know, those big 'ol internet chain places that give guys like me the willies.) I get frustrated when authors don't send people to real stores, or at least mention that their books can be found "wherever find books are sold" although I feel badly when, in fact, most stores don't stock their books.

John then wrote the most lovely and affirming report about our bookstore and my book reviewing efforts and, importantly, the deep connection most good authors have with real bookstores. Author John has spent his fair share of time on the other side of the counter, actually, and has worked as a bookseller. His essay about us at crosswalk, like all his good writing, was energetic and important. And, he talked about us!

So, I feel like I owe him big time. I know he doesn't expect this, and it feels a bit like some "mutual admiration society" doing this quid pro quo thing. But, for those that read him but have not yet purchased his books, or for those who don't follow his writing, here is a bit of incentive.

We do really want to thank him for the shout out, compliment him for his righteous concerns about malls and the dumbing down of literature and the quality of writing and the mass-marketing of theology and all the backstory stuff that so many of us care about, and that usually we mean when we talk about supporting the "small-mart revolution" and buying from real, and preferably, local, retailers.

At least in some fields one ought to have a reliable go-to guy. Maybe it can be local, maybe not. A real doc, a trustworthy mechanic, a local produce place. I'm not against internet sales, obviously, and I spend half my day answering bookish email questions, so I know that many don't have a local bookseller they trust. Perhaps you have a go-to bookseller, a lover of literature who cares about your habits of heart, which, surely, includes the books you do and do not read. Maybe we at Hearts & Minds can serve you on your journey. I hope somebody can, and I am honored to have had Mr. Shore so eagerly recommend us. Thanks to him, and thanks to anybody that cares.

And, so: today's BookNotes deal.


Let's help the Penguins book, as somebody on John's blog put it, "march right along." It is on an historic, indie Epsicopalian press (Seabury Press), is a smallish hardback that is funnier than all get out, and really is a very thoughtful study of the biggest questions of life. With cool guys like Eric Metaxas---New York City philosopher, biographer of Wilberforce, VeggieTale writer---offering an endorsing blurb on the back, you know it is solid. If you don't recall, it is alledgedly written by God, and is called (take a deep breath) Penguins, Pain and the Whole Shebang: Why I Do the Things I Do by God, as Told to John Shore. It usually sells for $15, which isn't bad as you will read this more than once. Like I have, unless your really not humorous at all, you will read it out loud to others.

And, do you know one of Shore's more recent books, the fabulous book on evangelism? It is called I'm OK---You're Not (published by NavPress; it usually sells for $12.99.) I wrote about it in an as-of-yet-unpublished monthly book review for the Hearts & Minds website column (don't ask, but I haven't gotten any of them up on the site for several month) and said, sincerely, then, and even more so, now, that this author is the real deal. He cares about people, he understands, in his heart and in his mind, that we are to love others. And it seems, from the stories and illustrations, that he spends time with normal people, not in a holy-huddle.

Sharing the great news of Christ's redeeming love is a calling for us all. It is an aspect of discipleship that is mired in funky expectations, weird theologies, and even weirder practices. It is, though, a splendid and exciting thing to do, to tell others about why you are a follower of Christ, what His death provides, how to find forgiveness and grace and meaning and life. If we are to announce the Kingdom with integrity, it is clear to anybody who has thought about it, that Shore's insight is central and basic and urgent: we have got to stop turning people off. We certainly have to stop being so smug. We have to live out and model a way of life that is, well, good. We have got to show bridge-building love by being agents of grace. The sub-title nearly says it all, and he unpacks it well. Check it out: I'm Ok--You're Not: The Message We're Sending Nonbelievers and Why We Should Stop.

This is a book about not doing evangelism. It is about starting with the Great Commandment and letting others experience God's love as a way towards the Great Commission. I have read oodles of books on evangelism and there are many I like. This is truly one of them and, I'd bet, it is the one you will enjoy the most, laugh about the most, and shake your head (in agreement or, if you are a fire-breather, in disgust, for his seeming lack of proper religiosity.)

I'd like to think that I am a better person when I read this kind of stuff, and, to be honest, feel more playful, even as a book reviewer. He's a hard guy not to like.

Thanks to the publishers who take risks doing these kind of little books that aren't the formulas and cliches that are so often expected in this biz. Thanks to writers like John Shore for being authentic and fun. And thank God for the Spirit's activity in days like today, where a slight offense brought two brother's closer together in our joint calling of getting the words right, and getting the Word out.

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Penguins, Pain & The Whole Shebang
I'm OK---You're Not

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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Chasing Sophia by Lilian Calles Barger

The other day I listed a group of books that were recommendations for an ordinary small group at a fairly typical church; a friend had a women's group that she works with, and wondered about some suggestions. I named a handful---not all for or about women---that were basic and not difficult. Nearly any somewhat educated reader could enjoy them, and I maintained that they were a cut above some of the simplistic stuff that passes for Christian discipleship in many Christian bookstores. Still, they were, mostly, pretty easy to read and altogether enjoyable on basic Christian growth. I hope you looked through that long list and made some notes...most of them are really, really fabulous.

I wanted to cite one more book, but thought it deserved a posting of it's very own. It is not an academic work or a scholarly text, exactly, but it is a bit deeper and richer than even the good ones I described yesterday.

Here, then, is another great book for an open-minded and thoughtful group, women or men. I think it is pretty important, and hope you can help us at Hearts & Minds get the word out about books that are both culturally relevant, well-written, and theologically sound. Thanks again for being a part of our story.

Chasing Sophia: Reclaiming the Lost Wisdom of Jesus Lilian Calles Barger (Jossey-Bass) $18.95. Well, as I said, I started a blog post the other day listing books that were in the genre of simple Christian growth books for fairly traditional evangelical women who wanted something that was more substantive and nuanced than the more typical formulaic approach of many evangelical publishers. I wanted to mention this one, but it is a bit more demanding and rather specialized in it's topic. We have appreciated this writer and her previous book is very, very important, so I naturally want to commend her. Do you know her previous work? Ms Barger wrote an exceptional book on body image, spirituality, feminism, a rejection of dualism and other vital concerns entitled Eve's Revenge: Women and the Spirituality of the Body (published by Brazos; $14.99) that we've promoted nearly everywhere we have gone these past few years. If you don't have that one, you should consider it. It is a masterpiece, and a much-needed one at that.

Barger works with the vital Christian outreach to (mostly) feminists gone sour on traditional Christian faith through the Damaris Project, a ministry which engages folk in meaningful dialogues. They set up honest conversations in what they call salons and search out ways to find common ground amongst diverse participants; their website explains more, and is worth a visit. What a gentle, honest and good approach---that in itself is commendable these days of shouting, eh? We, here, are in happy agreement with their efforts and the bridge-building, thoughtful conversational approach to their project.

Chasing Sophia thoughtfully invites us to consider ways in which Jesus was a Hebrew wisdom-teacher and how the Scriptural insights about sophia could be used to build bridges with those involved in a post-Christian spirituality. It draws well on research about women's ways of knowing and is fluent in feminist literature. It explores the ways in which goddess worship has grown in recent decades. Happily, she brings historic Christian orthodoxy to bear on these thorny questions; you may know that some theologians who reject traditional Christian theology and radically mistrust the Scriptures have used this phrase, often in unhelpful ways... I am not sure if Lilian intends to knowingly re-appropriate the legitimate Biblical truth of this, and just frames it in more appropriate ways. That isn't exactly her battle, here. She is a helpful guide into the large discussion of wisdom, and she is a faithful witness to Jesus. I suspect it will touch the lives of many, women and men alike.

It would make a wonderful small- group book study or the basis for a serious adult Sunday school class or could serve the basis for a retreat. Even better, it would be splendid for a group of those who are not Christians to read with some that are. Know any religious skeptics, gnostics, neo-pagan feminists, those who are new agey, or seekers? This would be a great discussion-starter, I'm sure. She draws on sources as diverse as Elizabeth Johnson to Dorothy Day, from Elaine Pagels to Dorothy Sayers and writes with authority and grace. Please let us know if you'd like to order one and see if we are correct. Maybe you'll even need more...

Chasing Sophia: Reclaiming the Lost Wisdom of Jesus Lilian Calles Barger (Jossey-Bass) $18.95

Chasing Sophia AND Eve's Revenge
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Thoughtful Books for a Women's Group

Here is a list sent to a friend who has a group of fairly sharp women, in a fairly ordinary evangelical church setting. Sometimes, here, I list books I think folks ought to know about, stuff about culture and reformation and spirituality and social concern; often these are not typical inspirational books. Here is a list of more ordinary "basic Christian growth" for a young women's group. Even in this rather classic genre we have some suggestions that might be just a bit more interesting than the most typical. Know any women's growth groups or home Bible studies? Could you please pass this along? These really are fine books and deserve to be known more than some of the fluff that is out there. Most, as you will see, are not only for women, so other kinds of groups could use 'em too.

Thanks again for your interest in getting suggestions for books for your group. Since you’ve read Eugene Peterson’s terrific Long Obedience in the Same Direction, it seems to me you could go in nearly any direction, and handle any number of great books. Still, I’ve suggested a few fairly standard, thoughtful books for a women’s group that is relatively ordinary. These books are smart and solid, fun and friendly. That is, there aren’t too academic or specific to any topic----you know we could recommend books on everything from pop culture to world hunger, all within the category of "Christian living" as some bookstores call it. But here are some very inspiring books that are pretty much in the category of basic Christian growth, mostly for women. We think you’d like any of them. All either have discussion/reflection questions or exercises or webpages with study resources which you can download. Let us know if we can serve you further.

Come Closer: A Call to Life, Love & Breakfast on the Beach Jane Rubietta (Waterbrook) $13.99 The subtitle is "15 Invitations from Jesus…" and that is exactly what each chapter explores. Christ issues many invitations and these help us respond, to come closer to Him. This is really creative, and very, very nice.

Spiritual Arts: Mastering the Disciplines for a Rich Spiritual Life Jill Briscoe (Zondervan) $13.99 Books on spiritual formation are very popular these days, and this is a perfect introduction to the practices that help us train for the inner journey. This is not overly deep, not monastic, and all mystical; Jill Briscoe has been an evangelical Bible teacher for decades. It uses Philippians as a guide and includes great discussion questions at the end.

Longing for More: A Woman’s Path to Transformation in Christ Ruth Haley Barton (IVP) $16 This book used to be a book about being a Christian woman, Becoming a Woman of Strength (not to be confused with the Bible study guide by that name by someone else) and it eventually went out of print. She expanded it---a bit more about sexuality, and a lot more about spirituality---and it was re-issued as The Truths That Free Us Now it has finally be re-issued (with yet another name) and we are happy to say it is one of the best books for Christian women we’ve seen. The spiritual exercises at the end of each section are very rich. I hope you've seen the blog posts we've done on her other books, as they are excellent.

Love Walked Among Us: Learning to Love Like Jesus Paul E. Miller (NavPress) $14 This is a breath-takingly good book, wise, insightful, passionate and powerful. Really down to Earth, too, but it includes some truly rare insights about Jesus and his own emotional life. I wish there was a study guide with it, but you can download plenty of extra teaching resources at the author’s website.

Metamorpha: Jesus as a Way of Life Kyle Strobel (Baker) $14.99 I have been intending to write a full review of this as it is one of my favorite books of the year! Kyle has a spectacular website (along with other authors) on spirituality, and he has a website with fabulous stuff for this book (study questions, bonus materials, etc.) at www.JesusAsAWayofLife.com. He is the very widely read son of apologist Lee Stobel, and combines worldview thinking, radical discipleship and the inner journey of spiritual transformation all presenting in conversational, exciting writing. Highly recommended.

Questions to All Your Answers: The Journey from Folk Religion to Examined Faith Roger E. Olson (Zondervan) $19.99 This hardback is not a hard read, but it is thought-provoking! Every chapter is a study of a commonly-heard saying that, upon examination, ends up being less than accurate and unhelpful. Or, in some cases, the common answers are not all that clear, really (Chapters includes "The Bible Has All The Answers…" or "Judge Not" or "All Sins Are Equal" or "God Is in Control.") Without being too heavy or antagonistic, this helps us think through what we really believe, moving away from a glossy, cultural spirituality towards a truly Biblical and living faith.

Godsight: Renewing the Eyes of Our Hearts Lacel Arrington (Crossway) $12.99 This is the only one that doesn’t have a study resource with it, but I just had to mention it: it is a very Godly approach to helping women "see" from a Christian perspective. With lots of stories, wholesome piety and beautiful examples, this feisty writer has written a book about a Christian worldview without really saying that. It is about, as she says, "overcoming the seduction of our imaginations." Really, really nice.

Ruby Slippers: How the Soul of a Women Brings Her Home Jonalyn Grace Fincher (Zondervan) $16.99 I have been telling people that this book may mark a new era in evangelical publishing! I have rarely seen a book for Christian women, about the common topic of being a Godly woman, written with as much verve and energy and thoughtful creativity as this. She is really, really smart, widely read, and challenges young women of the emerging generation (and others) to be faithful in all that they are. The longings of our hearts call us home to Christ, and in that, we are freed to be agents of deeply spiritual transformation.

Transparent: Getting Honest About Who We Are and Who We Want to Be Sarah Zacharias Davis (Revell) $12.99 Again, an indication of the major improvement in this genre! Sarah is Ravi Z's daughter, and her first book, Confessions From an Honest Wife, was amazingly well done---each chapter was a different women, although all told by Sarah, as she gave voice to women she knows. Here, she does the same thing, with each chapter titled after the name of a certain young women, where she shares their deepest longings, tells the truth about what they are really feeling. This is not a book of packaged solutions but of possibilities. Thank God for this young woman as a writer and thinker. This book is truly an authentic gift.

Wanting All The Right Things Shirin Taber (Relevant) $13.99 Part memoir, part cultural criticism, this is a super book about the deepest things of our lives, and the modern woman's guide to finding a spiritually balanced and fulfilled life. Not every evangelical writer knows to quote Maureen Dowd or Naomi Wolfe, and not every modern gal works with the respected Damah film festival. Given the history of this genre within religious publishing, that books this honest and hip exist for young women is nearly a miracle. Yeeah.

Gracious Christianity: Living the Love We Profess Doug Jacobsen and Rodney Sawatsky (Baker) $12.99 This slim book is the combined efforts of a UCC prof at Messiah (who is a friend) and the former President (who was dying of a brain tumor as he wrote this book.) Together, these gentlemen offer a truly gentle and gracious and elegant overview of most Christian beliefs. This is at once a primer on the faith and a call to a certain kind of living, a discipleship that is wholistic and loving, active and, well, gracious. It is marked by serious thinking and exceptional humility. They have a website, too, with stories and extra resources.

When the Game Is Over It All Goes Back In The Box John Ortberg (Zondervan) $21.99 A few years ago Ortberg left his position as teaching pastor at Willow Creek and became the pastor of a very large and evangelically-minded Presbyterian Church. What a great, accessible and interesting writer. We love all his books, The Life You Always Wanted, God Is Closer Than You Think, If You Want To Walk on Water You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat, and a great one on community, called Everybody’s Normal (Until You Get to Know Them.) Some have relatively inexpensive DVD curriculum to go with, and we highly recommend any. Very fun. This brand new one looks fabulous and reminds us that "winning" isn’t all that matters, and that "success" isn’t the real yardstick of anything that truly matters. Beginning with the right object---being rich toward God---he shows what it takes to really win at the "game of life."

Completely His: Loving Jesus Without Limits Shannon Ethridge (Waterbrook) $15.99 Ms Ethridge has written the Every Woman’s Battle books and is increasingly known as a writer. Here, she tells the stunning story of her journey to faith (as a 16-year-old driver, she made a foolish mistake, hitting and killing a young man on a bike. The family of the boy forgave her, leading her to a living faith in Christ!) Her theme here is knowing we are loved extravagantly, and sharing the love of God with others. Simple but powerful, this is going to get a lot of press, I believe, and she intends to write more.

There are currently two discussion guide resource tools for small groups as a follow up to Completely His. She calls the 30 Days Guides to Loving Jesus Without Limits. Completely Forgiven: Responding to God’s Transforming Grace and Completely Loved: Recognizing God’s Passionate Pursuit of Us (Waterbrook) $9.99 each

Redefining Life For Women think (NavPress) $8.99 This recent "think" line of inductive studies are interactive, hip, and include marvelous readings from other sources (everything from novels to essays to spirituality writings) that parallel the Bible study. Small group stuff just got a whole, whole lot more interesting. There are several for women, several for men, several that are for anyone, and a few for married couples. Extra-special, contemporary and very interesting. Uses The Message for the Bible portions.

Tough Love, Tender Mercies: 3 Short Stops in the Minor Prophets Lisa Harper (Tyndale) $12.97 This looks like so much fun; "on the road with Lisa" DVD includes her fun teaching, playing with this road trip metaphor, and stopping in with plenty of contemporary stuff. The back of the paperback asks "What happens when Malachi meets Scarlett O’Hara?" She has another on the Song of Solomon, too. An upbeat and fun teacher, she has her Master’s in Biblical Studies from Covenant Theological Seminary.

Attentiveness: Being Present (Abingdon Press) Leaders Guide $12; Participants Guide; $9 This is a small group resource in a new series called Living the Good Life Together which is aimed at 20/30-somethings. Still, it is so good, I recommend it to nearly any age group; unlike the standard inductive questions, this is a very interactive, devotionally-rich small group curriculum that is excellent for group involvement and experiences of learning together. There is a thorough leaders guide, and each person gets a participant’s workbook, and there is DVD piece to use, too, if you want. It is about forming character in community.

We have discounts for small groups or reading clubs or Bible studies.
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Thursday, August 09, 2007

New Books from Favorite Publishers

It was a good day, despite the sizzling heat here on the East coast, since new books came from a few of our favorite publishers. I often declare that my publishers of choice are InterVarsity Press, Eerdmans, Baker/Brazos. And we got big boxes from all three today.

Here are two from each publisher, brand new on our shelves.

Foundation for Soul Care: A Christian Psychology Proposal Eric L. Johnson (IVP Academic) $35 A bargain, given that it is over 700 pages. With endorsements from thoughtful writers in this diverse field such social scientists, psychologists and therapists as Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen, David Powlison, Larry Crabb, Ellen Charry and Robert C. Roberts (whose new book on the psychology of the fruits of the Spirit we also just got in) this is a truly extraordinary contribution. As one reviewer says, it "sets the pace for discussions in the future." That is putting it mildly.

From Achilles To Christ: Why Christians Should Read the Pagan Classics Louis Markos (IVP Academic) $24 I suppose I should read this myself, as I am not fluent in the treasures of Homer, Virgil or the Greek tragedians. I truly liked his previous Lewis Agonistes and imagine this is a splendid literary exposition. Joseph Pearce, the Tolkien scholar, says that Markos is "one of the most exciting writers around today, and there are few more able to lead us on a tour through God's gallery of myth than he is." The whole project---of a Christian congruence with the classics of antiquity---is debatable, of course, but this looks like a wonderful, informative and inspiring read.

The Beginning of All Things: Science and Religion Hans Kung (Eerdmans) $22 I am sure nearly any serious publisher in the world would have taken this manuscript, and it is telling that Eerdmans got it. This world-renowned Catholic theologian has written densely about natural theology and such, but here he offers a lay person's introduction to his thoughts about the interface of science and faith. Kung is not a scientist, but is a world renowned theologian and, as John Polkinghorne suggests, many will find it fascinating to see "how a distinguished theologian offers his personal contribution..." Classy.

Why I Still Believe the Gospel Clarence Boomsma (Eerdmans) $12 A thoughtful little essay---drawing on authors like Brunner and Barth and other thoughtful giants---starts with the author's own crisis of faith, and how he endured (decades ago) serious intellectual doubts about the credibility of historic Christianity. With a forward by Andrew Kuyvenhoven, this little book is a gem. Here's what Cornelius Plantinga, Jr. says: "A relentlessly focused reflection on the gospel's cry of the heart: 'He has risen!' This small and mighty book will straighten the spine of believers.

Finding Your Plot in a Plotless World: A Little Direction Daniel de Roulet (Brazos) $12.99 Brazos, a part of the Baker Publishing Group, has done one of the most significant jobs in recent years of offering consistently important, and usually very interesting, books in ecumenical traditions to the evangelical marketplace. Always more thoughtful than most, and always quite challenging---some of their titles seem akin to the radical orthodoxy movement, and many are about distinctively Christian approaches to the problems posed by our lifetime of cultural accommodation. Here, we have a guy quoting Groundhog Day, the fun fiction of Lee Smith, and the wonderful novel Peace Like a River to recover a sense of narrative to our too often too empty lives. This is a close look at those moments in which we lack direction. Been there? Read this book. Brazos---named cleverly after a river in Texas that reportedly runs the wrong way---can help with this question of finding direction.

Gender, Power, and Persuasion: The Genesis Narratives and Contemporary Portraits
Mignon R. Jacobs (Baker) $21.99 This thoughtful reflection by an Associate Professor of Old Testament at Fuller, can perhaps be best described as a study of the centuries-old misconceptions about biblical narratives that have been used to perpetuate gender roles, reinforce biases, and wield power. What an amazing array of scholarly tools this author brings to well-known (but often not closely studied) texts from the book of Genesis. Whew.

We recieved some boxes from some less than interesting sources today, too, and rung up some books that, well, I wouldn't have truly wished on anybody, but, when boxes like this come, with the UPS guy sweatin' up a storm to load 'em in, we are very grateful. Now, if we can only get 'em back out the door. Conservative mom and pop "Christian Bookstores" (or their slick, chain-store counterparts like LifeWay or Berean or Family) don't usually carry these, and, sadly, some of the more mainstream ecumenical stores (and readers) distrust publishers with an evangelical heritage, like those I've mentioned above. It is part of our calling to stock these kinds of excellent books, to work with these kinds of solid, innovative publishers, and to invite a wider readership to the very best in religious publishing. Thanks for helping us spread the word, and for your part in our efforts.

25% off
any of the above titles

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Saturday, August 04, 2007

Practical Books on Green Living

You may recall that I sometimes copy here samples of correspondence we do with customers with book questions. One very good friend, who is widely read and theologically mature, asked for some basic guides to living more faithfully in the whole area of creation care, stewardship and "living greenly." She had read a title we had previously announced, Barbara Kingsolver's intriguing memoir about eating locally grown food, wonderfully called Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and was both delightfully challenged and not fully convinced. Regardless, it inspiried her, as good books do, to think about taking steps towards greater fidelity.

I commended an article I wrote for the website in April, and then listed a few helpful books. Without much editing I wanted to share it, here. Let us know what you think.

Well, this question surely is a big one. There are so many books.... some are, of course, very practical, with little tips about insulation and gas milage and the like. I call them handbooks of hints.

And then there are those that offer the theology of Earth-care, books about creational stewardship . If you want a bit of my story, and the books we read in the 70's and 80's (especially) and a few that have been important to us just lately, please see the monthly Review Article that I did in April over at the website. It is somewhat autobiographical and yet lists batches of eco books, from Small Is Beautiful and Francis Moore Lappe to the latest Zondervan title by Matthew Sleeth. I commend the very weighty new book by Bob Goudzewaard, there, too which is so very important; we helped as an early reader, and although a serious read, Hope for Troubled Times gives the largest of pictures in these hard times. The forward by Desmond Tutu is pretty remarkable, too.

Here are some that may be more substantive and enjoyable than the handy guidebook sort, but more practical than the foundational ones I describe in the April column.

Simpler Living, Compassionate Life: A Christian Perspective edited by Michael Schut (Living the Good News) $14.95 This is a gloriously handsome collection of essays, articles, talking points, stories, with a great study guide. Contributors includes Henri Nouwen and Richard Foster as well as Juliet Schor, Wendell Berry, Bill McKibben, and Cal DeWitt. Highly recommended on simple lifestyle, stewardship and such.

Food & Faith: Justice, Joy and Daily Bread edited by Michael Schut (Living the Good News) $14.95 A must, I'd say, for anyone who enjoys Kingsolver. This is an equally charming and challenging compendium (and good study guide) on eating well, with insights from mystics and cooks, theologians and gardeners, stuff about global poverty and the joy of feasting. Highly recommended for anyone who cares about food, or should!

Living the Good Life On God's Good Earth Edited by David Koetje (Faith Alive) $11.50 This is a great collection of brief essays on different aspects of faithful living: on clothing, on eating, or homes, on energy consumption, on rest & enjoyment, even the plants we choose to grow. My, my, this is spectacular in it's solid insight, brevity and breadth, and usefulness for a study group. Many of the authors are in the CRC/Calvin College orbit, but not all. I love this and there really is nothing quite like it in print. A good forward by Ron Sider.

EarthTrek: Celebrating and Sustaining God's Creation Joanne Moyer (Herald Press) $11.99 Created and promoted by MCC this is a lovely and very useful guidebook to a journey--almost like a daily devotional, with a guide into doing things each day. (It gives you four "weeks" (sessions) for each of the seven days of creation. Not everyone likes this structured way of taking steps but it does have a ton of good information, basic facts and things to do (Some are quite do-able, some, well, less so, like "plant trees.") It was first an on-line study which got good reviews, and has been designed by the same folks who did two earlier ones called Basic Trek: Venturing Into A World of Enough and Parent Trek Nurturing Creativity and Care in Our Children.

Sustainable Living for Dummies Michael Grosvenor (Wiley) $21.99 I hope you don't mind me saying that these Dummies books are usually very good. I'm not at all troubled by them (the way some people seem to be, thinking they are too silly and, well, dumb.) Actually, I find them very solid (C.S. Lewis for Dummies for instance is great!) Here they give plain descriptions of the key ideas in the sustainability movement and while it may not be as rugged or detailed as the old Foxfire books, it does give plenty of really practical stuff around a number of key areas (home, water use, shopping, energy use, etc.) Nicely done, packed with info.

Our Ecological Footprint: Reducing Human Impact on the Earth Mathis Wackernagel & William Rees (New Society Publishers) $14.95 Gotta hand it to these radical Quaker types for thinking critically about the biggest issues; this offers tools to actually measure impact, to think creatively about bio-regions and communities, and would be helpful not only for families, but for academics, planners and activists. Whew!

An Earth Careful Way of Life Lionel Basney (Regent College Press) $18.95 You may recall this book by a beloved English prof at Calvin College who drowned a few years ago. IVP eventually let it go out of print---it was ahead of its time, I'm afraid----and the good folks at Regent in Vancouver re-issued it. What a marvelous telling of an ordinary family (well, not so ordinary, it turns out, being a writer and Earth-keeper.) This does have some practical suggestions, but it is mostly his warm narrative and reflections on the meaning of their efforts.