David Fergusson

David Fergusson

David Fergusson is professor of divinity and principal of New College at the University of Edinburgh and author of the new book Creation, which is the latest volume in our Guides to Theology series. 

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Creation is a key Christian article of faith. Inherited from Judaism, it shares several convictions including the dependence of the world upon God and its essential goodness. Yet despite its prominence in the first two chapters of the Bible and in the opening of the Apostles’ Creed, creation has not been accorded sufficient attention in much of the theological tradition.

This is one of the central claims of my new textbook on Creation in the Guides to Theology series. The church has tended to move too quickly from the story of creation to the story of sin and redemption. It has shifted rapidly from Genesis 1–2 to the story of the fall in Genesis 3, as if the former were merely the setting of the stage for a more important narrative. This is apparent both in the creeds and in the Eucharistic liturgy of most churches, where creation is mentioned almost in passing.

To remedy this, I argue that more time needs to be spent reflecting on creation and its worth in ways that do not take us prematurely into the story of human salvation. This requires attending to the wisdom literature of the Old Testament (recalling that Jesus also was a teacher of Jewish wisdom), especially Proverbs and Job. There the daily rhythms of life are celebrated. The natural world is recognized as our home, yes, but also as the home of other creatures in whom God takes delight. The possibilities of attaining wisdom and happiness in the natural and social world are acknowledged.



While the story of sin has its role to play — though we should not think of the fall as a historical event — it ought not to be to the detriment of the theology of creation. Meanwhile, the emergence of a powerful modern scientific narrative including big cosmology and Darwinian evolution has provided an opportunity for representing the doctrine of creation in the context of the science-religion dialogue. This has given it renewed significance.

I explore this perspective on creation initially by referencing key ideas such as “creation out of nothing” (creatio ex nihilo) and God’s providential ordering of the world. These remain vital aspects of the subject. I also, however, emphasize our compelling need to attend both to our natural environment and to animals as our fellow creatures who suffer neglect, maltreatment and threats to their survival. And, finally, I venture to consider the possibility of intelligent extraterrestrial life and its theological significance. At present, we cannot make any safe predictions on this subject, but at least contemplating the possibility that we are not alone may induce some intellectual humility in the face of the immensity of the universe and the infinitely greater being of its Creator.

Click to order David Fergusson’s volume on Creation in the Guides to Theology series. 


Mike Debowski

Mike Debowski

Making his EerdWord debut today is Mike Debowski, who recently joined the Eerdmans team as promotions assistant.

Welcome, Mike!

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Let’s clear the air of one thing right away: Craig Harline’s Way Below the Angels: The Pretty Clearly Troubled but Not Even Close to Tragic Confessions of a Real Live Mormon Missionary is a terrifically funny book. That being said, let’s move beyond that and not even mention it again, because when was the last time you fell completely love with a book just because it was funny? I have a Grumpy Cat book on my coffee table at home, and it’s possibly the funniest book I’ve ever read, but I would never include it in a list of my top 100 books. A book needs much more than comic value to hold lasting importance in the hearts and minds of its readers.

Harline knows this well. His humor is more the naturally refined byproduct of his candidness than a painstaking effort, and I ended up laughing more at the unlikely relatability of his experiences than his cleverness. One of my favorite anecdotes that he tells in Way Below the Angels is that of “The One True Missionary Story” that all supposedly decent Mormon missionaries feel extraordinary pressure to live up to. This “One True Story” that returned missionaries would often tell includes a great deal of hard work, a ton of sacrifice, and a boatload of conversions to show for it. So when young Craig Harline goes to Belgium and experiences a lot of this hard work and sacrifice but almost none of this success (or as he sardonically refers to it, “Success!”), he starts to question a whole lot of things, ultimately including aspects of his faith and his identity.

How many of us have been there, even in small everyday ways? Maybe you’ve talked to that person who loves to casually drop in conversation how he is beloved by many, or how he has achieved so much. On the one hand, a little descriptive inflation never seems to hurt anyone, yet — as Craig Harline points out — this kind of bombastic pretense doesn’t so much inspire as inflict self-doubt upon those who approach their achievements honestly and without an ostentatious parade of words in accompaniment. And more importantly, how much of our focus in all areas of life is sadly drawn away from what is truly important by trying in a futile way to live up to this grandiose “One True Story”?

One of the things I kept thinking about while reading Way Below the Angels was my own big adventure after college to Georgia (the country) to teach English through a Georgian government program. My version of Harline’s “One True Missionary Story” was the “One True English Teacher Story,” which I heard for the first time at the end of our one-week training session in Tbilisi; we essentially sat and listened to a panel of outgoing English teachers (every one of them who happened to have been placed in Tbilisi, the capital and largest city of Georgia) tell us how many people they taught to speak English, and how much the people they met adored them. Naturally, my rookie companions and I were excited when we heard all these stories. Like Harline imagining his 84 future converts singing his praises after he left Belgium, I was imagining everyone in Zemokhevi (my assigned village) singing along with me to all the American music I brought on my computer and writing me beautiful letters in perfectly crafted English after I had gone back home.

In reality, after six months of my being there, even my host family had mastery of only about three phrases: “Hello,” “How are you?” and “AWESOME!” I had a ton of fun being there and sharing in a culture so different from my own with some truly lovely people, but I really felt like a failure, at least until I started meeting up with some of the other English teachers in some nearby villages and began to realize that just about everyone was experiencing the same extreme lack of success. We weren’t horrible teachers like we all initially thought; we were just in a very rurally mountainous part of Georgia (in sharp contrast to the capital city) where learning a foreign language wasn’t high at all on anyone’s priority list.

Way Below the Angels

Way Below the Angels

Harline’s conclusion is very similar; while missionaries seemed to be having incredible success in Latin American countries like Mexico and Brazil (although he even calls these claims into question), Belgium presented a starkly different situation with its European culture and its deeply entrenched Catholicism. He only truly felt the weight of his incredible experience in Belgium when he accepted the circumstances, let go of his misplaced pride, and began accepting the people around him for who they were. Likewise, a week or so after I came to peace with the fact that people in Zemokhevi weren’t really seeing the English language as anything more than a goofy novelty, I cashed in my own metaphorical pride chips and left with my host father for a crazy three-days-up-the-mountain cow-herding expedition, where no one spoke a word of English, and I ended up creating one of my most positive non-American-based memories ever.

In the end, Harline’s message (a little like my admitting that I taught exactly zero people to speak conversational English in six months with them) is one that is both difficult and important to share. Stories of heroism are great (especially when they’re actually legitimate), but in a world where the vast majority of people aren’t as ineffably magnificent as, say, Louie Zamperini, it sure does help to have some role models in honesty and good-heartedness like Craig Harline. I don’t think this is settling for something less; on the contrary, if you read between the lines of Harline’s genuine humility, you can see that he was (and is) actually a pretty compassionate and stellar human being, one that refused to give into the pressure of living or telling the “One True Story.” The truth he ends up writing about isn’t always pretty (read ahead for countless stories of rejection and near emotional breakdowns), but it’s one that fulfills the important function of pulling us away from our navel-gazing default setting as humans.

In the wise words of Craig Harline at the end of Way Below the Angels:

Being conditioned to be almost obsessed with examining your own worthiness so that you could be blessed with Success! probably made it pretty predictable that you’d end up thinking the whole mission business was not just mostly up to you but also mostly about you.

Undoubtedly, he’d agree that this applies to a lot of things in life. Persistent self-doubt can make us just as selfish as self-aggrandizement, so why not throw it all away and embrace the sometimes-ugly truth that goes hand-in-hand with an outwardly-lived life that simply revels in the circumstances?

Want to learn more about this book? You can . . . 

Last week on our kidlit vlog Coffee Break with EBYR, Ahna and Katherine discussed the #WeNeedDiverseBooks awareness campaign and highlighted a few of the many diverse books for children Eerdmans has published over the years.

If you missed their latest episode, take a moment to check it out below:

At the end of their video, they announced that we’d be giving away a few of our diverse children’s books this week — and we are!

Enter our giveaway by midnight tonight for your chance to win three books of our your choice from our featured collection of diverse books for children and young adults.

You can also scroll down for complete contest guidelines, read on to discover five of the great books you could choose from if you win, and catch a sneak peek at an exciting new title we’ll be publishing next spring.

Click to enter our giveaway.

Thank You, God

Thank You, God

Thank You, God
By J. Bradley Wigger
Illustrated by Jago

This bright, lyrical book offers readers of all ages and backgrounds the perfect chance to reflect on all the things that they have to be grateful for. Thank You, God is a celebration of family and friends, of homes and food to share, and of the wonder of creation from the first light of day to the calm, peaceful night.

With its elegant yet accessible text and vibrant illustrations, this inspiring book is sure to have a powerful impact on readers as it encourages them to view the world around them with fresh eyes.

“Jago’s images, ‘rendered in digital paints and photographic textures,’ are striking and occasionally startling: Layers of color combine with multiple swirling lines, waves and textures to create very clear images of adults, children, animals and the natural world. . . . The human figures may represent one family or all families, as they gather around a table or at the seashore, with differing skin tones and hair textures and a variety of ages, from babies in arms to elders using canes.”
Kirkus Reviews

The Herd Boy

The Herd Boy

The Herd Boy
By Niki Daly

“Pweew! Pweew!” Malusi’s shrill whistling drives the sheep out of grandfather’s kraal. By the time they reach the grazing slopes, the earth is hot beneath his bare feet.

He keeps the sheep and goats from straying towards the deep donga, which is easy to fall into but hard to climb out of. You have to be awake, and you have to be brave, to be a herd boy.

Malusi is a herd boy. It is a big job for a small boy, yet he does it well, no matter the danger. But he also dreams of being more than a herd boy someday: Malusi wants to be president.

This simple but poignant story from South African author/illustrator (and 2015 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award nominee) Niki Daly explores the idea that many great leaders have come from humble beginnings. Perhaps what gives someone the strength and integrity to lead well isn’t so different from what it takes to be a good herd boy.

Read more about the book here on EerdWord.

Come Sunday

Come Sunday

Come Sunday
Written by Nikki Grimes
Illustrated by Michael Bryant

Come Sunday, Mommy wakes me up with whispers.
LaTasha, honey, she says to me,
Time to shed dawn’s cozy quilt.
Come on, Sweet Pea. Open up those eyes. . .

Softly, quietly begins the day of the week that, for LaTasha, is always full of glorious sounds: the pipe organ, tambourine, and drum; the footfalls of ushers marching down the aisle of the sanctuary; the sweet harmonies of the choir; and the rich vibrato of the preacher’s voice. LaTasha sings along with the congregation, confident that Heaven hears each joyful note.

Sometimes funny, sometimes serious, Nikki Grimes’ poems and the lush tapestry of colors in Michael Bryant’s illustrations celebrate a day of worship viewed through the eyes of an exuberant little girl.

Four Feet, Two Sandals

Four Feet, Two Sandals

Four Feet, Two Sandals
Written by Karen Lynn Williams and Khadra Mohammed
Illustrated by Catherine Stock

When relief workers bring used clothing to the refugee camp, everyone scrambles to grab whatever they can. Ten-year-old Lina is thrilled when she finds a sandal that fits her foot perfectly, until she sees that another girl has the matching shoe. But soon Lina and Feroza meet and decide that it is better to share the sandals than for each to wear only one.

As the girls go about their routines — washing clothes in the river, waiting in long lines for water, and watching for their names to appear on the list to go to America — the sandals remind them that friendship is what is most important.

Four Feet, Two Sandals was inspired by a refugee girl who asked the authors why there were no books about children like her. With warm colors and sensitive brush strokes, this book portrays the strength, courage, and hope of refugees around the world, whose daily existence is marked by uncertainty and fear.

The Lord's Prayer

The Lord’s Prayer

The Lord’s Prayer
By Tim Ladwig

Our Father in Heaven,
Hallowed by your name. . .

The beloved words of The Lord’s Prayer serve as the text for this remarkable book, in which Tim Ladwig illustrates how the words of this ancient prayer can have real meaning in our lives today.

In Tim’s paintings, a young girl and her father spend a day together helping an elderly neighbor. The love and guidance the child experiences in her relationship with her dad reflect the heart and will of our Heavenly Father in concrete ways children of all ages will understand.

(And One More, Just Because . . . )

Editor’s note: the following title won’t be released until next spring and so is not eligible as a prize in our giveaway today, but we’re so excited about it that we can’t resist the opportunity to tell you about it here anyway.

The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch

The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch

The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch
Written by Chris Barton
Illustrated by Don Tate

Coming in April 2015, but available for preorder now. 

John Roy Lynch spent most of his childhood as a slave in Mississippi, but all of that changed with the Emancipation Proclamation. Suddenly people like John Roy could have paying jobs and attend school. While many people in the South were unhappy with the social change, John Roy thrived in the new era. He was appointed to serve as justice of the peace and was eventually elected into the United States Congress.

This biography, with its informative backmatter and splendid illustrations, gives readers an in-depth look at the Reconstruction period through the life of one of the first African-American congressmen.

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. 

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

The entry period for the giveaway began Friday, October 17, 2014, and will end tonight at 11:59 p.m. Tuesday, October 21. One winner will be selected at random and notified by email by the end of business Wednesday, October 22.

The rules of our Five Questions interview series are simple: we send authors a long list of questions. Some are serious; some are . . . not so serious. They choose their five favorites (or in this case, eleven favorites — bonus!) and respond.

Our guest today is children’s poet and author Lee Bennett Hopkins, whose new picture book collection of Christmas poems for children is entitled Manger



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What inspired you to create Manger

Since childhood years I have always been fascinated with the legend that God granted all creatures the power of human thought or speech for just one hour on Christmas Eve. To share the legend, via poetry, with children today is indeed a privilege.

How and why did you choose the title for the book?

I wanted all the poems and animals to be set in the manger when Christ was born.

What makes Manger such a unique volume? 

Eleven of the poems were specifically commissioned for this collection by some of America’s top contemporary poets including Marilyn Nelson, Alice Schertle, and Alma Flor Ada.

What are your thoughts on Helen Cann’s illustrations?

Cann’s incredible artwork truly leaps from the pages. Her work is stellar — perfect for Manger.

Interior illustration by Helen from Manger

Interior illustration from Manger by Helen Cann.

Whom do you envision reading Manger

Adults as well as children of all ages will find poems they will love.

What do you hope readers take away from Manger?

I want readers to sense the beauty and emotions of fine poetry.

Why did you choose to publish Manger with Eerdmans?

I published a previous book, Mary’s Song, with Eerdmans, a company and staff which is a delight to work with.

What’s something not enough people know about writing poetry for children? 

Writing poetry for children is an art. It is one of the most difficult forms of writing to conquer.

What are you reading right now for work? 

A host of books of prayers.

Imagine you’re at the book talk of your dreams. Who’s the author? What’s the book? And who are the people sitting next to you scribbling witty notes on their programs? 

Langston Hughes is reading from his book, The Dream Keeper and Other Poems (Knopf, l932). He opens the new 75th Anniversary edition, illustrated by Brain Pinkney, and finds the introduction — written by ME!

What’s one thing not many people may know about you?

If I tell, they’ll know!

Click to order Lee Bennett Hopkins’s Manger, illustrated by Helen Cann. 

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

Second Letter to the CorinthiansThe Second Letter to the Corinthians
Mark A. Seifrid

The Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon (Paperback)
James D. G. Dunn

The Pilgrim’s Regress, Wade Annotated Edition
C. S. Lewis, editor David C. Downing

News from Eerdmans . . .

  • It’s Friday, so don’t forget to watch the latest episode of our vlog for children’s publishing, Coffee Break. We announce a new giveaway in this episode!
  • Eerdmans author Dale Brown was remembered on Calvin College’s website, as well as here on EerdWord.

. . . and elsewhere.

  • The New York Times reported the comments of Catholic Archbishop Bruno Forte (The Portal of Beauty) on the Vatican’s shift in attitudes toward gay marriage and divorce. Forte says that the church, while not changing its moral teachings, is making a greater attempt to respect the dignity of every person.

    Way Below the Angels

    Way Below the Angels

  • Deborah Ford, Director of Library Outreach for Junior Library Guild, posted a list of books about how “Words Make the Tale,” with the very appropriate inclusion of The Right Word (Jen Bryant and Melissa Sweet).
  • Jen Bryant and Melissa Sweet (The Right Word) posted a brilliant guest post on the TeachingBooks.net blog.
  • Craig Harline (Way Below the Angels) was interviewed on the radio program THINK from KERA, a public media broadcasting company in Texas.
  • Way Below the Angels (Harline) was also reviewed in the Exponent, where the author says Harline’s article in the Huffington Post made her want to read the book.
  • From Times Square to Timbuktu+
  • by Wesley Granberg-Michaelson was on the Christian Century‘s list of the best new books on Global Christianity and American religious history. The list was selected by Grant Wacker and Phillip Jenkins.
  • Martin Marty (Building Cultures of Trust) wrote a review in America Magazine of George Marsden’s latest book, The Twilight of the American Enlightenment, with a reference to James Bratt’s definitive biography of Abraham Kuyper.
  • Children’s poetry advocate Sylvia Vardell posted a list of poetry for young adults on the blog Poetry for Children in celebration of Teen Read Week, one of which was the novel-in-verse Crazy (Linda Vigen Phillips). Crazy and Phillips were also part of an article in Inside Bainbridge about a Bainbridge resident named Patsy Reed and her struggle with depression.
  • In Search of the Little Prince by Bimba Landmann is “Hot Off the Press” at the Children’s Book Council.

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.