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.

 

The Monasticism of Dietrich Bonhoeffer – an Excerpt from The Story of Monasticism

The following is an excerpt from The Story of Monasticism by Greg Peters.

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Bonhoeffer’s most mature thoughts on the monastic life are found in the pages of Life Together (published in 1939), a work that grew out of his oversight of a seminary set up at Finkenwalde to train pastors for the Confessing Church. Bonhoeffer believed that the divinity schools of the 1930s were inadequate to train pastors, who needed to be in “church-monastic schools” in order to learn pure doctrine, be trained in prayer, and become Sermon on the Mount–kind of disciples.

Cover ArtWithin the seminary Bonhoeffer created a subgroup of students known as the House of Brethren. One of the former members of this group later referred to it as a monastery with four goals: to make members better preachers; to further the discipleship of its members; to renounce personal prerogative for the purpose of serving others; and to create a spiritual refuge for pastors who needed to regain strength through retreat.

Though the seminary and the House of Brethren were closed by the Gestapo in 1937, the experiment gave Bonhoeffer the ideas that would be included in Life Together, distilled in five chapters: Community, The Day with Others, The Day Alone, Ministry and Confession, and Communion. For Bonhoeffer this community would not be a life dedicated to contemplation but would be characterized by love of God and service to others.

Christian community was natural, so a life together only strengthened the Christian in her life of discipleship. True community is a spiritual community, characterized by common worship, common praying, common hearing of the Word of God, and common meal-taking. The full day of work, educational endeavors, and pastoral ministries were also set up so as not to hinder one’s prayer life. Members of the community were expected to find time to practice silence and solitude, out of which grows meditation, prayer, and intercession.

By the end of Life Together it is obvious that Bonhoeffer has laid out a rule of life similar to the RB. There is a lot of overlap in Bonhoeffer’s and Benedict’s visions of communal living: Without a doubt, Bonhoeffer’s vision of life together for Christians was monastic in its inspiration and in its structure. Though Bonhoeffer’s life was cut short by the Nazis, it is likely that he desired to set up a proper monastic community based on the principles in Life Together.

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

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For more information on The Story of Monasticism, click here.

New Release: The Story of Monasticism

Cover ArtSome evangelicals perceive monasticism as a relic from the past or a retreat from the world, or they reject it as an aberration in Protestant circles. At the same time, contemporary evangelical spirituality desires historical Christian manifestations of the faith.

In this accessibly written book, an expert in monastic studies offers a historical survey of monasticism from its origins to current manifestations. Greg Peters recovers the riches of the monastic tradition for contemporary spiritual formation and devotional practice, explaining why the monastic impulse is a valid and necessary manifestation of the Christian faith for today’s church. Professors and students in Christian history and Christian spirituality classes will value this work, as will readers interested in evangelical spiritual formation.

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“I have never met a Protestant theologian–evangelical or mainline–who speaks about monastics with as much competence and ease as Greg Peters. This book presents a well-documented, interesting, and enjoyable summary of the Christian monastic way of life.” – Fr. Abbot Denis Farkasfalvy, University of Dallas

“This book accomplishes what it promises: to narrate the history of monasticism for those who are new to the topic and for those who already know something about it….What makes this historical introduction unique is that Greg does not leave the reader in the past; in the spirit of ressourcement, the story he traces (from the Old Testament to Thomas Merton) becomes spiritually edifying along the way.” – Dennis Okholm, author of Dangerous Passions, Deadly Sins

“Greg Peters sets out to convince his readers that the church has always had and has always needed a monastic witness….Carefully researched, balanced, and irenic, this book seeks to affect the way we do church by uncovering resources from those who lived in intentional Christian communities.” – James Wilhoit, Wheaton College

“Greg Peters has provided the evangelical community an invaluable service by laying before us a banquet of insight into the monastic impulse–the love for God, the desire for community, the draw toward a rule of life.” – John Coe, Talbot School of Theology and Rosemead School of Psychology

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Greg Peters (PhD, University of St. Michael’s College, Toronto), a Benedictine oblate, spiritual director, and ordained pastor in the Anglican tradition, is associate professor of medieval and spiritual theology in the Torrey Honors Institute at Biola University. He is also visiting professor of monastic studies at St. John’s School of Theology in Minnesota and adjunct assistant professor of church history and ascetical theology at Nashotah House Theological Seminary in Wisconsin. Peters is the author of Peter of Damascus: Byzantine Monk and Spiritual Theologian and Reforming the Monastery: Protestant Theologies of Religious Life

For more information on The Story of Monasticism, click here.

Beyond the Book – Protestant Monasticism?

BeyondTheBookBA

Today we are pleased to share the latest post in our weekly series, Beyond the Book. This month Greg Peters will be discussing the history of Christian monasticism, and its continuing importance for the contemporary church.

***Also, as part of this series we are giving away three copies of his forthcoming book The Story of Monasticism. The winners will be announced on Friday, and you can enter here.***

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There is a common misconception that the institution of monasticism only exists in the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Churches. And there is a historiography that says that Protestants threw out the baby of monasticism with the bath water of late medieval faith and practice. Yet, this is not the case. There has been an ongoing impetus in the Protestant tradition to either maintain the institution of monasticism or see it reintroduced into Protestantism. There were sixteenth century Protestant theologians who said so and there continue to be advocates down to this day.

Cover ArtMartin Luther and John Calvin rejected monasticism primarily based on the notion of life-long vows but both had room for monasticism if it could be construed without vows. Furthermore, many other reformers did not entirely reject monasticism and did not see it as inconsistent with a reformed theology, whether Lutheran, Calvinistic, Anglican or other. Well-known twentieth-century Protestant theologians such as Karl Barth, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Donald Bloesch have all argued for a Protestant monasticism and currently Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, Shane Claiborne and Scott Bessenecker claim to be living out a “New Monasticism.”

Simultaneously many Protestant believers have become oblates or associates of Roman Catholic monasteries, giving them an opportunity to partake of much that is good in monasticism without having to become monks and nuns. Roman Catholic monastic writers such as Thomas Merton and Richard Rohr are popular spiritual writers with a wide Protestant readership and the well-known monastic Rule of Benedict is used by Protestants to address questions as diverse as leadership and business practices.

All of this, of course, is not the same as the re-establishment of historic monastic institutes among Protestants but they are clear signs that there is an interest in the history and practice of monasticism and its relevance to today’s Protestant church. The Story of Monasticism is an attempt to offer guidance in this recovery of monasticism for today’s church, looking closely at the history of monasticism as a guide for our own future. Monasticism is not the answer to every question asked in today’s church but it is an answer to many of the questions. Protestant Christians would be remiss if they failed to retrieve this ancient tradition for contemporary spirituality.

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Greg PetersGreg Peters (PhD, University of St. Michael’s College, Toronto), a Benedictine oblate, spiritual director, and ordained pastor in the Anglican tradition, is associate professor of medieval and spiritual theology in the Torrey Honors Institute at Biola University. He is also visiting professor of monastic studies at St. John’s School of Theology in Minnesota and adjunct assistant professor of church history and ascetical theology at Nashotah House Theological Seminary in Wisconsin. Peters is the author of Peter of Damascus: Byzantine Monk and Spiritual Theologian and Reforming the Monastery: Protestant Theologies of Religious Life.

Beyond the Book – The Demands of Monasticism

BeyondTheBookBA

Today we are pleased to share the latest post in our weekly series, Beyond the Book. This month Greg Peters will be discussing the history of Christian monasticism, and its continuing importance for the contemporary church.

**Also, as part of this series we are giving away three copies of his forthcoming book The Story of Monasticism (to be shipped on its release date). The winners will be announced at the end of the month, and you can enter here.**

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With each passing day there is less and less commonality between different cultures; or, perhaps to see it another way, culture is constantly shifting. In fact, culture changes so swiftly that no one, I think, can keep up. Language, technology and morality, for example, are in a constant state of flux, while those “in charge” try to dictate what the right culture is on this day, at this hour. Culture is at war with itself and with others. Yet, no matter the culture, Christianity has always been a counter-cultural religion – a religion that is in the world but not of it (1 John 4:1-6). Even more astoundingly, Christian monasticism is counter-cultural among that which is already counter-cultural! For monasticism not only spoke to the non-Christian world of a different way but it also spoke to Christians of an “angelic” way.

Cover ArtThe best of Christian monasticism never understood itself to be superior to the “normal” Christian life but it understood itself to be another way in which Christians here on earth could, in this lifetime, begin to approach the kind of life that is reserved for those in God’s presence – a life characterized by continual prayer and love for God and neighbor. With this message it called out both the faithful and the unfaithful to (re-)evaluate their relationship to the world; it called folks to stand over against the dominate culture and to stand in solidarity with the teaching of the Gospels. Monasticism demands that we weep with those who weep, mourn with those who mourn and that we walk the extra mile and turn the other cheek. It expects us to care for the hurting with no prospect of reward and to embrace the repentant prodigal.

The counter-cultural nature of Christian monasticism is not based on a philosophy wherein matter is seen as evil and should be avoided whereas the spiritual is good. On the contrary, it was monks and nuns who preserved the physical elements of their culture (e.g., copying manuscripts in the Middle Ages), proving that to them the world was truly God’s good creation. Instead, the counter-cultural nature of monasticism is rooted in the institution’s recognition that if one is called to be a monk then one is called to live out that vocation in obedience to a rule and to a superior. To live in a monastery was not just a flight from the world (i.e., the fuga mundi) but a flight into the arms of God. It was not just simply running away from something but running to someone. It was a retreat from the fallen culture to an experience of the perfect culture of the Kingdom of God.

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Greg PetersGreg Peters (PhD, University of St. Michael’s College, Toronto), a Benedictine oblate, spiritual director, and ordained pastor in the Anglican tradition, is associate professor of medieval and spiritual theology in the Torrey Honors Institute at Biola University. He is also visiting professor of monastic studies at St. John’s School of Theology in Minnesota and adjunct assistant professor of church history and ascetical theology at Nashotah House Theological Seminary in Wisconsin. Peters is the author of Peter of Damascus: Byzantine Monk and Spiritual Theologian and Reforming the Monastery: Protestant Theologies of Religious Life.

Beyond the Book – Single-Minded Monks

BeyondTheBookBA

Today we are pleased to share the latest post in our weekly series, Beyond the Book. This month Greg Peters will be discussing the history of Christian monasticism, and its continuing importance for the contemporary church.

*Also, as part of this series we are giving away three copies of his forthcoming book The Story of Monasticism (to be shipped on its release date). The winners will be announced at the end of the month, and you can enter here.*

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A hallmark of Christian monasticism is its emphasis on a single-minded devotion to God. Historically, for some monks and nuns this meant living in a cave in the middle of the desert or climbing to the top of a forty foot column and living there in relative isolation (i.e., the stylite monks). But “single-minded” does not necessarily mean alone and it certainly does not carry with it the connotation of “leave me alone because I’m attempting to be in communion with God and your presence is simply a distraction.”

These false notions of monasticism and single-mindedness overlook the fact that first and foremost, single-mindedness is about orientation and intentionality more than it is about location.

Cover ArtIt is true that the first kind of monasticism that really flourished was the eremitical (from eremos = desert); that is, the kind where a man or a woman forsakes regular contact with others in order to live (mostly) alone in some kind of isolation (even if it was only temporary). The paradigmatic example of this was Antony the Great of Egypt, whose life was written by Athanasius of Alexandria in the fourth century.

Yet this form of monasticism quickly became the exception and the more characteristic kind of monasticism that emerged was the cenobitic (from koinonia = fellowship and bios = life). Cenobitic monasteries (which were scattered throughout ancient Egypt, Asian Minor and Palestine) housed thousands of monks living in community under a rule of life. One of the most well-known of the cenobitic architects is Pachomius (d. 348).

These cenobitic monks lived in community, coming into contact with each other multiple times a day – during prayers, meals and community work. Yet, in spite of this contact that may have, in fact, been a distraction, these monks were resolved to remain focused on God in spite of the fact that they lived in close proximity to one another.

Again, “single-minded” does not mean alone or undistracted but it means that in spite of the presence of others and in spite of potential or real distraction one continues to remain focused on God. Community was not seen as a hindrance to single-mindedness but a necessary part of single-mindedness. For it is in community that one learns best how to seek God. Community is “a school for the service of the Lord,” writes Benedict of Nursia, wherein one learns true single-mindedness; that is, he learns to be a monk (monos = single).

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Greg PetersGreg Peters (PhD, University of St. Michael’s College, Toronto), a Benedictine oblate, spiritual director, and ordained pastor in the Anglican tradition, is associate professor of medieval and spiritual theology in the Torrey Honors Institute at Biola University. He is also visiting professor of monastic studies at St. John’s School of Theology in Minnesota and adjunct assistant professor of church history and ascetical theology at Nashotah House Theological Seminary in Wisconsin. Peters is the author of Peter of Damascus: Byzantine Monk and Spiritual Theologian and Reforming the Monastery: Protestant Theologies of Religious Life.

Beyond the Book – Introducing The Story of Monasticism

BeyondTheBookBA

Today we are pleased to share the latest post in our weekly series, Beyond the Book. This month Greg Peters will be discussing the history of Christian monasticism, and its continuing importance for the contemporary church.

Also, as part of this series we are giving away three copies of his forthcoming book The Story of Monasticism (to be shipped on its release date). The winners will be announced at the end of the month.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Why wouldn’t everyone want to be a monk or nun? These days you will get your own room, never have to overthink the daily “What will I wear?” debate, be allotted plenty of time with God and, if you choose wisely, be engaged during your lifetime in a host of satisfying jobs and ministry assignments. All in all, the monastic life has a good number of the elements that many of us look for in life and work. Sure, there’s the whole obedience to a superior thing, and the celibacy thing, and the poverty thing but let’s face it – those are often over-rated to today’s culture anyway. Most of us crave stability and perhaps even predictability.

Cover ArtIt turns out, however, that the monastic life does not often offer either of these. Contrary to much popular and historical thinking, the institution of Christian monasticism is not a monolithic entity – it never has been and, I’m guessing, it never will be. That does not mean, though, that it was an inchoate institution teaching falsehoods and superstitions, as it was (and sometimes still is) often depicted in Reformation-era caricatures. In fact, the history of monasticism is quite the opposite of how it is often portrayed or imagined.

The Story of Monasticism is not only an attempt to present an accurate historical depiction of Christian monasticism but it also strives to show its ongoing relevance for all believers. Contrary to many Protestants, monasticism was not and is not a fringe movement in Christian history. It may have started on the fringes geographically (the deserts of Egypt and Palestine, for example) but it was, from the start, an important element in the life of the church. Though it may have, on occasion, needed reform and, at times, to be reminded that it was not superior to the “normal Christian life,” it was most often a thriving discipline, populated by devout men and women.

There is much to learn from the story of Christian monasticism, and believers today will do well to learn that history, making it their own and adapting it to their own present circumstances. Monks and nuns remind us that we should have a single-minded devotion to God, and they also remind us of the need for the church to be counter-cultural (aspects of monasticism that I will discuss in subsequent blogs in the three weeks ahead). These lessons are biblical, not just monastic, but they are brought home with unique clarity in the history of Christian monasticism.

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Greg PetersGreg Peters (PhD, University of St. Michael’s College, Toronto), a Benedictine oblate, spiritual director, and ordained pastor in the Anglican tradition, is associate professor of medieval and spiritual theology in the Torrey Honors Institute at Biola University. He is also visiting professor of monastic studies at St. John’s School of Theology in Minnesota and adjunct assistant professor of church history and ascetical theology at Nashotah House Theological Seminary in Wisconsin. Peters is the author of Peter of Damascus: Byzantine Monk and Spiritual Theologian and Reforming the Monastery: Protestant Theologies of Religious Life.