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SHORT NOTES

Reviewed by Paul Beasley-Murray.

The Favourable Time: Reflections on the Scripture Readings for Lent 2010 (Darton, Longman and Todd, London 2009; 95pp; £5.95; ISBN 978 0 232 52781 0), by  Clare Amos, Michael Campbell-Johnston, Joseph Donders, Ben Edson, Katherine Schexneider and Peter Selby, is the latest  CAFOD/Christian Lent Book. It is a stimulating devotional tool.

The Historical Jesus: Five Views (SPCK, London 2009; 304pp; £12.99; ISBN 978 0 281 06329 1), with contributions from James D G Dunn, John Dominic Crossan, Darrell L Bock, Luke Timothy Johnson, and Robert M Price, was interestingly first published in the USA by IVP.  It consists of five major essays, one by each of the contributors, with responses to each of the essays by their fellow scholars. At one end of the spectrum is Robert Price, who maintains that the probability of Jesus’ existence has reached ‘vanishing point’; at the other end is Darrel Bock, an evangelical, who maintains that although the Gospels do not give us a full and completely rounded off understanding of Jesus, they give us “access to the gist of Jesus”. Primarily a student textbook, the collection of essays gives a helpful introduction to the present ‘quest’ for the historical Jesus.

Starting New Testament Study: Learning and Doing (SPCK, London 2009; 174pp; £12.99; ISBN 978 0 281 05354 4), by Bruce Chilton and Deirdre Good, is a radical revision of an earlier volume, Beginning New Testament Study (SPCK, London 1986).  Each section ends with exercises and pointers to further reading.  Although some of its judgments are questionable (the authors, for instance, state that Timothy wrote Colossians and Ephesians), it provides a useful basis for those just beginning a course in New Testament studies.    

God the Peacemaker: How atonement brings shalom (Apollos, Nottingham 2009; 296pp; £14.99; ISBN 978 1 84474 396 4), by Graham Cole of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, is published in the ‘New Studies in Biblical Theology series’.  The author explores how the ‘peace dividend’ of the cross works itself out at the personal, corporate and cosmic levels.  In an appendix of just over 20 pages there is a brief treatment of a number of controversial aspects of the cross, e.g. the centrality of penal atonement;  healing and the atonement; Holy Saturday; non-violent theories of the atonement.  This study is more a book for the student than the pastor.

First published in 1962, Saints, Signs and Symbols (SPCK, London, 3rd edition 2009; 192pp; £9.99; ISBN 978 0 281 06212 6), by Hilarie and James Cornwell, has been completely revised and expanded.  It is a comprehensive guide to Christian symbols used in Christian art, architecture, manuscripts and stained glass.

The Things He Said: The Story of the First Easter Day (SPCK, London 2009; 96pp; £6.99; ISBN 978 0 281 06197 6), by Stephen Cottrell, Bishop of Reading, is a collection of simple meditations on the words of the Risen Lord. Preachers will find this a useful resource.

This Odd And Wondrous Calling: the public and private lives of two ministers (Eerdmans, Grand Rapids 2009; 254pp; £10.99; ISBN 978 0 8028 6475 8. Available in the UK through Alban Books of Edinburgh), by Lillian Daniel and Martin B Copenhaver. covers a wide diversity of subjects relating to the every-day life of pastors, from shaking hands to hospital visiting, from pastors’ kids  to learning to pray. Easy to read, anecdotal, yet also insightful and challenging. A good book for young pastors - and of interest to the more experienced too.

Eerdmans Critical Commentary: Exodus (Eerdmans, Grand Rapids 2009; 887pp; £35.99; ISBN 978 080 282 6176. Available in the UK through Alban Books of Edinburgh), by Thomas B Dozeman of United Theological Seminary, Dayton, Ohio, is a major work of serious scholarship, and yet is accessible to non-specialists. This is a great commentary for preachers really wanting to wrestle with the text of Scripture.

First published in 1982, Philosophy of Religion: Thinking About Faith (Apollos, Nottingham, 2nd edition 2009; 234pp; £11.99; ISBN 978 1 84474 399 5), by Stephen Evans, and now together with R Zachary Manis, has been thoroughly updated and revised. This classic introduction to the philosophy of religion from a Christian perspective will prove most useful to today’s students.

The Moral Teaching of Paul: Selected Issues (Abingdon Press, Nashville, 3rd edition 2009; 172pp; £11.99; ISBN 978 0 687 33293 9. Available in the UK through Alban Books of Edinburgh), by Victor Paul Furnish, looks at such issues as sex, marriage, and divorce; homosexuality; women in the church; the church in the world. Each chapter ends with ‘observations and reflections’, which in turn makes this book a helpful resource for ministers preaching a mini-series on Christian ethics.

Faithful Disagreement: Wresting with Scripture in the midst of Church Conflict (Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville 2009; 135pp; £11.99; ISBN 978 0 664 23338 9. Available in the UK through Alban Books of Edinburgh), by Frances Taylor Gench, a professor of biblical interpretation, reflects on experiences of conflict within the New Testament mirrored in church life today.  Each chapter ends with questions for discussion and reflection, and is intended for individual and group Bible study. However, for most congregational groups, this book would be beyond them. It could, however, form a useful basis for a ministers’ retreat!

J I Packer and the Evangelical Future: The impact of his life and thought (Baker Academic, Grand Rapids, Michigan 2009; 153pp; £12.99; ISBN 978 0 8010 3387 2. Available in the UK through Lion Hudson), edited by Timothy George, is a collection of essays in honour of ‘Jim’ Packer, the British evangelical theologian who has spent the latter part of his life at Regent College, Canada. Contributors include Charles Colson, Alister McGrath, and Richard Neuhaus.  The concluding essay is a response by Packer. This is very much a volume for Packer fans, as distinct for a more general readership. 

It is good to welcome yet another volume in the Pillar New Testament Commentary series, namely The Letter to the Philippians (Apollos, Nottingham 2009; 355pp; £26.99 hardback; ISBN 978 1 84474 403 9), by G Walter Hansen of Fuller Theological Seminary. Scholarly but lacking in technical detail, and with an eye to application today, this is an excellent commentary for pastors committed to wrestling with the text of Scripture.

A Cross-Shattered Church: Reclaiming the theological heart of preaching (Darton, Longman and Todd, London 2010; 160pp; £12.95; ISBN 978 0 232 52785 8), by Stanley Hauerwas, professor of theological ethics at Duke University in North Carolina, consists of 17 beautifully crafted, thought-provoking sermons. Hauerwas, described by Time magazine as ‘America’s greatest theologian’, has the gift of being able to apply theology to life!

A History of Biblical Interpretation.  Volume 2: The Medieval through the Reformation Periods (Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, Michigan 2009; 581pp; £27.99 hardback; ISBN 978 8 8028 4274 9), edited by Alan J Hauser and Duane F Watson, consists of 16 scholarly essays on a wide range of topics, from Jewish Midrashic interpretation to Eastern Orthodox Biblical interpretation, from Philip Melanchthon to the Anabaptist reformers.  Beautifully produced, with helpful bibliographic references for further study, this is very much a text for the academy rather than a book for pastors.

The Psychology of Religion: An empirical approach (Guilford Press, New York and London, 4th edition 2009; 636pp; £54 hardback; ISBN 978 1 60623 303 0), by Ralph W Hood, Peter C Hill and Bernard Spilka, is a scholarly textbook for students, which looks at a wide range of issues such as religion in adolescence and young adulthood; religion, aging and death;  conversion, spiritual transformation, and deconversion; mysticism; and religion, health, psychopathology and coping.  Some of the material is fascinating, but overall this is not a book for most working pastors.

Death our Future: Christian Theology and Pastoral Practice in Funeral Ministry (Epworth, London 2008; 272pp; £25; ISBN 978 0 7162 0638 5), edited by Peter Jupp, consists of 25 essays ranging over all aspects of death, e.g.  ‘Dealing with disasters’;  ‘Before and after the death of a child’; ‘concepts of heave n and hell in the modern era’;   ‘a theology for burial’;  ‘the challenge of green burial’; ‘Free Church liturgies’; and ‘funeral ministry in Wales’. All very interesting, and yet perhaps significantly reading it has made no difference to the way I approach funerals! Sadly, I guess that the same would be true of most pastors reading this book, probably because for the most part these essays are written by people who are not currently in pastoral ministry.

Twentieth-Century Theologians: a new introduction to modern Christian thought (I B Tauris, London 2010; 368pp; £17.99; ISBN 978 1 84511 956 0), by Philip Kenney of Mansfield College, Oxford,  looks at a wide range of theologians, both men and women, both Western and non-Western, including individuals such as Evelyn Underhill and Gordon Kaufman, John Hick and the ‘Rainbow Spirit Elders’.  This text-book differs from other surveys of theology by adopting a biographical method, examining the lives of its subjects in historical context.  Radical in outlook, it makes no assumptions that its readers are religious or even that theology is uniquely credible!

The Word in Place: Reading the New Testament in Contemporary Contexts (SPCK, London 2009; 192pp; £14.99; ISBN 978 0 281 06112 9), by Louise Lawrence, is based on a research project looking at ‘contextual Bible study’ in a range of contexts such as in a city, a rural village, and a fishing village; as also among the deaf and among ministers.  No doubt of interest to hermeneutical scholars, this book will sadly have little appeal to ministers in general.

Eastern Christianity and the Cold War, 1946-1991 (Routledge, London 2010; 363pp; £85 hardback; ISBN 978 0 415 47197 8), edited by Lucian N Leustean, reviews the life of the various Orthodox churches, both behind and beyond the Iron Curtain.  The first twelve essays are devoted to the Orthodox Church in Russia, Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Georgia, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Albania, Ukraine, Macedonia, Armenia, and ‘other’ Orthodox Churches behind the Iron Curtain;  the next eight essays are devoted to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and the Orthodox Churches in the Middle East, Greece, Cyprus, Finland, Ethiopia, and “other” Orthodox Churches beyond the Iron Curtain.   In addition there is an introductory overview of Eastern Christianity and the Cold War, in which the point is made that the Orthodox Churches behind the Iron Curtain survived precisely because of the way the Churches collaborated with the state.   Clearly this is going to be a standard text for anyone wanting to understand Eastern Christianity in the post-War years.  My one surprise was to discover that the book contained no reference at all to the Protestant churches behind the Iron Curtain.

Heresy: A history of defending the truth (SPCK, London 2009; 288pp; £12.99; ISBN 978 0 281 06215 7), by Alister McGrath, is a challenging read.  He defines heresy as “a form of Christian belief that, more by accident than design, ultimately ends up subverting, destabilizing, or even destroying the Christian faith”.  He examines some of the classic heresies of Christianity, i.e. Ebionitism, Docetism, Valentinism, Arianism, Donatism and Pelagianism.  He then goes on to look at the enduring impact of heresy.  For McGrath it is not sufficient to show that orthodoxy represents the most intellectually and spiritually authentic form of the Christian faith or that it has been tried and tested against its intellectual alternatives. “ The real challenge is for the churches to demonstrate that orthodoxy is imaginatively compelling, emotionally engaging, aesthetically enhancing, and personally liberating”. Wow!  Over to you, Professor McGrath!

The Lost Art of Listening: How Learning to listen can improve relationships (Guildford Press, New York, 2nd edition 2009; 314pp; £11.95; ISBN 978 157 2301 313), by psychologist Michael P Nichols, is a thoughtful, albeit witty, self-help book, with simple exercises, from which everybody could benefit!

First published in 1976, The Universe Next Door (IVP, Nottingham, 5th edition 2009; 293pp; £11.99; ISBN 978 1 84474 420 6), by James W Sire, has become an apologetic classic. This latest edition differs from the previous editions in that a new chapter has been added on Islamic theism.

John Stott may no longer be preaching, but he is still writing! His latest book, The Radical Disciple:  Whole-Hearted Christian Living (IVP, Nottingham 2010; 144pp; £8.99; ISBN 978 1 84474 421 3), looks at six key aspects of discipleship, i.e. non-conformity, Christlikeness, maturity, creation-care, simplicity, balance, dependence, and death.  A useful resource for a sermon series!

First published in 2008, after two reprints, John Henry Newman: A Mind Alive (Darton, Longman and Todd, 2009; 162pp; £14.95  hardback; ISBN 978 0 232 52781 0), by Roderick Strange, is a new edition of what is rapidly becoming a classic text on Newman and his approach to some of the controversial issues that still divide Christians.

Engaging with Calvin: Aspects of the Reformer’s legacy for today (Apollos, Nottingham 2009; 319pp; £19.99; ISBN 978 1 84474 398 8), edited by Mark D Thompson, is a collection of twelve essays in preparation for the 2009 Moore College School of Theology to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the birth of John Calvin. Topics covered include preaching, philosophy, the Trinity, providence, and the Lord’s Supper. I found it a stimulating volume.

The Bible Speaks Today: The Message of Holiness (IVP, Nottingham 2010; 313pp; £9.99; ISBN 978 184 4744 114), by Derek Tidball, is another great resource for preachers.  In the opening paragraph the author states: “We are all flawed masterpieces.  In one way or another, and to one degree or another, the image of God in which we were formed has become marred and corrupted.  Holiness is about the restoration of that image”.   The book is divided into six parts:  the foundation of holiness; visions of holiness; the transformation of holiness; the dimensions of holiness; pathways to holiness; and the destination of holiness.  Each of these parts consists of an exposition of two, three, four, or in one part six, key passages of Scripture.  Scholarly and thoughtful, this is a most helpful book.

Journey to Postmodernity in the 20th Century (IVP, Nottingham 2009; 388pp; £22.99 hardback; ISBN 978 1 84474 388 9) is the third and final volume in Christianity and Western Thought: A History of Philosophers, Ideas and Movements by American academics Alan G Padgett and Steve Wilkens. Written with students in mind, this is an excellent textbook for an introductory course relating philosophy to theology.

First published in 1997, The Puzzle of Sex (SCM Press, London, 2nd edition 2009; 243pp; £9.99; ISBN 978 0334 04205 1), by Peter Vardy, currently Vice-Principal of Heythrop College, London, has been revised and updated.  This well-written book covers a wide range of issues such as the sexual revolution and homosexuality.  Although the conclusions will not appeal to conservatives, none can failed to be stimulated by the argumentation.  Vardy concludes: “Many religious people.. may not want to hear the message that sexual relationships are complex and cannot be summed up in a net set of rules for ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ conduct.  Human beings are more multifaceted that this and holding the line between relativism on the one side and simple black and white definitions of sexual behaviour on the other may be the only way in which individuals can come to understand the puzzle of sex”.

The Write Stuff:  Crafting Sermons that Capture and Convince (Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville 2009; 123pp; £11.99; ISBN 978 0 664 23281 8. Available in the UK through Alban Books of Edinburgh), by Sondra Willobee, a Methodist minister and former adjunct professor of preaching, is a lively guide to the writing of sermons, and will be primarily of use to those learning the craft.

Tom Wright, Bishop of Durham, constantly amazes me by his ability to produce one book after another. What’s more, they are well-written, and have so much to offer. Lent for Everyone: Luke: Year C (SPCK, London 2009; 176pp; £6.99; ISBN 978 0 281 06220 1) is a great devotional tool for Lent, suitable for both private and group study. It helpfully relates the Gospel text to the world of today. Virtue Reborn (SPCK, London 2010; 258pp; £9.99; ISBN 978 0 281 06144 0) is a wonderful introduction to Christian ethics, full of helpful biblical insights. The unusual title is derived first from the fact that Christians ethics is not about following rules, but rather about the development of a Christian character (“virtue”); and secondly from the fact that “We don’t become Christians by struggling with great moral effort to make ourselves good enough for God, but by the work of the Spirit... that work... is precisely the work of bringing someone to faith”. A most stimulating read - for theologians and non-theologians alike.

 Spiritual Resources in Family Therapy (Guilford Press, New York, 2nd edition 2009; 412pp; £30.50 hardback; ISBN 978 1 60623 022 0), edited by Froma Walsh, shows how the world of therapy has changed.  Previously, spirituality was ‘off limits’ in clinical practice, but now there is a recognition that spiritual resources can provide healing and resilience. The book consists of a collection of wide-ranging essays by therapists reflecting many faith backgrounds.

The Word of God: the Bible after modern scholarship (SPCK, London 2010; 152pp; £9.99; ISBN 978 0 281 06211 9), by Keith Ward, formerly Regius Professor of Divinity at the University of Oxford, is a measured, middle-of-the-road, popular (but not populistic) account of the Bible’s distinctiveness.

First published in 1998, Matters of Life and Death: human dilemmas in the light of the Christian faith (IVP, Nottingham, 2nd edition 2009; 303pp; £12.99; ISBN 978 1 84474 367 4), by John Wyatt, Professor of Ethics and Perinatology at University College London, has been fully revised, and offers an authoritative guide to many of today’s vexed ethical issues.   Clearly written and rooted in biblical perspectives, this is an essential reader for all those engaged in the medical profession - and indeed for all those engaged in pastoral care.

Leadership in Social Care (Jessica Kingsley, London 2009; 224pp; £22.99; ISBN 978 1 84310 969 3), edited by Zoe van Zwanenberg, draws together research on such issues as collaborative leadership and the importance of place-based development, exploring the key disciplines of supervision and management.  No doubt of interest to social care practitioners, this well-written collection of essays is of little relevance to the ordinary minister.

Further additions to the SPCK ‘Classics’ series include:

The Power and Meaning of Love (London 2010; 151pp; £9.99; ISBN 978 0 281 06328 4), by Thomas Merton, which is a selection of five essays from Merton’s Disputed Essays: ‘A Renaissance Hermit’, ‘Philosophy of solitude’, ‘Light in darkness’, ‘The primitive Carmelite ideal’, ‘Christianity and Totalitarianism’ as also ‘The power and meaning of love’ after which the volume is named.  

Holy Spirit (London 2010; 144pp; £9.99; ISBN 978 0 281 06223 2), by Michael Ramsey, a former Archbishop of Canterbury, is a re-issue of a book first published in 1977, not long after the emergence of charismatic renewal - it has a somewhat dated feel, not least because of the frequent quotations from the RSV.

Christus Victor: An historical study of the three main types of the idea of the Atonement (London 2010; 192pp; £12.99; ISBN 978 0 281 06216 4), by the Swedish theologian Gustaf Aulen, was first published in 1931. Aulen considers the three main atonement theories (‘ransom’, ‘satisfaction or penal substitution, and ‘moral influence’) before expounding what he terms the ‘classic’ theory of the atonement, in which Christ triumphs over the powers of sin and death.   

Asking the Fathers (London 2010;256pp; £12.99; ISBN 978 0 281 06219 5), by Aelred Squire, a Dominican who ended life as a Camaldolese monk in California, initiates a dialogue between the world of the ‘Fathers’ and contemporary seekers after spirituality. The opening quotation from Gregory Nazianzen sums up this somewhat demanding book: “To be, rather than seem, a friend of God”.

SPCK have also began to publish a new series of introductions. The SPCK Introduction to Nietzsche: His religious thought (SPCK, London 2009; 128pp; £12.99; ISBN 978 028 1060 429), by Lucy Huskisson of Bangor University, is a well-written introduction to the man who dared to proclaim that God was dead.  Philosophy students will be grateful for the clarity she brings to a very complex man.    The SPCK Introduction to Dietrich Bonhoeffer (SPCK, London 2010; 128pp; £12.99; ISBN 978 0 281 0686 3), by Keith Clements, a veteran Bonhoeffer scholar, is another excellent introduction. After outlining his life, the author looks first at persistent themes (Christ, sociality, this worldliness and ‘one realm’);  then his prison theology (‘religionless Christianity’); followed by a chapter on Bonhoeffer, the Jews and the Holocaust; the final chapter deals with the ongoing influence and attraction of Bonhoeffer. This attractive account is clearly written, and will be much appreciated by theological students.

Recent booklets from Grove of Cambridge, all 28pp in length and costing £3.50 include:

Assisted Suicide: drawing a line in the sand (Ethics 155, 2009; ISBN 978 1 85174 737 5), by Brendan McCarthy, who argues that the principles of protection of life, protection of the vulnerable, the cohesion of society, and respect for the individual, might be supported by people of any creed and none. 

Until he looks down and sees’:  the message and meaning of the Book of Lamentations (Biblical 53, 2009; ISBN 978 1 85174 732 0), by Heath Thomas, who sensitively explores the issues in reading and preaching from Lamentations.  

Young People and Money (Youth 16, 2009; ISBN 978 1 85174 734 4), by Rachel Arulanantham, makes for sobering reading: nearly a third of 18-34 year olds, known as the Generation IPOD (Insecure, Pressured, Over-taxed and Debt-ridden), have no savings, and on average an IPOD is £6,000 in debt (20% of IPODs have debts of more than £10,000, and this does not include savings!

Leading change in the church (and involving everyone in the process) (Pastoral 119, 2009; ISBN 978 1 85174 733 7), by Martyn Snow, is about “change that makes a difference”, which brings about “sustainable development or growth” - his section on ‘The context of change’ is particularly helpful. 

How to choose songs and hymns for worship (Worship 201, 2009; ISBN 978 1 85174 736 8), by Mark Earey, and How to preach a good sermon: a practical guide (Renewal 38, 2009; ISBN 978 1 85174 738 2) would be regarded by most readers of Ministry Today as fairly basic. 

Church Schools: a mission-shaped vision (Education 1, 2009; ISBN 978 1 85174 735 1), by Tim Elbourne, launches a new series of Grove booklets:  it argues that God’s mission is carried forward through church schools as much as congregations! 

Location, Location, Location (Youth 17, 2010; ISBN 978 1 85174 743 6), by Geoff Harley-Mason, Ivor Lewis, and Julia Myles, presents some of the challenges and opportunities of youth work in urban, suburban and rural areas.  

Ministry Burnout (Pastoral 120, 2010; ISBN 978 1 85174 742 9), by Ivor Read, provides a very personal perspective on this all-too familiar phenomenon. On the basis of Leslie Francis’ research he makes the point that ‘neurotic introverts’ are much more likely to become victims of burnout than stable extroverts.  

Jesus is Lord: Why early Christians believed this and why it mattered (Biblical 54, 2010; ISBN 978 1 85174 741 2), by John Proctor, shows how Christology is ‘good for your spiritual health’, enabling Christians to stand up to the challenges of the day.  

Challenging Questions for churches wanting to grow (Evangelism 88, 2010; ISBN 978 1 85174 739 9), by John Holmes, would be a good study booklet to give to every lay church leader (deacon, steward, PCC member). 

Three holy habits... that will change your life (Spirituality 111, 2010; ISBN 978 1 85174 740 5), by Andy Rider, explores three stages in the transformation of Peter: watching, waiting and walking.

Paul Beasley-Murray

Senior Minister of Central Baptist Church, Chelmsford<br>and Chair of Ministry Today

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You are reading Issue 50 of Ministry Today, published in November 2010.

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