Running Heads

From the editors of Cascade Books and Pickwick Publications at Wipf and Stock Publishers

Category: Books (page 1 of 6)

Google Books

Currently, Google Books has already scanned about 20 million books towards its goal to include 100+ million books. This past Friday, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan (a three-judge panel) made its decision that Google Books has not violated copyright law of “fair use” in offering “Snippet View” (less than 16% of content) of books. In general, Google Books offers “Full View” for books in public domain, “Limited Preview” for books approved by the copyright holder, “No Preview Available” for books not yet scanned, and “Snippet View” for the rest.

I have to say that as an editor I have sometimes found Google Books very helpful in checking the accuracy of quotations. I can’t check everything, but it has come in handy numerous times. I don’t read whole books or chapters on line. But I have been able to view books to see if they are something I am interested in buying. So I am upbeat about the project. One thing I would find helpful is if as part of “Snippet View” they would offer a complete table of contents. But however this proceeds, Friday’s court decision represents another chapter in the ongoing changes in the publishing industry. Stay tuned!

What is a woman?

I am in the middle of proofreading an exciting new book from Cascade Books. Thinking Woman: A Philosophical Approach to the Quandary of Gender by Jennifer Hockenberry Dragseth is a helpful philosophical inquiry about women.


Here are a few paragraphs on the method and design of the book:

This is a philosophical book, not a sociological study or a political treatise. This book explores a “What is X?” type of question, namely “What is a woman?” The book’s method follows that of the ancient philosopher, Socrates. Socrates’s method, which he advocates for both men and women philosophers according to Plato, was to ask a question, hear an answer, discuss the answer, detail the limits or problems of the answer, and then continue with another possible answer. This is the method that is used in each chapter of the book.

As such, this book is an invitation to the reader to a philosophical dialogue on the question: “What is a woman?” The book is by no means comprehensive or exhaustive. I have limited the conversation to four major theories that are active in contemporary Western feminist discourse. These theories are Gender Essentialism, Gender Neutrality, Gender Existentialism, and Gender Fluidity. Gender Essentialism is the theory that women have an essential and unique nature that is both biologically and psychologically different from the nature of men. Gender Neutrality is the claim that women have the same essential psychological and intellectual nature as men despite biological differences in sex. Gender Existentialism is the theory that women, although biologically different from men, have intellectual and psychological habits that differ from men only because of cultural factors. The theory of Gender Fluidity claims that both gender and biological sex are constantly changing categories that are culturally defined.

Each chapter presents each system by introducing some of the women thinkers who most famously articulated the theories. Because their views were born in the context of their lives, the lives and historical context of the thinkers are important. Each chapter presents the biographies as well as the ideas of the women who were the main architects of each theory. Included also is a description of the ways the specific theory influenced the feminist struggle to help women thrive. Importantly, each chapter shows an area of contemporary public discourse where the theory remains a dominant voice. This demonstrates that each theory is still very much alive. Each chapter concludes with a discussion of the possible objections to the discussed theory before summarizing the main points of the chapter.

In the conclusion, the book does not advocate for a specific theory of woman as being true or correct. Rather the conclusion acknowledges that the concept of woman is complex. Each of the four theories says something obviously true. Thus, understanding women requires holding all four theories simultaneously while acknowledging their contradictions. However, all four theories also clearly fall short of a comprehensive account of women. Thus, understanding women requires continuing dialogue with women and those who are interested in them.

Look for it to be available in the next month or so. It would make for a great reading assignment in all sorts of university and college courses.

Symposium on Race and Racism

A week ago at this time I was somewhere over the Rockies on my way to Chicago and the Symposium on the Theological Interpretation of Scripture at North Park Theological Seminary. The three days at North Park were full and lively, with several great sessions on the topic of Race and Racism. Eventually the papers will be published in the annual journal Ex Auditu from Pickwick Publications, hence my presence there. Below you will find a teasing excerpt from each of the main papers. Keep in mind these are pulled from larger essays and the essays themselves may undergo revision before they are published some time next Spring. The title of the presentation may not be the title of the published essay, and so because of this, I am only providing the speakers’ names.  You can follow links to find out more about who they are, where they work, etc. Videos of all of the sessions of the symposium are here.

Lisa Sung:

The very employment of racial concepts and categories, in the absence of critical historical awareness—using “race” terminology in unmarked, unqualified, and ultimately non-deconstructive ways—comprises a naive realism, and is evidence of the power of socialization—the extent to which the church and its teachers are still captive to a “false consciousness”—the positing of a racial scheme as value-neutral, substantive explanatory concepts, one that conceals its historical origins and essential logic as a classificatory scheme underwriting a stratified social order which secured dominance by assigning persons to newly created status groups to which the goods of society would be disparately allocated.

Bo Lim:

If the Cross is the Lynching Tree, and the lynchee is the Suffering Servant, then salvation for Americans rests upon their acknowledgment of our racist past, most exemplified in the mass terror lynchings of African Americans. The inability to see Christ as the first lynchee results not merely from a lack of information but a lack of faith. Yet those who see that Christ was lynched on a tree can claim, “But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed” (Isa 53:6).

Love Sechrest:

The goal of allyship is not for people in privileged groups to be shamed, punished, or retaliated against, but to eliminate the conditions that dehumanize us all, to restrain evil in our midst, and to seek our common good. Each and every one of us needs to be able to see what and who have been previously invisible as we cautiously move towards inhabiting the kinds of relationships that give honor to the gospel, risking pain but persisting in our desire to build the Beloved Community.

Ray Aldred:

By entering into the shared narrative of the Treaties as equals, the possibility exists for a shared identity that does not necessitate the eradication of identity. Instead it is an opportunity to embrace the past and be open to a future of walking together in the Creator’s land in a good way. Treaty functioning as a shared narrative allows for a re-envisioning of history and becomes a tool for healing.

Kyle Small:

Coming up from the turbulent waters of initiation is new life, indeed a white person with a white body can participate differently. Rising from the drowning, ascending from hell is a rejection of Caucasian as an identity marker. The word is drowned in the depths and will not return. The initiation is a participation in something other than whiteness currently understood. The journey to hell exposes the fullness of white privilege and supremacy practiced by white-followers of Jesus. The journey down discloses the full white consciousness. The pain, misery, and shame that will occur to a white body that enters hell will emerge from the depths out of breath and seeking help from divine participants who are image-bearers-of-many-hues.

Néstor Medina (old CV):

Since the middle of the twentieth century, hermeneutics has changed at a faster pace in great part because the Eurocentric character of theology, biblical scholarship, and philosophy has been challenged. Those other cultural groups previously absent from prevalent versions of Christian scholarship and theology brought forth critical new approaches to interpretation, which reclaim the role of gender, social location, racial-ethnic background, and cultural tradition in the biblical text, from its original production when it was written to its reading and interpretation in multiple settings today.

Emerson Powery:

Are translations responsible to present ancient tensions in new ways to help “address” our contemporary concerns and conversations or should they translate what “they see,” which is always interrelated in complex ways with how translators view their own contemporary world. It is not only language that changes, however; perspectives, in this case, with regard to ethnic conflict also changes. So are translators responsible to present ancient tensions in new ways to “address” (indirectly) contemporary conflicts?

Lewis Brogdon:

Because [Onesimus was not a Christian in the house of a Christian master] is ignored as an exegetical and theological issue, the impact of the conversion of Onesimus is lessened. Instead great emphasis is given to Philemon’s benevolence and the return of a wayward slave. . . . This is both a distorted and limited reading of the letter. In my reading of Philemon, exclusion and its role in the unconverted condition of a house slave is an important theological issue. I believe that Onesimus departed and was not a Christian because of Philemon’s practice of selective inclusion. In this sense, the conversion of Onesimus serves as an indictment against Philemon and the church. In addition, the return of Onesimus as a Christian takes on a different kind of significance that what is argued by slave-flight interpreters.

Persons over Projects

So I did an impromptu interview the other day in our office about my work as an editor. I wasn’t at all dressed or shaved for the occasion, but it was fun and it gave our media guy a chance to play around with his new toys and editing software. Here’s a piece he put together:

Oh, and there was this as well…


Oakman’s The Political Aims of Jesus

Years ago, I acquired The Political Aims of Jesus by my good friend Doug Oakman for Fortress Press, and it finally appeared in 2012. Doug is also the author of Jesus and the Economic Questions of His Day (1986), Jesus and the Peasants (2008, a collection of his most important essays), and Jesus, Debt, and the Lord’s Prayer (2014). Together, he and I wrote Palestine in the Time of Jesus: Social Structures and Social Conflicts (2nd ed., 2008; 1st ed. 1998). Working with him on that last book was one of the highlights of my life.

Doug asked me to give him feedback on a preliminary version of the manuscript of Political Aims, and I was blown away by it. But now, three years later, I just reread the whole thing, and I was blown away a second time. I think I have had more time to let his approach and conclusions sink in; but I am repeatedly startled/awakened by his skill in bringing new light on well-known gospel passages.

Doug begins with the importance of H. S. Reimarus‘s work for seeing what Jesus was up to, and why Schweitzer so highly praised his work. But we are are far down the road from Reimarus in terms of archaeological, historical, literary, and social analyses, and this is where Doug’s work takes off. He analyzes the political—and political economic—landscape of Galilee and greater Palestine and then focuses on the earliest Q (Sayings Source) material and what Jesus’ emphases were: the disenfranchisement of the peasants, the land grabs by the elites, the oppressive tax situation (temple, Herodian, and Roman), emphases of priestly religion that foregrounds purity issues over justice, and what God’s dominion would mean in addressing these issues.

He looks intently at the sayings, parables, and actions of Jesus in a politically charged and economically complex environment—and prior to later christological emphases. One of the most rewarding things about the book is Doug’s analysis of the intent of the parables. Reading his fresh interpretations often feels like I am hearing these for first time. But this brief summary only scratches the surface of this important work.

If you are interested at all in a deep look at the Jesus tradition, I not only highly recommend this book, I would say put it on your “must have” list!

Convictional Differences

In 1974 a secular atheist and a Christian theologian set out “to discuss discordant elements that divide our own society into fragments and to discover” ways of working together “that can make even discordant elements one.” Twenty years later James M. Smith and James Wm. McClendon Jr. believed “that the times [had] at long last caught up with [them]” in two important ways:

1) “Philosophers can no longer be dismissed as threats to the faith or religious believers as soft-headed dogmatists”; and 2) “there has been a growing dissatisfaction with the general approach to the theory of knowledge called ‘foundationalism’ . . . . there is a much greater tendency today to examine the credentials of claims in terms of the disciplines or communities within which the claims are made.”

And so these two “unequally yoked” authors took on the task of revising their twenty-year-old book. Now, twenty-one years on, I can think of few other books that are as relevant to our times. Still today—and maybe even more so than the 70s or 90s—“differences in those beliefs that guide our lives, that make us who we are . . . are indeed the stuff of arguments, manifestos, estrangements, revolutions, and wars.” Many are asking again Smith’s and McClendon’s guiding questions.

“Why are differences in convictions so intractable, so impervious to appeals to evidence or rational argument? And is there a method by which this intractability can be overcome, a method by which convictions can be justified not only to those who already hold them but to those who presently hold other, rival convictions?”

I cannot recommend enough their book-length answer to these questions. Click through and pick up a copy of Convictions: Defusing Religious Relativism (rev. ed.; Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2002; orig. Trinity, 1994) right now!

One last lengthy excerpt to further make the case that this is a book you should read:

Convictions are the beliefs that make people what they are. They must therefore be taken very seriously by those who have them. This means that to take any person seriously we must take that person’s convictions seriously, even if we do not ourselves share them. If we regard integrity and a certain degree of consistency as important elements in being a person, we should neither expect nor want others’ convictions to be easily changed or lightly given up. On the other hand, if we have a true esteem for our own convictions, we will want them to be shared in appropriate ways by anyone whom we regard. A certain tension appears here. If persons who hold opposed convictions are to come to share common ones, then some sort of exchange must take place in which the disparate partners communicate with, persuade, change one another in significant ways, so that one or both become significantly different persons than they were.

Covering Academic Books

Check almost any line of academic publications and you are not likely to see creative book covers. Monographs, published dissertations, and the like are not known for eye-catching displays. For our academic imprint, Pickwick Publications, our cover designers do an excellent job of giving life to the types of books known for lifeless appearances. Here are a few of my recent favorites.

By the way, did you know that you can download any of our covers from our website. Go to a book’s web page and click ‘Download Cover’ beneath the picture of the cover.

Screen Shot 2015-06-04 at [Jun 4] 9.33

Finally, on the topic of covers. I’m really digging Dwight Yoakam’s cover of “Man of Constant Sorrow” from his new album Second Hand Heart.

For God so loved the world…

A couple of days ago, Robin took a stab at encapsulating the gospel in one sentence. A few commenters did the same. I’m not going to try to add to the list. I would, however, like to call attention to a book about a very familiar sentence, which, for many, summarizes the gospel quite well.

We are just a few weeks away from publishing a short book on John 3:16 by well-known New Testament scholar, Murray J. Harris. Harris might add to the conversation Robin started with the following:

Of course, John 3:16 is not the totality of the gospel (“the good news”) nor a summary of the entire New Testament. How could one sentence of twenty-five words (in Greek) possibly sum up the message of nine different authors writing over some forty years? But this sentence is a summary of the message of the Fourth Gospel and it does sum up the essence of the “good news” which is the invitation given to all to believe in Jesus, God’s Son, and the promise that those who do this will avoid God’s condemnation and will share in the very life of God forever.

John 3:16: What’s It All About? should be available by early summer. It would make for an excellent small group study. And could easily be read in one day at the beach!


Van Gogh’s Ghost Paintings

In the same year that he painted Sunflowers, The Yellow House, and The Bedroom, Vincent van Gogh painted “A Garden of Olives—with a blue and orange Christ figure, a yellow angel—a piece of red earth, green and blue hills. Olive trees with purple and crimson trunks, with grey green and blue foliage. Sky lemon yellow.” But as Vincent wrote to his brother, Theo, “I scraped it off because I tell myself it’s wrong to do figures of that importance without a model” (Letter 637). Seventy-five days later, in another letter to Theo, Vincent wrote,

For the second time I’ve scraped off a study of a Christ with the angel in the Garden of Olives. Because here I see real olive trees. But I can’t, or rather, I don’t wish, to paint it without models. But I have it in my mind with color—the starry night, the figure of Christ blue, the strongest blues, and the angel broken lemon yellow. And all the purples from blood red purple to ash in the landscape. (Letter 685)

And two weeks later:

I mercilessly destroyed an important canvas—a Christ with the angel in Gethsemane—as well as another one depicting the poet with a starry sky—because the form hadn’t been studied from the model beforehand, necessary in such cases—despite the fact that the color was right. (Letter 698)

In Van Gogh’s Ghost Paintings: Art and Spirit in Gethsemane, Cliff Edwards, Professor of Religion in the School of World Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University and author of three previous books on van Gogh, asks,

Exactly what is it about painting Jesus and the angel in Gethsemane that led to this double creation and double destruction during the height of the artist’s creativity? Why had he never composed a scene from the life of Christ before, and why would he never compose such a scene again?

The answer to the mystery of the lost paintings illuminates the relationship of joy and suffering, discovery and creation, religion and the arts in Van Gogh’s life and work. In this fascinating book Edwards solves a long-ignored mystery that provides a critical key to the relation of Van Gogh’s religion and art. Look for the book in late Spring or early Summer.

Throwback Thursday with a New Look

Last week I called attention to a couple of new Cascade Companions and the new look of that series. We’ve started to retrofit some of our older volumes, and I figured today would be a good day to call attention to three of my favorite companions and their new look. If you haven’t read these yet, now is a good time to get them with their nice, new design.


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