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“Could reading theology turn you toward God in astonished worship? Could it enliven your reading of Scripture? Could it move you toward your true self in Christ? Could it turn you toward your neighbors in self-giving love? Could it unmask your prejudices? Could it dethrone your idols? Should we hope for anything less?”
In this illuminating introduction, Kent Eilers invites Christians of all backgrounds into the practice of reading theology. With a classroom-tested approach, Eilers shows how theology can form the imagination and enhance “the human capacity for perceiving reality beyond the surface of things”—allowing Christians to see and experience God in the everyday. He then guides readers through the essential facets of theology so that it can begin to feel familiar and accessible, even (and especially) to beginners with no prior experience.
It’s time to give pastors permission to read books besides the Bible.
Six months into his first senior pastorate, Austin Carty sat in his office reading—not the Bible, not a commentary, not a theological tract, but a novel by Fyodor Dostoevsky. As the minutes turned to hours, while he sat engrossed in this book, he noticed something: he began feeling uneasy. And then anxious. And then guilty. What would someone think if they opened the door and caught him reading fiction?
For busy pastors (is there any other kind?), time spent reading feels hard to justify, especially when it’s not for sermon prep. But what if reading felt less like a luxury and more like a vocational responsibility—a spiritual practice that bears fruit in every aspect of ministry, from preaching to pastoral care to church leadership?
Austin Carty believes that this is exactly how pastors ought to think about reading. The Pastor’s Bookshelf shows how worthwhile reading is more about formation than information and how, through reading, a pastor becomes a fuller, more enriched human being with a deeper capacity for wisdom and love, better equipped to understand and work for God’s kingdom.
A concise history of the Bible: its creation, use, and interpretation.
What is the Bible? To answer this question we must understand the Bible’s origins in the early church. In this book, celebrated church historian Justo González introduces the reader to some important features of the earliest Bibles—for instance, the Bible’s original languages, its division into chapters and verses, and even its physical appearance in its first forms. González also explores the use of the Bible in the early church (such as in worship or in private reading) and the interpretation of the Bible throughout the ensuing centuries, giving readers a holistic sense of the Bible’s emergence as the keystone of Christian life, from its beginnings to present times.
Returning evangelicalism to its core commitments
Evangelicalism in the United States is fracturing along social, political, and ethical fault lines, to the extent that the very meaning of “evangelicalism” is in dispute. Having surrendered its theological character and missional heritage to partisan political activism and cultural conservatism, the movement has lost its unifying identity and undermined its own testimony in an increasingly diverse society.
Mark Young believes a revitalization of the evangelical movement must happen in our seminaries, where the shepherds of the next evangelicalism are being formed. Young argues that if these leaders of tomorrow are instilled with true gospel values, they will go on to form churches and missional organizations that offer a credible and compelling Christlike witness for the sake of the world. The Hope of the Gospel takes readers through the history of evangelicalism and back to the present to make the case for how this can happen through a renewed vision of theological education.
One pastor’s journey from idealism, through disillusionment, to an acceptance of grace
After forty years as a Presbyterian pastor, Douglas Brouwer wondered if he had spent his life, as the author of Ecclesiastes laments, “chasing after wind.” What did all the hard work on evenings and weekends and holidays, away from his family, amount to? What was there to make of the long string of petty conflicts and the overwhelming feeling of disillusionment? And in the current age of shrinking mainline churches, what could he point to as the end result of his decades in ministry?
Chasing after Wind will resonate with pastors everywhere who went into ministry to do lifechanging work for God and ended up spending most of their time managing the parking situation outside the church, fielding parishioner complaints about the color of the sanctuary carpet (or, in Brouwer’s case, the color of his shoes), and endlessly fundraising for mission projects and building maintenance. In telling his story, Brouwer comes to recognize that the most meaningful parts of his career—the “holy bits,” as he calls them—were in unexpected moments where everything was stripped away but the mysterious work of God. Recounting these times of curious joy and shared mourning, he demonstrates how a pastor can find grace and peace in looking back on a life in ministry.
What are we doing when we gather around the sacraments— or when we make the same breakfast every morning? Embodying rituals, says Dru Johnson. And until we understand what we’re doing and why, we won’t know how these rituals work, what they mean, or how we might adapt them.
In Human Rites Johnson considers the concept of ritual as seen in Scripture and its role in shaping our thinking. He colorfully illustrates both the mundane and the sacred rituals that penetrate all of life, offering not only a helpful introduction to rituals but also a framework for understanding them. As he unpacks how rituals pervade every area of our lives, Johnson suggests biblical ways to focus our use of rituals, habits, and sacraments so that we can see the world more truly through them.
Eschatology and ethics are joined at the hip, says Michael Allen, and both need theocentric reorientation. In Grounded in Heaven Allen retrieves the traditional concept of the beatific vision and seeks to bring Christ back into the heart of our theology and our lives on earth.
Responding to the earthly-mindedness of much recent theology, Allen places his focus on God and the heavenly future while also appreciating ways in which the Reformed tradition provides a unique angle on broadly catholic concerns. Reaching back to classical ethics as well as its reformation by Calvin and other Reformed theologians, Grounded in Heaven offers a distinctly Protestant account of the ascetical calling to be heavenly-minded and to deny one’s self.