Each Wednesday throughout these forty days of Lent we’re sharing devotional excerpts from recent or forthcoming Eerdmans books. Today’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 2015 Lenten Midweek Readings

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Dear Abba

Dear Abba

Fourth Day — Morning

“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

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.

Week-3

Anthony C. Thiselton

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.

Our guest today is Anthony C. Thiselton, professor emeritus of Christian theology at the University of Nottingham, England, and a world-renowned scholar of biblical interpretation. Thiselton has published numerous works with Eerdmans over the last three decades. His latest book, The Thiselton Companion to Christian Theology, draws from the author’s encyclopedic knowledge to give an account of a wide sweep of topics and thinkers in Christian theology — everything from “Abba” to “Zwingli.”

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What led you to write the Companion?

Several factors led me to write it. First, I shall soon be seventy-eight and have already suffered a major stroke. The general advice about writing in old age seems to be either draw on a lifetime of research to continue to attempt an original work, or draw on a lifetime of teaching and research in order to present the fruits of your teaching and research as a useful textbook. Second, some years ago I had already produced a Concise Encyclopedia of the Philosophy of Religion, published by OneWorld, Oxford, and wanted to extend this to Christian Theology. Third, many years ago I used to contribute to multi-authored symposia, but after rushing to meet the publisher’s deadline, I often had to wait months for the later authors to submit their articles or essays. I was determined to write a single authored volume. I began with the aim of producing a volume primarily for teaching and learning but soon discovered that a number of topics required careful research as well as teaching. In the end, the companion consists of 600 articles, the average length of which is 700 words, but those which required special research amount to between 20,000 and 25,000 words. After over fifty years of teaching and research, I hope that this volume will serve the academic community of both teachers and students.

The Thiselton Companion to Christian Theology

What makes the Companion distinctive?

As I have already written, I was not prepared for this to be a multi-authored volume. In any case, I have always been disappointed that volumes written by several authors inevitably vary in quality. The advantage of writing the whole thing on my own is that I have not had to depend on a team of editors setting arbitrary word-lengths for articles in advance of writing. Instead, I could discover during the writing how much each topic or name deserved. Naturally, God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, and atonement deserved the most space. But, to select modern theologians as an example, I found that Pannenberg deserved the greatest number of words because he is both practical and yet enormously complex. Other priorities emerged as Ricoeur, Moltmann, Rahner, Balthasar, Barth, and several others. On other topics, hermeneutics and narrative seemed to need more attention than in many similar dictionaries. All in all, a single author can guarantee some degree of coherence. I could also give space for publishing, publisher, date, and page number for every longer article. Again and again I have been disappointed when other reference books fail to provide this. It is often what one needs most urgently of all. Finally, as Kevin Vanhoozer graciously observes on the cover, I aimed to produce a work that was equally competent in New Testament, systematic theology, philosophy, and hermeneutics, as a unified inter-disciplinary study.

Whom do you envision reading the Companion?  

Everyone from scholars and researchers to teachers and learners. I can even imagine the inquiring layman benefiting from most of the articles. That is why I have provided a careful time chart of thinkers at the beginning of the book, and when discussing subjects and thinkers have endeavored to explain the context in which each occurs. A thinker is given his or her dates and a general explanation about their significance for Christian theology. As one might expect, articles become longer and more complicated when research issues are also essential. I have tried to be tolerably simple, but to avoid any oversimplification.

What challenges did you face in writing the book? 

The greatest challenge was to limit the book to 600 articles, since there are many others which I might have included. Those that I did include seem to me to be most important and urgent, given the discussions of our times. Clearly a question about word length is also a tricky one, but I have tried to provide the kind of length which I myself would have liked to read in a similar position. I tried to include people of most Protestant denominations, Roman Catholic theologians, and Eastern Orthodox thinkers.

The Two Horizons

Why did you choose to publish the Companion with Eerdmans? 

My history with Eerdmans goes back to 1977 initially and then in 1980 when they published my book The Two Horizons. From 1982 to ’83 I visited Grand Rapids for one year as a fellow of Calvin College, and came to know Jon Pott, then senior editor at Eerdmans, together with such distinguished friends as Nicholas Wolterstorff. Since that time I have enjoyed a growing friendship with Jon Pott, and most of my twenty-three books — although admittedly not all — have been published with the Eerdmans. On top of my friendship, I have seen Eerdmans become a front-line publisher in theology, retaining the respect of readers and writers of all persuasions, but also representing, as I do, a faith that is firmly evangelical, scholarly, and progressive. I can think of no other publisher who commands such high respect among both conservative evangelical Christians and also those of all shades of theological opinion.

P.S. What is next for you?  

Eerdmans is gracious enough to publish a one-volume Systematic Theology, which they hope to bring out this fall. I have yet to proofread it and index it. Further, I have just finished writing Discovering Romans in a series published by SPCK and Eerdmans. I have finished the introduction and commentary, but my wife Rosemary is now typing the final 20,000 words, and I have yet to index that. Eerdmans has also asked me to bring out a much smaller version of my book The Holy Spirit — in Biblical Teaching, through the Centuries, and Today, which they published in 2013, so I shall shortly begin attempting to write that. They have also kindly accepted my idea to write on doubt, faith, and certainty, which still requires much thought and writing. Wipf and Stock has just published A Lifetime in the Church and the University, which is mainly light entertainment, but with a bit about God’s providence and a little theology.

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Click here to order The Thiselton Companion to Christian Theology, and visit Anthony Thiselton’s author page to peruse his entire collection of Eerdmans books.

Adam Kolman Marshak holds a Ph.D. in ancient history from Yale University. More than a decade of research and writing on Herod and the Herodian dynasty has gone into his new book, The Many Faces of Herod the Great. In our interview, Marshak discussed the skewed image we have of Herod today and why, despite being quite brutal at times, Herod was actually an effective ruler. Watch below:

 

Herod - cover

About The Many Faces of Herod the Great:

An old, bloodthirsty tyrant hears from a group of Magi about the birth of the Messiah, king of the Jews. He vengefully sends his soldiers to Bethlehem with orders to kill all of the baby boys in the town in order to preserve his own throne. For most of the Western world, this is Herod the Great — an icon of cruelty and evil, the epitome of a tyrant.

Adam Kolman Marshak portrays Herod the Great quite differently, however, carefully drawing on historical, archaeological, and literary sources. Marshak shows how Herod successfully ruled over his turbulent kingdom by skillfully interacting with his various audiences — Roman, Hellenistic, and Judaean — in myriad ways. Herod was indeed a master in political self-presentation.

Marshak’s fascinating account chronicles how Herod moved from the bankrupt usurper he was at the beginning of his reign to a wealthy and powerful king who founded a dynasty and brought ancient Judaea to its greatest prominence and prosperity.

Click to order The Many Faces of Herod the Great from our 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

Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, Volume XI (paperback)
G. Johannes Botterweck, Helmer Ringgren, and Heinz-Josef Fabry, editors

News from Eerdmans . . .

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

. . . and Elsewhere

“Smith’s book is valuable not only because it makes Taylor’s arguments clearer but also because it pushes back against Taylor in some key places, or at least I read it as pushing back . . . it is highly instructive for anyone of any religion or none who is interested in the future of religion, and so in the future of humanity.”

“Looking back it points to a concrete givenness of community, a present and existing form within which we have been given to communicate with others, and which we cannot ignore without great blame. Looking forward, it can invite us to think of a City of God, a sphere of universal community, and encourage us to seek intimations of it from the future.”

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.

CopywritersNotebook_the2

If you’ve been paying attention to my little corner of this blog for a couple of years now, you may remember how well I love bookstore and library displays that present “If you liked __________, try these similar titles!”

I have a new Eerdword display for you today. If you liked Mudhouse Sabbath by Lauren Winner, try Confucius for Christians by Gregg Ten Elshof.

In Mudhouse Sabbath Lauren Winner, a convert from Orthodox Judaism to Christianity, reflects on the rich traditions and spiritual practices of Judaism and presents ways that they can be incorporated into Christianity. It’s a beautiful book that I learned a lot from and that added new dimensions to my own faith.

In Confucius for Christians: What an Ancient Chinese Worldview Can Teach Us about Life in Christ, Gregg Ten Elshof reflects on the teachings of Jesus and Confucius together. He takes a passage from the Confucian Analects and a passage from the Bible on the same topic — family, learning, ethics, etc. — and discusses how the wisdom present in both really fits together — better, usually, than the typical Western worldview fits with what Jesus had to say.

There are a few important differences between the two books, of course. Ten Elshof, unlike Winner, was raised in the Christian faith, and he reflects on the teachings of a deep and influential wisdom tradition rather than on the practices of a competing religion. But the principle that lies at the very heart of the two books is constant: Christianity could be enriched by wisdom from other traditions.

Take Ten Elshof’s chapter on the topic of learning for example. The Confucian Analects say “I will not open the door for a mind that is not already striving to understand, nor will I provide words to a tongue that is not already struggling to speak.”

Doesn’t that sound a lot like Jesus’ tendency to teach in parables?

In reflecting on what it means to love learning, as Confucius instructs, Ten Elshof says “The position of the learner is submissive and unknowing. To be a learner is to be a follower. To embrace learning to is embrace incompletion.”

Doesn’t that sound a lot like Jesus-following? Our knowledge now is necessarily incomplete, so we’re constantly learning and following Jesus, embracing our inherent shortcomings as humans.

I know it can be hard to accept wisdom from other traditions and figure out how to faithfully apply it to our own faith experiences. But Ten Elshof’s book is an excellent example of how to do it well. If you’re nervous about it, take his advice:

Read [the Analects of Confucius] not in order to point out all of the similarities and differences with traditional orthodox Christian thought. Read them as scientists of human flourishing. Read them in search of anything that might conduce to the human life well-lived. Remember that Jesus loves you. And he wants you to flourish. And he would have you to find ideas conducive to your flourishing wherever they are to be found. He won’t be threatened in the slightest if you find ideas conducive to your flourishing somewhere other than in his teachings or the teachings of his followers.

And, I would suggest, take Ten Elshof along to guide you through.

Mark your calendars for August 2015. Gregg Ten Elshof. Confucius for Christians.

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Laura Bardolph Hubers

Laura Bardolph Hubers

About The Copywriter’s Notebook:

I’m Laura Bardolph Hubers, and I’m the resident copywriter at Eerdmans.

The books I’m excited about, at any given moment, are not the books anyone else is excited about. It’s not that my interests are completely divergent from everyone else’s — it’s just that, due to the nature of my job, I’m always looking at books that aren’t coming out any time soon.

The Copywriter’s Notebook is a place for me to post my notes on all the fantastic things that cross my desk, long before they get to yours.

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