Pursuing God’s Will Together: A Discernment Practice for Leadership Groups by Ruth Haley Barton (and a list of others) ON SALE

You know that one of our specialties here at Hearts & Minds is books about spirituality, what some may call the contemplative lifestyle.  From the monks to the mystics, Catholic and Orthodox ancients thru the Reformers, Puritans, revivalists, charismatics or  the latest hip evangelicals, many authors have so much to teach us about our relationship to God.  We opened our store carrying lots of Thomas Merton and early Henri Nouwen and the first few Richard Foster books (and some people, then, as now, accused us of all manner of nuttiness, pantheism and paganism and such.)  In the 1980s we met new friends (and authors) who were Central Pennsylvania leaders in this field—I think of Kent Groff, who founded Oasis Ministries, and Russell Hart who still runs the Center for Spiritual Formation, known mostly among United Methodists, near here.  And even this season, local friends continue to explore ways to help people with a more intimate relationship with God—our friend Deb Turnow and some other women we know are launching Kavannahouse in the York area. 

Happily, mature and reliable books helping us attend to our interior lives and learn to practice spiritual disciplines and know God more deeply, are increasingly common and there are such books for nearly any reader, in nearly any style, theological tradition, or level of spiritual awareness.

We have often said that in our last decade, two books have really stood out for us as reliable,i s s.jpg excellent, faithful guides into this tradition, and we are happy to say that the author of them both is also a friend — Ruth Haley Barton (of The Transforming Center in Wheaton, IL.)  She has authored books for women (Longing for More), books about men and women in leadership together (Equal to the Task) and a few Bible studies.

Her more recent and major works, though are Invitation to Solitude and Silence: Experiencing God’s Transforming Presence (IVP; $18.00) and Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation (IVP; $17.00)  (which has now been made into a teaching DVD series that we raved about last fall.)  These two titles are ones about which I often speak, thinking they are truly must-reads. They are very nicely done, quite balanced (that is, she strikes a reasonable and moderate tone, nothing too arcane or mystical and yet not too pedestrian) and nicely written. 

Next, Haley Barton offered yet another layer of insight—giving us a book that, unlike these previous ones, is almost one of a kind.  Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership: Seeking God in the Crucible of Ministry (IVP; $18.00) invites pastors, church and para-church leaders, and, really any busy person of influence, to relate the spiritual disciplines to their pace of life in leadership.  By studying Moses, Ms Barton gently teaches us how (and why!)  to integrate spiritual practices into the grueling tasks of leadership.  One section in that important book is about how leaders must practice the spiritual habit of seeking God’s will, discerning what is life-giving and true, and resisting any other choices and decisions that, driven by ego or false values, derail us from living and leading with Spirit-lead authenticity.  I don’t know for sure, but I bet a number of readers read that and hungered for more.  I know I did.

Pursuing-Gods-Will.jpgI suppose I can’t say that the brand new release Pursuing God’s Will Together: A Discernment Practice for Leadership Groups  (IVP; $20.00) is “the book Ruth was born to write.”  That sounds grandiose (and her humble nature wouldn’t want that) and it may suggest the other books aren’t fully excellent, which, as I have said, I think they are.  And who knows what she may write next?  

But for now, this is her masterpiece, an amazing work that, while a bit more limited in scope than her previous ones (it is for leaders and about doing this work of formation together) is nonetheless a must-read for anyone who is serious about important contributions by contemporary contemplative writers.  If you like Richard Rohr or Dallas Willard, David Benner or Joan Chittister, Gary Thomas or Parker Palmer, Thomas Keating or Richard Foster, Ronald Rohlheiser or Phyllis Tickle, I’m insisting that Ruth Haley Barton should be considered in this wise and august contemporary company.  And this book is a must.

Ideally, this is a book written for those in congregational or para-church leadership, and it is designed to be read together as a group with other leaders.  If you have a leadership team, a church council,  elder board, consistory, session, Board of Directors; if you work with deacons, volunteer staff, or an accountability group, this book is for you and for them.

However, if you don’t have a willing crew, read it yourself anyway.  I can’t tell you how much you will gain from it, how much you will learn, and how you will be invited into a style of life, decision making, habits and instincts that will be formed by the ways of God’s good grace.  Reading this has been very helpful for me, although (I will say, in case Ruth or others who know me best are reading over our shoulder) it remains to be seen how I will apply it all.  Step by step we live into our deepest ways of knowing, and learn to trust God to make ways for us and work ways in us to mature in life-giving and Spirit-lead habits.   I have a long way to go on this journey, and this book is going to be a guide along this leg of it.  And I’m not even on any leadership team.

Here is the thesis of the book in a nutshell: we are not at our faithful best when we make decisions like the world does: Romans 12: 2 directly tells us to reject certain things in order to discern what is good.  We must be formed in the ways of Christ in order to resist false values, weird instincts, dysfunctions and drives that come from ego, sin, hurt, or any number of less than healthy motivations. 

We can learn to say “no” to typical decision making approaches (both in our own personal styles and habits and in our corporate cultures and practices) and replace such wooden and often (finally) ineffective ways with what is called discernment.  We enter into a process of hearing the Spirit’s voice, of determining in our hearts what is good, of seeking God’s will, of framing our choices in light of Biblical truth and of Christ’s own redemptive love for the world.  

She is kind but blunt; we tend to hire and promote and raise up volunteers to run churches and ministries and faith-based organizations who are, well, schooled in the first model of decision-making and less than apt to know anything about holy discernment.  This is the purpose of her book, helping us realize that our decision making styles and our corporately arranged boards and our Roberts Rules of Order-shaped ethos isn’t consistent with a Biblical vision and isn’t congenial towards those who really want to discern God’s will and seek God’s desires.  Those who have learned a lot from the latest New York Times business section bestseller about getting things done or
who have been formed in the culture of efficiency and success in the corporate world may be devout and fine Christians. They may have strong skills that are useful, even in church.  But they will need to do some serious heart work if they are going to be members of a discerning community that leads a ministry in fruitful and Godly ways.

Can folks who are schooled and skilled in wielding worldly leadership shift their paradigm, as they say, to adopt this spiritual discernment model?  Can power brokers learn to pray?  Can committees, or even teams, becomes communities? 

I might have been too quick to say yes to this before reading Ruth’s manuscript.  When I first started thinking about these things I was influenced by the great work of Elizabeth O’Connor and Gordon Cosby, who founded Church of the Savior in Washington, DC.  Sure, I figured, we can do this!   Now, I think I have a bit more sanguine, as it really is difficult.  We need help.  Geesh, I hate to sound like a salesman, but with Ruth’s guidebook, I think it can be done.  But we are fooling ourselves if we think that we can nurture authentic community based on the habits of prayerful discernment without this sort of of instruction and guidance.  I would almost say without doubt that your church or organization, like mine, needs this book.

(There are other good books on this topic, too.  I list a few below.)

Ruth explains her thesis much better than I have above, but I trust you get the point.  To makeRuth_Haley_Barton.jpg this a very usable resource, the book has three great features that help groups process this material.

Firstly, scattered throughout there are just a few well-placed pull out boxes that contain good questions for individual reflection.  She offers a few thoughtful questions that surely illustrate that she has worked on this stuff with others; these are not mundane or toss-off questions that some assistant filled in to make the book seem more usable.  These are key aspects of the journey and I can vouch that pondering them will take some time and some candor.  As spiritual leaders (from Julian of Norwich to John Calvin to Gerald May) have long said, a good part of spirituality is self-awareness.  As we come to know who we are in Christ, as we are attuned to our true selves as made in God’s image and beloved of God, we are able, then, to resist what the New Testament bluntly calls our “sin nature.”  Yep, a bit of interior work about our self-knowledge is a foundational spiritual practice and engaging these kinds of honest, reflective questions is fruitful for anyone on a spiritual journey.  

Secondly, there are exercises for groups, really helpful stuff to allow boards or councils or teams to actually learn to become communities.  As these group exercises are pursued, I can only imagine, friendships will deepen, conversations will take on a more intentionally spiritual and missional focus, and the hard work of doing life together will begin (or deepen.)  This isn’t a workbook, but these brief meditations and group discussion pieces allow the book to be used with your own leadership folks. There is a good closing prayer for each session.  It could be used over several months, on a retreat, or in other intentional spaces carved out to work on this.  Believe me, I read a lot of books about congregational renewal, church revitalization, revival and the like.  This is superb.  It is radical, but doesn’t feel extreme.  It is orthodox, but could be used by all sorts of churches, liberal or conservative.  It is deep, but doesn’t feel mystical or too touchy-feely.  This is, it seems, what a spiritually alive and discerning community growing in authentic Christian leadership looks like.

Thirdly — and this is both fun and instructive — there is a fictional narrative running through the book, chapter by chapter.  A stressed out team at a growing, good congregation, starts to hunger for deeper, Godly formation, they go on a retreat and hear some of this stuff, they take up their own commitments to spiritual disciplines, and enter into intentional efforts to be the leadership community their church needs them to be.  This little device is captivating and (how do I say this delicately?) I think she knows what she’s talking about.  These are composites, stories she has experiences or heard in her own career, among her own team, and seen in her own church consulting and spiritual direction.  This is good stuff, interesting, candid, and I think very, very helpful.

For the record, had I been editing this book I would have asked her to have this team be a little smaller, and not so upscale, indie evangelical.  Ruth used to work at Willow Creek, and she has stories, I’m sure, of that remarkable gathering of talented and skillful folks, folks she knows well like Lynn Hybells and John Ortberg. She has seen some highly motivated, very competent, innovative leaders.   But most of her readers will not fully relate to the large staff meetings, the “worship pastors” and “executive pastor” she describes in her fictional plot.  (Do many churches really have executive pastors? They actually call ’em that?)  Besides that being an embarrassing title—sorry—using it in the book, if only once, betrays an assumption that most churches are larger and loaded with energetic staff.  It would have been a bit more helpful to see a more typical group working through this in a more typical American church.  Maybe, though, that wouldn’t have been as interesting, and her telling of the tale sure is interesting.  She doesn’t get too novelistic about it, but I was glad every time that Grace Community team showed up.  You will be too.  And I think it will hit home, no matter what the nature of your faith community, group, or organization.

Centering-Prayer-2.jpgThe first part of the book makes an obvious claim, and she shares it unequivocally.  For any faith group to become a spiritual community practicing discernment each member of said community must themselves be well rehearsed in this spiritual practice.  She alludes to the “bus” metaphor–that is, getting the right people on–from the famous leadership work of Jim Collins.  She seems to suggest that practicing spiritual formation disciplines as a community, though,  will prevent leaders from distrusting one another no one will be trying to throw anyone else under the bus.  But of course, as noted above, even one leader who “doesn’t get it” or is resistant to entering this new (old) way of Christian leadership, may spoil the whole project.  Getting each person on board, and securing commitments to this contemplative way of life from the leaders themselves is essential.

She says this plainly; gently, but firmly.  I think it could have been said even more strongly, as in many churches we elect the smartest, the richest, the keenest, or the most efficient (or, maybe, just the most willing) without adequate discernment of their spiritual capacity for offering distinctively Christian thinking or radically faithful discipleship.  We should seek spiritual leaders who are, well, walking the walk, running the race, being led by the Spirit.  Who know well the One they pray to.  Ruth’s book warns against selecting the wrong sorts of leaders, but she is also upbeat: God can transform any who are even somewhat willing.  New ways can be learned, deeper paths
can be trod, pushy and cantankerous meetings can be softened and Godly leaders can relearn communal ways that are honoring to God and attentive to the voice of the Spirit. 

She writes,

Such individuals do have valuable gifts to bring to the
leadership setting, and our churches and organizations would be
impoverished without them. The problem, however, is when individuals
bring only the training, experience, and influences of the
secular mindset without preparation in the areas of spiritual
discernment… The next step to becoming a leadership group that
discerns God’s will together is to cultivate a shared, working knowledge
of the basics and to begin (or make sure people are) practicing
discernment in their own lives. When even one person in the group is not
habitually practicing discernment, it can derail the best attempts of
the whole group.

And so, the first three or four chapters of this book again invite us to live the spiritual life, to embrace new habits and disciplines, to carve out time for solitude and silence.  She insists that God’s Spirit helps move us from blindness to sight; that is, we are being healed and changed and transformed.  Do your own spiritual practices, you quiet time with God, your practicing the presence, cause transformation in you and your world?  Shouldn’t it?  Can we be a bit more intentional so we can make space for God to do God’s thing in and with and through us?

In a way, these first chapters are refresher courses–and don’t we need them?—from her previous three books. (The third chapter is called “The Discerning Leader.”)  But they do not feel perfunctory or rehashing. This is new material, strong and helpful and very moving.  

So she has moved from the basics of spiritual formation to the way in which leaders, especially, are called to practice spiritual disciplines.  We have to bring our own lived experience of God and our intimate walk with Christ to the leadership table. Excellent.

Next, Barton tackles the shift from teams to community, making the case that our leaders should be about forming communities of discernment.  Yes, yes, this is the big theme, the point of the book.  But first, at least, we must become more than committees or boards.  We must become relational communities. Chapter Five, “Values That Undergird Community” — starting with a quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together—has in about 25 pages more solid content and usable reminders than any book like this I’ve read in a while. Again, while I pray that many congregations read it and take it to heart, I think this is good stuff for anyone—with insights to enhance your family, your workplace, your small group, your circle of best friends.  This is solid, helpful stuff.

The book offers exceptional insight and practical advise in the next three chapters, chapters that help us move towards the goal of being communities of safe discourse and Godly discernment.  These chapters are “Practices for Opening to God Together,” “Practices for Listening to Each Other,” and “A Covenant That Protects Community.”  These three core chapters themselves deserve more comment, but you can see they are practical and necessary.

The final four chapters — not quite 100 pages — make up the second portion of the book, Part Two.  Ruth’s experience in teaching this is evident here as she cuts to the chase and teaches us so very much.  The chapter titles:

Get Ready: Preparing for the Discernment Process
Get Set:  From Decision Making to Discernment
Go!  Discerning and Doing God’s Will Together
But Does It Work?

Lastly, there is a small leaders guide (more insight about using the community sessions scattered throughout the book) and a bit of a Bible study on spiritual transformation. Lastly there is an appendix on Lectio Divina.  (She has a whole chapter on this creative practice of meditation on the Scriptures and allowing the Spirit to guide you to contemporary application in her book Sacred Rhythms, by the way.)

I am a big believer in this new book, Pursuing God’s Will Together,  glad for Ruth’s integrity,Pursuing-Gods-Will.jpg down-to-earth writing, good humor and abiding commitment to a solid Biblical framework.  We do not need deep mystical innovations, odd-ball psychological stuff or navel-gazing being passed off as the latest gimmick or formula. Gnostism and other esoteric heresies creep into well-intentioned talk of inner truths.  Barton is grounded in the ancient catholic traditions, writes in a refreshingly ecumenical tone, but is solidly evangelical, and has fabulous Bible study in most sections.  She is a good teacher, and her experience with her own Transforming Center ministry and as consultant to many congregations and with many, many pastors and ministry leaders, has positioned her to be a voice we should heed.

I am encouraged by this this wonderful resource and hope my explanations–which don’t capture the faith and passion and excitement and common sense of all this—somehow help folks realize how useful this book can be.  I hope you consider ordering it, maybe even sharing it with leaders in your own congregation or fellowship group.  We commend it to you with great joy and with great expectation.  This, friends, can rock your church or organization.  We can, in discerning God’s ways, be more fruitful and faithful.  And that can change the world.


Here are a few other books I notice on our shelves about this subject of discernment. There are more, but these are good.  The first few are for personal practice, the next about congregational or group discernment.  The last two are about church renewal, but learning communal discernment is central to their proposals.  Very nice.

The Way of Discernment: Spiritual Practices for Decision Making  Elizabeth Liebert (Westminster/John Knox) $17.00

Decision Making and Spiritual Discernment: The Sacred Art of Finding Your Way  Nancy Bieber (Skylight Paths) $16.99

The Discernment of Spirits: An Ignatian Guide for Everyday Living  Timothy M. Gallagher (Crossroad Publishing Company) $24.95

Discerning the Will of God: An Ignatian Guide to Christian Decision Making  Timothy M. Gallagher (Crossroad Publishing Company) $16.95

Transforming Church Boards into Communities of Spiritual Leaders Charles Olsen (Alban Institute) $17.00

Discerning God’s Will Together: A Spiritual Practice for the Church  Charles Olsen & Danny Morris (Upper Room) $15.00

Selecting Church Leaders: A Practice in Spiritual Discernment  Charles Olsen & Ellen Morseth (Alban Institute) $14.00

Practicing Discernment Together: Finding God’s Way Forward in Decision Making  Lon Fendall, Jan Wood, Bruce Bishop (Barclay Press) $16.00

Listening Hearts: Discerning Call in Community  Suzanne Farnham, Joseph Gill, Taylor R. McLean, Susan Ward  (Morehouse Publishing) $14.00

Grounded in God: Listening Hearts Discernment for Group Deliberations (revised)   Suzanne Farnham, R. Taylor McLean, Stephanie Hull (Morehouse Publishing) $14.00

Springs of Living Water: Christ Centered Church Renewal Miller David S. Young, forward by Richard Foster (Herald Press) $16.99

Becoming a Blessed Church: Forming a Church of Spiritual Purpose, Presence, and Power  Graham Standish (Alban Institute) $18.00

* * *

hearing god updated.jpgHearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship with God (updated & expanded) Dallas Willard (IVP) $17.00  Ruth Barton of course is not the only evangelical writer who has written wisely about deep spiritual matters and is not the only one advising that we listen to God. I hope some of the diverse books listed above strike your interest. 

Seeking and following God’s will has long been a preoccupation amongst evangelicals, especially, and hearing God’s voice is a longing felt all across time and around the world.  Sadly, there are terrible books about this, both about the very notions of God’s will and about the ways in which we can and cannot “hear God’s voice.”  It is, surely, a sticky topic.

For many of us, such notions about finding and following God’s perfect will conjures up pretty scary stereotypes and pretty weird religiosity.  Old Testament scholar Bruce Waltke has shown [Finding God’s Will? A Pagan Notion? (Eerdmans; $17.00)] that some ideas about this are outright pagan.  So we need help, and we need reliable, vibrant insight.

I simply know of no better serious book on this matter than this wonderful, best selling resource by the profound and thoughtful scholar, Dallas Willard.  Willard certainly calls us to be transformed into the ways of Christ, and, although a philosopher (he teaches at University of Southern California) he has a gentle and insightful manner to guide us into these vexing matters. But he is a philosopher, so be prepared to cover a lot of bases.(You can explore all manner of things at his webpage, here. )

Many of you know this book.  Richard Foster has written that it is “the best book on divine guidance I have ever read.  I recommend it highly.”  I am happy to report that we stock this very handsome new edition—again, kudos to the formatio publishing imprint of InterVarsity Press for doing the most readable and sound books of this kind. (We carry every book in the formatio line, by the way.)

This updated version includes new material from the author’s teaching at the Renovare Institute.  There is a new Q & A section and a fabulous index showing where to find answersHearingGod_DVD_TH.jpg to key questions in the text itself. There are six lectio divina exercises placed throughout the book, too, to help you train your ear to experience hearing God in appropriate ways.

There is also a brand new six session companion Hearing God DVD (IVP; $30.00) which would make a great adult ed class or small group study for anyone seriously interested in the deeper life, our struggle to discern God’s ways, and how we can, by hearing God’s voice, partner with Christ in the work of His Kingdom.  As you can on the DVD case, it also featured his friends Richard Foster and John Ortberg.
Excellent, well produced, very inspiring, for anyone.

any book mentioned

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One more chance to help us donate Bibles to Ghana: Buy the lovely picture book “Under the Baobab Tree” by Julie Stiegemeyer

We would like to ask you to help us with a little charitable project, a
brief partnership with a publisher who is raising money to help send
Bibles to the Republic of Ghana, hoping to give one to every one of the
500,000 high school students there.  The Prime Minister and First Lady
of Ghana have initiated this, and Tyndale Publishing House has published
a handsome, inexpensive New Living Translation hardback with an African
cover design, a letter from the First Lady, Her Excellency Dr. (Mrs.)
Enestina Naadu Mill, and a few study notes and extra helps for those
unfamiliar with the message of the Bible.  It’s a very cool project,
organized on the ground by the good folks of Scripture Union, and it
seemed like a nice opportunity to give back a bit.
  See the rest of that post, here.

In that BookNotes post we listed a few great books, mostly about social change and making a difference in the world, especially around the sorts of problems that plague the great continent of Africa, and said we’d donate a Bible (to this Bibles for Ghanian students project) for any of the books you purchased.  Even apart from the cool Bible project, these were really great books.

under the baobab tree.jpgNow we are giving you yet another option to have a Bible sent, by buying a truly marvelous children’s book, a favorite of this season, entitled Under the Baobab Tree, by Julie Stiegemeyer and illustrated by E.B. Lewis (Zonderkidz; $16.99.)  It’s easy. You buy the book, and we’ll ship it to you promptly.  Enclosed with that will be a small, colorful, African prayer card, reminding you to pray for Ghana, and confirming that a NLT Ghanian edition Bible was sent on your behalf.  Of course sending the Bible is a nice thing, but this book is excellent, too.  Julie Stiegemeyer is an experienced children’s writer, a good storyteller (and the wife of a Lutheran pastor.)
 You can visit her website here.

Baobab trees, as you may know, are legendary in some parts of Africa, and they serve all sorts of good purposes.  When I was studying the systematic injustices related to bad models of economic development years ago—documented in books like Food First by Francis Moore Lappe and Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger by Ron Sider, for instance—I learned about how some corporations had these ancient trees chopped down to make way for cash crops, and the deleterious effects of removing these valuable trees.  For some, protecting these trees became a bit of a symbol, wanting to protect indigenous cultures autonomy, the strength of local economies, and honoring wise stewardship of African lands.

None of that is mentioned in this sweet and charming book, but it may be a backstory.  You see, this book celebrates traditional life through a simple, gentle story, without being didactic at all, showing that these trees serve as a centerpiece of village life, that important things transpire under the broad branches of these leafy, sturdy trees.  There is excitement as the children make their way to the village’s meeting place under the baobab.

What happens to these children is not breathtaking, really but it is lovely.  It is good, but you’ll have to read the book to see for yourself.  I can assure you it is a nice tale, a simple glimpse of a slice of life in a rural area not unlike what one might find in, well, in Ghana.Under-The-Baobab-Tree-inside.jpg
The horizons, nature scenery, and colorful villagers done in soft watercolors are the great strength of the book, illustrated wonderfully, artfully, by a skilled children’s book illustrator.  Mr. Lewis has illustrated more than 50 books for children, including several ALA Notable book awards and, in 2003, a Coretta Scott King Award. (He even has a contribution in the fantastic Desmond Tutu children’s bible, The Children of God Storybook Bible, which includes some of the best children’s book designers from all over the world.)  Pay close attention to his work as it is exceptional.  He’s a perfect choice for this book.

We love this simple story and these warm evocative, watercolors.  It would make a great gift for a child you know, a nice addition to any church library or public reading room—despite lots of talk about multiculturalism and ethnic diversity these days, many collections of children’s books are still not too diverse, and could use some lovely scenes from the world’s largest continent.

Spoiler alert: this wonderful trailer tells the story.  Beautiful to watch, with nice examples of the pages. Cool music, too.

OFFER EXPIRES MAY 31 while supplies last

Again, if you buy the great hardback picture book Under the Baobab Tree by Julie Stiegemeyer &  E.B. Lewis, we will send a Bible in your honor to the Tyndale Publishing House campaign with whom we have partnered to respond to the plea of the first family of Ghana, who are trying to get a Bible into the hands of every high school student there.    Of course, if you want to make a donation to the campaign, you can use your credit card at our secure website order form page and just type in that you want to donate a Bible for Ghana.  We’ll take care of the rest, charging you $5.25 per Bible donated.  But if you buy the children’s book, we’ll donate the Bible for you, at our cost.   As always, thank you very much for your support of Hearts & Minds, the books we review, the authors we promote, and, in this case, the projects we endorse.  We are glad you are part of our family of readers, customers, and friends.


We will donate one NLT Bible to the
“Bibles for Ghana” program
 for every copy of Under the Baobab Tree purchased
Offer expires May 31, 2012.

order here
takes you to the secure Hearts & Minds order form page
just tell us what you want

inquire here
if you have questions or need more information
just ask us what you want to know

Hearts & Minds 234 East Main Street  Dallastown, PA  17313     717-246-333

Buy a Bible for a Student in Ghana. And four inspiring books on global awareness.

We would like to ask you to help us with a little charitable project, a brief partnership with a publisher who is raising money to help send Bibles to the Republic of Ghana, hoping to give one to every one of the 500,000 high school students there.  The Prime Minister and First Lady of Ghana have initiated this, and Tyndale Publishing House has published a handsome, inexpensive New Living Translation hardback with an African cover design, a letter from the First Lady, Her Excellency Dr. (Mrs.) Enestina Naadu Mill, and a few study notes and extra helps for those unfamiliar with the message of the Bible.  It’s a very cool project, organized on the ground by the good folks of Scripture Union, and it seemed like a nice opportunity to give back a bit.

As the First Lady Dr. Naadu Mill writes,

“The Bible addresses the kinds of challenges we face in Ghana: inter-tribal and communalFirst Lady of Ghana.jpg peace, poverty, disease, responding to the HIV/AIDS endemic, reconciliation, and developing sound human capitol for national development.”

She continues,

 “As a young person, my own personal encounter with the Bible was significant, and it transformed my life.  I therefore urge you to read this NLT Bible that I am placing in your hands…”

You can help us get Bibles shipped by doing one of two things, or both.

First, Beth and I personally promise to buy a Ghana Student Edition NLT Bible, costing $5.00, sending it out in honor of anyone who orders from us any of the books I’ve listed below this week.  We’ll do this all week, until midnight Sunday May 27th.  You buy one of these fantastic, mission-themed, “make-a-difference” books and we’ll contribute the cost of one of these Ghana-bound Bibles on your behalf.  You get a book, we donate a Bible.

Or, you can just use our certified secure Hearts & Minds order form page (like you do when ordering books) entering your credit card info.  We will charge your card $5.25 and will, again, send a Bible on your behalf. (The .25 covers some of the cc costs.)

In both cases, we will send to those shipping the Bibles a nice, full-color card we have in the store with an X marked on a U.S. map showing where the donor of this particular Bible came from.  You hope you consider leaving your X marks the spot.  Some future leader in Ghana just might thank you some day.

If you would like to buy one of these Bibles for yourself, perhaps as a reminder of this project—perhaps you will think and pray for Africa as you read it each time you pick it up—you could pick one up for yourself as well. They sell here for $5.99. It also counts as one of the books for which we will send a Bible to Ghana.  You can see it shown below.

So, buy one of these books shown below, we’ll contribute the Bible.  Or just donate the money outright: $5.25 will buy one Bible, $10.50 will obviously buy two.  Wanna join us? We thought you might.

If you read any of the books I’m suggesting, you’ll want to do something, that’s for sure.  They are motivating, inspiring, informative; each one is more about learning how to take steps towards involvement than academic treatises on the profound complexity of global problems.   They are upbeat and interesting and, I think, very helpful to have.  Pass ’em on and help encourage others to keep the world God so loves front and center in your own hearts and minds and giving.  Thank you very much.


awake.jpgAwake: Doing a World of Good One Person at a Time  Noel Brewer Yeatts (Baker) $12.99  What an inspiring set of stories, from an inspiring young woman.  (We met Noel at the QDC event a few weeks ago, by the way, and enjoyed chatting a bit with her.)  Can you see the world map in the coffee cup?  Can this cuppa joe wake you up a bit?  I am sure it can. 

Yeatts is the vice president of World Help (worldhelp.net) which is a faith-based humanitarian organization that serves the physical and spiritual needs of people in impoverished communities around the world.  She also direct an initiative around clean water (caselife.org) through World Help.  She documents all the obvious concerns—HIV/AIDS, disease, poverty–and tells gripping stories of those who are doing something about it.  Wholistic, Christ-centered mission, designed to create social change for justice.  Very nicely done.  This is a great example, I think, of the way in which conservative evangelicals have grown into a more wholistic approach to missions, not forsaking solid doctrine or evangelism, but also waking up to issues of poverty and structural injustice, and taking steps to work for social and cultural change, including fighting for rights to clean water.  Praise the Lord!

GSM-Cover-196x300.jpgGlobal Soccer Mom: Changing the World is Easier Than You Think  Shayne Moore (Zondervan) $14.99 I love this book, even if the subtitle is a bit glib.  Ms Moore does know how hard and overwhelming this work is, but she allows her mother’s heart to be touched, and shows how to get involved making a difference on global concerns, even as a busy, upbeat mother of three in a mini-van.  I’ve written about this before as her work has been in view for a while now: Moore was one of the original members of the ONE campaign, works with Grower’s First and World Vision.  She has an MA in theology, is a member of the Redbud Writer’s Guild, and she is well positioned to make a difference and to help ordinary folks do likewise. These stories are truly inspiring and the theme is that a full-time mid-West home-maker, involved in ordinary stuff in a real town and a regular church, can make a difference. I love the Bono quote about her: “Politicians watch out: Shayne Moore is an unstoppable force.”  How did she journey from the rather insular suburban world into the arena of global advocacy?  (And how did she get to become friends with Bono?)  Read this and learn.  You can visit her great webpage here.  Be sure to see the video of her “Mission Possible” CNN interview. Great!

go and do.jpgGo+Do: Daring to Change the World One Story at a Time  Jay Milbrandt (Tyndale) $14.99  I briefly reviewed this book the week it came out in my Comment magazine column, and although I was brief, I was sincere: this is an amazing book written by a friend and guy I truly admire.  Milbrandt works at Pepperdine School of Law, directing
their Global Justice Program (and is an associate of the Nootbaar Institute on Law, Religion, and Ethics.)  Does the name Bob Goff ring a bell?  Goff has been influential in this program and an inspiring mentor to Jay as he helps young, eager law students to gain legal experience in developing countries.  If you follow the extraordinary work fighting sexual trafficking and child slavery done by the likes of International Justice Mission, or have read the groundbreaking books by Gary Haugen, you may realize some of the very heavy, cutting edge, life-saving, socially and politically vital work Jay oversees.  His stories here are riveting, his analysis crisp, and his invitation for all of us to make a difference as we align our lives with the purposes of God, well, it is really, really great.  As we step into this transforming journey, he notes, “we discover an incredible truth: our need for purpose matches someone else’s need for survival. And there is nothing more fulfilling than that.”  He dares readers to ask big questions, to witness the “raw edges of humanity” and to do something about what you see.  Go and do is his slogan and Go + Do is a very, very impressive book. First step: go to Jay’s cool website and check out the book, watch the fast-paced, surreal video, and then come back and buy the book from us.  It’ll rock your world.

Love_Does_240_360_Book.625.cover_-196x300.jpgLove Does: Discover an Incredible Life in an Ordinary World Bob Goff (Nelson) $15.99 I hope you read my review of this a while back.  I had fun writing it, and enjoy pushing this great little collection of stories.  I laid off mentioning and re-tweeting Goff for a bit, though, as I didn’t want to sound like too much of a groupie.  He is an amazing man–fun and funny and kind, and a born storyteller. And he likes us, which is cool. So we’re fans, and this motivational book is loaded with insight about taking steps to enter the story of God’s redeeming work, so it fits this post’s theme.

Further, as a lawyer, human right activist and humanitarian, Bob has worked all over the world. In this book he recounts a bit about Uganda, mostly, so, again it makes sense to link it to this Bible give-away for Ghanian students.  Like the above books about making a difference, this is upbeat, practical, inspiring, and full of great stories. The stories are from his own life (mostly not about development work, but more about his childhood or escapes and capers he’s undertaken in recent years.) They are flat out hilarious, and his joy is contagious.  His commitment to whimsey, showing grace in creative ways with energetic joy, well, it makes for really fun reading.  Love isn’t just a feeling, you all know, but we nonetheless sometimes fail to get to the “do” part.  The kind of life we get to live as followers of Jesus, well, it can be a blast.  Goff reminds us of that and more.  If you haven’t picked this up yet, do it.  You won’t regret it.  Check out his website to get a glimpse or to learn more about Restore International, the organization he founded and runs.

lord and his prayer.jpgThe Lord and His Prayer  N.T. Wright (Eerdmans) $10.00  Of course you know how we celebrated our time with Bishop Wright last week and as you may suppose, we are still energized by his gracious visit and powerful presentation at our Dallastown store. (There are some pictures at my facebook page, too, if you want to see our backyard, or year Wright sing Bob Dylan!)  Although his focus in his last two serious HarperOne books have been on Jesus, the gospels, and the Biblical teaching of the Kingdom of God, it is clear that Wright the scholar and Bible guy is also Wright the pastor and shepherd.  He cares about spirituality and prayer and the classic Anglican disciplines for spiritual formation. This is a book he wrote years ago, and it is a favorite on the topic. 

And (I hope you recall that I mentioned) Wright is quite an advocate for renewed economics, and has been a vocal proponent of initiatives like the Jubilee Campaign to cancel the third world debt.  And so, we list this book here, now, a book on the ethics of the Kingdom, found in the Lord’s Prayer.  This is short, solid, would make a fine devotional study and is ideal for small group us.  The reminder that the Lord’s Prayer is a Kingdom prayer, which calls us to pray and work for a “estoration of the created order” (his words) and involves our bodies (!) as we become a church of “healed healers” is very rich and very wise.  We really do commend it to you, especially as you consider these other books that propel us to care about God’s global mission for international justice.

ghana bible.jpgHoly Bible New Living Bible Translation (Tyndale) $5.99  This is an exact example of the edition that we are sending to the kids in Ghana. It’s a handy size, hardback and a fantastic price.

The NLT, by the way, is a real translation, based on years of work by a large team of impeccable evangelical language scholars. It is very modern, and very well rendered in easy-to-read, contemporary language. (It is not the old Living Bible paraphrase from the 70s!)  Good, good folks (like Al Wolters, Gordon Wenham, Tremper Longman, Willem VanGemeren  D.A. Carson, Joyce Baldwin, Dale Brueggemann, and other brainy women and men) worked on this translation and while it is dynamic, it is reliably accurate.  We love it.  This edition is trim size, hardback (case bound) with this colorful African fabric-looking cover.  I think it is a nice Bible (although the print is small.) Using it might help remind you to pray for our brothers and sisters in the world’s most complicated continent.

We will donate one NLT Bible to the
“Bibles for Ghana” program
 for every book purchased from this list.
Offer expires May 27, 2012.

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Thanksgiving after N.T. Wright and a Handful of Brand New Books.

I’ve said this over at facebook and to those who follow me at twitter, but it needs to be saidIMG_0266-1.JPGIMG_0252-6.JPGIMG_0259-6.JPG here, too: thanks to our great staff, several generous volunteers, our good friends who catered the espresso bar, The Mosaic Coffee Company of Shippensburg, PA, and (of course) all the people who came out to meet and greet our guest from the British Isles, Bishop N.T. Wright.  (It was wonderful to see such an outpouring of old friends and loyal customers and so many new faces, too. Beth and I regret not having gotten to chat with everybody.)  Wright visited with us a bit, signing books, giving a lecture in the backyard, even singing a few songs (which you can watch, here, thanks to Tom Grosh) amidst some gentle breezes, lovely birdsong and nearby motorcycles roaring by.  The professor was a natural at outdoor preaching, and with good humor took questions from the gathered assembly sitting in lawn chairs.  What a sight, the rear of our small town bookshop packed with customers listening to a professor at one of the world’s most prestigious universities, a Bishop, and one of the great Biblical scholars of our time.

I had spent a quick lunchtime with Tom and Maggie, as I was warmly invited to call them, and we had chatted a bit the day before as we worked hard selling books at the lectures he was presenting at the wonderful Ecumenical Institute of Theology (at St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore.)  We’ve served the EI before, selling books for Eugene Peterson and Miroslov Volf.  As you can tell, they bring in some of the world’s best speakers and theological thinkers, which may indicate to you the quality of the advanced degrees they offer; we can vouch for the congeniality of the place, too.  If you are anywhere in the greater Baltimore-Washington area, you should consider their course options.  Their current dean Michael J. Gorman (who also teaches) is a friend of Tom Wright’s, and a friend of ours, so he is the man to thank for getting Tom to Hearts & Minds. We’ve sold books with N.T. before, but for him to show interest in coming here—wow!  Thanks, Michael.

Gorman’s good books, by the way, include Cruciformity: Paul’s Narrative Spirituality of thereading paul.gif Cross (Eerdmans; $36.00), Apostle of the Crucified Lord: A Theological Introduction to Paul and His Letters (Eerdmans; $42.00) Inhabiting the Cruciform God: Kenosis, Justification, and Theosis in Paul’s Narrative Soteriology (Eerdmans; $24.00), Reading Paul (Cascade; $22.00), and Reading Revelation Responsibly: Uncivil Worship and Witness: Following the Lamb Into the New Creation (Wipf & Stock; $25.00.)  The last two are quiet accessible—don’t you love the subtitle of the Revelation one?—while the first few are a bit more demanding.  They are highly esteemed, especially drawing out the social and ethical implications of the Christ-centered sort of discipleship the Pauline letters demand and we are grateful to know the author as a friend and customer.

In our whirlwind of several days on the road (selling books with good friends at the Penn South East conference of the UCC) and then at the Ecumenical Institute, and then hosting Wright here at the store, we haven’t had time to tell you about other books that keep pouring in.  We’ll get to that soon enough, I guess, but for now, just a few new releases that seem to right to mention in this week with Wright’s call to a Kingdom revolution echoing in our ears and hearts.

hearing the ot.jpgHearing the Old Testament: Listening for God’s Address edited by Craig Bartholomew and Davide J. H. Beldman (Eerdmans) $32.00  Well, I could say any number of things about this very handsome new paperback, but let is suffice to highlight two.  Firstly (and this is huge), the book is dedicated to newly retired Redeemer College professor Al Wolters, whose book Creation Regained (Eerdmans; $14.00) I mention often, most recently, in passing in my long “Booksellers Appreciation for N.T. Wright” piece last week.  Al has been exceedingly influential, also on Brian Walsh, who had some influence about how Wright came to understand worldviews and the Scriptures (as Wright explains in the magisterial, meaty, and exceptionally significant first portion of The New Testament and the People of God (Fortress; $32.00.) Which is to say, this book of Al’s, a basic introduction to what some call a “reformational worldview”, has left marks which can be seen on Walsh and Wright.

Further, Al shifted his research and teaching in the 1980s from philosophy to Old Testament studies, where he produced monographs and essays, edited books and hosted conferences, wrote on the Dead Sea Scrolls and explored how bad (dualistic) assumptions shaped the ways in which the Bible has been used or misused. (He has one collection of essays just on Proverbs 31 where he does some remarkably exegetical sleucing.)  His knowledge of how trends of interpretation have held sway in different times and places is incredibly interesting and illuminating. When Wright, in his new book on the Kingdom of God (How God Became King; HarperOne; $25.99), explores how we’ve missed the central “this worldly” aspect of God’s glorious reign, I think, “yes, Al Wolters has been exploring this for decades, showing where we’ve gotten things wrong, and why.” 

Alas, here is a new book in his honor, a collection of excellent Old Testament scholars who truly want their academic work to serve the people of God.  Critical studies of the texts shouldn’t obscure matters, but should make God’s Word more available.  These 17 pieces by the likes of M. Danny Carroll, R., Tremper Longman, Ian Provan, Aubrey Spears, Gordon Wenham, Christopher Wright and Al Wolters and others show that great work like this can indeed serve God’s people, helping interested readers truly absorb and live out the implications of these texts written so long ago. I’m all about reading and re-reading N.T. Wright on New Testament stuff—I think the Simply Jesus is spectacular and I’m part-way through the new one—but he will be the first to say that to understand the gospels, one has to know the story they are telling.  Which has not a small bit to do with the story of Israel, as narrated in the Older Testament.  One can’t understand the claims Jesus made about Himself or the work he was doing—dying and rising so that the Kingdom could be inaugurated—without knowing the Hebrew Scriptures, or First Testament as some call it.  This book, and others like it, are important for our New Testament understandings!  See the table of contents and authors, here.

changing signs.jpgChanging Signs of Truth: A Christian Introduction to the Semiotics of Communication Crystal L. Downing (IVP) $24.00  Perhaps it is a stretch, but as I pondered N.T. Wright’s visit, his impromptu speech in our backyard, his jokes about Italian taxi-drivers and his spot-on recollection of what Dylan said on a bootleg album before a certain song, as I realized his extraordinary knowledge of first century Greco-Roman culture and ancient Jewish history, and yet his ability to relate to this York County lawn-chaired audience, I had to marvel at the kind of communication skills the man has.  And his skills in knowing ways to connect symbols and signs, ideas and shared memories, common experiences, and even how he could subvert or play with these common-place sayings or cultural icons, weaving together a learned talk in very creative ways.  That, in a way, is what Ms Downing’s new book is about, a study of the heavy-duty postmodern theorists of communication theory that offer ways Christians, too,  can be savvy about “reading the signs of the times” and making sense of our odd mash-up of images, symbols, and signs.  Downing wrote a previous book called How Postmodernism Served My Faith which I highly recommend as a primer on how evangelicals can—should?—appropriate postmodern theories of deconstruction.  This may be the next step into the vortex: she looks at linguists and semiotians Roman Jakobson, Charles Sanders Pierce, Antonio Gramsci, Mikhail Bakhtin and others.  Rave reviews on the back are from solid evangelical thinkers such as Quentin Schultze, Mark Noll, Terry Lindvall.

Interestingly, the postmodern interest in semiotics isn’t all that new.  Dr. Downing shows that John Wycliffe and William Tyndale, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and C.S. Lewis all paid attention to signs and symbols.  We should too, especially if we have great passion to be effective in our witness to Jesus’ Kingdom in the changing landscapes of our contemporary cultures.  This isn’t exactly a book on being a better communicator, but it seems to be more than just an esoteric example of contemporary Christian scholarship.  One thing is for sure—like Wright masterfully speaking outdoors at Hearts & Minds the other day—reading this will be a delight, as you come to know more about a topic you may not have studied, getting to know, too, a top-notch scholar, a person of humor and wit, passion and insight.  Downing is a prof at Messiah College, and does excellently-written film reviews for Books & Culture. And she drops by our shop from time to time.  Learn more about her book here.  Come back here to buy it, please.

serving god globally.jpgServing God Globally: Finding Your Place in International Development  Roland Hoksbergen (BakerAcademic) $21.99   I was tickled when N.T. Wright started preaching a bit–with some up to date data and some illustrations—about the campaign to cancel third world debt.  He suggested that all sorts of churches in England held the public policy people’s feet to the fire and got the British government to pressure international banks and such (it is complicated!) to relieve some debt.  Oh if there was such cooperation between evangelical, mainline, catholic and liturgical churches here.  Anyway, Tom has long been outspoken about the debt crisis and has been active in the Jubilee Campaign to cancel unsustainable debt. That is a long way of noting that it makes perfect sense, with Tom’s talk ringing in our ears, to highly recommend what looks like one of the best resources about learning about international development, global justice, and what needs doing in all manner of development work.  This new book emerged out of a great series of conferences on global justice and international development held at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, (you thought they were just famous for their renowned bi-annual writing festival, or their very cool faith & music festival, or the respected Worship Institute events.)  Co-sponsored by their denomination’s excellent World Relief Committee, the event draws on international leaders from all over the glob.  Kudos to Dr. Hoksbergen (who teaches economics as well as international development at Calvin College) and to those who helped assembly this great handbook. 

Ron Sider says of it, “A wonderful combination of excellent scholarship, gripping stories, and practical wisdom. A wise, indispensable guide…”  As Andrew Ryskamp (of the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee) puts it, “Hoksbergen weaves time-tested principles of community transformation into a practical guide for use by the church especially young adults. He makes it clear that ministry among the poor is a much for the transformation of those seeking to help as it is for those seen as recipients  It is, after all, only when poverty is understood relationally that we can work together to change the systems and affect true transformation.  A must-read book for every church and individual involved in community ministry, at home or abroad.”  Right on.  I will revisit this soon, but for now, I can tell, that this is one of the best books of its kind I have ever seen.  There may not be anything like it—we’ve had a section about global concerns and development issues in our shop for 30 years.  This may be one of the best we’ve yet seen.

waiting for gospel.jpgWaiting for the Gospel: An Appeal to the Dispirited Remnants of Protestant “Establishment” Douglas John Hall (Wipf & Stock) $25.00  This book arrived today, and oh how I wish I could sit at lunch, again, with Bishop Wright, and continue the conversation we started about Douglas John Hall, who he knows.  Hall is a thoughtful United Church of Canada theologian, now in Quebec, and he offers here a collection of essays, talks, articles  and papers he has gathered together to point us towards his project of lived theology.  He is an old school 20th century liberal Protestant, having studied with Tillich and Barth.  He has written widely about suffering and the cross, and the methods of doing theology in a North American contextualized way and is known also for his work on our task to be stewards of the creation.  Last summer I read (and reviewed) a short memoir he wrote, telling about an eccentric and brilliant bookseller who was influential over a generation of Canadian mainline Christian leaders and scholars, and I came to appreciate Hall that much more.  This collection looks fascinating, albeit if it does presume a more liberal Protestant reader.  At his heart, Hall is a witness to the cross, a profoundly evangelically-minded scholar, very educated, and although getting along in years, still contributing papers, sermons, and clever jeremiads like his last chapter, “A Latter -Day Kierkegaardian Attends a Megachurch.”

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N.T. Wright: A Bookseller’s Appreciation for a Scholar’s Service to the Church and World. (And a reader’s guide to his best books.)

If you saw the recent BookNotes post you know that the extraordinary British scholar and world-class Christian leader N.T. Wright is visiting us here at Hearts & Minds on May 12th, 2012.  It is a real privilege for us to host him, and hope our small-town shop can survive the visit of such a world-famous author and churchman.  We think it is going to be a blast and hope you can come.

tom.jpg.display.jpgBesides Dr. Wright’s duties, now, as a professor at The University of St. Andrew’s in Scotland (founded, by the way, in the early 1400s!) he writes both scholarly works and popular level books, Bible commentaries, and apologetics helping explain the Christian faith in ways that are fresh, relevant, orthodox, if a tad counter to some tellings of the gospel.  We hope you looked at the two brief video interviews we had posted as they hint at how very interesting and urgent his last two books are.  Having these two new ones to sell makes us happy as they are faithful and well-written, thoughtfully mature but accessible for most readers, critical of business as usual but not nutty or off-putting.  They will help inspire (please, Lord!) a new wave of serious followers of Jesus who want to be winsome and principled, Biblically faithful and eager to make things happen. As booksellers committed to selling books of this very sort, for this very purpose, we are delighted, and look forward to hearing how these books make a difference, or at least prod you to think and act with greater intention for God’s glory and our world’s good.

(You know, Beth and I and our caring staff are delighted when anybody reads almost anything.  Reading is a joy and formative, and even the most basic, routine kinds of books can be rewarding to recommend. (Here’s a short article I had published in The High Calling blog a few days ago.)  We’re not snooty about this, and yet, when folks stretch a bit and read truly world-changing stuff—helping them think in creative ways, grow and emerge as re-formed agents for making a difference in the world—well, that makes our day.  Selling these kinds of books does that for us.)

We have found Wright’s work over the last two decades or so to be amazingly important, confirming visions and values that we have come to believe from our own varied influences since back in the 1970s.  One one hand, this isn’t all that different: many of us were taught to love God and love others, to read the Bible and live right, to care about Jesus and to work for social improvement.  Okay, that simple formulation works for a bit, although most of us need deeper shaping (Wright wrote a book on character formation on this very matter) and we need some social criticism, some framework for thinking about the nature of the problems of the world and the contours of Biblically-directed cultural renewal, so serious attention of the sort Wright brings is so helpful.   Some, of what inspired us to start the bookstore with the particular vision we had, is reaffirmed in this body of work of Mr. Wright.  I can count on one hand, maybe, prolific authors who are so very close to what we had hoped for in the beginning when we started this experiment in bookseller.

Yes, before Wright, we had some heady days.  I sometime tells of decisive moments (learning that a man from my church marched with Martin Luther King, joining a small group to resist the ongoing militarism of Southeast Asia, hearing the serious Christian call to cultural engagement from Os Guinness, and reading his first book.  There was a Dutch Reformed philosopher (Peter J. Steen) who taught about Dooyeweerd and Kuyper and the influence of the evangelists to European hippies and late-60s cultural critics Francis & Edith Schaeffer. We were mentored from a far by radical social action leaders like Jim Wallis, Tony Campolo, Ron Sider, John Perkins, and others and studied the  mature, balanced historic evangelical writers like John Stott and J. I. Packer.  On my favorite books is by Richard Foster, called Streams of Living Water (HarperOne; $15.00) which describes the strengths of various important streams within the Christian tradition and how each brings something important to us.  That’s one of the reasons our bookstore has been ecumenical from the beginning.  We want to learn from the liturgical tradition of the Anglicans and the charismatic tradition of the Pentecostals and so forth. 

Through all of this, and our inclination to be at home in fairly ordinary mainline denominational churches we have been cobbled together a vision of faith that is insistent on serious, mostly Reformed theology, a strong emphasis on the Kingdom of God defined as creation redeemed, and a desire to see a robust relationship between liturgy and life, between Sunday and Monday, between faith and cultural renewal.  From Marva Dawn to Eugene Peterson, from contemporary writers on the missional church to those who see inner spiritual formation as a foundation for a life of service, we have been shaped by many good writers, old and new, on mainline denominational presses and on evangelical ones. Wright is among them, and his extraordinary insights about the Bible seem to work in a way that ties our various influences all together.  Wright has meant a lot to us as booksellers and as readers ourselves.  He is important to our journey, and hope you know at least some of his many books.

Lots of this particular vision comes to us from the (now fairly common) insight that Christ stands as the first century Jewish Messiah, the One who continues on the unfolding story of God’s mighty deeds and gracious covenants with Israel, finally getting them out of exile (fulfilling the long-ago promise of rebuilding the destroyed temple by being that temple) and, in keeping with the big, cosmic hopes of Isaiah, renewing not just Jerusalem, but the whole, entire Earth!  His atoning death and resurrection is how the new creation is created, and those who are found to grafted in to this grand rescue plant or recreation are His agents of hope and healing in the world.  The story of creation and covenant, of Israel and Church, the promise and deliverance, from creation to new creation, this is the story that shapes not only theGodsStoryOurStories-SeriesArtwork.jpg narrative of the Bible but of our own lives, as well.  We become part of this story, and Christ becomes our very life.  In union with Him, tied, then, to each other, we become what we sometimes call “Kingdom people.”   Our community of reconciled folk are the first fruits of the eschatological hope; that is the future blessed hope.  Christ inaugurates this rescue plan that is global in scope and could be somewhat understood, at least, in what Martin Luther King called “the beloved community.”  Wright says all this so much better than I, but much of it we learned from Al Wolters’ Creation Regained or Howard Snyder’s Community of the King or Richard Mouw or Jacques Ellul or Herman Ridderbos or Samuel Escobar or even John Bright, whose book on the Kingdom of God my pastor gave me back in the early 70s, thinking I’d like it.  

Such a beloved community is a gift, of course, and we do not “build” the Kingdom or “redeem” anything ourselves, although I suppose our witness includes building signposts pointing the way.  All areas of life can be construed — indeed, must be!
–from a Biblically-rooted vantage point and the Kingdom way of life is one which has vast implications as we break with the principles and practices of the North American Way of Life.   Our bookstore and my speaking schedule have said these things, one way or another, over and over, sometimes to eyes raised in suspicion, sometimes with great glee.  People are hungering for a way to connect the Bible and life, in a way that is neither liberal or literal.  Wright brings a better way.

Wright helps us see that we can’t read the Bible as a simple rulebook or manual for Christian living: it is more like a map, or a compass.  (But it is at least that; it is God’s explosive Word, not just a interesting story of only metaphor and image.)  We make sense of this map as we start going in the direction it points, we “get it”  more and more—huge hat tip to James K.A. Smith, here—when we have thick and transformative liturgies and rituals that help us desire the Kingdom, embodying it naturally in our daily discipleship, often counter-culturally, against the world.  Such enactment of the Bible story shapes our desires, and gives us what Brueggemann calls “the prophetic imagination.”

I don’t know if Wright says all this in any one place, but it is my summary of his importance: rightly reading the Word enables us to rightly live the Word in the world. Wright talks about the Bible being the script of a play that is yet to be finished, inviting us to indwell that plotline and improvise as we finish the story until the last grand act, of which we are sure.

And, happily, we know the One who built the stage, the One who is the playwright, and as an improvising troupe, are infused with the Spirit of the Star of the show.  In Christ, we become the actors in the unfinished drama, getting in on the action, being Biblically-inspired creators of the next act in this Divine Drama of cosmic redemption.  He has said this often, and explains it well, how we must steep ourselves in the character and plot of the story, and dare not improvise in a way that isn’t in keeping with the first portions of the story as revealed in Sacred Scripture.  Perhaps the first place he wrote this down was in The New Testament and the People of God,

…part of the initial task of the actors chosen to improvise the
new final act will be to immerse themselves with full sympathy in the
first four acts, but not so as merely to parrot what has already been
said. They cannot go and look up the right answers. Nor can they simply
imitate the kinds of things that their particular character did in the
early acts. A good fifth act will show a proper final development, not
merely a repetition, of what went before”
(p. 141).

We do this, “until He comes” and brings the cosmic redemption I mentioned.  Cosmic redemption?  Yes, of course!  That just means God is saving the entire cosmos (you know, the “world” He so loves, according to John 3:16.)  The whole creation is groaning, says Romans 8, awaiting for the sons of Adam and the daughters of Eve to be so redeemed that it, too, finds release.  This is why here at the bookstore we have always had a strong environmental science section (although we are happy to now call it “creation care.”)  It is why we pay attention to the likes of Wendell Berry, why we have books about animals, about trees.  We are a Christian bookstore with sections on the arts, engineering, sexuality, science, economics, and politics.  As Miroslov Volf’s great recent book says, we must have “a public faith.”  And we find God everywhere, in work and play, and in the creation itself.  As Barbara Brown Taylor nicely puts in in her marvelous book—there is “an altar in the world.”

Interestingly, some of the hot button issues these days — about fracking for natural gas, global warming, oil spills, pesticides in our food and whatnot — are common concerns among younger adults, especially, and Wright starts with some of that in his wonderful book designed to be an invitation to faith, Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense (HarperOne; $24.99.)  Not unlike Lewis’ strategy in Mere Christianity (Lewis has left a mark on Wright), he starts with these universal longings, signals, so to speak, of transcendence.  For Lewis is was a homesickness.  For Wright, these deep down longings are colored by our contemporary anxiety about the nature of our times, after 9-11, amidst family breakdown, sexual confusion, terrorism, economic collapse, and, yes, global warming.  He imagines the whole world put “to rights” (as the British say it) and invites seekers to bring their ecological fears to God, realizing that the Bible story which promises restoration of the renewed creation is, in fact, the basis for  (even) environmental hope.  That story of simple Christianity, properly understood by tracing the trajectory of the promises to Abraham, “makes sense” of our lives, our times, our destiny. 

His Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, The Resurrection, and The Mission of theSurprised by Hope-b.jpg Church (HarperOne; $24.99) gets at this same thing, too, that Christ’s redemptive work isn’t primarily to get our souls to go to heaven, but to bring together heaven and earth (as the Christmas carol puts it.)  Joy to the World, indeed!  Yes, reading the Bible as Wright teaches us to keeps us Christ-focused, glorying in the cross and the mercy it shows, but doesn’t fixate only on that: it moves onward as the Bible does, pushing us into mission, service, restoration, renewal, reformation.  Getting the end of the story right can really help us get our vision of discipleship and life’s very meaning right.  This book is very, very important, and at the heart of the whole project of N.T. W.  

Q Founder Gabe Lyons, you may recall, has a recent book about the younger generation of post-evangelicals who want to make a difference in the world, grounded as they are in this multi-chapter, one Biblical story, of God in Christ redeeming creation.  He says those who capture that vision are “restorers.” The book is called The Next Christians and it just came out in a new paperback edition (Multnomah; $14.99.) It strikes me as rather Wrightian.  This new generation gets it, leaving culture wars behind, wanting to be creators and contributors, not just critics.  They want to be people of hope.

What a surprise it can be —hope! 

So N.T. Wright, Bible scholar and pastor, helps us get at all that, our public duties and our daily devotion, the way Biblical faith sets us into the world, for the sake of the world, calling us to a Christ-centered life, full for hope for this being-redeemed creation.  (Ahh, I think of Schaeffer’s famous line in the 70s about “substantial healing” (from True Spirituality, still in print today!) which was an audacious sort of hope that we can be used by God to bring some real change to this hurting world.  This isn’t what the social gospel theologians said in the early 1900s, and it isn’t the pushy right-wing triumphalism of the dominionists, as some call them.  It is just a huge and detailed explication, full of balance and nuance, it seems to me, of God’s promises of renewal  and of the command by Jesus to earnestly pray for “Thy Kingdom come, on Earth…”

Dr. Wright helps remind us that this earthy and multi-faceted way of describing the faith (which I am only paraphrasing and summarizing) is, indeed, the best, most Biblically-faithful, interpretation of Christian belief and living.  It is a version of faith and discipleship that is deeply traditional and yet revolutionary; an approach that is timeless and so very timely; a way to lean into the faith that is orthodox and catholic and yet not stuffy or denominational.  It rejects the way the liberal faith traditions tend to erode orthodox thinking (you may know Ross Douthart’s new book called Bad Religion) and the way conservative faith traditions accommodate themselves to the social status quo sometimes because they think we are all going to be raptured away soon anyway.  Neither the progressives nor the traditionalists, in his view, have the wherewithal to turn around the crisis of contemporary faith.  A third, fresh way is needed.  Or at least I think so.

Belief_SystemLarge.GIFN.T. W. is sound theologically, and it amazes me the snarky comments (from critics on the left and the right) we sometimes get when we display his books at events and conference.  He is sometimes criticized by liberals for being too evangelical (and traditional on a number of issues, including sexual ethics) but is severely criticized by some who claim to be the most Biblical for his willingness to create some new ways of saying things; he offers some rather innovative theological positions, especially around how Jesus brings righteousness to us, and how that is parsed in his understanding of justification. This has caused some painful controversy, especially on this side of the pond. 

Some of his best admirers even, have wondered if he has overstated things just a bit.  See, for instance, James K.A. Smith’s brief musings (Kings, Creeds, and Canons) about a Wrighthow god became king.jpg lecture (presented at Calvin College a few months back, you can watch it here) that was based on Wright’s new book, How God Became King: The Forgotten Story of the Gospels (HarperOne; $25.99.) In a rare move, Tom delightfully replied at the blo
g comment thread, trying to explain why Jamie’s concern wasn’t appropriate.  After a few more comments, Tom chimed in again, trying to put his own perspective “to rights.”  It is a good exchange, among friends, and his kind reply is very much worth reading, off the cuff as it may be.   Anyway, Wright is mixing it up in various quarters, bringing all kinds of folks into conversation.  It may be an overstatement that the Kingdom has been “forgotten” (or maybe it is a subtitle marketing ploy set by the publisher) but his documentation of how those in the mainline churches and the evangelical churches have too often failed at reading the gospels aright is pretty darn compelling, and pretty darn important.  I think he’s right on!

I have observed that many love his well-written and clear-headed books in part because of this exciting “third way” forged above and beyond the tired dichotomy between liberals and conservatives, contemplatives and reformers, between modernists and postmodernists, between ecumenicals and evangelicals.  Also, there is this energetic passion, rooted in good scholarship, that appeals to very many who want something other than the chattty pablum so common in contemporary religious publishing.  If there a writer and leader out there who is pointing us in the right direction, who seems to be saying ever so eloquently what we’ve been trying to say for decades, it is this former Bishop of Durham.   We hope our friends and fans follow his work, collect his books, spread the word about his perspective, and thoughtfully engage his call to this sort of faithful Christian living in these days.  If you find you disagree with some parts of some books, welcome to the club.  Let’s not get in a snit about this, but take what is most helpful, and refine whatever needs refining.  He is too important and too right about too much to dismiss or ignore. I know that I, for one, have much to learn, and want to receive his important contribution. 

At the risk of redundancy, allow me to say it another way.  As we’ve explained, Wright is a world class academic with a heart for the church, grounded in British evangelicalism, who is in conversation with the world-wide church, Anglican and otherwise. He was a delegate to the World Council of Churches, once, which he wrote about in an early book that was recently re-issued, Small Faith, Great God (IVP; $18.00.) He is a Bible scholar who sees the central, unifying role of Christ in the whole of Scriptures, and sees the announcement and establishment of the reign of God as the heart of His gospel.  He stands on the rock of Christ, as revealed in the Bible, and does so in innovative and exciting ways, inviting us all to consider how our various church and theological traditions have obscured the real role of Jesus, and the nature of the gospels, and the implications of the inauguration of the Kingdom.  

wright at his desk with books.jpgThere is no doubt that he is, indeed, an important scholar who has done the heavy lifting in studying historical documents most of us have never even heard of!  He writes about the historical details of second Temple Judaism, for instance, or the nuances of the relationship of law and gospel at the end of Romans, or the ways in which Greek words about body and soul are mistranslated often as people read Corinthians, or ways words like “righteousness” from 8th century Isaiah or 19th century theologians may be quite different.  His prayerful study is daily done in the Hebrew and Greek.  He reads classic stuff–from Josephus to Ben F. Meyer, say—and is in routine conversation with other scholars, like, just for instance, Kenneth Bailey and Richard Hays.  He debates those who mock or deconstruct the resurrection, takes on the likes of John Piper in complex discussions about the details of salvation and justification, and yet rarely gets stuck in in-house, obscure arcania with those who want to argue all day without truly serving the church or the world.  He wants us to serve the church and the world.  You can see why we appreciate him so, and why his work gives us encouragement to keep on trying to sell books as we do.  With authors like this, doing books like this, we have to keep going! God’s Kingdom may be advanced because of what God does though folks reading seriously these books.  We  believe that.  Reading matters.  I think Tom might like our phrase, “read for the Kingdom!”

Well, that’s my windy overview.  One more little part we like to share.

We carried the very first book he published in the states, years ago, before he was famous. Soon enough, we realized one of my good friends, an author whose books have been influential in my life, had become friends with  N.T. (his friends call him Tom) when they both were at McGill University in Canada in the 1980s.  You may know that person is Brian Walsh.

As Brian tells the story in the preface to his own Colossians Remixed: Subverting thecolossians remixed.jpg Empire (IVP; $23.00) he asked Tom tough questions week by week about the application of Biblical exegesis as Wright was writing the popular Colossians and Philemon commentary for the Tyndale New Testament Commentaries of the Bible. Tom rather reasonably insisted that the political and cultural questions about application didn’t quite belong in a standard commentary like the Tyndale one he was writing and challenged Walsh to write his own radical commentary on Colossians.  Which he did, eventually with the able collaboration of his wife, Sylvia. (That Wright and I both have a blurb on the back is one of the great joys of my literary life, such as it is!)

Brian’s influence on Tom in those years at McGill was considerable, and when Wright in the early 90s did his magisterial first volume of the projected five volume “Christian Origins and the Question of God” series, The New Testament and the People of God, he drew on Walsh’s worldview questions, his formulation about the unfolding five act gospel story, and dedicated the book to him.  Quite an honor for Brian, and a notable hint at their relationship.  Any of us who followed Brian’s work in those years (Transforming VisionSubversive Christianity, and eventually Truth is Stranger Than it Used to Be) saw connections.

Wright became one of the most recognizable serious scholars of religion on the planet, an occasional thorn in the side of both liberals and conservatives, a scholar who worked in the academic guilds and served the church.  When he became Bishop in the Church of England in the early 2000’s his fame was secure, and his name a household one among thoughtful Biblical scholars and those who watch the life of the global church.  Agree with him or not on all details, his publishing career is imminent, his work greatly honored.  He is given accolades even by those with serious disagreements. 

I might as well tell another Walsh story, a bit I’ve written about before. The last time I was withWright + Byron at Redeemer.jpg N.T. Wright (selling books for a lecture he gave on character formation, based on the splendid After You Believe, with Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City) he had just co
me back from a several day forum on his work held at Wheaton College.  We had a little chat about what he had just experienced with our mutual friends Sylvia Keesmaat.  Sykvia got her PhD under Wright, and is footnoted in a few of his books, and participated in his installation when he became Canon Theologian at Westminster Abbey, along with her husband, Brian Walsh. 

They were on a panel offering (friendly) critique of Wright at this several day event.  Their main contribution was two fold: firstly, they asked, first in a playful way, and then in an almost brusk manner, if any of this detailed Biblical study really mattered to anyone outside a small circle of interested friends?  (They opened their talk with a friend playing the old Phil Ochs song about this exact matter — does those whose lives are deeply hurting ever get noticed? Do we care about others, or just our own agendas and interests?  Does anybody else care about this conversation?)  They listed gross examples of poverty and injustice, quoted Tom’s own description of the Biblical demand for cancellation of third world debt, and then wondered how our contemporary economic system, and our nearly numb response to its dysfunctions and idolatries, does or doesn’t get adequate attention from Wright’s theological reflection.  It is what Brian calls “the ‘so-what?’ question.”

Walsh Keesmaat-thm.jpgThey complimented Wright for his call to societal renewal and for his work doing Kingdom theology that generated a commitment to mercy and justice. They cited some pretty dramatic lines from Wright (like a passionate speech he gave in response to the Queen’s speech about economics in the House of Lords) and wondered if he was taking advantage of the “time” that is so ripe as the Western story collapses.  Is there enough prophetic critique and prophetic hope in Wright’s work?  Is he pressing that enough?  Is there energy for action at the heart of his otherwise excellent work?  It was a tough question, perhaps a bit awkward to ask publicly, but they are good friends.  It wasn’t a prophetic stunt, it was a pastoral question: how does your work, Tom, doing good exegesis and detailed historical research and clever re-articulation of the nature of the gospel, make a difference, really? 

Secondly, Walsh & Keesmaat offer some striking observations about Wright’s reading of the prophetic role of Jesus, in his important Jesus and the Victory of God, particularly.  Then they study some of thejesus paul and the peeps of god.jpg parables.  They go back and forth exploring Sylvia’s breathtakingly insightful reading of one of the most famous economic parables. These readings reminds us of the economic injustice in Jesus’ day, and points to Jesus’ demand for covenantal  justice.   

You can find that remarkable exchange in Jesus, Paul, and the People of God: A Theological Dialogue with N.T. Wright edited by Nicholas Perrin and Richard B. Hays (IVP; $24.00.) and, importantly, includes N.T. Wright’s response. Their presentation about bearing fruit for justice, feisty as it was, is
literally worth the price of the book, and most of the others are
stellar as well. 

You can watch the whole exciting presentation here. Sylvia knows the Scriptures very well, as does Brian, and they make a persuasive case that Tom’s own views about global injustice would be stronger if he, in fact, heard the economic teaching of the Bible, which he oddly misses (or so they say.) Click another place at this website to find Tom’s own reply.  

This is the sort of generative, kind, open-minded and very candid exchange that we think is great. Most of the chapters in this great book are very useful, even if it may take you a while to work through some of it.  Each of the panelists are specialists in their own right, and their evaluations of Wright’s words are illuminating.
Three cheers for Wright’s willingness to allow himself to be the subject of criticism and conversation.

borg-wright-meaning-jesus-5.jpgWright has more famously co-written a book with Marcus Borg, a back-and-forth argument about the historicity of Jesus, Christ’s own sense of calling, the reliability of the gospel  accounts, and the character of the resurrection.  Borg, as you may know, disagrees with the typical views of these matters, so it is a serious debate. It is in paperback and is called The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions (HarperOne; $15.99.) Wright also co-wrote and edited a book with Dom Crossan, called The Resurrection of Jesus: John Dominic Crossan and N.T Wright in Dialogue (Fortress; $19.00) which includes some chapters by other participants, too.  Crossan is another progressive scholar who teaches that the physical resurrection didn’t happen and that the gospel accounts are not reliable testimonies of what actually happened, but more like parables.  Crossan has a view somewhat like Borg’s, and then some…  

If you haven’t heard about this large debate about the historical Jesus, the Meaning of Jesus one by Borg & Wright is excellent to start with.  For a wider view, consider The Historical Jesus: Five Views edited by James K. Beilby (IVP Academic; $25.00.) It isn’t every day you see a book with authors as diverse as Crossan, James Dunn, Darrell Bock and more.  Wright isn’t in this one, but it is a good way to see the full lay of the land. 

Those of us with historically orthodox, traditional views of the reliability of the classic accounts are glad that a spokesperson as able as Wright is friends with folks like Borg & Crossan, even though they have considerable disagreements.  

justification.jpgAmong more conservative writers who have crossed swords with Wright, a book-length evaluation of his views of Paul and justification was written by the passionate Baptist pastor, John Piper called The Future of Justification: A Response to N.T. Wright (Crossway; $17.99) and it is well worth reading (we commended it when it first came out and continue to stock it.)  His critique illustrates the concerns that many in the PCA denomination, particularly, have found troubling (they passed a study report against Wright at their General Assembly a few years ago.) Wright’s response to Piper’s book is called Justification: God’s Plan and Paul’s Vision, published by IVP ($25.00.)  The first half is mostly a reply to Piper’s critique, and the second half is Wright’s exegesis and explanation of every key verse in the New Testament that deals with the nature of justification.  It is very, very informative, even if you don’t buy all of his unique take on things.

By the way, if you can’t imagine what the fuss is about, read them and think it though.

Here is an excellent, brief interview by Trevin Wax (of the Gospel Coalition) who asks very basic questions of Wright and gives him the chance to summarize his take on the debate with Piper.

Perhaps you could consider this “five views” anthology, which includes some very helpful listening to each other, as each author replies to the others, and some fairly strong rebukes:  Justification: Five Views edited by James Beilby (IVP Academic; $25.00.) 

Another book I am fond of is a generous synthesis of many different accounts of how the atonement works, created nicely by Scot McKnight.  It is called A Community of Atonement (Abingdon; $18.00) and is very interesting.  There are a lot of books like this, and they bear mentioning now, as this is in some ways parallel to Tom’s work; it comes with the territory of Wright being linked to what some call “the new Perspective on Paul.”   We have quite a few resources on this topic, and hope you take time at some point in your life to dig deeper into this central doctrine of the gospel.

Some “new perspective” thinkers are a bit more radical, while Wright is perhaps a bit more traditional, forging a middle way between traditional (evangelical, Lutheran or Reformed views) and “new perspective”  or “nonviolent atonement” theories.  You can see one powerful and important example of his thinking about the cross in a left-of-center collection, a brilliant and thick anthology, again, that we carry and recommend.  See Wright’s chapter called “The Reasons for Christ’s Crucifixion” in Stricken by God? Nonviolent Identification and the Victory of Christ edited by Brad Jersak and Michael Hardin (Eerdmans; $32.00.)

wright_obama3.pngWell, I’ve said that Wright captures, and deepens for us, a lot of what we’ve long tried to articulate, and he does it with graciousness and eloquence, even has he defends and clarifies his views in dialogue with others across the spectrum of thinking found through the range of the church.  I, frankly, am a bit less interested in the details of the new perspective debate, and celebrate his singular work on the gospels, and this Kingdom vision he brings to our reading of the whole Biblical canon.  It is one reason I am so excited about the two latest books, on Jesus and on the Kingdom.  I’m glad that he does this by seeing both the big picture of the arc of Scripture and a close, informed reading of specific texts.  And, yes, he reminds us (to put it terribly simply, to “read Paul in light of Jesus, not read Jesus in light of Paul.”  Or something like that.)  

And I like a lot how he always reminds us to grapple with the deepest “below the surface” issues, which often include our creepy inclination to Gnosticism and, most often, some uncritical accommodation with the beliefs of post-Enlightenment rationalism.  He explains what he means by that sometimes, and we simply have to realize that many evangelicals and most liberals are both significantly living in the shadow of these pagan ideologies of faith in science, progress, autonomous reason, personalized views of religious truth, leading to crass secularization and the like.

Well, he’s a good writer, and I think a dear chap.  I enjoy listening to him immensely and have appreciated being around him a time or two.  I hope you’ve checked out a few of his many free lectures on line or watched some of the nice v
ideo clips of him. Skip the cranky one’s you’ll find, and give him a fair listen.

Here is a nice glimpse of  Wright’s interest in reaching a wide audience, and a bit about his own thinking as an author.  In is marvelous book Simply Jesus he pens a lovely foreword, a foreword that got me choked up a bit, even, as he talked about losing his father:

This is the first book I have written since the death of my beloved father, at the age of ninety-one. Having read little or no theology or biblical scholarship until his mid-sixties, when I started writing, he then read everything I wrote within days of its publication and frequently telephoned me to tell me what he thought about it.  I cherish some of his comments…When my big book on the resurrection came out, he read it, all 700 pages, in three days, commenting that he really started to enjoy it after about page 600.  Presumably, with the end in sight, he was starting to experience hope as well as reading about it. Particularly with my popular writings, I now realize that he was always part of the “target audience” of which I was subconsciously aware.  Writing a book like this feels different now that he’s not there to read it.  In any case, though I hope he learned a few things from me, this book—particularly its concluding chapter—hints at some of the many things I learned from him. As I grieve his passing, I dedicate this book to his memory with gratitude, love, and yes, hope.



The Climax of the Covenant: Christ and the Law in Pauline Theology  (Fortress) $29.00  This is really, really important, an early scholarly work (written in the early 90s) that should be considered by anyone interested in serious Pauline studies.   A foundational book for how Wright will later explore Paul’s work in relationship to the saving work and Kingdom-bringing of Jesus.  Wright PhD work thesis, by the way, focused largely on the Davidic vision of Messiah, appropriated by Jesus, and how that effected Paul.  So he started out with a big picture view, but focusing on Pauline studies.

The New Testament and the People of God (Fortress) $38.00  Hefty, audacious, serious, laying out his methodology for studying the worldview of various factions within first century Judaism to understand the nature of God’s redemptive work in Christ.  Outstanding.

Jesus and the Victory of God  (Fortress) $41.00  This large book weighs nearly 21/4 pounds, and has more meat per page than nearly any book I’ve ever read.  It is magisterial, provocative, and has generated several other books written in its honor and to refute some of its central claims.  Truly a remarkable, historic contribution.

The Resurrection of the Son of God (Fortress) $45.00  Few would not agree that this is the most thorough book ever done on the resurrection, nearly 800 pages of amazing history, theology, Biblical interpretation.  A tour de force.

Justification: God’s Plan & Paul’s Vision (IVP) $25.00  As I described this above, it is a nearly tedious reply to the attack by John Piper, and then a close reading of every passage in the New Testament that speaks of justification.  Actually, it isn’t that academic, just a rather detailed study that many of us haven’t carefully considered.  There is more here than most of us realize, so this is intense.


The Challenge of Jesus: Rediscovering Who Jesus Was and Is (IVP) $18.00  This may be the best introduction to his fairly serious work; the three major chapters are essentially summaries of each of the three big ones.  These were talks given at an IVCF graduate student and faculty ministry conference, and is excellent.  Very highly recommended., and perfect for those who want the basic arguments of his major works, without wading through the tomes.  Truth be told: my kind of book!

Paul: In Fresh Perspective  (Fortress Press) $20.00 Everybody was talking about “the new Perspective on Paul” and whether this is it or not, I cannot say, but it is a revolutionary look at the genius of this first century church leader, theologian, letter writer and chief evangelist for the Kingdom of God.  Christ and Him crucified is what Paul wanted to be known for, but is also known for his radical work in guiding the formation of local Christian communities all over the Mediterranean.  See my description below of Wright’s earlier smaller book on Paul to see part of his Pauline project.  Very important.  (For what it is worth, a bit of this “new perspective” controversy may have to do with how much of evangelical faith about salvation came from the teaching of Luther about Paul’s teaching about grace in light of the Jews, but many believe that Luther simply got that wrong.  First century Jewish leaders did not teach salvation by works; that was more Luther’s battle with medieval Catholicism.  Paul’s heartfelt passion was to unite Gentiles into the church which was, in those days, mostly Jewish.  The middle of Romans—salvation through faith alone–leads to the ends of Romans, the great news that in Christ we are reconciled to each other, beyond ethnic lines.  This is high theology explored carefully, leading to revolutionary social realities.

Evil and the Justice of God (IVP) $18.00 This book is, if I may say such a thing, really fantastic and truly inspiring.  No serious theologian can write in these post-holocaust days of genocide and global warming and ethnic warfare without addressing the horror of the fall.  There is an edition that comes with a DVD ($28.00) and the DVD is amazingly good.  

Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, The Resurrection, and The Mission of the Church (HarperOne) $24.99 This really is one of my favorites, and a key book in his work.  It is not too academic, but it is thorough, and covers all kinds of issues around what we mean by the “resurrection of the body.” If we reject as unbiblical a hard dualism between body and soul (that is, we believe in the resurrection of our bodies along with the whole new Earth which is the creation restored, then, well, what does happen to us when we die?  If our final destination is to reign with Christ over the restored creation—the glorious city–then why do we speak of “going to heaven.”  And how does a proper view of the life after death effect the mission of the church now, as we witness to the future hope that is beginning now, in Christ. What a serious, good, provocative and rewarding read!

DVD  Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, The Resurrection, and The Mission of the Church (Zondervan)  I used this in an adult ed class at our church and folks really like it.  It is so very interesting, well produced, nicely done.  I couldn’t hardly recommend a resource like this more enthusiastically.  You should buy the participants guide, too ($9.99.)  Six sessions.

DVD Evil (IVP) $20.00  This is a 50-minute film based on the book mentioned above, drawing on Desmond Tutu and others as they grapple with evil such as the AIDS pandemic to tsunamis to global wars.   The first scene starts off with Bishop Wright speaking while walking along a stormy beach, with the Biblical metaphor of chaos powerfully portrayed.  Very well done, provocative and interesting, and, finally, hopeful. It could easily be broken up into several sessions.  A small discussion guide comes with it.

DVD Resurrection (IVP) $20.00  Again, I am a real van of these professionally made, truly interesting presenta
tions; like the one described above it is a 50-minute film, shot on location in Rome, Greece, and the British Isles.  They explain why this historic Christian creedal statement is so very important, and what the implications are of a robust view of the full resurrection of Christ.  Not just for Easter, I think this is urgent, essential, and not to be missed.  What do you use to learn about, and to teach others about the resurrection?  With impeccable, clear teaching, he explores themes studied in The Resurrection of the Son of God.

After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters (HarperOne) $15.99  This small paperback is excellent, but a bit stretching, perhaps, for those whose reading about Christian character is simple.  This looks at how virtue was seen in the Greco-Roman world, how Christian transformation of character is like, and considerably unlike, other visions of ethics known before.  The title says it all, and it is a very important little book.

Scripture and the Authority of God (HarperOne) $25.99  So how do we view the Bible?  What is the role of the Bible?  In what way does it, as the revelation of God, compel us?  Is there a way to get beyond the standard approaches that either are too wooden or too loose?  Very interesting, and if it isn’t the final word on this complicated matter, it is a fine contribution to our understanding of God’s Word and its role in our lives.  This is, by the way, a handsome hardback, expanded from an earlier paperback called The Final Word.


simply-christian-cover1.jpegSimply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense (HarperOne) $24.99  I’ve discussed this at great length before and think the world of it.  The first part is a rumination on the deepest concerns and anxieties folks have nowadays (about war, poverty, sexuality and such.)  The middle part is essentially an overview of the grand Biblical narrative.  The final part wonders out loud: what if this story answers those questions?  Could this Biblical vision provide the best way to understand and work on these large areas of brokenness and dysfunction.  The books ends with a call to faith, and some practical stuff about church, eucharist, worship and fellowship.  Sort of a Mere Christianity for today.

Simply-Jesus.jpgSimply Jesus: A New Vision of Who He Was, What He  Did and Why He Matters (HarperOne) $24.99  I hope you saw the video clip we offered in the previous post, but you will see there that Wright is passionate about Christ, seriously eager to have folks examine his teachings and see how they can transform us, our churches, and our world.  What a great, great introduction to the nature of Jesus and who is claimed to be and what he taught us to do. This is a fabulously interesting, fresh and convincing view of Christ and faith and how it matters.  I know you want to be touched by His grace and learn to more faithfuly follow Him.  This will help.

How-God-Became-King.jpgHow God Became King: The Forgotten Story of the Gospels  (HarperOne) $25.99 There are a dozen reasons why we have missed the central heart of the gospel narratives, and how this announcement and teaching about the Kingdom coming is central to the entire Biblical story.  But there it is, heart and soul, front and center.  Wright takes our blinders off, invites us to consider why we’ve fudged on this stuff, and how to regain and truly Biblical picture of the nature of God and the saving work of Christ.  Christ does, in fact, rule the world, as the carol says.  Let Heaven and Nature Sing!  A must-read.


238261.gifFor Everyone series  Westminster/John Knox) 18 volumes;  $16.00 each.

These are perhaps like the old Barclay series, readable, jam-packed for of good information, interesting background insight, and a helpful illustration, helpful to snitch if one is a teacher or preacher.  A few of his readings are truly remarkable, powerfully helpful. Others are standard fare, nicely done.  What a fine and useful set, full of Wright-isms and that broad picture of seeing the New Testament developing among the first century followers of the Jewish Messiah, King Jesus.  Impressive, basic, helpful.   Buy the whole set of all 18 and we’ll work up a great deal.

The Kingdom New Testament: A Contemporary Translation  (HarperOne) $25.99  As theKingdom-New-Testament-EDITED-CROPPED.jpg best commentators usually do, Wright translates the text from the Greek line by line as he walks us through each book of his “For Everyone” commentaries.  He isn’t fully convinced the NRSV or the NIV get the words quite right, so with his expert knowledge and Kingdom vision, he re-translated the whole NT for each commentary.  Voila, he ended up with a whole New Testament.  Very neat.


Following Jesus: Biblical Reflections on Discipleship (Eerdmans) $14.00  I can’t tell you how much I love this book, how rich and insightful it is as it places Jesus squarely at the heart of most books of the New Testament.  That is, each chapter explores how Jesus is presented by various writers of the NT.  Makes a great small group study, good for an adult book club, or could be used to inspire a sermon series of class.  

For All God’s Worth: True Worship and the Calling of the Church  (Eerdmans) $13.00  I love this for its wonderful first half of short essays or sermons on worship. I love it for its wonderful second half of short essays or sermons on work.  That it bring together Sunday liturgy and our week-day service in the world, as two sorts of responding to God in worship is just brilliant.  We ought to sell these by the boat-load, and not sure why.  Maybe he was ahead of his time.  This is a book for today!

What Saint Paul Really Taught: Was Paul of Tarsus Really the Founder of Christianity (Eerdmans) $18.00  Before anybody talked about a “new” perspective on Paul, these short studies served to help us get a good handle on what Paul was about, his church planting and Kingdom preaching and gospel service. Part of the background, I think, is that he is replying to the criticism of Paul that he somehow created a view of Christian faith that wasn’t the same as Jesus’ own view, and superimposed his own systematic theology (and bigotries) on the early church.  Wright says we can’t dismiss Paul that easily, and, properly understood, we can see the continuity between Jesus and Paul.  Fantastic!

The Lord and His Prayer (Eerdmans) $10.00  What a great littl
e book on the Lord’s prayer.  I suppose this was a sermon series.  Very nicely done.

Reflecting the Glory: Meditations for Living Christ’s Life in the World  (Augsburg) $14.99 I suppose this is to be a Lenten study, but it certainly is perfect for Lent.  But it is great anytime!  The print is small but get a magnifying glass if you have to: this is one of the best daily devotionals we’ve ever seen. Drawing from various NT texts (and a bit from John) this is a truly tremendous book. Includes 53 entires, each with a short closing prayer, and a discussion guide in the back. Read it and then re-read it.  Written when he was Dean of Lichfield in England.

Small Faith–Great God  (IVP) $18.00  This was actually Wrights first book, printed in England in the 70s.  I loved his introduction when he admitted he has changed a bit since then (duh — of course) but that he feels these messages still hold up, and are soundly helpful today.  Very nice, about faith.  Risky, strong, stuff, very nicely done.

For All the Saints? Remembering the Christian Departed  (Morehouse) $12.00  There aren’t enough good books on this, and it not only illustrates his strong Anglican tradition and his knowledge about history, it makes a strong case that we need liturgies and practices around All Saint’s and All Soul’s Days.  Very thoughtful — you can see here some of the pastoral concerns that he explores in greater depth in Surprised by Hope.

The Meal Jesus Gave Us: Understanding Holy Communion (Westminster/John Knox) $13.00  A small, pocket sized paperback offering a rich meditation on the nature of the Eucharistic Last Supper.  Very basic, but yet moving, published by the Presbyterian Church (USA).  Nice.


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Bible scholar and church leader N.T. Wright coming to Hearts & Minds May 12th

Yeah, yeah, I know.  We have one of the coolest jobs around.  We complain about the lugging and lifting, the low profits and the long hours.  But seeing people buy books that can make a difference in their lives is still thrilling for us. (Did you see my column “Reading Matters” in The High Calling blog yesterday?)  The occasional gift of meeting an admired author or hosting a local event–and having so many friends and customers respond with enthusiasm–well, it reminds us that this indie bookstore thing is still viable. 

Dr. N.T. Wright is one of the most recognized, important Biblical scholars and churchwright.jpg leaders of our time.  I can’t name another world-class, scholarly leader who also writes books for ordinary lay people, who has bridged the gap between the academic guilds and local congregations.  I wrote about Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann in our previous BookNotes post, and his name comes to mind.  Dear Walt isn’t as well-known or appreciated in evangelical circles, though, and although he is deeply committed to the church, and preaches a lot, he hasn’t been a pastor and Bishop the way the Reverend Wright has. Nor has he gotten in the popular press (from Time to Colbert.)  In many ways, N.T. is in a class by himself.

MAY 12th 1:00 PM.
And so, we are very pleased to announce that this most significant scholar, author, pastor, church official, and now renowned professor–his classes aren’t easy, I’m told—at the prestigious University of St. Andrews in Edinburgh, Scotland, is dropping by Hearts & Minds on May 12th.  The informal reception will begin around 1:00 p.m.  Tom will autograph books, we will have some refreshments, and, Lord willing, we’ll have chairs out back for folks to linger in our back yard. 

Wright will not be lecturing or presenting material, although having met him, he is cordial and engaged, so we are hoping for good conversation.  Come and plan to “sit a spell.”  (There will be a few other authors present, too, by the way, friends who themselves are showing up to meet the man.)  We’re hoping Tom will enjoy our small town informality, and appreciate meeting Hearts & Minds fans and friends.  Like I said, this is one of the coolest jobs in the world.  You make it so, since an author appearance is a bust if folks don’t show up and buy some books. 

We anticipate that we will have a large crowd.  Parking is sparse here, so you’ll have to park in one of several lots behind churches and schools here in the area. (If it is raining, we’ll think quickly and get some shuttle thing going.)  Pray for good weather so folks don’t mind walking a few blocks from up or down the street here in Dallastown.

For those who can’t come—or those who may need a refresher course—I’m working on a hefty post describing his many books, old and new, academic and less so.  There is some controversy in some very conservative circles, about a bit of his work,  but we don’t fret about most of that.  His books are among our favorites and we highly commend them to you.

Here is a link to a wonderful overview of Wright’s life, faith journey, academic career, and a summary of his important work.  It’s a bit long but very interesting.

Below are two lovely, short video interviews explaining his vision for his last two books.  We have both books at a 20% discount for our mail-order friends for the next few days. First he describes the recent Simply Jesus: A New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did, and Why He Matters (HarperOne; $24.99) and in the next he talks about How God Became King: The Forgotten Story of the Gospels (HarperOne;.$25.95.) These are wonderful, wonderful books.  Enjoy these two trailers and help us spread the word, about the books and our party here with Tom on May 12th.  Thanks.

Simply Jesus
When God Became King

N.T. Wright

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Great discounts on books by Walter Brueggemann, Carolyn J. Sharp and Peter Enns.

I could wax eloquent about the three day Bible conference held at St. Thomas’ Episcopal Church, Whitemarsh that hosted us this past weekend.  Speakers were Walter Brueggemann (dramatic, poetic, evocative about the big-picture and passionate as ever), Carolyn Sharp (a gentle and Christ-shaped Yale Divinity School teacher of the Hebrew Bible, who happens to teach a class on the prophetic imagination of Dr. B) and Reformed Biblical scholar Peter Enns. (Enns is known by many as former editor of the Westminster Theology Journal, one of the most rigorous, conservative, academic theological journals around, and is known by some for his unfortunate departure from Westminster Theological Seminary.)

These three lively teachers were a great combo, offering what might be called canonical,walt talking.jpg critical, pastoral, imaginative messages on what the texts of the Bible tells us about the ways of the God of the Bible.  They invited us to stake our very lives on these often odd texts and dared to read them honestly, if creatively, sometimes one text over and against another.  Traditional scholars of the right and left might have considerable bones to pick with their neo-orthodox methodologies, but the gathered faithful were delighted as God’s Word was taken seriously, in its revelatory, unsettling, transformative, prophetic power, for us, there.  Kudos to Father Merek Zabriskie, the Rector of St. Thomas’ Whitemarsh for his nationally-known passion for getting folks to read the Bible through in a year. (Learn about The Bible Challenge here.)  And thanks to all who encouraged us as we promoted books, for those who were kind to us in our literary ministry.

For a quick overview that ruminates on some of the themes, read Peter Enn’s blog post from patheos about it.

boxes of book.jpgAs is often the case, we brought back some unsold books and rather than return them at great cost to ourselves, we pass some savings on to you.  These are not the only great books we had on display last weekend, but they are some that we think you’d like, that we have some room to discount deeply, and that we’d love to offer to our internet friends. Please use the link to the order form shown below.  We securely take most credit cards or can just send along a bill so you can pay by check later.  

See our special sale price listed after the regular retail price. 

Out of B.jpgOut of Babylon Walter Brueggemann (Abingdon) $15.00 SALE PRICE $10.00  You may know that Brueggemann nearly single-handedly helped Bible readers of our age appreciate the harsh significance of 587 BC and how the destruction of Jerusalem and the subsequent exile of Jews into Babylonian captivity remains a central, generative moment at the heart of the Old Testament.  Indeed, as Professor Brueggemann puts it, much of the Hebrew Bible was anticipating that dreadful judgement, and other portions reflect back upon it.  He scribbled on the flip chart a big descending arrow heading towards 587 and another flowing up out of it.  When he proclaimed that this is the very shape of Christian faith—with Christ’s death the analogue of Jewish captivity and exile, and resurrection hope the analogue to return after exile—we got chills.  Could this deeply Biblical metaphor (rooted in history, but more than mere historical reportage, freighted as it is with such deep layers of covenantal truth) be applied to today?  Is 9-11 our “zero hour”?  Are we now in Babylon, captive to pagan ideologies?  How does the recent awareness of the role of Empire—then and now—help us more accurately understand these Biblical texts?  How do we plumb the depths of these rich 8th century poets and preachers and live them within our own social location?  Out of Babylon includes top-notch essays (or are they sermons?) making this a fabulously useful book on one of Brueggemann’s most enduring insights and most generative tropes.

The more we learn to hear these passages and embrace them as formative for us, using the rhetoric and passion of Brueggemann’s own prophetic imagination, the more faithful we may be in our own navigations of the powers of this world.  You need to get this book!  

word that redescribes.jpgThe Word That Redescribes the World: The Bible and Discipleship Walter Brueggemann (Fortress) $35.00 SALE PRICE $17.00  I just love the heft and shape of this beautiful hardback, and cherish it, even as I don’t necessarily agree with all of it.  These are essays and sermons that try to get at how the Jewish and Christian Scriptures not only redescribe the world, but redefine the possible (as we reconstrue our worldview) and how this shape us into a community of missional discipleship.  Along the way, he shows how we must confront the attitudes and practices of consumption and aggression that so constrict our imaginations.  The “startling vision of human life opened up by the Scriptures” shows us how the church can be a counterculture.  There are over a dozen essays here, and I am convinced that  having the chance to ponder even a few of them are well worth the price of this volume.  Rich, loquacious, poetic and deeply insightful about the role of the Bible in shaping our imaginations and discipleship, this is a great example of Brueggemann’s Bible scholarship in service to the people of God.  This hardcover is going out of print, so get it while you can!

Message-of-the-Psalms-Brueggemann-Walter-9780806621203.jpgThe Message of the Psalms  Walter Brueggemann (Augsburg) $19.00 SALE PRICE $10.00  This is doubtlessly one of the most important and respected books written on the Psalms in our lifetime.  It is serious, without being scholarly.  In a nutshell that doesn’t do his deep rhetoric justice, he notes that there are three sorts of Psalms, which he famously calls psalms of orientation, disorientation and reorientation.  Some of us hear in that overtures of the themes of good creation, radical fall, and redemptive new creation.  Very useful, informative, highly recommended.

Praying the Psalms: Engaging Scripture and the Life of the Spirit  Walter Brueggemann (Wipf & Stock) $14.00 SALE PRICE $11.00  This is a 2nd edition of a great little book on how to pray using the Psalter.  Very handsome little paperback, rich and evocative.  It is not a daily devotional, although it has been called a classic of spirituality, allowing the Psalms to serve as an “antidote to
chronic forgetfulness.”

awed to h.jpgAwed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth: Prayers of Walter Brueggemann Walter Brueggemann (Fortress) $17.00 SALE PRICE $11.00  A fabulously nice collection of poem-prayers, beloved by thousands, in a very nice shaped paperback with French fold flaps.  Walt is renowned for these gloriously literate, honest, raw, poetic prayers, and it is cool that there are small notes indicating when and where each was offered.  Some are linked to very specific Bible texts, making them suitable for your own devotions and for use in worship settings. Wow.

great prayers of the ot.jpgGreat Prayers of the Old Testament  Westminster/John Knox) $15.00 SALE PRICE $8.00  Here is Walter doing his classic close readings of the text–observing what it says and doesn’t say–and often framing this by the broader theological and socio-political facts on the ground as the Bible story unfolds.  Some are royal, some are by prophets, some are rejoicing in exuberant gladness and some are gut-wrenching laments.  Here are prayers you’ve heard of and cherish, and a few you may not have considered before.  This is not only fascinating Bible study, but helps us learn a Biblically-informed way of praying, which is itself quite a formidable task, given all the common assumptions so many of us have about prayer and how it works.  This would be great for small groups or serious adult learners, too.  Look out!

practice of prophetic imagination.jpgThe Practice of Prophetic Imagination: Preaching an Emancipating Word  Walter Brueggemann (Fortress) $25.00  SALE PRICE $15.00  I’m not going to lie–there weren’t as many clergy at this event as we had anticipated, so we way over ordered on this.  Yet, it is spectacular, and I believe fruitful for anyone who wants to speak about, live out of, or dig deeper into what he famously calls “the prophetic imagination.”  How many years have we been waiting for a sequel to that classic, all-important book?  Want to read about “loss imagined” and “relinquishment” as he described so subversively so many years ago?  Want to learn how better to imagine the world, and explain it, “as if YHWH—the creator of the world, the deliverer of Israel, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ whom we Christians come to name as Father, Son, and Spirit—were a real character and an effective agent in the world”? This is the best deal your going to get on this heavy book, and I think it will be well worth the investment.

tesetimony to otherwise.jpgTestimony to Otherwise: The Witness of Elijah and Elisha Walter Brueggemann (Chalice) $19.99  SALE PRICE $15.00 What intriguing stories these are, and how creatively rendered in the dramatic hands of Dr. B.  I can just hear him, draaaawing out his syllables, retelling these stories, getting all frantic, skipping over inconsequential parts, making clever asides, and moving us to imagine the world otherwise.  You know one of these prophets is named in the last verse of the last book of the Old Testament, and early in the gospels, folks mistake John the Baptist for him.  That is, this is important stuff that I think we ought not forget.  I’m glad Walt brings this stuff to life.  As he notes, “These narratives do not speak loudly, do not argue, and do not overwhelm.  They are simply there in their durable simplicity, subtly waiting to be heard yet again, making available genuine choice and genuine possibility.”  Can the church today “recover its voice in a way that is unfettered and unencumbered by old habits?  This radical call to fidelity may be a way to help us to it.  Recommended.

disruptive g.jpgDisruptive Grace: Reflections on God, Scripture, and the Church  Walter Brueggemann, edited by Carolyn J. Sharp (Fortress) $35.00  SALE PRICE $22.00  I named this as one of the books of the year last year and for very good reason. Now that we’ve met Carolyn, we are all the more convinced that her guiding hand walking us through the Brueggemann corpus is very helpful. She is not so much of a fan that she is star-struck, and at the Bible conference at Whitemarsh she begged to differ more than once.  (Ahh, but ever so kindly.  What a grace this was, to see such vital, but gracious, scholarly discourse.)  Here, she gives excellent, serious summaries of what to look for in key Brueggemann writings, and then offers some of his “best of” pieces to illustrate his major contributions to the study of torah, prophets, and writings as well as a fourth section called “Canon and the Theological Imagination: Exodus and Resurrection.”  This is a great introduction for serious folk wanting to dig in deep, and a must-have for any fans.

old testament prophets for.jpgOld Testament Prophets for Today  Carolyn J. Sharp (Westminster/John Knox) $13.00 SALE PRICE $7.00  I love this entire handsome little set of books, with uniform type covers, on Biblical topics from the Psalms to the Parables.  This one is ideal for small groups, adult ed classes, or anyone who can’t quite afford a major library dedicated to commentaries on the major and minor prophets.  Carolyn nicely examines the texts with her own broad awareness of the  critical literature and interpretive schemes (she is very aware of various interpretive schools, the use of irony in the Hebrew Scriptures, how Near Eastern ideologies influence the forming of these Biblical books, and is clearly working out of a moderate, mainline perspective with a great desire to serve the church. ) It is written for lay folks, though, clearly written, with discussion questions at the end of each of 9 short chapters.  It is good and simple, a bit provocative, and nicely useful.  

i and i.jpgInspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament Peter Enns (BakerAcademic) $19.99 SALE PRICE $13.00  We have to be honest. There are things we know about the Bible that make us scratch our heads.  I’ve touted books here before documenting the great reliability of the Old Testament texts, but there are manuscript difficulties with which we must grapple.   Enns does not sweep some of the complex and complicated troubles with the Bible and within the Bible, under the proverbial rug.  More liberal, ecumenical, mainline scholars haven’t minded using critical m
ethods of deconstructing the texts, discussing the contradictions and such; many of us believe this was mostly unhelpful as the reliability of God’s written Word was seriously and needlessly eroded.  Yet, as Enns dramatically shows, it has not served evangelicals to insist on a 19th century view of inerrancy or to pretend that critical methods aren’t useful in some ways.  He discusses all this admirably here. This is, I suppose, the book that cost him his job.  For that reason alone–he has paid a price to get this stuff said—you may want to buy it, and see for yourself.  Scholars from reputable places like Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and of serious reputation such as Bruce Waltke, have given it very great reviews.  Enns has done fine work on Exodus (NIV Application Commentary published by Zondervan is highly recommended) and Ecclesiastes (Two Horizons Commentary series was published to great acclaim by Eerdmans) but this is his important book on how the Bible was written, how to read it, and how the worldview of Ancient Near East writers must be understood before we live into this story in our own time.

evolution of adam.jpgThe Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say About Human Origins  Peter Enns (Brazos) $17.99 SALE PRICE $10.00  Wow, what an important book, especially for those of us who want to take the Genesis creation stories with utmost seriousness and orthodoxy.  There are bold endorsements here from Scot McKnight, Tremper Longman, Amos Young and other Bible scholars of the evangelical tradition.  And, his colleague at BioLogos, Karl Giberson, a science writer, celebrates Enns as “one of America’s most important Old Testament scholars” and insists this is “masterful.”  This is extraordinary for its candor and clarity, offering huge insights about Biblical interpretation and about the very urgent questions about faith and evolutionary science.  Highly recommended.


noted above
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