Book Symposium on Bruce Ellis Benson’s Liturgy as a Way of Life

Over the past several weeks The Church and Postmodern Culture blog has hosted a book symposium on Liturgy as a Way of Life: Embodying the Arts in Christian Worship by Bruce Ellis Benson. Contributors included Ed Phillips, Linda Borecki, and Nathaniel Marx, with responses from Bruce Benson. Here are the links for the engaging conversation that took place about this fascinating book.

Ed Phillips’ review of Liturgy as a Way of Life

Bruce Benson’s response to Phillips

Linda Borecki’s review of Liturgy as a Way of Life

Bruce Benson’s response to Borecki

Nathaniel Marx’s review of Liturgy as a Way of Life

Bruce Benson’s response to Marx

About the Book:

Philosopher Bruce Ellis Benson explores how the arts inform and cultivate service to God, helping the church to not only think differently about the arts but also act differently. He contends that we are all artists, that our very lives should be seen as art, and that we should live liturgically in service to God and neighbor.

Working from the biblical structure of call and response, Benson rethinks what it means to be artistic and recovers the ancient Christian idea of presenting oneself to God as a work of art. Rather than viewing art as practiced only by the few, Benson argues that we are all called by God to be artists. He reenvisions art as the very core of our being: we are God’s own art, and God calls us to improvise as living and growing works of art. Benson also examines the nature of liturgy and connects art and liturgy in a new way.

“This packs a lot of punch for a short book. Yet the tone is gracious, cautious, and often conversational. It signals a new ‘turn’ in worship studies: a concern for a theologically rich and culturally alert engagement with the arts in congregational worship. It deserves a wide readership and will doubtless provoke a whole series of fruitful improvisations.”
Jeremy Begbie, Thomas A. Langford Research Professor of Theology, Duke University

“‘Call and response’ and ‘improvisation’ are only two of the many ideas Benson fleshes out in this book. I appreciate these two especially because our culture has so misunderstood the terms ‘liturgy’ and ‘creativity’ (which is God’s alone). We need a philosopher to set us right.”
Marva J. Dawn, author of Reaching Out without Dumbing Down, A Royal “Waste” of Time, and How Shall We Worship?

BA Books & Authors on the Web – July 26, 2013

Frederick Murphy’s Apocalypticism in the Bible and Its World was awarded the 2013 Biblical Archaeology Society Award for Best Book Relating to the New Testament. They wrote:

“Apocalypticism in the Bible and Its World provides the field of Biblical research a comprehensive study of Jewish apocalyptic thought from its inception in the Books of Enoch through the vast literature of Early Judaism, including the Dead Sea Scrolls, into its expressions in Jesus’ teachings, Pauline theology, and the early Christian movement. At the same time, author Frederick J. Murphy makes his work accessible to critical Biblical study beginners by the clarity of his presentation of the developmental stages of apocalypticism, its vestiges in current belief and practice, and by the side bars, boxes, charts, illustrations, and very useful bibliographies found in each chapter.”

The End of Apologetics by Myron Bradley Penner was reviewed by Jim Kane on his blog, Le padre ver livre.

Penner’s book was also reviewed by Joan Nienhuis on her blog.

Imagining the Kingdom by James K. A. Smith was reviewed by Paul Bickley on the Theos Think Tank website.

James K.A. Smith was recently mentioned in a New York Times opinion piece and Imagining the Kingdom was mentioned on the Christ and Popculture Patheos blog.

The Gospel of Mark (CCSS series) by Mary Healy was reviewed by Nijay Gupta on his blog.

Understanding Spiritual Warfare by James K. Beilby and Paul Rhodes Eddy (eds.) was reviewed by Eric Twietmeyer, Randal Kay, and Mark Dunker for EFCA Today.

On the Church and Postmodern Culture blog, the book symposium on Bruce Ellis Benson’s Liturgy as a Way of Life continued with a review from Linda Borecki.

Interview with Andrew Davison about Imaginative Apologetics – Part 2

This is the second part of our interview with Andrew Davison, editor of Imaginative Apologetics: Theology, Philosophy, and the Catholic Tradition. Read Part 1 HERE.

How are the essays in this volume representative of “imaginative apologetics?” What role does imagination have in Christian apologetics?

I can pick up here where I just left off. An account of reason worthy of the name does not stop with mathematics, logic, and the natural sciences. Reason is a feeling thing, and it is also intimately bound up with the imagination. So much so, that even my invocation of mathematics and the natural sciences just then is unfair to those disciplines; the mathematician and the scientist use their imaginations, at least if they are up to their job. This is where the philosophy comes in: the “New Atheists” and their like are hopelessly behind the times when it comes to epistemology—the theory of knowledge—and are living in a time warp of discredited logical positivism. We are among those people pointing this out.

The book presents apologetics as a matter of the imagination in at least three ways. The first is perhaps the most obvious: apologetics can, and often should, draw on works of the imagination: literature, film, and so on. Alison Milbank addresses this, as does Michael Ward in his chapter on C. S. Lewis’s apologetic method. The second point picks up the thought I have just mentioned. Imagination is not the isolated preserve of the “creative” person; it is part of what everyday reason always involves. As I remember, the poet Coleridge called the work of the creative imagination as we know it today—the sort that produces poems or novels—the “secondary imagination.” He reserved the term “primary imagination” for the sense in which all thought requires elements of exploration, sympathy, and creativity. As for the third way in which the book is imaginative, I’d point to some of the more unusual angles we take on apologetics: “imaginative angles,” we could say. These include getting at apologetics through its history, a chapter on unbelief that asks what Christians have done that has made the faith unbelievable, and a chapter on “Christian Ethics as Good News”: an approach that I think is good for both apologetics and Christian ethics.

In your essay in Imaginative Apologetics, you discuss Christian reason as distinct and attractive and then relate it to community. What is the role of Christian community in reason and apologetics?

I wonder whether the standard view of apologetics as the work of the individual—which I accept—needs to be broadened to include a sense of the church as an apologetic community. I stand by the idea put forward by figures such as Ludwig Wittgenstein, Michael Polanyi, and Alasdair MacIntyre that particular forms of reason are bound up with particular forms of community. If that is true, then an invitation to think in a Christian way cannot be separated from an invitation to live in the Christian community: the church. It seems quite possible that certain Christian claims—on forgiveness, for instance—might make no sense outside an experience of the Christian community that makes those claims. We are not asking people to adopt new abstract ideas, argued based on what they already take to be obvious; we are asking them to take on a new sense of where to start, a new sense of what is obvious, of what makes sense. This makes some fairly strong demands on the church and how her communities work on the ground. They are demands worth making, since they are what Christ already asks of us.

Andrew Davison (DPhil, University of Oxford) is the tutor in doctrine at Westcott House, University of Cambridge, in Cambridge, England. He has taught theology at St. Stephen’s House, Oxford, and is known for his writing on doctrine, mission, and the church. He is coauthor of For the Parish: A Critique of Fresh Expressions and joint editor of Lift Up Your Hearts.

For more information on Imaginative Apologetics, click HERE.

Thomas Schreiner: “Why I Wrote The King in His Beauty

“Why I Wrote The King in His Beauty
by Thomas R. Schreiner

We write books for all kinds of reasons. Sometimes we want to try out a new idea on the scholarly community, hoping that we have found a new insight into an old problem or perhaps believing that the scholarly consensus is dramatically wrong. Other times we write to communicate what excites us, sharing with others what we have discovered. The latter reason explains why I wrote The King in His Beauty: A Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments. I didn’t write the book because I have a new model or theory on how to put the Bible together. Nor did I write it to try out a novel scholarly theory. In other words, the audience I had in mind was not first and foremost the academic world. I teach in a seminary and serve as a preaching pastor in the church, and what excites me is training pastors, missionaries, and ministers for the work of the ministry. So, I wrote the book with pastors, students, and interested laypersons in mind (though I hope scholars will profit from it as well). I hope readers can pick up my book and find a thorough but relatively nontechnical unfolding of the storyline of the Bible in which the contribution of each book in the Scriptures is included.

Let me say a few other things about the book. I don’t claim to have written the whole biblical theology that captures what the Bible is truly about. It is impossible to write such a book, for no biblical theology can do justice to all that the Scriptures teach. The subject matter (God) transcends any attempt to elucidate the scriptural witness. A variety of biblical theologies from different standpoints cast new and fresh light on the message of the Scriptures, and so the task of writing biblical theologies will not end until the consummation.

Another feature of the book is the emphasis on both the human and divine authors. My goal is to read the message of the OT in its historical context. At the same time, I try to read the OT as the NT authors read it. The historical voice of the biblical writer is attended to and respected, but at the same time the canonical voice of the divine author is also heeded. I don’t limit myself to what Leviticus means within the ambit of the Pentateuch but also ask what it means in light of the revelation that has come in Jesus Christ. In other words, how does the coming of Jesus reshape and reconfigure our reading of Leviticus? Such an attempt does not nullify the historical meaning of the book. In fact, I spend most of my time on the former, while also considering the contribution the book makes now that the Christ has come.

A word should be said about the title of the book. The goal of all history is to see the King in his beauty. That is our goal both individually and corporately, for there is nothing more satisfying and fulfilling than seeing God and enjoying him forever. My book traces the journey to the final goal. God is our great king and Lord. What happened to obscure our vision of and relationship with the King? And what does God do to reclaim his lordship over the world and over our lives? The story is full of twists and turns and mountains and valleys, and as we grow in our understanding of God’s purposes, we grow in our understanding of God, ourselves, and the world we inhabit.

Sacred Scripture recounts how God reclaims his lordship over the world (though in another sense he is always the Lord over the world). In some ways it is easier to tell the story by focusing on the narrative, on books like Genesis and Exodus, 1–2 Samuel, and the Gospels. But Proverbs and Song of Solomon and the Epistles contribute to the unfolding story as well, and I try to explain how they do so in the book.

In many evangelical churches and communities we focus on verses, chapters, or even books of the Bible without attending to how they fit with the entire canon, with the story that unfolds in Scripture. I hope this book will give some help to those who are trying to see the bigger picture.


Thomas R. Schreiner (PhD, Fuller Theological Seminary) is James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament Interpretation at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. He is the author or editor of numerous books, including New Testament Theology; Magnifying God in Christ; Apostle of God’s Glory in Christ; and Romans in the Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament.

For more information on The King in His Beauty, click here.

BA Books & Authors on the Web – July 19, 2013

The Church and Postmodern Culture blog began its book symposium on Liturgy as a Way of Life by Bruce Ellis Benson. On Monday, L. Edward Phillips posted a review of the book. Benson posted his response as well.

Matt Smethurst of The Gospel Coalition interviewed Thomas R. Schreiner about his new book The King in His Beauty.

Introducing Apologetics by James E. Taylor was reviewed by Roger Leonhardt.

The Denver Journal posted a review by William W. Klein of A New Testament Biblical Theology by G. K. Beale.

A Peaceable Hope by David J. Neville was reviewed by Tom Farr.

The blog Cosmos the in Lost listed James K.A. Smith’s Imagining the Kingdom among “The Top 10 Theology Books of the Last 10 Years.”

Blogger Craig Falvo posted some more thoughts on James K.A. Smith’s Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism?

On The Jesus Blog Anthony Le Donne cited Dale Allison’s Constructing Jesus in a post remembering Percy Shelley.

Interview with Andrew Davison about Imaginative Apologetics

This is the first part of our interview with Andrew Davison, editor of Imaginative Apologetics: Theology, Philosophy, and the Catholic Tradition.

The subtitle to this volume is “Theology, Philosophy, and the Catholic Tradition.” Why was this chosen, and how is it descriptive of the contributions in the volume?

As one reviewer commented, it would be fair to say that I mean “Catholic” in the subtitle in a sense quite close to C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity: not sectarian apologetics but rather apologetics rooted in the spacious ground of the “great tradition.” However, most of the authors in this volume are members of the Church of England who have been inspired, unashamedly, by the “catholic” roots of our Church: by the church fathers and Aquinas in particular. We’ve come across something that means something to us, and we want to share it. Five of us, in fact, are associated with the radical orthodoxy movement, which started in Cambridge at the end of the last century. To some extent the volume could have been subtitled, “Radical Orthodoxy Does Apologetics.”

For those unfamiliar with this movement, radical orthodoxy represents a new and forceful confidence in Christian doctrine, rooted in the Scriptures, which contrasts with the predominant liberalism of English theology in the decades before. It also represents a quite philosophical approach, but much more in the lyrical and “Continental” style rather than the analytic, logic-chopping tradition, which seems—unfortunately—to be growing in influence in both the United States and the United Kingdom.

Those comments already bring us to the question of philosophy. I think two comments are in order. The first is that we do not subscribe to “philosophy of religion,” by which I mean the sort of approach that puts philosophy in the driving seat, but rather to “philosophical theology,” where theology picks up philosophy and bends it into new shapes. Not all the essays are equally philosophical, and where they are, I think they’re mainly very accessible. Where they are philosophical, however, they illustrate the principle that in order to “take every thought captive to Christ,” it is necessary to attend to thought. I am convinced about this: if we ignore philosophy, then our unquestioned philosophical assumptions will set the running, and some of them will have been picked up from outside the faith. By being more philosophical, at least with the right approach, we can be more theological. (I have a book coming out in the UK later this year on this theme, called The Love of Wisdom.)

The second comment is a point I make in my contribution to this volume: an account of reason is part of the Christian heritage and therefore part of what we hold out with the gospel. In previous generations, the way Christians thought may have been more generally held across our culture than it is today and therefore less obviously something to which to draw attention. Today, there is a crisis over what it means to think; reason is sick. A theological vision of reason is therefore part of the medicine that the church has to offer.

This is worked out in the book in at least two ways. First, I am not enthusiastic about apologetics that start with rational foundations that we supposedly all share. I wish that certain ideas were more widely shared (such as confidence about causation), but since they are not—since we live in a philosophically pluralist age—we need to offer both conclusions and the very idea of a Christian frame of rational reference. Secondly, I think we make some important points about how mainstream Christian thinking and writing has absorbed some unhelpful, and actually very secular, assumptions. For instance, we allow the claims of the faith to be judged according to a very thin, pseudo-scientific, attenuated scheme of what it means to reason. I don’t think we need to defend ourselves on these terms; we can say that there is more to thinking than this. After all, even atheist critics employ a deeper sense of how we might establish truth when it comes to the question, for instance, of whether their spouse loves them.

BA Books & Authors on the Web – July 12, 2013

Myron Bradley Penner, author of The End of Apologetics, appeared on Randal Rauser’s “The Tentative Apologist Podcast.”

The Special Service Worship Architect by Constance M. Cherry was reviewed by church leader/academic Chloe Lynch.

Imagining the Kingdom by James K. A. Smith was included as one of Englewood Review of BooksBest Books of the First Half of 2013.  Smith’s book was also reviewed by Jason Clark for The Church & Postmodern Culture blog.

On his “New Testament Perspectives” blog, Matthew Montonini recommended Francis Moloney’s forthcoming Love in the Gospel of JohnIn a seperate post, Montonini previewed Douglas Moo’s forthcoming Galatians commentary in the BECNT series.

Simon Peter in Scripture and Memory by Markus Bockmuehl was reviewed (in three parts) by Kyle Hughes. Part 1. Part 2. Part 3.

Nijay Gupta previewed Graham Twelftree’s forthcoming Paul and the Miraculous.

Matthew Levering’s The Theology of Augustine was reviewed by Kendrick T. Kuo for blog Schaeffer’s Ghost.

Scripture and Tradition by Edith M. Humphrey was reviewed by blogger Joel Watts.

The forthcoming Jesus against the Scribal Elite by Chris Keith was recommended by biblioblogger Brian LePort.

Hurt 2.0 by Chap Clark was reviewed by pastor Paul Smith.

Classical Christian Doctrine by Ronald E. Heine was reviewed by blogger Nathaniel Claiborne.

David Lincicum published an essay on the topic of his book Paul and the Early Jewish Encounter with Deuteronomy titled “Seeking the Shape of Paul’s Deuteronomy” with The Bible and Inspiration.

Mapping Modern Theology by Kelly M. Kapic and Bruce L. McCormack, eds., was reviewed by pastor Kyle McDanell.

Blogger Cliff Kvidahl reviewed Seven Events That Shaped the New Testament World by Warren Carter.

Vincent of Lérins by Thomas G. Guarino was reviewed by Robert Cornwall.

Encountering the Old Testament, second edition, by Bill T. Arnold and Bryan E. Beyer and Encountering the New Testament, third edition, by Walter A. Elwell and Robert W. Yarbrough were reviewed by professor Phillip J. Long. Long also reviewed Encountering the Book of Romans by Douglas J. Moo.

**Beginning on Monday, The Church & Postmodern Culture blog will begin a series of engagements with / reviews of Liturgy as a Way of Life by Bruce Ellis Benson. Check out the preview for next week’s book symposium HERE.

Ebook Specials – Now through Thursday

Through July 11, we have two Baker Academic ebooks on sale for $3.99 (80% off):

In this careful, contextual study of Pauline letters, Thompson draws out Paul’s vision and purpose for his ministry. He concludes that the goal of pastoral ministry is “transforming the community of faith until it is ‘blameless’ at the coming of Christ.” It is corporate, spiritual, and ethical growth that Paul focuses on, as opposed to the frequent contemporary focus on numerical growth and meeting the needs of individuals.

Retail Price: $20.00
Discounted Price: $3.99

The Children of Divorce is winsomely written, achingly honest, and fearlessly hopeful. Root’s analysis of divorce as an ontological–not just a sociological–crisis for children is dead-on, as is his advice for congregations who must name and address this soul-splitting reality.”
Kenda Creasy Dean

Retail Price: $20.00
Discounted Price: $3.99

For information on all of July’s ebook specials, visit

New Release: The King in His Beauty

Thomas Schreiner, a respected scholar and a trusted voice for many students and pastors, offers a substantial and accessibly written overview of the whole Bible. He traces the storyline of the scriptures from the standpoint of biblical theology, examining the overarching message that is conveyed throughout. Schreiner emphasizes three interrelated and unified themes that stand out in the biblical narrative: God as Lord, human beings as those who are made in God’s image, and the land or place in which God’s rule is exercised. The goal of God’s kingdom is to see the king in his beauty and to be enraptured in his glory.

“A wonderfully clear and faithful account of biblical theology. This book is both intellectually compelling and honoring to God and so deserves to be widely read.”
-Simon Gathercole, University of Cambridge

“From the garden of Eden to the garden of Paradise, Tom Schreiner deftly takes the reader through the entire narrative of the history of redemption. Giving attention to every part of the canonical Scriptures, Schreiner shows how the Bible coheres under the theme of the kingdom or rule of God. The payoff is a feast of theological, practical, and devotional insights. In a simple, direct, and nontechnical way, this book will bring Christians to a new understanding and appreciation of the entire Bible.”
-Donald A. Hagner, Fuller Theological Seminary

“Schreiner’s one-volume biblical theology is a bountiful bonanza of biblical storytelling. In a time when biblical studies has become partitioned between the Hebrew Bible and the Greek New Testament, Schreiner reminds us that there is one God, one book, and one story. A story about God the king, his kingdom, his people, and the triumph of the Lord Jesus Christ. A nuanced and much-needed book to help Christians understand what the Bible is about and how it all hangs together.”
-Michael F. Bird, Crossway College

Thomas R. Schreiner (PhD, Fuller Theological Seminary) is James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament Interpretation at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. He is the author or editor of numerous books, including New Testament Theology; Magnifying God in Christ; Apostle of God’s Glory in Christ; and Romans in the Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament.

For more information on The King in His Beauty, click here.

Some Recent Award Winners!

We are pleased to announce that several Baker Academic titles have recently received awards and recognition.

ForeWord Reviews 2012 Book of the Year Awards

Handbook of Women Biblical Interpreters: A Historical and Biographical Guide edited by Marion Ann Taylor and Agnes Choi, was awarded silver in the Reference category. This comprehensive resource helps readers recover and understanding women’s contributions to biblical interpretation throughout history.

The Space Between: A Christian Engagement with the Built Environment by Eric O. Jacobsen received the bronze award in the Architecture category. Eric Jacobsen, senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Tacoma, Washington, and a recognized expert, employs a theological lens to provide a unique perspective on timely and controversial topics related to the “built environment.”

ForeWord Reviews characterizes itself as “a quarterly print journal dedicated to reviewing independently published books.” Each year, ForeWord chooses titles from hundreds of submissions that “exemplify the best work coming from today’s independent, university, and small press communities.” For more information regarding ForeWord Reviews’ Book of the Year Awards, including a comprehensive list of award-winners, please visit

2013 Catholic Press Awards

First Corinthians by Pheme Perkins was awarded First Place in the Scripture category. This volume in the Paideia: Commentaries on the New Testament series exposes the theological meaning in First Corinthians by tracing its use of rhetorical strategies.

Regarding this title, the awards committee wrote: “This commentary joins Perkins’ other excellent books and commentaries on the New Testament. It is clear, concise and filled with brief but pertinent, well-placed and insightful side-bars of information that contextualize Paul’s words with his world. It can be used profitably by college and university teachers, as well as by pastors in parish bible classes.”

Baptismal Imagery in Early Christianity: Ritual, Visual, and Theological Dimensions by Robin M. Jensen was awarded Second Place in the Liturgy category. Robin Jensen, a leading scholar of early Christian art and worship, shows how images, language, architectural space, and symbolic actions convey the theological meaning of baptism.

The awards committee commented: “Despite the narrow focus of this work, its theological treatment of the sacrament of baptism rooted in the early Christian tradition, provides an excellent resource for understanding baptism in its historical development. The inclusion of numerous visual images add to the thorough treatment of the subject matter.”

The awards are presented by the Catholic Press Association of the United States and Canada. A full list of winners can be found at