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Modern Orthodox Thinkers
The Crucified God
Law And The Bible
The Elephant In The Church
Mission On The Road To Emmaus
The Cross Of Christ
Anglicanism
The Beauty And Glory Of The Holy Spirit
Priest, Poet and Theologian
Christ Crucified
Gathering Those Driven Away
The Big Book Of Christian Apologetics
A Faithful Guide To Philosophy
The Study Of Religion (2nd Edition)
Interpretation Of Scripture
Between A Rock And A Hard Place
The Image Of Christ In Modern Art
Theology And Sexuality
Soundings in the Religion of Jesus
Translating Religion
Being Human
Paradigm Shift
Immense, Unfathomed, Unconfined
Paul and the Law
From the Future
The Life and Witness of Peter
Compassion or Apocalypse?
Visions of Hope
Believing
Why are Women more Religious than Men?
The Historical Character of Jesus
The Tortoise Usually Wins
Redcrosse
Interpreting Deuteronomy
Christian Social Teachings
The Wound and the Blessing
Ethics Matters
Exploring the Religion of Ancient Israel
Moral Choice
True Feelings
Making Love Just
Unity In Process
Is Christianity Good for You?
By Faith And Reason: The Essential Keith Ward
The Mythology of Evolution
Why Religions Work
Existentialism and Christian Zen
Beyond the Pale
On Love
The Practice of Prophetic Imagination
The Words of Jesus
Saving Paradise
Creator Spirit
Grand Entrance
Luther
If God, Then What?
Science and Belief
Psalms As Torah
Making Sense of Sex
Turning to God
Fear and Friendship
Gift or a Given?
Resilient Pastors
Jesus the Christ
7 Truths That Changed the World


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Academic

Textbooks for Students and titles suitable for readers of Academic books.

Modern Orthodox Thinkers

- From the Philokalia To The Present

by Andrew Louth


Andrew Louth's new book is a brilliant addition to anyones theology shelves and is a strong accessible and approachable book on Orthodox theology and it's modern primary thinkers.

It is a good solid collection of introductions and overviews of the theology of the main orthodox thinkers from 1782 onwards and covers the range of orthodoxy from russian through to greek.


The chapters are not overly long but are detailed and insightful enough to provide a very good introduction and basic understanding of modern orthodox thought.
I would class it as being very much in line with, and akin to, an undergrad preliminary text book.


I found it to be a very good and welcomed introduction to modern orthodox thinkers and theology that is sure to make a number of reading lists in the future.



Review by Melanie Carroll  (31/07/15)
Jacket
Publisher: SPCK (Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge)
Published: August 2015
ISBN: 978-0-281-07127-2
Large paperback
Price: £25.00

The Crucified God

- 40th Anniversary Edition

by Jurgen Moltmann


This 40th Anniversary Edition comes with a new preface by Moltmann himself which is a wonderful reflection on the book's effect on both people, situations and theology through those years since it was written and in that preface we truly find why this book still speaks so loudly and will continue to be on reading lists for many years yet to come.

The Crucified God is theology of the heart, mind and soul ... a book that came out of personal experience and reflection and that echoes that just as the Crucified God did and still does now. Through the mirror of that pain and suffering we have a theology that speaks to man across times and situations and that Moltmann interpreted for us and presented in a clearly defined soteriology and ecclesiology that spoke to a generation ready for a new theology and understanding.

Well worth reading, and with the new preface this is a great edition of this foundational and influencing work.

 

 



Review by Melanie Carroll  (31/07/15)
Jacket
Publisher: SCM imprint of Hymns Ancient & Modern Ltd
Published: July 2015
ISBN: 978-0-334-05330-9
Paperback
Price: £19.99

Law And The Bible

- Justice, Mercy and Legal Institutions

by Ed. Robert F Cochran Jr. & David VanDrunen


This excellently written book looks at the law that is found in the Bible, and how the Bible can inform our thinking about civil law. 

It is very well researched, with both theological and legal scholars involved in writing each chapter. The book as a whole covers the whole of the Bible, and was an interesting and informative read. 

Owing to the size of the book, it necessarily covers some of the Bible in more detail than others, but overall provides an in depth and comprehensive overview on the law that can be found in the Bible and how this might interact with discussions about and formation of civil law. I found this book to be engaging and educational. 

 With a wide range of authors contributing, some chapters are more captivating than others, as can be expected, but all are well written. I particularly appreciated the contextual nature of it, with the relevant passages found in the Bible being applied to civil law as it is found at present and how the law might need to change to fit more harmoniously with the Bible’s teachings. 

 This book is definitely worth a read.


Review by Tim Hupfield  (19/06/15)
Jacket
Publisher: Apollos imprint of IVP
Published: October 2014
ISBN: 978-1-844-74923-2
Paperback
Price: £16.99

The Elephant In The Church

- A Womans Tract For Our Times

by Mary T Malone


This is a brilliant beginners introduction, or whistle-stop guide to the subject of Women’s Studies and Theology within the church. Primarily, it is within the Catholic Church, but given how much of church history overlaps with that of the Catholic Church as the norm this book still provides a great starter, especially for the subjects of the mystics, women in scripture, and women and monasticism.

 

However the sections on women in missions, the marian influence, and feminism are obviously much more specific to the catholic church, however this should not close the book to other church traditions because the underlying these of women being integral and yet hidden are the same within most church traditions, and this book does a wonderful job of elucidating these trends and highlighting the 'elephant' in the church.

 

A well written and easy to read book that is certainly worth spending time with for any woman, or for any man that want's to understand better.



Review by Melanie Carroll  (27/04/15)
Jacket
Publisher: Columba Press
Published: 28 December 2014
ISBN: 978-1-782-18132-3
Paperback
Price: £10.99

Mission On The Road To Emmaus

- Constants, Context and Prophetic Dialogue

by Ed. Cathy Ross & Stephen B Bevans


This was perhaps one of the most enjoyable academic books I have read in a very long while. With a well curated collection of essays from a range of scholars that look at mission through the contexts of Christology, Eschatology, Ecclesiology, Soteriology, Anthropology and finally Culture but with the emphasis and lense being on the prophetic dialogue and catalyst intrinsic in each of these areas for mission to be communal, active and central we have here a book that somehow blends the lines between academic and essentially practice based faith.

These essays are incredibly easy to read and find so many points of reference into the possibility of everyday faith and mission that in here is something that cannot help but help missiologists and missiological churches.

I was entranced by Notwehrs essay on Ecojustice, and her consideration of franciscan models amongst others .. and her short but very interesting paragraphs that deal with such topics of water crisis and global climate change.

Wild-wood's essay on Migration and  consideration of multicultural or single culture congregations, along with her wonderful overview of the Resident Alien and interculturality was again so key to many urban mission scenario's that it was a delight to read.

 Johnny Baker's essay on pioneering is a wonderful overview with deep insight...

 These are just three of the highlights for me personally, but all the essays were so good and had real bite and content that this book really has to be a must read for anyone involved in anyway in mission today.

The only sadness for me is that because this book is an academic book it comes with a high price tag that will sadly put it out of the reach of many people who would seriously gain real enjoyment and benefit from it, and I can only say that should you find the funds you will not regret investing them in this book.



Review by Melanie Carroll  (05/03/15)
Jacket
Publisher: SCM imprint of Hymns Ancient & Modern Ltd
Published: January 2015
ISBN: 978-0-334-04909-8
Paperback
Price: £35.00

The Cross Of Christ

- With Study Guide

by John Stott


A 2014 reprint of the 2006 Centenary edition of John Stott's amazing work on the Cross of Christ first printed in 1986, with the study guide that was later produced in 1989 included in it.
This is a weighty book indded as one would expect of such an important subject, but it is written in Stott's normal style and is therefore very readable , and yet with no lack of depth and insight to it for all it's approachableness.

Within the span of the 400+ pages Stott provides a clear explanation of the biblical and historical basis of most of the doctrine surrounding the crucifixion of Christ, however it is not just dry facts, there are here interesting and challenging questions that encourage us to think more about that which we sometimes simply just take as a given.

A modern classic to be sure and worthy of this reprint.



Review by Melanie Carroll  (31/01/15)
Jacket
Publisher: IVP(Inter Varsity Press)
Published: November 2006
ISBN: 978-1-844-74155-7
Hardback
Price: £17.99

Anglicanism

- Confidence, Commitement And Communion

by Martyn Percy


This is a substantive and insightful anglican work. It reflects the rich and reflexive Anglican tradition nurtured and flourishing in living and proclaiming the gospel of Christ. This book offers clear and differing glimpses of contemporary Anglicanism affecting Anglicans today, the pattern of mission and ministry, training and formation, along with identity and leadership. The differences and dilemmas across the Communion are explored well.
 
 
 
Percy's writing calls all to a deeper discipleship; to attend to its roots, identity and shape; and to inhabit the world with
a renewed commitment, confidence and Christ-centred purpose. THere is much here in the breadth and focus of these twelve chapters. Its shaping up to be an essential go-to title!  


Review by Johnny Douglas  (06/12/14)
Jacket
Publisher: Ashgate from Gardners Books
Published: September 2013
ISBN: 978-1-409-47036-6
Large paperback
Price: £17.99

The Beauty And Glory Of The Holy Spirit



by ed. Joel R Beeke


There has long been tension between the Reformed and Charismatic viewpoints as to the place and function of the Holy Spirit in today's Church. What is not in doubt is that the Holy Spirit is important in the life of individual Christians and in the wider Church. This book comes unashamedly from the Reformed tradition and comprises a number of essays, originally conference addresses, given in 2011 at the Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Divided into three parts it comprises: Biblical Studies, Doctrinal Studies and Historical Theological Studies, plus a pastoral perspective. Many of the contributors will be little known this side of the Atlantic but each one contributes a valuable study of the subject and seeks to guide the reader to a clear Biblical understanding of the person and work of the Holy Spirit. Any understanding of the Holy Spirit needs to be grounded firmly in Scripture and each essay seeks to do just that. The book also contains a useful final chapter on the King James Version. Although not everyone will agree with everything contained in it, the book would be very useful to have on the shelf, particularly for preachers and theological students, whether in the Reformed tradition of the Church or not.

Review by Graham Wise  (08/12/14)
Jacket
Publisher: Reformation Heritage Books from EP
Published: 16 August 2012
ISBN: 978-1-601-78184-0
Hardback
Price: £18.99

Priest, Poet and Theologian

- Essays In Honour Of Anthony Kelly CSsR

by ed. neil Ormerond & Robert Gascoigne


This 75th birthday tribute to the highly regarded Australian priest and  professor, Anthony Kelly, contains essays by 14 of his eminent friends and colleagues, many of whom did their doctoral studies under his supervision. Evidently, just one of his gifts is as a supervisor.

 

The essays are put under three headings, Theology, Spirituality and Contemporary Issues.

 

This indicates  the range of areas in which Kelly is a respected thinker and writer. You will  find stimulating essays on biblical topics from St. Paul and Mark's Gospel, plus others on a range of subjects including science and religion, theology and poetry, even business leadership, and much else besides.

 

So there's plenty of  variety here, not at all a narrow collection, and you will find much food for  thought. 



Review by Barry Vendy  (21/11/14)
Jacket
Publisher: Mosaic Resources distributed by Alban Books
Published: May 2013
ISBN: 978-1-743-24039-7
Paperback
Price: £22.99

Christ Crucified

- Understanding The Atonement

by Donald Macleod


Donald Macleod—formerly Professor of Systematic Theology at Free Church College, Edinburgh and later its Principal—is known for his work on the theology of the Cross. Therefore the subject matter of this book is unsurprising. Its subtitle ‘Understanding the Atonement' clearly indicates his mission here to aim to bring understanding of the Doctrine of the Atonement and to explain and make it relevant to a 21st century readership.

The work is scholarly throughout as one might expect drawing on a very wide range of writers, thinkers and biblical references. However, that the work is his own independent thought is stressed in the Preface:

‘I have tried ... to keep quotations to a minimum and some of the omissions will seem very strange. But it is precisely to such works as John Stott's The Cross of Christ and James Packer's What Did the Cross Achieve? that my debt is greatest: so great that had I returned to them in the course of preparing this volume it might well have ended up as no more than a rewrite of theirs.'

Nevertheless every contribution on the subject are is here and more.

Its value is perhaps best summed up by Robert Letham of Wales Evangelical School of Theology who says:

‘It should be required reading for students, theologians, ministers and anyone interested in learning about the stupendous atoning work of Christ.'

It is a book which certainly pulls no punches in its message and attempts to answer the questions and problems which others have posed in relation to the atonement.



Review by Jon Mayled  (24/11/14)
Jacket
Publisher: IVP(Inter Varsity Press)
Published: March 2014
ISBN: 978-1-783-59101-5
Paperback
Price: £16.99

Gathering Those Driven Away

- A Theology Of Incarnation

by Wendy Farley


Wendy Farley's book is a work that is both an academic and engrossing look at the Theology of Incarnation from the outside in—looking at the disenfranchised she discourses about community, she opens the door to the subject that the very nature of Incarnation is that it is a doctrine of radical acceptance and inclusion, how can it possibly be otherwise.

Using the experiences of feminists and others she identifies where we fail to see wisdom incarnated, where we overlook the radical dimensions we are called to reflect and take on within ourselves to truly embody the doctrine of Incarnation within our faith community.

This is a strong book and one that  is a definite must read for anyone wanting to really reflect on the nature of the incarnation and the idea of Wisdom, Divinity and Humanity.



Review by Melanie Carroll  (01/10/14)
Jacket
Publisher: Westminster John Knox Press from Hymns Ancient & Modern Ltd
Published: September 2011
ISBN: 978-0-664-23321-1
Paperback
Price: £19.99

The Big Book Of Christian Apologetics

- An A - Z Guide

by Norman L Geisler


Along with commentaries, reference books must be among the most useful on a minister's bookshelf. The Big Book of Christian Apologetics is just that, running to almost 700 pages with an extensive 37-page bibliography and a useful Scripture and Apocrypha Index. There is also an index of articles.

The A to Z guide contains numerous articles useful to the minister and the teacher, and covers not only subjects apposite to Christian Faith but also biographical subjects and many relating to other non-Christian faiths. Many of the articles are cross-referenced to others on related subjects.

Here is a comprehensive resource which will help in defending and explaining the Christian Faith and well worth having on the shelf.



Review by Graham Wise  (10/10/14)
Jacket
Publisher: Baker Books imprint of Baker Pub. from Lion
Published: February 2013
ISBN: 978-0-801-01417-8
Paperback
Price: £15.99

A Faithful Guide To Philosophy

- A Christian Introduction To The Love Of Wisdom

by Peter S Williams


‘A Faithful Guide to Philosophy' attempts to be an introduction to philosophy particularly focusing on those areas which are most important and applicable to the Christian faith. I found this to be an excellent book; it is wide ranging and the author's style and writing skill make even complicated philosophical arguments clear and understandable.

The book is split into four parts:

Part 1: An introduction to philosophy and logic which discusses what philosophy is and explains the features of good and bad arguments.

Part 2: This chapter describes in detail different philosophical arguments for the existence of God.

Part 3: A discussion about the philosophy of mind, about consciousness and free will.

Part 4: This begins with a discussion of aesthetics and objective beauty and moves on to exploring the relationship between science and theology and then ‘the problem of evil'.

As well as the thorough and excellent content this book is has an enormous number of suggestions for further reading/exploration—not just other books and papers but also written material and audio and video clips that can be found online; these can be found throughout each chapter as well as (different suggestions) at the end of each chapter. Each chapter contains a few questions for thought, discussion and exploration also.

Whether as an individual or group read or for use in a study group this book is a fantastic read. The lack of assumption of background knowledge makes it accessible to all and I highly recommend it.



Review by Tim Hupfield  (25/07/14)
Jacket
Publisher: Paternoster Press imprint of Authentic Media
Published: June 2013
ISBN: 978-1-842-27811-6
Paperback
Price: £13.99

The Study Of Religion (2nd Edition)

- An Introduction To Key Ideas And Methods

by George D. Chryssides & Ron Greaves


This is not a book that looks at Religions, it is much more important than that, as it is a book that looks at how to study religion—any religion.

It takes a detailed and comprehensive look at the different methodology and key points involved in studying religion. For instance considering the underlying anthroloplogical structure of a religion, the statistical analysis—what, why, how, key figures in the study of religion.

It's a great starters guide for anyone approaching any serious academic study of religion, and it is is British based so on key and relevant to British universities and contexts.



Review by Melanie Carroll  (07/06/14)
Jacket
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Published: January 2014
ISBN: 978-1-780-93840-0
Paperback
Price: £22.99

Interpretation Of Scripture

- Theory (VTT 3)

by Ed. Franklin T harkins & Frans Van Liere


 

The middle ages were a turbulent time in the church as in society but it was also an age rich in theological and spiritual writing. One particular centre of note was the Augustinian Abbey of Saint Victor in Paris which gave rise to the Victorine theological tradition. This tradition proved critical in the transition from the meditative to more scholastic approaches to spiritual writing and reflection.

This is the third in a series of academic volumes that presents some of the writings of this school of theology, many in English for the first time. Five writers are the focus of the volume: Hugh, Andrew, Richard and Godfrey of St Victor and Robert of Melun. Each set of writings is prefaced by a helpful introduction, and all are preceded by a general introduction that sets the overall context for their writings. The volume is accompanied by extensive indexes and a bibliography that alone runs to almost thirty pages.

For specialists of the theology of the Middle Ages this volume will prove enticing, even exciting. For the ordinary reader, of which I am definitely one, the subject matter feels remote from the more pressing tasks of Christian living in the 21st century. I have read sufficiently of this volume however to know that this is a false premise. Take this from Hugh of St Victor on humility: "Humility is the beginning of discipline. Whereas the lessons of humility are many; these three are particularly pertinent to the student: first, he should consider no knowledge and no written works worthless; second he should not be ashamed to learn from anyone; and third, when he has become learned he should not hold others in contempt.”

Perhaps in time someone will make these Fathers of the Church, their lives and writings, more accessible. There is much here we need to hear.


 



Review by David Ford  (05/07/14)
Jacket
Publisher: New City
Published: April 2013
ISBN: 978-1-565-48478-8
Paperback
Price: £27.50

Between A Rock And A Hard Place

- Public Theology In A Post-Secular Age

by Elaine Graham


It is really hard to know where to start with this book, but that's only because it is just so good! Each chapter is a strong, considered and insightful treatise on issues of real relevance and import in today's modern world, where faith intersects with society.

This book is definitely an academic workthe price tag at an amazingly steep £55 clearly demonstrates thisand can I say that it really is an injustice to have priced this book like that. This is a book that could easily have been sold into a much wider market had it been better priced.

Well written, with clear and thoughtful presentation, it is a work that reads well, and which engages with and 'talks' to it's audiencewhich is perfect given its subject is Pubic Theology!

For me each chapter kept getting better, but for topical reference then the chapter Crusades and Culture Wars was very strong, dealing, as it does, with Evangelical Identity Politics, and a brilliant consideration of how these work and how they have shifted in identification over time (although in some ways not at all!) was well worth the reading. Another thing that makes this book so strong of course is that is it britcentric and so totally culturally relevant in a way many other books on similar subjects sometimes aren't.

This book is well worth reading, the price tag may well put it beyond reach for many people so I would suggest perhaps it could be purchase for a parish library and then well and profitably borrowed by many.



Review by Melanie Carroll  (06/06/14)
Jacket
Publisher: SCM imprint of Hymns Ancient & Modern Ltd
Published: November 2013
ISBN: 978-0-334-04598-4
Paperback
Price: £55.00

The Image Of Christ In Modern Art



by Richard Harries


This really is a beautiful book for anyone interested in Art and theology, and how Art and Artists show and demonstrate the thoughts and feelings of their time, how artists reflect the zeitgeist of culture.
This book really shows how through the changing styles we can see a reflection of the changing dynamics of theology through studying how the art that portraits the Image of Christ changed and is changing.
Richard Harries has done a grand job of highlighting artists that juxtapose each other and reflect the changing dynamics of both art as a subject but also social theological reflection. The images in the book are not large but are well worth looking at and really reflecting on, and the background to the artists, the time in which they were working, and the particular art images being represented is very good and quite thorough - as is the overview consideration of how these work within the christian theological narratives of the time.
This book is one just for people that love art, but it is also an almost essential reference tool for anyone that would like to incorporate more imagery within their pastoral work... in my mind an almost essential book for schools, youth workers or ministers of any denomination to have on their shelves.

Review by Melanie Carroll  (06/06/14)
Jacket
Publisher: Ashgate from Gardners Books
Published: October 2013
ISBN: 978-1-409-46382-5
Paperback
Price: £19.99

Theology And Sexuality

- SCM Core Texts

by Susannah Cornwall


From celibacy, virginity and marriage to polyamory, bisexuality and prostitution, this book provides a broad overview of the whole area of sexuality and how it relates to Christian theology. It also looks at specific topics, such as homosexuality, from both Church of England and Roman Catholic standpoints.

The author is very largely successful in her attempt to give a completely unbiased account of the different ways Christians have tackled the whole range of issues surrounding sexuality, sex and gender.

Cornwall's approach and style of writing make this book very easy to read even for those with little knowledge of this topic or even more general theology; this is aided by a comprehensive glossary. Questions and activities both at the end of chapters and within them encourage contemplation on the issues discussed and each chapter has suggestions for further reading.

I thought this book was well written—even when bringing together several different viewpoints for the same issue the lines of argument were clear and easy to understand. Whilst primarily a textbook aimed at theology students, as with all of the SCM Classics series, I found it accessible as an individual and can see it being equally so in a parish study group setting.

An introductory sweep of this topic it is both accessible by everyone and very broad in its scope; I think this book is excellent and would definitely recommend it.



Review by Tim Hupfield  (16/04/14)
Jacket
Publisher: SCM imprint of Hymns Ancient & Modern Ltd
Published: April 2013
ISBN: 978-0-334-04530-4
Paperback
Price: £25.00

Soundings in the Religion of Jesus

- Perspectives and Methods In Jewish and Christian Scholarship

Ed. Bruce Chiltern, Anthony le Donne, Jacob Neusner


The foreword to this volume presents the objective of the book: can a consideration of Jesus' Jewishness benefit Jewish-Christian dialogue? This book - a collection of essays from some of the world's most outstanding scholars in their field - applies the well-established search for the historical Jesus to this narrower field of inter-faith relations. It is important if, for most Christians, marginal work. For while the Jewish nature of Jesus helps us to understand him and the impact of Judaism on emergent Christianity, the much more thorny issue of anti-Semitism is always lurking not far beneath the surface.

The book is divided into four parts. The first looks at the Jesus of the New Testament, the second explores early Jewish and gentile perspectives of Jesus, the third considers Jesus research before and after German National Socialism and the final section concludes with a jointly written reflection on the place of Jesus in Jewish-Christian dialogue. Extensive notes, bibliography and indexes accompany the text as is expected of a serious academic work of theology.

Given the history of the two faiths over the past two thousand years and the theological breadth of both faiths today, every step towards mutual respect and understanding is to be warmly welcomed. Theological enquiry cannot avoid difficult questions or topics; indeed addressing historical and current conflict between faiths is an essential part of establishing meaningful dialogue.

This volume is a welcome participant in this process. It won't top bestseller lists, but it does represent a serious contribution to a dialogue most Christians and Jews never embark upon. Perhaps we should.



Review by David Ford  (17/03/14)
Jacket
Publisher: Fortress Press from Alban Books
Published: August 2012
ISBN: 978-0-800-69801-0
Paperback
Price: £32.99

Translating Religion

- (College Theology Society Annual Volume 58)

Ed. Mary Doak & Anita Houck


The academic nature of this volume - the 2012 edition of the Annual Publication of the College Theology Society - is probably sufficient to put many readers off from even approaching the text. Yet the subject matter is vital. Ever since the publication of Vincent Donovan's remarkable book Christianity Rediscovered in 1982, theologians have increasingly been focusing on the challenge of how faith is communicated across culture and the impact this has on the faith of all involved. Translating Religion has an even broader remit and deserves reflection by all those for whom the communication of religion in diverse and challenging contexts is important.

A collection of fifteen essays by a variety of academics, the book is divided into three parts. Part 1 is concerned with the traditional issue of translating texts; Part 2 considers translations in cross-cultural and rapidly changing contexts; Part 3 moves the debate into the area of inter-faith relations.

The question posed in the title of the introduction conveys something of the landscape into which this volume speaks: "Can you explain Purgatory in terms of Karma?" Here we have two distinctive theological ideas, the understanding of either is almost certainly to be culturally defined. Yet the challenge is even greater than this perhaps, especially in those contexts where communities no longer share any concepts of religious doctrine or tradition. This includes, of course, vast swathes of Western Europe today. Just where do you start in a deeply secular context?

This is an important collection of essays and it is to be hoped that some of the themes will be explored in more accessible texts in time.



Review by David Ford  (17/01/14)
Jacket
Publisher: Orbis Books from Alban Books
Published: June 2013
ISBN: 978-1-626-98018-1
Paperback
Price: £23.99

Being Human

- Groundwork For A Theological Anthropology For The 21st Century

by Ed. David G Kirchhoffer


This is a rich serving of theological anthropology. There's a rare breadth and depth plumbed in this offering. The core question of what it means to be human is well progressed here. Old and new perspectives are hosted with depth, dialogue, and respect.  

A variety of philosophical, anthropological, and theological approaches converge on themes of God, world and history. But much more than just this. Though this is clearly a niche title. It deserves more than just an academic readership. The detail is helpful for all who would enquire.

Your thinking will be well served and stretched by this title. This is technically written, well thought-out and includes lots of footnotes to resource future reading and research.

The chapters on ‘the incarnation and human sensibility', and ‘the love of nothing and the limits of knowledge', were some of my favourite parts of this work. My only greater wish had been that there was a substantive closing chapter that threaded together some common themes, new perspectives, and concluding provocation.

The contribution of this multi-authored book brings a valuable contribution. Here's to more!



Review by Johnny Douglas  (23/12/13)
Jacket
Publisher: Mosaic Resources distributed by Alban Books
Published: July 2013
ISBN: 978-1-743-24040-3
Paperback
Price: £25.99

Paradigm Shift

- A Scientist's Journey Through Experiment To Faith

by Roy Peacock


The lion's share of this "memoir" is consumed by the author's astonishing Christian life. It opens well with an amusing, and honest portrait of his early years. I warmed to his self-deprecatory humour, humility, and ability as a thermodynamics engineer.
His distinguished engineering career is given insufficient prominence, but there are good snippets, and his interesting appendix of The Laws of Thermodynamics might have been better earlier in the text.

When young, he attended church but remained an atheist, until the conversion of his young wife began a surprising turnabout. Changes in her behaviour and enduring "grin" are accepted by Peacock as experimental evidence for the existence of God, without any additional scientific or philosophical arguments to be expected from a self-confessed "intellectual".

When Peacock himself was challenged by a missionary, he jumps again to the conclusion that God is at work. A dream or "vision"—one of many in the book—leads to his own conversion and he walks out of church feeling "as if the tectonic plates upon which my life was founded had taken a massive shift".

To Peacock, God is a miracle worker: Gen. 1:2 reverses the second law of thermodynamics, when the Creator turns initial "chaos" into order. Miracles multiply in Roy's life from house moves to two cases of helping to raise people from the dead, despite, he says, its violation of entropy.

He is catapulted into preaching on the Methodist circuit, which led to a successful worldwide healing ministry, initially combined with his research into fluid mechanics and aeronautics but eventually as a full time minister leading many to be "born again", including in his workplace, a Fellow and librarian at Cambridge.

"Christian lives [have] twofold essentials...the word of God [which he takes literally] and the faith to see it put into practice." But he admits that "faith is not certainty". Yet he is certain of his many answers to prayer and conversations with God, whom he heard speaking audibly once.

He is aware that "anybody reading these chapters could be excused for concluding that this is a manifesto of triumphalism, where every incident...is met by the introduction of the Lord Jesus at a critical moment, and the miracles flow...but it hasn't been quite like that". He acknowledges family health issues, but even these turn out better than most families experience! Indeed, he affirms, "The God I served was in total control".

That has theological implications that go unexamined: here is a God with favourites, who privileges Peacock's life and the people he ministers to (though he is not always a successful healer), leaving the majority of us with insufficient evidence of an interventionist God and without the "reasonable pathways" to Christian belief that I describe in my own "Contemporary Creed". Much as readers may admire Peacock's outstanding faith and ministry, some will expect more reality from a successful engineer.



Review by John Morris  (03/12/13)
Jacket
Publisher: Authentic Media
Published: October 2013
ISBN: 978-1-780-78098-6
Paperback
Price: £8.99

Immense, Unfathomed, Unconfined

- The Grace Of God In Creation, Church and Community

ed. Sean Winter


Sean Winter powerfully brings together the impact of grace themes in the Methodist ministry of Norman Young. Gospel diversity in worship, grumbling, teaching journey, grace, stewardship, tradition and more are well unpacked in these varied twenty-five chapters.

It's a dense, insightful, bright volume.

Wesleyan universal love was the for me the most controversial chapter, the lack of a conclusion that offered Winter's insights, critique and unifying sense as to what matters most in Young's legacy would have added greatly.

The centrality of mystery unpacked as the discernable pathway of grace, emerges beautifully through the weave of these stand alone essays.



Review by Johnny Douglas  (15/11/13)
Jacket
Publisher: Mosaic Resources distributed by Alban Books
Published: July 2013
ISBN: 978-1-743-24046-5
Paperback
Price: £27.99

Paul and the Law

- Keeping the commandments of God

by Brian S Rosner


"For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God" (1 Cor. 7.19). This single quotation from Paul neatly summarises the challenge that Brian Rosner seeks to address in his readable, engaging and original exploration of Paul's relationship with the Law. It is a monumental task and one that Rosner neatly completes in 249 pages. After all, as Rosner cites "some doubt whether Paul himself knew what he was writing about".

The search for consistency in Paul has occupied many a theologian's academic career; arguments continue to rage, of course, as to which letters are of Paul and which are Pauline. Some solve this predicament by focusing only on Romans and Galatians, an approach Rosner firmly rejects.

Instead Rosner seeks a hermeneutical solution in a study that extends across 9 of the 13 books that comprise the corpus of Paul. He identifies a three-stage process that is evident - to different degrees - in all of Paul's letters (setting aside the very short epistles). Rosner argues that with consistency Paul repudiates, replaces and reappropriates (as prophecy or wisdom) the law. These "signature steps" are clearly evident and provide the basis for discerning a unity in Paul's writing that otherwise can easily elude us.

The excellence of Paul and the Law extends beyond the readable text to the clarity of Rosner's tabular presentation of his arguments and comprehensive indexes.



Review by David Ford  (31/10/13)
Jacket
Publisher: IVP(Inter Varsity Press)
Published: June 2013
ISBN: 978-1-844-74891-4
Paperback
Price: £14.99

From the Future

- Getting to Grips with Pannenberg's Thought

by John McClean


John McClean has done every student of Pannenberg a great service in writing this thoughtful and engaging book on the theology of Wolfhart Pannenberg. He readily admits that Pennenberg's project is vast and complex, and seeks to give a general introduction to his thought, before tackling the major doctrines that make Pannenberg a unique and important theologian. As would be expected when reading an introduction to a major twentieth century theologian, McClean's book only begins to tackle the various aspects of Pannenberg's thought. But he does so in a clear and readable style, which is highly commendable considering the difficulty faced by many attempting getting to grips with Pannenberg. From the Future should be the first place to start when starting to explore Pannenberg - it provides the perfect survey of his work for any potential student and a well-reasoned argument for his importance for the wider Christian world.

Review by Tim Goodall  (18/09/13)
Jacket
Publisher: Paternoster Press imprint of Authentic Media
Published: April 2013
ISBN: 978-1-842-27756-0
Paperback
Price: £9.99

The Life and Witness of Peter



by Larry Helyer


"Biblical scholars often comment on the relative neglect of Peter's theology." This book attempts to go some way in addressing this gap. Larry Helyer carefully and methodically looks for information and clues - explicit, inferred and those of disputed reliability - to piece together as fully as possible the key aspects of Petrine theology.

Helyer starts with Peter's appearances in the Gospels and Acts and moves on through mentions of Peter in Paul's letters to an examination of the two letters traditionally attributed to Peter. He discusses overt mentions of Peter and meticulously and thoroughly teases out possible signposts to aspects of his theology. The veracity of each point is explored and arguments for and against their inclusion in the overall picture of Peter's theology discussed. Helyer also includes a chapter specifically about Peter's Christology. The author ends by exploring the traditions and legends that surround Peter and the legacy left by him, including a brief discussion of non-canonical works that mention or have been ascribed to Peter.

I found this book to be methodical and comprehensive; I particularly appreciated the clear and thorough discussions on the relative merits and reliability of the different traditions and sources of information. Despite these extensive discussions I also found the book to be refreshingly easy to read. If you are looking to find out more about the theology of this most prominent yet elusive apostle then I would certainly recommend this book.



Review by Tim Hupfield  (04/09/13)
Jacket
Publisher: IVP(Inter Varsity Press)
Published: November 2012
ISBN: 978-1-844-74600-2
Paperback
Price: £16.99

Compassion or Apocalypse?

- A comprehensible guide to the thought of René Girard

by James Warren


I think the short forward by Brian McLaren largely talking about the author being a magician, perfectly sets this book up, as James Warren is a real magician and weaves real magic in this book as he works through literary philosopher René Girard's thought and turns a complex set of ideas into something much easier to understand. Even better it is turned into something enjoyable to read, and all of this without dumbing it down to the nth degree but rather building it up into something comprehensible, insightful, intriguing and thought provoking. Dealing with Girard's mimetic theory is no easy task, and yet Warren has done it well, teasing out the idea of Scapegoat Mechanism, the Violence of God, Myth and Murder and the many other complex and divisionary subjects that are at the heart of Girard's work, so that at the end of it you come out feeling you have at last a real chance of seeing what Girard was actually trying to convey. An excellent book on Girard's work and one that has to be essential reading for any undergraduate or indeed anyone that wants to understand Girard's work better.

Review by Melanie Carroll  (06/08/13)
Jacket
Publisher: O Books imprint of John Hunt Publishing Ltd
Published: May 2013
ISBN: 978-1-782-79073-0
Paperback
Price: £17.99

Visions of Hope

- Emerging Theologians and the Future of the Church

edited Kevin J Ahern


Wow, what a fantastic book, filled with a host of young Catholic theologians' thoughts on a range of ideas that are at once new and old, new "emerging" theologies and traditions that arise in the light of, and because of, Vatican II. Can I also say what a perfect book this is too with the new words coming out of the Vatican from Pope Francis - this book surely can help articulate where the church could be going and how it's getting there for those not quite aware of what is going on at a theological level within the Catholic church. Sit down, grab a good cup of coffee and dive into some really refreshing, deep, insightful and intelligent theology that looks at really vibrant topics of real worth and consideration. New Communities, racism, sacramental theology, local church, changing diaconate, interfaith and a whole slew of other topics are covered here in this exciting (and yes I did use that word about an academic book!) look at modern catholic theology.

Review by Melanie Carroll  (06/08/13)
Jacket
Publisher: Orbis Books from Alban Books
Published: May 2013
ISBN: 978-1-626-98016-7
Paperback
Price: £26.99

Believing



by Eugene Kennedy


A really interesting book that is part history, part philosophy, part psychological study of the concept of believing. What is believing, what is faith, what is doubt, how do these ideas all come together, work together, and how can they in and of themselves alter our perception of belief, change our views and define what we believe in and indeed who we are? It's an incredible journey and contemplation that really challenges the reader on a number of levels and issues. It must be pointed out that the book is written by a Roman Catholic and as such is based largely around Catholic traditions and doctrines, but this does not in any way invalidate much of the intent of the book, and indeed builds it up for those from within the Catholic Church, or with an interest in Catholic theology and theologians. It's an academic book, yes, but one that nevertheless reads as a contemplative consideration that opens it in tone and scope to a much wider audience. If the nature of belief is of interest to you then this book is one you will probably get an awful lot from.

Review by Melanie Carroll  (06/08/13)
Jacket
Publisher: Orbis Books from Alban Books
Published: May 2013
ISBN: 978-1-626-98017-4
Paperback
Price: £12.99

Why are Women more Religious than Men?



by Marta Trzebiatowska and Steve Bruce


This is a fascinating exploration into what we all know to be true - women are more religious than men. In times past the posing of this question would have seemed bizarre. Faith was ubiquitous and gender studies were non-existent. Today our fascination with both secularisation and gender differences makes the question highly relevant.

Following a brief historical sojourn to establish the truth of the question, the authors explore this further with chapters that cover a wide range of conventional and innovative religious traditions. Having clearly established the apparent predisposition of women towards religion the authors consider the impact of gender attitudes, attitudes towards risk, lifestyle roles and secularisation. With each study the authors identify sometimes subtle, sometimes stark gender differences that impact on attitudes towards religion.

The answer the authors reach to their title question is that a combination of gender related issues - such as the caring and nurturing role that women disproportionately fulfil and the macho images associated with men - lead women to appear to be more religious than men. However this is not the end of the story; the authors argue that the process of secularisation has affected men more swiftly than women and that in time these differences in religious adherence will erode.

Academic studies into religions that are not in themselves works of faith offer the reader a refreshing insight into how faith is perceived. For those trying to attract men into church this book suggests perhaps that we need to focus not on trying to make church more appealing to men by focusing on their "manly" hobbies and traits, but by trying instead to nurture their caring identities, which after all, are not biological but socially inherited. A good read for those interested in delving deeper into a fascinating area of our common life.



Review by David Ford  (11/06/13)
Jacket
Publisher: Oxford University Press (OUP)
Published: September 2012
ISBN: 978-0-199-60810-2
Hardback
Price: £25.00

The Historical Character of Jesus

- Canonical insights from outside the Gospels

by David M Allen


The four Gospels are full of detail about the life, character and personality of Jesus; the rest of the New Testament is far less so. Those books that do mention Jesus frequently often talk about Jesus Christ, the risen, ascended Lord. In this book David Allen focuses on "Jesusology" rather than Christology; he examines the non-Gospel canon of the New Testament looking for information, signposts and clues that might inform our understanding of the historical, earthly Jesus most easily found in the Gospels.

I found, perhaps unsurprisingly, there to be nothing ground breaking revealed about Jesus in David Allen's examination of the non-Gospel New Testament canon. However, his careful and thorough discussion of the ways in which information might be gleaned from writing that is far from explicit in its discussion of the "remembered Jesus" was informative, both in what could be said about Jesus and also the ways in which texts can be approached, studied and analysed.

Stepping outside the Gospel accounts with this book furthered my understanding that "the canonical Jesus is the historical Jesus remembered, followed and obeyed"; if you're looking to understand more about the "historical character of Jesus" then this book is definitely worth a read.



Review by Tim Hupfield  (11/06/13)
Jacket
Publisher: SPCK (Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge)
Published: March 2013
ISBN: 978-0-281-06470-0
Paperback
Price: £16.99

The Tortoise Usually Wins

- Biblical Reflections On Quiet Leadership for Reluctant Leaders

by Brian Harris


The Tortoise Usually Wins is a brilliantly insightful but challenging read. A book reflecting on quiet leadership for reluctant leaders is of course bound to be challenging to those reluctant leaders, but this book challenges on more than that front. It's challenging because despite its light hearted title it is an academic book at heart - not the heaviest admittedly but you will find jargon and an assumption of a certain level of knowledge within it. That said it tries to mitigate this by providing brief overview summaries of the theological and ethical stances used, and diagrams, charts, tables, interviews and reflection questions are also an attempt to make this an accessible tool for those in quiet (situational) leadership and on the whole
it succeeds.

At heart it's a practical book designed for those coming to leadership, there are Biblical reflections throughout the book, however I'm not sure that I'd really say that they were the main focus of the book, so much as the catalyst or insight used for those looking to develop and be developed, and a framework to hang the practical work on and in this respect it works. So do you as the reader and the developing leader, but then maybe that's exactly as it should be, after all if you weren't plodding away and working at it then you'd likely be the hare instead of the tortoise, and as the book's titles points out... "the tortoise usually wins".

Review by Melanie Carroll  (21/05/13)
Jacket
Publisher: Paternoster Press imprint of Authentic Media
Published: April 2013
ISBN: 978-1-842-27787-4
Paperback
Price: £9.99

Redcrosse

- Remaking Religious Poetry for Today's World

editor Ewan Fernie


What is Redcrosse? It's a celebration of England and Saint George and an attempt to "re-imagine the story of Englishness we English tell ourselves". It started life as an academic project, based on the epic allegorical poem, The Faerie Queene, by Edmund Spenser (born c.1552), whose first book has the title "The Legend of the Knight of the Red Crosse". The project led to a celebratory liturgy at St. George's Chapel, Windsor and Manchester Cathedral in 2011. The text of the liturgy is included in this volume. It contains poems by Andrew Motion and others, specially commissioned music and the Collect of St George. There are also 6 "reflections" on Redcrosse, all but one of them by people involved in the discussions that led up to the celebration. Andrew Shanks comments in his essay that the whole project was an "experiment", aiming to "uphold for scrutiny a certain impossible ideal". Other contributors tackle such issues as the nature of patriotism, liturgy versus propaganda, allegory and the poetic work of Edmund Spenser himself. The Faerie Queene is not read uncritically. John Milbank finds Spenser guilty of paranoia in some aspects of the poem, which can only be a starting point. Does Redcrosse achieve the aim it set itself of answering questions such as "What is this England?" and "What does St George stand for?" Opinions will differ. I was left feeling that actually participating in the Liturgy would be more valuable than just reading it or reading about it. Does it ever take place now?

Review by Barry Vendy  (02/04/13)
Jacket
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Published: November 2012
ISBN: 978-1-441-13899-6
Paperback
Price: £16.99

Interpreting Deuteronomy

- Issues and Approaches

edited by David G Firth & Philip S Johnston


This would be a useful book for a minister or pastor planning to preach a series of sermons on Deuteronomy. It is academic and therefore, I would say, not aimed at a general readership. On the back cover we are told, "While many excellent resources are available, these tend to be either introductory or highly specialized; there are fewer that bridge the gap between the two. This volume contributes to that need." It is the type of book that can sometimes be a bit dry, but I was surprised how interesting I found much of it. There are 11 different contributors including the editors and, as you might expect, some chapters proved to be of more interest than others. The first chapter considers the questions of when the book was written and by whom, the second looks at some of the theological issues that arise from the book, while the third looks at the link between the Decalogue (the 10 words, i.e. commandments) and the way Deuteronomic law is structured. There are chapters on civil leadership, passing on the faith, life and death, paratext (a new term to me!), the alien and genocide. A couple of these chapters, although of some interest, I found long. The final chapter, which considers the problems arising from divinely-commanded genocide, was thought-provoking. It is certainly one of the better academic books that I've read. To again quote from the back cover, "Here is evangelical scholarship that will inform, stimulate and reward diligent teachers and preachers of the Old Testament."

Review by Brian Kerr  (23/03/13)
Jacket
Publisher: Apollos imprint of IVP
Published: 16 November 2012
ISBN: 978-1-844-74597-5
Paperback
Price: £19.99

Christian Social Teachings

- A Reader in Christian Social Ethics from the Bible to the Present

editor George Wolfgang Forell


This is a revised and updated second edition of a book that would be more than at home on the bookcase and in the hands of anyone interesting in ethics and social theory, because it really does provide an insight into the development of our western social ethic. At the beginning of each chapter we get a brief introduction and overview to the authors and subject, followed by a well thought out selection of their writings – think of it as a well chosen tapas selection with all the delightful flavours encapsulated in small tasty easy to nibble bite sized pieces!

As we get to the contemporary issues we get good solid discussion on core topical issues (that probably would be just enough info and detail to scrape a pass grade on an essay if you hadn't read anything else!).

The only downside with the book is that it is of course American and as such much of the topical discussion is from an American stance and that is a little different to the society we have here in the UK and can cause some small issue. However on the whole it's a solid tour through the subject and introduction to key authors and subjects.

Review by Melanie Carroll  (09/03/13)
Jacket
Publisher: Augsburg Fortress Publishers from Alban Books
Published: September 2012
ISBN: 978-0-800-69860-7
Paperback
Price: £25.99

The Wound and the Blessing

- Economics, Relationships, and Happiness

by Luigino Bruni


Wealth cannot deliver happiness. This is a truism that needs exploring as we continue to live in the aftermath of the biggest economic crises Western economies have faced since The Great Depression. The more we earn, the more we work, the less happy we become. As someone who exchanged a successful business career for ordained ministry (exchanging also an 80% drop in income with a considerably enhanced sense of personal fulfilment), Bruni's book is an encouraging read. It is possible to benefit from the joys and rewards of the market without sacrificing others or us in the process.

Against the backdrop of Jacob's struggle with God (and Jacob's prior struggle with Esau) Bruni recognises the paradox of community "it consists of wounds and blessings, and this is no less true of our economic relationships. The key to success is to ensure that the 'other' ceases to be faceless… a good policy is one that can mediate reciprocity without preventing people from encountering each other out of fear, otherwise the 'embrace' of the other is lost. And without hugs we die!" (p110)

In effect Bruni appears to be an advocate for market capitalism on a human scale. Retaining the humanity at the heart of our economic relationships will not prevent us from getting hurt, but it will contribute to a recovery of community. I wonder though where the online economy fits in.

A difficult and specialist read, ably translated from its first publication in Italian in 2007.

Review by David Ford  (13/02/13)
Jacket
Publisher: New City
Published: May 2012
ISBN: 978-1-565-48428-3
Paperback
Price: £12.50

Ethics Matters



by Peter and Charlotte Vardy


Discerning the difference between right and wrong is rarely clear cut - especially if one is at the heart of the issue in question. Ethics Matters is a hugely valuable contribution to the minefield that is ethics in today's complex world. It will prove of enormous practical help to teachers, clergy and students, but not exclusively so. This is a book that many will enjoy and benefit from reading.

In the first two parts of the book, the Vardys consider Meta-Ethics and Normative Ethics, surveying the broad variety of approaches that philosophers have explored from Plato onwards. Their ideas are presented in a clear and engaging way, a refreshing change for those of us who remember the stultifying trek through original sources at university. In the third section of the book, the Vardys turn their attention to applied ethics and consider the application of philosophical approaches to a variety of contemporary debates.

One such debate is euthanasia. The authors begin with a clear summary of the various categories of euthanasia and then reflect on the contemporary debate along the continuum from prohibition to acceptance in the light of natural law, proportionalism, situation ethics, Kantianism and Utilitarianism.

Ethics reveals our attitudes to life, but also to death and the relationship we perceive to exist between our physical life and the possibility of life to come. Peter and Charlotte Vardy approach all these issues with a balanced openness (posing questions rather than presenting dogma) that encourages the reader to think for themselves.

This is an excellent book which, with the accompanying website resource - is highly recommended.

Visit the author's website:www.what-matters.org/

Review by David Ford  (28/01/13)
Jacket
Publisher: SCM imprint of Hymns Ancient & Modern Ltd
Published: 30 November 2012
ISBN: 978-0-334-04391-1
Paperback
Price: £9.99

Exploring the Religion of Ancient Israel

- Prophet, priest, sage and people

by Aaron Chalmers


It may be a casualty of the busy age we live in or a reflection of the slow eradication of inherited faith, but Christians probably know less about the scriptures than would have been true a generation or two ago. This is particularly true of the Old Testament, which can be relegated to a secondary place in the hearts of Christians whose love of Jesus overshadows everything.

Yet we need to study! And we need to study the Hebrew scriptures as they reveal to us so much about the nature of God and of faith. Aaron Chalmers has produced for us precisely the kind of study guide we need. Focusing on four specific communities within the tradition: prophets, priests, sages and the common people, Chalmers writes in a style that makes - what might be otherwise a heavy academic work – readily accessible.

Each chapter addresses basic questions – How did you become a prophet? What did priests do? – and the answers may sometimes challlenge our assumptions. The book is simply yet generously illustrated with plentiful opportunities for the student to 'go deeper'. Multiple indexes will satisfy the most curious reader.

True, this book will not appeal to a mass market in the way religious fiction might. However for the hard-pressed preacher or earnest student, there is endless material here to stimulate reflection or provide nuggets of detail for a sermon or essay. An excellent gift too for those exploring ministry.

Review by David Ford  (07/01/13)
Jacket
Publisher: SPCK (Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge)
Published: September 2012
ISBN: 978-0-281-06481-6
Paperback
Price: £14.99

Moral Choice

- A Christian View of Ethics

by Dolores L Christie


The particular view of the title is that of the Roman Catholic Church. The author affirms that she takes an independant line on some of the issues she addresses, but does not always feel the need to make it clear where she stands. Notwithstanding, her general introduction to Roman Catholic moral teachings will be found helpful to those seeking guidance on the vexed question 'What ought I to do?' It may be only a quibble, but the distinction between ethics and morals might have been elucidated, if only in the glossary that the author provides. If they are interchangeable, this should have been stated; if not, then more needs to be said.

Review by Ian Gibbs  (17/12/12)
Jacket
Publisher: Fortress Press from Alban Books
Published: September 2012
ISBN: 978-0-800-69802-7
Paperback
Price: £23.99

True Feelings

- Perspectives on Emotions in Christian Life and Ministry

Edited by Michael P Jensen


The idea behind this work is most interesting. It seems that most of the faculty of Moore College School of Theology plus one or two other contributors, addressed a single topic - emotions and their application in particular fields – and produced this symposium. As might be anticipated, the results are mixed, but on the whole, well worth reading. The contribution on a "cultural overview of the emotions’" most helpfully sets the scene, and at one point looks at the great Augustine’s views on the subject, which could well open up new areas of enquiry for the reader. This 'symposium' as a whole, helps to bring emotions back from the fringe of theological discussion more towards, if not the centre, then at least the middle ground.

Review by Ian Gibbs  (17/12/12)
Jacket
Publisher: Apollos imprint of IVP
Published: September 2012
ISBN: 978-1-844-74593-7
Paperback
Price: £14.99

Making Love Just

- Sexual Ethics For Perplexing Times

by Marvin M Ellison


This is a heavy and intense book that is rigourous and with really tiny print! However it has a lot to say and could be considered essential reading for our modern age. It is not a book afraid of addressing issues and really wading into them in all their muddied glory, as the chapter headings highlight: 1.Why do we have to keep talking about sex all the time? 2. What makes 'good sex' good? 3. Is it still adultery if the spouse has Alzheimer's? 4. Is same sex marriage a must or a bust? 5. Is pro-choice what we mean to say? 6.What do we have to learn from, as well as teach, young people about sex? Now if these headings don't just shout out group discussion then certainly the content of them does. This is a book designed to make you really think through the questions that are really there in our society and that we really would rather ignore or just gloss over. However this book isn't about doing that, this book is about dealing with the issue, with really and seriously engaging with it, something we must do if we are to honestly engage with our society as it really is. An intense book but one that I think many could do with engaging with, even through the blushes, shock and disagreements.

Review by Melanie Carroll  (17/12/12)
Jacket
Publisher: Fortress Press from Alban Books
Published: June 2012
ISBN: 978-0-800-69884-3
Paperback
Price: £11.99

Unity In Process

- Reflections on Ecumenism

by Clive Barrett (ed)


The achievements of ecumenism have thus far been modest, at least at the level of uniting churches, the cynic might argue, but at the local level Christians now talk to each other, and where they can, act together, in ways that would have been unthinkable before the modern ecumenical era. It is into this dichotomy between the 'international' and local level that this book fits and tries to find a way forward. As the editor says: "In a post-modern world where the number of different churches is increasing all the time, the hopes of previous generations for unity through integration look increasingly unlikely in any forseeable future." (p.25) This book tries to answer the 'Then where do we go from here?' query, by exploring the term 'process' in relation to 'unity'. As the editor also writes: "The fullness of unity is actually to be glimpsed in the journey, in the shared pilgrimage, in the messy process of unity."(p.27)
The contributors to this volume bear witness to this process.

Review by Ian Gibbs  (29/11/12)
Jacket
Publisher: DLT (Darton, Longman and Todd Ltd)
Published: September 2012
ISBN: 978-0-232-52943-2
Paperback
Price: £18.99

Is Christianity Good for You?



by David Fontana


This is an interesting book which provides evidence from which the reader can come to his or her own conclusion. It is not an exploration of faith. David Fontana covers the three aspects of being, body, mind, and soul, blending together for consideration the historic and the modern, the superstition and the science. It is a very readable and well organised book, which can be dipped into as the mood takes the reader, but don't look for a carefully weighed final ruling; the conclusion is a single paragraph that, if you haven’t by then come to a verdict for yourself, will send you back to the beginning again. In the end the judgement is yours.

Review by Paul Scott  (08/11/12)
Jacket
Publisher: O Books imprint of John Hunt Publishing Ltd
Published: 30 September 2011
ISBN: 978-1-846-94441-3
Paperback
Price: £12.99

By Faith And Reason: The Essential Keith Ward



by Ed. Wm Curtis Holtzen and Roberto Sirvent


This is a good collection and overview of Keith Ward's thoughts and work spanning key subject areas likely to be encountered by any undergraduate, and as such it makes a handy cribber's guide and overview. With a new essay by Prof. Ward in the Faith and Reason section, the book covers as well Concepts of God, Science and Religion, the Bible & Its Interpretation and lastly Interfaith Dialogue and Disagreement. Obviously being selected essays on these subjects they readily give us a keen insight into Ward's works, ideas and style, but more than that they give us an overview of the subject matter covered as a whole and so in that way can be a good primer on these subjects for any with a passing interest in theology. The work is an homage by the editors to Keith Ward, as is made clear at the beginning of the book, and though that may seem a little strange, and of course colours the materials selected, it is perhaps nevertheless a worthy book given how prolific Keith Ward has been as a theologian and writer.

Review by Melanie Carroll  (12/11/12)
Jacket
Publisher: DLT (Darton, Longman and Todd Ltd)
Published: July 2012
ISBN: 978-0-232-52898-5
Paperback
Price: £25.99

The Mythology of Evolution



by Chris Bateman


This is not an easy read but an important one, separating scientific fact from fiction. Bateman uses 'myth' as a synonym for 'metaphor', and identifies seven myths, all of which have a grain of scientific truth but which also mislead, especially when distorted by ideological baggage. In their place, he offers his own more appropriate alternative myths. His first myth is the ladder of progress, which he replaces with a chain of inheritance. Secondly, the survival of the fittest replaced by a refinement of possibilities. Thirdly, the selfish gene coined by "my beloved nemesis, Richard Dawkins", is replaced by advantages persist and the flexible gene. Bateman is "pro-religion - in fact I have five religions", unlike Dawkins the "diehard atheist" with a "reluctance to stay on topic" who triggered Bateman's "ire" to write this book. Fourth, kin selection is substituted by co-operation and trust are an advantage. "The most famous is the fifth myth: intelligent design" which is given an alternative of the metaphor of design. Related to that is the sixth, adaptionism, whose excesses are avoided by a "more restrained myth, that of the conditions for existence." Finally, Bateman replaces science as truth by truth from fiction. Wallace objected to Darwin's use of the phrase 'natural selection', that risks the fiction of Mother Nature selecting some animals to survive or reproduce. But Darwin persisted with 'natural selection' (though at times he referred to natural preservation), because "science was effectively impossible without metaphorical thinking". But Darwin was aware of the risks of using the word 'evolution' because of its association with progress and destiny (though 'evolve' slips in at the end of his lst edition) but he drops his guard in much later editions that import 'evolution' and worse still, survival of the fittest, which he got from Spencer's economic theories that centred on competition. Yet strong dinosaurs did not survive and 'fittest' has great ambiguity. Dawkins's gene-eye view of the world "prioritizes competition", giving too much weight to "the explanatory power of genes". The selfish gene implies "that all life is fundamentally selfish (the myth of egoism) and behaviour is best explained by the selective value of genes". Since then genetic determinism has changed its tune, from genes determining behaviour to influencing behaviour. The focus now is less on individual genes and more on sets, how the "genetic toolkit" works together and with its environment, not either competitively or co-operatively, but as a blend of both. Against Dawkins, Bateman sides with Margulis, who has convincingly demonstrated that co-operation is fundamental to life, not simply in kin selection (another myth) but in symbiosis across different species. The transition from single cell to multi-cellular life "is inescapably a consequence of co-operation. Without that co-operation we wouldn't be here at all". There is a good glossary but sadly no index. I recommend Bateman as a good corrective to "the myth of gene supremacy".

Review by John Morris  (12/11/12)
Jacket
Publisher: Zero Books imprint of O books from John Hunt Pub.
Published: August 2012
ISBN: 978-1-780-99649-3
Paperback
Price: £14.99

Why Religions Work

- God's Place In The World Today

by Eleanor Stoneham


Why Religions Work could almost be called ‘a manifesto for religion in refutation of the atheist rhetoric’, because at the end of the day that’s pretty much how this book works.
In light of some of the atheistic and humanist agendas religion has become an object that is often spurned, rejected and ridiculed within secular society and yet this is without regard to its values, benefits and its underpinning structures to much of that society. Eleanor Stoneham puts forward, within the course of the book, an attempt to argue the objective point (based on scientific models of rationale) that religion of any type is an important and integral structure to society, and indeed it cannot - as many of it’s opponents seem to put forward - be sidelined because despite the opposing rhetoric, religion is fundamental and integral to more of the worlds populace than not, therefore the arguments against religion are largely flawed and lacking in real scientific basis. Throughout this book Stoneham puts forward evidence for why religion is necessary, logical and of value, flagging up not only the standard religions but also newer modes of religion too.
At times I can see that some might argue that what is being offered is not as such an argument for religions so much as for the spiritual, but then as the author does try to point out and reconcile there is some degree to which the spiritual, for all it’s own rhetoric these days, cannot be without the underpinning of a religion to structure it, form it, share it and maintain it. Few things exist in vacuum after all.
This is an excellent book for those who want to look deeper at how religion is key to society and for those wanting perhaps a stronger line of refutation of the secular humanist rhetoric that is not tied to a single religion or faith, but rather upholds the place of faith as found in religions and within the psyche and society of humankind as a necessary thing. It is not a harsh critique or condemnation but rather it is well reasoned, researched and provides a gentle but firm refutation of other's ill-formed arguments, thus making it a joy to read.

Review by Melanie Carroll  (29/10/12)
Jacket
Publisher: Circle Books imprint of John Hunt Publisjing Ltd
Published: November 2012
ISBN: 978-1-780-99496-3
Paperback
Price: £9.99

Existentialism and Christian Zen

- An East/West Way To Christ

by A. William McVey


Another short but incredibly detailed and insightful book on meditation and contemplation for Christians whilst taking a leaf from eastern practices.
This book offers an understanding of how the nihilistic concepts of existentialism, particularly as found in Zen Buddhism, are not as removed from Christian practice and insight into God as we might initially think - indeed the active practice of being in every moment is foundational to the teaching of Jesus (consider the lilies in the fields!), and the nihilistic view of life cannot better be found described than in Ecclesiastes 1:2 ' meaningless, meaningless all is meaningless' and here is just the starting point of this wonderful book’s study in how east and west can share a path of practice that leads clearly and closely to Christ (think Martha and Mary as examples of differing practice styles) and that in the end can help with reaching a place of calm and focus that enables a deep and rich spirituality, that in turn leads to a healthier and happier person at peace not only with their selves, but with their lives and others - a place of truly reflected love with Christ at the centre.
This book flows well, deep in parts but not too deep that you feel you are wading through it. The chapters are short and concise and lead to a very helpful end section that contains practical Christian Zen meditations and reflections.
There is nothing here opposed to Christian thought or theology, indeed that is central to the core of the book, but what one does find is a solid place of practical insight into two faiths that though seemingly divergent offer something of true worth to the other, and it opens up the real practice of Christian meditation and contemplation for people to try.

Review by Melanie Carroll  (29/10/12)
Jacket
Publisher: Circle Books imprint of John Hunt Publisjing Ltd
Published: October 2012
ISBN: 978-1-780-99593-9
Paperback
Price: £9.99

Beyond the Pale

- Reading Theology from the Margins

Editors Miguel A De La Torre & Stacey M. Floyd-Thomas


It seems that those beyond the pale in this instance are the contributors to this collection of essays, not those theologians whose work they examine. Often the criticism of the writer directed at his or her subject seems not only harsh, but far fetched, and certainly unfair. St Irenaeus for example is accused of ‘otherness’, in that he began the Christian tradition of branding one or more opponents as ‘heretics’. In what sense is this accusation justifiable? Juan Ginés de Sepulveda the opponent of Bartolomé de Las Casas, made the wrong choices with regard to slavery and colonialism in the New World. Given his philosophical stance this horrifying is comprehensible, but with the benefit of hindsight disastrous for the peoples of the New World. These two examples illustrate the problem: are writers to be condemned for questions they did not ask, on issues they were either unaware of, or accepted as part of the very fabric of their society?
Too many of these theologians seem to have been tried, condemned, and punished in absentia.

Review by Ian Gibbs  (18/10/12)
Jacket
Publisher: Westminster John Knox Press from Hymns Ancient & Modern Ltd
Published: 2011
ISBN: 978-0-664-23679-3
Paperback
Price: £27.99

On Love

- Victorine Texts in Translation: Exegesis, Theology & Spirituality From The Abbey of St.Victor

by Ed. Hugh Feiss OSB


>I>On Love is an English translation of a range of twelfth century writings from the Abbey of St.Victor in Paris, which was a major centre of theological exegesis and spiritual guidance. This volume, the first of several to come, deals with the role of love in the inner life of the Trinity and in the created human being. Nothing brings greater satisfaction and happiness than the experience of love, human, divine and even romantic. The texts are drawn from the Latin writings of Victor, Godfrey, Hugh and Richard, as well as of the better-known Jerome, Augustine and Aquinas. These writers are put before us as the experienced guides to the workings of divine and human love. This is a big book, not only in size but in import, deepening our understanding of the biblical currents of the twelfth century and of the richness of our intellectual and spiritual life today. It particularly sharpens our understanding of the teaching of Scripture On Love as interpreted by the Church.

Review by John Irvine  (16/10/12)
Jacket
Publisher: New City
Published: September 2012
ISBN: 978-1-565-48434-4
Paperback
Price: £27.50

The Practice of Prophetic Imagination

- Preaching An Emancipating Word

by Walter Brueggemann


Over several decades Professor Brueggemann, a prominent American Protestant Old Testament scholar, has explored his notion of ‘prophetic imagination’. Broadly, he evokes a practice of worship and preaching where the preacher is deeply engaged with the social realities of his community and often takes an oppositional stance in relation to the dominant culture and values of his society. But the prophetic imagination does not straightforwardly denounce behaviour that appears to disobey God’s law. Instead it employs creative imagination to produce poetry or drama in which new understandings both of God and of the realities of society can be found. In this challenging and fascinating book Professor Brueggemann revisits this practice and aspiration in two ways. He traces, in illuminating detail, the operation of prophetic imagination in the words of the Old Testament prophets themselves; and he proclaims the need to re-imagine a loving God in a similar way for post 9/11 Americans, who thought they were uniquely powerful and uniquely blessed, but now face diverse threats. This is a very American book, and speaks vividly about America; but its message is also transferable and exciting and convincing.

Review by Su Reid  (02/10/12)
Jacket
Publisher: Fortress Press from Alban Books
Published: March 2012
ISBN: 978-0-800-69897-3
Hardback
Price: £16.99

The Words of Jesus

- A Gospel Of The Sayings Of Our Lord

Reflections by Phyllis Tickle


In this intriguing book, Phyllis Tickle has extracted The Words of Jesus from the gospels (and first chapter of Acts) and arranged them into five books to create a new Gospel of the Sayings of our Lord. The five books group Jesus’ words into discrete categories: the words of public teaching; private instruction; healing dialogue; intimate conversation and post-resurrection encounters. The purpose of this endeavour, explored in Tickle’s 50 page introduction, was to respond to a colleague’s question: ‘Did you ever wonder what you would really find if you took out the duplications and triplications and connective tissue of the Gospels and stripped it all down again to just His words?’
Tickle’s monumental achievement may have academic merit but I am not convinced it is good theology. Unlike reading the gospels in parallel, Tickle’s approach runs the risk of reductionism as she combines extracts of four gospels into a single narrative. The point here is that by focusing on what we believe are Jesus’ words (and there is much debate of course about which words are ‘His’) we lose the opportunity to be enlightened by the nuances of difference between the gospels. Moreover, by focusing on what Jesus says, we may lose sight of what he isn’t saying.
All theology is contextual and that was true when Jesus spoke, when the gospel writers wrote, the editors edited, and particularly when we hear the gospel read in church and reflect upon it in our hearts. It is because of this truth, that there is great purpose in the canon as we have inherited it; whilst other ‘gospels’ may entertain or intrigue, it is to the Word of God as understood in Holy Scripture and handed down through countless generations that we must return to for prayer, reflection and inspiration.

Review by David Ford  (02/10/12)
Jacket
Publisher: SPCK (Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge)
Published: 08 August 2012
ISBN: 978-0-281-06920-0
Paperback
Price: £12.99

Saving Paradise

- Recovering Christianity’s Forgotten Love for This Earth

by Rita Nakashima Brock & Rebecca Ann Parker


Saving Paradise is an incredible book with 415 pages of articulate, deep, intelligent and well reasoned arguments. Obviously not a layman’s book (with 90 pages of notes at the end and a 35 page index this really is a serious academic study) it nonetheless is a readable and understandable work that many, with just a little effort, could cope with. It is an enriching and rewarding read that goes on a discovery tour that takes us deep into the rooted history of our faith, through changing times and spiritualities and divergent theological paths, touching on things, people, places and points such as Heloise and Abelard, Charlemagne and Calvin, highlighting the changes that have reworked our perception and zeitgeist from a focus that was, and was meant to be, on beauty to one that instead dwells on pain, that has moved from grace through to works and suffering and in turn has radically altered creations relationship with it’s creator.
This is not an easy read but a challenging and eye opening one that deserves a wide audience and to be talked about, because the picture it offers is one of Saving Paradise that is sorely needed.

Review by Melanie Carroll  (26/09/12)
Jacket
Publisher: Canterbury Press imprint of Hymns Ancient & Modern Ltd
Published: July 2012
ISBN: 978-1-848-25209-7
Paperback
Price: £24.99

Creator Spirit

- The Holy Spirit and the Art of Becoming Human

by Stephen R. Guthrie


The author explains that his university courses have been the background to his book. As a musician he is involved in art, as he endeavours to illuminate the connection he sees between the Spirit and art. His guide in this is St Athanasius, which in itself surprising since the Church Father who comes to mind in connection with the Spirit is usually St Basil the Great. With the help of his guide the author explores a number of facets of the Spirit’s work in ‘re-making'. Concepts of aesthetics are also shown in relation to the Spirit’s action, so that a wide and expanding discussion is engaged in. The reader may need to consider the many sections of the argument slowly, before moving on to the next under discussion.

Review by Ian Gibbs  (20/09/12)
Jacket
Publisher: Baker Academic imprint of Baker Publishing from SPCK
Published: 01 May 2011
ISBN: 978-0-801-02921-9
Paperback
Price: £14.99

Grand Entrance

- Worship on Earth As In Heaven

by Edith M. Humphrey


.......'worship is entry. It is entry into something that is not primarily of our own making. Worship is entry into an action, into a company, into a reality that is on going and bigger than we are.’ Pg 3
This is perhaps the author’s most succinct statement of her theme and she develops it in the early chapters of her book, but there does seem to then be a change of direction. She gives a detailed survey of liturgical history and rites, followed by some very perceptive accounts of examples of worship in contemporary churches which she has attended. She then tackles some of the controversial aspects of modern liturgical practice. Whether or not this makes a coherent whole is a matter for debate.

Review by Ian Gibbs  (20/09/12)
Jacket
Publisher: Brazos Press imprint of Baker Pub from SPCK
Published: 01 June 2011
ISBN: 978-1-587-43252-1
Paperback
Price: £12.99

Luther

- A Guide for the Perplexed

by David M. Whitford


This is a very helpful little book which brings together in a short compass a great deal of scholarship. Books about Luther would, after all, fill a medium sized library so it is quite an achievement to present such a complex figure with economy but also thoroughness. Professor Whitford's style is readable and clear, fitting the book for the non-specialist and the general reader. There is a particularly good bibliography which would guide the brave into more specialized studies.

Review by Simon Iredale  (20/09/12)
Jacket
Publisher: T&T Clark imprint of Continuum
Published: 2011
ISBN: 978-0-567-03279-9
Paperback
Price: £14.99

If God, Then What?

- Wondering Aloud About Truth, Origins and Redemption

by Andrew Wilson


At last apologetics that are fresh, dynamic & faithful! It wonderfully grabs and connects with truth that isn't dull, imagination that's not fluffy and reason without argument. Too often what is labelled `Christian apologetics' comes across as boring, and settles in the dust of weak philosophy, daft lines of thought or pseudo-scientific argument. The ground covered in this is ontologically rich around the existence of God and the explicitly Christian claims about sin and death, resurrection and life. There is a light touch, strong insight and much good humour to help everything settle with a security and assurance palpable in this search of God and His character.
There is a energetic creativity that enhances and enlivens orthodox Christianity in a pacey conversational way. The nine core chapters engage with truth and direction powerfully and yet with unassuming grace. People are tired of an arrogant swagger whether from fundamentalists, new atheists or bigots. Here we are offered kindly-spoken evidence and a plausible interpretation of that evidence. Then it is left to us.
As a friend of mine said after reading a few chapters; ‘This book will not argue the sceptical reader into the faith, but they will not be able to dismiss Christians as mindless dogmatists afterwards!’ Christians will enjoy reading this because it will help them to see some things in a new light, and because it will help equip them for those God conversations with sceptics. Open-minded, accessible and all-around brilliant!

Review by Johnny Douglas  (28/08/12)
Jacket
Publisher: IVP(Inter Varsity Press)
Published: March 2012
ISBN: 978-1-844-74569-2
Paperback
Price: £8.99

Science and Belief

- The Big Issues

by Russell Stannard


This is an impressive must-read book for all thinking people, atheists and believers alike. It succeeds in making it reasonable to be both scientific and religious, to be up-to-date in both fields, to hold a chair in physics and be a lay minister in the Church of England. Russell Stannard has the gift of expressing complex science in very accessible language, in a book that is based on his twelve-episode video series in DVD format now in 40% of UK secondary schools and in 7,500 churches. In only 173 pages, he covers a lot of scientific ground with chapters on evolution, intelligent design, morality, creation, the anthropic principle, extra-terrestrial intelligence, psychology, and miracles.
Here is a rich buffet of ideas, not dogma, and we are encouraged to take our pick. He writes ‘throughout this book I have tried to keep my own opinions in the background. Not always successfully I know’. Indeed, from time to time he asserts that ‘the defining characteristic of God is that he is a God of love’ (p106), but that is not self-evident so he admits ‘the basic unfairness of the evolutionary process’ without analysing sufficiently the problem of suffering and the ‘cruel death of his Son on the cross’ which for Stannard is the way ‘we know God loves us’ (p33).
Stannard is aware that ‘fundamentalists’ will take issue with him in his evolutionary approach to both science and theology. In his sections on creation and the anthropic principle (his two hardest chapters for secondary schools) he verges on the God of deism rather than theism, despite asserting ‘God as Sustainer’ (p57). Nevertheless his theology is usually interesting, and his communication of science so outstanding in its clarity and plausible links with religious beliefs, that it deserves to be a best seller to rival Dawkins. Instead of conflict or independence between science and religion, Stannard illuminates how there can be interaction and some integration.

Review by John Morris  (25/08/12)
Jacket
Publisher: Lion
Published: June 2012
ISBN: 978-0-745-95572-8
Paperback
Price: £8.99

Psalms As Torah

- Reading Biblical Song Ethically – Studies in Theological Interpretation

by Gordon J. Wenham


Gordon Wenham writes 'I follow those who see the Psalter as a second law, the law of David to be meditated upon like the law of Moses, the Pentateuch.' (p. 205). Professor Wenham recognises that understanding such an approach is in its early stages, but he makes a convincing argument. Why should ethical behaviour outlined in the Psalms have such an influence? Because, 'To pray a psalm is to address both God and fellow worshipers...Liturgy does not simply invite assent; it demands it.' (Ibid.). The psalms / prayers shape the ethics of the community and are 'Torah' ('law') because they are means by which instruction is given. It is no coincidence that the Psalter, like the Pentateuch, is divided into five 'books'.
After the 'Series' and 'Author' Prefaces, and an 'Introduction', the first four chapters look at the general background of the Psalter, while the following five outline the ethics implied or taught by the psalms. The final chapter examines how the writers of the New Testament use the psalms to define a 'Christian ethic'. Notes are included in the text; there is a 'Selected Bibliography' as well as 'Scripture', 'Author' and 'Subject' Indexes.
While this is an 'academic' book, the author's style makes it a gentle and compelling read. Even if one simply uses the relevant Index, one gains greater understanding of the psalms, so making 'praying the psalms' a richer experience, especially for those who celebrate any of the daily Offices of the Church.

Review by J.Nicholas Latham  (25/08/12)
Jacket
Publisher: Baker Academic imprint of Baker Publishing from SPCK
Published: 01 February 2012
ISBN: 978-0-801-03168-7
Paperback
Price: £12.99

Making Sense of Sex

- Modern Church Series

by Adrian Thatcher


This is a very good little book. It sets out and discusses with an absolute economy of words some of the key issues that concern us with regard to sex, sexuality and gender. One of the points the author makes is that all discussion of sex takes place within a particular strand of Christian tradition. This stands in that of liberal theology and is helpful in both showing how to draw on that tradition and also what some of the results might be when applied to contemporary issues.
The author, an Anglican who teaches in the United States and is also a visiting professor in the Department of Theology and Religion at Exeter University, is the editor of Modern Believing. He is rooted in a parish church – Christ Church, Estover, Plymouth – where he leads the choir, and this no doubt is a factor in his producing a book that is scholarly but quite accessible to non-scholars in ordinary congregations.
For anyone that has to preach or teach about sexual ethics or how the Church should respond to matters of sex and gender, this is a very useful book to acquire and use as an aid to reflection. It begins by explaining the difference between liberal and more conservative approaches and how liberal theology and ethics go about their work. There follows short chapters discussing major themes – sexual desire, the body, sexual differences, homosexuality, marriage and spirituality. Dr Thatcher ends by looking towards that day 'when a robust faith in Christ and a joyful sex life are integrated together for all of God's children who seek them irrespective of their status, sex or orientation.'

Review by Alan Billings  (24/08/12)
Jacket
Publisher: SPCK (Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge)
Published: May 2012
ISBN: 978-0-281-06406-9
Paperback
Price: £7.99

Turning to God

- Reclaiming Christian Conversion as Unique, Necessary and Supernatural

by David F Wells


The emphasis of this book on conversion is clearly betrayed by the sub-title. David Wells is unrepentant in the narrowness and exclusive nature of his understanding of Christian conversion. As a priest who experiences conversion on a daily basis and is frequently brought closer to God by the divine working through non-Christians (including those of other faiths) Wells’ book is always challenging, but sometimes offensive.
Wells’ perspective is premised on an understanding of Christianity that is tightly aligned to a Western, capitalist and evangelical world-view rooted in a conservative reading of scripture. I find it hard, for instance, to keep reading a book that describes other faith traditions as the enemy of Christianity.
Yet for all this, Wells has a point that should be heard. The experience of conversion is the exclusive work of God (grace), it is unique (to the experience of the individual believer) and it is culturally contextual. Furthermore, it cannot be separated from the question of discipleship. ‘The test of conversion is a life of convertedness’. Above all, it is not about us, but about God.
All this would be affirmed by a majority of Christians. What a shame then that Wells must frame an otherwise helpful contribution to the missionary task of the church in language that is at times arrogant, presumptuous and negative towards cultures and traditions other than his own. The God I believe in is far bigger than this.

Review by David Ford  (24/08/12)
Jacket
Publisher: Baker Books imprint of Baker Pub. from Lion
Published: May 2012
ISBN: 978-0-801-09700-3
Paperback

Fear and Friendship

- Anglicans Engaging With Islam

Edited by Frances Ward and Sarah Coakley


A stimulating little book for those who care about the relationship between these two ‘Abrahamic’ religions. Its subtitle is Anglicans Engaging with Islam, but I’m sure other Christians will find it interesting too. The underlying question is, ‘What is true friendship?’ The ten narratives contributed by a variety of writers tackle some really live issues, among them Islamophobia, honour, hospitality, offence and satire. In his characteristically thoughtful ‘Afterword’, Rowan Williams considers the fear caused to others by the ‘universalism’ of Islam or Christianity, and discusses the importance of conversion that does not resort to ‘the tools of control or manipulation’. He also suggests why the Church of England may be particularly able to offer an approach to dialogue without secretly seeking ‘the fantasy of universal control’.

Visit the author's website:www.reform-magazine.co.uk/index.php/2011/05/frances-ward-interview-religion-is-like-learning-to-read/

Review by Barry Vendy  (09/08/12)
Jacket
Publisher: Continuum - A Bloomsbury Company
Published: March 2012
ISBN: 978-1-441-10149-5
Paperback
Price: £14.99

Gift or a Given?

- A Theology of Healing for the 21st Century

by John P. Atkinson


This is an excellent book on healing that addresses really topical issues on what healing is, what healing ministry is and where does or should it sit within the churches ministry. It attempts to set the ministry of healing within context, thus it starts in the introduction with author, John P. Atkinson who is the British Methodist Church's Advisor for Health and Healing, giving his own personal account of how he came into the ministry of healing. The very first chapter then addresses the linguistics of the word Healing, and this is important because as he rightly points out there is a subtle difference between healing and curing and his concern is that in some churches this boundary has become so blurred as to cause potentially dangerous problems – this he addresses in much more detail later on in the chapters 'What happened to healing' and 'What is healing'. The chapter 'Biblical Focus', though short, offers good insight into how healing was perceived in the Bible and the roots from where some of the variant idea's of healing stem from. The 'Theological Reflection' chapter in some ways expands on these insights and also offers more detail on the differences of understandings of healing in modern accepted practice, as well as John Atkinson’s own insight on them.
Gift or a Given? is a simple, accessible, and practical book that considers what healing is and should be, offering clear insight and guidance. At the back of the book is a set of questions for discussion and that makes this a great tool for any involved or considering healing ministry or for a reflection day.

Review by Melanie Carroll  (09/08/12)
Jacket
Publisher: Circle Books imprint of John Hunt Publisjing Ltd
Published: June 2012
ISBN: 978-1-780-99426-0
Paperback
Price: £9.99

Resilient Pastors

- The Role of Adversity in Healing and Growth

by Justine Allain-Chapman


Resilient Pastors seeks to develop a ‘pastoral theology of resilience’ in order to help pastors strengthen the people they serve as they face significant challenges in their lives and to help pastors themselves be strengthened for their role. Allain-Chapman wisely recognises this two-fold objective for the church needs mature ministers capable of processing personal exposure to pain and suffering in a way that is beneficial for all.
An exercise in practical theology, Resilient Pastors draws extensively on secular understandings of the ‘journey from adversity to altruism’ as well as Christian tradition and scripture, and especially the experience of the desert. Adopting Stephen Pattison’s ‘critical conversation’ methodology, Allain-Chapman enters into conversation with a wide range of conversation partners from psychosocial science research, the biblical stories of Hagar and Moses, to the writings of Rowan Williams. In particular, the established notion of ‘wounded healer’ is re-examined as the pastoral theology of resilience develops.

Review by David Ford  (09/08/12)
Jacket
Publisher: SPCK (Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge)
Published: 07 July 2012
ISBN: 978-0-281-06383-3
Paperback
Price: £12.99

Jesus the Christ

- New Edition

by Walter Kasper


Cardinal Kasper, formerly President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and perhaps most familiar in that role, published this book - in Great Britain – in 1976. He tells his readers in his Introduction that he was persuaded to re-issue his book and this is the edition he puts before them in 2011. Again, in the Introduction he sketches the changes in theology among other things, which have taken place in the thirty years since first publication. Perhaps they have not been as unsettled and unsettling as the same period before 1976 but nonetheless this latter period has modified the emphasis of the first edition, and the Cardinal justly points this out . The welcome that the book received on first publication will surely be echoed in the reception of this re-issue.

Review by Ian Gibbs  (07/08/12)
Jacket
Publisher: Continuum - A Bloomsbury Company
Published: September 2011
ISBN: 978-0-567-20964-1
Paperback
Price: £14.99

7 Truths That Changed the World

- Discovering Christianity’s Most Dangerous Ideas

by Kenneth Richard Samples


A strong, well reasoned and articulate book that works well to set up and demonstrate the 7 dangerous truths of Christianity that the New Atheist movement continually tries to dismantle and disprove, often without real success because as this book shows so well, they don’t understand the basic and integral underlying arguments and suppositions behind the truths. They fail to understand the classic philosophy, theology and anthropological basis upon which these truths are built, and that’s rather like not understanding basic physics while arguing E=mc2. By so doing they lose sight of the key tenets of those arguments that actually hold them up and prove them to be sound.
Examples listed in this book as the 7 main dangerous idea’s are Bodily Resurrection; The Incarnation; Creation; God & Christian Theism; Salvation by Grace through Christ; Humanity’s Value and Dignity and lastly The Problem of Evil and The Good in Suffering.
All of these are complex issues and in each section Kenneth Samples at first comprehensively lays out the theological and scriptural argument and then, in the next chapter, works through the modern objections and dismantles them. At the end of each section there are also a series of discussion questions along with suggestions for further reading. This is not a simple book, but it is not overly taxing either because it is clearly written with a good style.
Well worth the time and effort if you want to be able to discuss clearly key elements of Christian faith with anyone who holds New Atheism in regard

Review by Melanie Carroll  (30/07/12)
Jacket
Publisher: Baker Books imprint of Baker Pub. from Lion
Published: June 2012
ISBN: 978-0-801-07211-6
Paperback
Price: £10.99