Many years ago, the great historians of the French Annales school complained that scholars spend far too much time dealing with the elites and their wars and very little on the crucial matters of ordinary everyday life. Why, they asked, do we have no histories of death, of childhood, of old age? Today, of course, we have many such narratives.
Like Lauren Winner, who admits in the foreword to Consider the Birds that she is “not really interested in birds at all,” I’m not especially enamored of feathered creatures. It’s not that I revile them, but I have perhaps been shat upon once too many times. I am, however, a fan of Debbie Blue, one of the founding pastors of House of Mercy in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Encountering Evil, a New Edition: Live Options in Theodicy, by Stephen T. Davis. A stellar ensemble of thinkers, including John Hick, David Ray Griffin and John Cobb Jr., address the problem of how good and evil can coexist. Each chapter is followed by critical responses from the other contributors and then a rejoinder by the author.
To the Ends of the Earth: Pentecostalism and the Transformation of World Christianity, by Allan Heaton Anderson. Given the importance of Pentecostal and charismatic forms of faith in Christian expansion worldwide, Anderson’s book is valuable and timely.
Nothing outrages students in Jonathan Sheehan’s course on the history of Christianity at the University of California at Berkeley more than the writings of John Calvin. What kind of God is it who would predetermine the ultimate destiny of all humans before the creation of the world? students wonder. Reading Calvin, he says, helps students see the power of an argument and consider the consequences of their own beliefs and commitments. Sheehan wants students to wrestle with Calvin with “integrity, reason, creativity, and charity . . . intellectual virtues that we need in our modern world” (New York Times, September 12).