I shall attempt to state distinctly what is to be the object of our prayers for him, and, secondly, what the spirit in which we should pray, and so I shall bring my remarks on this great subject to an end. In order to ascertain the exact object of our prayers at this time, we must ascertain what is the occasion of them. You know, my Brethren, and I have already observed, that the Holy Father has been attacked in his temporal possessions again and again in these last years, and we have all along been saying prayers daily in the Mass in his behalf.
About six years ago the northern portion of his States threw off his authority. Past outrages, such as these, are never to be forgotten; but still they are not the occasion, nor do they give the matter, of our present prayers. What that occasion, what that object is, we seem to learn from his Lordship's letter to his clergy, in which our prayers are required. This too, I conceive, is what is meant by praying also for the Holy See. We are to pray for Rome, the see, or seat, or metropolis of St.
Peter and his successors. Further, we are to pray for Rome as the seat, not only of his spiritual government, but of his temporal. So much for the object of our prayers; secondly, as to the spirit in which we should pray. As we ever say in prayer "Thy will be done," so we must say now.
We do not absolutely know God's will in this matter; we know indeed it is His will that we should ask; we are not absolutely sure that it is His will that we should gain. The very fact of our praying shows that we are uncertain about the event. We pray when we are uncertain, not when we are certain. If we were quite sure what God intended to do, whether to continue the temporal power of the Pope or to end it, we should not pray. It is quite true indeed that the event may depend upon our prayer, but by such prayer is meant perseverance in prayer and union of prayers; and we never can be certain that this condition of numbers and of fervour has been sufficiently secured.
We hope indeed to gain our prayer if we pray enough; but, since it is ever uncertain what is enough, it is ever uncertain what will be the event. There are Eastern superstitions, in which it is taught that, by means of a certain number of religious acts, by sacrifices, prayers, penances, a man extorts from God of necessity what he wishes to gain, so that he may rise to supernatural greatness even against the will of God. Far be from us such blasphemous thoughts!
Such is Christian Prayer; it implies hope and fear. We are not certain we shall gain our petition, we are not certain we shall not gain it.
The Disciplinary Frame: Photographic Truths and the Capture of Meaning
Were we certain that we should not, we should give ourselves to resignation, not to prayer; were we certain we should, we should employ ourselves, not in prayer, but in praise and thanksgiving. While we pray then in behalf of the Pope's temporal power, we contemplate both sides of the alternative, his retaining it, and his losing it; and we prepare ourselves both for thanksgiving and resignation, as the event may be.
I conclude by considering each of these issues of his present difficulty. First, as to the event of his retaining his temporal power. I think this side of the alternative humanly speaking to be highly probable. I should be very much surprised if in the event he did not in some sense keep it. Even if they renounce him now for awhile, they will change their minds and wish for him again. They will find out that he is their real greatness. It is the tomb and charnel-house of pagan impiety, except so far as it is sanctified and quickened by the blood of martyrs and the relics of saints.
To inhabit it would be a penance, were it not for the presence of religion. Babylon is gone, Memphis is gone, Persepolis is gone; Rome would go, if the Pope went. Its very life is the light of the sanctuary. It never could be a suitable capital of a modern kingdom without a sweeping away of all that makes it beautiful and venerable to the world at large. And then, when its new rulers had made of it a trim and brilliant city, they would find themselves on an unhealthy soil and a defenceless plain. But, in truth, the tradition of ages and the inveteracy of associations make such a vast change in Rome impossible.
All mankind are parties to the inviolable union of the Pope and his city. His autonomy is a first principle in European politics, whether among Catholics or Protestants; and where can it be secured so well as in that city, which has so long been the seat of its exercise? Moreover, the desolateness of Rome is as befitting to a kingdom which is not of this world as it is incompatible with a creation of modern political theories.
It is the religious centre of millions all over the earth, who care nothing for the fickle and helpless people who happen to live there, and much for the martyred Apostles who so long have lain buried there; and its claim to have an integral place in the very idea of Catholicity is recognized not only by Catholics, but by the whole world. It is cheering to begin our prayers with these signs of God's providence in our favour. And at the same time, by beginning the work of mercy without us, He seems to remind us of that usual course of His providence, viz.
Let us fear to be the cause of a triumph being lost to the Church, because we would not pray for it. And now, lastly, to take the other side of the alternative. Let us suppose that the Pope loses his temporal power, and returns to the condition of St. Sylvester, St. Julius, St. Innocent, and other great Popes of early times. Are we therefore to suppose that he and the Church will come to nought? God forbid! To say that the Church can fail, or the See of St. Peter can fail, is to deny the faithfulness of Almighty God to His word.
Our Lord maintains her by means of this world, but these means are necessary to her only while He gives them; when He takes them away, they are no longer necessary. He works by means, but He is not bound to means. He has a thousand ways of maintaining her; He can support her life, not by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of His mouth.
If He takes away one defence, He will give another instead. Temporal power has been the means of the Church's independence for a very long period; but, as her Bishops have lost it a long while, and are not the less Bishops still, so would it be as regards her Head, if he also lost his. The Eternal God is her refuge, and as He has delivered her out of so many perils hitherto, so will He deliver her still. The glorious chapters of her past history are but anticipations of other glorious chapters still to come. See how it has been with her from the very beginning down to this day [ Note 3 ].
First, the heathen populations persecuted her children for three centuries, but she did not come to an end. Then a flood of heresies was poured out upon her, but still she did not come to an end. Then the savage tribes of the North and East came down upon her, and overran her territory, but she did not come to an end. Next, darkness of mind, ignorance, torpor, stupidity, reckless corruption, fell upon the holy place, still she did not come to an end. Then the craft and violence of her own strong and haughty children did their worst against her, but still she did not come to an end. Yet now, three centuries after that event, has , my Brethren, the Holy Church come to an end?
Why, there never has been a time, since the first age of the Church, when there has been such a succession of holy Popes, as since the Reformation. Protestantism has been a great infliction on such as have succumbed to it, but it has even wrought benefits for those whom it has failed to seduce. By the mercy of God it has been turned into a spiritual gain to the members of Holy Church.
Take again Italy, into which Protestantism has not entered, and England, of which it has gained possession: now I know well that, when Catholics are good in Italy, they are very good; I would not deny that they attain there to a height and a force of saintliness of which we seem to have no specimens here. This, however, is the case of souls whom neither the presence nor the absence of religious enemies would affect for the better or the worse.
Nor will I attempt the impossible task of determining the amount of faith and obedience among Catholics respectively in two countries so different from each other. The English are multiplying religious buildings, decorating churches, endowing monasteries, educating, preaching, and converting, and carrying off in the current of their enthusiasm numbers even of those who are external to the Church; the Italian statesmen, on the contrary, in our Bishop's words, "imprison and exile the bishops and clergy, leave the flocks without shepherds, confiscate the Church's revenues, suppress the monasteries and convents, incorporate ecclesiastics and religious in the army, plunder the churches and monastic libraries, and expose religion herself, stripped and bleeding in every limb, the Catholic Religion in the person of her ministers, her sacraments, her most devoted members, to be objects of profane and blasphemous ridicule.
At the end of three centuries Protestant England contains more Catholics who are loyal and energetic in word and deed than Catholic Italy. So harmless has been the violence of the Reformation; it professed to eliminate from the Church doctrinal corruptions, and it has failed both as to what it has done and as to what it has not done; it has bred infidels, to its confusion, and, to its dismay, it has succeeded in purifying and strengthening Catholic communities.
We come to Him, like the prophet Daniel, in humiliation for our own sins and the sins of our kings, our princes, our fathers, and our people, in all parts of the Church; and therefore we say the Miserere and the Litany of the Saints as in a time of fast. And we come before Him in the bright and glad spirit of soldiers who know they are under the leading of an Invincible King, and wait with beating hearts to see what He is about to do; and therefore it is that we adorn our sanctuary, bringing out our hangings and multiplying our lights, as on a day of festival. We know well we are on the winning side, and that the prayers of the poor, the weak, and the despised, can do more, when offered in a true spirit, than all the wisdom and all the resources of the world.
This seventh of October is the very anniversary of that day on which the prayers of St. Pius, and the Holy Rosary said by thousands of the faithful at his bidding, broke for ever the domination of the Turks in the great battle of Lepanto. God will give us what we ask, or He will give us something better. Top Contents Works Home. De Consid. Vide Note at the end. Return to text. Vide " Idea of a University " , p. All rights reserved. Sermon The Pope and the Revolution "And I say to thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Preached Oct. This does not mean that all three fronts were coordinated, as in a modern war. Rather, it means that contemporaries believed that the wars on all three fronts together constituted a larger endeavor. We should also remember that the Levant and Iberia contained any number of local Christians, Jews, and other religious groups, and they were not always exempted from crusader violence, even though it was held to be wrong to persecute or kill fellow Christians and Jews.
After the Second Crusade, crusading continued to expand and evolve. Crusading also developed local traditions. In northern Europe, crusading became a festive seasonal rite of passage for western European knights, complete with honorary feasts and prizes. Who went on crusade? From the beginning, popes and other leaders sought to encourage only professional men of war, whether kings, lords, knights, or simple men-at-arms, to go on crusade.
And from the beginning, individuals of almost every other social class, age, and gender ignored this and wanted to go, too. The only people explicitly forbidden from going on crusade were those who had taken religious vows like priests and monks , and even then, many tried to find a way to go—and, indeed, many went. Crusading was expensive, and it was very risky. Nonetheless, because of the spiritual and social rewards on offer for crusading, crusade leaders were never able to fully stop people of both genders and all classes from accompanying armed parties on crusade, and it is fair to say that many expeditions, especially those to the Levant, included a wide range of age, social classes, and military experience.
It is hard to summarize the impact of a movement that spanned centuries and continents, crossed social lines, and affected all levels of culture. However, there are a few central effects that can be highlighted. Wall plaque, Ascalon, mid-twelfth to mid-thirteenth century.
The Arabic inscription commemorates the wall built as defense against crusaders.
The arms of Sir Hugh Wake Lincoln, England were later carved over that, confirming the crusader reconquest of the city. First, the earliest military orders originated in Jerusalem in the wake of the First Crusade. Well-known examples include the Knights Templar officially endorsed in , the Knights Hospitaller confirmed by papal bull in , and the Teutonic Knights originated in the late twelfth century.
Second, crusading played a major role in European territorial expansion. Crusading in northern and eastern Europe led to the expansion of kingdoms like Denmark and Sweden, as well as the creation of brand-new political units, for example in Prussia. As areas around the Baltic Sea were taken by the crusaders, traders and settlers—mostly German—moved in and profited economically. In the Mediterranean Sea, crusading led to the conquest and colonization of many islands, which arguably helped ensure Christian control of Mediterranean trade routes at least for as long as the islands were held.
Crusading also played a role in the conquest of the Iberian peninsula now Spain and Portugal. This was finally completed in , when the Spanish monarchs Ferdinand II and Isabella I conquered the last Muslim community on the peninsula—the city of Granada. They expelled Jews from the country in the same year. And of course, they also authorized and supported the expeditions of Christopher Columbus, who—like many European explorers of his day—believed that the expansion of the Christian faith was one of his duties.
Third, the crusading movement impacted internal European development in a few important ways. The movement helped both to militarize the medieval western Church and to sustain criticism of that militarization. And it both reflected and influenced devotional trends. For example, while there was some dedication to St. George from the early Middle Ages, the intensity of that devotion soared in Europe after he reportedly intervened miraculously at the Battle of Antioch in , during the First Crusade.
Secular political theories were influenced by crusading, especially in France and the Iberian peninsula, and government institutions evolved in part to meet the logistical needs of crusading. Credit infrastructures within Europe rose to meet similar needs, and some locales—Venice, in particular—benefitted significantly in economic terms. It goes without saying that the crusades also had a highly negative effect on interfaith relations. Fourth, the crusading movement has left an imprint on the world as a whole. For example, many of the national flags of Europe incorporate a cross.
Others more wholeheartedly romanticized crusading. These trends in nineteenth-century European culture impacted the Islamic world. Sometimes this influence was quite direct. Sometimes the European influence was more diffuse. After the Ottomans, some Arab Nationalists interpreted nineteenth-century imperialism as crusading, and thus linked their efforts to end imperial rule with the efforts of Muslims to resist crusading in previous centuries. Sadly, the effects of the crusading movement—at least, as it is now remembered and reimagined—seem to be still unfolding.
How do we define the crusades? Lets help get that surprising message out there — that God cares about all of life and that we can we must! Our BookNotes and our special discount offers will come to your inbox about once a week. We are especially grateful when we get good feedback and lots of orders the point of this bookselling biz, of course for books we commend.
Reading this book will help you understand your Bible better and help you gain a better vision for dedicated Christian living in these trying times. This is potent, missional stuff, directly inspired by a close reading of Romans. As I explained, Romans Disarmed book fits well within the decades of work and witness and writing Brian and Sylvia have done. They are a bit rare — academics who publish in the finest scholarly journals who work an organic farm, stewarding it well with old ways and some innovative permaculture approaches.
And they have animals and heirloom tomatoes and do workshops on all kinds of homesteading skills. Plus, they have served among the homeless in Toronto, done campus ministry with college students, have mentored young adults in starting social service ministries and justice-seeking businesses.
In that column I named some of their other books as well.
- More than a bookstore.
- My Walk with God Through Divorce.
- Claws of the Eagle (The Furies Book 3).
- Action Menu.
- Books by John Tagg.
- The Divine Office.
Which is all just a way of saying that their broad intellectual and life influences, their years of research and writing and their fruitful leadership has made them into the sorts of authors we want our customers and friends to know about. Agree fully or not with this robust new or is it ancient? We hope you are glad for this advice from us here at the shop even if it is a hard adventure further up and further in. We would be honored if you ordered it from us.
It pleases us greatly that we have had the pleasure of shipping a bunch of these out this past week. It would make an ideal companion — more conventional, but powerful, eloquent, and inspiring. I suspect that they would have much in common and a few significant differences, and a bunch of quibbles about exegesis text by text by text.
There have been a lot of books on St. Paul, lately. Of course, we have raved about the novel-like biography of Paul colorfully written by N. I think it will. If you are a campus minister or youth worker or one who hangs out with those who are on the fringes of faith; that is if you are an evangelist or friend of the un-churched, I wonder how this can help you share the gospel more faithfully? I think the way Brian and Sylvia interact and reply to the good questions their fictional interlocutor raises would be very helpful to model healthy conversations.
Know anybody like that? Know someone who maybe needs a shift in perspective and some renewed energy to move deeper into Christian discipleship? If you need to have your world rocked a bit, Romans Disarmed will shake some truisms you thought you knew and push you into some wild waters. Hang on, and go for it. It could save your life! Rather than merely reminding us not to spend so much on consumer goods and pressing us to avoid plastics and toxic junk, they channeling Berry invite us to a stewardly vision of life, rooted in a sturdy view and a quite Biblical view of creation.
All of these books — some of our favorites — have at least one big thing in common. Richard Middleton not to mention listening to the albums of Bruce Cockburn but a whole lot of Wendell Berry. A whole lot of Wendell Berry. What great stories they are, lovely, calm, mature, wise, and perfect for summer reading.
We hope you have at least a few of his poetry collections. Let the arguments commence for those fans that are true Berry aficionados. For most of us, we need a reliable introduction, a good, well-chosen collection and these are almost perfect. So these new, handsome Library of America editions are wonderful and fill a real need for those wanting such a good collection. There are three ways to buy them. There is volume 1, offering work from his earlier years, there is volume 2 which includes more contemporary writing, and there is the boxed set of both, entitled Where I Stand that comes in a very nice slip-case box.
What a treasure! For those wanting to dip into Mr. Oh my, this is another one of those exceptional books that to describe well I simply have to use superlatives. You can pre-order it easily by using our order form link shown below. We breathe in the toxic air, take up habits and values and ways of being in the secularizing, modernist world without too much self-awareness that it could be otherwise. Which is why books like this are so very important. And this one is happily not only insightful and important, but interesting and enjoyable and practical. He is looking not only at symptoms of our discontent but the ethos of the age.
And, yes, he explains Charles Taylor. His sense of place — and his invitation to us to deepen our own loyalties to our own places — is palpable. Lately, many Christian folks have shifted in how we talk about our work in the world and I think it is a good thing. Many are now talking about their efforts to love their neighbors well by describing commitments to the common good. We hear talk about civic virtue. These are all pretty nascent and it is encouraging to hear this kind of talk about social architecture and civil society and the common good.
Jake is on the cutting edge of all this and his book will help us all. The best of these efforts sound refreshingly neither old school left or right but something new, offering a counter-cultural witness, a city on a hill. It is indispensable for anyone wanting to think well about our time and place and what God is calling us to. And, yes, he uses Wendell Berry a lot. Keller notes, by the way, that when he entered evangelical and Reformed pastoral ministry nearly forty-five years ago the lines of debate in conservative churches were largely theological in nature.
He outlines in a sentence or two some of the issues that many argued about and I felt the knot in my stomach as I read but he observes that increasingly the fault lines between churches and the most vehement debates nowadays are about culture. And as our culture is weakening and fragmenting and the dissatisfaction with political leaders and churches and other formerly respected institutions wanes, we are increasingly moving towards very hard times.
I assume you know this. This has long been a classic conservative argument, that as society is unmoored from deeper roots by even well intended revolutionary goals, we lose tradition and values and end up with just atomistic individuals doing whatever pleases them. And voting for those who will help them keep their stuff. So, as Jake illustrates without pressing this exact point we need something more profound than a left wing critique or a historic conservative critique; both have true insights but neither are adequate.
We need some Berry-esque, neo-agrarian? On some pages of In Search of the Common Good Meador sounds pretty darn conservative and he is pretty traditionalist on matters of family and sexuality and on other pages he rails against unjust income disparities and institutional racism. In this, he might offend older conservative types, but he seems to have the church fathers and the best Christian scholars over his shoulder, so this is no facile jive.
Indeed, he bolsters his critique of the economic gods of progress and growth by citing the likes of Augustine, Aquinas, and Calvin. He does love Oscar Romero, and quotes him from time to time. He tells us, in other words, how we got ourselves into this mess. Like a serious doctor giving a diagnosis, nothing cheap will do. So he goes deep and gives us the bad news.
Jake is young and idealistic and has a healthy small church and good friends who, together, are forging a new way of being faithful to God in their daily lives. I have rarely read a book that has such a delightful survey of deep philosophical currents and which is also so lovely in being down to earth.
He offers good practices to restore our sense of wonder, inviting us to regain a child-like appreciation of the joy of small things. Get this: in a way, our culture, especially since the Enlightenment and the start of the so-called modern age, has moved towards increasing fragmentation. We wear so many hats and can hardly imagine being whole, seamless. We feel like different people at work and church and home; some days it feels like we should just drop out and watch Netflix.
Many of us hardly even know our neighbors. Our suburban ennui is felt even in small towns and rural spaces and it is palpable. Our very streets and housing designs and habits of commuting and such preclude a holy life of simple service to neighbors. What in the world does the common good look like in a cul de sac? Some of all this exhausting trouble is caused by the over specialization that leads to abstraction, living in our heads, failing to engage the real world around us, as Matthew Crawford writes.
To wit: Jake points us in new ways to get, literally, more down to Earth. We can fight incoherence and alienation and abstraction by slowing down. Alan probes our fast-pace habits through the lens of Taylor, but Jake takes us back a bit further, looking at how our utter individualism, enshrined in some of our American civic documents and our revivalist religions, drove capitalism and disruption and abstraction. It is very good writing; I was engaged from the beginning.
They emerge from our age, but they become problems, or obstacles, then, that keep us from experiencing authentic community. The chapters are on the loss of meaning, the loss of wonder and the loss of good work. I have to say I cried through some of this — in part because I was so glad to hear these words so plainly put, translating my own decades of reading about the roots of Western culture and the idols of our age. I was strongly moved by this, being reminding of very important concerns.
He names these losses in the modern age and it is good to hear, painful and tragic as it may be. I love how he cites an indie-rock singer songwriter on one page and John Keats on another. And he nicely retells a scene or two from a Wendell Berry novel. What fun! This is a short book, so the second half is not even pages, but in it he invites us to quite a lot. It is one of the finest explorations of faith and work in the modern work-world that I have read. He shows how an increasing facelessness and inhumanity surrounds us — shades of Jacque Ellul, again, and his critique of how we overvalue and overdo technique and speed and efficiency.
That Meador says we should be thoughtful and intentional about what kind of businesses we support is precious. As you know, it is our opinion that this generally precludes working with Amazon, faceless and greedy as they are. In any event, this chapter is provocative and wise and influenced by the right sorts of cares and concerns. He is asking hard questions about what a Christian commonwealth might be like and how Christian societies might emerge. This will, necessarily, involve repentance and sacrifice. Some of this chapter is just sensible stuff — distinguishing between political doctrine and policy, for instance.
I suppose this is partially because he is so rooted in a Christian democratic appeal that is in part-pre-modern, taking hints for contemporary citizenship through a lens of Augustine and Aquinas, Luther and Calvin. I know he studies the likes of Abraham Kuyper. And did I mention he likes Wendell Berry? Meador cares about place and beauty and integrity and family and order and competency and joy and sacraments and grace and kindness and, well, who can support a leader who despises these deeply Christian values?
Again, his vision of citizenship is not left-leaning or liberationist but is gracious and humane, maybe the sort of stuff one might catch at the Front Porch Republic. He tends to talk about covenants, not contracts; the common good, not individual rights; like the Bible, when talking about politics, he talks more about public justice than individual freedom.
He is interested in nurturing among us a long-haul sort of discipleship that creates good neighbors and good citizens. They will care about peacefulness and neighborliness and solidarity. Yes he reminds us when considering politics we have to think of policy. But policy proposals are often ambiguous, proximate; good people can disagree. Indeed, it may be that heaven is very much like Narnia, a world restored, a garden healed, a renewed creation. I am so glad he does some direct exegesis of the mistranslated and misinterpreted 2 Peter , for instance insisting that God is not going to destroy the world.
This is new creation theology and visionary hope that thrills me. I hope it thrills you. I love how it ends with his own love of the stories of The Hobbit. It reminds us that the road runs right to our very door, and that road might take us anywhere and toward anything. It reminds us that God stands over and above his creation calling us further up and further in. The road will lead to a cross. But only things that die can be resurrected. And so as sure as the road leads us to the cross, in leads us to the eternal city, to the home of a king, to the desire of all nations, to the joy of every longing heart.
That is the sort of Tolkien-esque, virtuous, costly, hopeful, adventure a deep Kingdom vision that serves the common good might evoke. This righteous concern for the rhythms of creation and common good is growing among us, and realizing the obstacles and challenges and Biblical guidance is urgent. Whether you are younger older, evangelical or more mainline, a quieter type or a missional activist, I think In Search of the Common Good: Christian Fidelity in a Fractured World by Jake Meador will be a great companion on your journey.
Order it today. I want to say a lot about it, but know some of you will tune out. On steroids. Where he meets the pagan slave woman, Iris. What a story, laden with scholarly footnotes and even Bible references who knew the list of names in Romans 16 could be so informative and yield such an interesting story! I might add there are several fun books that do this sort of thing, but not many. Besides this page-turning fictional device in Romans Disarmed that is just one chapter in a book that weighs in at just under pages , there are so many fascinating and important historical details, including first-century urban archeological, linguistic, political, and theological matters that are above my pay-grade to comment critically upon.
Whenever I read a Biblical commentary and the writer asserts that a Greek word really means this or ought best to be translated like that, I have to choose to appreciate their scholarship and trust their instincts or not. From the famous conflict between the Judeans and the Gentiles in the Roman house churches to the equally famous vile spectacles of the likes of the Nero and Caligula, Keesmaat and Walsh have done their scholarly work and brought it alive in astonishing, colorful, detail.
If you like this sort of historical background stuff, you will be riveted by all they explain. I might as well just say it. Will they appreciate how much social location matters? Will they know why they draw so much on Elsa Tamez and her book Amnesty of Grace exploring justification by faith through the lens of suffering and repression in Latin America?
This book will upset some people. It is relentless in bearing witness to what they themselves experience as they grapple, as a married couple, parents, homemakers, pastors, preachers, scholars, permaculture farmers, citizens, and leaders of faith communities mostly among college students in Toronto although also in more conventional Anglican parishes where they have ministered to and become friends with marginalized folks, those cast aside by other churches and the mainstream culture.
From LGTBQ students and friends to urban homeless folks to First Nations people seeking reparations from stolen land and treaties broken, Brian and Sylvia care for their land, their place, and those whom God has given them; their taking Pauline mandates to welcome all, to serve the stranger, to be inclusive and caring to outsiders, has become a huge part of their lifestyle and is a lens through which they do life.
They are able to see the subversive teaching in the Bible and let it be said: they know and love their Bibles much better than most and especially of the Apostle Paul, because they themselves spend time with the marginalized and oppressed. And, boy, do they ever see these themes in Pauline writings! Like the Old Testament prophets so beloved by Paul, they are nearly crass in their punchy denunciation of idols old and new.
Few contemporary political movements and leaders are left unscathed in this broadside, so my fear is that our customers especially those on the political right will be offended. I hope as Brian and Sylvia do, I know such readers hang in there with their arguments about how the epistle of Romans can help us live in a more Christ-like way. Or is it the other way around? They rightly in my view think our imaginations have largely been captured by the ethos of technology and progress and greed and hubris and that our own government and media are seducing us into acceptance and complicity in grave injustices.
By the way, as an aside: did you know that James K. One can see their common concerns about not weaponizing the language of worldview and realizing that our faith is embodied, not abstract, lived out in but not of the surrounding culture and its deformed and deforming ethos. Nobody, though, has put this stuff in conversation with so close a reading of the Apostle Paul. Romans Disarmed is a major, major contribution to a distinctively Christian social-political vision and a major, major contribution to Pauline scholarship.
It is a must read for anybody who cares about the New Testament. Idols, you know, are good things that become ultimate things; things we trust for communal salvation and that we start to serve and even become like. Almost a decade ago, Brian teamed up with beloved environmental studies professor and creation-care advocate at Hope College, Stephen Bouma-Prediger to write a book that, again, forms a nearly essential backdrop to the work he and Sylvia have done in Romans Disarmed.
Broadly researched and splendidly written, this book is essential reading for anyone who wants truly to comprehend and mend our culture! Beyond Homelessness is admitted a big and sprawling book, but it is a wonderful and significant companion to Romans Disarmed. It remains the best book on the subject, and the one the engages the Bible the most! Home-breaking, Homelessness, and Home-making in Romans? You have got to read it to believe it! It really should be pondered. Wright and whose work is sometimes cited by him as influential in his own thinking is, within the more scholarly world, a major conversation partner and professional colleague with many other renowned scholars.
She has chapters in many books, including one in the British festschrift for N. Sigh — I know. Why, Fortress, why? Brian has one in that collection as well. Her preaching is often imaginative and poetic and she laces her Biblical exegesis with stories of planting environmentally helpful shrubs around their watershed and their solar panels and their eating habits, but she has earned the right to be taken very seriously by the guild of Biblical scholars.
She is remarkably gifted and has studied long and hard to be able to see the inter-connections between different parts of the Biblical story, how New Testament writers draw on the Hebrew Bible. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus! This is not a house of condemnation! Slavery is never the last word in this story. Liberation is always at hand. Homecoming remains available. The promise is not nullified and cannot be nullified even by our home-breaking ways.
And then a paragraph about being called out of slavery and being crowned in glory, etc. Of course, this language echoes the exodus from Egypt. When a Judean talks about being set free from slavery, the exodus is the memory being evoked. When a Judean says that we have not received a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, the story of fearful Israel in the wilderness longing to return to Egypt resonates through these words. When a Judean talks about being led by the Spirit, a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night is the unmistakable reference. When a Judean speaks of receiving a spirit of adoption, wherein their slave status is overturned through covenant promise, then the nation-constituting exodus is undoubtedly ringing in the background.
When a Judean refers to the Spirit bearing witness with our spirits that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs of God, their language of inheritance reaches back to Moses leading the children of God toward their inheritance. Oh my, this line of thought goes on for a page more, and it is wonderfully inspiring. It brings a lot of insight about how these texts might have been heard and, in doing so, help us get their import and impact for our own faith communities. Leaving aside the question of whether it is wise to appropriate secular ad campaigns for evangelistic purposes, the point Brian and Sylvia are making is helpful.
Brian and Sylvia help us by introducing us and unpacking what might have been assumed and understood on the streets of first century Rome. So, this is a really useful book, functioning as a socio-cultural Biblical study with a good eye for the original social context. And it insists — as most Bible commentators would, but few really do much with — that this pastoral letter from the great apostle to the Christ-followers of Rome has great application for our discipleship, congregational life, and spirituality today.
Where they really are fresh and provocative is how they insist Paul was knowingly and the hearers were knowingly aware of a subversive rhetoric against the powers and values of the Empire, and how that may be a key for understanding the power of the gospel for us today. We are welcoming and non-violent as Christ was and as the Kingdom should and will be.
Directory on popular piety and the liturgy. Principles and guidelines
First, Brian and Sylvia teach us although they are not the first, but they are among the most vivid and clear and compelling about it that our social location matters if we are going to see and interpret the Bible well. After energetically describing a joyful moment one night on the dance floor at Sanctuary in downtown Toronto, they tell how the mood changes as they needed to embrace some hurting brothers as some harsh songs brought prophetic denunciation of injustice perpetrated against First Nations peoples. Their empathy is palpable and they remind us of how this is, if you will, a hermeneutical key:.
Without standing in such places, we will miss the power of this epistle both in its ancient context and in a contemporary setting. I think they are right. It is right there in the text! They say this specifically and directly and their own personal stories have illuminated their work as Biblical scholars. This becomes evident in the first two pages that had me wiping tears away from my cheeks as they told us about the joys and sorrows of the ragamuffin folk that make up the Sanctuary Community in downtown Toronto to whom the book is dedicated.
Secondly, our knowledge of the Bible itself in its narrative flow, its major themes, its socio-political setting and the interconnection of texts and themes is immensely important. Too few of us really understand the key moments of the Biblical history of redemption. Serious Bible scholars may agree on the importance of background and context, but my sense is that so much of the way Keesmaat and Walsh connect various themes, Older and Newer Testaments and the socio-economic stuff is exceptionally illuminating, bringing fresh and solid insight into what was going on in that context.
T Wright has done this for us a bit; our old friend the late, great Kenneth Bailey did so in remarkable ways. Some scholars I trust have expressed concern that some have overstated the anti-Empire themes in the New Testament. Similarly, my Dutch Calvinist mentor Peter J. Who knew then that stewardship was more than giving money to the church, but the primal call of humans to care for creation? That salvation in the Bible often include inheritance of land, and that land reform and social justice are often talking about in the Bible.
Thanks be to God. Shane Claiborne is mostly right, then, when he says that Brian and Sylvia are two of his favorite Bible scholars. This new book is perfect for scholars and new Bible readers alike, and for everyone in between. And they constantly shift between way back then and today, talking about what it must have been like for Christ-followers in Rome to welcome those of different eating habits and positions of power in the city and those with different degrees of loyalty or disdain for the Empire itself to break bread together and then they reflect on what it is like for most of us in our own congregations as we try to be friendly to guests or talk well among ourselves over matters of importance.
The shift from the era of Paul and Caesar to your church and Trump moves quickly and it is stimulating and provoking, to say the least. On the other hand, it could be a godsend of Biblical insight to stimulate those who are put off by the sometimes abstract and nearly pointless detail of some Bible commentaries. Romans Disarmed is, as the subtitle shouts, both a serious bit of Biblical scholarship and a charter for a counter-imperial Christian community. From a Trump official saying last summer that we have to obey them because of Romans 13 oh, what a misreading!
Not at all. Those who assume it is primarily a magisterial theological outpouring will be challenged to think about Romans in this new perspective, but it is quite compelling, I think. Just because it is long? By taking the letter and its anti-Imperial tone and its socio-political and economic context seriously, it allows us to de-escalate some of the peculiar debates about it, and how it tends to be used these days to close down conversation or flog people with.
Is this merely a new kind of weaponizing of Romans, using it for a far left, counter-Imperial, anti-American narrative, beating up Republicans and those living for the American Dream? Because they are pushing back on behalf of those who have been hurt, badly hurt, by toxic religion often based on what they believe are mis-readings and certainly mishandling of Romans, they can be strident.
In some ways, they are trying to help those who are leaving the evangelical world because of the way the Christian right has been so ugly, helping them see a new way to be Christian and a new way to read and love the Bible again. I get that. But, happily, they are often quite clear about inviting authentic diversity and being welcoming to all regardless of politics or point of view.
Since they are allies and advocates for the dispossessed and marginalized, it is a live question about how — in a communal conversation or small group Bible study, say — we keep it safe for LGBTQ brothers and sisters, for instance, if someone in the group is bombastic and unkind? They tell of one such encounter and how they handled it might surprise you.
And — of course! What in the world might it have been like for slaves and masters, Jews and Gentiles, sexually abused women and children and their perpetrators to hear the great apostle tell people they are one, to welcome all? This is explosive, painful, hard, breathtaking stuff. That few commentaries on this book of the Bible explore with much depth or passion this extraordinary re-making of social relationships then and there not to mention here and now is almost professional malpractice among the theologians and Bible teachers.
I heard NT Wright talk about how many classes on Romans just peter out before they get to the upshot of it all in the last few chapters, just skipping that as not particularly urgent. In his newer perspective, and in Romans Disarmed, it surely is the point, how the gospel of grace forms a new egalitarian community that can serve as a count-weighted witness to the violence of the powers that be. At any rate, this volume helps us see the need for and helps us become equipped to form this kind of inclusive and just community despite our huge differences.
This is part of the agenda of Romans Disarmed and what allows the well-informed authors to unpack this so fruitfully for us. One of the ways they enact this exact sort of hospitable discourse is by using a device they featured creatively in Colossians Remixed. Just when some of their teaching is getting heavy and their Bible interpretation seems a bit speculative, in comes another voice, in italics, an interlocutor.
This new conversation partner is skeptical enough, but seems to be on board more with their claims, asking wise and good questions, seeking clarification of their exegesis and theological views and telling stories from his own life about the difficulties of applying this kind of anti-imperial lifestyle. This dialogue partner, even though pushing back against some of their statements, is sincere and eager to learn and grow into deeper more relevant fidelity to the gospel.
In doing so they model the kind of robust conversations that are needed within our faith communities and they anticipate the kinds of questions many readers will have while reading Romans Disarmed. It makes the book more interesting and more useful for us all.
I suspect that as you are reading Romans Disarmed you are going to want to have some conversations about a lot of different things and How the Body of Christ Talks just might be tool that will save you a lot of grief, guiding you towards being communities of missional conversation and prophetic dialogue. Oh yes, this is rich, thoughtful, good stuff and would make a great companion volume to read alongside Romans Disarmed.
Smith assures us that practices of conversation — especially while eating together — can be transformational within local congregations, and this resonates with the sort of body life that is described in Romans Disarmed. Much depends on how you eat, with whom you eat, and what you eat. Eating is, of course, foundational to all of life.
And where there is food, there are questions of justice, inclusion, and equality, and, most importantly, of identity. The whole anti-imperial agenda of this letter, together with its commitment to the formation of an alternative home at the heart of the empire, hangs on what happens when Jesus followers gather for the family dinner.
But they also are clear that following nearly every other major, well-informed Bible scholar when Paul uses the word righteousness, he means very much something like what we today might call social justice; as N. This is not liberal social gospel rhetoric, but the best, most faithful rendering of what the Bible itself really says. Which maybe starts with hospitality, being welcoming and listening well, especially to the marginalized and hurting.
I have a hunch that even if you find them, as I do, a bit strident at times, you will like them a lot. They know a lot about philosophy, about church history, about contemporary political issues, about rock music, about urban architecture, and contemporary social science, and, yep, they grow food and love to bake bread and do many, essential home-making arts. They know their Bibles and they love Jesus.
Their organic farm community that practices regenerative agriculture is called Russet House Farm. The story of their acquiring stewardship of it is itself nearly a miracle; they do educational events and offer hospitality and welcome. Check them out. I think that the disagreements that this book itself will engender will, if faced in the proper spirit, in the context of the welcoming grace of the gospel itself, mirror some of the difficulties of this new Christian communities forming in and around the Roman Empire in the first century. Just think of Galatians or 1 Corinthians or what are sometimes called pastoral letters.
Romans, Keesmaat and Walsh insist, is one of these, writ large. It is not primarily or firstly if at all an abstract theological treatise and they explain well why they believe that. The history of assuming and privileging this kind of de-contextualized doctrinal reading is itself part of our problem in blunting the revolutionary socio-economics and political resistance which is nearly overt and surely implicit in this pastoral letter from the hand of Paul.
The Paul who would eventually come to Rome and visit all those people he mentions by name in this letter — rich and poor, slave and free, men and women, Judean and Gentile — and end up in jail, killed for sedition against the Empire. There are some very interesting chapters in there from important Pauline scholars. These essays and sample sermons illustrated generously how many different views there are about the heart of Romans, how to read it, and how sermons proclaim its grace and grit to us for our daily discipleship.
It is eating in a way that is unfaithful to your place. They are joyful and good folks but about this they are deadly serious. They end the book with a beautiful sort of litany of how Paul called this community to ways that were counter to the values and practices and ways of living in the Rome Empire and counter to our own culture as well.