BA Books & Authors on the Web – December 11, 2015

Cover ArtDefending Substitution by Simon Gathercole, and 2 Corinthians by George Guthrie, were reviewed in the latest issue of Themelios.

“Guthrie has provided a benchmark commentary on 2 Corinthians. His work demonstrates excellent scholarship that is marked by humility as well as pastoral warmth and wisdom. Throughout this commentary Guthrie’s interpretive decisions are both judicious and persuasive….Should be an automatic inclusion into the library of anyone hoping to mine the wealth of this wonderful epistle.”

At Jesus Creed, RJS continued to reflect on J. Richard Middleton’s A New Heaven and a New Earth.

Brandon Smith at Theology and Christian Life named A New Heaven and a New Earth as one of his 5 Favorite Books of 2015.

An Essential Guide to Interpersonal Communication, by Quentin Schultze and Diane Badzinski, was reviewed at Longing4Truth.

Cover ArtBooks at a Glance recommended the Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, edited by G.K. Beale and D.A. Carson.

“It’s not often that you come across a book that genuinely deserves to be on every pastor’s shelf, but almost never can we say of a new book that it really ought to be on every pastor’s desk, ready at hand always for use in every sermon preparation. Beale and Carson’s Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament is without question such a book.”

Greg Peters, author of The Story of Monasticism, was interviewed at The Christian Humanist.

Charles Farhadian’s Introducing World Religions was reviewed at Sojo Theo.

Introducing World Religions is clear, stimulating, and bursting with useful information for readers of all backgrounds. It comes highly recommended.”

Hans Madueme, co-editor of Adam, the Fall, and Original Sin, was interviewed by Fred Zaspel at Books at a Glance.

 

Beyond the Book – “Beyond the Surf in Santa Barbara”

BeyondTheBookBA

Today we are pleased to share the latest post in our weekly series, Beyond the Book. This month Charles Farhadian discusses the importance of studying world religions, and reflects on what we can gain by learning to see life from another perspective.

Our giveaway for September ended Tuesday night. Congrats to Corey P, Jason G, and Andrew H. You will each be contacted to arrange shipping.

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Jurgen Habermas just couldn’t deny it, even after wishing it to be otherwise. What captured his attention in his lifelong intellectual journey was the persistence of religion. Habermas’ term, “post-secular” (also used by Charles Taylor), conveyed his recognition that both religion and secularism were gaining ground. In his appraisal of religion Habermas argued, in fact, that religions help us to look beyond ourselves for rescue, from ourselves, our human predicament, and even our natural world. In Habermas’ words, “Among the modern societies, only those that are able to introduce into the secular domain the essential contents of their religious traditions which point beyond the merely human realm will also be able to rescue the substance of the human.”

Where I live, in Santa Barbara, a town with less than 100,000 residents, lie a plethora of religions, beyond the beach and mountain culture that attracts people from around the world to surf, paddle board, kayak, bike, and hike. Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Mormonism, Church of Scientology, Christian Science, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and other religious traditions have a brick-and-mortar presence that contributes to the Mediterranean architectural landscape.

Cover ArtFurthermore, religious conversion is happening in every direction. Catholics are becoming Pentecostals and then moving to historical Protestant churches. Mainline Protestants are leaving their churches and entering a stream of Hinduism. Some university students are becoming Muslim or members of a Buddhist path. In Santa Barbara, for instance, the Shia Muslim population, the majority of whom trace the history of their immigration to the post-1979 demise of the Shah of Iran, is larger than the Sunni Muslim population. However Shia tend to shy away from the communal Friday prayers. While an elderly World War Two generation of Japanese make up the assembly of Amitabha Buddhist worshipers, Soka Gokkai and zen meditation is populated by converts. Beyond the surf are also ad hoc religious movements that seamlessly blend elements of these many formalized religious traditions.

One of the most significant Hindu temples in North America is located just down the road, a few miles from the iconic beaches of Malibu. The local Vedanta Society consists mostly of American converts, some who were leaders in their mainline Protestant churches but eventually left due to the vapid spirituality they encountered. Greek Orthodox believers worship at Saint Barbara Greek Orthodox Church. The Antiochian Orthodox church, which has attracted numerous American converts, sits across the street from a Roman Catholic parish, which serves a mostly Hispanic population. The history of Antiochian Orthodox church here is unique in that the church started when the 900-member Campus Crusade movement at University of California Santa Barbara converted en masse into Eastern Orthodoxy. What’s the religious make up of your city?

If you were to dig a bit deeper into these religious assemblies, you would discover that these religions are connected to larger movements that orient believers in several directions at once: to one another, to the natural world, to the Divine, and to a global networks that often span the globe. These orientations provide people with new meaning and direction, motivation and self-understanding. Beyond the surf in Santa Barbara lie religious assemblies oriented through its teaching and learning toward Europe (e.g., Vatican), the Middle East (e.g., Mecca), East Asia (e.g., Japan and China), and South Asia (e.g., India). For this reason, learning about the religions of the world helps us to engage our own localities more deeply as well as to appreciate the global realities represented through these religious traditions.

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Charles E. FarhadianCharles E. Farhadian (PhD, Boston University) is professor of world religions and Christian mission at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California. He is the editor of Introducing World Christianity and Christian Worship Worldwide and coeditor of The Oxford Handbook of Religious Conversion. He has done fieldwork in Southeast Asia and the Pacific, where he has investigated themes of worship, social history, and nation making.

Beyond the Book – “Three Idiots at the Taj Mahal”

Today we are pleased to share the latest post in our weekly series, Beyond the Book. This month Charles Farhadian discusses the importance of studying world religions, and reflects on what we can gain by learning to see life from another perspective.

Also, as part of this series we are giving away three copies of his book Introducing World Religions. The winners will be announced at the end of the month.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Breaking all opening box office records at the time of its release in India, the film Three Idiots was a spectacular Bollywood hit worldwide. Three Idiots presents the struggles and antics of three close male classmates as they survive the challenges and humiliations of studying at a prestigious and ruthlessly cutthroat engineering institute in India, mirroring the pressures of student life at the world famous Indian Institutes of Technology.

Cover ArtOne of the “idiots,” first-year student Rancho, captures the attention of the entire student body of engineers when he outsmarts upper-class students and, eventually, even the headmaster. Rancho’s endearing qualities of self-sacrifice, wisdom, and love for the two other “idiots,” amaze his peers, who have no category for someone with such great brilliance, inspiration, sagacity, and love. It is clear. Rancho is a redemptive character. He’s a savior. His role is to restore and guide the other two “idiots.”

Students in my Theology in Film course chose Three Idiots as their favorite film of the many international films we watched over a semester. Students laughed and cried as they watched the three-hour film that featured Bollywood dancing, upbeat songs, and tales of love and loss and a kind of redemption they thought they recognized. Students remarked that Rancho was a Christ-like character, since he saved others and was referred to by the other “idiots” as “His Holiness Guru Rancho.” Everyone seemed to agree – Rancho was like Christ.

Fair enough. But what struck me was that students were bringing their own perceptual grid, intellectual and narrative framework, to their analysis of the film. I teach at a Christian college, and the majority of my students are Christian, so the “Christ-like” interpretation was not surprising. Most of my students have inherited Christian categories. However, when I pointed out that perhaps Rancho was not a Christ-like character, but rather probably a Krishna-like character, I had to unpack that statement for those without knowledge of Hindu tradition. Krishna, an avatar of Vishnu, comes to earth to save when truth and wisdom have been lost. Whether or not the Rancho character was intentionally created as a Krishna-like persona, the class discussion reminded me of the importance of trying to see the world through others’ perspectives. At the least, learning about other perspectives adds richness to our lives and opens up the world in new ways.

A few years ago I led students on an educational trip to India, where we visited the famous Taj Mahal. While standing on the footsteps of the Taj Mahal with my students, two muscular Indian guys approached our group. They seemed friendly enough but I wanted to make sure so I struck up a conversation with them. I invited them to be in a photo with some of our group, and they complied without hesitation. Before I captured the photo I thought I’d go out on a limb. I yelled, “Hey, you look like idiots,” thinking I would either be pummeled or we’d all have a good laugh. Thankfully, we all laughed. They got it. We got it. And I took the photo at the height of our laughter.

Learning about other cultures and religions opens us up to the world and each other; it allows us to share in other’s joys and sorrows. That day, on the steps of the Taj Mahal, we enjoyed brief friendship and mutual connectedness. That connection began with viewing a film and learning something about Hindu tradition. We have everything to gain by learning to see life from another perspective. We might be surprised how enjoyable that encounter can be.

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Charles E. FarhadianCharles E. Farhadian (PhD, Boston University) is professor of world religions and Christian mission at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California. He is the editor of Introducing World Christianity and Christian Worship Worldwide and coeditor of The Oxford Handbook of Religious Conversion. He has done fieldwork in Southeast Asia and the Pacific, where he has investigated themes of worship, social history, and nation making.

Charles Farhadian – “Why I Wrote Introducing World Religions

Why I Wrote Introducing World Religions: A Christian Engagement.”
Charles E. Farhadian

Far too few Christian colleges, universities, seminaries, and divinity schools offer courses in world religions, at a time when religions are resurging throughout the world. Most Christian college and seminary curricula are focused on Western approaches and the common three-part foci of theology, biblical studies, and history. But how will Christian educational institutions, the church, and NGOs prepare Christians for a future of work and witness if there is little or no teaching about the very religions that profoundly influence billions of people worldwide? This book needed to be written for several important reasons.

Cover ArtFirst, this is the right time for this book to have been written. Like good music or an important conversation, timing is key. The predictions about the demise of religion by scholars in the past century were absolutely wrong. (Well, actually, religion resurged and shifted along with secularism, giving rise to what Charles Taylor and Jürgen Habermas have called a “post-secular” condition, which affirms the burgeoning of both religion and secularism.) Recent history has witnessed the revitalization of nearly all major religions and spirituality, including in their most virulent fundamentalist forms. Religion has become a major player in social and political movements worldwide.

Moreover, the concomitant rise in secular fundamentalism that resists the role of religion in public life represents unique challenges to religious people of all persuasions. Travelers journeying outside of North America and Western Europe have seen the public display of religion in processions, marches, and other celebrations, where religious festivals provide meaning and build community throughout the year. But religion is not just “out there” beyond the West in the public square and in village life. Religion continues to shape our personal and corporate lives here in the West as well, for instance undergirding public discussions of ethical and moral debates about justice, abortion, human sexuality, and even taxes. This is the time we need an engaged perspective on world religions.

Second, my approach is to resist either extreme of exclusivism or relativism and instead pursue a dialogic encounter between Christianity and other religions, confident that in the act of creation the Triune God has left seeds of the truth in the world’s major religions and philosophies that can be fulfilled by the gospel. My hope is that Christians can approach the world of culture and religion with anticipation for what can be learned, without the fear of having to sacrifice Christian affirmations.

Third, the book is written from a particular perspective that avoids apology and instead exhibits an openness of Christianity to other religious traditions for the purpose of interrogating what’s familiar within Christianity as well as learning about other religions. I am not feigning objectivity. Knowledge of any kind is never purely objective. And it is a common pedagogical strategy that professors tell their students that they teach world religions objectively. My appeal is to Christian tradition for the resources of learning and living well with one another.

So this book provides a rejoinder to two false notions. The first is of an objective rationality that is often communicated by teachers of world religions in an attempt to remain impartial before their students. The second is a so-called postmodern approach that seeks to eliminate the grand, sacred narrative of our lives, when in reality most often a switch and bait of narratives occurs that substitutes a secular narrative for a Christian one as though the Christian story is worn out and outgrown by newer insights. That said, I intentionally write from a particular perspective, which aims to be broadly Christian, rather than needing to convince readers that I can be entirely neutral and detached. My view is that we can only talk and act from particular places and spaces rather than from a vantage point that claims to be above all history and culture, no matter how tempting that perspective may be today.

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Charles E. FarhadianCharles E. Farhadian (PhD, Boston University) is professor of world religions and Christian mission at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California. He is the editor of Introducing World Christianity and Christian Worship Worldwide and coeditor of The Oxford Handbook of Religious Conversion. He has done fieldwork in Southeast Asia and the Pacific, where he has investigated themes of worship, social history, and nation making.

For more information on Introducing World Religions, click here.

 

The Talmud and Other Writings – an Excerpt from Introducing World Religions

The following is an excerpt from Introducing World Religions, by Charles Farhadian.

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The Talmud (“learn,” “study,” “teach”) is the third major text used in the Jewish community. Written in a mixture of Hebrew and Aramaic, the Talmud is fairly inaccessible to laypeople because of its languages and difficult style. While the Talmud consists of the Babylonian Talmud and Jerusalem Talmud, the Babylonian Talmud is considered more authoritative, dating back to Babylon in the fifth century CE. The Talmud consists of two parts: the Mishnah (teaching), a compilation of Jewish oral law, and the Gemara (completion), the discussions of rabbis (teachers).

Cover ArtIn addition to the Hebrew Bible, the prayer book, and the Talmud, which form the most important sources of Judaism, a few other books have helped to shape the tradition. Among the medieval texts are Rashi’s (1040–1105) commentary on the Hebrew Bible and the Babylonian Talmud, Moses Maimonides’s (1135–1204) Mishneh Torah, a systematic presentation of the oral law, and his Guide for the Perplexed, a philosophical treatise that sought to demonstrate to “the perplexed” how scripture could be interpreted spiritually and literally. Considered one of the greatest medieval Jewish philosophers, Maimonides produced works that influenced Christians such as Thomas Aquinas, Duns Scotus, and Meister Eckhart.

In the late Middle Ages, Rabbi Joseph Caro (1488–1575) wrote a code of Jewish law and ritual, the Shulkhan Arukh (Prepared Table), which incorporated customs of Spanish and Asian Jews. Rabbi Moses Isserles (1525–72) later added to the text some of the customs of Central and Eastern European Jews, thus expanding the code of Jewish law and ritual and impacting Jewish communities worldwide. While normally the Hebrew Bible and prayer book would be found in the homes of religious Jews, the other works are chosen according to the particular emphasis that a community may uphold, since each Jewish movement (e.g., Orthodox, Reform) has produced its own works.

©2015 by Charles Farhadian. Published by Baker Academic. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

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For more information on Introducing World Religions, click here.

New Release: Introducing World Religions

Cover ArtThis beautifully designed, full-color textbook offers a comprehensive introduction to the world’s religions, including history, beliefs, worship practices, and contemporary expressions.

Charles Farhadian, a seasoned teacher and recognized expert on world religions, provides an empathetic account that both affirms Christian uniqueness and encourages openness to various religious traditions. His nuanced, ecumenical perspective enables readers to appreciate both Christianity and the world’s religions in new ways. The book highlights similarities, dissimilarities, and challenging issues for Christians and includes significant selections from sacred texts to enhance learning.

Pedagogical features include sidebars, charts, key terms, an extensive glossary, over two hundred illustrations, and about a dozen maps. This book is supplemented with helpful web materials for both students and professors through Baker Academic’s Textbook eSources.

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“This volume is a teacher’s dream….It will remain a textbook of choice for years to come.” – Dana L. Robert, Boston University

“Exemplifying how to be both grounded and open, Charles Farhadian wants us to learn about the religions so that we can learn from them and with them as well.” – Richard Fox Young, Princeton Theological Seminary

“An excellent and long-awaited book with a well-balanced coverage on East Asian religions (Taoism and Confucianism) and East Asian Christianity, which have been very much neglected in the past. This is an indispensable text.” – Heup Young Kim, Kangnam University

“Like a conversation with a well-traveled friend, the style makes complex topics accessible and the photos help us visualize believers across the globe. In today’s connected world, this book is a treasure.” – Miriam Adeney, Seattle Pacific University

“Farhadian has given us a religion text for the twenty-first century: accurate, faithful, respectful, and compassionate. It now has a permanent place on my bookshelf.” – Terry Muck, Louisville Institute

“A world religions text like no other….This text is truly matched to the challenge of religion in the twenty-first-century global context.” – Shirley A. Mullen, Houghton College

“His introduction is a masterful multidimensional account of how contemporary approaches to religious studies have come about and how these continue to inform the understanding of religion. He then systematically addresses these concerns in the context of each religion, providing a clear framework that is particularly useful for nonexpert readers and students.” – Robert Hunt, Southern Methodist University

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Charles E. FarhadianCharles E. Farhadian (PhD, Boston University) is professor of world religions and Christian mission at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California. He is the editor of Introducing World Christianity and Christian Worship Worldwide and coeditor of The Oxford Handbook of Religious Conversion. He has done fieldwork in Southeast Asia and the Pacific, where he has investigated themes of worship, social history, and nation making.

For more information on Introducing World Religions, click here.

BA Books & Authors on the Web – February 13, 2015

Cover ArtThe Englewood Review of Books reviewed From Every Tribe and Nation by Mark Noll.

Noll’s memoir of discovery calls our attention to the infinitely larger story of global Christianity. May it inspire us to appreciate and share God’s heart for his people whom he is gathering to himself from every tribe and nation.

At Crux Sola, Nijay Gupta reviewed Rodney Decker’s Reading Koine Greek, and reflected on evangelism and community in light of James Thompson’s The Church According to Paul.

Reformed Catholicity, by Michael Allen and Scott Swain, was reviewed by Mark Gignilliat at Reformation 21, and by Patrick Schreiner at Ad Fontes.

Library Journal reviewed Charles Farhadian’s forthcoming Introducing World Religions, and Handbook of Religion, edited by Terry Muck, Harold Netland, and Gerald McDermott.

Jeffrey Weima’s BECNT volume on 1-2 Thessalonians was reviewed at the Young Restless Reformed Blog.

At Blogging Theologically, Aaron Armstrong reflected on the first volume of Herman Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics.

Conrade Yap, at Panorama of a Book Saint, reviewed Mark Noll’s From Every Tribe and Nation.

Shelby Etheridge reviewed Andrew Root’s Bonhoeffer as Youth Worker for The Presbyterian Outlook.

At The Living Church, George Sumner reviewed Understanding Christian Mission by Scott Sunquist.

Drew Trotter reviewed Robert Johnston’s God’s Wider Presence for the Consortium of Christian Study Centers.

A Farewell with Thanks from the Church and Postmodern Culture blog.

Daniel Block, author of For the Glory of God, recently gave a lecture on worship at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.