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

Cover ArtAt The Gospel Coalition, Justin Taylor shared Kevin Vanhoozer’s 55 Theses on Pastors as Public Theologians from The Pastor as Public Theologian.

“Why does the church need pastor-theologians? What are pastor-theologians for? Our answer, in brief, is that pastor-theologians are gifts from the risen Christ, helps in building Christ’s church, especially by leading people to confess, comprehend, celebrate, communicate, commend to others, and conform themselves to what is in Christ.”

At The Jesus Blog, Anthony Le Donne recommended Jesus among Friends and Enemies, edited by Chris Keith and Larry Hurtado.

Cover ArtStanley Porter’s How We Got the New Testament was reviewed by Jacob Prahlow at Pursuing Veritas.

“Highly recommended to anyone interested in learning more about the history of the New Testament. Not only do the contents of this book offer valuable observations for those seeking to better understand the New Testament and early Christianity, but How We Got the New Testament also addresses penetrating issues at the heart of all Christian faith.”

Mike Boling, at Servants of Grace, reviewed Defending Substitution by Simon Gathercole.

Alvin Rapien, at The Poor in Spirit, reviewed Christian Scharen’s Fieldwork in Theology.

Fieldwork in Theology will hopefully influence many to rethink their approach to research, society, and individuals around them.”

 

BA Books & Authors on the Web – August 28, 2015

Cover ArtIn a recent Hearts & Minds Booknotes post, Byron Borger praised Christian Scharen’s Fieldwork in Theology.

Fieldwork in Theology offers a rigorous but relatively brief introductory “French lessons for the church” and we’d all be better off if some of us knew this stuff. Life-long learner with a big curiosity, fan of Smith’s series, or just wanting to stimulate the old grey matter, this book will be rewarding for you, I’m almost sure of it.”

Byron Borger also recommended The Pastor as Public Theologian by Kevin Vanhoozer and Owen Strachan.

Conrade Yap, at Panorama of a Book Saint, reviewed George Guthrie’s BECNT volume on 2 Corinthians.

For the Glory of God, by Daniel Block, was reviewed at Doxology and Theology.

Greg Stier wrote about his experience contributing to Youth Ministry in the 21st Century: 5 Views.

“The result is a book that I’m convinced will help youth leaders and those studying to be youth leaders think through, wrestle down and build up a youth ministry model that is both Biblical and relevant. This book could be a much needed stimulus to help propel youth ministry to new horizons of effectiveness and impact for years to come.”

 

Beyond the Book – “Critiquing”

BeyondTheBookBA

Today we are pleased to share the latest post in our weekly series, Beyond the Book. This month Christian Scharen reflects on issues of race and justice, and argues that theology does (and must!) have something to say about the pressing concerns of contemporary society.

**Also, as part of this series we are giving away three copies of his book Fieldwork in Theology. The winners will be announced at the end of the month, and you can enter here.**

——–

BtB 4Like most of America, a year ago in August of 2014 I was trying to make sense of the uprising in Ferguson Missouri. Tensions were high, with large groups of mostly African-American protesters in the streets each night and squads of mostly white militarized police seeking to keep control. Part of what was disturbing was, of course, recognition of a persistent pattern of disproportionate police violence towards African Americans. But also disturbing to me was the huge disparity between how my white friends and family viewed the police and how my African Americans friends and colleagues did.

At the time, a Pew survey reported, that overall Americans were split on whether Blacks and other minorities receive equal treatment in the criminal justice system. However, the Pew survey and other similar surveys found that when the population is broken down into white and non-white, the disparity is stark, with nearly 50% of whites agreeing Blacks and other minorities receive equal treatment but only 16% of non-whites agreeing to the same statement.

A friend of mine, Robert P. Jones of Public Religion Research Institute in Washington D.C., wrote a telling article in The Atlantic which he titled, “Self-Segregation: Why It Is So Hard for Whites to Understand Ferguson.” His basic answer, drawn from PRRI’s annual American Values Survey, reports that overall the social networks of white people are more than 90% white. A full three-quarters (75%) of whites have entirely white social networks. Thus, the perspectives and experiences of Black Americans remain opaque to many white Americans simply by virtue of their assumption that their privileged experience is in fact reality. Jones’ points out that one consequence is white people not ever hearing the litany of coaching and concern passed from parents to children in African American families.

Cover ArtTo many readers of Fieldwork in Theology, chapter two on the French historian and philosopher of science Gaston Bachelard will be most unfamiliar. Yet his idea of the epistemological rupture or break has influenced many of the most important French intellectuals of the 20th century, including not only Pierre Bourdieu but also Jacques Derrida and Michel Foucault. The concept, as Bachelard conceived of it, is simple. The fundamental move of scientific research ought to be to break with the illusion of immediate knowledge.

I connect the Christian concept of sin with the epistemological break to point out how our basic understanding is so often biased, blinded by the very real divides and divisions which split apart creation, humanity, and God. Without such a “break” in white everyday assumptions, it is very difficult to hear and make sense of African Americans’ negative perceptions of the criminal justice system. White people, like the priest and Levite in Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan, need to travel to the other side of the road if we are to learn the actual circumstances of our African American neighbor. Fieldwork in theology ought do no less.

——–

Christian Scharen

Christian Scharen (PhD, Emory University) is vice president of applied research at Auburn Theological Seminary in New York City. He previously taught at Luther Seminary. He has authored a number of books, including One Step Closer and Faith as a Way of Life, and is the book review editor of Ecclesial Practices. An ordained pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Scharen has served congregations in California, Georgia, and Connecticut.

Beyond the Book – “Performing”

BeyondTheBookBA

Today we are pleased to share the latest post in our weekly series, Beyond the Book. This month Christian Scharen reflects on issues of race and justice, and argues that theology does (and must!) have something to say about the pressing concerns of contemporary society.

**Also, as part of this series we are giving away three copies of his book Fieldwork in Theology. The winners will be announced at the end of the month, and you can enter here.**

——–

I mention in my book, Fieldwork in Theology, that I spent time doing research in an African Methodist Episcopal church in Atlanta. It was Big Bethel, on historic Auburn Avenue, and I was working on my dissertation at Emory University. I loved learning about and worshiping with the AME church, and listening to the lives and experiences of its members as I did interviews.

I remember vividly my interview with the elderly Mrs. King, the informal church historian of Big Bethel. She told me the story of the infamous KKK leader and owner of Stone Mountain, a Mr. Venable. Since men of the congregation worked as laborers in his granite quarry on Stone Mountain, he gave the church a “deal” on granite—any broken pieces, $20 a wagon load. Looking today, you can see the variable granite pieces which make up this citadel for the mercy and love of God in the world. The story is a parable for God’s power of salvation: the stone which the builder rejected became the cornerstone” (Psalm 118; Matthew 21).

Btb 3Founded as a church because of white supremacy, the AME has never been far from the costs of the struggle for freedom and dignity. Yet when I heard the horrible news of the shooting at Mother Emanuel AME in Charleston SC, and that the shooter, Dylann Roof was a young member of my own Lutheran denomination, I cried out in anguish. A pastor-activist I greatly admire, the Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis, pastor of Middle Collegiate Church in New York, went to Charleston to deliver some of the thousands of prayers and words of comfort generated by a national campaign in support of the congregation.

Her words captured in a simple phrase what I and so many others were feeling, and it became a popular hashtag for expressing a faith-rooted response to the shooting: #PropheticGrief. She spelled it out by naming the two sides of her complex emotions: tears falling heavy, and activism that ends racism. For me, the grief was over the senseless loss of more innocent African American lives and over the depth of divides between peoples in this nation which claims to offer “liberty and justice for all.” The divides are very personal. I am, after all, a white man, a member of the same denomination as the shooter, and it struck me how profoundly our worlds shape our perception, our ability to really love our neighbors as ourselves.

Cover ArtHere, my book might help as it unpacks Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s concept of “having a world” and the way such formative experiences of our world as we are taught by our family, friends, and local culture, shapes our living in that world (53). Bourdieu picks this up in his notion of the social embodied within my habits of living.

Racism is a prime example here—Dylann Roof may have had personal racist beliefs, but those beliefs were formed in him by virtue of being formed by a white supremacist world he inhabited. While such habits are anything but natural, they seem natural—that is, as “the way things are”—until they are challenged. Unfortunately, for white people in the United States, habits of white privilege that seem natural are the result of a world which is stacked in our favor, one which treats African Americans as plunder (on how African Americans have been seen as plunder, see Ta-Nehisi Coates’ new book, Between the World and Me).

My first two blog posts in this series, on “waking” and “listening,” both prepare the way for this post on “performing.” I don’t mean preforming in the sense of doing something false or inauthentic, as in: he’s just performing. Rather, I mean it in the sense of the deeply true ways we perform our social world and its patterns and practices in our own lives.

Rowan Williams argues that what Jesus offers us is a performance of God’s love for the world so compelling, so true, that in his person we meet God’s love and are transformed in the encounter (59). In the end, my broken, sinful, racist performance can be transformed into one in which God’s justice and mercy for the those on the margins become my own. I hope Fieldwork in Theology will help the church to be more deeply transformed its performance of Jesus’ way of self-giving love so that the world would know, through the church, the beating heart of God.

——–

Christian Scharen

Christian Scharen (PhD, Emory University) is vice president of applied research at Auburn Theological Seminary in New York City. He previously taught at Luther Seminary. He has authored a number of books, including One Step Closer and Faith as a Way of Life, and is the book review editor of Ecclesial Practices. An ordained pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Scharen has served congregations in California, Georgia, and Connecticut.

Beyond the Book – “Listening”

BeyondTheBookBA

Today we are pleased to share the latest post in our weekly series, Beyond the Book. This month Christian Scharen reflects on issues of race and justice, and argues that theology does (and must!) have something to say about the pressing concerns of contemporary society.

*Also, as part of this series we are giving away three copies of his book Fieldwork in Theology. The winners will be announced at the end of the month, and you can enter here.*

——–

BtB 2“No justice, No peace!” the crowd shouted. This past January, my daughter Grace and I joined the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day march through St. Paul ending at the state capitol downtown.

The march was organized and led by young leaders in the #BlackLivesMatter movement. This movement began after the 2013 acquittal of George Zimmerman in the Florida shooting death of Trayvon Martin, and has reignited dramatically in the months since the acquittals of officers in Ferguson MO and New York NY for the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.

It was eye-opening for us to learn that a Black man, woman, or child is killed by police or vigilante law enforcement literally almost every day (technically: every 28 hours). The power of the police was visceral as hundreds of armed state troopers stood blocking our march from access to Interstate 94. Yet as we held a die-in of thousands, and neared the capitol singing the South African freedom song, “We Are Marching in the Light of God,” we experienced the power of joining together to actively resist the de-humanization of African Americans.

Cover ArtI finished writing Fieldwork in Theology during the summer of 2014, when Ferguson MO was engulfed in protests over the acquittal of a white police officer, Darren Wilson, in the shooting of an African American teenager named Michael Brown. At the time, I was finishing chapter five which focuses on the work of Pierre Bourdieu’s most well-known student, Loïc Wacquant, now a professor of sociology at U.C. Berkeley.

It struck me how important it was to highlight Wacquant’s efforts to correct the misunderstanding of Bourdieu as a conservative and as a social determinist who points out the dynamics of domination and oppression but without articulating pathways of liberation. Bourdieu does point to subtler dynamics, such as the ways “the dominated always contribute to their own domination,” which is, he says, a result of the forces of domination inhabiting the bodies of the dominated (28).

Yet as Wacquant points out,  Bourdieu was deeply committed to social justice, and to the plight of the most marginalized. Their major work, The Weight of the World (in French: La Misére du Mondé), is rooted in an ethic of listening carefully to the lives of those most marginalized in French society for the sake of understanding their plight and thereby clarifying where change needs to come. The book was an unlikely bestseller and helped produce major social reforms in France.

Some white people wish to move to the hashtag #AllLivesMatter, but through the practice of listening to African Americans, in this MLK Jr. Day march and beyond, I have come to understand it is through the particularity of claiming #BlackLivesMatter that we can work towards a society in which all lives matter. Such wisdom emerges from not simply accepting my own assumptions but rather trying to listen, as God does again and again in the Psalms, to the cries of those who are suffering. I hope Fieldwork in Theology will help the church hold its tongue and open its ears, hearing carefully those inside and outside its walls and responding with love.

——–

Christian Scharen

Christian Scharen (PhD, Emory University) is vice president of applied research at Auburn Theological Seminary in New York City. He previously taught at Luther Seminary. He has authored a number of books, including One Step Closer and Faith as a Way of Life, and is the book review editor of Ecclesial Practices. An ordained pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Scharen has served congregations in California, Georgia, and Connecticut.

Beyond the Book – “Waking”

BeyondTheBookBA

Today we are pleased to share the latest post in our weekly series, Beyond the Book. This month Christian Scharen reflects on issues of race and justice, and argues that theology does (and must!) have something to say about the pressing concerns of contemporary society.

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

a Rafflecopter giveaway

——–

Seriously? I knew Minnesota struggles with racial equality in the schools, but I couldn’t believe it.

BtB 1I was sitting in New Creation Church in North Minneapolis with my 17 year-old son, Isaiah. We were attending an evening meeting organized by faith leaders to address racial disparity in school expulsions, the first step in what some call the “school-to-prison pipeline.” The Minneapolis schools have roughly equal numbers of Black and white students, but 11 Black children are expelled from school for every 1 white kid. Last year, 3801 African American children were suspended or expelled, compared to only 328 whites. The situation has gotten bad enough that the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights has cited the school district for the troubling rates students of color experience the most damaging forms of discipline. In dialog with a panel of “school resource officers,” basically Minneapolis police assigned to patrol schools, the community struggled with potential restorative justice options instead of retributive justice now used as standard practice.

Cover ArtI wrote Fieldwork in Theology out of a conviction that Christian leaders today need research tools to see and get involved with God’s work of mercy and justice in the world. Christianity is in a new era of mission. As the dominant churches emerging from European history, like my own Lutheran tradition, are staggering out from under a millennia and a half of Christendom in the West, the rising churches of the global south are vital and increasingly setting the terms of the conversation about mission. Together, old and new traditions in the United States and Europe face cultures in deep need and yet who are increasingly skeptical about how Christian churches matter to them. At the heart of my book, I describe both Pierre Bourdieu’s social science and Rowan William’s theology as resources for gaining a truthful social, moral and theological understanding of real suffering, and through understanding, clarity about potential modes of response. Williams argues such understanding aids us in looking square in the face the “suffering of victims of racism and my own de facto involvement in and responsibility for this” (85).

The hashtag attendees were using at the meeting in North Minneapolis was #StayWoke. It challenged all of us in attendance, Black and white, not to accept the status quo. I heard in it the challenge of Jesus’ admonition to “stay awake” for “you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn” (Mark 13:35). I hope Fieldwork in Theology will help the church “wake up” to the realities of the world, and how God is at work there.

——–

Christian Scharen

Christian Scharen (PhD, Emory University) is vice president of applied research at Auburn Theological Seminary in New York City. He previously taught at Luther Seminary. He has authored a number of books, including One Step Closer and Faith as a Way of Life, and is the book review editor of Ecclesial Practices. An ordained pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Scharen has served congregations in California, Georgia, and Connecticut.