Searching for wisdom : recent beliefs books
This month’s offerings feature popular authors ranging from Richard Rohr, to Bart D. Ehrman.
Toxic charity : how churches and charities hurt those they help (and how to reverse it), by Robert D. Lupton.
Although we contribute money, and many volunteer hours to support needs here and abroad it appears to be a bottomless pit. Why are the same people trapped in cycles of unemployment, and poverty? Lupton, with many years of experience in urban renewal, argues that “when relief does not transition to development in a timely way, compassion becomes toxic. …He chronicles examples of good intentions gone awry and examines charitable activities that are resulting in transformative outcomes. … A must-read book for those who give to help others. (drawn from Booklist review, courtesy of Syndetics)
Did Jesus exist? : the historical argument for Jesus of Nazareth, by Bart D. Ehrman.
“The short answer is yes. But Ehrman, who’s written much on early Christian history and literature (e.g., Misquoting Jesus, 2005), … shows how empirical historians examine the evidence to conclude that Jesus almost certainly existed. He concludes with an account of who Jesus was historically, namely, an apocalyptic prophet. Finally, those who do not advocate belief in Jesus might be more successful, he says, if they emphasized the discrepancies between the historical Jesus and Jesus as modern Christianity represents him rather than harping on his nonexistence. As engrossing a rigorously nontheological work about Jesus as you’re ever likely to encounter. (drawn from Booklist, courtesy of Syndetics)
A lever and a place to stand : the contemplative stance, the active prayer, by Richard Rohr.
“This book, by a well-respected spiritual master, offers a critique of religious attitudes that create an alternative pious world for their believers without really challenging the oppression, materialism, and sectarianism of our modern world. According to Richard Rohr, religion without a genuinely contemplative stance is often at the root of the problem. He explains that religion can only recover its purpose as a transformational system if it overcomes its own temptation to embrace power, certitude, wealth, and fundamentalism. …(drawn from the book jacket)
The Holy Spirit in the world today, edited by Jane Williams.
“In recent decades, churches across the world have been rediscovering the dynamic power and deep wisdom of the Holy Spirit. Alongside the experience of the Spirit many theologians have begun to explore the theology of the Spirit and in 2010 a major conference took place at Holy Trinity Brompton on this very topic. This book is a collection of twelve papers delivered at this conference, and includes contributions from Jurgenn Moltman, Miroslav Volf, David Ford and Rowan Williams” (drawn from the publisher)
In the shadow of his wings : the pastoral ministry of angels, yesterday, today, and for heaven, by Jonathan Macy.
Historically, angels have been viewed as either disconnected objects of speculative investigation, or as mystifying beings mysteriously influencing our lives. However, this is not how the Bible describes them. … We see messages of encouragement, revelation, and guidance; we see judgment and correction; we see strengthening, we see journeying; we see prayer and worship. … Using only Scripture and a classic model of pastoral theology as the framework, this book shows practically how angels are employed by God to bless His church and people as His servant ministers who glorify Him alone. (drawn from Syndetics summary)
On being : a scientist’s exploration of the great questions of existence, by Peter Atkins.
“Peter Atkins is the shining exception to the rule that scientists make poor writers. A Fellow at Oxford and a leading chemist, he has won admiration for his precise, lucid, and yet rigorous explanations of science. Now he turns to the greatest–and most controversial–questions of human existence. Can the scientific method tell us anything of value about birth, death, the origin of reality–and its end? Are these questions best left to faith? Atkins makes a provocative contribution to the great debate between religion and science. …He explores breathtaking questions–asking the purpose of the universe–with wit and learning, touching on Sanskrit scriptures and John Updike along the way….” — www.amazon.com
The apocalypse : a brief history, by Martha Himmelfarb.
“For most people, the term “apocalypse” conjures disturbing images of impending doom. Yet historically, apocalypse encompasses far more than the cataclysmic events prophesied in the book of Revelation. ….The book traces the tradition of apocalyptic writing through the Middle Ages, when Jews and Christians continued to record apocalypses and developed related forms of literature. It concludes with a look at the modern era, when the production of apocalypses may have ended, yet movements with intense expectations of the world’s imminent demise continue unabated. Accessible and enlightening, this brief history provides readers with insights into the fascinating historical genre of apocalyptic literature. Book jacket.” (Syndetics summary)
Being gay, being Christian : you can be both, by Stuart Edser.
The primary aim of this book is to explain to gay or same-sex attracted people that they can be both gay and Christian – that the two are not mutually exclusive. The calm authoritative voice of science and scholarship, explains that gay people are neither sick nor sinful. Author Stuart Edser threads his own extraordinary story throughout the text, using this and his experience as a clinician to guide his thinking. At the end, he presents an alternative model of Christian discourse to that which we usually hear and offers a positive voice so often glaringly absent from the Church’s utterances on homosexuality. (drawn from Syndetics summary)
A life together : wisdom of community from the Christian East, by Seraphim Sigrist.
“Taking his cues from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s influential Life Together, Moscow bishop and author Sigrist (Theology of Wonder) puts an Eastern Orthodox spin on the theme of unity. Like Bonhoeffer, his push for community stems from an inability to meet with other Christians, one result of life under Soviet rule of Russia. Other similar themes emerge: the importance of group prayer, the need to bear one another’s burdens. …. Readers in a global society fraught with discord will find hope in this revived prescription for an “interweaving of relationships.” Sigrist’s nuggets of wisdom are the kind of gems that readers will treasure and quote for years to come. (drawn from Publisher Weekly, courtesy of Syndetics)
Other : embracing difference in a fractured world, by Kester Brewin.
“Beginning with Jesus’ instruction to love God, and love our neighbour as we love ourselves, Brewin explores how we might better engage ‘the other’ within the Self, within God and within the worlds we inhabit. Drawing on Brewin’s work as a theologian, poet and teacher this accessible and highly original work prompts us to reconsider the key question of ‘what kind of selves do we need to be in order to live in harmony with others?’” (drawn from publisher’s description)
Inside Scientology : the story of America’s most secretive religion, by Janet Reitman.
“A contributing editor at Rolling Stone, Reitman has expanded on her 13,000-word story on Scientology, which ran in 2006, to produce a detailed and readable examination of the life of L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of the church, and his successor, David Miscavige. The book is rife with astonishing accounts of the abuses of power, the purges, and the climate of fear and intimidation commonplace in the top ranks of the organization. What’s lacking is a thoughtful analysis of what Scientology represents within the broader 21st-century culture…. (drawn from Publisher Weekly rview, courtesy of Syndetics)
Render unto Rome : the secret life of money in the Catholic Church / Jason Berry.
“An investigation of epic financial intrigue, “Render Unto Rome” exposes the secretive and sometimes highly dubious ways the Catholic Church uses its money.” (Syndetics summary)
Who made God? : Searching for a theory of everything, by Edgar Andrews.
“science, philosophy and faith with an amazing lightness of touch, Edgar Andrews exposes the pretensions of the new atheism of Richard Dawkins and others, blending incisive arguments with gentle humour.” (Syndetics summary) Chapter headings include:
Sooty and the universe: who made God? — Yogurt, cereal and toast: can science explain everything? — Stringing it all together: searching for a theory of everything — Pouring concrete: foundations and hypotheses — Ferrets and fallacies: a brief critique of God, the failed hypothesis — Peeling onions: the ubiquity of law in conscience, nature and society.