Running Heads

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

Category: Excerpts (page 2 of 3)

We Say NO!

Kerry Walters has twice already done readers a service with his collection of Woodbine Willie’s work, After War Is Faith Possible?: The Life and Message of Geoffrey “Woodbine Willie” Studdert Kennedy, and with Robin Jarrell his collection of daily stories of historic peacemakers, Blessed Peacemakers: 365 Extraordinary People Who Changed the World.

He’s at it again with a critical edition of H.R.L Sheppard’s We Say NO!: The Plain Man’s Guide to Pacifism. Originally written in the build up to WWII, Sheppard’s message is as appropriate for our times as it was for his. Here’s a little taste from his first chapter. Continue reading

The Dimensions of Civil Religion

If Michael Gorman is right—and I think he is spot on!—then this past week, just as much of the Church has entered ordinary time, the churches in America have begun their Civil Season.

No matter what the churches proclaim, Continue reading

A Lukan Trilogy?

In the second book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that the Holy Spirit accomplished from the beginning of the church in Jerusalem, 2how the apostles preached the word of the Lord in many places, from Jerusalem to Rome, and how the number of believers multiplied. 3Now, having seen myself, and also having learned from many eyewitnesses, how the Lord has continued to fulfill his promise to send the word to the ends of the earth, 4I complete my account, trusting that by the truth of these things, the Spirit will make you bold to continue the work that he began through the apostles.

So begins The Apostles after Acts, a creative look at the early church in the years immediately after the time recounted in the canonical Acts of the Apostles. Thomas Schmidt imagines the author of Luke and Acts having written a third volume, one that follows Paul beyond Rome. Schmidt’s sequel is not unfounded speculative creation. It relies on early Christian literature, sharp reading of the canonical texts, and careful drawing of implications. The explanatory notes show the marks of a good scholar. His sequel, also, is not just a dry, awkward attempt by a scholar to do something different. It is imaginative and highly readable, and yes, it is different. But Schmidt is a good writer.

The Apostles after Acts should be available later this summer. I hope it will be read by students and those curious about the earliest church history. These readers will learn a good deal, and enjoy themselves in the process. I hope, too, it will be read by NT  and early church scholars. These readers could continue the conversation. Where has Schmidt moved in the right direction? “This surely could have happened this way.”  Where has he taken a misguided turn? “Paul would never have done that!”

Sarah Coakley on liturgical knowing

In a new collection of essays in honour of David Ford, The Vocation of Theology (check it out here), Sarah Coakley offers some fascinating reflections on how we might think of knowing God through the liturgy.

Holistic worship should be multi-sensory, appealing not merely to the ears—through songs and sermons—but to the eyes, to touch, to taste, to smell. Coakley has suggested that Christian liturgical practices are a “socially mediated, bodily enacted, sensually attuned” means of knowing Christ.

 [W]hat sort of epistemological apparatus is involved in this process of liturgical response and growth in intimacy with Christ? Clearly the traditional mental faculties (intellect, will, memory) are actively involved in liturgical performance, and the intellect’s significance in relation to propositional theological truth is self-evident. But what of the distinctly sensual dimensions of liturgy—do these not play some vital part in the growth in responsiveness to Christ’s relational presence in intimacy, such as we have discussed? And do they not in some sense in turn inform our intellectual and affective responses?

 Coakley argues that the physical sense of sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell are related to the spiritual senses such that material sensation can, if appropriately shaped over time, increasingly mediate spiritual perception. Gregory of Nyssa in On the Soul and the Resurrection, “actually makes explicit the possibility of training the gross physical senses so that they may come to anticipate something of the capacities of the resurrection body, and so not only sense Christ himself, but actually sense as he senses: ‘by the very operation of our senses,’ says Macrina, Gregory’s sister and mentor in the dialogue, ‘we are led to conceive of that reality and intelligence which surpasses the senses.’” In other words, one perceives God, the truth of God, not merely through the cognitive content of the words of the liturgy and sermon but also through the sight of the stained glass windows, the carved stonework, the candles, the colorful banners, the icons, the ritual movements of the clergy around the sacred space of the building, through the smell of the incense, through the sounds of the music and bells and divine words, through the touch and taste of the bread and wine.

“[A]s John Chrysostom put it in the patristic era, it is all a matter of making ‘the unseen visible from the seen,’ a matter of training the bodily senses in attunement with Christ’s presence. In the wonderful words of Cyril of Jerusalem on the physical reception of the eucharist, ‘Do not have your wrists extended or your fingers spread, but making your left hand a throne for the right, for it is about to receive a King, and cupping your palm, receive the body of Christ.’”


St. Valentine: The Peacemaker

My colleague, Charlie Collier, has just seen into publication a wonderful new book by Kerry Walters and Robin Jarrell—Blessed Peacemakers: 365 Extraordinary People Who Changed the World. See some of Charlie’s comments about the book here.

Today, Charlie pointed me to another entry from the book. So, with a hat tip to him, here are a couple of bits on St. Valentine. One on the commercialization of Valentine’s Day…

St. Valentine’s feast day has fallen on hard times. It’s become an annual occasion marked by mawkish verse, images of fat cupids shooting arrows into hearts, and binge spending (in 2011, U.S. consumers blew nearly $16 billion on Valentine cards, candy, flowers, and jewels). Even the Roman Catholic Church contributed to the day’s decline by taking if off the General Roman Calendar in 1969. But despite all the marketing hoopla that’s almost swallowed up the day, peacemakers ought to remember it, because at its best it’s a commemoration of the nonviolent power of love.

…and one on how it is St. Valentine might have come to be associated with such a day as what we now commercialize:

Not much is known about St. Valentine. He lived in the third century, was a priest in Rome, and was martyred in the final years of the Emperor Claudius II’s reign. Stories about Valentine have him ministering in various ways to persecuted Christians. But the story that best expresses what the saint stands for has it that he secretly married dozens of young Christian couples during a time when Claudius had forbidden male youths from marrying because he wanted them as unencumbered soldiers for his legions. Valentine was discovered officiating at one such wedding and was hauled in chains before Claudius. Once there, he tried to convert the emperor. Enraged at the priest’s presumption, Claudius had him beaten nearly to death and then beheaded.

Books that have affected me

For the most part I have little emotional attachment to the books I edit. Or better, I should say, there are few books that “grab” me emotionally. I have all sorts of investment in the books. I want to see them turn out well, sell well, and help the authors. And, there are several manuscripts that make me think anew about some scholarly issue. It is the rare book, though, that stops me in my editorial tracks and makes me think more deeply about my Christian identity. In the last few years the books that have affected me most have been those that somehow speak to the Christian role in a civil society. We publish a lot of books on the topic. The following are a few I’ve actually edited, Continue reading

Bad News

In this new year I’ve started to re-read The Hobbit. I had hoped to read it to my five-year-old twin boys, thinking they would like hobbits, dwarves, wizards, dragons, and such—which they do!—but after trying to read the first chapter with them I don’t imagine they will have the patience to make it through. I am going to press on, however. While reading last night I came across the following sentence. It struck me that maybe Tolkien was predicting the 24-hour news cycle to which we have all grown accustomed.

Now it is a strange thing, but things that are good to have and days that are good to spend are soon told about, and not much to listen to; while things that are uncomfortable, palpitating, and even gruesome, may make a good tale, and take a deal of telling anyway.

McGill on Dying

Recently I’ve been work on volume 2 in the Theological Fascinations series, Arthur McGill’s Dying Unto Life. Here’s a glimpse of McGill’s profound theologizing, arguing, as he does throughout the book, that after the way of Jesus’s cross and death, we are called “not by the law of self-realization, but by the law of self-expenditure and self-communication.” Continue reading

Robert Jenson on Scripture as Scripture

In somewhat the same vein as my post last week, “The SBL and Faith,” I want to point to a provocative bit from Robert W. Jenson’s contribution to the forthcoming (next week? at least by SBL) book, Apocalyptic and the Future of Theology: With and beyond J. Louis Martyn (edited by Joshua B. Davis and Douglas Harink; Cascade Books). Jenson’s essay is titled “On Dogmatic/Systematic Appropriation of Paul-According-to-Martyn” (pp. 154–61). At the beginning of the essay Jenson addresses the testy relationship between “guild exegetes and the church’s theologians.” He comments in a footnote:

No reading of Scripture as Scripture in fact proceeds without theological presumptions. Since many guild exegetes pay no attention to this point, the theology that goes into their exegetical mill is subliminal and almost always childish; and so what comes out is the same. And of course, those scholars who have ceased to read Scripture as Scripture are then simply engaged in a possibly interesting antiquarian enterprise, rather like excavating nineteenth-century pots in Manhattan.

 Surely the Society of Biblical Literature is more than a bunch of pot-excavators!
Update: By request, the Table of Contents.

Shut Your Mouth

I’ve been reviewing the final proof pages for an exciting book by Lois Farag, Balance of the Heart: Desert Spirituality for Twenty-First-Century Christians. The book should be available at AAR/SBL. As the subtitle suggests, Farag is attempting to make the desert fathers and mothers accessible to today’s Christians. In the second part of the book, after three chapters that serve as an introduction to desert spirituality, Farag considers several pertinent topics like Prayer, Renunciation, Humility, etc. At the end of these chapters she provides several passages of scripture and sayings from the desert monastics for reflection. In the chapter “Keep Watch over the Door of My Lips: The Tongue, Slander, Silence, and Judgment,” I couldn’t help but smile a little when I read the following bit from Paradise of the Monks:

A monk was asked, “Father, I desire to have a pure heart.” The Elder responded, “How can you preserve the purity of your heart when your mouth which is the door of the heart is always opened?”

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