April Staff Picks

Ed:

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The Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton

Cindy:

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Jesus of Nazareth by Benedict XVI

As we head towards Easter, this is a fantastic series to read. The first volume (of the three volume set) covers the time period from the baptism in the Jordan to the transfiguration, volume two concentrates on Holy Week, while volume three focuses on the infancy narratives. The books scour the gospels to find the true identity of Jesus and paint a compelling portrait of him. You cannot read these books without coming away with a richer and fuller knowledge and picture of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

Dr. Heather:

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The Courage To Teach by Parker J. Palmer

The Courage to Teach is an insightful, and at times very funny, look at teaching. Palmer presents teaching as he experienced it, and in so doing, gives courage to his readers who have similar experiences.

Sheila:

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Preaching from Memory to Hope by Thomas G. Long

In this book Long looks at the necessity of memory and remembering in the context of preaching. He reminds us of eschatological hope, so that we remember that God’s people, the Church, has a past, a present, and a future.

Conner:

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Enchiridion by Epictetus

The title is not the only strange characteristic of this work. Epictetus, influenced  heavily by Stoic thought, here gives us a prescription for living. It suggests (in broad strokes) ways of comprehending what we call “good’ and/or “bad” elements of our lives. It intrigued me, because it offered answers without supplying an easy way out. Yes, you could consult the work for advice in making many decisions; however, its advice will offer you a new way of conceptualizing the problem, rather than providing a solution. It is not an ancient equivalent of a modern self-help guide. The essential distinction Epictetus makes in the work is between that which is within the control of one’s will, and that which is not. We may rightly ask in some cases where that distinction lies. Epictetus would likely respond by saying it is for us to intuit. In that way, this small book only aims to offer pathways to answers. I wouldn’t follow all of the Enchriridion‘s suggestions to their logical conclusions, but as a thought experiment, the work is interesting because of its quirks.

Carolyn:

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The End of Apologetics by Myron Bradley Penner

Arguing that most examples of Christian apologetics on offer today have been shaped and oriented toward modernity’s obsession with reason as the final arbiter of truth, Penner calls for a new form of apologetics for a postmodern context—apologetics that is both loving in its delivery and faithful in its witness.

Andrew:

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Ethics in the Presence of Christ by Christopher J. Holmes

Chris Holmes is a TST graduate currently teaching theology at the University of Otago in New Zealand. This is his most recent book.

Rev. Heather:

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Tokens of Trust by Rowan Williams

Tokens of Trust is a little book that raises big questions. Whether you are looking for a solid introduction to the Christian Faith or working out how to explain your odd choice to spend Sunday mornings in church, this book is well worth the read. Written in Rowan Williams’s unmistakable voice it walks you through the Apostle and Nicene creeds addressing questions of Theodicy (explaining good in the face of evil), exploring the person and significance of Jesus Christ, and looking at where the church fits into not only scripture but the contemporary world. It really is a fabulous read.
March Monthly Staff Picks May (part 1)

Staff picks for March 2014

Here are the Crux Staff picks for March.

Ed: The Cross of Christ by John R.W. Stott

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Cindy: Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter

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If you enjoyed Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas then this is the Lenten and Easter devotional for you!  Done in the same format with contributions from a variety of authors (including C.S. Lewis, Dorothy Day, G.K. Chesterton, Henri Nouwen, and Madeleine L’Engle, along with many others) the book contains selections grouped around themes such as temptation, crucifixion, resurrection, and new life. This is a beautiful collection that can be returned to throughout the year for spiritual insight and reflection.

Heather W. (The Doctor): Acedia & Me by Kathleen Norris

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Norris writes books on the spiritual life that challenge me to think outside the box I unintentionally put around spirituality. Acedia & Me: A Marriage, Monks, and A Writer’s Life is an excellent book to pick up for Lent. Norris examines acedia — soul-weariness — and uses this old term to discuss very modern cultural maladies.

Alain: God is on the Cross by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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Sheila: The Great Lent: Journey to Pascha by Alexander Schmemann

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As usual, I had a hard time picking just one book for March. Allow me, please, to quote from my second choice to explain the first. The Unicorn, Jewel, in The Last Battle by C. S. Lewis, upon realising that his company is in Aslan’s Land, cries: “I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now. The reason why we loved the old Narnia is that it sometimes looked a little like this. Bree-hee-hee! Come farther up, come farther in!”  Father Schmemann in his book, The Great Lent: Journey to Pascha, reminds his readers that God is inviting us even now to “come farther up, comer farther in!”  Lent is a time set aside to ponder anew what draws us away from God and to learn again the hope in the mystery of our risen Lord.  For those seasoned in Lent and for those approaching it for the first time, the essays in this book encourage readers to explore more deeply the liturgical tradition as part of our spiritual journey.  A longing to be with Christ is awakened most poignantly and we are called again to worship.

Connor: Lent with Benedict XVI

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Carolyn: Free of Charge by Miroslav Volf

In this highly readable book, Volf offers challenging and thought-provoking reflections on forgiveness, reconciliation, grace, and giving. Painful personal stories offer a poignant credibility to his insights. This was the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Lent book in 2006.

Andrew: Undoing of Death by Fleming Rutledge

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Heather L. (The Deacon): Beloved by Henri Nouwen

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Henri Nouwen’s Beloved talks about the transformation of loneliness in his own life and his journey to a life that showed moment to moment what it means to be beloved by God AND it comes with an audio CD of Henri Nouwen himself! A perfect companion for your Lenten disciplines!
February Monthly Staff Picks April

An Interview with the unforgettable Dorothy Cummings McLean

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photoPolitics, glamour, romance, terrorists, and a couple of Catholics trying to live their lives in a world that’s gone crazy? Dorothy Cummings McLean’s first novel, Ceremony of Innocence, has it all. This action packed novel takes place in Germany, 2008, and engages the politics of the day while hopping in and out of night clubs with the young and beautiful “Butterfly set.” It meets sweeping theological themes outside of the realm of abstract theology and grounds them in the all too real concerns of an ordinary woman living in extraordinary times – ours. The story is told in the voice of a foreign journalist: a conflicted Catholic with a handsome, younger, live-in (ex)boyfriend, and gorgeous hair. 

Ceremony of Innocence is not your average Christian Novel so it makes sense that when I got the chance to interview its author it wasn’t your average interview. I met Dorothy Cummings McLean – TST alumni and the author of Seraphic Singles – at the AGO where she was planning on spending the day. McLean was born in Toronto not far from the Art Gallery and her identity as a Canadian runs through her novel. We had breakfast at Karine’s (a place any downtown Torontonian should know) and chatted over massive plates of eggs and fruit like old friends. McLean is a captivating conversationalist which isn’t surprising given the dialogue in her book.

During the interview we covered everything from:

1) Influential authors: Graham Greene, Gordan Korman, and how we are taught to write by what we read.

2) Life overseas: culture shock and the unique perspective of a foreigner. Dorothy Cummings McLean is currently living in Scotland but also lived in Germany as a student. interestingly she relies heavily on this experience, even consulting her journals from her time in Germany, while setting the scene in Ceremony of Innocence.

3) The political shifts that have lead to wide spread cultural disenfranchisement the world over: “as if the certainties of their existence has been swept away.”

4) Her first book, Seraphic Singles, and how it has recently been translated into Polish. She will be leading workshops around singleness in Polish in the upcoming months.

5) Scottish Country dancing and the danger of flying into framed pictures of John Paul II if the reels get a little too enthusiastic.

to my favourite:

6) The fact that “even German’s cry when they have to read Rahner in German”

McLean’s action packed novel deals with some very controversial themes but her main hope – “Super old-fashioned and cranky” (her words not mine) as it may sound – is that her readers will come away with a deep sense of sin. For McLean, “remorse comes before the return of the soul to a state of grace,” and this reality permeates the pages of her novel. McLean unapologetically faces big issues head on which makes Ceremony of Innocence definitely worth reading.

Staff Picks for February: One of these things is not like the others!

Here are the Crux Staff picks for February. I’m sure you will love these books! Also, one of these picks is not like the others. See if you can spot the difference –it as a game to help the winter pass more quickly.

Ed: The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman

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Cindy: Love Alone is Credible by Hans Urs Von Balthasar

What is divine love?  The topic has been explored and written about by a variety of authors, but in his book, Von Balthasar delves into the topic in a deeply insightful and thoughtful manner.  Our understanding of divine love significantly impacts our personal relationship with God and with others.   Read this book carefully, slowly and thoughtfully—you may want to have a reading partner so that you have someone to discuss all the ideas and questions that arise as you read together.

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Heather W. (The Doctor): The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis

This reflection on the four greek words translated love is thoughtful and well-written. It prompts good thinking on language use as well as on relationships.

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Alain: Love & War by John and Stasi Eldredge

(Alain forgot to pick a book for February. We selected this book for him. Aren’t we helpful?)

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Sheila: The Communion of Love by Matthew the Poor

In preparation for Lent, I have been thinking about the habits and objects in my life over which I have acquired a certain Gollumesque frame of mind: “These are mine, my precious, and none shall touch them!” Some of these I have long battled with and some are more newly come by.  A friend recommended Matthew the Poor’s (a.k.a. Father Matta El-Meskeen) writings as a way to become open again to Christ’s re-forming me and for me to make God the centre of my life.   Here are some of the subtitles in the chapter on Repentance which drew me into the book: “Repentance can only end in union with God”; “Repentance is constant change”; “Repentance as an actualization of baptism”; “Repentance is a work of grace”.  There are some enticements – for you and for me.

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Connor: God Is Love/Deus Caritas Est by Benedict XVI

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Carolyn: Works of Love by Soren Kierkegaard

Love is so central to the Christian faith that sometimes it may seem that we already know a lot about what love looks like. This book will challenge that assumption. Indeed, Kierkegaard’s examination of the various works of love may cause you to wonder if you will ever be able to come close to loving your neighbour. But it will also fill you with hope in the unfathomable mercy and love of God and the ways in which that love can be manifested in human relationships. The opening prayer sums it up well, “There are indeed only some works that human language specifically and narrowly calls works of love, but in heaven no work can be pleasing unless it is a work of love.” This is my desert island book.

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Andrew: The Cross and the Lynching Tree by James Cone

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Heather L. (The Deacon): Revelation of Love by Julian of Norwich

Talk about love poetry! This 14th Century classic chronicles the soul’s quest for the divine and is well worth a prayerful read. If you take my advice it goes best with Rouge Provence Rooibos tea and a substantial helping of shortbread. Happy Valentine’s Day Cruxians!

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January Monthly Staff Picks March

Possible Gifts for Theologians for Valentine’s Day

Here comes V-Day, where V is for St. Valentine. Hearts and flowers might be traditional, but there are some books that also might fit for Valentine giving. Here are some slightly tongue-in-cheek possibilities, selected by the staff at Crux. (Yes, this is what we talk about in the store.)

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Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics 4.1: The Doctrine of Reconciliation. Reconciliation sounds good for relationships, plus there’s the pink cover. A winning gift for the Barth scholar.

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C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce. Ok, maybe it isn’t very romantic, but it might be just the thing for the Lewis fan who is single? Maybe?

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Sarah Sentilles, Breaking Up With God: A Love Story. Nothing more need be said.

Chapman

Gary Chapman’s The 5 Love Languages has so many different editions that there is sure to be one for someone you know for V-day. Nothing says love like a gift? Isn’t that a love language?

Sherwood

Yvonne Sherwood, The Prostitute and the Prophet. Because nothing says V-Day quite like Hosea and Gomer?

And finally, the book for all couples on Valentine’s day:

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Lewis recommendations

Crux staff picked all C.S. Lewis books to recommend in November. It was interesting that no one picked a Narnia book, or eve the series as a whole — all of us picked essays or other fiction to recommend. In part we were trying to aim to recommend books that people might not have read before. But part of the issue is Lewis wrote a lot of readable insightful prose. Fifty years after his death his essays and fiction are still in print and interesting. Is this only marketing? I’m not sure uninteresting ideas or unreadable prose could survive in such good shape even if well-marketed.

Here are the more theologically inclined works recommended by Crux staff.

Ed’s Pick: Mere Christianity

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The print version of radio talks on the basics of the Christian faith. Lewis attempts to get to the bottom of faith and what it means. Remember that he is a literary scholar and philosopher more than a theologian.

Cindy’s pick: Reflections on the Psalms

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I’ve not read this one, but Lewis is a published poet, so I’m interested to see what he’s got to say on Hebrew poetry.

Conner’s pick: The Problem of Pain

the-problem-of-pain-weeping-cs-lewisI’ve heard people compare this work unfavourably with Lewis’s later book on grieving, A Grief Observed. The earlier book wasn’t meant to be a reflection on feeling pain, but thoughts on the fact that pain exists in the world. A Grief Observed is not a book of thinking as much as a book of feeling.

Next: Staff recommendations that are stories or about stories.

Books We Probably Should Have Read By Now

The other day I was lurking on the internet and found a post called “12 books we’re all meant to have read but probably haven’t.” I enjoyed reading the list and noting the books on it that I HAVE read, but, sadly, I’ve read fewer than half of the listed books. I’ve heard of them all, and mean to read most of them. Someday. Inspired by this general list, I asked some friends who’ve done seminary studies for thoughts on 10 Books Seminary Students and Graduates are Meant to Have Read — But Probably Haven’t. Here’s our list. Feel free to add titles in the comments.

Bible

1. The Bible. Lots of dipping in to the Bible happens, but how many have actually read the whole thing?

Lewis Mere Christianity

2. Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. This is one of the most famous apologetics books. We’ve all heard of it, and may even have it on our shelves, but have we read it?

Confessions

3. The Confessions by Augustine of Hippo. Bits of this book are often assigned reading, and it is often referred to, but read it? All of it? True confessions time!

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4. The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. This is the source of the phrase “cheap grace” but how many have put the phrase in context?

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5. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. This is the Big Russian Novel most often referenced in seminary. Read it? Or is it on your to be read pile still?

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6. City of God by Augustine of Hippo. Everyone expects seminarians to know the main point of City of God, but how many people have actually read this huge book?

Bunyan

7. Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan. Like Augustine’s City, the main thread of Bunyan’s classic allegory is often referenced, but seldom read. There are lots of children’s adaptations, so perhaps it is easier to fake not reading this book.

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8. My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers. A devotional classic that lots of people talk about, but I don’t know very many people who’ve actually read it.

Foster

9. Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster. This is a more recent book, but it has never gone to paperback as the hardcover book sells so well. This is a book often referenced in spirituality classes. The title sounds good, but do we really celebrate discipline?

Boundaries

10. Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend. Often referenced in pastoral ministry classes, this book has an idea that people talk about a lot, but has that idea been read in context?