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September + October:
Simply Christian by Tom Wright
Simply Christian is essential reading for anyone who wants to consider the real fundamentals of Christianity or is intrigued by its claims about the place of justice, beauty and love in our daily lives. Written in a lively and accessible style, though rooted in solid scholarship, this book describes the exciting relevance of the Bible and the Christian story for the contemporary world. ‘I am very much impressed by the Bishop’s book. He makes it absolutely fresh. He presents the case for Christianity as something new for the first time. It is enormously important especially in the UK where the Christian religion has virtually disappeared. ‘It is absolutely wonderful, absolutely radical and very powerful’ Professor Antony Flew, author of The Presumption of Atheism
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List of suggestions what we could read in the future:
A Generous Orthodoxy: Why I Am a Missional, Evangelical, Post/Protestant, Liberal/Conservative, Mystical/Poetic, Biblical, Charismatic/Contemplative, … Emergent, Unfinished Christian by Brian McLaren
Why I am a missional, evangelical, post/protestant, liberal/conservative, mystical/poetic, biblical, charismatic/contemplative, fundamentalist/Calvinist, Anabaptist/Anglican, Methodist, catholic, green, incarnational, depressed- yet hopeful, emergent, unfinished Christian. A confession and manifesto from a senior leader in the emerging church movement. A Generous Orthodoxy calls for a radical, Christ-centered orthodoxy of faith and practice in a missional, generous spirit. Brian McLaren argues for a post-liberal, post-conservative, post-protestant convergence, which will stimulate lively interest and global conversation among thoughtful Christians from all traditions. In a sweeping exploration of belief, author Brian McLaren takes us across the landscape of faith, envisioning an orthodoxy that aims for Jesus, is driven by love, and is defined by missional intent. A Generous Orthodoxy rediscovers the mysterious and compelling ways that Jesus can be embraced across the entire Christian horizon. Rather than establishing what is and is not “orthodox,” McLaren walks through the many traditions of faith, bringing to the center a way of life that draws us closer to Christ and to each other. Whether you find yourself inside, outside, or somewhere on the fringe of Christianity, A Generous Orthodoxy draws you toward a way of living that looks beyond the “us/them” paradigm to the blessed and ancient paradox of “we.”
Letters and Papers from Prison by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
One of the great classics of prison literature, Letters and Papers from Prison effectively serves as the last will and
testament of the Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, executed by the Nazis after incarceration in Tegel Prison. Acute
and subtle, warm and perceptive, yet also profoundly moving, the documents collectively tell a very human story of loss, of
courage, and of hope. Bonhoeffer’s story continues to be as vitally relevant, as politically prophetic, and as theologically significant, as it always has.
Written to make the often elusive and usually clergy-centered spiritual practice of discernment accessible to all people, Listening Hearts features simple reflections and exercises drawn from scripture and from Quaker and Ignatian traditions. The seminal work in the Listening Hearts Series, this book has been a beloved resource for tens of thousands of individual readers, retreat participants, small groups and church leaders, listening for and responding to God’s call in their lives.
The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
A milestone in the history of popular theology, ‘The Screwtape Letters’ is an iconic classic on spiritual warfare and the power of the devil.
This profound and striking narrative takes the form of a series of letters from Screwtape, a devil high in the Infernal Civil Service, to his nephew Wormwood, a junior colleague engaged in his first mission on earth trying to secure the damnation of a young man who has just become a Christian. Although the young man initially looks to be a willing victim, he changes his ways and is ‘lost’ to the young devil.
Dedicated to Lewis’s friend and colleague J.R.R. Tolkien, ‘The Screwtape Letters’ is a timeless classic on spiritual conflict and the invisible realities which are part of our religious experience.
Grace is the church’s great distinctive. It’s the one thing the world cannot duplicate, and the one thing it craves above all else–for only grace can bring hope and transformation to a jaded world.
In What’s So Amazing About Grace? award-winning author Philip Yancey explores grace at street level. If grace is God’s love for the undeserving, he asks, then what does it look like in action? And if Christians are its sole dispensers, then how are we doing at lavishing grace on a world that knows far more of cruelty and unforgiveness than it does of mercy?
Yancey sets grace in the midst of life’s stark images, tests its mettle against horrific “ungrace.” Can grace survive in the midst of such atrocities as the Nazi holocaust? Can it triumph over the brutality of the Ku Klux Klan? Should any grace at all be shown to the likes of Jeffrey Dahmer, who killed and cannibalized seventeen young men?
Grace does not excuse sin, says Yancey, but it treasures the sinner. True grace is shocking, scandalous. It shakes our conventions with its insistence on getting close to sinners and touching them with mercy and hope. It forgives the unfaithful spouse, the racist, the child abuser. It loves today’s AIDS-ridden addict as much as the tax collector of Jesus’ day.
In his most personal and provocative book ever, Yancey offers compelling, true portraits of grace’s life-changing power. He searches for its presence in his own life and in the church. He asks, How can Christians contend graciously with moral issues that threaten all they hold dear?
What happens when a respected Christian journalist decides to put his preconceptions aside and take a long look at the Jesus described in the Gospels? How does the Jesus of the New Testament compare to the “new, rediscovered” Jesus—or even the Jesus we think we know so well?
Philip Yancey offers a new and different perspective on the life of Christ and his work—his teachings, his miracles, his death and resurrection—and ultimately, who he was and why he came. From the manger in Bethlehem to the cross in Jerusalem, Yancey presents a complex character who generates questions as well as answers; a disturbing and exhilarating Jesus who wants to radically transform your life and stretch your faith.
The Jesus I Never Knew uncovers a Jesus who is brilliant, creative, challenging, fearless, compassionate, unpredictable, and ultimately satisfying. “No one who meets Jesus ever stays the same,” says Yancey. “Jesus has rocked my own preconceptions and has made me ask hard
n Fearfully & Wonderfully Made, Philip Yancey and Dr. Paul Brand revealed how God’s voice is encoded in the very structure of our bodies. In His Image takes up where its predecessor left off, beckoning us once again inward and onward to fresh exploration and discovery.
Yancey and Brand show how accurately and intricately the human body portrays the Body of Christ. In five sections—Image, Blood, Head, Spirit, and Pain—the acclaimed surgeon and the award-winning writer unlock the remarkable, living lessons contained in our physical makeup. This Gold Medallion Award-winning book will open your eyes to the complex miracle of the human body, and the even more compelling spiritual truths that it.
‘It has been slowly dawning on me over many years that there is a fundamental problem deep at the heart of Christian faith and practice as I have known it . . . we have all forgotten what the four gospels are about’. With this surprising and radical assertion, highly respected theologian and former Bishop of Durham Tom Wright launches a groundbreaking work sure to shake up and revolutionise much Christian thinking on the very heart and meaning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Tom Wright leads us, intelligently and graciously to seeing the new reality of the gospel story; one that is so explosive that the church in many generations has found it too much to take and so has watered it down rather than allowing its full impact to be felt.
What do Christians hope for? To leave this wicked world and go to ‘heaven’ For the ‘kingdom of God’ to grow gradually on earth? What do we mean by the ‘resurrection of the body’, and how does that fit with the popular image of sitting on clouds playing harps? And how does all this affect the way we live in the here and now? Tom Wright, one of our leading theologians, addresses these questions in this provocative and wide-ranging new book. He outlines the present confusion about future hope in both church and world. Then, having explained why Christians believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus himself, he explores the biblical hope for ‘new heavens and new earth’, and shows how the ‘second coming’ of Jesus, and the eventual resurrection, belong within that larger picture, together with the intermediate hope for ‘heaven’. For many, including many Christians, all this will come as a great surprise. Wright convincingly argues that what we believe about life after death directly affects what we believe about life before death. For if God intends to renew the whole creation – and if this has already begun in Jesus’ resurrection – the church cannot stop at ‘saving souls’, but must anticipate the eventual renewal by working for God’s kingdom in the wider world, bringing healing and hope in the present life. Lively and accessible, this book will surprise and excite all who are interested in the meaning of life not only after death but before it.
Eighty years after the Scopes Monkey Trial made a spectacle of Christian fundamentalism and brought national attention to her hometown, Rachel Held Evans faced a trial of her own when she began to have doubts about her faith. Growing up in a culture obsessed with apologetics, Evans asks questions she never thought she would ask. She learns that in order for her faith to survive in a postmodern context, it must adapt to change and evolve. Using as an illustration her own spiritual journey from certainty, through doubt, to faith, Evans adds a unique perspective to the ongoing dialogue about postmodernism and the church that has so captivated the Christian community in recent years. In a changing cultural environment where new ideas threaten the safety and security of the faith, Evolving in Monkey Town is a fearlessly honest story of survival.
In her latest book, religion expert Diana Butler Bass offers a fresh interpretation of this transformation and identifies a new spiritual awakening taking place inside and outside the church. Based on new research and a careful reading of history, CHRISTIANITY AFTER RELIGION argues that traditional Christianity has focused on three prescriptions, in this order: – This is what to believe (theology) – This is how to behave (practice) – This is who you are (experience and community) However, as modern people began to increasingly question their basic beliefs about their faith, disillusionment ensued and Christians began leaving the church as national studies reveal. Spirituality, by contrast, works in the reverse: people experience a connection to the divine directly and through community, are moved to change and serve others, and eventually discover what they believe. CHRISTIANITY AFTER RELIGION shows how this new bottom-up approach represents the real mission and message of Jesus and explains the dramatic spiritual awakening we are witnessing today. Replete with both statistical analysis and the testimonies of grassroots movements around the country, Bass’s latest book shows us how to approach our own faith with a newfound freedom that is both life-giving and service driven. CHRISTIANITY AFTER RELIGION will appeal to both the news media and the large audience that made her first Harper book, Christianity For the Rest of Us, a success.
Dave Tomilinson is author of “The Post Evangelical”, a seminal book which acknowledged the disenchantment with simplistic approaches to faith experienced by many evangelicals. Many, locked into interpretations of Christianity that they can no longer accept, have given up on the Church altogether. But is re-enchantment possible in our post-modern, post-Christian age?Re-enchantment is not a return to credulity or an attempt to recapture lost innocence, but it is finding a realistic faith that reconciles heart and head, that offers a positive, engaging spirituality, that is unafraid of grappling honestly with difficult questions.
Warning: this book does contain unusually strong language for a religious book!
Former stand-up comic and unlikely pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber weaves personal narrative, hilarious rants and powerful spiritual insight as she relates her unusual journey of faith, offering a fresh and uncompromising look at the transformative power of grace. As one of today’s most provocative Christian leaders, she blends sardonic irreverence and brilliant theology to offer a new portrait of faith – one that is edgy, outrageous and, above all, real. Smart-mouthed and heavily tattooed, Nadia Bolz-Weber didn’t consider herself ‘religious leader material’ and didn’t expect to find her vocation leading a funeral in a smoky, downtown comedy club. But surrounded by recovering alcoholics, depressives, and comedians, she realized these were her people and maybe she was meant to be their pastor. This compassionate book portrays both church and seekers as deeply flawed yet deeply faithful.
Warning: this book does contain unusually strong language for a religious book!
Anne Lamott claims the two best prayers she knows are: “Help me, help me, help me” and “Thank you, thank you, thank you.” She has a friend whose morning prayer each day is “Whatever,” and whose evening prayer is “Oh, well.” Anne thinks of Jesus as “Casper the friendly savior” and describes God as “one crafty mother.”
Despite–or because of–her irreverence, faith is a natural subject for Anne Lamott. Since Operating Instructions and Bird by Bird, her fans have been waiting for her to write the book that explained how she came to the big-hearted, grateful, generous faith that she so often alluded to in her two earlier nonfiction books. The people in Anne Lamott’s real life are like beloved characters in a favorite series for her readers–her friend Pammy, her son, Sam, and the many funny and wise folks who attend her church are all familiar. And Traveling Mercies is a welcome return to those lives, as well as an introduction to new companions Lamott treats with the same candor, insight, and tenderness.
Lamott’s faith isn’t about easy answers, which is part of what endears her to believers as well as nonbelievers. Against all odds, she came to believe in God and then, even more miraculously, in herself. As she puts it, “My coming to faith did not start with a leap but rather a series of staggers.” At once tough, personal, affectionate, wise, and very funny, Traveling Mercies tells in exuberant detail how Anne Lamott learned to shine the light of faith on the darkest part of ordinary life, exposing surprising pockets of meaning and hope.
Books recently read by the Book Club:
Understanding Difficult Scriptures in a Healing Way by Matthew Linn, Sheila Fabricant Linn, and Dennis Linn
Since loving connection is the central theme of the Bible, reading any scripture passage should help us feel closer to God, ourselves, others and the universe. Yet, “difficult scriptures”–those that seem to present an unloving, frightening or narrow image of God–can reinforce patterns of fear and shame and make it more difficult to take in healing love. However, when such passages are properly contextualized and interpreted, they often turn out to be surprisingly good news. This book, grounded in contemporary scholarship, gives examples of some wonderful surprises. It also suggests simple ways of interpreting any passage that helps us find the essence of the scriptures: a consistently loving, healing and salvific God.
Love Lost in Translation systematically examines the biblical stories and passages that are generally assumed to deal with, or comment on, homoerotic relationships: Noah and Ham, Sodom and Gomorrah, Leviticus 18:22, Deuteronomy 23:17-18, Judges 19, Romans 1:26-27, and 1 Corinthians 6:9. K. Renato Lings convincingly demonstrates that mistranslations of these texts into Greek, Latin and other languages occurred early, and that serious errors continue to be committed by translators today. This explains the painful controversy about same-sex relationships, which has rocked Christian churches for decades. Love Lost in Translation proposes a fresh approach to translating the Bible by means of linguistic and literary criteria. As demonstrated throughout this ground-breaking book, the method enables readers to become acquainted with the literary sophistication, psychological insights and spiritual depth of the Bible. Combining meticulous scholarship with an accessible style, Love Lost in Translation provides a much-needed infusion of essential learning into a subject that affects millions of Bible readers today.
If there is a loving God, then why is it that…? You’ve heard that question, perhaps asked it yourself. No matter how you complete it, at its root lies the issue of pain. Does God order our suffering? Does he decree an abusive childhood, orchestrate a jet crash, steer a tornado through a community? Or did he simply wind up the world’s mainspring and now is watching from a distance? In this Gold Medallion Award–winning book, Philip Yancey reveals a God who is neither capricious nor unconcerned. Using examples from the Bible and from his own experiences, Yancey looks at pain—physical, emotional, and spiritual—and helps us understand why we suffer. Where Is God When It Hurts? will speak to those for whom life sometimes just doesn’t make sense. And it will help equip anyone who wants to reach out to someone in pain but just doesn’t know what to say.
The headlines are clear: religion is on the decline in America as many people leave behind traditional religious practices. Diana Butler Bass, leading commentator on religion, politics, and culture, follows up her acclaimed book Christianity After Religion by arguing that what appears to be a decline actually signals a major transformation in how people understand and experience God. The distant God of conventional religion has given way to a more intimate sense of the sacred that is with us in the world. This shift, from a vertical understanding of God to a God found on the horizons of nature and human community, is at the heart of a spiritual revolution that surrounds us and that is challenging not only religious institutions but political and social ones as well.Grounded explores this cultural turn as Bass unpacks how people are finding new spiritual ground by discovering and embracing God everywhere in the world around us in the soil, the water, the sky, in our homes and neighborhoods, and in the global commons. Faith is no longer a matter of mountaintop experience or institutional practice; instead, people are connecting with God through the environment in which we live. Grounded guides readers through our contemporary spiritual habitat as it points out and pays attention to the ways in which people experience a God who animates creation and community.Bass brings her understanding of the latest research and studies and her deep knowledge of history and theology to Grounded. She cites news, trends, data, and pop culture, weaves in spiritual texts and ancient traditions, and pulls it all together through stories of her own and others’ spiritual journeys. Grounded observes and reports a radical change in the way many people understand God and how they practice faith. In doing so, Bass invites readers to join this emerging spiritual revolution, find a revitalized expression of faith, and change the world.
In what has become known as the ‘new perspective’ on Paul, Tom Wright has proposed a vision of the apostle’s central message that does full justice to all Paul’s letters. In particular, he focuses on the God-centered nature of Paul’s gospel, arguing that ‘traditional’ readings of Paul can suggest that the apostle’s message is simply about us: our sin, our justification, our salvation. Ambitious in scope, yet closely argued, Justification: God’s Plan and Paul’s Vision suggests that this crucial understanding of the theology of St Paul, and thus of the gospel of Christ, is urgently needed as the Church faces the tasks of mission in a dangerous world.