James: Diaspora Rhetoric of a Friend of God, by Margaret Aymer. Margaret Aymer’s primer orients readers to key critical debates concerning James, relying on recent scholars’ proposals about its structure and rhetoric. Her distinctive focus on James’s efforts to impart a theological identity to dispersed, migrant believers asks us to evaluate our own cultural location and social demographics as we determine what faithfulness, influence, and resistance might look like today.
Sacred Sense: Discovering the Wonder of God’s Word and World, by William P. Brown. Encounters with God are not about accumulating knowledge or uncovering ironclad answers; rather, these moments strike us with wonder and yearning. William Brown lingers over 16 passages drawn from the Old and New Testaments, illustrating how a range of biblical genres, natural realities, human sensations, and life experiences provide opportunities to meet God. His attention falls mostly on passages and questions that excite our expectations rather than raise problems or pose threats. Overall, Brown draws a composite sketch of God and God’s works, which are tremendous yet knowable in both transcendence and immanence.
Encountering God in Tyrannical Texts: Reflections on Paul, Women, and the Authority of Scripture, by Frances Taylor Gench. With an attentive teacher’s care, Frances Taylor Gench conducts basic and well-written explorations into the historical contexts of the most galling Pauline verses—the ones that shout: “Don’t speak! Be subject! Cover your heads!” She consistently encourages readers to expand their thinking beyond these discrete passages by clarifying the nature of biblical authority and contending for the value of reading difficult texts with critical charity. The book’s tone and its end-of-chapter reflection questions make it worth sharing with people who fear that struggling with the Bible signifies a lack of faith or insufficient respect for scripture.