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. 

News from Eerdmans . . .

  • It’s been a quiet week at Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

. . . and Elsewhere

  • The Ecumenical Institute of Theology at St. Mary’s Seminary & University in Baltimore held a book launch on Wednesday for Becoming the Gospel, Michael Gorman’s new book on missional theology in Paul. Gorman, along with Dr. John Franke of the Gospel and Our Culture Network and Stephan Bauman, President and CEO of World Relief, spoke about the book’s argument that mission is at the heart of the Gospel and, as such, the church is called to become the Gospel, not just believe it.
Michael Gorman speaking at the book launch for Becoming the Gospel

Michael Gorman speaking at the book launch for Becoming the Gospel

Have we missed any news, reviews, or other online miscellany dealing with Eerdmans 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 write to us directly: webmaster@eerdmans.com.

“You kind of feel bad for the guy,” writes blogger Lauren Davis about the TV show Salem. Then she says to her readers: “I never thought I’d write those words about Cotton Mather.”

The First American Evangelical: A Short Life of Cotton Mather

The First American Evangelical: A Short Life of Cotton Mather

In other promotional material for Salem, Cotton Mather is described as a tortured soul.” One character remembers that as a kid, “he used to dress like a girl. Fought like one too.” Increase Mather, his father, is portrayed as profoundly disappointed in him. “Imagine,” the father says to his son, “how proud I am to have raised a son so steadfast in his ability to consistently make the wrong decisions.”

Again, in her blog post “Is Salem Really Trying to Make Cotton Mather a Hero?” Lauren Davis writes of her sympathy for Cotton Mather. Yes: “He is too naïve, too easily flattered, too trusting of people in power,” but “he is not completely blinded by his faith, not using the witch hysteria as a means of securing or celebrating his own power, not looking down on his parishioners for being less holy than he.”

People want to hate him, but sympathy creeps in to adulterate the purity of their hatred. In Marvel Comic’s Team-Up series, Spider-Man goes up against Cotton Mather. Mather, known as Witch-Slayer, is a time traveler with telepathic superpowers. He is a one man lynch mob against evil and Spider-man, a defender of due process of law, has to protect the Scarlet Witch.

But even as Spidey, with his biting wit, sneers at Mather’s ego, the artist and editor in the last frame show a pathetic Cotton, a man not as evil as he seems.

Cotton Mather - Spiderman

Cotton Mather - Spiderman 2

Many in popular media have wanted to hate Cotton Mather. Like Spider-man they would like to vanquish him and move on, dismiss him with a witty punchline about having his own ego as his God. But Cotton Mather is to these people like a horror scene from which they just can’t look away. They know almost nothing of his real life. They believe myths about him — lies, really — about him whipping crowds into a frenzy at the execution of Salem witches. It’s not that they can’t handle the truth; rather, they don’t want the truth. They want to hang him up as a piñata at a party where blindfolded people get to swing at him.

Rick Kennedy

Rick Kennedy

But Cotton Mather isn’t to be toyed with. There is something true in the depths of the myth — something noble, something honorable. Cotton Mather is not evil. He is a man of honorable faith. He is a man whose life points to a true spiritual warfare that we all know in our hearts — a warfare between good and evil, a real God and a real Devil, a warfare between truths we know and deceptions that the deceiver wants to weave.

In truth, Cotton Mather was neither a witch-hunter in Salem nor a telepathic time-traveler with superpowers. He was a pastor of the largest and most influential church in British America, a preacher much beloved by his congregation. He was then, and always has been, fascinating. What was most fascinating about him was the intensity of his love for God and his love for his neighbors. Yes, he believed that Salem was a battlefield in the war against Satan.

Maybe he was right.

* * *

Rick Kennedy is professor of history at Point Loma Nazarene University, secretary of the Conference on Faith and History, and author of various books and articles on the history of colonial New England. His newest book is The First American Evangelical: A Short Life of Cotton Mather. Learn more about the book in our favorite Eerdmans Author Interview filmed at sea:

With spring gloriously in bloom all around us, it may seem strange that we’re already looking forward to the fall season so eagerly — but we just can’t help ourselves. With so many great books headed our way in the coming months, it’s hard to keep from thinking ahead.

Don’t believe us? See for yourself: the Eerdmans Fall 2015 trade catalog is now available!

F15TrCat cover

Click to read online.

If you normally receive our print catalogs in the mail, watch for this latest to arrive in your mailbox soon (if it hasn’t already).

If you don’t already receive catalogs from us, why not request one today? We’ll have your free catalog on its way with the next mailing.

You can also view or download a PDF of this (or any of our other recent catalogs) on Scribd or browse all our catalogs on Edelweiss.

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 and respond.

William P. Brown

William P. Brown

Our guest today is William P. Brown, the William Marcellus McPheeters Professor of Old Testament at Columbia Theological Seminary and the author of numerous books, including Wisdom’s Wonder. His newest book, Sacred Sense: Discovering the Wonder of God’s Word and World, is a bracing biblical call to cultivate wonder as a way of life.

* * *

What led you to write Sacred Sense?

A sense of wonder about what I do as a teacher and interpreter of Scripture. I can’t imagine a more interesting (and challenging) vocation: to interpret ancient texts for contemporary life. Karl Barth once said that when a theologian loses a sense of wonder in his or her work, it’s time to find another vocation. So far so good.

This book has helped me to articulate more fully what I find compelling and captivating in interpreting biblical texts to interpret the world and in interpreting the world to interpret biblical texts. I stand in a long and venerable (though neglected) tradition that views the Bible and creation as God’s two “books.” Both must be read together (see Psalm 19).

This book also develops what I have found to be a generative way to begin Bible study, and that is to open with the question “What do you find wonderful about this text?” This can be followed by “What do you find troubling about this text?” With these two questions posed at the outset, the resulting discussion is bound to take some surprising turns. Sacred Sense is all about the surprises I’ve encountered in my study of Scripture with others throughout the years.

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

Confession: the title of my original proposal was “Fifty Shades of Green.” It sounded clever at the time, and it did make a lot of people laugh, but it lost its appeal in the passage of time. This was my reasoning: the color green (not gray) has to do with what is life-giving — the color of grace, you might say. It also spoke to my ecological interests, which run throughout the book. I do make a reference to this erstwhile title within the body of the book, but I’ll let the reader enjoy finding it.

Sacred Sense

“Sacred sense” refers to that inquisitive, holy sense — a seventh sense, if you will — with which we are all born, but which we inevitably lose or suppress as we grow into adulthood with all of its demands and responsibilities. Rachel Carson, the environmentalist, wrote her book The Sense of Wonder (after Silent Spring) precisely to address this loss of wonder, specifically the wonder of nature. And so I write mine with a similar concern: the loss of wonder of God’s word and, inseparably, God’s world. But it is a sense that, thank God, can be reawakened and cultivated to new heights of awareness of God, the world, and the self (“wonderfully and fearfully made”). For theological readers, think of it as a way of bridging Rachel Carson and Rudolf Otto (with his Idea of the Holy).

What makes Sacred Sense such a unique contribution?

I’ll leave it to the reader to judge, but within my own area of expertise I don’t see much out there that explicitly weds together wonder and faith, specifically wonder and the reading of Scripture. And yet I find wonder at the core of Christian faith and practice. I would wager that it is a sense of wonder that impels many readers of Scripture to read Scripture, whether devotionally or critically (or both). Moreover, it is out of wonder that people of faith encounter the world as God’s creation. But this is no rose-colored kind of wonder. I spend a great deal of space unpacking the expansive notion of “wonder” in its original sense, not the sugarcoated sense that is common in everyday discourse and is associated, for example, with a particular kind of bread. No, wonder traverses freely between disorientation and new orientation, between disruption and discernment, fear and fascination. In fact, some have suggested that the word “wonder” comes from the old German word for “wound.” Whether that’s true or not I’m hesitant to say (and I discuss this in the book), but what I can say is that the book of Job helps me to make the connection.

Whom do you envision reading Sacred Sense?

This book is written for general readers, including church groups and students. Pastors, too, will find something useful, since some of my chapters began as sermons. I think the book would be ideal for groups interested in Bible study, including Sunday school classes. It may be also useful for seminary students who might feel a bit overwhelmed with the technical aspects of exegesis. This book is a reminder of why they are doing it in the first place.

What do you hope readers take away from reading Sacred Sense?

Simply this: a renewed sense of wonder of the biblical text and, beyond that, of God and creation. I don’t even care whether my readers agree with how I interpret these various texts (which make strike some as controversial). But if they have found a renewed passion for biblical study, infused with a sense of wonder, expecting to be surprised by the text, then that’s wonderful! As I hope each chapter demonstrates, wonder always leads to wondering.

How does Sacred Sense tie into your previous books on the subject?

My last book, Wisdom’s Wonder (also Eerdmans), laid the groundwork for Sacred Sense, but it was narrowly focused on the wisdom books of the Hebrew Bible. In this book, I extend my interpretive approach to include both Testaments, from Genesis to Revelation, much to the dismay of my New Testament colleagues. I’ve already started apologizing.

Click to order Sacred Sense: Discovering the Wonder of God’s Word and World by William P. Brown.

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

Sex Difference in Christian Theology

Sex Difference in Christian Theology

Sex Difference in Christian Theology: Male, Female, and Intersex in the Image of God
By Megan K. DeFranza

News from Eerdmans . . .

  • On Monday we announced that James Ernest will be the next Eerdmans Editor in Chief. James brings to Eerdmans more than two decades of experience in acquiring and editing academic books in biblical studies and related fields, most recently at Baker Publishing Group, where he was Executive Editor for Baker Academic and Brazos Press. We’re delighted to welcome him!

. . . and Elsewhere

  • Sojourners published a book review of Sex Difference in Christian Theology on their Culture Watch blog. “DeFranza speaks powerfully to current debates on what the image of God means and shows clearly how these complicated theological problems directly affect people’s lives,” the reviewer concludes. “I hope her important work will help pastors and families care for intersex people, and not reject them.”

Have we missed any news, reviews, or other online miscellany dealing with Eerdmans 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 write to us directly: webmaster@eerdmans.com.

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