Faith Seeking Understanding: An Introduction to Christian Theology (third ed.)
Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, Minn. 485 pages
Twenty-five years after it was first published, this book still maintains its status as one of the finest introductions to Christian theology in our time. Now in the third edition, the author has added a fourth imaginary dialogue between Karl Barth and Friedrich Nietzsche on atheism. All of the important topics in Christian theology are covered in this book, making it outstanding for students and equally important for pastors who desire to sustain their theological skills or simply enjoy a good theological conversation.
Strange Glory: A Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Alfred Knopf, New York. 515 pages
This is the finest biography of Bonhoeffer since Eberhard Bethge’s magisterial book. (A longer review will be forthcoming in these pages.) The author has put together an astonishing amount of new material on Bonhoeffer and woven it into a narrative that makes his life and time come alive in fresh ways. This is not hagiography; it is a careful historical biography that illuminates Bonhoeffer in a personal way that, of course, makes his extraordinary life all the more important for today.
Few thinkers are more provocative and therefore more challenging to read than Stanley Hauerwas. These essays continue his practice of thoughtful reflections on theology, church, politics, life and death. Hauerwas is the rare individual who pushes his own thought to confront the implications of his theological arguments. He takes following Jesus seriously and readers who wrestle alongside him will learn to do the same.
Hauerwas : A (Very) Critical Introduction
Nicholas M. Healy
Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, Mich. 142 pages
It is a rare treat for an admirer to bring a sustained critical argument to the work of one he admires. That makes this book so exceptional and important, especially for readers who have been influenced by Hauerwas. A generation of Christian leaders have been challenged by his provocative teachings of Christian discipleship and theological method. Nicholas Healy provides a great gift in this book to those who want a more critical way to incorporate Hauerwas’ theology and practice.
This is an insightful and illuminating exploration of the social and economic patterns of Second Temple Judea. The careful reader will discern the concerns of contemporary economics in this period and understand how they merge with a long-standing biblical argument for justice.
Eric D. Barreto, editor
Fortress Press, Minneapolis. 145 pages
If you want to cultivate the skills to read theological and biblical texts with a hospitable, creative mind, then read this book. Designed for seminary students, it will be valuable to anyone who cares about close reading with a hospitable imagination.
Philippians and Philemon (Belief: A Theological Commentary on the Bible)
WJK Press, Louisville, Ky. 274 pages
This is a theological commentary by a theologian who brings an uncanny insight into these texts. The “Belief” series is a welcome addition to commentaries that bring the text into creative theological conversation with contemporary concerns.
Evangelical versus Liturgical — Defying a Dichotomy
Melanie C. Ross
Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, Mich. 148 pages
The author offers a carefully researched argument that the dichotomy between liturgical and evangelical (free church) worship is unnecessary. She provides ample evidence with actual congregations that one can learn from the other. The result will be deeper worship of the people of God.
Before his abrupt death a year ago, Willard had a wide influence through his works on Christian discipleship, particularly “The Divine Conspiracy.” He was also a philosopher who focused on Emund Husserl, which made Willard an intriguing and helpful teacher for those integrating the mind with radical practices of discipleship. This book is a selection of reflections by leaders influenced by him.
The Living God
WJK Press, Louisville, Ky. 111 pages
The second volume in “The Heart of Christian Faith” series, this is an exceptional devotional guide written by a theologian with a pastoral tone reminiscent of “Mere Christianity.” It will make a great gift for individuals or small groups exploring foundational Christian beliefs.
Jesus: A Pilgrimage
HarperOne, San Francisco. 508 pages
The author is a Jesuit priest who appears regularly on the Colbert show. He is not only funny but also a thoughtful Christian who has written an intelligent and personally compelling narrative of Jesus. He has found the rare combination of personal memoir combined with historical scholarship, theological imagination, biblical exegesis and spiritual depth. The introduction says it well: the book is designed for people of deep faith or no faith who want to know about Jesus. Martin is an exceptional guide for this pilgrimage.
Dorothy Day for Armchair Theologians
WJK Press, Louisville, Ky. 221 pages
Dorothy Day didn’t want to be remembered as a saint who is promptly sanitized and forgotten. She was a lay theologian with an unflinching commitment to the poor that grew out of deep prayer. Rare is this combination practiced so steadily as Day did over a lifetime. If anyone can be known as a “friend of the poor,” it would be Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker movement she founded. The author, a Presbyterian teaching at a Roman Catholic institution, offers us an exceptional reading of Day that places her life, theology and practice into detailed historical context. In a time when “missional” is the new hermeneutic, it would be wise to return to the life of Dorothy Day for guidance.
Simon Schama is a certainly an entertaining story teller; loud and exuberant. But don’t be misled: this book is more than entertaining — it is a passionate, richly detailed history of the Jewish people. The most apt description is testimony to the resilience of the Jews against all odds and in constant interaction with non-Jewish people of every race and culture. Though the book became a PBS television series, it was not written for television. It is written for everyone who enjoys compelling history and wants to learn more about the people who have survived so much for so long.
Since her groundbreaking work “In Memory of Her,” the author has continued to offer trenchant feminist theological readings that stretch across borders. She is a careful, yet bold, theologian with a generous spirit and a sharp mind. This collection of essays is the culmination of a three-volume set of writings spanning her career. Liberation of all people across all borders is always at the center of her theological vision.
The author weaves his personal narrative of brokenness to redemption into a larger story of the works of mercy in local congregations. Deacons seeking to extend their congregational ministry with the poor, hungry and homeless in their neighborhoods will find inspiration here.
ROY W. HOWARD is the pastor of Saint Mark Presbyterian Church in North Bethesda, Maryland, and the Outlook book editor.