I’m enjoying (and learning!) from almost every page of Philip Jenkins’ outstanding book, The Lost History of Christianity: The Thousand-Year Golden Age of the Church in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia–and How It Died. Here’s a paragraph which summarizes the thrust of the book: … Continue reading “The Lost History of Christianity” – Philip Jenkins
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Shauna Niequist‘s new book, Bread & Wine, radiates joy and delight in life. Even as she recounts stories of pain, even of tragedy, her delight in God’s good world shines through. This is an honest book, about real life. Central to Shauna’s life, and to us all, is food. A revolutionary thought, I know. We all eat, but Shauna invites us to eat, and COOK, with intentionality. We are not just consumers–we are also creators, designed by the Ultimate Creator to imitate his divine Art in our own creative works. Each chapter is a short narrative around a theme, which closes with a delightful recipe. Shauna is a realist, so the recipes are filled with practical suggestions for making them, well, practical!
I’m actually still reading the book, because my wife started reading and put it in her stack of books and I couldn’t get to it! Here’s Cynthia’s summary: “Bread and Wine is such a fun read! Rich yet practical, jolly yet vulnerable, the book was difficult to put down. Bread and Wine captures the heart of the table as it is meant to be, while helping us along the way with a smattering of recipes and a touch of structure. Far from demanding, Bread and Wine meets the reader right where they are, and invites them to come with hungry hearts and hungry bellies.”
Perhaps it’s best to end with Shauna’s own words: “But I do want you to love what you eat, and to share food with people you love, and to gather people together, for frozen pizza or filet mignon, because I think the gathering is of great significance.
“When you eat, I want you to think of God, of the holiness of hands that feed us, of the provision we are given every time we eat. When you eat bread and you drink wine, I want you to think about the body and the blood every time, not just when the bread and wine show up in church, but when they show up anywhere–on a picnic table or a hardwood floor or a beach” (17).
“Learn little by little, meal by meal, to feed yourself and the people you love, because food is one of the ways we love each other, and the table is one of the most sacred places we gather” (51).
Incidentally, Shauna mentions her musician husband Aaron, and he’s doing fine work in bringing ancient Christian prayers into a new expression. Check out his projects at A New Liturgy!
[The publisher provided a free copy of this book, in exchange for an honest review.]
I just found out about the group Read the Fathers, and jumped right in. We’re reading Clement of Alexandria’s Exhortation to the Heathen, and Clement’s extended musical metaphors soar! Some excerpts from ch. 1:
“Behold the might of the new song! It has made men out of stones, men out of beasts. Those, moreover, that were as dead, not being partakers of the true life, have come to life again, simply by becoming listeners to this song. It also composed the universe into melodious order, tuned the discord of the elements to harmonious arrangement, so that the whole world might become harmony.”
“And He who is of David, and yet before him, the Word of God, despising the lyre and harp, which are but lifeless instruments, and having tuned by the Holy Spirit the universe, and especially man,–who, composed of body of soul, is a universe in miniature,–makes melody to God on this instrument of many tones; and to this instrument–I mean man–he sings accordant: ‘For thou art my harp, and pipe, and temple.’–a harp for harmony–a pipe by reason of the Spirit–a temple by reason of the word; so that the first may sound, the second breathe, the third contain the Lord.”
“A beautiful breathing instrument of music the Lord made man, after His own image. And He Himself also, surely, who is the supramundane Wisdom, the celestial Word, is the all-harmonious, melodious, holy instrument of God. What, then, does this instrument–the Word of God, the Lord, the New Song–desire?”
“The instrument of God loves mankind.”
“Well, inasmuch as the Word was from the first, He was and is the divine source of all things; but inasmuch as He has now assumed the name Christ, consecrated of old, and worthy of power, he has been called by me the New Song.”
“This is the New Song, the manifestation of the Word that was in the beginning, and before the beginning … The Word, who was in the beginning bestowed on us life as Creator when He formed us, taught us to live well when He appeared as our Teacher; that as God He might afterwards conduct us to the life which never ends.”
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Russell Moore has written an excellent analysis of temptation in a work that is easily one of the best theological books I’ve read. His grasp of biblical theology, typology, culture, and human nature is stunning. Additionally, his “psychology of the demonic” is perhaps unsurpassed since C.S. Lewis’s “Screwtape Letters.” His pastoral wisdom throughout the book in invigorating, mostly because he pulls no punches. There is no false comfort here, but there is true comfort–we are victorious in Jesus Christ, but we will battle and struggle until the day we die. As he writes: “You cannot triumph over temptation. Only Jesus can.” A must-read for anyone wondering why they can’t do the good they know they should do, and for anyone wrestling with dark desires and finding no rest.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is simply an outstanding book! Ken Wytsma has brought theological and practical depth to the contemporary Christian “justice” discussion. Ken recognizes that justice is a fad for many post-modern Christians, but Ken spends the first few chapters crafting a theology of justice firmly grounded in Scripture. What I appreciate most about Ken’s book is his measured approach. While he is clearly a passionate advocate for justice (through his work with World Relief, Food for the Hungry, and Kilns College), he brings Biblical balance and wisdom to his passion. So many “service projects” and “short-term mission trips” are just one-night stands with justice & mercy. After the mountain-top experience, we return to the well-worn ruts of our evangelical sub-culture, obedient consumers in the Church/Industrial Complex. Ken’s book will sustain those who desire to radically alter the pattern of their lives, answering the call to participate in the world-transforming work of a God who defines Himself by “justice” (Psalm 146:6-9). This was one of the huge revelations for me in this book–despite being a graduate student in theology, I had somehow missed the fact that justice is an attribute of God (Psalm 9:16). If we really want to know God, and imitate Him, we must pursue justice (Jeremiah 22:13-16). Ken is a wise guide for the journey.
(Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”)
In his outstanding book, Tempted & Tried: Temptation & the Triumph of Christ, Russell Moore meditates on narcissism and humility. He takes disagreements about musical styles in worship as an example of how we can exalt our personal preferences to the level of divine revelation …
“We need more worship wars, not fewer: What is the war looked like this in your congregation–the young singles petitioning the church to play more of the old classics for the sake of the elderly people, and the elderly people calling on the leadership to contemporize for the sake of the young new believers? This would signal a counting of others as more important than ourselves (Phil. 2:3), which comes from the Spirit of the humiliated, exalted King, Christ (Phil. 2:5-11). When I insist that the rest of the congregation serve as backup singers in my own little nostalgic hit parade of back-home Mississippi hymns, I am worshiping in the spirit all right, but not the Holy Spirit. I am worshiping myself, in the spirit of self-exaltation. The church negates the power of the third temptation [of Christ–to accept control of the world from Satan’s hands] when we remind ourselves that we all have this devilish tendency and cast it aside whether in worship planning or missions or budget decisions” (Tempted & Tried, 150).
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I respect what Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove is doing through Rutba House in Durham, NC, and through the New Monasticism movement. I pray that more church leaders will follow his courageous and provocative example. Most church leaders stay secluded from the communities they live in, but Jonathan is busy getting his hands dirty in the real world. We’re both engaged in similar work, in the same part of the country, so I would consider I him an ally and a mentor. I share his vision, in general, though I suspect we would differ in some particulars. For instance, I’m not convinced that Christians should be pacifists, though I did find it interesting that the medieval church had rites of penitence and confession for returning soldiers (pg. 134). On other issues, such as women’s ordination and homosexuality, I’m afraid I must remain theologically old-school and “intolerant”. But, though I’m not a pacifist, I share Jonathan’s critique of the American military-industrial complex. Just because our government decides to go to war, does not make it “just.” Just because I believe homosexuality is sinful, does not mean I hate homosexuals. Rather, I believe we should welcome them into the church, as the only place to find true healing and healthy love.
On other issues, such as racial reconciliation and caring for the poor, Jonathan is putting us conservatives to shame. We sit comfortably in our pews, listening to yet another screed on the latest hot topic in the “culture wars,” while we neglect the poor down the road and only hang out with others of the same race. The stories that Jonathan tells are inspiring and moving. They encourage, and should provoke many American Christians to return to the ancient practices of community, eating together, making promises, thinking about where we live, fasting, making peace, and proclaiming the Gospel. It’s ironic that so many Christians can give a theologically-correct statement of the Gospel, yet it has so little effect on our lives. This book joins Davidd Platt’s “Radical” and J.D. Greear’s “Gospel” as essential reading for Christians looking to put feet on their faith.
May this little book speed the awakening of thousands more communities of genuine Hope!