BA Books & Authors on the Web – August 14, 2015

Cover ArtIn the latest issue of Themelios, Christopher A. Beetham reviewed J. Richard Middleton’s A New Heaven and a New Earth.

“I strongly recommend this book. I agree with Donald Hagner, who, endorsing the book, wrote that ‘it could serve admirably as a basic textbook on biblical theology.’ Yes, and so much more. If every evangelical student from Anchorage to Addis Ababa would pick up and read, it could revolutionize global Christianity.”

Also in Themelios:

Gospel of Glory, by Richard Bauckham, was reviewed at Books at a Glance.

“Bauckham’s new monograph is probably the most important guide to selected Johannine themes and passages since Leon Morris’s Jesus is the Christ. A rich, up-to-date resource that no serious student will want to miss.”

Zen Hess, at Theology Forum, reviewed Introducing Evangelical Ecotheology by Daniel Brunner, Jennifer Butler, and A. J. Swoboda.

 

And the winners are…?

Cover ArtCongrats to Chris Baca, Ryan Reed, and Jason Gardner, who each won a copy of Introducing Evangelical Ecotheology, by Daniel Brunner, Jennifer Butler, and A. J. Swoboda.

You will each be contacted to arrange shipment.

The Dirty God: Christ, Soil, and the Sacred Garden (Part 3)

BeyondTheBookBA

Today we are pleased to share the latest post in our weekly series, Beyond the Book. This month A.J. Swoboda will be discussing the deep connections between Christian faith and environmental stewardship.

**Also, as part of this series we are giving away three copies of Introducing Evangelical Ecotheology. The giveaway will close at the end of the month, and you can enter here.**

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I admit that as a local church pastor, I’ve found Jesus ongoing discussion about soil and farming and the life of agriculture to be quite alienating. I’m a city guy. I’ve known virtually nothing of the agrarian life as a pastor a church in urban Portland. I work in coffee shops and church buildings. My mission field consists of city people. Jesus’ parables from creation have been challenging for this city kid. And in the process of doing three full-length book projects on creation care, I grew frustrated with my own agrarian amateurism. As opposed to reading books, I began to wonder, about what the parables meant, what if I actually started to try them out? What if I started growing stuff? What if I started planting things? What if I started to look at the soil?

Cover ArtSo I started a garden.

Over the course of the last two-year, my little urban family began a rudimentary backyard garden. At first, we had no idea what we were doing (as if we do now?). But we threw ourselves into it. What happened has astounded us all. The morale of home life has improved greatly. Our confidence has improved as I started learning little lessons about the land. Even our reading of Scripture has changed—the parables about growing things actually make a little sense now (although the Vineyard ones are still a little foreign). Still, mostly, my health has greatly improved and my anxiety levels have diminished. So much, that I actually stopped chewing my nails as an anxious habit—something I’d been doing for over a decade since entering public ministry.

Then it happened.

The combination of not chewing my nails alongside gardening a day a week brought about a condition I’ve never ever had at any point in my adult life. For the first time, I got dirt under my nails. It was only possible because I stopped chewing my nails and worked in the soil. That had literally never happened before.

That soil under the nails goes with me everyday. For the first time ever, here I was showing up to pastoral appointments, to elder meetings, to the pulpit, all with this odd sensation that something was under my nails. Dirt was under my nails. It changed conversations. People in my church began asking—because they see dirt under my nails—how the garden was going. And gardening and all the dirt under my nails also centered my life on a small piece of land. It has grounded my ministry—literally. The garden has forced me to be home more. I can’t travel as much, mostly, because someone has to do the watering.

You could say it has changed everything.

Carrying that soil in my nails has become almost a sacramental reminder of who I am. But, most importantly, where I am. I have a place, a space. I’ve got some roots somewhere. Jaci Maraschin, a priest working closely with the poor, has talked about what happens when we bring ourselves into God’s presence on Sundays with the dirt from our weeks.

…bodies enter the ‘liturgical space’ led by their feet. These feet walk the roads and the streets, they ascend and descend steps and mounts, and they walk across hallways and through rooms…They walk on what we might call the ‘space of life’. In this space, there is pain and exhaustion. These feet carry the dust of these roads into the liturgical space, and the liturgical space becomes the space of these feet with their sweat and their exhaustion, and thus the space of bodies.

 That dirt has become a sacred reminder that I have a place called home. And that someone has to care for it. Part of ministry, now, is the dirt I bring into the world. I am that dirt under my nails (Gen. 2:7). I will be again the dirt under my nails (Gen. 3:19). But I am dirt that God loves deeply.

My garden has become Jesus’ parable to me. He is teaching me—as I water, prune, primp, cover, and plant—what God’s Kingdom is all about in ways I never thought possible. The garden has taken me to an “unfamiliar territory,” as it were, where I have found God all over again. Or, if we are more accurate, where God has found me all over again.

That simple garden back there full of dirt and worms and dust, it’s a gift. And gifts are always given to draw us to the Giver. I echo the words of Dumitru Staniloae which I believe are timely:

 The world is a gift of God, but the destiny of this gift is to unite [humanity] with God who has given it. The intention of the gift is that in itself it should be continually transcended. When we receive a gift from somebody we should look primarily towards the person who has given it and not keep our eyes fixed on the gift. But often the person who receiveds a gift becomes so attached to the gift that he forgets who has given it to him.

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A. J. SwobodaA. J. Swoboda (PhD, University of Birmingham) teaches biblical studies, theology, and church history at George Fox Evangelical Seminary and Fuller Seminary, among others. He pastors Theophilus church in Portland, Oregon, and is the author of A Glorious Dark and coauthor of Introducing Evangelical Ecotheology

The Dirty God: Christ, Soil, and the Sacred Garden (Part 2)

BeyondTheBookBA

Today we are pleased to share the latest post in our weekly series, Beyond the Book. This month A.J. Swoboda will be discussing the deep connections between Christian faith and environmental stewardship.

*Also, as part of this series we are giving away three copies of Introducing Evangelical Ecotheology. The winners will be announced at the end of the month, and you can enter here.*

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Jesus had a few lectures on dirt. For example, in the Parable of the Sower (Matt. 13:1-23) Jesus describes various soil conditions; all conditions, mind you, that can be seen in today’s environment. Jesus, for one, speaks of a sort of soil that’s not deep enough where the plant “sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow.” Of course shallow topsoil is a reality today as it was in the first century. Today, however, it is the result of the unprecedented removal and transference of rich topsoil that allows us to grow our food. Plants minus soil can’t grow—Jesus, the permaculturist, got this far before we did. Shallow dirt means no food.

Cover ArtEven Jesus’ fictional, parabolic characters were aware that soil couldn’t produce an infinite, limitless yield of produce or product. We see in the Parable of the Vineyard (Luke 13:6-9) a vineyard owner demanding that a tree be cut down for its fruitfulness—”Cut it down!,” the owner commands, “Why should it use up the soil?” (v. 7) Any vineyard owner knew there were boundaries in creation. Even a fictional character in Jesus’ parable knows that there is a limited amount of soil to grow his crops. As Luke continues his gospel, Jesus appears aware that there are some things—in this case, “salt that’s lost its saltiness”—that simply couldn’t (or shouldn’t) be spread upon soil or the compost pile (Luke 14:34-35). Bad salt was bad for the soil.

What’s most surprising, of course, is how we have here a first century peasant teaching us soil preservation and protection far before modern environmentalism did. Dirt, the Creator knows, is very important to the flourishing of creation. The destruction of soil is becoming very quickly the destruction of humanity. As Wes Jackson and Wendell Berry have written, “Agriculture has too often involved an insupportable abuse and waste of soil, ever since the first farmers took away the soil-saving cover and roots of perennial plants. Civilizations have destroyed themselves by destroying their farmland.”

In the end, soil degradation is people degradation; one can’t mess with soil without messing with humanity. This should speak pointedly even to those Christians who do not envision environmental issues as pertinent given their view that humanity is at the top of God’s care chart. Even if that is true, to care for the earth is of grave importance because in refusing to care for it, we refuse to care for humanity. If humanity is the center of the universe, as some Christians claim, then we must care for the soil.

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A. J. SwobodaA. J. Swoboda (PhD, University of Birmingham) teaches biblical studies, theology, and church history at George Fox Evangelical Seminary and Fuller Seminary, among others. He pastors Theophilus church in Portland, Oregon, and is the author of A Glorious Dark and coauthor of Introducing Evangelical Ecotheology

The Dirty God: Christ, Soil, and the Sacred Garden (Part 1)

BeyondTheBookBA

Today we are pleased to share the latest post in our weekly series, Beyond the Book. This month A.J. Swoboda will be discussing the deep connections between Christian faith and environmental stewardship.

*Also, as part of this series we are giving away three copies of Introducing Evangelical Ecotheology. The winners will be announced at the end of the month, and you can enter here.*

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Jesus talked dirt.

As the gospels illustrate, Jesus Christ masterfully evoked a felt sense of God’s nearness by using parables. A parable is an interesting device—it utilizes a familiar concept to drive home an unfamiliar point. Old Testament scholar Ian Duguind aptly describes its usefulness: “Parables characteristically pull the rug out from underneath us, sweeping away our comfortable certainties and showing us an unexpectedly unfamiliar landscape where a moment earlier we thought we found ourselves at home.”

JCover Artesus, it turns out, was particularly adept at this whole “rug-out-from-underneath-us” move—the texture of Jesus’ teaching ministry reveals a steady stream of stories about coins, vineyards, fishing, and birds. Whisking people, as it were, through a torrent of familiar, everyday images, Jesus opened people’s eyes to the fact that standing there, right in front of them, was the living God Himself.

Often, one must travel the whole world to see what’s been in front of them all along.

The best preachers are masters of the parable—for, we will learn, sometimes the best way to talk about God is to talk about anything else. Sometimes we must help people get to God in a ‘round about sort of way. Particularly in church culture; Christians can become dangerously familiar with profound ideas such as the gospel, the Trinity, or any other of a number of mysterious realities. Parables make the familiar shocking all over again. They surprise us.

I recall that Washington Irving once described how difficult it was for an Englishman to write accurately about America because America was too similar to the Englishman’s homeland. In a short essay entitled “English Writers in America,” Irving writes that “…their [the Englishman’s] travels are more honest and accurate the more remote the country described.” That is, the further from home one traveled, the clearer their observations became. When things are too familiar, we easily miss the point. Which is why sometimes we have to talk about other things than God in order to finally get around to God.

Which is why Jesus talked about things like dirt.

Green is all the rage these days. Incidentally, researching the ecological world has provided for me a deep well of images to discuss freshly Jesus and his Kingdom; in ‘round about ways, of course. The modern green movement, however, was not my inspiration for such an approach to teaching—Jesus was my inspiration. Far before the environmental movement came to the fore, Jesus discussed God and the natural world with great consistency. Jesus taught ad nauseum about the natural order and its signs that bear images of God’s Kingdom. Such agrarian, outdoorsy pedagogy included, among other things, dialogue about birds, wind, water, farms, and fish.

Indeed, dirt as well.

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A. J. SwobodaA. J. Swoboda (PhD, University of Birmingham) teaches biblical studies, theology, and church history at George Fox Evangelical Seminary and Fuller Seminary, among others. He pastors Theophilus church in Portland, Oregon, and is the author of A Glorious Dark and coauthor of Introducing Evangelical Ecotheology

BA Books & Authors on the Web – March 20, 2015

Cover ArtAt First Things, Phillip Cary reviewed Reading Barth with Charity by George Hunsinger.

Like all great theologians, Barth stands under the judgment of the tradition, even as he inspires us to new thinking within it. By his resolute insistence on knowing God only in the Word of Christ, Barth reinvigorates a distinctively Protestant witness within the tradition, which those who love orthodoxy would be ill advised to ignore.

Paul Adams, at ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ, shared part one and part two of his review of J. Richard Middleton’s A New Heaven and a New Earth.

At Exegetical.Tools, Warren Campbell reviewed Galatians and Christian Theology, edited by Mark Elliot, Scott Hafemann, N. T. Wright, and John Frederick.

James, at Thoughts, Prayers, and Songs, reviewed Bryan Litfin’s Early Christian Martyr Stories.

Allen Mickle reviewed Praying with Paul by D. A. Carson.

Micha Bales reflected on sustainability and ecological catastrophe in light of Introducing Evangelical Ecotheology by Daniel Brunner, Jennifer Butler, and A.J. Swoboda.

Timothy George interviewed Mark Noll about his new memoir, From Every Tribe and Nation.

Richard Hess, co-editor of Ancient Israel’s History, wrote How to Judge Evidence for the Exodus for Mosaic Magazine.

At Bible History Daily, Andrew McGowan, author of Ancient Christian Worship, asked if Jesus was truly a radical and inclusive host.

 

BA Books & Authors on the Web – February 20, 2015

Cover ArtIntroducing Evangelical Ecotheology, by Daniel Brunner, Jennifer Butler, and A. J. Swoboda, was reviewed on Odd Is The New Normal.

What this book does, in its amazing depth of research, is gather together thousands of years of theology and tradition into a single place…You can tell that this book was coauthored by teachers (good teachers) in their ability to organize and present such complicated material in a manner that is approachable and enlightening.

Bob on Books reviewed Engaging the Doctrine of Revelation by Matthew Levering.

Todd Johnson and Cindy Wu, co-authors of Our Global Families, wrote a guest post for A. J. Jacobs’ Global Family Reunion.

At Transpositions, Brett Speakman reviewed Jonathan Wilson’s God’s Good World.

Jordan Hillebert, at Reformation 21, reviewed Atonement, Law and Justice by Adonis Vidu.

At Pursuing Veritas, Jacob Prahlow reviewed Thomas O’Loughlin’s The Didache.

Asbury Journal reviewed The Story of Jesus in History and Faith by Lee Martin McDonald, Understanding Christian Mission by Scott Sunquist, Christian Philosophy by Craig Bartholomew and Michael Goheen, Simon Peter in Scripture and Memory by Markus Bockmuehl, and The End of Apologetics by Myron Penner.

At Solidarity Hall, John Medaille wrote Pop Culture and Total War, a reflection on Daniel Bell’s The Economy of Desire.

Andrew Root, author of Bonhoeffer as Youth Worker, was interviewed on Dr. Bill Maier Live.

 

BA Books & Authors on the Web – January 23, 2015

Cover ArtAt Euangelion, Joel Willitts reviewed Bonhoeffer as Youth Worker by Andrew Root. Read part 1, and part 2.

We can’t dream of doing ministry unless we’re first willing to do life together. That’s where it all begins, as well as ends. Along the way, reflecting on a good read like this sure helps to keep a youth worker moving in the right direction.

James K. A. Smith’s The Fall of Interpretation was reviewed at Ellipsis Omnibus.

CHOICEconnect reviewed The Christian Faith by Hans Schwarz here, and For the Glory of God by Daniel Block here.

Peter Goeman reviewed John Dobson’s Learn Biblical Hebrew.

At the Denver Journal, Bruce Demarest reviewed Early Christian Martyr Stories by Bryan Litfin.

In part three of the Hearts & Minds Best Books of 2014, Byron Borger named Introducing Evangelical Ecotheology, by Daniel Brunner, Jennifer Butler, A. J. Swoboda, as the Best Book of Christian Creation Care. Also Adonis Vidu’s Atonement, Law, and Justice was given an Honorable Mention as an Academic Theology Text.

BA Books & Authors on the Web – January 16, 2015

Cover ArtByron Borger, at Hearts & Minds Books, named J. Richard Middleton’s A New Heaven and a New Earth as 2014’s Best Book Of Biblical Studies.

“What a book!…There is no doubt in my mind that this book is urgently needed — among evangelicals and mainline folks alike — to be fully clear about God’s promises of new creation, and how this vision of a restored Earth can animate and sustain our efforts for cultural reform now. Richard is an excellent Biblical scholar and has worked on this serious volume for years; the endorsements have been robust and exceptional, and early readers report it is nearly life-changing.”

Also in his Best Books of 2014 post, Borger gave a double award (Best New Contribution to Bonhoeffer Studies and Best Youth Ministry Book) to Bonhoeffer as Youth Worker by Andrew Root, and an honorable mention to From Every Tribe and Nation by Mark Noll and Reading a Different Story by Susan VanZanten.

At The Hump of the Camel, Jon Garvey reviewed A New Heaven and a New Earth.

RJS continued to discuss Middleton’s A New Heaven and a New Earth in the post “The End of the World” at Jesus Creed.

J. Richard Middleton wrote “God’s Bringing Creation to Its Glorious Destiny” for The High Calling.

Chris Woznicki reviewed Reformed Catholicity, by Michael Allen and Scott Swain.

At First Things, Peter Leithart reflected on the discussion of Reinhold Hutter in Reformed Catholicity.

Reformed Catholicity was listed in The Aquila Report’s New & Noteworthy Books in 2015.

At Panorama of a Book Saint, Conrade Yap reviewed Effective Intercultural Communication by A. Scott Moreau, Evvy Hay Campbell, and Susan Greener.

Christopher Skinner, at Crux Sola, reviewed Chris Keith’s Jesus against the Scribal Elite.

Daniel Gullotta reviewed Ancient Christian Worship by Andrew McGowan.

Elodie Ballantine Emig reviewed Rodney Decker’s Reading Koine Greek for the Denver Journal.

At Theosblog, Lawrence Osborn reviewed Introducing Evangelical Ecotheology by Daniel Brunner, Jennifer Butler, and A. J. Swoboda.

At The Jesus Blog, Anthony LeDonne named Dale Allison’s Constructing Jesus as the best Jesus book of the 2010’s.

Robert Johnston, author of God’s Wider Presence, was interviewed in Tehelka Magazine.

 

BA Books & Authors on the Web – January 9, 2015

Cover ArtDerek Rishmawy, at The Gospel Coalition, explains “Why You Should Read Bavinck.”

“Bavinck’s accomplishment in the Dogmatics is nothing short of jaw-dropping. The expansive, nuanced, and deeply trinitarian theological vision is both intellectually challenging and spiritually nourishing. I anticipate turning to these volumes regularly in the years to come.”

Reviews

Walter Moberly’s Old Testament Theology was reviewed at Euangelion.

Craig Blomberg reviewed A Peaceable Hope by David Neville, as well as The King in His Beauty by Thomas Schreiner, for the Denver Journal here and here.

Nate Claiborne reviewed Exploring Psychology and Christian Faith, by Paul Moes and Donald Tellinghuisen.

Chris Keith’s Jesus against the Scribal Elite was reviewed at CHOICE connect.

At Discovering the Mission of God, Ed reviewed Understanding Christian Mission by Scott Sunquist.

Andrew Root’s Bonhoeffer as Youth Worker was reviewed at Diglotting.

Michael Philliber, at Deus Misereatur, reviewed The Holy Trinity in the Life of the Church, edited by Khaled Anatolios.

Best Of

As 2014 came to a close, quite a number of Baker Academic titles were featured in “Best of” posts.

Galatians and Christian Theology, edited by Mark Elliott, John Frederick, Scott Hafemann and N.T. Wright, was named as one of “The Top (Mockingbird) Theology Books of 2014.”

At Crux Sola, Nijay Gupta listed Chris Keith’s Jesus Against the Scribal Elite, Galatians and Christian Theology, Jeffrey Weima’s 1-2 Thessalonians, and Richard Middleton’s A New Heaven and a New Earth among the “Best New Testament Academic Books of 2014.”

Women in the World of the Earliest Christians by Lynn Cohick, Wealth and Poverty in Early Church and Society edited by Susan Holman, Scripture and Tradition by Edith Humphrey, The Economy of Desire by Daniel Bell, and Loving the Poor, Saving the Rich by Helen Rhee were all in Alvin Rapien’s “Top 10 Books of 2014.”

The Missio Alliance Essential Reading List of 2014” featured Introducing Evangelical Ecotheology, by Daniel Brunner, Jennifer Butler, and A. J. Swoboda.

At Reformation 21, Michael Allen and Scott Swain’s Reformed Catholicity, Simon Gathercole’s Defending Substitution, Kevin Vanhoozer and Owen Strachan’s The Pastor as Public Theologian, and Richard Bauckham’s Gospel of Glory were noted as “New & Noteworthy Books in 2015.”

Elsewhere

Scot McKnight reflected on Alistair Stewart’s The Original Bishops in the post “Paul and the Economic Justice Vision of Jesus“, and Richard Middleton’s A New Heaven and a New Earth led to his discussion “Revolution in Eschatology Today?

Andrew McGowan, author of Ancient Christian Worship, wrote “Incarnation and Epiphany: How Christmas became a Christian Feast” for ABC Religion and Ethics.