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

  • Bearing the Unbearable

    Bearing the Unbearable

    Publishers Weekly released a positive review of Bearing the Unbearable: Trauma, Gospel, and Pastoral Care by Deborah van Deusen Hunsinger. Hunsinger’s answer to the question of trauma “is uniquely Christian,” says the reviewer, and her “thoughtful exploration of a fundamental issue faced by all who witness suffering as they work will be useful to pastoral care professionals.”

  • Charles Camosy, author of Beyond the Abortion Wars, published an article in The Atlantic on the late-term abortion ban currently being considered in Congress. The 20-week ban represents the kind of moderate legislation that has majority support among Americans, says Camosy. The bill “presents the perfect opportunity for the moderate middle on abortion to press both parties to act.”
  • Camosy also got some attention this week on Ethika Politika, where Beyond the Abortion Wars received a very positive review:

Chapter one alone, which aggregates American opinion polls on abortion and shatters stereotypical narratives, justifies buying Beyond the Abortion Wars. . . . His calls for new policies that reflect a trending pro-life American consensus may prove prophetic.

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.

There was just enough distance between my brother and I in our ages (he was four years ahead of me in school), and just enough difference in our interests (he was in band, I played tennis), that I never had to be “Michel’s brother.” But I had friends who were “Emily’s sister” and “Mr. Randall’s son,” friends identified and defined by people other than themselves. I felt sorry for them. I was sorry that, in some way, they couldn’t be judged on their own merits and accomplishments. I was sorry they had to live in someone else’s shadow.

Maybe you knew someone in the same position, and maybe you felt sorry for them. Maybe you were in that position yourself, and others felt sorry for you.

Joy Davidman

But I doubt that any of us had it quite as bad as Joy Davidman.

Who was Joy Davidman, you ask? She was C. S. Lewis’s wife.

I imagine that anything one might do as Mrs. Clive Staples Lewis would be overshadowed, in his lifetime as well as ours, by so giant a personality. But Joy didn’t do just anything. She, too, was a writer. She, too, published books — novels and poetry and even Christian theology.

You may be familiar with Joy Davidman. You many even have read about her, perhaps in a biography of her husband, or maybe in the play about their marriage (Shadowlands, adapted from the TV movie, and later itself adapted into a feature film), or maybe in Lewis’s own book, A Grief Observed.[1] But you’ve likely never read anything by her.

A Naked Tree

A Naked Tree

That is a shame — but it’s one that now can be remedied. Don King has edited her collected poems, many previously unpublished, and they’re available in a beautiful volume recently published by Eerdmans: A Naked Tree: Love Sonnets to C. S. Lewis and Other Poems.

You can see there in the title just how hard it is to separate Davidman from Lewis and approach her as a poet in her own right. The casual reader will see the “Lewis” first and then the “love”; sonnets will be secondary; “other poems,” and even the poet’s name, might be negligible.

But of the 300+ pages of poems in this book, those sonnets comprise less than thirty. And as tempting as it might be to flip right to the back and start with sonnet I, “Dear Jack,” that would be quite a mistake.

In those last few pages, in the sonnets and in some other poems to Lewis, Davidman’s humor comes out. Her readiness to toy with the sing-song patterns of the sonnet, and her willingness to lay down a lame rhyme out of sheer playfulness, show just how much she loved (and trusted) Lewis.[2] But though these poems form a truly compelling work as a sonnet sequence — especially with their conception of Lewis as Davidman’s antagonist, a man whose distant politeness is a sharper weapon than cruelty could ever be — the best poetry precedes them.

In the poems not written to Lewis (or at least not written about him or her love for him), Davidman proves herself a remarkably agile poet. She composes in just about every form imaginable: not just sonnets, but free verse, terza rima, Sapphic stanzas, villanelles. There’s an impressive sestina in this collection, which is a nearly impossible feat, and there’s also a successful acrostic — in hendecasyllables to boot — which might be an even more impossible feat.

Davidman also has the gift of plying the simple word to form the complex idea. In one of the memorable poems from her conversion period, “Prayer before Daybreak,” she uses words available to most children — mostly monosyllables, in fact — to weave through the paradox and ironies of her deepest existential question:

I have loved some ghost or other all my years.
Dead men, their kisses and their fading eyes
dim in the house of memory; glimmers
in twilight air, no more. They were not there
to say no to me when I wanted them,
so it was safe to love them.
And dead gods,
blind eyes in plaster in the safe museum,
the broken hands without the thunderbolt
and the lost mouths that could not laugh at prayers
I did not make to them.
. . . . .
Only the terrible Now
I dared not love. Not the word made flesh,
not the Incarnation bearing a sword
to strike me to the heart; not that which is,
but is not I.

Perhaps Davidman’s greatest gift is her rich imagination, which is on display even in her earliest poems. Davidman can see and transmit visions of subtle beauty. Her modest diction is again an aid in this, transporting the reader seamlessly into the world she creates. My favorite example of this is “Endymion: I Had Prayed to the Distant Goddess,” just the fourth poem in this collection, written when Davidman was — astoundingly — just fifteen. She writes about Endymion’s love for Selene, the goddess of the moon; the final two stanzas of the poem, where Endymion (thinks) he finally gets what he wants, capture the complex of immanence and distance impressed on us by both nature and the divine:

Then the moon answered and came down to me.
Oh — I had lain for many nights and sighed
Because she was no nearer, though I knew
The moon was brighter for the distance. Now
She has come down, the years’ dream has come true.
A silver shadow floating above my head,
The cold white moon dissolving in the air,
And dripping liquid silver through the pines,
Till it surrounded me in silver dew,
All of the brightness soft within my arms.

 Yet she was magic, high above the pines,
Being divine and unattainable,
And white-serene, while I looked up at her.

For readers who love C. S. Lewis (and that seems to be all readers) it is tempting to think of someone like Joy Davidman as simply another member of his solar system — perhaps one of the brightest, but one who nevertheless owes all her light, and all her importance, to her proximity to him, the sun. The poems in A Naked Tree should convince us otherwise — and so would Lewis, if he were here. Joy Davidman was never just “C. S. Lewis’s wife” to him. She is her own light, and that light is undimmed even in the shadow of Lewis himself.

Click to order A Naked Tree: Love Sonnets to C. S. Lewis and Other Poems, and click here to see the full text of the poems mentioned in this post, “Prayer before Daybreak” and “Endymion: I Had Prayed to the Distant Goddess.”

* * *

[1] Lewis’s popular memoir Surprised by Joy predates his relationship with Davidman and is not about her — though nearly all his biographers can’t help but borrow that title for their chapter about Davidman.

[2] In one poem, titled “Apologetic Ballade by a White Witch” (clearly a nod to the Narnia books), Davidman jokes about casting a spell to call down winter. In the last stanza, to rhyme with her refrain, she twists the lines into some pretty bad poetry:

Prince, I’ll never do it no more!
My interest was purely scientif-
Ic (as doctors say when they bathe in gore);
I just wanted to see what would happen, if . . .

 * * *

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.

 

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.

Michael Gorman

Michael Gorman

Our guest today is Michael J. Gorman, author of several highly-regarded books on Paul. His latest book is Becoming the Gospel: Paul, Participation, and Mission, the first detailed exegetical treatment of Paul’s letters from the emerging discipline of missional hermeneutics. Gorman holds the Raymond E. Brown Chair in Biblical Studies and Theology at St. Mary’s Seminary and University, Baltimore, Maryland

* * *

What led you to write Becoming the Gospel?

I have always believed that Paul had a robust ecclesiology and, of course, a deep personal sense of mission. In addition, I would consider myself part of the “participationist” school of Pauline interpretation. So I had been wondering how these fit together. For the last decade or so I have also been deeply involved in the Forum on Missional Hermeneutics of the Gospel and Our Culture Network. The Network is indebted to the work of the late missiologist Lesslie Newbigin. The Forum, which meets in conjunction with SBL, takes the missio Dei and the church’s part in it as the starting point for biblical interpretation. Since I am first of all a student of Paul, in this context I began thinking through how a missional strategy of interpretation would affect our reading of Paul’s letters. After several years of thinking, researching, and presenting my results in various lectures and articles, I decided it was time to pull those forays into a coherent whole, write some additional essays related to those papers, and put the collection into a larger Pauline theological framework. That framework is “participation” — in Christ, in God, in the mission of God.

Gorman_ecoming the Gospel_wrk02.indd

Becoming the Gospel

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

You can probably credit Paul for the choice of title. For a long time I have noticed how important participation and transformation are to Paul’s theology and spirituality. For him, his colleagues, and his churches, the gospel of the resurrected crucified Messiah has to be embodied, narrated, incarnated. I have often referred to this idea in terms of the church becoming a “living exegesis” of the gospel. For me, one of the most succinct and poignant expressions of this idea is found in 2 Cor. 5:21, which says, “For our sake God made him to be sin who knew no sin [Christ], so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” There you have it: the gospel, participation, and transformation all in one sentence, in which one very key word is “become.”

As an important aside, I would add that at this very moment, in the city where I teach (Baltimore), some of my current and former students and colleagues — and their churches — are among those becoming the gospel of peace, reconciliation, and justice in a broken city. Perhaps they are the reason for the title.

What makes Becoming the Gospel such a unique contribution?

To the best of my knowledge, this is the first book-length treatment of Paul from a missional perspective. It is also unusual in being quite interdisciplinary: an intersection of biblical studies, hermeneutics, missiology, theology, and practical theology. Perhaps most importantly for Pauline studies and for the life of the church, the book argues — contrary to some highly influential interpreters of Paul — that the apostle really did expect his communities to be engaged in mission. Moreover, the book defines “mission” quite broadly because Paul did. We’re not simply talking about verbal sharing of the gospel, though that is part of mission in Paul’s view.

Whom do you envision reading Becoming the Gospel?

Everyone! First of all, I hope pastors, seminary students, and lay leaders in the churches will read it. As always, I have deliberately written a book that attempts to be challenging but readable. I want to spark conversations and then action in the church. We certainly need both. Secondly, I hope biblical scholars, missiologists, theologians, and others who teach in and influence the various fields of study that come together in this book will read Becoming. It is intended to be a major contribution to these various fields.

Cruciformity

How does Becoming the Gospel tie into your previous work on Paul?

As some EerdWord readers will know, Becoming the Gospel is my third monograph on Paul with Eerdmans. The first was Cruciformity: Paul’s Narrative Spirituality of the Cross, the second Inhabiting the Cruciform God, and the third, of course, Becoming the Gospel. (I also wrote Apostle of the Crucified Lord: A Theological Introduction to Paul and His Letters with Eerdmans — second edition now in process.) In the first pages of Becoming I say that these three monographs constitute an accidental trilogy, for each has naturally led to the next, and the three hang together in significant ways. In Cruciformity I focused on Paul’s spirituality of participation — of being in Christ and being conformed to his cross-shaped story, suggesting at the end that “colonies of cruciformity” (i.e., churches) were inherently “missionary.” In Inhabiting I argued that cruciformity was actually theoformity, or what the Christian tradition calls theosis. At the end of that book I hinted that theosis had missional implications but did not develop the idea very much.

In Becoming, I take a new look at several of Paul’s letters from the perspective of participation in Christ, and therefore in the life of God, as being inherently missional. In fact, I suggest that theosis, rather than being anti-mission as some might think, is the proper framework for mission because participating in the life of God means participating in the mission of God. And that means taking on the missional traits of God: faithfulness, love, peaceableness, justice, and so on.

Interestingly, as I revise Apostle of the Crucified Lord I am finding that my now thoroughly missional approach to Paul, which has been developing over the decade or so since the first edition was published, requires the inclusion of some perspectives I had never previously imagined. It’s fun!

Finally, if you had to describe your book in about twenty words, what would those words be?

Paul calls us not only to believe the gospel but also to become the gospel and thereby to advance the gospel.

Learn more about Michael Gorman on his blog, Cross Talk, and click to order Becoming the Gospel.

Yesterday we told you about five great books on Paul. Today we’re giving you a chance to win two of them!

Our May giveaway features two groundbreaking new books in Pauline studies, Paul’s Divine Christology by Chris Tilling and Paul and the Trinity by Wesley Hill, both released this spring.

To enter, click here. Two randomly selected winners will receive both books. The giveaway runs from 10:00 AM (EST) on Tuesday, May 12, through 11:59 PM (EST) on Thursday, May 14. Entrants must be 18 or older and U.S. residents.

He began his missionary career after one of the most dramatic religious conversions in history. He traveled throughout the Greco-Roman world, carrying the gospel of “Christ crucified” to all corners of the northern Mediterranean. His letters make up a large portion of the New Testament and contain many of the most formative — as well as some of the most controversial — early statements of Christian belief and practice.

Nearly two millennia after his death, the Apostle Paul continues to inspire scholarly interest and inquiry, as bold minds dig ever further into his writings and his world, sifting through the literary and contextual evidence for new insights and understanding.

This month we’re featuring groundbreaking studies on Paul here and at Eerdmans.com. Click through to our website to browse the complete collection, or read on to discover five great books . . .

Paul's Divine Christology

Paul’s Divine Christology

Paul’s Divine Christology
Chris Tilling

Did Paul teach that Jesus was divine and should be worshiped as such? How should this be viewed in relation to Jewish and Jewish-Christian monotheism? The debate over these and related questions has been raging in academic circles — but it also has profound implications for church practice.

In this book Chris Tilling offers a fresh contribution to the long-running debate on whether or not Paul’s Christology is divine. Refocusing the debate on the exegetical data and reengaging more broadly with the sweep of themes in Paul’s letters, Tilling’s innovative contribution is one that cannot be ignored.

Click to watch a video interview with the author. 

Paul and the Trinity

Paul and the Trinity

Paul and the Trinity: Persons, Relations, and the Pauline Letters
Wesley Hill

Paul’s ways of speaking about God, Jesus, and the Spirit are intricately intertwined: talking about any one of the three, for Paul, implies reference to all of them together. However, much current Pauline scholarship discusses Paul’s God-, Christ-, and Spirit-language without reference to trinitarian theology.

In contrast to that trend, Wesley Hill argues in this book that later, post-Pauline trinitarian theologies represent a better approach, opening a fresh angle on Paul’s earlier talk about God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Spirit. Hill looks critically at certain well-known discussions in the field of New Testament studies — those by N. T. Wright, Richard Bauckham, Larry Hurtado, and others — in light of patristic and contemporary trinitarian theologies, resulting in an innovative approach to an old set of questions.

Adeptly integrating biblical exegesis and historical-systematic theology, Hill’s Paul and the Trinityshows how trinitarian theologies illumine interpretive difficulties in a way that more recent theological concepts have failed to do.

Read a Five Questions interview with the author here on Eerdword, or watch a video interview on YouTube

Framing Paul

Framing Paul

Framing Paul: An Epistolary Biography
Douglas A. Campbell

All historical work on Paul presupposes a story concerning the composition of his letters — which ones he actually wrote, how many pieces they might originally have consisted of, when he wrote them, where from, and why. But the answers given to these questions are often derived in dubious ways.

In Framing Paul Douglas Campbell reappraises all these issues in rigorous fashion, appealing only to Paul’s own epistolary data in order to derive a basic “frame” for the letters on which all subsequent interpretation can be built. Though figuring out the authorship and order of Paul’s letters has been thought to be impossible, Campbell’s Framing Paul presents a cogent solution to the puzzle.

Click to watch the book trailer.

Becoming the Gospel

Becoming the Gospel

Becoming the Gospel: Paul, Participation, and Mission
(The Gospel and Our Culture series)
Michael J. Gorman

The first detailed exegetical treatment of Paul’s letters from the emerging discipline of missional hermeneutics, Michael Gorman’s Becoming the Gospel argues that Paul’s letters invite Christian communities both then and now to not merely believe the gospel but to become the gospel and, in doing so, to participate in the life and mission of God.

Showing that Pauline churches were active public participants in and witnesses to the gospel, Gorman reveals the missional significance of various themes in Paul’s letters. He also identifies select contemporary examples of mission in the spirit of Paul, inviting all Christians to practice Paul-inspired imagination in their own contexts.

Paul and the Gift

Paul and the Gift

Paul and the Gift
John M. G. Barclay

Coming soon, but available for preorder now.

In this book esteemed scholar John Barclay explores Pauline theology anew from the perspective of grace. Arguing that Paul’s theology of grace is best approached in light of ancient notions of “gift,” Barclay describes Paul’s relationship to Judaism in a fresh way.

Barclay focuses on divine gift-giving, which for Paul, he says, is focused and fulfilled in the gift of Christ. He both offers a new appraisal of Paul’s theology of the Christ-event as gift as it comes to expression in Galatians and Romans and presents a nuanced and detailed consideration of the history of reception of Paul, including Augustine, Luther, Calvin, and Barth.

This exegetically responsible, theologically informed, hermeneutically useful book shows that a respectful, though not uncritical, reading of Paul contains resources that remain important for Christians today.

Click to browse the rest of our featured collection of books on Paul. 

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