A Political Theology of Climate Change

A Political Theology of Climate Change

Michael S. Northcott is professor of ethics at the University of Edinburgh. The following excerpts — chosen especially for Earth Day today — come from his new book A Political Theology of Climate Change.

* * *

Climate Apocalyptic and the Anthropocene Era

There is growing concern among climatologists that their message is not being heeded. To highlight the significance of the crisis humanity faces, some natural scientists argue that humanity has embarked on a new planetary era. Since Charles Lyell, geologists have divided up the age of the earth according to their interpretations of the layers of rock and sediment in the earth’s crust. They named the Holocene after the Greek word for the sun, helios, as an era in which the earth’s climate has been stable and enduringly warm, as compared to previous eras. This stability and relative warmth made possible the development of agriculture, the resultant growth in human numbers in the last 8,000 years, and the rise of enduring human civilizations.

Paul Crutzen, whose early scientific work was on the possible atmospheric and climatic effects of a nuclear war, and who won a Nobel prize for his work on the ozone layer, argues that the great acceleration in greenhouse gas emissions since 1950, combined with a rapid expansion in deforestation, mining, and deep ocean fishing, marks the end of the Holocene, and the dawn of a new era he calls the “Anthropocene.” The term indicates that anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions have taken over from variations in solar radiation as the dominant influence on the climate and hence on the biology and physiology of the earth. Scientists from the Royal Society have examined the “stratigraphic” evidence for the new era and argue that higher concentrations of carbon and methane gases frozen in polar ice begin occurring at the industrial revolution in the eighteenth century. On this account, the “golden spike” which indicates the shift to the Anthropocene is the dawn of the industrial era and the great acceleration in coal burning which began after James Watt’s invention of the steam engine.

The term “Anthropocene” indicates not only that the stable Holocene climate era is ending but also that humanity has a new power over, and hence collective responsibility for, the state of the earth and her future. Hence, according to the Potsdam climate impact modeller H. J. Schellnhuber, the dawn of the Anthropocene represents a second Copernican revolution. The first revolution, inaugurated by the use of optics, which I discuss below, revealed that the earth, and hence humans, were not at the centre of the universe but instead that the earth revolved around the sun. This displacement of humanity from the earth system had cosmological and cultural implications which unfolded over succeeding centuries, as I chart below. But if the Copernican turn decentred humanity from the cosmos and reduced the perception of human influence over the earth and the skies, the Anthropocene is a second Copernican turn because it puts humanity back into planetary history as its most influential shaper. When the philosopher Hans Jonas highlighted this increased sense of human agency over the biosphere, he intended to promote a new moral sensitivity to humanity’s relationship with life on earth and the conditions for its persistence. However, when Schellnhuber explains this heightened human agency, he argues that it indicates a new agential control over the earth system. The questions the Anthropocene raises are these: First, what kind of world do we have? Second, what kind of world do we want? Third, what must we do to get there? The suggestion is that humanity needs to form clear intentions about desired planetary and climate states, and then use the instruments of earth system engineering, climate modelling, and global meteorological governance to bring these about. On this account, climate science is a new political theology which recalls some of the cosmological assumptions of an earlier Copernican age, but recasts them in a hybrid of a human-centred cosmology and a Baconian, and post-Copernican, aspiration to technological control over the earth. As I discuss below, earlier agricultural peoples had a sense that in their relations with gods, species, and skies they had a role in shaping climates that gave either good harvests or famines, and they sacrificed to the gods to give them favourable weather. But the second Copernican revolution suggests that human beings are now as gods: they not only desire favourable weather, but they have the technical means to bring it about

While one reading of the Anthropocene suggests that it involves a recovery and enhancement of human agency over the earth, another even more apocalyptic reading suggests that the Anthropocene, far from enhancing human intentionality and agential interaction with the earth, threatens to reduce it and hence to undermine the modern scientific imaginary of the human control of nature. If rising sea levels inundate cities and ports, and droughts destroy much presently viable cropland, the Anthropocene will potentially be an era in which human power over nature is greatly reduced. In these circumstances nature will wrest back control over the boundary between earth and sea from human sea defences, and over agricultural lands from the irrigation schemes, terracing, and crop rotations of farmers.

. . .

Political Theology in the Anthropocene

Although the first human mark of civilization on sedimentary layers may be traced by future archaeologists to the layers of soil tilled by Neolithic farmers — the first Adams — I argued above for a more important date in the anthropomorphizing of the earth, which is the birth of Christ. But perhaps it would be more theologically appropriate to date the beginning of the Christocene era to the rise and fall of Adam, since in the first Adam “all die” and in the second Adam, Christ, “all are made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22). Christ is revealed in the New Testament as Lord of the cosmos from Adam to the new era of the Church, and we may reasonably call this era the Christocene. The natural and cultural mark of Mesopotamian and then Christian culture gradually extended from the Middle East to northern Europe, with the contiguous advance of agrarian pastoralism and Christian worship in the Christian era.

But when priests no longer walked the fields of post-Reformation Europe, and peasants in the industrial revolution were forced from small farms into mines and factories, and to breathe the coal-fouled air of industrial cities, another era, the Anthropocene, may be said to have begun. The dating of the Anthropocene at the onset of the industrial revolution is then indeed the most appropriate from a theological point of view, since it is with the rise of coal, optics, and commerce that the sense of co-agency between Christ, Church, and cosmos is lost in post-Reformation Europe. In its place Cartesianism and Baconianism promote scientific enquiry and power over nature as the dominant forces brought together by the state in shaping a New World. But anthropogenic climate change is nonetheless a strange outcome of this newly secular politics and natural science. Climate science is, in Latour’s terminology, a hybrid of nature and politics. But such hybrids, like the “witches” who were persecuted with ever-increasing ferocity after the Reformation, are supposed to be forbidden by the new separation of nature from culture.

The failure of political institutions, including national governments and the United Nations, to act prudentially in mitigating climate change, so that even as I write these words a melting Arctic drives winter storms south in a European “spring” and rattles the window panes, reflects the modern constitution of the nation-state as a cultural and secular, rather than created and providential, agency in human and earth history. The failure is ultimately a politico-theological failure. The world in the Enlightenment is not alive. It has no soul; it is not the Spirit-breathed creature of a divine Creator, nor even a Gaian goddess. And the nations, although gatherings of individual bodies, bear no intrinsic ensouled relation to the mechanical laws which govern the world of heavenly and earthly atoms and organisms. That the earth interacts relationally with humans, that humans are becoming again the microcosm to the macrocosm, is forbidden not only by Newtonian physics but by the modern constitution and the laws of commerce.

In the chapters which follow I offer a genealogy of the modern science-informed cosmopolis in which weather is not authored by humans, and of how Bacon, Descartes, Newton, Locke, and Kant decentred the human and the political from the earth at the same time as they released cultural and scientific powers that gave modern humans powers sufficient to become the dominant biochemical influence over the climate and soils and oceans of the earth. In dialogue with the writings of Alfred North Whitehead, Giambattista Vico, Carl Schmitt, Alasdair MacIntyre, Bruno Latour, and Jacob Taubes, I attempt to construct a new political theology of climate change in which I recover the relation of natural and human history and the role of ecosystem boundaries and ecological limits in the constitution of the nations. I also chart a course to find again the theological as well as cosmopolitical roots of the nations — in the divine and providential ordering of history from the first covenant between God and Israel, in the political responsibilities of the nations to sustain rule over limited terrains and to guard a just and fair distribution of the fruits of the earth within the ecological limits of these terrains without damaging the fruitfulness of the earth for future generations. A due acknowledgement of the ecological as well as political duties of the nations to their own citizens and their own lands is an essential prerequisite for the unfolding of forms of rule which will see the nations prepared to reduce fossil fuel dependence, and to rule as unusable most of their remaining reserves of fossil fuels.

The current refusal of the nations to acknowledge their ecological responsibilities to promote economic and political practices within limits also promotes a growing tendency to scapegoat the poor and the destitute both within and beyond national borders. In the midst of the ongoing failure of the nations to restrain fossil fuel extraction, I will argue that Christians have particular duties to witness to the nations of the divine and providential importance of ascesis and restraint. As climate change produces growing extreme weather events and reduces the availability of food and water in many terrains, Christians also have duties to remind the nations of their responsibilities to the growing number of migrants who will appear at their borders as a result of climate change. In short, only nations which acknowledge their ecologically and politically situated character will be able to treat migrants as friends and not enemies.

Click to order Michael S. Northcott’s A Political Theology of Climate Change.

One year ago last week, we launched the official Tumblr of Eerdmans Publishing (affectionately dubbed EerdBlurbs) with a mandate to share “timely, interesting, easily digestible excerpts from books, endorsements, reviews, blog posts, and more.”

We could not possibly have guessed then how much that little “and more” would grow to encompass.

Over the past twelve months, EerdBlurbs has truly come into its own, posting some of the most interesting and eclectic Eerdmans-related content on the web. If EerdWord had a clever, hip, stylish, slightly crazy little sister (with a vintage theme and a hand-drawn logo, no less), EerdBlurbs would be it.

EerdBlurbs followers do certainly enjoy plenty of fantastic “blurbs” — from Rowan Williams, James K. A. Smith, Fleming Rutledge, and many, many other authors and friends of Eerdmans — but they also get a little of this . . .


. . . and some of this . . .


. . . with a dash of this for flavor . . .


. . . and, of course, a heaping helping of this:


Happy Birthday, EerdBlurbs. You stay cool now, y’hear?


Click to visit EerdBlurbs, the official Tumblr of Eerdmans Publishing.



Welcome once again to Eerdmans All Over, a Friday roundup of all the Eerdmans-related news, reviews, interviews, and other interesting online content we can gather in a given week.

Recently Released

What's in a Phrase

What’s in a Phrase? Pausing Where Scripture Gives You Pause
by Marilyn Chandler McEntyre


Strangers and Pilgrims Once More: Being Disciples of Jesus in a Post-Christendom World
by Addison Hodges Hart


The Big Book of Slumber
by Giovanna Zoboli and Simona Mulazzani



News from Eerdmans . . .


  • Congratulations to the winners of the How (Not) to Be Secular April giveaway!
    • Benjamin Davis
    • Abe Joseph
    • Kyle Joshua Nolan
      Thanks for entering! Remember, the more you interact with us on social media, the better your chances. We have a giveaway every month, so keep checking back!
  • Eerdblurbs the Eerdmans Tumblr, turns one year old today. Celebrate with us!
  • Don’t miss the trailer for A Pond Full of Ink by Annie Schmidt, illustrated by Sieb Posthuma, and translated by award-winning translator David Colmer:


. . . and elsewhere.

Have we missed any news, reviews, or other online miscellany dealing with Eerdmans or EBYR books or authors from the last week? Please let us know in the comments. You also can post items on our Facebook timeline, mention us on Twitter (@eerdmansbooks or @ebyrbooks), or write to us directly: webmaster@eerdmans.com.

Books for Easter 2014 The palms have been cast, the Hosannas sung. We’ve descended from the Mount of Olives and set our faces toward Jerusalem.

Now, on Maundy Thursday, as we remember together the Passover feast that Jesus so longed to celebrate with his disciples, it seems fitting that we here at EerdWord once again turn our attention to books that help us better grasp the great mysteries of cross and resurrection standing at the very heart of Christian faith.

You can browse our 2012 collection of Five Great Books for Easter and Holy Week or find the complete collection of this year’s featured titles on our website.

Here, though, are five books that we feel deserve a closer look this Resurrection Day:



Written by Anselm Grün
Illustrated by Giuliano Ferri

This graceful retelling of the life of Jesus takes readers back over two thousand years ago to Nazareth, a young girl named Mary, and a miraculous virgin birth. The story continues through the years as Jesus grows up, learns among the great teachers of his day, calls his disciples, preaches, and performs miracles.

The book concludes with Jesus’ last Passover meal, betrayal, crucifixion, and glorious resurrection. Anselm Grün’s accessible descriptions, along with warm, inviting paintings from Giuliano Ferri (Jonah’s Whale), together create a beautiful picture of the life of Jesus.

Read an illustrated excerpt here.



Brian Wildsmith

With vivid, richly detailed illustrations, Brian Wildsmith captures all the major events of one of the greatest stories in the Bible. The story of the Exodus and the rescue of the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt is a powerful and exciting tale which attests that God’s guiding hand is always evident.

In Wildsmith’s hands, this familiar journey comes alive against stunning backdrops — from the great palaces of ancient Egypt, to the vast expanses of Sinai’s mountains and wilderness, to the peaceful place God’s people can finally call home.

The Seven Last Words from the Cross

The Seven Last Words from the Cross

The Seven Last Words from the Cross
Fleming Rutledge

It has long been the custom in many churches to reflect on the Seven Last Words of Jesus from the Cross during special services held on Good Friday. In this tradition, Fleming Rutledge here presents seven eloquent meditations on these final sayings of Jesus.

Rutledge links the sayings from the cross with contemporary events and concerns, but also incorporates recent biblical scholarship and modern questions about the death of Christ, particularly in light of Mel Gibson’s 2004 film The Passion of the Christ. Rutledge shows how each word or saying from the Cross affords an opportunity for readers to gain a deeper understanding of the horrific death suffered by Jesus.

Intending for this book to lead readers into a genuine devotional experience, Rutledge has made every effort to evoke and preserve the contemplative atmosphere of the three-hour Good Friday memorial. The book includes frequent references to hymns associated with this special day, and each meditation ends with an appropriate hymn text for personal prayer and reflection.

Read an Easter sermon by Fleming Rutledge here.

Between Cross and Resurrection

Between Cross and Resurrection

Between Cross and Resurrection: A Theology of Holy Saturday
Alan E. Lewis

For much of Christian history the church has given no place to Holy Saturday in its liturgy or worship. Yet the space dividing Calvary and the Garden may be the best place from which to reflect on the meaning of Christ’s death and resurrection. This superb work by the late Alan Lewis develops on a grand scale and in great detail a theology of Holy Saturday.

The first comprehensive theology of Holy Saturday ever written, Between Cross and Resurrection shows that at the center of the biblical story and the church’s creed lies a three-day narrative. Lewis explores the meaning of Holy Saturday — the restless day of burial and waiting — from the perspectives of narrative (hearing the story), doctrine (thinking the story), and ethics (living the story). Along the way he visits as many spiritual themes as possible in order to demonstrate the range of topics that take on fresh meaning when viewed from the vantage point of Holy Saturday.

Between Cross and Resurrection is not only incisive and elegantly written, but it is also a uniquely moving work deeply rooted in Christian experience. While writing this book Lewis experienced his own Holy Saturday in suffering from and finally succumbing to cancer. He considered Between Cross and Resurrection to be the culmination of his life’s work.

Unlocking Romans

Unlocking Romans

Unlocking Romans: Resurrection and the Justification of God
J. R. Daniel Kirk

If the God of Israel has acted to save his people through Christ, but Israel is not participating in that salvation, how then can this God be considered righteous?

Unlocking Romans is directed in large extent toward answering this question in order to illuminate the righteousness of God as revealed in the book of Romans. The answer here, J. R. Daniel Kirk claims, comes mainly in terms of resurrection.

Even if only the most obvious references in Romans are considered — and Kirk certainly delves more deeply than that — the theme of resurrection appears not only in every section of the letter but also at climactic moments of Paul’s argument. The network of connections among Jesus’ resurrection, Israel’s Scriptures, and redefining the people of God serves to affirm God’s fidelity to Israel. This, in turn, demonstrates Paul’s gospel message to be a witness to the revelation of the righteousness of God.

Click to discover still more great books for Easter.

Each Wednesday throughout these forty days of Lent, we’ve shared devotional excerpts from new and soon-forthcoming books. Our final reading in this series comes from Anselm Grün’s Jesus, a graceful picture book retelling of the life of Christ with illustrations by Giuliano Ferri.

We hope you will be challenged and uplifted by our Holy Week selection — as you have been by each of our Lenten Midweek Readings

* * *

Judas, one of the disciples, had betrayed Jesus to the high priests. He had told them they would find Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane after the meal. Judas gave Jesus a kiss to show the soldiers which man to arrest.

The next day, the soldiers led Jesus to the Hill of Golgotha, which was outside the city. They crucified him there, between two criminals. As he was hanging on the cross, Jesus prayed for his enemies: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

Finally, Jesus said, “Father, I commit my spirit into your hands,” and he died.

Image from JESUS, illustrated by Giuliano Ferri


On the first day of the week, some women went to Jesus’ tomb to anoint his body with spices. But when they got there, they saw that the stone was rolled away from the tomb. They went inside, but did not find Jesus there. Then an angel came to them and said, “Do not fear! Jesus is no longer in the grave. He has risen!”

Joyfully, the women ran to the disciples to tell them the news. But the disciples did not believe them.

It was only when Jesus appeared to them that evening as they were eating that they realized the women had told the truth: Jesus lives and has triumphed over death!

Click to learn more about Anselm Grün and Giuliano Ferri’s Jesus.

Greetings, Eerdnerds. It’s Rachel here — your friendly neighborhood EerdWord editor — briefly breaking the fourth wall to rave in person about my newest favorite “you have got to read this!” book from Eerdmans: James K. A. Smith’s How (Not) to Be Secular: Reading Charles Taylor.

I’ll be posting a more in-depth review soon (spoiler alert: it’s going to be positive), but for the present, let me share four tidbits of useful information regarding this book:

  1. It’s a reader’s guide to Charles Taylor’s monumental tome A Secular Age, a 900-page behemoth of a book that (for me, at least) fits pretty nicely Mark Twain’s definition of a classic work of literature: “something that everybody wants to have read and nobody wants to read.”
  2. It’s a brilliant book in its own right, offering readers adrift in a sea of secularity (hint: that’s all of us) what Smith rightly calls a “hitchhiker’s guide to the present.”
  3. It’s a great read. I spent twelve hours in the car with it this past weekend, and I can verify that this book is far more interesting than rural Illinois.
  4. You can enter now for your chance to be one of three lucky readers who will win a free copy of How (Not) to Be Secular this week on EerdWord.

Good luck — and happy reading!

Win a copy of James K. A. Smith's How (Not) to Be Secular

Click to enter our giveaway.

Contest Details

To enter, click through to our Rafflecopter giveaway page. You’ll have the option of logging in with Facebook or email; you can then choose from several possible methods of entry. You may use multiple entry methods to increase your odds of winning, and Twitter users may earn additional entries by tweeting about the giveaway each day between now and April 17. 

You must be 18 years or older and a legal resident of the United States to enter. 

The entry period for the giveaway begins at 10:00 a.m. Tuesday, April 15, 2014, and ends at 11:59 p.m. Thursday, April 17. Winners will be selected at random and notified by email by the end of business Friday, March 21.

A Pond Full of Ink

A Pond Full of Ink

Elderly otters. Tree-dwelling suburbanites. Singing tea kettles. Walking furniture.

In the creative cosmos of beloved Dutch poet Annie M. G. Schmidt, anything is possible — and the more whimsical, the better. Her rollicking poems transform ordinary events and places into extraordinary adventures full of imagination.

Children and adults alike will delight over the new collection A Pond Full of Ink, which presents a choice selection of Schmidt’s most memorable verses, expertly translated by David Colmer and illustrated by Sieb Posthuma.

Get an inside look at this spirited new title from Eerdmans Books for Young Readers when you watch our latest book trailer below.

Click to order Annie M. G. Schmidt’s A Pond Full of Ink or to read an EerdWord post on the book by Jacob Thielman.

Welcome once again to Eerdmans All Over, a Friday roundup of all the Eerdmans-related news, reviews, interviews, and other interesting online content we can gather in a given week.

Coming Soon

The Big Book of Slumber
Written by Giovanna Zoboli and illustrated by Simona Mulazzani


News from Eerdmans . . .



. . . and elsewhere.

  • Travis Jonker posted a list of 2014 Books from Caldecott Winners, including The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus (Jen Bryant and Melissa Sweet).The Right Word
  • Chris Barton gave a shout out in his newsletter to Don Tate for their upcoming EBYR title The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch.
  • Scot McKnight reviewed the latest book in our Interventions series Hauerwas: A (Very) Critical Introduction by Nicholas Healy.
  • Flip over to page 54 of Prism magazine to see a quick blurb on Wesley Granberg-Michaelson’s From Times Square to Timbuktu.
  • Daniel Block’s two-volume commentary on Ezekiel (ch. 1-24, and 25-48) was on Tim Challies‘ list of the best commentaries on this difficult book. In fact, “the commentators on the commentaries are unanimous in their praise and most rate this one as the most important work on the book, and a must-have for anyone who wishes to preach through it.”Ezekiel 1-24
  • Check out the Eerdmans section of the Publishers Weekly 2014 Children’s Book Sneak Peek to see what’s coming up from EBYR!
  • Ten books have been shortlisted for the 2014 Dublin Literary Award, and two Eerdmans translators, David Colmer and Don Bartlett are on the list! Bartlett also made the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize shortlist. We are very proud to have these brilliant translators bringing titles into English for Eerdmans.
  • Nasreddine (Dautremer and Weulersse) is “a jewel of a book” according to blogger Daniela Weil.
  • Kyle McDanell continues his chapter-by-chapter blogging of Richard Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses on Blogizomai.
  • Subscribers to the Parable newsletter saw Anselm Grün and Giuliano Ferri’s new picture book Jesus featured right up front earlier this week.

Have we missed any news, reviews, or other online miscellany dealing with Eerdmans or EBYR books or authors from the last week? Please let us know in the comments. You also can post items on our Facebook timeline, mention us on Twitter (@eerdmansbooks or @ebyrbooks), or write to us directly: webmaster@eerdmans.com.

Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen

Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen

Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen is professor of systematic theology at Fuller Theological Seminary; docent of ecumenics at the University of Helsinki, Finland; and author of Trinity and Revelation, the second in a five-volume series entitled A Constructive Christian Theology for the Pluralistic World.

* * *

My five-volume series A CONSTRUCTIVE CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY FOR THE PLURALISTIC WORLD conceives the nature and task of Christian theology in a new key. Living as we are in a world shaped by cultural, ethnic, sociopolitical, economic, and religious plurality, it seems to me essential for theologians to tackle the key issues of plurality and diversity. While my theological vision is robustly Christian in its convictions, building on the foundation of biblical and historical Christian traditions, it also seeks to engage our present cultural and religious diversity in a way that Christian theology has not done in the past. An essential task of my project is to place Christian doctrine into sympathetic and critical dialogue with four other living faiths — Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism. Where relevant, I also engage deeply and widely with the natural sciences and especially with brain study, among other disciplines.

In the second volume, Trinity and Revelation, published this Spring, I attempt to recast these two ancient Christian doctrines in a new context. The issue of revelation is undoubtedly one of the most contested themes in any theology written after the Enlightenment. The reason for this is simple: whereas in the premodern times the authority of the Bible could be taken for granted, in modern times, this basic tenet has had to be established. How, after all, would a Christian appealing to biblical authority relate to similar claims regarding the authority of sacred texts in Islam or, say, Vedic Hinduism? Not only has revelation come under fire of late, but, more particularly, natural revelation and natural theology have been subject to devastating critique in the Twentieth Century. My project, however, boldly argues not only that natural theology is legitimate but also that, rightly understood, it is an integral form of trinitarian Christian theology!

Trinity and Revelation

Trinity and Revelation

Although the whole series is deeply and widely trinitarian from the beginning to the end, I have made the doctrine of the Trinity a point of special focus in this volume. In it I seek to “redeem” the Christian doctrine of God in general and of the Trinity in particular from various kinds of criticisms and “death blows.” While it is true that Classical Theism (the traditional form of the doctrine of God) is in need of much revision in order for us to be able to speak compellingly to the kinds of world we live in, I do not wish to leave behind the best parts of this historical tradition either. Instead, I set forth a proposal for “Classical Panentheism” and thus negotiate a new option that falls between Classical Theism and modern panentheism, a way of thinking that understands God and the world as being in a much closer relationship than traditional doctrinal stances have done.

There are a number of other questions relating to the doctrine of the Trinity that are currently being widely debated by theologians. These include the question of gender equality — should we continue using male and patriarchal names for God? — the alleged link between faith in God and violence, and so forth. All of these have been carefully investigated in this volume, as has the extremely complex question of how Christian trinitarian monotheism relates to monotheisms of Judaism and Islam and even, going further, the “polytheistic” forms of Hinduism or “nontheistic” views of Buddhism!

It is my hope that readers will appreciate the opportunity to consider these and other questions thoughtfully and in depth through the work I’ve done in Trinity and Revelation. I certainly have found my own perspective enriched by it.

Click to watch a video interview with Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen, to read a previous EerdWord guest post by him, or to order Trinity and Revelation.

Near the end of business yesterday, news began to circulate online about the so-called Heartbleed Bug that has compromised the security of encrypted passwords and data on a large number of websites around the Internet.

Concerned both for the privacy of our Eerdmans.com customers and for the safety of the sensitive information they have entrusted to us, we immediately reached out to our IT team to find out what, if anything, we should be doing in response.

Their answer was reassuring to us, and we share it here now in hopes that you will be likewise reassured by it: 

We do not use OpenSSL for our data encryption, so our site is not affected by this bug.  

We at Eerdmans take our customers’ need for online privacy very seriously, and we will continue to follow further developments in this story with interest.

Each Wednesday throughout these forty days of Lent, we’re sharing devotional excerpts from new and soon-forthcoming books. This morning’s reading comes from Brennan Manning’s Dear Abba: Morning and Evening Prayer.

We hope you will be challenged and uplifted by this selection — and by each of our Lenten Midweek Readings

* * *

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”
—Colossians 3:1-4

Dear Abba

Dear Abba

In my first-ever experience of being loved for nothing I had done or could do, I moved back and forth between mild ecstasy, silent wonder, and hushed trembling. The aura might be best described as “bright darkness.” The moment lingered on in a timeless now, until without warning I felt a hand grip my heart. It was abrupt and startling.

The awareness of being loved was no longer tender and comforting. The love of Christ, the crucified Son of God, took on the wild fury of a sudden spring storm. Like a dam bursting, a spasm of convulsive crying erupted from the depths of my soul. Jesus died on the cross for me.
—Above All

Dear Abba,

Ten thousand things are already vying for my attention. Wait, actually make that ten thousand and one. Some of them are shallow — like what shoes I will wear today — but some of them are legitimate: lunch with a friend, a doctor’s appointment, responding to a letter. Still, they are all earthly things. So startle me, I pray. Burst into the compound of my senses and steal me away from the urgent tyrannies already seeking to keep my eyes fixed on things below. You died for me. For me. That is the one thing; nothing else compares.

Click to learn more about Brennan Manning’s Dear Abba: Morning and Evening Prayer.

Nicholas Wolterstorff is Noah Porter Professor Emeritus of Philosophical Theology at Yale University and Senior Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia. He wrote the following foreword for Allan Aubrey Boesak’s new book Dare We Speak of Hope? Searching for a Language of Life in Faith and Politics.

* * *

Many Christians, when they hear the word “hope,” think of being delivered from this present evil world when they die and entering heaven. Hope for them is hope for the Age to Come, as they understand that. Allan Boesak affirms the hope of Christians for the Age to Come; but the hope of which he writes in this book is different. The hope here is the hope for justice in this present age. This is the hope that the prophet Isaiah expressed when he said of the Messiah to come:

He will bring forth justice to the nations.
He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street;
a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice.
He will not grow faint or be crushed until he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his teaching.
(Isa. 42:1-4)

Dare We Speak of Hope?

Dare We Speak of Hope?

Just as many Christians think of hope for the Age to Come and not of hope for justice in this present age when they hear the word, so too do many Christians, when they hear the word “justice,” think of criminal justice. They identify justice with passing judgment on wrongdoers.

Boesak has been the victim of unjust punishment; he could write eloquently and incisively about justice and injustice in the criminal justice system. But his subject here is not criminal justice. Criminal justice presupposes a more basic form of justice: it becomes relevant when someone has wronged someone, treated someone unjustly. Criminal justice becomes relevant when there has been a violation of justice. But this implies that criminal justice cannot be the only form of justice; there has to be another, more basic, form of justice, a form whose violation makes criminal justice relevant. Call this other form primary justice. Boesak’s topic in this book is primary justice. More precisely, his subject is the struggle for the righting of primary in-justice and the role of hope in that unavoidably conflictual struggle. In that struggle the question of hope is always on everybody’s mind, and in that struggle it’s all too easy to lose hope.

Boesak is not writing about this struggle from some perch on high, up above the fray. The location from which he writes is down in the trenches. Boesak was one of the leaders of the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa, and that experience shapes his discussion, giving it an unusual poignancy, vividness, and concreteness. It is because Boesak writes from the perspective of someone who has been part of the struggle to right injustice that his discussion takes the fresh and innovative form that it does: we can speak of hope, he says, only if we also speak of woundedness, only if we also speak of anger and courage, only if we also speak of struggle, only if we also speak of seeking peace, only if we also speak of fragile faith, only if we also speak of dreaming. One and all, these are essential components of the struggle to right injustice.

This is not, however, the narrative of a resister. Though there is a good deal of narrative in it, this is a theological essay, the theology made tangibly concrete by the fact that a good deal of it consists of Boesak’s reflecting theologically on his own experiences as a member and leader of a resistance movement. This is theology in concreto. I should add, however, that Boesak is not myopically fixated on the South African experience; he regularly brings into the picture other struggles to right injustice.

What also lends concreteness to the theology is the wealth of biblical exegesis. Boesak is a theologian whose thinking is shaped at least as much, if not more, by careful reading of Scripture as it is by the writings of his fellow theologians. Boesak reads Scripture through the eyes of the downtrodden. Given his experience, how could he not? As a result, I had the sense over and over, while reading the manuscript, of scales falling from my eyes. Above I quoted the passage in which Isaiah says, of the promised Messiah, “He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench.” I have never known what to make of these words. Dare We Speak of Hope? has opened my eyes to what Isaiah surely meant; it has opened my eyes to the meaning of a good many other passages as well. Though Boesak is, by profession, a theologian rather than a biblical scholar, he is, nonetheless, an extraordinarily insightful exegete. His exegesis is informed by wide acquaintance with biblical scholarship, but he is not afraid to challenge the scholars when he thinks they have missed the point.

The pursuit of social justice — and the struggle to right social injustice — almost always involves politics; and politics almost always involves, or should involve, the pursuit of social justice and the struggle for the righting of social injustice. Thus it is that a good deal of this book is about politics. Indeed, it is all about politics — though not only about politics. Boesak does not pull his punches when it comes to the present-day politics of South Africa and the United States; he is a bracing and undaunted prophetic critic of current politics in these two countries. But the seaminess, the cowardice, the obeisance to power and money that characterize politics today do not lead Boesak to urge Christians to avoid politics. Politics, he says, “is a vortex of expectations, disillusionments, and bewilderments, but we cannot step away from it or from our commitment to make it work for justice.”

Then he adds these words:

Hope holds us captive; we cannot give her up, let go of her hand, lest we become utterly lost. Yet we now know that where she is to be found is not in the places of comfort and safety. . . . Time and time again, it seems, we have to learn the lesson that while our hope has to shape our politics, the center of our hope never lies in politics or politicians. Christians have to look elsewhere if we are to find a hope that is durable, life-affirming, and life-giving. If we are to challenge and change the world, [we must] keep “looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith” (p. 176).

To those who engage in the struggle to right injustice, every day often looks like Good Friday. In this eloquent, challenging, and deeply spiritual book, Boesak forcefully reminds us that after Good Friday comes Easter. So we dare speak of hope.

Click to order Allan Aubrey Boesak’s Dare We Speak of Hope?

We did it. We did it. We did it. We did it. We hoped that we would do it, and indeed we did!

We made it through one of the most brutal West Michigan winters in recent memory — and now, as the snow finally melts away into unhappy memory, we have also arrived at the inspiring conclusion of our 2014 Eerdmans Author Interview Series.

Our final video features Joan Chittister, who is executive director of Benetvision: A Resource and Research Center for Contemporary Spirituality, Erie, Pennsylvania, and author of Happiness (among many other books).



Everyone longs to be happy, yet many wrongly believe that happiness comes from having enough money, fame, personal comfort, worldly success, or even dumb luck. Happiness all too often seems to be elusive, even arbitrary — something that is always just out of reach.

Joan Chittister sees happiness differently — as a personal quality to be learned, mastered, and fearlessly wielded. In Happiness she embarks on a “great happiness dig” through sociology, biology, neurology, psychology, philosophy, history, and world religions to develop “an archaeology of happiness.” Sifting through the wisdom of the ages, Chittister offers inspiring insights that will help seekers everywhere cultivate true and lasting happiness within themselves.

Click to read an EerdWord guest post by Joan Chittister, to browse the complete list of her books from Eerdmans, to visit her website, or to watch more great videos on the Eerdmans Author Interview Series website.

Welcome once again to Eerdmans All Over, a Friday roundup of all the Eerdmans-related news, reviews, interviews, and other interesting online content we can gather in a given week.

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Brother Hugo and the Bear
Brother Hugo and the Bear
Written by Katy Beebe and illustrated by S. D. Schindler


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  • According to Peter Kirby, you have excellent taste in blogs. EerdWord is the only publisher-sponsored book blog to make the Top 50 Biblioblogs (data drawn mostly from Alexa rankings).

Little Naomi, Little Chick

Have we missed any news, reviews, or other online miscellany dealing with Eerdmans or EBYR books or authors from the last week? Please let us know in the comments. You also can post items on our Facebook timeline, mention us on Twitter (@eerdmansbooks or @ebyrbooks), or write to us directly: webmaster@eerdmans.com.

Nicholas M. Healy

Nicholas M. Healy

Nicholas M. Healy is professor of theology and religious studies at St. John’s University, Jamaica, New York. The following excerpt is taken from the opening chapter of his new book Hauerwas: A (Very) Critical Introduction, which is the newest volume in the Interventions series. 

* * *

Why write a very critical introduction to Stanley Hauerwas? In my opinion, Hauerwas’s work has not as yet been subjected to the kind of exacting critical analysis that is appropriate for such a well-known and controversial Christian thinker. There have been a good number of important criticisms of his work, to be sure, but for the most part these have been limited to one or two key issues, and they have usually been made in the course of developing an argument for a particular project not directly connected with his. Those who have engaged in book-length discussions of Hauerwas’s work have sometimes been somewhat critical, but not, I think, sufficiently so, and have generally been content to propose modifications at most.

Here the idea is to push the criticism much further and more extensively, not in particular areas so much, nor with a particular project of my own in view, but rather to get a handle on the work as a whole and assess it as such. I do not discuss all areas of his work, even those that are rightly judged to be important and especially insightful, such as his contributions in the field of medical ethics and his valuable essays on the disabled. For one thing, I do not have the expertise to be able to say anything of special interest about such matters to a reader of a book such as this. But that aside, I think that although these areas do illustrate and display the implications of his main argument, they do not contribute all that much to it, so they do not have to be covered by a critical analysis like this one, which is oriented toward assessing Hauerwas’s work as a whole.

Naturally, in order critically to examine his work in this way, I have had to come up with an interpretation of it as a whole, including how its various parts fit together. I have tried to make the interpretation as fair and nuanced as I can, but one reason why it may not seem entirely fair — besides its being so very critical — is that my reading of Hauerwas’s texts is guided to some extent by concerns that are somewhat different from his. Hauerwas and I are both Christians, of course, and so we take for granted a set of Christian presuppositions and a history of reflection upon them that is practical as well as theoretical. Perhaps the key differences between us (apart from ability, personal background, and the like) are that I attempt to be a systematic theologian and that I am a Roman Catholic. Although the difference in denomination will occasionally surface, the difference in theological interest is by far the more significant. I am concerned with systematic-theological analysis and criticism of his work, while he is concerned to develop a constructive project that originates within, and is ordered toward, a social-ethical perspective. Why that difference matters so much will become clear by the end of the book.



Those who share Hauerwas’s particular agenda and his ethical interests may therefore find my interpretation unsatisfactory for various reasons, and may conclude as a result that my criticisms are misdirected or wrong. My hope is that others will find enough within the critical analysis I present here to think that, even if the analysis is not always as good as they would have it be, it does indicate areas where some significant revisions of Hauerwas’s argument are necessary, and where some of his assumptions, proposals, and agenda items should be modified or abandoned. This is one sense in which this book is an introduction. That is, it attempts to pull together a broad range of critical reflection for others to reject, rework, or develop further in their own constructive projects. In no way is it an attempt at a kind of final judgment on Hauerwas.

In view of the “(very) critical” in the title, I think I should stress what would otherwise be obvious, namely that this is not a very critical introduction to Stanley Hauerwas the person. Such an effort would be rude, arrogant, and, at best, only superficially interesting. Rather, this book is a very critical introduction solely to what he has written, to his texts, which is a foolhardy enough undertaking in itself. Although this may seem an obvious point, consider the fact that most books on Hauerwas are written by people who know him. I have found that some of those who know him well seem to see in his work things I cannot find, and vice versa. I do not know Professor Hauerwas, and I have kept it that way, even though I hear he is a wonderful guy. I could have made efforts to meet him and discuss his work, but I do not think it would have been of much benefit for this critical essay, and I know it would have made me even more nervous about being so very critical. If I had met him, I would be thinking of his explanations when reading problematic texts, rather than working with the texts themselves. His charming personality would perhaps have led me to be less critical. I have wanted to avoid such pitfalls, even if it were at the cost of perhaps getting things a bit wrong in the eyes of those who read his work with special insight through their knowledge of his thinking expressed viva voce.

Accordingly, I have sought to read his work as one would read a theologian from another era, as it were: I acknowledge his context, of course, but I treat the texts on their own terms, for it is they that make the proposals and arguments now, not their author. This is not because I subscribe to some theoretical position concerning authorial intention. It simply reflects my view that it is the texts that count in learning about and assessing someone’s systematic-theological proposal, not the person who writes them. So the reference in the title is to the work of Stanley Hauerwas, not the man, whose personality and personal history I will largely ignore. Another point about the title: Why, you may ask, should it be so very critical? What is the meaning of the bold emphasis, the “very,” in the title? Given the rather sharp tone of some of my remarks thus far (and they will get much sharper), are we to think of this as merely a hatchet-job, an attempt to dismiss Hauerwas’s work outright as some kind of dead-end or mistake? If not (and it is not!), then what? What makes it worth reading? What is the point of it?

Such concerns deserve a proper response at the outset of a book like this, both to orient and thereby, as it may be, to reassure the reader it is worth a further look. I have worried over the meaning and implications of the “very critical” phrase in the title, both before agreeing to write the book and throughout much of the work on it. One of the main reasons for my anxiety is something I do not always make apparent in what follows, namely that I admire Hauerwas’s work a great deal. I have learned much from it, I agree with quite a lot of it, and even where I disagree I have usually gained some good insights from it. His thinking has become a significant part of my own thinking. Yet ever since coming across his books at graduate school I have been taken aback, troubled, or at least confused by something or other on virtually every page he has written. Because I suspect I am not alone in this, it seemed a good idea to put together a critical analysis of his work that would display what the problems are, as I see them, at least.

Click to order Nicholas M. Healy’s Hauerwas: A (Very) Critical Introduction.

Each Wednesday throughout these forty days of Lent, we’re sharing devotional excerpts from new (or soon-forthcoming) books. This morning’s reading comes from Eugene Peterson’s Holy Luck.

We hope you will be challenged and uplifted by this selection — and by each of our Lenten Midweek Readings

* * *

Holy Luck

Holy Luck


The pale winter sun slants
Cool warmth
Across my iced mind
And promises a future thaw.

Four horses thunder through the storm
Of sin’s hot hail
And splash apocalyptic colors
On my white-washed sepulcher.

Baptismal rains release blossom-
Bursting shrubs and trees
From a cemetery winter
Into a resurrection spring.

Charismatic colors claim the earth.
Every fruit branch swings a censer
Through the air
Floating smells of praise.

Click to learn more about Eugene Peterson’s Holy Luck

Rev. Johannes Oravecz

Rev. Johannes Oravecz

Rev. Johannes Miroslav Oravecz is a lecturer and retreat master and an active member of the Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies. He is also author of the new book God as Love: The Concept and Spiritual Aspects of Agape in Modern Russian Religious Thought.

* * *

“What is your image of God?”

That was the question posed to a friend of mine who decided to go on a spiritual retreat before making some major decisions in her life.

Meditating on this question turned out to be an excellent start for such a time of prayer and reflection. We all carry some image of God in our minds, hearts, memories, imaginations, fears . . .

“What is your image of God?”

My friend was encouraged by that question — and by her spiritual advisor — to ask God to reveal Himself more clearly. She shared what happened next in a narrative that is more playful than it is “dogmatic”:

The rain had stopped, so out I went to roam the grounds and give my mind a rest. . . . Not a sound except for the birds. I had been reading when, out the corner of my eye I noticed something move. A chipmunk darted from behind the statue of St. Joseph, ran back and forth several times and then straight towards me. He stopped about four feet from me and lay prostrate, as if he was sunning himself. Fifteen minutes had gone by; his eyes were still fixed on me, and not a muscle had moved. I began a one-sided conversation. (I talk to everything. People hate to go with me to the aviary or zoo.) Suddenly it occurred to me — this could be a sign. Really . . . ? I asked my little buddy, Are you my image? And with that said, the chipmunk winked! Terrific, here I am trying to determine something important and God is playing games!

God as Love

God as Love

This little story may seem to be light years away from the scholarly subject matter of my new book God as Love: The Concept and Spiritual Aspects of Agape in Modern Russian Religious Thought, but the question at its heart is essentially the same: What is our image of God? What does our quest for and our encounter with the divine really look like? Can God reveal Himself in a wink? Why not? (This question, by the way, is less about the wink and more about our disposition.)

The teaching of the Church on God’s final and full revelation of Himself is a joyful sharing of the Good News: For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (Jn 3:16) Thanks to this final and full revelation of God in His Son Jesus Christ we can know with astounding precision the image of God: So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him (1 Jn 4:16). (See also 1 Jn 4:8: Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.)

Yet we are so unique as human individuals that each of us also needs to venture into his or her own personal encounter with God. As a community (Church) we support each other and hand down our tradition and teaching, even as God also desires and loves our unique personalities — and respects our quest to find Him. The winks of God’s presence in our world, in our lives, in both our happy and our tragic moments, are in fact glimpses into His true nature as He reveals to us His Image.

God as Love tells the stories of a number of great thinkers who lived in 19th and 20th century Russia (and later worldwide) who were on their own quests for the true image of God in this world and in their own lives. Most of them were thinkers of profound insight and tenacity, yet above all they were people who were in love with the Divine and who were willing to devote both time and energy to catching God’s winks. These glimpses were most often revealed to them in their personal trials and hardships — hardships that eventually helped them to perceive the incredible immensity of God’s love for His creation and, above all, human beings.

God loved the world so much that He Himself died on the cross — giving up everything, even His own divinity, to be as close to us as possible (Cf. Ph 2,5-11). This we call by the Greek word kenosis — a self-emptying act of sacrifice motivated by love. To explain it with Jesus’ own words to His friends and apostles:  Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends (Jn 15:13).

In Christ, God treats and considers us as friends — No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you (Jn 15:15).

What’s more, God has, from the dawn of creation, imprinted His very image — the image of a Triune, relational, loving, self-sacrificial God — into every human soul.

Now: what is your image of God?

Click to order God as Love: The Concept and Spiritual Aspects of Agape in Modern Russian Religious Thought.

Welcome once again to Eerdmans All Over, a Friday roundup of all the Eerdmans-related news, reviews, interviews, and other interesting online content we can gather in a given week.

New Releases


A Less than Perfect Peace
by Jacqueline Levering Sullivan


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Have we missed any news, reviews, or other online miscellany dealing with Eerdmans or EBYR books or authors from the last week? Please let us know in the comments. You also can post items on our Facebook timeline, mention us on Twitter (@eerdmansbooks or @ebyrbooks), or write to us directly: webmaster@eerdmans.com.

Rachel Bomberger

Rachel Bomberger

Rachel Bomberger is EerdWord editor for Eerdmans. She loves reading, writing, and solving other people’s problems from the comfort of her living room.

* * *

Hi. My name is Rachel, and I’m . . .  I’m a tough person to love.

There, I said it.

I know I’m not the only one of us out there. I know from personal experience that the world is littered with people who are just as hard to get along with as I am — if not more.

My former roommate. My creepy neighbor. That guy I used to work with. That lady at church.

My circle of friends, family, workmates, and even casual acquaintances is full of them. I’d be willing to bet that yours is, too.

It was for them — certainly not for myself — that I first picked up Chuck DeGroat’s new book Toughest People to Love: How to Understand, Lead, and Love the Difficult People in Your Life — Including Yourself. I wanted to understand all those difficult people. (Knowledge is power, after all.) I wanted to love them — honest, I did! Most of all, though, I wanted to lead them into a brighter tomorrow . . . a tomorrow in which they would magically stop being so darn irritating.

“Can you relate?” DeGroat asks in his introduction. “Do you sometimes wonder if life might be easier without your complicated employees or your demanding congregation or your difficult leaders?”

You betcha! I think. I can definitely relate! Hey — let’s bash the difficult people some more! This is fun!

In the very next paragraph, however, things begin to take a turn toward the uncomfortable:

And then, to complicate the picture, there is you.

Who, me?

Most of us can get away from others for a while, but we can’t get away from ourselves. Truth be told, we’re part of the problem. It’s easy to complain about the failures and inadequacies of those around us . . .

Yup, it sure is.

. . . but in the dark corners of our soul lie hidden our own eccentricities, deficiencies, and inadequacies. Between the “problem people” we deal with and our own inadequacies, it often seems impossible to find a way through the mess of human dysfunction.

I could have put the book down there. I could have run off to find one with more quick and easy fixes — one that didn’t keep calling difficult people “image bearers” (and keep insisting that I’m one of them) — one that offered more concrete, practical advice on how to make my difficult people shut up, simmer down, and do things my way.

I’m so glad I didn’t.

DeGroat — who has years of experience as a pastor, a counselor, and an organizational leader — knows what he’s talking about. He understands the underlying pathologies at play in people with debilitating personality disorders. He writes about addiction, codependency, and depression with enormous insight. He’s also wise enough and courageous enough to admit that sometimes it’s not mental illness but simply the dark side of human nature that makes people tough to love:

The difficult people we deal with each day may not struggle with personality disorders or addiction. Some of them are simply foolish; others are profoundly sinister.

What DeGroat doesn’t do, however, is offer easy answers for how to manage the foolish and the sinister, the sick, the sad, and the substance abusing — in fact, he rejects the easy answers outright.

It’s easy for leaders to ignore the dark side, and get the most out of the false selves of their people. Our false selves crave affirmation, and manipulative and motivational leaders can prey on the insecurities of the false self to get results. Healthy leaders refuse to settle for cheap tactics. They see health and wholeness as integral to the bigger mission. They foster a spirit of independence and creativity in people who live from a deeper, more secure core — the true self.

See that red balloon on the cover? That represents my preconceived notions about how to manage difficult people. This book is the nails.

What’s more, DeGroat keeps forcing me to turn my gaze away from those other “tough people to love” and back toward myself: to reach deep into my own bag of past hurts and present insecurities and to be honest in dealing with what I find there; to seek a path that leads to true healing and truer humanity “not around the pain, but through it”; in short, to settle for nothing less than complete wholeness within myself.

Only then, he says, will I effectively be able to lead difficult people — which, if you haven’t noticed, includes all of us — in my home, church, workplace, and community.

DeGroat says it beautifully:

I’m increasingly convinced that whether you lead a church or a car wash, whether you run an insurance company or an animal shelter, real leadership requires wholeness, and real leadership invites wholeness in others. Anything less is a cheap imitation, a motivational game or a self-improvement project that does nothing more than decorate the outside without reordering the inside.

Jesus said it beautifully, too:

Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye. (Matt. 7:4–5, KJV)

As so often happens with the gifts of God (and this book is a gift), I didn’t get the book I thought I wanted.

Instead, I got the book I didn’t know I needed — and it was so much better than I ever could have expected.

Click to order Chuck DeGroat’s Toughest People to Love or to read an excerpt from the book (part of our Lenten Midweek Readings series) here on EerdWord. 

Each Wednesday throughout these forty days of Lent, we’re sharing devotional excerpts from new (or soon-forthcoming) books. This morning’s readings come from Chuck DeGroat’s Toughest People to Love: How to Understand, Lead, and Love the Difficult People in Your Life — Including Yourself.

We hope you will be challenged and uplifted by these selections — and by each of our Lenten Midweek Readings

* * *

Toughest People to Love

Toughest People to Love

Self-Care and the Art of Shadow-Boxing

Many are familiar with the oft-repeated story about G. K. Chesterton, the great British writer and journalist who was once asked by a British newspaper to share his thoughts about the big issues of the day. It was a complicated time in turn-of- the-century England, and Chesterton had the opportunity to add his thoughts to those of a stunning lineup of other writers and thinkers. As a brilliant wordsmith and bold personality, he had been given the perfect setup for a well-executed, brilliant editorial piece.

And yet, to the very pointed question “What’s wrong with the world?,” Chesterton replied, “I am.” . . .

We have work to do as leaders, work Richard Rohr calls “shadow-boxing.” With the necessary humility that leads to wisdom, we can and will mature. And this maturity in character will allow us to admit further deficiencies — needed places of growth in skill and ability. It is the risky and courageous work of opening that long, invisible bag we drag behind us, and doing business with it. It requires facing those false selves we’ve developed that cause us to become tough, defensive, charismatic, cunning, or even sinister. In time, God invites us to face ourselves, to “shadow-box” in a ring in which we fight an inner war, as St. Paul called it (Rom. 7), battling our flesh (false self) and being strengthened in spirit (true self). Rohr believes that because we are wounded in the context of relationship, we can be healed only in the context of relationship, in the boxing ring with God. . . .

Too often, self-care is reduced to a series of self-help steps which trivialize the depth and complexity of human growth and maturity. Both the pain we encounter and the healing we find occur in the context of relationship. The real fix, if there is one, is being found by God, often with the help of others whom you trust. Behavior modification might change a particular pattern in your life, but relationship literally changes you — your very being, including the hardwiring of your brain.

This insight is not merely biblical or theological, but affirmed by both brain scientists and psychologists. Curt Thompson, a Christian and a neuropsychologist, observes, “It is only when we are known that we are positioned to become conduits of love. And it is love that transforms our minds, makes forgiveness possible, and weaves a community of disparate people into the tapestry of God’s family.” We complain in protest, “There must be another way! I’d rather be fixed than found — being known seems too difficult!” And yet, with the evidence of brain science firmly in mind, Thompson continues,

There is no other way. To be known is to be pursued, examined, and shaken. To be known is to be loved and to have hopes and even demands placed on you. It is to risk, not only the furniture in your home being rearranged, but your floor plans being rewritten, your walls being demolished and reconstructed. To be known means that you allow your shame and guilt to be exposed — in order for them to be healed.

The prescription here is not a series of behavior modifications for that illusive “happier and healthier you.” That is the American myth. What I suggest, instead, are disciplines — which recalls the word “disciple” — a follower of Christ. Disciplines place us in relationship — with Christ and within a community of wounded healers. The discipline of a disciple is to follow — that is, to walk in the shadow of Christ, to learn his ways, to struggle together when difficulties arise, to laugh and to cry. This is how friendship with God unfolds, as a relationship between two persons deeply committed to each other in covenant love. This relationship cannot be reduced to a mere practice or ritual, but it certainly involves practice and ritual — the give and take required in any relationship. I’m convinced that as we know and are known by God, love and are loved by God — the sum of the Commandments, according to Jesus — we will experience a deeper, more sustained flourishing in our life and leadership.

* * *

The Practice of Daily Prayer

Our daily habits and rhythms say much about what is going on in our souls. I need only notice how I slip into the morning ritual of checking ESPN, Twitter, or the news online to see where my attention is. The necessary shadow-boxing begins as I confront my own tendency to turn my attention to entertainment and consciously turn back to my own humanity, awakened each morning with a need to find its center and rest in God. . . .

Our greatest enemy in this is our busyness, of course. Well-intentioned pastors often find that this practice is eclipsed in the face of appointments, sermon preparation, and meetings. I’ve often found that I must schedule these things on my calendar. If someone asks for time, I can simply say, “My calendar does not permit it.” Now I am challenging you to an intentional practice of the presence of God, which can take many different forms. Form is not the issue. Intention is.

I’ve had to shadow-box with that distracted part of me, which craves time on the couch with my attentive companion, ESPN. The drama of sports can capture my attention with a force that overwhelms my better instincts. I simply have to know the latest news about the NFL, or the score of last night’s San Francisco Giants game. Beyond that, I’m drawn in to the newest craze, a kind of sports gossip which might be the equivalent of a soap opera or tabloid story. Over time, I find my soul crammed with trivia in a way that crowds out God and stifles prayer.

Daily prayer recenters my soul, though not without a fight. The shadow-boxing ring is full of activity during these times. Because my soul is so addicted to its remedies for daily peace and happiness, I’m compelled to wrestle with God, making these daily prayer times far more than a simple routine or ritual. Of course, there are days when daily prayer may feel ordinary, and that’s all right. The goal is not to experience something profound each time, but rather to engage God. I see it in much the same way that I see eating dinner around the table with my family every night. Not every evening will bring stirring conversation. But the practice of gathering cultivates an opportunity for connection and for relationship, even if nothing obviously significant happens.

As we become more familiar with sitting in the presence of God, we realize that what is most significant may actually be happening beneath the surface. That is the power of this practice, the real power of prayer.

Click to learn more about Chuck DeGroat’s Toughest People to Love.

We hold up half the sky.
The noblest of us are worth more than rubies (although the well-behaved among us rarely make history).
You’ll find one of us standing behind every great . . . well, almost anything. We come in numbers too big to ignore.

We are women.

This Women’s History Month, celebrate by reading books by and about notable women — or, even better, by introducing a young woman in your life to one of history’s great heroines.

Read on to discover five excellent titles for readers young and old, or click through to browse our entire featured collection on Eerdmans.com.

Georgia's Bones

Georgia’s Bones

Georgia’s Bones
Written by Jen Bryant
Illustrated by Bethanne Andersen

As a child, shapes often drifted
in and out of Georgia’s mind.
Curved and straight,
round or square,
she studied them,
and let them disappear.

Growing up on a Wisconsin farm, Georgia O’Keeffe began gathering all sorts of objects — sticks and stones, flowers and bones. Although she was teased for her interest in unique shapes and sizes, young Georgia declared: “Someday, I’m going to be an artist” — and that is exactly what she became.

Jen Bryant’s story of Georgia O’Keeffe celebrates the famous artist’s fascination with natural shapes, “common objects,” and her unusual way of looking at the world. Bethanne Andersen’s fluid, graceful illustrations capture the beauty of O’Keeffe’s work and spirit.

Maria Mitchell

Maria Mitchell

Maria Mitchell: The Soul of an Astronomer
Beatrice Gormley

In the mid-1800s, a turbulent time when women were often thought to be unworthy of higher education, Maria Mitchell rose above the prejudices of the day to become America’s first professional woman astronomer. This exciting biography tells the story of Maria Mitchell’s life, her amazing achievements, and her faith that saw God’s handiwork in the heavens.

“Gormley successfully paints a picture of a world that failed to mold Mitchell to its standards, focusing on the telling details that bring the story to life. Inspiring and incisive.” — Kirkus Reviews

Harriet Beecher Stowe

Harriet Beecher Stowe

Harriet Beecher Stowe: A Spiritual Life
Nancy Koester

“So you’re the little woman who started this big war,” Abraham Lincoln is said to have quipped when he met Harriet Beecher Stowe. Her 1852 novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin converted readers by the thousands to the anti-slavery movement and served notice that the days of slavery were numbered. Overnight Stowe became a celebrity, but to defenders of slavery she was the devil in petticoats.

Most writing about Stowe treats her as a literary figure and social reformer while downplaying her Christian faith. But Nancy Koester’s biography highlights Stowe’s faith as central to her life — both her public fight against slavery and her own personal struggle through deep grief to find a gracious God. Having meticulously researched Stowe’s own writings, both published and un-published, Koester traces Stowe’s faith pilgrimage from evangelical Calvinism through spiritualism to Anglican spirituality in a flowing, compelling narrative.

Her Heart Can See

Her Heart Can See

Her Heart Can See: The Life and Hymns of Fanny J. Crosby
Edith L. Blumhofer

Her Heart Can See offers an intimate, informed look at Fanny J. Crosby (1820–1915), the most prolific of all American hymn writers. Having lost her sight in infancy through a doctor’s negligence, Fanny went on to compose more than 9,000 hymns, as well as various other songs, cantatas, and lyrical productions. Crosby’s hymns, including such all-time favorites as “Blessed Assurance,” “Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior,” “Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross,” “Rescue the Perishing,” “Safe in the Arms of Jesus,” and “I Am Thine, O Lord,” continue to be sung around the world.

Celebrated in her own day for her gospel hymns, Crosby was also very publicly involved with New York City’s rescue missions and with other benevolent efforts. She rubbed shoulders with the likes of Henry Clay, Grover Cleveland, Winfield Scott, Dwight L. Moody, Ira Sankey, Jenny Lind, P. T. Barnum, and many other famous figures who people these pages. More than two dozen black-and-white photographs depict the people and settings among which Crosby moved.

Drawing on primary sources — including thousands of unpublished Crosby manuscripts — Edith Blumhofer sorts fact from fiction in the life of this remarkable woman. Blumhofer responsibly limns Crosby’s life as a gifted nineteenth-century northeastern Protestant woman, in the process showing why “this diminutive woman” was — and is — so beloved.

Invincible Spirits

Invincible Spirits

Invincible Spirits: A Thousand Years of Women’s Spiritual Writings
Edited by Felicity Leng

Evelyn Underhill has said that “every religion looks for, and most have possessed, some revealer of the Spirit.” In Invincible Spirits Felicity Leng presents wise, inspiring words from brilliant women who have been the revealers of their times. Many silent and forgotten voices throughout history come back to life in this sparkling collection of spiritual writings.

From a ninth-century mother in France writing a poignant self-help book for her estranged son, to a modern-day social campaigner in New York, Invincible Spirits is full of reflections on classic themes and questions in the search for a deeper experience of God. Some writers — Julian of Norwich, Teresa of Avila, Christina Rossetti, Emily Dickinson, Corrie ten Boom, Dorothy Day  are quite familiar. Others — Raï∩ssa Maritain, Hadewijch, Margiad Evans, Dhuoda — are less widely known but no less inspiring.The profound wisdom of these women mystics, saints, mothers, activists, poets, and visionaries still has great appeal for twenty-first-century readers seeking spiritual guidance and direction.

Click to view the rest of our featured collection of books for Women’s History Month

When we first launched the Eerdmans Author Interview Series in January — hoping in part that it would help us woebegone upper-Midwesterners pass the time as we awaited the arrival of spring — we could not possibly have imagined that the winter would outlast the series.

Yet this morning, as we prepare to share the penultimate episode, we find ourselves once again facing frigid temperatures and a fresh blanket of snow of the ground.

Coincidence? We certainly hope so! The alternative would mean that our series is actually prolonging winter, and we’re just not willing to entertain that dreadful thought, or to cut the series short — especially since the last two videos are so well worth watching.

Our interview today features Douglas Campbell, who is professor of New Testament at Duke Divinity School and author of both The Deliverance of God: An Apocalyptic Reading of Justification in Paul (which came out in paperback last year) and Framing Paul: An Epistolary Account (which is scheduled for release this November).

The Deliverance of God

The Deliverance of God

In The Deliverance of God Douglas Campbell holds that the intrusion of an alien, essentially modern, and theologically unhealthy theoretical construct into the interpretation of Paul has produced an individualistic and contractual construct that shares more with modern political traditions than with either orthodox theology or Paul’s first-century world. In order to counteract that influence, Campbell argues that it needs to be isolated and brought to the foreground before the interpretation of Paul’s texts begins. When that is done, readings free from this intrusive paradigm become possible and surprising new interpretations unfold.

This book breaks a significant impasse in much Pauline interpretation today, pushing beyond both “Lutheran” and “New” perspectives on Paul to a noncontractual, “apocalyptic” reading of many of the apostle’s most famous — and most troublesome — texts.

Click to order Douglas Campbell’s The Deliverance of God, to learn more about his forthcoming book Framing Paul, or to watch more great videos on the Eerdmans Author Interview Series website.

Welcome once again to Eerdmans All Over, a Friday roundup of all the Eerdmans-related news, reviews, interviews, and other interesting online content we can gather in a given week.

New Releases

Hauerwas: A (Very) Critical Introduction

by Nicholas M. Healy

We Can Make the World Economy A More Sustainable Global Home
by Lewis S. Mudge

News from Eerdmans . . .

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Brother Hugo and the Bear by Katy Beebe

Brother Hugo and the Bear

by Katy Beebe

Giveaway ends March 28, 2014.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

. . . and elsewhere.

Have we missed any news, reviews, or other online miscellany dealing with Eerdmans or EBYR books or authors from the last week? Please let us know in the comments. You also can post items on our Facebook timeline, mention us on Twitter (@eerdmansbooks or @ebyrbooks), or write to us directly: webmaster@eerdmans.com.

Jon Pott

Jon Pott

Jon Pott is vice president and editor-in-chief at Eerdmans. In the days following the death of author and ethicist Allen Verhey on February 26, he wrote the the following tribute.

* * *

It is a fine gift to an editor that an author often becomes a friend. With Allen Verhey, the friendship came first. We overlapped at Calvin College by a year, but he was enough younger that I’m not sure I knew him then. More likely — it’s all a little misty now — we met soon after through mutual friends, all part of a late 60s-early 70s network of leftward leaning Calvin grads, some already working, some staying in touch from graduate school, and some in seminary. However the friendship with Allen began, it was a friendship — and in due course a wonderful publishing relationship — that endured to the end of his life. Allen died on February 26, succumbing finally to the amyloidosis that had encroached upon his life. Having written much about what he called “the strange world of medicine,” he lived much of his own life in that world in the past several years, modeling with unself-regarding grace the virtues he had long sought to teach.

It may have been in The Reformed Journal that Allen first published with Eerdmans (he did eventually become a Contributing Editor), but his first book, The Great Reversal: Ethics and the New Testament, came in 1984. The core Verhey themes are already sounding there: the great apocalyptic reversal worked by God, ushering in a new kingdom in which the first shall be last and the mighty brought low, a reversal wrought through the suffering and victorious Jesus, who definitively models and instructs us in how to live our lives. If we are to live our lives aright, we must remember Jesus, the summons that titles another of Allen’s books (Remembering Jesus: Christian Community, Scripture, and the Moral Life, 2003). Whatever the rich ensuing theological and moral traditions, in which Allen was steeped, Allen’s Jesus is first of all the Jesus of Scripture, to be interpreted by the best in scholarship (Allen studied with Wayne Meeks at Yale), but always in the context of community discernment, the community going back to the very beginning of the church. No interpreter works alone.

Allen D. Verhey

Allen D. Verhey

Allen’s Jesus is a Teacher. He is also a Healer, and much of Allen’s scholarly contribution was to Christian bioethics. For Eerdmans that meant monographs like Reading the Bible in the Strange World of Medicine (2003) and edited volumes like Theological Voices in Medical Ethics, 1993 (coedited with his great friend Stephen Lammers) and Religion and Medical Ethics (1996), derived from a conference he hosted while director of the Institute of Religion at the Texas Medical Center in Houston.

While collaborating with his former Hope College colleagues Wayne Boulton and Tom Kennedy in a splendid general textbook reader introducing Christian ethics (From Christ to the World), published in 1994 and still in print, doubtless Allen’s most imposing contribution as an editor was to compile with Steve Lammers the monumental textbook anthology in bioethics called On Moral Medicine. The volume is monumental not only for its sheer scope and size (which has only grown in subsequent editions), but because it succeeded, as its originators had hoped, in changing the bioethics landscape by providing a comprehensive resource that makes theology central to medical ethics. Each editor genially credited (blamed) the other for conceiving this daunting project, and the order in which their names appear on the cover and title page was decided, as I recall, by the alphabet. First published in 1987, the volume is now in its 3rd edition, having been taken over with fresh insight by Steve’s and Allen’s hand-picked successors, Joseph Kotva and Therese Lysaught, the latter one of Allen’s former students at Hope College.

As his many students at Hope and at the Duke Divinity School would attest, Allen was a teacher and mentor through and through, and over many years, he mentored me and others in shaping the Eerdmans program. Much of our program in moral theology and bioethics bears his influence. Allen deeply understood, by reason of his background, the Reformed yet ecumenical DNA of the company, and one could not do better at the meetings of the American Academy of Religion or the Society of Christian Ethics than to have Allen pointing colleagues and former students our way or pointing us toward them. That was Allen. He had his own projects, to be sure, but mainly he was about pointing to others.

The Christian Art of Dying

The Christian Art of Dying

Allen’s last book, sadly fitting, was The Christian Art of Dying (2011), a retrieval of the medieval tradition of ars moriendi — but then tracing the tradition farther back: the subtitle to the book is Learning from Jesus. I don’t believe that Allen had been diagnosed with his fatal disease when he conceived the project. He had, however, by the time he finished it, his Preface referring immediately to the diagnosis, though followed by the caveat in the Introduction that the book was not intended to be a memoir! The Introduction begins in droll Verhey fettle: “People have been dying for a while now. It started, I guess, with the first human being, and since then the death rate has been right around 100 percent.” Allen had a kind of cheerful impiousness born of deep assurance. No cynicism in sight, only a humble sense of scale about himself in the scheme of things and about where his ultimate comfort lay. He knew and lived the first Question and Answer of his Heidelberg Catechism. Impiousness. “The good news,” he said to me when he explained his amyloidosis, “is that it can’t be blamed on pipe-smoking!” Allen was a sinner easy to forgive.

As President of the Society of Christian Ethics last year, Allen was to give the presidential address at the conference this past January. He was, at the last minute, too ill to come, and the address was delivered by his son Tim, himself a member of the Society. Knowing Allen, I would guess that, whatever his disappointment, he managed to find even in this a distinctive, if unexpected, gift. Pointing the other way.

The title of Allen’s address was “Would Jesus Get Tenure?” Allen was obviously pleased with his cheeky academic conceit when he told me about it over dinner last fall. The punch-line twist in the address is, of course, that Jesus already has tenure, and that what remains is for us to live out, faithfully and well — in life and also in death — the meaning of his teaching. This Allen surely did. Faithfully and well.

Click to read an EerdWord excerpt from The Christian Art of Dying or to learn more about Allen Verhey and his books on Eerdmans.com.