by Drew Hansen. New York: Ecco, 2003. ISBN 0060084774. $13.95. 293 pp.
It has been 37 years since an assassin's bullet tragically ended the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis. A stone marker at the base of that balcony on the grounds of what is now the National Civil Rights Museum has an eerie quotation from the book of Genesis, "Behold, this dreamer cometh. Come now therefore, and let us slay him ... and we shall see what will become of his dreams."
Dr. King's "dream" led to monumental changes in American culture and we all share a debt of gratitude for his selfless prophecy and vigilance. But if he were alive today, I am certain Dr. King would remind us that his "dream" has not been fully realized. In our country today, the issues of "residential segregation, inequalities in education and poverty among Americans of all races" threaten the very fabric of our democracy.
By Ronald C. White Jr. (New York: Random House, 2005. Pp. xxiii, 448. $26.95)
Ronald C. White's new book is a thorough and engaging study of the rhetoric of Abraham Lincoln's major speeches and public letters. The focus on language is clear throughout: White argues that Lincoln carefully crafted his words to address specific situations and persuade his immediate audiences. Yet The Eloquent President is not a literary study per se; it avoids technical, theoretically informed analysis in favor of straightforward readings discussed against the background of the day-to-day life and social encounters of the Civil War President. This is a well-written book without a heavy-handed message or strong thesis. It reads easily and yet makes serious points.
by Donald W. Shriver Jr. (New York, Oxford University Press, 2005, 285 pages)
A dishonest patriot believes that his or her country can do no wrong and calls anyone who disagrees a traitor.
A dishonest patriot benefits from prejudicial laws and advocates special interests above public interest.
An honest patriot is acutely aware of both the strengths and weakness of his or her country. He or she works hard to celebrate the good while correcting the bad so that a spirit of humility and gratitude will bless the future.
This book, by the well-respected ethicist, Donald W. Shriver Jr., is a sustained effort to develop in responsible detail a portrait of an honest patriot. It is a sequel to Shriver's 1995 work, An Ethic for Enemies-Forgiveness in Politics. The author is president emeritus of Union Theological Seminary in New York City.
by Francis Taylor Gench, (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox, 2004).
In this recent book by the author of Hebrews and James in the Westminster Bible Companion series, Francis Taylor Gench provides a sparkling discussion of six gospel encounters between women and Jesus. This book offers fresh readings of familiar stories by allowing a range of scholarly voices, especially feminist voices, to raise key questions and new perspectives about the meaning of the narratives in their ancient and contemporary settings.
The book begins with Matthew's story of the Canaanite woman (or the Syro-Phoenician woman, as Mark refers to her) and Jesus. This story is notable for being the only one in the gospels in which Jesus, who is portrayed in an unflattering light, receives instruction rather than gives it! Gench notes the persistence and ingenuity inherent in Matthew's presentation of the woman who changed Jesus' mind regarding his mission to the Gentiles.
Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. ISBN 978-0-374-15389-2. 247 pages. $23.00.
Gilead, the 2005 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, is a quiet book. The rhythm is slow, the thought deep, the language reserved, and the action understated. A reader looking for lurid sex, violence, or dramatic action scenes, will be disappointed.
Though I am not a big fan of bumper sticker theology, during the 2004 presidential elections, I did find one bumper sticker that I strongly felt should have a place on my car. I ordered the bumper sticker from the Sojourners community in Washington D.C. The sticker reads, “God is not a Republican or a Democrat.” Amen!
by Steven P. Eason. Louisville: Geneva Press, 2004. ISBN 0-664-50263-6. $19.95. (Amazon Link)
The Book of Order states that “The minutes of session shall record the completion of a period of study and preparation” for newly- elected officers in the church. After that time of preparation, “the session shall examine them as to their personal faith; knowledge of the doctrine, government, and discipline contained in the Constitution of the church; and the duties of the office.”
by Andrew Purves. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press. 2004. pp. ixxxv, 236.
Pastors ought to read this book. It concerns the very important foundations that underlie much that we do as pastors. Its title, Reconstructing Pastoral Theology: A Christological Foundation, indicates the combination that makes this book so valuable—pastoral care with Christology.
By Ernest Lee Stoffel Smythe & Helwys. 1999. 104 pp. ISBN 1-57312-261-0
— Review by Robert V. Sturdivant, Cary, N.C.
In The Apocalyptic Resurrection of Jesus, Ernest Lee Stoffel offers a refreshing account of Jesus' resurrection.
Reacting against interpretations of the resurrection as mere myth, legend or symbol, and likewise that of literal persuasion, Stoffel prefers an alternative he identifies as embodying apocalyptic language, imagery and thought. Apocalyptic language, he notes, was known and in use at the time of Jesus.