Some books for February & beyond

This “blog” is my latest effort at easing the way the APC Wednesday book club chooses books to read and discuss.  If I get creative enough I’ll add some widgets to allow voting & stuff.  For now, here’s some books.  These include some that have already been suggested, and a couple more.

If you have some preferences you can post them in comments.

The descriptive text for each book is shamelessly copied from the Amazon site for the book, and the price is the discounted Amazon price.

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civiwarThe Civil War as a Theological Crisis, by Mark A. Noll ($19.77) (216 pp)

 

In an informative account of the theological dramas that underpinned and were unleashed by the Civil War, Noll (America’s God) argues that mid–19th-century America harbored “a significant theological crisis.” Quite simply, ministers disagreed about how to read the Bible—and as much as it was a result of fierce disagreements about slavery or Union, Noll says, the Civil War was a crisis over biblical interpretation. The Bible’s apparent acceptance of slavery led Christians into bitter debates, with Southern proslavery theologians detailing an elaborate defense of the “peculiar institution” and Northern antislavery clerics arguing that the slavery found in the Old Testament bore no resemblance to the chattel slavery of Southern plantations. Noll detours, for several chapters, to Europe, analyzing what Christians there had to say about America’s sectional and scriptural debates. He suggests that religious upheaval did not evaporate at Appomattox. In the postbellum years, Americans grappled with two great problems of “practical theology”: racism, and the convulsions of capitalism. This book’s substantive analysis belies its brevity. As today’s church debates over homosexuality reveal a new set of disagreements about how to read the Bible, this slim work of history is surprisingly timely. (Apr. 24)

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houseThe House at Sugar Beach: In Search of a Lost African Childhood by Helene Cooper ($15.00, 368 pp)

 

Journalist Cooper has a compelling story to tell: born into a wealthy, powerful, dynastic Liberian family descended from freed American slaves, she came of age in the 1980s when her homeland slipped into civil war. On Cooper’s 14th birthday, her mother gives her a diamond pendant and sends her to school. Cooper is convinced that somehow our world would right itself. That afternoon her uncle Cecil, the minister of foreign affairs, is executed. Cooper combines deeply personal and wide-ranging political strands in her memoir. There’s the halcyon early childhood in Africa, a history of the early settlement of Liberia, an account of the violent, troubled years as several regimes are overthrown, and the story of the family’s exile to America. A journalist-as-a-young-woman narrative unfolds as Cooper reports the career path that led her from local to national papers in the U.S. The stories themselves are fascinating, but a flatness prevails—perhaps one that mirror’s the author’s experience. After her uncle’s televised execution, Cooper does the same thing I would do for the rest of my life when something bad happens: I focus on something else. I concentrate on minutiae. It’s the only way to keep going when the world has ended. (May)

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parakeetBlue Parakeet: Rethinking How you read the Bible, Scott McKnight

Infused with common sense and seasoned with candor, the latest work from McKnight (The Jesus Creed), religious studies professor at North Park College, takes a stand in controversial territory by bravely asking the question: how is it that even Christians who claim to be led by an authoritative Bible read it so differently? In response, the author asserts that believers need to take a fresh look at how they adopt and adapt Scripture before they can read the Bible in a way that renews a living relationship with the God behind the sacred text. Using the analogy of a water slide, McKnight argues that the Gospel is the slide, the Bible and church tradition the walls that both protect and liberate the believer as he or she discerns how to apply Scripture as a living document. In the last section, McKnight tackles the controversial issue of women’s role in church ministry in a way that is both scholarly and confessional, documenting his own journey alongside that of the apostle Paul and other biblical characters. Enriched by folksy anecdotes, this volume could be very useful for evangelical readers and any others wanting a safe place to ask the same bold questions. (Nov.) — Publishers Weekly

 

 

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surprisedSurprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church, by N. T. Wright ($16.47, 352 pp)

 

Wright, one of the greatest, and certainly most prolific, Bible scholars in the world, will touch a nerve with this book. What happens when we die? How should we think about heaven, hell, purgatory and eternal life? Wright critiques the views of heaven that have become regnant in Western culture, especially the assumption of the continuance of the soul after death in a sort of blissful non-bodily existence. This is simply not Christian teaching, Wright insists. The New Testament’s clear witness is to the resurrection of the body, not the migration of the soul. And not right away, but only when Jesus returns in judgment and glory. The “paradise,” the experience of being “with Christ” spoken of occasionally in the scriptures, is a period of waiting for this return. But Christian teaching of life after death should really be an emphasis on “life after life after death”-the resurrection of the body, which is also the ground for all faithful political action, as the last part of this book argues. Wright’s prose is as accessible as it is learned-an increasingly rare combination. No one can doubt his erudition or the greatness of the churchmanship of the Anglican Bishop of Durham. One wonders, however, at the regular citation of his own previous work. And no other scholar can get away so cleanly with continuing to propagate the “hellenization thesis,” by which the early church is eventually polluted by contaminating Greek philosophical influence.

 

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mythsThe Myths We Live By (Paperback)  by Mary Midgley ($25.15, 208 pp)

 

Mary Midgley argues in her powerful new book that far from being the opposite of science, myth is a central part of it. In brilliant prose, she claims that myths are neither lies nor mere stories but a network of powerful symbols that suggest particular ways of interpreting the world.

 

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