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

The God We Worship

Evangelical, Catholic, and Reformed: Doctrinal Essays on Barth and Related Themes
George Hunsinger

The God We Worship: An Exploration of Liturgical Theology
Nicholas Wolterstorff

The Story That Chooses Us: A Tapestry of Missional Vision
George R. Hunsberger

News from Eerdmans . . .

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

. . . and Elsewhere

“Tilling has herein provided academic biblical scholarship not simply a model of presentation but of clarity as well.  Ambiguity is impossible for Tilling when it comes to interpreting Paul. I wish all scholars wrote as lucidly.”

“We must refuse to choose between protecting and supporting mothers and protecting and supporting their prenatal children. We can and must love them both.”

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.

Ten thousand is a lot, so first, a more modest list. Let’s call it “11 Listing Articles I Found in 0.65 Seconds”:

  1. “Five Bible Verses You Need to Stop Misusing”
  2. “12 Things You Should Stop Doing That Are Stealing Your Joy”
  3. “Ten Clichés Christians Should Never Use”
  4. “4 Things Christians Should Never Do”
  5. “15 More Things Christians Should Never Say to Atheists”
  6. “3 Things Christians Should Stop Doing on Social Media”
  7. “2 Things Christians Should Stop Doing on Social Media”
  8. “The One Thing Christians Should Stop Saying”
  9. “5 Things Christians Should Stop Saying”
  10. “6 Things Christians Should Just Stop Saying”
  11. “5 More Things Christians Should Stop Saying”

Pardon the strong opinion, but I hate this junk. I see so much wrong in this breed of “article” — it’s regurgitation passed off as writing, cliché dressed up as insight, vacuity disguised as simplicity. And it’s all just so cranky.

But of course, to keep delineating such flaws would be indulgent and self-incriminating. I’d be turning my own article into the same breed of enumerative, neo-Puritanical, pseudo-journalistic hitpiece/listpiece I so righteously despise.

So here is a better sort of listing title and the list this article is actually about, a list that offers both alternative and antidote to the listicles infecting my twitter feed: Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places.

That’s a title with promise. It has substance, and even better, beauty. It’s descriptive and declarative, not imperative; it’s celebratory, not deprecatory; it’s inexorably positive, not accusingly negative. It has a vigor lacking in all that boorish moralism.

Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places

That’s because this title is poetry. It’s the title of a book by Eugene Peterson (the first in a five-volume series on spiritual theology), but it’s also a line from “As Kingfishers Catch Fire,” a poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins. And poems are just about the exact opposite of those abhorrent listicles. They aren’t so painfully obvious, and they don’t pretend to be necessary. In fact, poetry is pretty clearly unnecessary. Like the gift of friendship described by C. S. Lewis in The Four Loves, poetry “has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.” I love this title for that very reason. Its form alone nudges us to look up from what’s merely necessary.

I love its diction, too, which seconds the movement away from and above necessity. “Christ plays.” As Peterson himself says, that verb “catches the exuberance and freedom that mark life when it is lived beyond necessity, beyond mere survival.” It projects an image of a joyful, almost childlike God, for whom action is not labor but joy.

And then there’s the vigor of the sound and rhythm, which I love as well (and which might be the chief characteristic of all of Hopkins’s verse). Hopkins resuscitates the old Anglo-Saxon prosody, with its delight in alliteration and its punchy, elusive meter, and weaves together both the sharp and fast and the thick and slow Saxon words, which gives his poems an addictively surprising music and one that repels the sometimes somnolent regular meter we all learn with Shakespeare’s sonnets. (ba-DUM ba-DUM ba-DUM ba-DUM ba-DUM . . .)

“As kingfishers catch fire”

All of this is on display in just one line. “Chríst Pláys in Tén Thoú-sand Plá-ces” — the spondee (two stressed syllables) that opens the line, the plosive “Plays” and “Places” that bookend it, the hard-soft alternation within the single world “Plays” and in the compound “Ten Thousand.” You get the sense that Hopkins himself is playing in his poetry, mimicking the lively creatures he so often describes, and mimicking ultimately the God he so often praises.

Peterson picks up the game as well. A world where “Christ plays in ten thousand places” is a world that is teeming. And when Peterson begins to locate the world he plans to map out in his “conversation in spiritual theology,” his own sentences are teeming — teeming with words.

At one point Peterson identifies a single thing as the subject of his book, the thing he says Hopkins’s poem also treats: “Our simplest word for all of this is Life.” But he cannot actually keep the idea corralled like that; it keeps breaking out into lists. He speaks of “this More, this Congruence, this Kinship, this Mystery” that we sense in reality. He speaks of “the vigor and spark and spontaneity that is inherent in all of life.” More than once he makes lists of the single word “life” simply repeated or slightly modified: “life, more life, real life”; and even simpler, “life, life, and more life.”

And in trying to locate or qualify this divine vitality, Peterson make lists of things, too: the “rocks and trees, meadows and mountains, birds and fish, dogs and cats, kingfishers and dragonflies” that populate the natural world; the glimpses we catch “in our limbs and eyes, in our feet and speech, in the faces of the men and women we see all day long, every day, in the mirror and on the sidewalk, in classroom and in kitchen, in workplace and on playgrounds, in sanctuaries and committees” of divine inhabitation. It’s as if Peterson really is trying to list as many as he can of the ten thousand places we might find Christ at play.

Here’s the thing about this kind of list. It isn’t a cramped list of things to do. It’s an overflowing list of things to love. I’d love to read more lists like that.

* * *

Philip Zoutendam

Philip Zoutendam

About Poets’ Corner:

The South Transept at Westminster Abbey is called “Poets’ Corner.” It’s a place where the luminaries of British literature, beginning with Chaucer and extending through Dryden and Dickens to Eliot and Auden, are buried and memorialized. For those who, like me, can’t quite remember their art history lessons, the transept is the shorter arm of a cruciform church. Thus the placement of Poets’ Corner becomes a symbol, a simple and beautiful reminder of the place that poetry has in faith. Not all our belief is theology, or perhaps more precisely, not all our theology is syllogism and argument. Some of it is wonder. Some of it is beauty.

I myself am no poet, and this column is not my corner. It is a place to celebrate the poetic within Eerdmans books, a place to remember that even among (and sometimes within) the thick tomes of theology we publish, there is a place for the well-chosen word, the well-turned phrase, the beautiful idea.

James R. Edwards

James R. Edwards

James R. Edwards is Bruner-Welch Professor of Theology at Whitworth University, Spokane, Washington. His book Is Jesus the Only Savior? won the Christianity Today 2006 Book Award for Apologetics/Evangelism. Edwards is the author of the Pillar New Testament Commentary volume on The Gospel According to Luke, new this month.

* * *

The Gospel of Luke is the biggest book in the New Testament, and when combined with its sequel, the Book of Acts, it comprises nearly one-third of the total New Testament. Luke-Acts is also the only continuous history of earliest Christianity in the New Testament, and as such it would not be surpassed until the Church History of Eusebius, some three hundred years later.

Luke is commonly acknowledged as the Gospel most sympathetic to Gentiles, outsiders, and the outcast. This is true, but Luke equally accentuates the birth of Jesus, his ministry, and the gospel resulting from it, as the fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel. The emphasis on Israel, Jerusalem, and especially the temple makes Luke the most uniquely Jewish Gospel as well as the Gospel most sympathetic to non-Jews.

The Gospel According to Luke

Another uniqueness in Luke’s two-part work is his interest in situating the gospel in the context of world history. This must also be seen in the context of Luke’s unfailing concern for the dispossessed — lepers, Samaritans, tax collectors, Gentiles, perhaps even women — who are relegated to the margins of history. In tandem with Luke’s interest in the dispossessed is his emphasis on rulers and authorities, including Caesars, governors, centurions, tribunes, chief priests and Pharisees, pagan religious cults, and above all, Satan himself. Two-thirds of Luke’s references to powers and authorities occur nowhere else in the New Testament. Luke not only sets the gospel in the context of these rulers and authorities, but he shows that the gospel makes a unique claim on each of them.

These two emphases are particularly important for readers today. The church is full of people on the margins, the easily overlooked or mistreated, and the church needs to be attentive to them. Luke is good news for such people. Luke’s emphasis on rulers and authorities also shows that for him, the gospel is not something “done in a corner,” but good news — public news. Luke is a helpful exhibit of Christianity with a public face.

Finally, it is important to recognize that only Luke of the four Evangelists addresses the question of the sources of his Gospel. Luke admits that he is not an eyewitness of the events he narrates, but that he draws upon eyewitness narrative, indeed from the apostles themselves. In the material unique to Luke — which comprises fully fifty percent of the entire Gospel — Luke exhibits an inordinately high number of Hebraisms, which may indicate that one of the sources alluded to in the preface (Luke 1:1–4) was, in fact, the Hebrew Gospel itself.

One of the delights of reading the Gospels is their inclusion of stories. This is particularly true of the Gospel of Luke, with its thoroughgoing narrative structure. Luke has more parables, i.e., teaching in story form, than any other Gospel. Even teaching apart from parables, such as the Sermon on the Plain in chapter 6 or the sermon on eschatology in chapter 21, is set within specific episodes in the life of Jesus. Stories are easy to identify with and equally easy to learn from. The model of Jesus’ life is thus Jesus’ preeminent parable, for Jesus is the “parable of God.”

Commentaries on the Gospels, especially on Luke, since it is the longest book in the New Testament, are now growing into two-, three-, or even four-volume affairs. I have kept my Pillar commentary to a single volume that is affordable and manageable. I also keep two audiences in mind — both scholars who are primarily interested in historical, textual, and source questions, and preachers and lay people who are more interested in the meaning and insights from the Gospel of Luke for Christian life today.

* * *

Click here to order The Gospel According to Luke. If you’re a commentary geek, join the Eerdmans Commentary Club to stay up to date on commentaries, news, and members-only sales and discounts.

The abortion debate in the United States is confused. Ratings-driven media coverage highlights extreme views and creates the illusion that we are stuck in a hopeless stalemate. In Beyond the Abortion Wars: A Way Forward for a New Generation Charles Camosy argues that our polarized public discourse hides the fact that most Americans actually agree on the major issues at stake in abortion morality and law.

Unpacking the complexity of the abortion issue, Camosy shows that placing oneself on either side of the typical polarizations — pro-life vs. pro-choice, liberal vs. conservative, Democrat vs. Republican — only serves to further confuse the debate and limits our ability to have fruitful dialogue. Camosy then proposes a new public policy that he believes is consistent with the beliefs of the broad majority of Americans and supported by the best ideas and arguments about abortion from both secular and religious sources.

Check out the book trailer below:

Praise for Beyond the Abortion Wars:

Beyond the Abortion Wars will challenge the intellectually honest on both sides of the abortion debate as well as those in the middle. With extensive research, nuanced reasoning, and humane insights, Camosy undertakes the necessary but seemingly impossible task of dismantling the current stalemate on the issue — and then forges a way forward. This book is a game-changer.”
Karen Swallow Prior, author of Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More — Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist

“This accessible work may well transform the American abortion debate. Charles Camosy gives full weight to both pro-choice feminist concerns and pro-life feminism. . . . An excellent book for everyone concerned with the questions surrounding abortion.”
Sidney Callahan, Hastings Center Distinguished Scholar

“Many of us who support the right to abortion have challenged pro-lifers to put their money where their mouth is — on equal pay, pregnancy discrimination, parental leave, health care, and child care. Camosy here does all that and more.”
— William Saletan, author of Bearing Right: How Conservatives Won the Abortion War and National Correspondent at Slate.com

Want more? Read Camosy’s op-eds in the L.A. Times and USA Today, and an excerpt of his book in The Christian Century.

Celia Deane-Drummond

Celia Deane-Drummond

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 Celia Deane-Drummond, professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame and author of The Wisdom of the Liminal: Evolution and Other Animals in Human Becoming. In addition to her doctorate in theology, she has a doctorate in plant physiology, and she was the founding Director of the Centre for Religion and the Biosciences at Chester University.

* * *

What led you to write The Wisdom of the Liminal?

This book had been simmering in my mind ever since I finished the last monograph on evolution and Christology, called Christ and Evolution: Wonder and Wisdom, published in 2009. In that book I argued for a new Christology that tried to take into account evolutionary biology and make sense of these two areas of knowledge. The Wisdom of the Liminal is a follow-up from that since I ended up in the Christology book asking questions about the human person — who we are and where we have come from? Anthropology kept creeping into questions about Christology. But I was glad that I did the Christology piece first, since all too often the other way round ends up reducing Christology to anthropology. At the same time I also have been interested in the theological status of other animals and the implications of having animals in our evolutionary journey.

The Widom of the Liminal

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

I know there was some discussion about whether The Wisdom of the Liminal might be clear enough as a title. But it is designed to intrigue the reader by posing the question of boundary. What are the liminal boundaries between us and other animals, between us and God? And further, how do these boundary issues bring to the surface a particular insight or wisdom about interrelationships? I have been working in ecotheology for many years, and much of this comes almost automatically, but I figured that such a rich, entangled sense of the human person is not as obvious to others, and I wanted to find a way of getting readers interested in this.

How many working titles did The Wisdom of the Liminal have during writing and editing? What were they? 

Other possible titles included Humans, Evolution, and Other Animals: A Theological Anthropology; or  Evolution and Other Animals in Human Becoming; or simply Human Nature and Evolution. Of course, what all these are trying to express is that this book is a new kind of anthropology that tries to take evolutionary ideas and other animal connections with humans seriously.

What makes The Wisdom of the Liminal such a unique contribution?

Well, I haven’t exactly seen anyone else write a theological anthropology like this before. There are so many books on evolution and God I hardly have room on my shelves for them. Of course, that area is very important, but what about humanity as such? Darwin wrote The Descent of Man, and that was pretty controversial, but why have theologians always concentrated just on The Origin of Species? And what if we mix some ideas around, and ask about how other species are significant to human becoming — including our moral becoming — which itself is a hugely controversial area. What I am trying to do here is transdisciplinary research, that is, a constructive theology that takes seriously key theological elements in systematic thought but interprets them in a new way, using scientific knowledge, especially that from biological anthropology.

Whom do you envision reading The Wisdom of the Liminal?

This book has been written for an academic audience, that is, other professors in theology or possibly religious studies. But I try to write in as clear a way as possible so that it can be user-friendly for more advanced students, and, for those with some familiarity with theology, a wider audience as well. I also know anthropologists who have read this book as well as those from other disciplines. If they are used to reading outside their discipline they should be able to pick up at least the central message of the book. I also didn’t want to water down the academic aspects of this too much either, as there is a tendency to think that theology and science lose depth by being interdisciplinary. I wanted to prove that it does not have to be like that — that there can be real depth in the midst of engaging across disciplines, as long as all the terms are carefully explained.

What do you hope readers take away from reading The Wisdom of the Liminal?

My hope is that readers will go away with a different understanding of what it means to be human, and begin to think about some of the ethical implications that this generates. Of course, I have another book simmering in here in that I know the book raises questions about morality and ethics that I could not do justice to in this book. That is the next one simmering! But if the reader is prepared to be patient with me, I hope they will wait for this, and take away some insight about how it is possible to be a committed Christian theologian and engage seriously with evolutionary biology. It does not all have to be conflict, nor does the discussion have to synthesize theology and evolutionary biology. At the end of the day I hope the reader goes away asking more questions that they can follow up for themselves.

What difficulties did you face in writing The Wisdom of the Liminal?

One of the difficulties was knowing what to leave out. Every chapter I wrote felt like it could have turned into another book, and I was also aware of the limitations of my own understanding of anthropology and the evolutionary sciences. I have done my best to put as much of that in as would be helpful, but there is always more that could be done. That is why I hope others will go away and do more research — this book raises as many questions as it answers. And one of the reasons why  “liminal” is in the title is that I have a sense that some questions will never find any sort of clear solution: we live in that liminal space that forces us to let go of previously held certainties, while at the same time acknowledging that our experience of faith forms and shapes what comes to the surface.

Why did you choose to publish The Wisdom of the Liminal with Eerdmans?

Well, the honest answer is that a number of scholars whom I hold in high regard had suggested Eerdmans to me to consider as a publisher, including Jean Porter at Notre Dame. I thought it was about time I tried my hand with Eerdmans!

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

Perhaps that I lived in a very poor area of Manchester called Moss Side when I was writing my doctoral dissertation, and given how (relatively speaking) violent it was, I decided to take up Karate so I would feel safer on the streets. I got to be a purple belt and then had a rather unfortunate big toe accident so I had to stop.

What are you doing when you’re not reading, writing, teaching, or answering questions for EerdWord? 

My two children Sara (nearly 15) and Mair (nearly 10) occupy much of my free time; as a mother I am often facing choices that are difficult, and I am sure I don’t always get it right. But I am starting to take my older daughter with me on some trips now, and that is a real joy to me, as she can benefit from some of the traveling I do so as to widen her experience.

What’s the best advice you can give to aspiring scholars?

Be yourself. One of the most powerful things that was said to me as a young scholar was all theology is biography. I think that is true; our writing is shaped by our experiences of life whether we like it or not. And if that doesn’t somehow get woven into your theology it loses out in terms of being inspiring to read.

What’s next for you?

Well, I have hinted at that above, but actually I have two books up my sleeve. One is a book on ethics that was originally going to be on sustainability, but that has proved so hard and complicated I decided to tackle the problem differently by focusing on evolution, morality, and other animals. I have a number of articles published now that deal with this topic, and really a monograph on this is waiting to happen. In addition, I would also like to do something more systematic on pneumatology (i.e. on the Holy Spirit) — a revised pneumatology in the light of evolutionary biology and the issues arising in The Wisdom of the Liminal. Now, rather more work has been done on this by scholars who are ecotheologians; I would like to take a rather different slant, but exactly how that will shape up is still simmering. Once it gets clearer in my head I will be ready to write, but I will do the ethics book first, and that should, I hope, pave the way for something on pneumatology.

What question should we have asked you (but didn’t)?

Maybe how grateful I am to scientists I have talked to or read carefully in the course of writing the books I have written. Agustín Fuentes is a key figure for me, and I am lucky enough to be collaborating with him as he is at Notre Dame. But also I owe a debt of gratitude to Marc Bekoff and Simon Conway Morris as well. All these scholars, by their openness to talking to theologians like me, show that science is not a closed area of study, but can contribute to the life and vitality of theology in a new way. And, if there was one theologian who I currently owe inspiration to more than many others that is Thomas Aquinas. It is his method of faith seeking understanding that is so important to me, with his ability to weave in insights from other disciplines yet keep his head clear in terms of a focus on theology. Now, of course I am not a Thomist scholar and I daresay the way I draw on his work may annoy some readers, but in spite of that I hope it will make people think, for I believe that my work is at least in the spirit of what he inspires by his very openness to being challenged and engaging in serious debate with others.

Click to order The Wisdom of the Liminal by Celia Deane-Drummond.

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