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Books briefly noted

The Way of Imagination
Scott Russell Sanders
Counterpoint Press, 272 pages

Scott Sanders is a writer with the urgently needed skills to combine moral concerns with an imagination keen to notice beauty. The result is a collection of essays that is genuinely honest and hopeful while speaking truthfully. Preachers will find their imagination kindled.

Another Life Is Possible: Insights from 100 years of Life Together
Clare Stober, photographs by Danny Burrows
Plough Publishing, 300 pages

The book tells the story of the Bruderhof community founded 100 years ago and still thriving in their life together. During the pandemic, people missed community most of all. The Bruderhof will bring a sense that such community is possible in a shattered, divided world. The photographs are stunning, as is the story. Be encouraged.

Caring for Words in a Culture of lies (2nd ed.)
Marilyn McEntyre
Eerdmans, 264 pages

McEntyre expands upon her Stone Lectures from Pittsburgh Seminary. She cares for words with a fierce poetic honesty. This second edition increases the value with new cultural references. Truth is under assault. Preachers, and all who care for words, need this book and McEntyre’s wisdom.

Resurrected to Eternal Life: On Dying and Rising
Jürgen Moltmann

Fortress Press, 88 pages

This is a remarkably personal witness by the renowned theologian whose theological works have influenced generations of pastors. Moltmann, after the death of his wife Elizabeth, reflects on the meaning of death, the resurrection and eternal life. Her death, according Moltmann, forced him to rethink his “theological position.” He wrestles with personal grief, as well as the great mystery of life awakening after death.

Good Things Out of Nazareth: The Uncollected Letters of Flannery O’Connor and Friends
Flannery O’Connor, edited by Benjamin B. Alexander
Convergent Books, 416 pages

The editor has found a treasure trove of unpublished letters of the well-known, though often misunderstood, writer. Letters include those to Walker Person, Caroline Gordon and Katherine Anne Porter and explore creativity, faith, suffering, theology and the writing life. Few people stretch the imagination quite like O’Connor.

Wild Beliefs: Poets and Prophets in the Wilderness
Nick Ripatrazone
Broadleaf Books, 148 pages

Ripatrazone, the cultural editor of Image Journal, has brought together various writers to explore the “tonic that is the wilderness.” In addition to his fine essay on God in the desert, the contributors include Mary Oliver and Wendell Berry, Gerard Manley Hopkins and Terry Tempest Williams. This book is for those who search for the presence of holiness within the beauty of wild places.

The Nones: Where They Came From, Who They Are, and Where They Are Going
Ryan P. Burge
Fortress Press, 160 pages

Burge is a sociologist and pastor. He has gathered a considerable amount of data to aid church leaders who are trying to figure out what is going on. The book is written as a kind of “cheat sheet” for those who have neither time nor interest to interpret raw data and don’t trust the internet as a reliable source.

Everyday Prayer with the Reformers
Donald K. McKim
P&R Publishing, 136 pages

McKim continues to provide access to the prayer life of the Reformers to aid the contemporary church. Following his previous book, “Everyday Prayer with John Calvin,” this devotional includes a selection of writings with Scripture and prayer. These daily readings, rich in history and theology, are given as gifts to deepen and strengthen the life of faith.

Decolonizing Christianity: Becoming Badass Believers
Miguel A. De La Torre
Eerdmans, 240 pages

De La Torre is a social ethicist who relentlessly exposes the heresy that is white supremacy disguised as Christianity. His project is to strip away the white cultural assumptions from Christianity so that one more closely aligned with Jesus – who is more closely aligned with poor and marginalized people – will emerge with life-changing power. You may flinch at his comments. That’s okay; the conversation is a necessary one.

The End of Memory: Remembering Rightly in a Violent World
Miroslav Volf
Eerdmans, 308 pages

This is a profound theological reflection on memory in the face of suffering. Volf is one of the finest public theologians and this is one of his most searing books. He asks about the real-world possibilities of reconciliation, in addition to the larger questions of eternal life. Is there a role for forgetting, rather than remembering everything? This second edition includes an interview with James K.A. Smith.

Moral Man and Immoral Society: A Study in Ethics and Politics
Reinhold Niebuhr
WJK Press, 320 pages

The venerable classic remains worth a close reading. Published on the 50th anniversary of his death, this edition includes a trenchant foreword by Cornel West pressing the importance of Niebhur’s social ethics not only for the 20th century, but this very moment.

Family of Origin, Family of Choice: Stories of Queer Christians
Katie Hays and Susan A. Chiasson
Eerdmans, 158 pages

These are the honest stories of members of Galileo Church in Texas, where Hays is founder and lead evangelist. Chiasson is a researcher committed to understanding real-life beliefs and attitudes. Hays interviewed queer Christians and their families at Galileo, exploring the complexities of affirming and non-affirming families and the struggles to be authentic. The result is a life-affirming narrative of people whose lives remain, like the rest of us, a work in progress.

Resurrecting Justice: Reading Romans for the Life of the World
Douglas Harink
IVP Press, 248 pages

Harink is a biblical theologian who has found justice to be the central theme of Romans. He argues convincingly that the life, death and resurrection of Jesus is the lens through which justice finds meaning. In our time, the pursuit of justice remains critical yet divisive. Christians will find Romans a valuable source and Harink an excellent guide.

Interpreting Paul: The Canonical Paul (volume 2)
Luke Timothy Johnson
Eerdmans, 616 pages

A stunning collection of essays on each of the letters of Paul. The author set the stage for this book with volume 1. Now he probes Paul’s letters more closely for their importance in the formation of communities of faith. Johnson is a sharp critic of those academics who dismiss the “disputed” letters of Paul, thus eviscerating their importance for preaching and teaching. His aim is precisely that of Paul: the recovering of robust communities of Christian practice. Both volumes deserve a close reading.

This Hallelujah Banquet: How the End of What We Were Reveals Who We Can Be
Eugene H. Peterson
WaterBrook, 208 pages

The late Eugene Peterson wrote an extraordinary commentary on Revelation in “Reversed Thunder.” The editors at WaterBrook have gathered his sermons and meditations that accompanied his work. A rare treat.

Anchorhold: Corresponding with Revelations of Divine Love
Kristen Pinto Gfroerer
Cascade Books, 208 pages

Gfroerer probes the astonishing claims of Julian of Norwich about the love found in the crucified Jesus. This is a collection of her letters written to Julian in an attempt to discover the true depths of love-in-suffering. It is a book like no other, written in a time of pandemic like no other, except for the one that Julian experienced.

Philippians: Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible
George Hunsinger
Brazos Press, 256 pages

Every pastor planning to preach or teach a series on this short epistle needs this commentary. It will enrich your work. More importantly, it will challenge you in all the best ways. This not merely exegetical, but is a theological commentary — one Hunsinger describes as an “exercise in post-liberal biblical interpretation.”

A Pilgrimage to Eternity: From Canterbury to Rome in Search of a Faith
Timothy Egan
Viking, 384 pages

Egan walked 1,000 miles across Europe on a pilgrimage of discovery. Along the way he explores the heart of Christianity through the lives of fellow pilgrims. It’s a marvelous story, later made into a PBS film.

The Creative Spark: How Imagination Made Humans Exceptional
Agustín Fuentes
Dutton, 352 pages

Going forward after the pandemic, humans will have to grasp new ways of sustaining common life. This is exceptionally true for communities of faith. Fuentes is an evolutionary anthropologist who demonstrates how creativity is indeed essential to humanity. Along with creativity comes collaboration. Creativity and collaboration are precisely what is needed now.

A Theology for the Twenty-First Century
Douglas F. Ottati
Eerdmans, 800 pages

Written as a textbook, Ottati has given a theological guide for the 21st century. The task, he asserts, is “how to live and move in relationship with the God who creates and redeems.” This is a guide not only for students, but for intellectually inquisitive searchers who want to explore theology and discover God.

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