Category : Books

A Must-not-Miss Radiolab Podcast–Anna in Somalia

Take the time to listen to it all–what an incredible story (Hat tip:EH).

Posted in Books, Prison/Prison Ministry, Somalia

Nicholas Davis–11 Classics Every Christian Should Read

Of course, nothing is more classic than the Bible. Aside from the Holy Bible, however, there are certain books that all Christians should read.
The following list of books is not comprehensive but should give you a head start on some great literature that will encourage you in the Christian life. Here are eleven classics (in no particular order) every Christian should read:
1. Basic Christianity by John Stott
“The Bible,” Stott wrote, “isn’t about people trying to discover God, but about God reaching out to find us.” Few books present an intellectually stimulating and satisfying view of the Christian faith as this one. It is chock-full of wisdom and golden nuggets of truth that help us know what we believe and why we believe it.
2. Confessions by Augustine
This is the famous autobiography of Augustine of Hippo, where he writes with such beauty and clarity the words, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”
3. Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton
In this brilliant work, twentieth-century intellectual giant G. K. Chesterton explains with both style and substance his own reasons for being a Christian.

Read it all.

Posted in Books, Church History, Theology

(Telegraph) First edition of King James Bible from 1611 found in church cupboard

A vicar clearing out a cupboard at his church found a forgotten first edition King James Bible dating back to 1611.

There are believed to be fewer than 200 such Bibles still in existence.

The Rev Dr Jason Bray stumbled upon it as he was taking stock at St Giles Parish Church in Wrexham town centre.

He said: “We basically found it when we were going through the cupboards.

“We didn’t know it was a first edition, but we sent photographs to the National Library of Wales and they confirmed that it was, dating back to 1611.

“It has been authenticated, and as far as we know, has always been here.”

Read it all.

Posted in Books, Church History, Theology: Scripture

(NYRB) Peter Brown reviews a new translation of Augustine’s Confessions by Sarah Ruden

Altogether, in reading book ten of the Confessions, we find Augustine looking at his sins as if through the diminishing end of a telescope. They are disturbing precisely because they are so very small but so very tenacious. Confronted by sensuality and violence, ancient moralists and Christian preachers had tended to deploy an “aversion therapy” based upon rhetorical exaggeration. They pulled out all the stops to denounce the shimmer of ornament, the drunken roar of the circus, the rippling bodies of dancers and wrestlers, the sight of beautiful women, and the languid seduction of perfumes. With Augustine, all this falls silent. The effect of the baleful glare of material beauty becomes no more than noting in himself a touch of sadness when he was deprived for too long of the African sun: “The queen of colors herself, this ordinary light, saturates everything we see…and sweet-talks me with the myriad ways she falls on things.”

Even the noisiest, the most colossal place of all, and the place of greatest cruelty—the Roman amphitheater—seems to shrink drastically. Augustine knew only too well what a gladiatorial show was like. He described his friend Alypius in Rome “guzzl[ing]…cruelty” as he watched the gladiatorial games. But had the cruel urge to watch gone away? No. No longer does Augustine follow the venationes, the matador-like combats of skilled huntsmen armed with pikes and nets against lithe and savage beasts that had replaced gladiatorial shows all over Africa:

[But] what about the frequent times when I’m sitting at home, and a lizard catching flies, or a spider entwining in her net the flies falling into it, engrosses me? Just because these are tiny animals doesn’t mean that the same predation isn’t going on within me, does it?

For Augustine, this is no idle lapse of attention. It is a realization of continued urges that is as disturbing as the thin voice of a ghost in a lonely room: “You see, I am still here.”

But despite the eerie hiss of sin, Augustine also remembers that he had tasted a little of the sweetness of God:

And sometimes you allow me to enter into an emotion deep inside that’s most unusual, to the point of a mysterious sweetness, and if this is made whole in me, it will be something this life can’t ever be.

Read it all.

Posted in Books, Church History, Theology

(Economist) Today’s historians have a higher opinion of Ulysses S. Grant

Ron Chernow’s 1,100-page biography may crown Grant’s restoration. The author of defining books on George Washington and Alexander Hamilton—the latter formed the basis for a hit Broadway musical, after Lin-Manuel Miranda read it on holiday—Mr Chernow argues persuasively that Grant has been badly misunderstood. The corruption in his administration never touched him—the soul of integrity—personally. Sometimes portrayed as an ignorant drunk, he was in fact a profound thinker with a sensitivity to suffering that underlay his kindness to vanquished armies and people of other races. His bibulous reputation was exaggerated by his opponents, Mr Chernow believes, and indeed with discipline and the support of his beloved wife, he abstained from drinking almost fully during his presidency.

Grant may have been America’s most improbable president. His early military career showed flashes of brilliance before he resigned from a post in California amid accusations, almost certainly justified, of drunkenness. He then failed at various business ventures, a lifelong tendency that accompanied a penchant for trusting swindlers. Not long before the civil war he was virtually broke, walking the streets of St Louis in shabby clothing selling firewood.

War brought salvation. The Union army was afflicted with generals who hesitated to engage, or failed to follow up victories by chasing vulnerable opponents. Not Grant. “I can’t spare this man; he fights,” Lincoln supposedly said of him, a year before the general engineered a landmark victory at Vicksburg, Mississippi, in 1863. Robert E. Lee, his chief opponent, concurred: “He is not a retreating man.”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Books, History, Military / Armed Forces, Office of the President, Politics in General

(BBC) Tyndale Bible to go on display at St Paul’s Cathedral

One of three Tyndale Bibles in existence is to go on display at St Paul’s Cathedral to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.

watch it all (about 50 seconds).

Posted in Books, Church History, Theology: Scripture

(NYTBR) Marilynne Robinson reviews Stephen Greenblatt’s new book ‘The Rise And Fall Of Adam And Eve’

Stephen Greenblatt follows Adam and Eve through a long arc of Western history. He begins at the beginning, with paleoanthropology, then moves on to the Babylonian epics, which influenced the early chapters of Genesis, and on to a sketch of the life of St. Augustine. From there, he arrives at the Renaissance and its depictions of the first and perfect man and woman, then Milton, of course, the age of discovery and the rationalist rejection of Adamic creation, which was a rejection as well of the belief that, as St. Augustine said, “God willed to create all men out of one, in order that they might be held in their society not only by likeness of kind, but also by bond of kindred.” Europeans found that the great world teemed with people toward whom they felt little likeness and less kindred. Then Darwin emerged, upending everything all over again. And Greenblatt finally lands in his last pages at a fairly disheartening account of mating among the chimpanzees. This is the march of progress, tinged with melancholy, as always.

There is, however, a complicating factor here, having to do with the question of truth. Greenblatt, an English professor at Harvard University and author of the National Book Award-winning “The Swerve,” frames his inquiry in terms of truth or fiction. For him truth means plausibility, and by that measure the story of Adam and Eve is no more than a miracle of storytelling. But science tells us that Homo sapiens does indeed roughly share a single lineage, in some sense a common origin, just as ancient Genesis says it does. In the Hebrew Bible the word adam often means all humankind, mortals. Greenblatt never seems to consider why the myth might have felt so true to those who found their religious and humanist values affirmed by it — and their own deepest intuitions, which science has partly borne out. It is interesting that those who claim to defend the creation narrative from rationalist critiques ignore the fact that its deepest moral implications, a profound human bond and likeness, have been scientifically demonstrated.

Read it all.

Posted in Books, Religion & Culture, Theology: Scripture

(1st Things) Rusty Reno–revisiting, updating and renewing Michael Novak’s ‘The Spirit Of Democratic Capitalism’

And what about the third leg, the Judeo-Christian religious and moral tradition? Here First Things has a long record of vigorous and unstinting advocacy. I can’t think of another significant journal that has been as relentless during the past generation in its warnings about the dangers of a naked public square. Yet we’ve seen setback after setback, and the corporate tsunami that recently swept through Indiana after it passed a Religious Freedom Restoration Act made clear the link between global capitalism and progressive clear-cutting of traditional religious culture and morality. There are many business leaders, entrepreneurs, investors, and others who sympathize with our mission, of course. But they know they will be punished “by the market” if they speak up. “Bigotry is bad for business,” we’re told by management consultants and corporate gurus, and “diversity” brings greater innovation and success. As we know, “diversity” does not mean a richly textured and open society. It means agreeing with progressive cultural commitments to “openness,” which in turn means accepting the authority of a rigid, punitive ideological system.

Needless to say, Michael Novak did not foresee these outcomes when he wrote The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism any more than I did when I thrilled to his insights more than three decades ago. This should not surprise us. As Yuval Levin outlines in The Fractured Republic, America came out of the Great Depression and its mobilization for World War II with a consolidated economic, political, and social system. There was a closed, sealed quality to a great deal of social and economic life, which is why Michael and so many others were attracted to motifs of creativity and openness. Seventy years on, however, the project of deconsolidation has done its work. We now live in a fluid world in which the very idea of borders—between nations as well as between the sexes—seems more and more tenuous. In this context, which is our context, the genius of capitalism as Michael described it—creative, open, innovative, and dynamic—seems less benign. Those qualities liquefy our social relations, and even our sense of self.

In his last article for First Things (“The Future of Democratic Capitalism,” June/July 2015), Michael summed up his spiritual endorsement of capitalism: “Free markets are dynamic and creative because they are open to the dynamism and creativity intrinsic to our humanity.” This anthropological assessment of capitalism follows the lead of John Paul II, and it’s a profound reason to cherish economic liberty. But Michael did not give due emphasis to an equally important aspect of our humanity, which is our desire to give ourselves in loyalty to permanent things. As a man of faith, he certainly knew and affirmed this dimension: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and you shall love your neighbor as yourself. But in his enthusiasm for open, upward transcendence—a constant theme in his work—he lost sight of our need for anchors. As a consequence, he described the anthropology of capitalism in a one-sided way. Its fearsome dynamism speaks to part of our soul, but it neglects and even works against the part that cherishes permanence.

This one-sidedness needs to be corrected, for our challenges are quite different from the legacy of postwar consolidation that Michael responded to with such élan.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Books, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(SA) Nigel Fortescue reviews Vaughan Roberts and Peter Jensen’s new book “Faith in a Time of Crisis”

Why invest time in reading a book about controversies and divisions within the Anglican denomination?

With this question, the editor of Faith in a Time of Crisis opens a book that is timely, essential reading. The answer to this question is, of course, that in the controversies and divisions the gospel is at stake. It is no longer reasonable to assume that the bloodlines of British politeness that run through Anglicanism will hold the Communion together.

The fractures caused by the actions of some Anglican leaders over the past two decades have exposed the reality that at least two different gospels are being preached and believed in the Anglican Church across the world. With this in mind, Roberts and Jensen write to encourage, urge and compel us to “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).

In typical Roberts style, the book is surprisingly short, easy to read and filled with engaging illustrations and sharp pastoral challenge. Several questions were added to my “discuss with staff” list as I read the five chapters that unpack the True Gospel, True Sex, True Love, True Unity and True Faith – the last written by Peter Jensen.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Church of Australia, Books, Church of England (CoE), Theology

(CT) Stephen Backhouse reviews Alan Jacobs new book ‘How to Think: A Survival Guide for a World at Odds’

“As any wizard knows, to practice magic is to marshal the powers of the universe into a concentrated point. Spirits, forces of nature, and other humans are subjected to the magician’s wishes. If I practice magic, I am trying to bend reality to my will. Aleister Crowley, the magician dubbed the “wickedest man in the world,” famously summed up the occultist philosophy: “Do what thou will is the whole of the law.”

This might sound like the stuff of medieval fantasy, but a quick glance at our culture confirms that habits of magical thinking are stubbornly persistent. Wherever one finds groups and individuals intent on ramming an agenda through the system—perhaps by manipulating boardroom membership, stacking organizations with the “right” people, or enacting ideologically driven purges—one finds shades of black magic. We don’t call political lobbying the “dark arts” for nothing.
Petitions, protests, and popular rallies reveal our deeply ingrained belief that voices shouting loudly in unison can shape reality. In today’s climate, many of us crave clear battle lines between good and evil and abhor anyone who dares admit that complex problems don’t have simple answers. And heaven help any poor public figures foolish enough to sincerely change their minds.

All these trends have hampered our ability to think carefully, judiciously, and generously. As a professor and public intellectual, Jacobs is well aware of the difficulties posed not so much by a lack of thinking, but instead by the way we think. “For me,” he writes, “the fundamental problem we have may best be described as an orientation of the will.””

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Books, Philosophy, Psychology

Peter Webster reviews “The Oxford History of Anglicanism, Volume IV: Global Western Anglicanism, c 1910-present”

Placed first, Mark Chapman’s survey of developments in Anglican theology points to a profound intellectual fracture in the second half of the century which underpinned some of the more spectacular issues in which Anglican divisions presented themselves. Between the world wars it was comparatively easy to write as if a synthesis of theology, philosophy, and “modern science” were possible, and that axioms for the ordering of society might be derived from it: easy, because the writing could be done in a nation that still dominated an empire and also the worldwide church that had spread within it. After 1945, as the dispersal of the colonial empires came to completion, Anglicans in the West had to reckon with the shift in the balance of power that this implied, and the new ways in which attention would need to be paid to local cultures and forms of knowledge. A fine essay by Sarah Stockwell explores the direct involvement of the church in that process of decolonization; two chapters, by Colin Podmore and Ephraim Radner, deftly outline the consequences for the development of the global apparatus of the Communion.

At the same time, the turn amongst philosophers to a radical questioning of the stability of meaning in language further intensified older debates about the nature of biblical authority and the means by which the churches should first understand and then respond in matters of ethics. The growing polarization of the church between liberal and conservative wings (after perhaps 1970) was in many ways consequent on this, and the essays here on the position of women (Cordelia Moyse) and that by William L. Sachs on sexuality (by which is largely meant homosexuality), explore the two issues in and through which opposed understandings of truth have presented themselves by proxy.

The third overarching theme is that of the weakening grip of all the churches of whichever denomination on the allegiance of the public. The precise patterns of this secularization are a matter of lively debate but the general pattern is clear: by the end of the century there were many fewer Anglicans (as a proportion of the population) in each of the nations under examination. The essays on nationalism and the state (Matthew Grimley), the impact of war (Michael Snape), and the “sociology” (by which is meant ethnicity, class, and education) of Anglicanism (Martyn Percy) all in their different ways explore the consequences of this decline. The ecumenical movement, motivated in part by a consciousness of the growing weakness of each individual denomination on its own, is described by Paul Avis.

There were of course other Anglicans than those of the West; readers will need to await a treatment of African and Asian Anglicanism in volume 5 of this series, due to appear in print in early 2018.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Books, Church History, Theology

Bp Graham Tomlin introduces his new book released today–Why Freedom is not what you think it is

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Books, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ethics / Moral Theology, Theology: Scripture

(NY Post) Larry Gelton–Is ‘Cheap sex’ making men give up on marriage?

The share of Americans ages 25-34 who are married dropped 13 percentage points from 2000 to 2014. A new book by sociologist Mark Regnerus blames this declining rate on how easy it is for men to get off.

Regnerus calls it “cheap sex,” an economic term meant to describe sex that has very little cost in terms of time or emotional investment, giving it little value.

Regnerus bases his ideas, in part, on the work of British social theorist Anthony Giddens, who argued that the pill isolated sex from marriage and children. Add online pornography and dating sites to the mix and you don’t even need relationships.

The result is “two overlapping (but distinctive) markets, one for sex and one for marriage, with a rather large territory in between comprised of significant relationships of varying commitment and duration,” Regnerus writes in “Cheap Sex: The Transformation of Men, Marriage, and Monogamy” (Oxford University Press).

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Books, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Men, Pastoral Theology, Pornography, Science & Technology, Sexuality

(TGC) Sam Allberry interviews Andrew Walker–How Writing on Transgenderism Changed Me

What are your hopes for this book?

Several. First, I hope Christians come away with a basic understanding of theological anthropology—that God created humanity in his image, male and female, and that male and female are made exclusively for one another.

Second, Christians are called to both conviction and compassion. As you once reminded me in personal conversation, Sam, grace and truth aren’t in tension when we look at Jesus. I hope this book models the unity Jesus Christ so lovingly and compassionately displays. I want Christians to see that the Christian story provides a framework for understanding this controversy in terms of creation, fall, redemption, and restoration. In light of the gospel, there’s hope for those with gender dysphoria and those who identify as transgender.

Third, I hope this book starts conversations inside churches, and that churches get serious about being safe places for those with gender-identity conflicts to talk openly and seek help.

Fourth, I want the transgender community in America to know Christians aren’t their enemy, despite the stereotypes. We are called to neighbor love, and that can’t be be limited to people who agree with us. When transgender persons are bullied, mocked, ridiculed, or physically harmed, Christians must defend their humanity and inviolable dignity—even when we think they’re transgressing sacred boundaries that God wisely and beautifully imposed on humanity.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Books, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(LARB) Monica Rico–How Fragile We Were: Why the United States Almost Failed Early

[Carol Berkin’s new book]…A Sovereign People prods us to remember that the early statesmen of this country sometimes were less like the formal tableau in John Trumbull’s famous painting of the signing of the Declaration (a painting produced many years after the event itself) and more like a quarrelsome neighborhood association, full of old grievances and new disagreements over any number of issues.

Some of the best passages in the book explore the weaknesses that beset these men: Adams’s injured vanity, Hamilton’s impatience with anyone not as smart as he, Jefferson’s tendency to overlook hard truths about his idealized French revolutionaries. We get less well-known figures as well, such as a young John Marshall, bright but with “lax, lounging manners,” according to his cousin Jefferson. Berkin’s description of the high-maintenance Elbridge Gerry, a man “whose mission in life often seemed to be alienating others,” will help readers understand why Adams’s appointment of Gerry to represent the United States in France in 1798 was one of the decisions that doomed that particular diplomatic errand to failure.

Perhaps the accidental hero of the story, if there is one, is John Adams, whose decision to seek yet another negotiation with France at the end of 1798 made a mockery of his administration’s drive toward war preparation. In stepping back from the brink, Adams opened the way for a new treaty with France that recognized American neutrality, but he also doomed his party and his own career. Berkin portrays a man who knew he lacked the glitter of Hamilton and the patrician dignity of Washington, but who knew, at the end, who he was: “a statesman rather than a politician. He would act in the best interests of the nation, not the narrow interests of the party.” We can only hope that we have such leaders in our own time. We do not know where the story ends.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Books, History, Politics in General