People often assume—wrongly—that the Bible presents a single view of God and the world. In Understanding Wisdom Literature, David Penchansky shows how the Hebrew Bible’s wisdom books, Proverbs, Job and Ecclesiastes, speak differently from covenant-centered writings such as Genesis, Deuteronomy and Isaiah.
There are probably few reference books that vacationers will drag down to the beach this summer. And though I make a living in academia, there aren’t many works of reference that I want to read from cover to cover. I love history because I love stories, storytelling and engrossing narratives—not because I’m taken with the facts, figures and dates that populate reference books.
The Big Questions in Science and Religion, by Keith Ward (Templeton Foundation Press). Of the many excellent overviews of current issues in the interaction of science and religion, this one is readable and balanced, a good start for a broad audience. A theologian conversant with scientific issues, Ward covers ten questions, from the big bang to revelation and divine action.
A quick word on your “if it feels good, don’t do it” distillation of my message. We can dig into this more as we go, but for now I’d just point out that at various times, Christianity—and particularly my own Catholicism, the faith of carousing Irishmen, hedonistic Italians, and “give me chastity, Lord, but Lord not yet” sinners in every time and place—has been scolded for being altogether too worldly, too pleasure-loving, too forgiving of the weaknesses of the flesh.
A Daring Promise: A Spirituality of Christian Marriage, by Richard R. Gaillardetz (Liguori). If marriage is the place where the majority of us “work out our salvation” before God, then a book on its spirituality is essential.
Satellite images show that Islamic State militants have completely destroyed a 1,400-year-old monastery, St. Elijah’s—the oldest Christian monastery in Iraq. The jihadist group has destroyed other ancient sites in their attempt to establish a caliphate in Iraqi and Syrian territory. “Our Christian history in Mosul is being barbarically leveled,” said Paul Thabit Habib, an Iraq-based Catholic priest. “We see it as an attempt to expel us from Iraq, eliminating and finishing our existence in this land.” The monastery was taken over by U.S. troops during the Iraq War. It had been partially restored before the ISIS demolition (Newsweek, January 20).