Archive for Theology

The Meaning of Belief: Religion from an Atheist’s Point of View

The Meaning of Belief: Religion from an Atheist’s Point of View, by Tim Crane (Hb $24.95, Kndl $14.72) 224 pp

MeaningAmazon: Contemporary debate about religion seems to be going nowhere. Atheists persist with their arguments, many plausible and some unanswerable, but these make no impact on religious believers. Defenders of religion find atheists equally unwilling to cede ground. The Meaning of Belief offers a way out of this stalemate.

An atheist himself, Tim Crane writes that there is a fundamental flaw with most atheists’ basic approach: religion is not what they think it is. Atheists tend to treat religion as a kind of primitive cosmology, as the sort of explanation of the universe that science offers. They conclude that religious believers are irrational, superstitious, and bigoted. But this view of religion is almost entirely inaccurate. Crane offers an alternative account based on two ideas. The first is the idea of a religious impulse: the sense people have of something transcending the world of ordinary experience, even if it cannot be explicitly articulated. The second is the idea of identification: the fact that religion involves belonging to a specific social group and participating in practices that reinforce the bonds of belonging. Once these ideas are properly understood, the inadequacy of atheists’ conventional conception of religion emerges.

The Meaning of Belief does not assess the truth or falsehood of religion. Rather, it looks at the meaning of religious belief and offers a way of understanding it that both makes sense of current debate and also suggests what more intellectually responsible and practically effective attitudes atheists might take to the phenomenon of religion.

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God of the Possible: A Biblical Introduction to the Open View of God

God of the Possible: A Biblical Introduction to the Open View of God, by Gregory Boyd ($14.95 pb, $9.99 Kndl)

GodofthePossibleAmazon: 

From Publishers Weekly

This exceptionally engaging and biblically centered text defends a theological claim that is generating heated controversy among evangelicals: that from God’s perspective, the future is partly open, a realm of possibilities as well as certainties. Boyd, professor of theology at Bethel College (St. Paul, Minn.) and author of Letters from a Skeptic and God at War, displays a remarkable ability to make “open theism” accessible to a wide audience. Open theism usually receives a cool reception among evangelical theologians, whose views of divine foreknowledge often echo Augustine, Aquinas and Calvin, as well as Hellenistic philosophical theology. This classical tradition interprets God’s perfection as eternal changelessness, ruling out the possibility that God could learn new information, or that God’s intentions could change. Boyd sidesteps the more abstruse theological debates surrounding this issue in favor of a patient, but not pedantic, exposition of a “motif of future openness” in biblical narrative and prophecy. These biblical texts repeatedly portray God as changing plans in response to human decisions, viewing future events as contingent and even being disappointed at how events turn out. Boyd clearly believes the debate over open theism has gotten off to an unfortunate start, as disagreements about the “settledness” of the future have unnecessarily been interpreted as challenges to God’s omniscience or sovereignty. This convincing, clear book promises to raise the caliber of argument in the controversy.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Trouble I’ve Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism

Trouble I’ve Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism, by Drew G. I. Hart ($9.99 Kndl, $12.61 pb)

troubleReview in Christian Century here.

Amazon:  What if racial reconciliation doesn’t look like what you expected? The high-profile killings of young black men and women by white police officers, and the protests and violence that ensued, have convinced many white Christians to reexamine their intuitions when it comes to race and justice.

In this provocative book, theologian and blogger Drew G. I. Hart places police brutality, mass incarceration, antiblack stereotypes, poverty, and everyday acts of racism within the larger framework of white supremacy. Leading readers toward Jesus, Hart offers concrete practices for churches that seek solidarity with the oppressed and are committed to racial justice.

What if all Christians listened to the stories of those on the racialized margins? How might the church be changed by the trouble we ve seen?

Key Features:
-Written by well-known theologian and blogger Drew Hart with foreword by Christena Cleveland
-Hard-hitting analysis of racial injustice in the twenty-first century
-Provides a call to action for Christians committed to racial justice and creative proposals for antiracist practices for churches

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Inhabiting Eden: Christians, the Bible, and the Ecological Crisis

Inhabiting Eden: Christians, the Bible, and the Ecological Crisis, by Patricia K Tull ($13.84 pb, $9.99 Kndl)

EdenAmazon: In this thoughtful study, respected Old Testament scholar Patricia K. Tull explores the Scriptures for guidance on today’s ecological crisis. Tull looks to the Bible for what it can tell us about our relationships, not just to the earth itself, but also to plant and animal life, to each other, to descendants who will inherit the planet from us, and to our Creator. She offers candid discussions on many current ecological problems that humans contribute to, such as the overuse of energy resources like gas and electricity, consumerism, food production systems–including land use and factory farming–and toxic waste. Each chapter concludes with discussion questions and a practical exercise, making it ideal for both group and individual study. This important book provides a biblical basis for thinking about our world differently and prompts us to consider changing our own actions. Visit inhabitingeden.org for links to additional resources and information.

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Man Is Not Alone : A Philosophy of Religion, and God in Search of Man

Man Is Not Alone : A Philosophy of Religion, and God in Search of Man: A Philosophy of Judaism ($12.39 pb, $9.99 Kndl; $15.83 pb, $9.99 Kndl)

manAmazon: Man Is Not Alone is a profound, beautifully written examination of the ingredients of piety: how man senses God’s presence, explores it, accepts it, and builds life upon it. Abraham Joshua Heschel’s philosophy of religion is not a philosophy of doctrine or the interpretation of a dogma. He erects his carefully built structure of thought upon foundations which are universally valid but almost generally ignored. It was Man Is Not Alone which led Reinhold Niebuhr accurately to predict that Heschel would “become a commanding and authoritative voice not only in the Jewish community but in the religious life of America.” With its companion volume, God in Search of Man, it is revered as a classic of modern theology.

godinsearch[God in Search of Man] Abraham Joshua Heschel was one of the most revered religious leaders of the 20th century, and God in Search of Man and its companion volume, Man Is Not Alone, two of his most important books, are classics of modern Jewish theology.God in Search of Man combines scholarship with lucidity, reverence, and compassion as Dr. Heschel discusses not man’s search for God but God’s for man–the notion of a Chosen People, an idea which, he writes, “signifies not a quality inherent in the people but a relationship between the people and God.” It is an extraordinary description of the nature of Biblical thought, and how that thought becomes faith.

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Understanding Beliefs

Understanding Beliefs, by Nils Nilsson ($11.05 pb, $9.99 Kndl)

beliefsAmazon: Our beliefs constitute a large part of our knowledge of the world. We have beliefs about objects, about culture, about the past, and about the future. We have beliefs about other people, and we believe that they have beliefs as well. We use beliefs to predict, to explain, to create, to console, to entertain. Some of our beliefs we call theories, and we are extraordinarily creative at constructing them. Theories of quantum mechanics, evolution, and relativity are examples. But so are theories about astrology, alien abduction, guardian angels, and reincarnation. All are products (with varying degrees of credibility) of fertile minds trying to find explanations for observed phenomena. In this book, Nils Nilsson examines beliefs: what they do for us, how we come to hold them, and how to evaluate them. We should evaluate our beliefs carefully, Nilsson points out, because they influence so many of our actions and decisions. Some of our beliefs are more strongly held than others, but all should be considered tentative and changeable. Nilsson shows that beliefs can be quantified by probability, and he describes networks of beliefs in which the probabilities of some beliefs affect the probabilities of others. He argues that we can evaluate our beliefs by adapting some of the practices of the scientific method and by consulting expert opinion. And he warns us about “belief traps” — holding onto beliefs that wouldn’t survive critical evaluation. The best way to escape belief traps, he writes, is to expose our beliefs to the reasoned criticism of others.

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Stay: A History of Suicide and the Philosophies Against It

Stay: A History of Suicide and the Philosophies Against It, by Susan B. Hecht ($19.71 hb, $12.23 pb, $12.99 Kndl)

stayAmazon:

Worldwide, more people die by suicide than by murder, and many more are left behind to grieve. Despite distressing statistics that show suicide rates rising, the subject, long a taboo, is infrequently talked about. In this sweeping intellectual and cultural history, poet and historian Jennifer Michael Hecht channels her grief for two friends lost to suicide into a search for history’s most persuasive arguments against the irretrievable act, arguments she hopes to bring back into public consciousness.
From the Stoics and the Bible to Dante, Shakespeare, Wittgenstein, and such twentieth-century writers as John Berryman, Hecht recasts the narrative of our “secular age” in new terms. She shows how religious prohibitions against self-killing were replaced by the Enlightenment’s insistence on the rights of the individual, even when those rights had troubling applications. This transition, she movingly argues, resulted in a profound cultural and moral loss: the loss of shared, secular, logical arguments against suicide. By examining how people in other times have found powerful reasons to stay alive when suicide seems a tempting choice, she makes a persuasive intellectual and moral

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When God Talks Back: Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship with God

When God Talks Back: Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship with God, by T. M. Luhrmann (pb $13.33, 464 pp)

GodTalksAmazon:  A bold approach to understanding the American evangelical experience from an anthropological and psychological perspective by one of the country’s most prominent anthropologists.

Through a series of intimate, illuminating interviews with various members of the Vineyard, an evangelical church with hundreds of congregations across the country, Tanya Luhrmann leaps into the heart of evangelical faith. Combined with scientific research that studies the effect that intensely practiced prayer can have on the mind, When God Talks Back examines how normal, sensible people—from college students to accountants to housewives, all functioning perfectly well within our society—can attest to having the signs and wonders of the supernatural become as quotidian and as ordinary as laundry. Astute, sensitive, and extraordinarily measured in its approach to the interface between science and religion, Luhrmann’s book is sure to generate as much conversation as it will praise.

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Benefit of the Doubt: Breaking the Idol of Certainty

Benefit of the Doubt: Breaking the Idol of Certainty, by Gregory Boyd ($12.89 pb)

doubtrAmazon:  In Benefit of the Doubt, influential theologian, pastor, and bestselling author Gregory Boyd invites readers to embrace a faith that doesn’t strive for certainty, but rather for commitment in the midst of uncertainty. Boyd rejects the idea that a person’s faith is as strong as it is certain. In fact, he makes the case that doubt can enhance faith and that seeking certainty is harming many in today’s church. Readers who wrestle with their faith will welcome Boyd’s message that experiencing a life-transforming relationship with Christ is possible, even with unresolved questions about the Bible, theology, and ethics. Boyd shares stories of his own painful journey, and stories of those to whom he has ministered, with a poignant honesty that will resonate with readers of all ages.

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America and Its Guns: A Theological Expose

America and Its Guns: A Theological Expose, by James E. Atwood ($23.51)

Amazon:   James Atwood contends that the thirty thousand gun deaths America suffers every year cannot be understood apart from our national myth that God has appointed America as “the trustee of the civilization of the world” and even “Christ’s light to the nations.” Because these purposes are noble, and we are supposedly a good and trustworthy people, violence is sometimes “required” and gives license to individuals to carry open or concealed weapons, which “save lives” and can even be “redemptive.”

Atwood, an avid hunter, cautions that an absolute trust in guns and violence morphs easily into idolatry. Having spent thirty-six years as a Presbyterian pastor fighting against the easy access to firearms, one of which took the life of a friend, he uses his unique experience and his biblical and theological understanding to graphically portray the impact guns have on our society. He documents how Americans have been deceived into believing that the tools of violence, whether they take the form of advanced military technology or a handgun in the bedside stand, will provide security. He closes with a wake-up call to the faith community, which he says is America’s best hope to unmask the extremism of the Gun Empire.

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