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By the Rivers of Babylon Cover

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By the Rivers of Babylon

Blueprint for a Church in Exile

By Robert P. Hoch

The language of exile, focused with theological and biblical narratives and coupled with depictions of real-life exilic communities, can equip church leaders as agents in the creation of new communities.

It is commonplace today to hear Christians say we are a “church in exile” or a church in a “post-Christendom” society. But what does this really mean? In order for the church to make sense of this claim, we need some concrete descriptions of exilic life so that, in our reflections on congregational formation, we can begin to develop a more substantive language for our exilic experience.

In By the Rivers of Babylon, Robert Hoch reads the larger North American tradition of Christian worship and mission through the prism of visibly marginalized communities, communities that know the power of Babylon concretely. That is, they know displacement through some combination of physical dislocation, ethnicity, economic marginality, and political stigma. This readable and practical book is an essential resource for pastors and church leaders in these communities.

Can Only One Religion Be True? Cover

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Can Only One Religion Be True?

Paul Knitter and Harold Netland in Dialogue

edited by Robert B. Stewart

This volume highlights points of agreement and disagreement on the subject of religious pluralism. The dialogue partners in the discussion are Paul F. Knitter, Paul Tillich Professor of Theology, World Religions, and Culture at Union Theological Seminary, and Harold A Netland, professor of Mission and Evangelism and director of Intercultural Studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois.

A transcript of the March 2009 Point-Counterpoint event between Knitter and Netland allows the reader to see how each presents his position in light of the others, as well as their responses to selected audience questions. The balance of the volume is comprised of substantive essays on various facets of the question of religious pluralism from a diverse set of scholars. The Greer Heard Point-Counterpoint series takes pride in presenting a fair and balanced case for both sides of complex issues, and in providing the tools for students and scholars to form their own conclusions.

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Caring Liturgies

The Pastoral Power of Christian Ritual

by Susan Marie Smith

Caregiving practices in churches often center around listening and giving counsel, making referrals, and creating support groups for specific needs. In Caring Liturgies, Susan Marie Smith proposes that Christian ritual is both a method and a means for helping people through liminal times of transition and uncertainty, even vulnerability and fear. It teaches readers to recognize the ritual needs of fellow Christians and thus create post-baptismal rites of passage and healing that might strengthen and support them in the fulfillment of their ministries.

The book extends the usefulness of denominational "occasional services" books and other resources by suggesting ways to build a rite around a central symbolic action, pointing out issues of ritual honesty and ethics, and identifying skills and attributes necessary to preparing and leading a rite. Numerous narrative examples help to flesh out the principles and illustrate the key argument: that rituals are necessary means to enable human growth and maturity, both through times of suffering and times of transition, and that ritual-making leaders are central to the ongoing health of the church.

A Case for Character Cover

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A Case for Character

Towards a Lutheran Virtue Ethics

by Joel D. Biermann

Over the last several decades, perceptive observers of Western civilization have documented what virtually everyone has perceived: as the old foundations of society have toppled, morality and personal character have been set adrift and often vanished altogether. How can character be cultivated when it seems no one is willing or able to provide a definitive description of character to which humans should aspire?

Equipped with explicit texts and a rich heritage detailing the content of human character, it would seem that Christianity is ideally positioned to address this problem.

Yet even the church has often been complicit in undermining and eviscerating a rich, meaningful account of character.

While the reasons for this are many and complicated, one of the more potent singular factors is actually theological. Contemporary Lutheranism, in particular, has struggled with the appropriate place of morality and character formation, as these pursuits often have been perceived as at odds with the central Christian doctrine of justification.

A Case for Character explores this problem and argues that Christian doctrine, specifically as articulated within a Lutheran framework, is altogether capable of encouraging a robust pursuit of character formation while maintaining a faithful expression of justification by grace alone through faith alone.

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Changing Horizons

Explorations in Feminist Interpretation

by Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza

Changing Horizons is the second of two volumes highlighting the ways in which Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza’s work constructs a critical feminist theory and praxis of liberation, in relation to the biblical text and its legacy, and in relation to the theological and ecclesial setting of today. In these essays collected from her extraordinary career, Schüssler Fiorenza attempts to free both biblical studies and theology from disciplinary constraints and assumptions that have allowed them to acquiesce and even perpetuate forms of oppression—from racism and poverty to colonialism and gender equality.

While Schüssler Fiorenza’s feminist critical approach begins with the experience of women, that experience is appropriated through the lens of critical theory and a critical understanding of social and religious oppressions. It is, further, political in its aim to dethrone kyriarchal structures and foment genuinely egalitarian community in church and society.

A Child Shall Lead Them Cover

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A Child Shall Lead Them

Martin Luther King Jr., Young People, and the Movement

by Rufus Burrow Jr.

Half a century after some of its most important moments, the assessment of the Civil Rights Era continues. In this exciting volume, Dr. Rufus Burrow turns his attention to a less investigated but critically important byway in this powerful story—the role of children and young people in the Civil Rights Movement.

What role did young people play, and how did they support the efforts of their elders? What did they see—and what did they do?—that their elders were unable to envision? How did children play their part in the liberation of their people?

In this project, Burrow reveals the surprising power of youth to change the world.

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Chosen Nations

Pursuit of the Kingdom of God and Its Influence on Democratic Values in Late Nineteenth-Century Britain and the U.S.

By Christina L. Littlefield

At the heart of the biblical myth of chosenness is the idea that God has blessed a people to be a blessing to others. It is a mission of solemn responsibility. The six British and American thinkers examined in this study embraced the myth of chosenness for their countries, believed that the liberties they enjoyed were inherently tied to their Protestant faith, and that it was their mission to protect and spread that faith, and its democratic fruit, at home and abroad.

Each theologian in this study—Robert William Dale, Hugh Price Hughes, and Brooke Foss Westcott in England; Walter Rauschenbusch, Henry Codman Potter, and Josiah Strong in the United States—wanted, in Rauschenbusch's words, to “Christianize the social order,” seeking to evolve their countries into true Christian nations that would lead to an international kingdom of God. They were all products of their time, yet ahead of their time, and their pursuit of a true, free, national Christianity helped support the development of Western democratic values. However, their belief in chosenness also fuelled imperialistic claims, neglected the rights of native peoples, led to anti-Catholicism, and hindered the religious liberties of others.

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Christ and Analogy

The Christocentric Metaphysics of Hans Urs von Balthasar

By Junius Johnson

As one of the pillars of the nouvelle theologie movement, a main influence upon the Second Vatican Council, and one of the few figures to complete a full-scale multi-volume systematics, Hans Urs von Balthasar is undoubtedly one of the towering figures of twentieth-century theology. Until now, the structural undergirding of von Balthasar’s main contribution, a weighty 15-volume, three-part “triptych” dogmatics, has not been assessed. In this volume, the author presents an analysis of von Balthasar’s work in dogmatics and provides the structural linchpin for understanding the whole of this massive (and massively important) systematic theology by reconstructing the metaphysics of von Balthasar. Taking the person of Jesus Christ as the metaphysical starting point, the project highlights the fundamental connections to key doctrinal, historical, and philosophical issues. This is a critical volume for professors, scholars, and students in systematic theology, philosophical theology, and the study of twentieth-century Catholic and Protestant theology and history.

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Christ Crucified in a Suffering World

The Unity of Atonement and Libreation

By Nathan D. Hieb

What is the connection between Christian doctrine and concrete social action? This question marks the often unarticulated divide between systematic theology and liberation theology, each often emphasizing one primarily or formally over the other. Examining the work of Karl Barth, T. F. Torrance, and Jon Sobrino, here Nathan Hieb contests this bifurcation, specifically around the nodal points of the crucifixion, or the doctrine of atonement, and the context of suffering. This book is an innovative study that bridges the boundaries of method, doctrine, and praxis, creating a strong theological and action-oriented relationship between systematic and liberation theology.

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Christ the Light

The Theology of Light and Illumination in Thomas Aquinas

by David L. Whidden III

Light is one of the most ancient and significant metaphors adopted by Christianity by which to understand the significance of Jesus Christ. The Easter liturgy, for instance, is marked by beautiful and powerful rituals proclaiming Christ as the light of the world in his death and resurrection. That understanding developed over subsequent centuries into a larger doctrine of illumination—how Christians come to understand and know God through Christ the Light. In this work, David Whidden takes up that theme in contesting a standard paradigm of interpretation that asserts that Aquinas eliminated the doctrine of illumination in his theology.

In Christ the Light, Whidden argues that illumination is a critical systematic motif in Aquinas’s theology, one that involves the nature of truth, knowledge, and God; at the root, Aquinas’s theology of light, or illumination, is Christological, grounding human knowledge of God and eschatological beatitude. This volume establishes the theological network formed by the crucial motif of light/illumination in Aquinas, from how theology operates to the systematic, sacramental, and moral coordinates in Aquinas’ theology. Christ the Light thus provides a much needed and illuminating retrieval of the one of the most important and creative theologians in the western Christian tradition.

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