Beliefs, Practices, History
Richard Bauckham (Eerdmans : December 15, 2006), 538 pages.
This new book argues that the four Gospels are closely based on eyewitness testimony of those who knew Jesus. Noted New Testament scholar Richard Bauckham challenges the prevailing assumption that the accounts of Jesus circulated as "anonymous community traditions," asserting instead that they were transmitted in the name of the original eyewitnesses. To drive home this controversial point, Bauckham draws on internal literary evidence, study of personal names in the first century, and recent developments in the understanding of oral traditions. Jesus and the Eyewitnesses also taps into the rich resources of modern study of memory and cognitive psychology, refuting the conclusions of the form critics and calling New Testament scholarship to make a clean break with this long-dominant tradition. Finally, Bauckham challenges readers to end the classic division between the "historical Jesus" and the "Christ of faith," proposing instead the "Jesus of testimony." Sure to ignite heated debate on the precise character of the testimony about Jesus, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses will be valued by scholars, students, and all who seek to understand the origins of the Gospels.
Craig A. Evans (IVP Books : December 6, 2006), 290 pages.
Craig Evans is a very well-respected New Testament scholar with a background in historical studies. Although Fabricating Jesus includes brief though able refutations of claims made by The Da Vinci Code, The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, The Dead Sea Scrolls Deception, The Jesus Papers, and The Pagan Christ, the bulk of material addresses popularized claims made by more reputable commentators, such as J.D. Crossan, Bart Ehrman, James Robinson, the Jesus Seminar, and James Tabor. Evans begins by discussing his own religious background and how it was affected by the critical study of the New Testament and historical Jesus. He uses this personal reflection to try and understand why some respected scholars have embraced such far-fetched theories. One of his explanations is that some of these scholars came from strict, fundamentalist backgrounds. When exposed to the critical studies, they were not flexible enough to accomodate the new information in their existing religious mind set. As a result, their faith was shattered instead of modified. They see little middle ground betweeen strict fundamentalism and utter rejection of traditional positions. Evans points to himself as evidence of a middle ground that actually bases its opinions on better historical evidences. ~ C. Price at Amazon.com
Marilyn McCord Adams (Cambridge University Press: October 2006), 331 pages.
Who would the Saviour have to be, what would the Saviour have to do to rescue human beings from the meaning-destroying experiences of their lives? This book offers a systematic Christology that is at once biblical and philosophical. Starting with human radical vulnerability to horrors such as permanent pain, sadistic abuse or genocide, it develops what must be true about Christ if He is the horror-defeater who ultimately resolves all the problems affecting the human condition and Divine-human relations. Distinctive elements of Marilyn McCord Adams' study are her defence of the two-natures theory, of Christ as Inner Teacher and a functional partner in human flourishing, and her arguments in favour of literal bodily resurrection (Christ's and ours) and of a strong doctrine of corporeal Eucharistic presence. The book concludes that Christ is the One in Whom, not only Christian doctrine, but cosmos, church, and the human psyche hold together. ~ Product Descritption
Ben Witherington III (HarperOne : October 3, 2006), 352 pages.
With all the talk these days about a diversity of Christian beliefs in the first century, here's a book designed to smack some sense into the dialogue. Traditional sense, that is. Witherington, professor of New Testament interpretation at Asbury Theological Seminary, creates well-researched profiles of people in Jesus' inner circle—profiles that stand up to the most rigorous biblical criticism. No flights of fancy—just the historical understandings as they can be agreed upon by the best and brightest evangelical biblical scholars. At times, there is a strong whiff of defensiveness about the orthodoxy of the canon as Witherington skewers views on early Christian beliefs made popular by Gnosticism scholars Elaine Pagels and Karen King (they being among the purveyors of the "strange theories and bad history" in the title). Readers seeking a uniform and conservative view of early Christianity will find a wealth of information about Jesus and his early followers, which offers an ardent corrective to recent popular works by Bart Ehrman and others. Others, however, may be so put off by Witherington's polemical tones that they miss the meat of his research. ~ Publishers Weekly
Rodney Stark (Random House : September 26, 2006), 304 pages.
It is a commonplace to think of Christianity and rationalism as opposite historical and philosophical forces. In this stimulating and provocative study, Stark (The Rise of Christianity) demonstrates that elements within Christianity actually gave rise not only to visions of reason and progress but also to the evolution of capitalism. Stark contends that Christianity is a forward-looking religion, evincing faith in progress and in its followers' abilities to understand God over time. Such a future-based rational theology has encouraged the development of technical and organizational advances, such as the monastic estates and universities of the Middle Ages. Stark contends that these developments transformed medieval political philosophy so that democracy developed and thrived in those states, such as northern Italy, that lacked despots and encouraged moral equality. Stark concludes by maintaining that Christianity continues to spread in places like Africa, China and Latin America because of its faith in progress, its rational theology and its emphasis on moral equality. While some historians are likely to question Stark's conclusions, his deftly researched study will force them to imagine a new explanation for the rise of capitalism in Western society. ~ Publishers Weekly
N.T. Wright (HarperSanFrancisco: Mar. 14, 2006), 256 pages.
Why do we expect justice? Why do we crave spirituality? Why are we attracted to beauty? Why are relationships often so painful? And how will the world be made right? These are not simply perennial questions all generations must struggle with, but, according to N. T. Wright, are the very echoes of a voice we dimly perceive but deeply long to hear. In fact, these questions take us to the heart of who God is and what He wants from us. For two thousand years, Christianity has claimed to solve these mysteries, and this renowned biblical scholar and Anglican bishop shows that it still can today. Not since C. S. Lewis's classic summary of the faith, Mere Christianity, has such a wise and thorough scholar taken the time to explain to anyone who wants to know what Christianity really is and how it is practiced. Wright makes the case for Christian faith from the ground up, assuming that the reader has no knowledge of (and perhaps even some aversion to) religion in general and Christianity in particular. Simply Christian walks the reader through the Christian faith step by step and question by question. With simple yet exciting and accessible prose, Wright challenges skeptics by offering explanations for even the toughest doubt-filled dilemmas, leaving believers with a reason for renewed faith. For anyone who wants to travel beyond the controversies that can obscure what the Christian faith really stands for, this simple book is the perfect vehicle for that journey. ~ Product Description
What the Bible Really Teaches About Crucifixion, Resurrection, Salvation, the Second Coming, and Eternal Life
Keith Ward (Crossroad Publishing: October 2005), 224 pages.
Anglican philosopher-theologian Keith Ward, recently retired professor of divinity at Oxford, has published a book called What the Bible Really Teaches (about Crucifixion, Resurrection, Salvation, the Second Coming, and Eternal Life) that is a charitable but firm rebuke to fundamentalist readings of the Bible. Ward considers himself a "born-again" Christian, but says that fundamentalist interpretations of Scripture fail on the Bible's own terms. In Chapter 1, "Fundamentalism and the Bible," Ward investigates the nature of the Bible and argues that it's incompatible with the doctrine of verbal inerrancy as that is usually understood. He points out that the Bible itself nowhere claims to be inerrant, or that all its stories must be read literally. He contrasts that nature of the Christian Bible with that of the Koran; the latter purports to be a word-for-word dictation from God, while the former is a collection of writings from varied periods and viewpoints that represent a response to God's self-revelation. Ward's argument is that the Bible doesn't even purport to be the kind of word-for-word dictation from God that fundamentalists tend to treat it as. ~ Reviewed by Lee McCracken at Amazon.com
Jonathan Hill (InterVarsity Press : August 20, 2005), 192 pages.
What has Christianity ever done for us? What value is there in seeking to preserve its influence today? In this book, Jonathan Hill answers these questions with some questions of his own. For instance, why do we seal wine bottles with cork? Where did musical notation come from? How did universities get their start? And why was the world's first fully literate society not in Europe, Asia or North America? As Hill tells the story of the centuries-long entanglement between Christianity and Western culture, he shows the profound influence that Christianity has had--from what we drink to how we speak, from how we write to how we mark the seasons. Employing a rich, narrative style packed with events and people and illustrated throughout in full color, he describes the place of Christianity both in history and in the present day. What Has Christianity Ever Done for Us? is an enlightening and often humorous tour of culture and thought, the arts, the landscape, education, society, spirituality and ethics, and social justice. Here is a rich, entertaining and informative read. ~ Book Description
David Dark (Westminster John Knox Press: Mar. 1, 2005), 200 pages.
Readers of Dark's book Everyday Apocalypse know that this high school English teacher is a passionate, articulate, absurdly well-read interpreter of popular culture. But even the forewarned may be astonished by this latest effort. Dark's skill at probing the spiritual resonances of American culture — in forms high and low, from Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville to Bob Dylan and David Lynch — is matched by his uncanny ability to select telling moments from America's common story. Whether it's Elvis taking a shotgun to his television sets, Dylan confessing a sense of common humanity with Lee Harvey Oswald or George Washington treating British prisoners of war with unprecedented civility, Dark excavates a series of witnesses who speak prophetically to what he sees as our media-saturated overconfidence in our own righteousness. Moreover, he offers a convincing and unsettling account of the gospel itself — the "Jewish Christian" story of forgiveness and human dignity that, Dark argues, has animated America's ideals even as it has continually critiqued America's practices. Dark's Southern heritage is evident in his literary allusions (the subtitle echoes Flannery O'Connor) and in his affection for egalitarian conversation. Nearly every page has something to make readers pause, laugh, think or pray; perhaps most amazing is Dark's skill at burying layers of meaning for the reader to discover. It's hard to imagine a better tonic for our age than this unblinkingly honest exercise in faithful patriotism. ~ Publishers Weekly
Alvin J. Schmidt (Zondervan : December 1, 2004), 448 pages.
Western civilization is becoming increasingly pluralistic, secularized, and biblically illiterate. Many people today have little sense of how their lives have benefited from Christianity's influence, often viewing the church with hostility or resentment. How Christianity Changed the World is a topically arranged Christian history for Christians and non-Christians. Grounded in solid research and written in a popular style, this book is both a helpful apologetic tool in talking with unbelievers and a source of evidence for why Christianity deserves credit for many of the humane, social, scientific, and cultural advances in the Western world in the last two thousand years. Photographs, timelines, and charts enhance each chapter. This edition features questions for reflection and discussion for each chapter. ~ From the Back Cover