Forthcoming Books in 2015

1. The Work of Theology by Stanley Hauerwas (Eerdmans) - latest collection of essays; topics to include humour, writing theology, the Holy Spirit and a response to Nick Healy's critical introduction

2. The Nazareth Manifesto by Sam Wells (Wiley-Blackwell) - Wells on community engagement, justice and poverty and the importance of being with.

3. A Free Corrector: Colin Gunton and the Legacy of Augustine by Joshua McNall (Fortress) - great to see another book on Gunton's theology to join work by David Hohne, Bradley Green, William B. Whitney, Hans Schaeffer and Lincoln Harvey. 

4. Lila by Marilynne Robinson (I know this is already out, but waiting for ppb)

5. Into Your Hand: Confronting Good Friday by Walter Brueggemann (Cascade) - This is Brueggemann on the seven words from the cross, which will be a good addition to ones on my shelf by Hauerwas, Seitz, Rutledge, Willimon and Radcliffe

6. Blue Labour edited by Ian Geary and Adrian Pabst (I. B. Tauris) - with essays by Luke Bretherton and Maurice Glasman and a number of Labour MPs

7. The Crucifixion by Fleming Rutledge (Eerdmans)

8. Paul and the Gift by John Barclay (Eerdmans)  

9. The State of Believing by Pete Ward (Fortress) 

10. Sharing Friendship by John B. Thompson (Ashgate) 

2014 Reading Highlights

1. Stations of the Heart - The year began by reading Richard Lischer's account of his son Adam's dying. A powerful and challenging read.

2. Born of a Virgin? - This is an excellent detailed exploration by Andrew Lincoln, Professor of New Testament at the University of Gloucester, on the question of whether the New Testament affirms a doctrine of the virgin birth and whether it is a necessary doctrine. 

2. Honey From the Lion - The referundum on Scottish independence dominated 2014, in Scotland at least, the rest of the UK only took notice during the last four weeks, which probably says a lot about the Scottish-English relationship. Honey From the Lion was Doug Gay's well-timed engagement with the question of the ethics of nationalism. Gay argues for the possibility of an ethical nationalism and came out in favour of Scottish independence. This was a book on how political theology should be written.

3. Beyond Old and New Perspectives - A collection of essays edited by Chris Tilling responding to Douglas Campbell's The Deliverance of God, plus responses to the responses from Douglas himself. The soul of Pauline theology is currently a battle between Douglas and Tom (Wright) - see there recent public conversation at Duke here. Beyond Old and New is a great introduction to Douglas' work.

4. A Brief Theology of Sport - Lincoln Harvey's book was brief, almost too brief, but made a great argument for sport theologically, rooting it in the doctrine of creation. Sport and theology have rarely be brought together, at least favourably, and so Harvey's book is a welcome introduction to how a Christian theologian can be an Arsenal season-ticket holder.   

5. Hauerwas: A (Very) Critical Introduction - If Harvey's book is brief, this critical introduction to Hauerwas by Nicholas Healy is equally brief (160 pages). It is certainly provocative as Healy labels Hauerwas as another Schleiermacher, although fans of Hauerwas will probably not be too worried, although John Webster thinks Healy has Hauerwas on the ropes.

6. Ten by John Pritchard - this is a simply conceived book. It is a collection of ten things to say about a variety of topics that concern the Christian faith - why believe in God, relationship to science, key beliefs about Jesus, cliches to avoid. Pritchard, whose just retired as Bishop of Oxford, has yet again written an excellent little and very readable book that helpfully thinks about Christianity.

7. Baptists and the Communion of Saints - Paul Fiddes, Brian Haymes and Richard Kidd have work together on this book (2 chapters each), exploring how Baptists can and should understand and live in light of the doctrine of the communion of the saints. This has never been a big doctrine in the church, and even more so amongst Baptists, so much to enjoy, question, and reflect on.

8. Dominion - This was the major novel I read over the summer. C. J. Samson is the author of a gripping story that explores what might happened if Churchill had not become Prime Minister in 1940 and Great Britain had made peace with Hitler. 

8. Contesting Catholicity - Curtis Freeman gives a tour de force in arguing to both Baptist and non-Baptists of the treasures in Baptist theology that sit them within the wider catholic tradition, at the same time, offering something of what it is to be church that cannot be ignored.

9. The State of Africa - I read this account of the continent of Africa since the 1960s by Martin Meredith during Advent. It left me clinging to the two advent prayers of 'how long?' and 'your kingdom come' as I read about the horrific actions of various colonial and cold war powers as well as a terrible collection of African despots.

10. Walking Backwards From Christmas - a fresh engagement with the overly familiar characters of nativity story from Stephen Cottrell, Bishop of Chelmsford

Walking Backwards to Christmas

Nativity-with-Burning-Bush-1991-Albert-Herbert-1925-2008Stephen Cottrell has written some fantastic books in recent years - 

The Things He Carried: A Journey to the Cross

The Nail: Being Part of the Passion

Christ in the Wilderness: Reflecting on the Paintings of Stanley Spencer

The Things He Said: The Story of the First Easter

 All written for Lent and Easter.

Walking Backwards to Christmas is his first book for Advent and Christmas. 

It's brilliant. In resembles The Nail as it offers a series of monologues from different characters in the story. However rather than telling the story from beginning to end, he tells it from the end to the beginning, beginning with Anna in the temple (Luke 2), and the journeying backwards through Rachel  (a mother who has lost a child to Herod's massacre), Herod, Casper, David (a shepherd), Martha (innkeeper), Joseph, Elizabeth, Mary and back further to Isaiah and finally Moses. Cottrell's inspiration comes from a painting by Albert Herbert, pictured on the front cover called Nativity With the Burning Bush.

Cottrell's imaginative imagining of each character's feelings and choices pushes the traditional story in new directions. Particularly powerful are the chapters on Anna, Rachel, Martha, Elizabeth and Mary - the grief and pain, the conviction and faith.

I used edited selections for our Carols by Candlelight service. It's probably too late to read this book now in Advent, but would make a great read for the 12 days of Christmas, or to wait until next year. 

Preaching the Creed

Picking up again this Sunday after a break for Lent and Easter* a series on the Apostles' Creed. About a year ago a fellow Baptist minister was a doing a similar series and all I could recommend was Van Harn, Exploring and Proclaiming the Apostle's Creed. Having started my own series, have found lots of excellent books. I list below 12, one for each apostle!
  1. Exploring and Proclaiming the Apostles' Creed edited by Roger E. Van Harn (2004)
  2. The Creed: What Christians Believe and Why it Matters by Luke Timothy Johnson (2003)
  3. Tokens of Trust: An Introduction to Christian Belief by Rowan Williams (2007)
  4. Nicene Christianity edited by Christoper R. Seitz (2001)
  5. The Rhythm of Doctrine by John Colwell (2013)
  6. Dogmatics in Outline by Karl Barth (1949)
  7. Faith Seeking Understanding by Daniel L. Migliore (2nd Ed., 2004)
  8. The Christian Faith by Colin Gunton (2001)
  9. Loyalty to God: The Apostle's Creed in Life and Liturgy by Theodore W. Jennings, Jr. (1992)
  10. The Apostles' Creed for Today by Justo L. Gonzalez (2007) 
  11. Faith and Film: Theological Themes at the Cinema by Bryan P. Stone (2000)
  12. Reading is Believing: The Christian Faith through Literature and Film by David S. Cunningham (2002)

Others I would like to read, but have not got round to getting a copy are:

    Three Ways in One God: A Reading of the Apostle's Creed by Nicholas Lash

    Christian Doctrine by Mike Higton

* I know we're still officially in Easter!

New Books from British Baptists

Good to see Wipf & Stock supporting British Baptist scholarship.

Over the last few months they have published

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Rob Ellis' book on theology and sport: The Games People Play: Theology, Religion, and Sport

Anne Clements' PhD thesis: Mothers on the Margin? The Significance of the Women in Matthew’s Genealogy

Joshua Searle's PhD thesis: The Scarlet Woman and the Red Hand: Evangelical Apocalyptic Belief in the Northern Ireland Troubles (wins prize for best title!)


Peter Morden's PhD thesis (already published in the UK by the Centre for Baptist History and Heritage): Communion with Christ and His People: The Spirituality of C. H. Spurgeon

In addition, Ian Stackhouse (and Oliver Crisp) have edited Text Message: The Centrality of Scripture in Preaching.

Stations of the Heart: Parting With a Son

Seven days into the new year and just finished my first book. It was Stations of the Heart: Parting With a Son by Richard Lischer (professor of homiletics at Duke Divinity School), which is an account of the final ninety-five days of his son's life having being diagnosed with terminal cancer. A strange book perhaps to start the year with. I read it because death and dying shaped 2013 in a particular way and my life as a minister is never far from being with someone who is approaching death or grieving the loss of a loved one. I read it because I'm wanting to read theological memoir more and more ... Hannah's Child by Stanley Hauerwas, The Pastor by Eugene Peterson, Untying the Knots by Paul Vallely (his biography of the Pope Francis) and Kathryn Spinks' The Miracle, The Message and the Story (her biography of Jean Vanier). Stations of the Heart lays bare the journey of both father and son (and family) towards death and grief. It is though a profoundly faith-full book, as Adam (Richard's son) is a witness of dying well, if dying too soon for a life so young.

Nine Other Books on Paul's Theology

As N. T. Wright's Paul and the Faithfulness of God (2 Vol.) is about to be published, here are nine other important books on Paul's theology all written in the last twenty years (so why no Sanders, Beker, Kasemann, etc)

1. The Deliverance of God by Douglas Campbell

2. Paul and the Hermeneutics of Faith by Francis Watson

3. Galatians (and Theological Issues in the Letters of Paul) by J. Louis Martyn

4. The Theology of Paul the Apostle by James Dunn

5. Our Mother Saint Paul by Beverly Gaventa

6. The Conversion of the Imagination by Richard B. Hays

7. Inhabiting the Cruciform God by Michael Gorman

8. Paul and the Gift by John Barclay (forthcoming)

9. Perspectives Old and New on Paul by Stephen Westerholm


Two Books

Over the summer I read Eugene Peterson's The Pastor, his memoir of being a pastor for thirty years. Peterson always writes well and this doesn't disappoint as expected. The book is a must-read alongside Marilynne Robinson's fictional account of John Ames in Gilead for any soon to be, new and probably even old, pastor. Just over three years ago I was ordained as a Baptist minister and Peterson's account of pastoral life, especially after his first three years in a church, feels timely. Like him, I have found that being part of a 'company of pastors' is vital to this life.

Over the last three days, I've read Paul Vallely's Pope Francis: Untying the Knots, which gives an account of the life the new Pope, from Jesuit Priest, to Bishop and Archbishop and now to Pope. The book addresses some of the controversy around Jorge Mario Bergoglio earlier priestly life and argues that a new man emerged, chastened by mistakes, but equipped in terms of character and vision to offer hope for the Roman Catholic church and also for Christianity in a wider sense.

Paul Fiddes, Seeing the World and Knowing God

In 2005 Professor Paul Fiddes delivered the Bampton Lectures - I think the first Baptist to do so (and probably only the second non-conformist after Colin Gunton). Eight years later, revised and expanded they are about to be published by Oxford University Press. The book has its roots in Fiddes unpublished doctoral thesis (completed in 1976) on The hiddenness of wisdom in the Old Testament and later Judaism.


The book's blurb describes this new work from Fiddes as follows (You can look inside the book via amazon):

This book aims to create a Christian theology of wisdom for the present day, in discussion with two sets of conversation-partners. The first are writers of the 'wisdom literature' in ancient Israel and the Jewish community in Alexandria. Here, special attention is given to the biblical books of Proverbs, Job and Ecclesiastes. The second conversation-partners are philosophers and thinkers of the late-modern age, among them Jacques Derrida, Emmanuel Levinas, Julia Kristeva, Paul Ricoeur and Hannah Arendt. In the late-modern period there has been a reaction against an inherited conception of the conscious and rational self as mastering and even subjugating the world around, and there has been an attempt to overcome the consequent split between the subject and objects of observation. 

Paul S. Fiddes enters into dialogue with these late-modern concerns about the relation between the self and the world, proposing that the wisdom which is indicated by the ancient Hebraic concept of ḥokmah integrates a 'practical wisdom' of handling daily experience with the kind of wisdom which is 'attunement' to the world and ultimately to God as creator and sustainer of all. Fiddes brings detailed exegesis of texts from the ancient wisdom literature into interaction with an account of the subject in late-modern thought, in order to form a theology in which seeing the world is knowing a God whose transcendent reality is always immanent in the signs and bodies of the world. He thus argues that participation in a triune, relational God shapes a wisdom that addresses problems of a dominating self, and opens the human person to others. 

Reading for Lent

Still time to pick up a book for Lent. Here's three recommendations - all available I think on kindle.

1. The Shape of Living by David Ford. This was the Archbishop of Canterbury's Lent book way back in 1997, but has been recently reprinted by SCM with a new preface. (In the Preface, Ford says he writing a sequel of sorts called The Drama of Living). This is the book I am using for our Lent series at church. Ford explores our we cope with being overwhelmed - whether it is by people, desire, goodness, secrets, work, suffering or joy. He writes well, interacting all the way through with the poetry of his friend Michael O'Siadhail and scripture. He is trained as a theologian (Regius Professor of Divinity at Cambridge), but a theologian interested in how life is shaped by faith. My favourite bit in the book is his discussion of vocation - fantastic!

2. Barefoot Disciple by Stephen Cherry. This was the Archbishop of Canterbury' Lent book in 2011. These Lent books are sometimes hit and miss, but this is one of the hits. The whole book is an exploration of humility as a central virtue of the Christian life. Each chapter is shaped by narrative and reflection covering pride, grumbling, being childlike, becoming a stranger, generous living, a bodily spirituality.

3. Abiding by Ben Quash. This is this year's Archbishop of Canterbury' Lent book (the last chosen by Rowan Williams). It may not get the attention it deserves, because things like the Big Read (which are reading Rowan Williams' book on Narnia) and LoveLifeLiveLent, seem to have a higher profile. Taking the image of 'abiding' found in the Bible, and especially John's gospel, Quash, in conversation with culture (art, music, film, novel) and St. Benedict (amongst others), looks at what it means to abide in the body, in the mind, through care, in relationships, in exile, through wounds and the peace of God. It is a more demanding read than the other books above, but well worth the effort.

Of course other books would include Maggi Dawn's Giving It Up, Sam Wells, Power and Passion, and Rowan Williams' Christ on Trial.